STANDING STILL IN FAITH
How often do we hear the expression, “I know there is no standing still in faith.” The expression is scripturally true, and yet there are many who use it in a way that plainly shows their knowledge to have no influence upon them for good? If you are aware of this fact, let it move you to all diligence in Christian duties. Your conduct in faith should be neither stationary nor backward-looking but onward. As a man goes on in his journey, so should you in the ways of faith. As a child goes on in its growth of body, so should you in the growth if faith. As a sapling goes on striking its roots deeper in the earth, gaining material in its trunk, and spreading its branches farther in the air, so should you go on acquiring stability, strength, and fruitfulness in faith.
There cannot be any standing still in faith. Can the earth stand still on its axis? Can time stand still in its channel? Can life stand still in its course? Can God stand still in His Providence, Christ in His mediation, or the Spirit in His influences? No more can faith stand still in the soul. It is contrary to its inherent elements, noble purposes, and benevolent arrangements.
There must not be any standing still in faith, even if there could. In proportion, as you stood still, you would lose distance in your journey, growth in your life, and glory in your reward. By standing still, you would allow the world to entice, Satan the privilege of reasoning and the flesh an advantage of complaining. You would instantly enter upon a backsliding state, which might end in a fearful apostasy from Christ.
“GO ON UNTO PERFECTION.” “SO RUN THAT YOU MAY OBTAIN.” “ALWAYS ABOUND IN THE WORK OF THE LORD.”
There is no greater good that you can follow than holiness. If you follow knowledge, it will vanish. Riches, they will deceive. Honor, it is an empty show. Pleasures, they are transient. Anything earthly, it will either abandon you, or you will abandon it. But holiness is as real, true, pure, satisfying, and eternal as God Himself. It is nothing less than conformity to His nature in the soul and His will in the life. In following this, you are following that which is the end of Divine revelations to man, the end of the entire work of the Savior in redemption, the end of the universal operations of the Holy Spirit, the end of the means and ordinances of the Church, and the end of all the dispensations of Providence. You are following that which distinguishes God from Satan, angels from devils, saints from sinners, and heaven from hell. That which will give you eyes to see God, taste to enjoy him, hands to work for Him, feet to run in His ways, heart to love Him, and life to glorify Him. That which will provide you with power for every duty, privilege, trial, and enemy of the Christian life. That which will give peace in trouble, joy in sorrow, confidence in adversity, strength in grief, courage in conflict, triumph in death, and glory forever. It is what which distinguished Enoch £rom Nimrod, David from Shimei, Samuel from Saul, Elijah from Ahab, Peter from Herod, Paul from Nero, and John from Diotrephes.
This is the pre-eminent good of heaven and earth. Follow hard after it. Let your eye be upon it, your hand reached out to it, your feet running towards it. Let your soul thirst for it and pant after it, as the deer for the streams of water. “With a diligence that will rival or surpass that of the miser in following gold, or the worldling in following the world, or the racer in running for the prize — follow holiness. Make this the “mark” at which you will aim in all things and the “one thing” towards which you will “press.”
“WITHOUT HOLINESS NO MAN SHALL SEE THE LORD.”
ATTENTION TO DUTY
There is a possibility of your looking more to reward than to duty, and in doing this, you may be influenced by sinister motives and, in the end, do not obtain the reward. If you look to reward, do so through duty, for it is only through that that the reward is bestowed. He who promises and gives the reward does so upon condition that duty is performed. It is not for us to expect a reward irrespective of duty. This would be a presumption. God will not give it irrespective of duty. It is clear, then, that our chief aim should be attention to duty, leaving the reward and its bestowment with the Great Faithful Master. What is our duty, as taught by God in His Word, in His providence, and a well-enlightened conscience? This is the important question for us to ponder. Having received an intelligible answer, it is for us, in the fear of God, and with His gracious aid, firmly, earnestly, and courageously, to attend to it. The duty may sometimes cross our feelings and inclinations, it may even appear against our interests. It may seem a burden too irksome to bear. It may expose us to ridicule and reproach. Nevertheless, if it is our duty, all these things must be laid aside or walked over, so that we may reach duty, and, as faithful Christians, perform it. If this is your aim in life, brother, the reward is yours, as certainly as duty. You already have it in a good conscience, an approving God, a living hope, and the prospect of greater reward in heaven. How noble do the army of prophets, apostles, and martyrs appear in their attention to duty in the face of sword, imprisonment, fire, and death! And now, after duty, what a lofty place they occupy in the glory of the Church on earth and among the ranks of the shining ones before the throne in heaven!
The simple fact of our time getting shorter every day does not imply that we are also getting nearer heaven. As time flies, it may carry us on its wings closer to hell than heaven. The true and only reliable rule by which to judge upon this point is whether we are getting nearer holiness. If we are growing in conformity to the Divine likeness and nature, if we are dying daily to sin and living unto God, if we are realizing more and more of the love of Christ within us, if we are rising higher in spirituality of affection and thought, if we are delighting ourselves more heartily in the service of God, then are we, indeed, getting nearer heaven. Heaven is perfection in holiness, according to the will of God, and as we approach this, we approach heaven.
Let us distinctly and vividly understand this. There is a danger lest we think too much of heaven as a place of beauty, pleasure, glory, and great society, without thinking of it as a place of spotless righteousness and all those features of heaven as arising out of this. Let us, then, press on towards purity, through the blood of the Lamb and in the proportion, we do this, we will get nearer heaven.
GOD OUR ONLY HELP
If you are convinced that God is your only help, then be sure that you trust exclusively in Him. Do not rest in yourself, others, or any means, as though they were your help in themselves. You may use them as channels to receive help from God, but He is the alone Source of every blessing. Feel your absolute dependence upon Him for all help in temptation, deliverance from trouble, comfort in affliction, strength in weakness. Lean upon Him by faith and prayer. Hide yourself under the shadow of His wings. Take Him for your Shield. Draw from Him every day through prayer the strength you need for every day’s trials; never fear in exhausting His resources. Though your weakness may be great, His help is more than adequate. He is an ever-present help, an ever-adapted help, an all-sufficient help, and faithful help. With His help, there is no duty, but you can perform; no privilege but you can enjoy, and no enemy but you can defeat.
THIS HELP MAY BE FOUND AT THE THRONE OF GRACE.
CHEERFUL IN RELIGION
Religion is the last thing in the world in which, and with which, you should be gloomy. Surely you, who have such an interest in God, in Christ, in the Spirit, in heaven, to whom belong the promises, pardon, peace, hope, power over sin, victory over the world, association with the saints, and communion with angels, are the last that should hang your harp upon the willows, and fail to sing the songs of Zion. Keep in the way of faith, and it is impossible, but you should realize that “her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” It is when we go into the sidewalks of the world, or the thorny ways of our tempers, or the rugged roads of our contrivance, that we find our experience and the words of Scripture to disagree.
Be careful lest you prejudice others by the gloomy representation you give of faith. The sinner wants joy and resorts to specific means for its attainment. If he sees from you that faith cannot give him as good or better joy than what he finds in sin, he is not likely to embrace it. “Religion” as an old writer says, “is not to abolish but regulate your joy, not to destroy it, but to purge it. It is not a weeding hook to pluck up and root out your joy but a pruning hook to moderate and rectify it. For a Christian to hang down the head and pull in the lip, to have tears in his eyes, and sorrow upon his heart, not to have a cheerful look, nor a comfortable word this disparages faith, and therefore do not prune yourselves of the lawful joy which God allows you in this world.”
Let your rejoicing be in faith — a good conscience, the favor of God, and interest in heaven, and all things which are yours in the covenant of grace. Let your rejoicing be holier, deeper, more lasting, and more satisfying than the sinner, which is rejoicing in sin, in earthly things — rejoicing followed by weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth forever.
SEEKING FORGIVENESS OF SIN
You have long been weeping and praying for forgiveness. You have heard the Word, read the Scriptures, wrestled with God in your closet, denied yourself food and sleep, kept yourself away from society, excepting the people of God, but still, you do not find that which is the object of your earnest desire. You sometimes think that the Savior is not so kind as represented, that God is demanding in His feelings, or that the plan of salvation is more complicated than ministers make it appear, or that you have not sufficiently repented or prayed. Now, while it is proper for you to pray, mourn, repent, and so on, it may be well for you to ask, “How far am I resting in these things instead of resting in Christ?”
It is no wonder that you are kept without the blessing while you are in any degree trusting in the means instead of the end. You have, doubtless, read the “Pilgrim’s Progress.” You remember Pilgrim, when he left the City of Destruction, heavily burdened with his guilt, how he tried various ways to find relief, but all failed. Not until he came to the Cross, and looked upon Him hanging there, did his burden roll off. Then was he glad and lightsome and said with a merry heart, as Bunyan tells us, “He hath given me rest by His sorrow, and life by His death.” He stood still awhile in wonder. He was surprised that the sight of the Cross should take away his load. He looked for his load, but he could not find it. Tears of joy filled his eyes, and the shining one came and said to him, “Peace be with thee; thy sins be forgiven.” “Then,” says Bunyan, “Christian gave three leaps for joy and went on singing.”
So will it be with you as soon as you get a believing view of the Cross and Him that died on it. Not in the law, not in prayers, not in tears, not in reformation, not in self-denials, not in church communion; but in Christ, CRUCIFIED is forgiveness of sin. Let the means help you to Calvary. When there, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” “By Him, all that believe are justified.” O, look and live!
A HOPE OF LIVING NEARER TO GOD
If you have a hope of living nearer to God in the future than you have in the past, let that hope be of such a nature as will stimulate you to a diligent use of the means to realize the end. If this is not the effect of the hope, it may justly be feared that it is superficial and vain. By contending earnestly for the higher life nearer to God, you will reveal the depth and power of your hope. In this sense, doubtless, St. Paul says, “We are saved by hope.” As though he had said, “We hope after this in life to overcome our besetting sins. We hope to keep under and to subdue the flesh. We hope to escape the snares of Satan. We hope to live above the corrupting power of the world. We hope to die a triumphant death and to have a blessed welcome into heaven, and this very hope incites us to the use of all the Divinely appointed means to carry out the salvation for which we hope. Therefore, we are saved instrumentally by hope. Hold fast to your hope. Cherish it. Give to it all the action and power it demands. Be influenced by it in all things; so that they may combine to help you on nearer and nearer to God, until you behold His face in righteousness, and awake up in His image.
KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST
Christ is the most excellent of beings. Knowledge of Him is the most excellent. St. Paul thought this when he placed it before every other knowledge of which he was possessed, and which existed in the universe of mind. He counted all things but rubbish for “the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord.” This knowledge gives true light to the intellect and sanctifying grace to the heart. It elevates the soul and gives it gifts and graces which make it like the king’s daughter, all glorious within. Covet this knowledge. Grow in this knowledge. As you increase in the knowledge of Christ, you will increase in admiration of Him, in love to Him, in zeal for His glory, in faithfulness to His cause, in fidelity to His truth, in obedience to His laws, and conformity to His image. This knowledge will never cease to exist but be as lasting as the soul and Christ. Read, hear, and pray, that you may grow in this holy and Divine knowledge!
You must not think that you are not a child of God because you are passing through a little darkness. This would be a conclusion contrary to the teachings of Scripture, to the experience of Christ’s people, and harmful to your best interests. You may still be a traveler to Zion, although you have to walk in the night season and the sunshine. Though a black cloud may for a time intervene between the light of your Father’s countenance and your soul, yet the countenance may shine all the same, and by and by the cloud will disperse, and you will rejoice in the brightness of His appearing. You may be like a tree in winter whose sap is gone into the earth and has no fruit or leaves, but, like the tree when the spring and summer weather comes, you will revive and flourish and bear much fruit. Even Jesus, for a time, was subject to the withdrawing of the light of His Father’s favor, but there was no dissolution of the union between them. They were still Father and Son — one in nature, love, and work.
What wonder if you should be like your Lord in having your time of darkness. But be sure, like Him, the union is maintained between you and God. David had his dark seasons, but still, he hoped in God and counted himself as the Lord’s. With all his devotedness, Dr. Payson of America had many hours of darkness in which he lived but he never gave up his love for God. John Smith, David Stoner, and others equally eminent for holiness walked through darkness on their way to heaven, still, they kept their confidence in God, who, according to His word, manifested Himself unto them in lovelier beauties. You may see, then, that your experience is only in agreement with that of the Word of God and the experience of His people. As you are like them in your darkness, seek to be like them in your trust and hope. Go on your way, living and walking by faith. If you even have the valley of the shadow of death to pass through, say to God, “Thy rod and Thy staff will comfort me.” Listen to the advice of the prophet “Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.” Isaiah 50:10
VARIOUS CAPACITIES OF USEFULNESS
While you are desirous of being useful, be content to be useful with those powers which God has given you and in that sphere in which He has placed you. There is a kind of Christian who is always thinking, “O, how useful I should be if I was in the office and possessed the talents of that brother or that sister.” If you have fallen into this error, be assured that it is dangerous and will lead you astray. God expects from you in the way of usefulness no more than He has bestowed your abilities to perform. Endeavor to learn the talent He has given, and then be satisfied to employ that and improve it in its own proportion. The abilities of usefulness in Christians are much the same as in nature and art.
You see the eagle with eyes and wings, which carry it far away in the heavens, while the poor bat can only fly in the region of houses and trees. The nightingale and lark fill the air with their enchanting music, while the homely sparrow can only chirrup on the housetop. But each serves its place and is useful in so doing. There are the face and fingers to a clock most conspicuous, while the interior is hidden from view; — the little cog small and few in its revolutions, while the mainspring sways great power; but all are necessary and occupy an important relation to each other and are essential to make the clock useful. So it is in the Church; there are a variety of offices and a variety of talent to fill them.
In this, we see Divine wisdom. If, upon examination, you find that you have not the eagle talent, or the nightingale talent, or the mainspring talent, or any other of prominence and great power, do not rest in dormancy, content to be a cipher. Fill the place God has put you in. Occupy your talent until He comes. Help on the ark of the Lord with your hand if you cannot use your shoulder. Hew the wood and draw the water, if such is your appointed work, according to your capacity. It matters not what place you fill by Divine appointment; if you fill it with faithfulness, you will have the “Well done” from your Lord, as though you had stood first in the order of gifts.
Through the love of God our Savior All will be well. Free and changeless is His favor, All, all is well! Precious is the blood that healed us, Perfect is the grace that sealed us. Strong the hand stretched forth to shield us. All must be well! Though we pass through tribulation, All will be well. Ours is such a full salvation. All, all is well! Unhappy, still to God confiding, Fruitful, if in Christ abiding, Holy, through the Spirit's guiding. All must be well! We expect a bright tomorrow. All will be well. Faith can sing through days of sorrow, - All, all is well! On our leather's love relying, Jesus every need supplying. Or in living, or in dying. All must be well! - Bowly. Romans 8:28
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.
Source: Bate J. (1865). The class leader’s assistant.