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New Testament Christianity: Chapter 4 - The Faith-faculty

By J.B. Phillips


      Quite a number of presentday Christians are consciously or unconsciously on the defensive. They are only too well aware that they are a small minority, and many of them are faithfully and strenuously defending their convictions. Their courage and loyalty to Christ in the face of the widespread apathy of the surrounding world is wholly admirable. But, with some notable exceptions, the Christian Faith is only being maintained within existing Churches, and is not spreading very far beyond actual churchmember ship. However much we love the Church, we have to admit that, though it may exhibit the quieter and more inconspicuous virtues, it is very rarely making any con siderable impact upon the modern pattern of living. It has unquestionably lost power, and it has lost vision; while in the worst cases the Christian Faith itself is being reduced to a dreary dutyperformance which, to say the least of it, is most unattractive.

      No doubt there are many reasons for the deterioration in quality in Christian faith and Christian living over the centuries, but one explanation which I personally re gard as wholly inadmissible is to blame the passage of time; that is, our distance measured in years from the events recorded in the New Testament. I regard this as inadmissible, partly because of the Nature of God, which is naturally unchangeable, and partly because I cannot believe Jesus Christ founded a Church which was in tended to taper off into ineffective mediocrity. Further, it is only too easy for many presentday Christians to owe their loyalty to the presentday Church, and be content so long as they are keeping the minimal rules of conduct prescribed. They are forgetting the aweinspiring con temporaneousness of God, and that their own Church, though still living, may have become senile through fail ing to renew its youth by open contact with the living God. This safe, limited loyalty makes the power and glory of invasion by the divine quality of living almost impossible.

      Even more than the limiting and inhibiting effects of our preconceived loyalties is the mental climate of our age which affects all of us, whether Christians or not, far more than we know. We have become conditioned to regard this earthly life of ours as a completely closed system of cause and effect. Because Science has made such enormous strides, can explain to our satisfaction so much of the physical world, and can offer intelligent ex planations of what was previously sheer mystery, we are inclined to forget that Science at its apparently most omniscient is only dealing with one particular stratum or aspect of Truth. Again, modem psychology has made enormous strides in the understanding and explanation of human behaviour. But while it throws a great deal of light on what was previously dark (and has, we hope, much more light to shed), we need to remember that the psychologist also is dealing only with certain aspects of Truth in this case emotional and mental life. We should be foolish to disregard this new knowledge, but we should be still more foolish if we thought that by means of physical and mental science the whole of life can now be accounted for. It seems to me that we are missing out a dimension in our thinking which we may call for the moment the dimension of God. It was aware ness of this dimension which produced the startling vigour and unassailable certainty of the Young Church.

      In this modem age, which treats as commonplace that which our grandparents would have thought miraculous, we ought to be able to grasp numerous analogies to help us understand how several media or dimensions can co exist. Let us select one very obvious but useful example from our common modem life. As I write these words I am aware of various things through my physical senses as it happens, at the moment these are chiefly: the light and warmth of sunshine, the beauty of trees in full leaf, the varied songs of birds, and the distant sound of children at play. I am also mentally aware of the truth I am trying to express, and of you, my imaginary reader, following the line of thought I am trying to make clear. Doubtless as you read you are taking in similar sense im pressions, as well as having your thoughts guided by the complicated system of marks made upon paper which we call printing. But simultaneously in the immediate world of you the reader and me the writer there are radio programmes of various kinds actually in our rooms with us. The "ether" for that is the name given to this allpervasive but intangible medium is continually pulsing and vibrating, strongly or feebly, with perhaps a hundred or more near or distant radio transmissions. In common parlance, we frequently say that a certain pro gramme is "on the air"; but that of course is quite in accurate. Radio transmissions are not vibrations in the air. They would function just as well if there were no air at all, and they make their way, as we all know, with very little hindrance through such things as timber, stone, and concrete. It is only when they meet conductors or partial conductors of electricity that these inaudible, invisible vibrations become minute electric currents, and even then they are undetectable except by that common place but quite complicated piece of circuitry known as a radioset. In your body, as in my body, there are at this very moment minute electrical currents of which we are quite unaware. They are, in fact, an untuned jumble of electrical vibrations representing the assorted offerings of many radio transmissions. Now, we are unaware of this and normally we take no notice of it. It is only when we want to hear a particular radio programme that we tune in a certain band of these etheric, vibrations, and by means of the radioset turn them back into audible sound. For, even if we disapprove of radio, even if we refuse to believe in its allpervasive presence, it makes not the slightest difference to the fact. Whether we like it or not, or whether we believe it or not, we are per meated by this mysterious "ether", and that is a fact which can easily be demonstrated. Before the advent of radio less than a century ago, such an idea would have seemed in the highest degree improbable and even impossible. We know today that it is true; that simul taneously with our ordinaryworld senseimpressions there coexists a world of mysterious "ether" of which we only become aware when certain apparatus is used.

      Now, this seems to me a most helpful, if simple, analogy. Suppose it is possible that the whole material world, and the whole psychological world, are inter penetrated by what we may call the "spiritual". For some reason or other we are inclined to think of the physical world, and even the demonstrable world of the "ether", as somehow real, while the "spiritual" is re garded as unreal and imaginary. I believe the opposite to be true. As Paul foresaw long ago "the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:18). Suppose what we are seeing and measur ing and observing are the outward expressions in the time and space setup of what is really eternal and spiritual! If we make such a supposition, we are in for a revolution in our whole way of thinking. But New Testament Christians had already experienced this revo lution.

      To sense the reality of the Goddimension, to conform to its purpose and order, to perceive its working in and through the visible world system is, speaking broadly, what the Bible calls faith. The heroes of Old Testament days were invariably the men, and in some cases the women, who exercised their faculty of faith even when it appeared to contradict the evidence of their five senses. In those old days, the king, the prophet, the priest, the warrior, sensed intuitively what has today become very largely a missing dimension. There is much in the Old Testament which may strike us as outmoded and even tedious, but its particular genius is to point to and record the actions of those people who were, however dimly, living life with a consciousness of the Eternal Order.

      Naturally, when we come to the pages of the New Tes tament we find this faculty vastly enhanced. For those fortunate enough to see and know God in the Person of Jesus Christ the human being and recognise Who He was, the faculty of faith was naturally stimulated and. confirmed. Peter, for example, blurts out a truth which others besides himself must have been thinking when he exclaims: "Thou hast the words of eternal life." (John 6:68). He means surely that the truth of Christ's teaching is to be recognised as part of the permanent order. In this ex clamation, and in his even more famous one, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" Matthew 16:16), Peter is saying that the very focalpoint of faith is alive before them, the heart and centre of the unseen eternal dimension has broken into the time and space setup in visible form.

      It is easy for us to think how slow Christ's contem poraries were to recognise Him. But in an extraordinary way it was particularly difficult. For the best of men faith means believing in the dark, believing sometimes in spite of ordinary evidence and proofs. It was not easy for them, nor would it be for us, to realise that the unique and unforeseeable had happened that the King of the very order which they grasped so dimly was living and present before their eyes. It was not really until after the Resurrection that they dared to believe what seemed too good to be true. But thereafter thousands upon thou sands began to live their lives from the new heavenly point of view by putting their faith in the focused God, Jesus Christ.

      Now, in a way it is a pity that we have to use the word "faith" to describe the faculty by which the unseen dimension is grasped, drawn upon, and lived by. It is only a pity because to many of us, if we are honest, "faith" has degenerated into a rather dogged holding on to something which we believe to be true. Of course ideas of belief and personal trust are involved in what the New Testament calls faith. Nevertheless, it might help us to grasp the truth afresh if we saw it as a faculty as real as seeing or hearing, thinking or feeling. Suppose it is true as I am sure it is, that we are at all times surrounded and permeated by this "spiritual" dimension. Suppose, too, that we needed the xfaculty in order to appreciate this further dimension. Can we not see that it is the xfaculty which has deteriorated over the centuries between us and the Church's young days? I believe we all have this faculty, but in many of us it has become atrophied al most to vanishing point. Now, since it is obvious through out the New Testament that the xfaculty is the indispensable link between the resources of the unseen world and this temporary one, we can easily understand how the serious falling off in the use and practice of "faith" throughout the Church at large has resulted in a marked loss of spiritual power.

      It would appear that one of the great reasons for our living on this planet at all is that we may learn to use and develop this faculty. As the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews succinctly puts it, "without faith it is impossible to please Him" (Hebrews 11:6), which simply means that if we do not use our faithfaculty we are bound to be out of harmony with the divine Plan. Why this should be so we simply do not know, but it is one of the primary facts which we have to accept.

      Now, obviously it is much easier merely to use our ordinary physical and mental faculties. The whole pat tern of the world's life disregards, for the most part, the existence of this faithfaculty and its practical applica tion to the business of living. Once we begin to use it we shall find a certain opposition in the ordinary earth bound pattern of thinking by which we are surrounded. We shall also find in ourselves a certain reluctance com parable to the physical pain we experience in bringing into play a longdisused muscle. But the effort must be made, the initial stiffness overcome, if we are to use again the vital faculty which gives point and quality to life.

      1. The Faithfaculty in the New Testament

      Now, if we look at the New Testament records with an eye to seeing how this faculty was stimulated and de veloped, we may be surprised to find how essential it is. Both in the Gospels and in the Letters, it is the use of this faculty which makes life of a new quality possible. It is obviously out of the question to examine here every reference to the word "faith", but I will suggest a few instances which may open up profitable lines of thinking.

      In the Gospels it would appear, in general, that the existence and use of this faculty provided the link be tween the Divine Order and human life. The centurion who earned Jesus' commendation for his "faith" plainly took it as a matter of course that as he occupied a posi tion of authority in the purely earthly realm, so Jesus was able to exercise authority in the unseen realm (Matthew 8:5; Luke 7:2). It was not so much personal admiration for Jesus, and probably not full recognition of Who He really was, so much as an intuitive perception that here was One Who was a Master over the unseen forces which influence ob served life. His "faith" was, nevertheless, a sincere recog nition that there was a Divine Order which was real and reliable.

      Again, in the case of those four young men who were prepared to take desperate measures to get their friend to Jesus, there was the same recognition of the unseen Divine Order and Power (Mark 2:3; Luke 5:18). In both these cases, and of course in many others, the use of the faithfaculty was, so to speak, the agent which enabled Jesus' power to be released. The contrary was also true. Where men were imprisoned by the closed system and could not, for reasons of prejudice or sheer unwillingness to believe, break through into the real dimension, even the power of Jesus was inhibited. In Nazareth "He could do no mighty works there because of their unbelief." (Matthew 13:58). We read, moreover, that "He marvelled because of their un belief " (Mark 6:6); and surely we may fairly guess that His ob servation of men's failure to use their faculty of faith must have continually astonished Him. To Him the Un seen Dimension and Order were continuously real. The love, the generosity, and the power of the Father were constant realities, and it must not only have amazed but grieved Him more than we can guess to find men either unwilling or unable to use the power of faith. Again and again He urges men to "have faith in God"; and both by His own teaching and His own example it is plain that He is continually urging men to put the weight of their confidence, not in earthly schemes and values, but in the unseen Heavenly Order, of which the supreme Head is the Father. To live like this, to live as though the spiritual realities were infinitely more important than the appearance of things, might fairly be said to be a basic teaching of Jesus. To live "by faith" is to Him the truly natural way of living, and although it may de mand effort and persistence, He does not hold it out as a way of living merely for the spiritual elite. It is only in the exceptional cases, as in the case of the healing of the epileptic boy (Luke 9:39), that Jesus declares that training and disci pline are necessary for faith to produce the requisite power for good. In general, throughout the Gospels Jesus seems to be urging men to dare to use their faith- faculty to knock, to seek, to ask. His general implica tion is that there are boundless resources in the Unseen World available for men of faith.

      There were, and are, many reasons for man's nonuse of the faithfaculty. We shall find it rewarding to study the Gospelrecords themselves, and, by using a little imagination, see the reasons which prevented men from believing even when the Truth was with them in Person. There is one significant remark of Jesus' which is worth mentioning here. He said on one occasion, "How can you believe while you receive honour one from another?" (John 5:44). This is surely a most important remark, for we may fairly infer from it that in order to "believe" or properly exercise the "faithfaculty", we must be prepared to dis regard the honours, commendations, and even values of this passing world. May I suggest that we pause at this point and consider why it is that we ourselves make so little use of the faithfaculty? Is it simply laziness, the unwillingness to use an almost atrophied function of our personalities, or are we so bound by the present world system that we cannot "believe"? I am convinced that there will be no recovery of the vitality and vigour of New Testament Christianity until we who call ourselves Christians dare to break through contemporary habits of thought and touch the resources of God.

      In the teaching of Jesus the use of the faithfaculty does not, of course, only mean recognising that there is a Divine Order and that there are Divine resources. He frequently made it a far more personal matter than that. He taught that men could live without worry and fear if they would use their faithfaculty to realise that the One in charge of the whole mysterious world, and indeed of everything, seen or unseen, is man's Heavenly Father. Now, this may be believing in spite of appearances, for there is much in this sinful and imperfect world to con tradict such an idea. But to Jesus it was the fundamental fact, a fact which once firmly grasped by heart and mind affects a man's life both here and in what we call the "hereafter". Consider His words, "He that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlast ing life" (John 5:24). What is this but a plain assurance that if a man accepts the teaching of Christ as the fundamental ex pression of the Father's authority and plan, he enters already upon that timeless quality of living which is sometimes called "eternal life". In other words, if a man uses his faithfaculty to grasp with heart and mind the essential truth about life, he becomes part of Real Life. The wellknown words of Jesus, "According to your faith be it unto you" (Matthew 9:29), take on a new meaning if we are thinking of faith, not as a desperate effort to believe, so much as the using of a faculty to grasp unseen realities and utilise unseen resources.

      2. "Faith" in the Young Church

      Now, when we come to the book of the Acts of the Apostles or the Letters of the New Testament, we are reading about what actually happened when men and women began to "believe in the Lord Jesus Christ". The burden of preaching in the Acts is not, as far as can be discovered the emphasis on man's depravity, but on faith the grasping by the faithfaculty of the new order. Naturally the focalpoint of this new apprehension is God's personal focusing of Himself in the Man Jesus Christ. The word translated "repentance" does not necessarily mean being sorry for our sins, though that will probably be included. Metanoia means a fundamental change of outlook. As far as we can discover in the early preaching of the Gospel, the Good News was not primarily the announcement of the fact that men were sinners, but that the real world had broken through into this world in visible, tangible form in fact, in Christ. God was now knowable, His Plan of a universal Kingdom was manifest, death itself was of no account now that God had revealed Himself in Jesus. Simultane ously with this proclamation of Good News to Jews and Gentiles was the announcement that the living contemporary Spirit of God was alive and active. We have only to read the book of the Acts to see how He, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, empowered, transformed, and guided the early Christians. The Young Church was full of divine energy and wisdom, and it would seem that its members were so filled because they learned more and more to use the faculty of faith, and because they prayed, not indeed to persuade an unwilling God, but to bring themselves into line with His Purpose so that the power could safely be given. No one could honestly read the book of the Acts with an adult mind without being im pressed with this sense of suprahuman power, wisdom, and authority. God Himself is plainly at work in and through these new Christians who, for all their faults, were plainly exercising the faithfaculty.

      Now, when we enter the world of the Letters, which reflect the life of the early Church, we are again faced with the phenomenon of people whose whole outlook and pattern of life is being transformed by the use of the same faculty of faith. If we examine even the letter of James, which is supposed to concern itself much more with "good works" than "faith", we find on examination that the letter is merely a corrective against false ideas of what "faith" implies. "Of what use is it," says James in effect, if you do see the unseen realities of God, His Kingdom, and His Order, unless that perception is ex pressed and worked out in ordinary human situations?" That is a very proper question, and it is part of the discipline of life that, although we may have our glimpses of the glory of God, though we may by faith thoroughly accept the truth of "the Incarnation"the Atonement", "the Resurrection" etc., all these shining revolutionary truths have to be expressed and worked out in the dust and darkness, even in the strain and squalor of the sinful human situation. So far from decrying the value of faith, James is concerned to prevent such a faculty from becom ing romantically airborne. He is determined, and rightly, determined, that just as the young Prince of Glory lived His matchless life in the dust and sweat of the human arena, so users of the faithfaculty must not consider themselves above their Lord.

      If is of course when we come to the Letters of Paul that we find the word "faith" used again and again. It is used in slightly different senses, as we shall see in a moment; but always it includes this idea of grasping a reality, a whole dimension of reality which we cannot see with our fleshly senses. Paul indeed draws the strong contrast between the man whose vision and outlook are limited to this world and the man who, by the action of the Spirit, becomes alive to spiritual realities.

      One of Paul's most important teachings, though it is only one, is the doctrine of what we call "Justification by faith". It frequently appears to the nonChristian mind that this is an immoral or at least unmoral doctrine. Paul appears to be saying that a man is justified before God, not by his goodness or badness, not by his good deeds or bad deeds, but by believing in a certain doctrine of the Atonement.

      Of course, when we come to examine the matter more closely we can see that there is nothing unmoral in this teaching at all. For if "faith" means using a Godgiven faculty to apprehend the unseen divine Order, and means, moreover, involving oneself in that order by per sonal commitment, we can at once see how different that is from merely accepting a certain view of Christian redemption. What Paul is concerned to point out again and again is that no man can reconcile himself to the moral perfection of God by his own efforts in this time and space setup. It is a foregone conclusion that he must fail. The truth is, and of course it is a truth which can only be seen and accepted by the faithfaculty, that God has taken the initiative, that, staggering as it may seem, one of the main objects of the Personal Visit was to recon cile man to Himself. That which man in every religion, every century, every country was powerless to effect, God has achieved by the devastating humility of His action and suffering in Jesus Christ. Now, accepting such an action as a fait accompli is only possible by this perceptive faculty of "faith". It requires not merely in tellectual assent but a shifting of personal trust from the achievements of the self to the completely undeserved action of God. To accept this teaching by mind and heart does, indeed, require a metanoia, a revolution in the outlook of both mind and heart. Although the natural human personality sometimes regards this generous fact of reconciliation as an affront to its pride, to countless people since Paul's day it has been, as it was meant to be, Good News.

      The phrase, "justification by faith", then, simply means acceptance of a forgiveness and a reconciliation made by God Himself and the total abandonment of efforts at selfjustification. God's action, His "grace" as Paul calls it, becomes effectual when the truth of the matter becomes real by "faith". That is why Paul re peats again and again in different words his great theme, "by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8).

      It appears to me that no little part of the joy and cer tainty of the early Christians springs from their whole hearted acceptance of this grace. In my own experience, limited as it may be, the glorious certainty of the early Church has been replaced today by a kind of wavering hopefulness, by no means free from attempts at self-justification. If we are to recapture the buoyancy and vigour of New Testament Christians, we must stop quib bling about the question of our own forgiveness and our own standing with God. We must accept the generosity of God, and stand upright as His sons and daughters. The attitude of the New Testament Letters, in general, is never one of dwelling upon man's sinfulness (even though it was sometimes necessary to remind people of what they were), but an encouraging looking forward to what they might become through the grace and power of God.

      It is to Paul chiefly that we owe the thought (which is also found in John's first letter), that Christ Himself lives in men's hearts. No one could read with an open mind the Letters of the New Testament without seeing that people are being, sometimes suddenly and sometimes step by step, transformed. The reason for this, according to Paul, is an open secret. In the past, he says in effect, men have striven to please an external God; now God's great secret is plain. With the coming of the Good News, indeed it is part of the Good News, God is prepared to live within the personalities of those who use their faculty of faith towards Him (Colossians I :2627). In Paul's writings we do not read of Jesus Christ as an Example Who lived and died some years before and Who must be followed and imitated. On the contrary, Paul's letters are ablaze with the idea that, if men will believe it, Christ is alive and powerful, ready to enter and trans form the lives of even the most unlikely. This happens, he says, "by faith". But how rarely in presentday. Christianity do we meet such a faith! Many Christians do not appear to have grasped this, one of the essentials of the Gospel. It is true that they believe in God, they pray to God, and they try to follow the example of Christ. But, as far as one can tell, they have not begun to realise that Christ could be living and active at the very centre of their own personalities. And, of course, so long as they do not believe it, it is not true for them. For just as in the days of Christ's human life the divine power was inhibited or limited by the absence of faith, so His activity within the personality is limited where a man does not in his heart of hearts believe in it. If we modem Christians are steadfastly refusing to believe in this inward miracle, it is not surprising that our Christian life becomes a dreary drudge.

      In general, then, in Paul's writings faith means the grasping of the new assured position in relation to God, the bold exploration of God's resources by use of the faithfaculty, and the firm belief that Christ Himself is present and potent in the heart and soul of the Christian. At the same time, the same faith enables the Christian to see through this world's values, to be successful in refus ing to be impressed by circumstances, good or bad, and to realise who he really is a son of God whose per manent home is not here but in God's real home. "I reckon," says Paul, "that whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing compared with the glorious future that God has prepared for us" (Romans 8:18). These words have no flavour of boastfulness, but ring perfectly true. If we feel that our own convictions fall a very long way short of such certainty, as I think we are bound to feel, can we not rightly conclude that people like Paul had developed the faculty of faith until it had the solidity of conviction, while for many of us it would be true to say that our faith has got little beyond a certain hopeful trustfulness?

      Now, it is obvious that if there are spiritual enemies of the sons and daughters of God (and who, if he has ever tried to live the life of a Christian, would deny it?), then the basic assault will be made upon the faculty of faith. If only we can be manoeuvred into the position of dis trusting or disusing our faithfaculty, then the battle is over, we are defeated men. It is not surprising to read of Paul's urging his convert Timothy to "Fight the good fight of faith" (1 Timothy 6:12); nor of Peter in his first letter speaking of the tensions and strains to which faith will be sub jected, once we see its enormous value. Appearances, feelings, even sometimes common sense, will undermine, if they can, the Christian's hold on ultimate reality; that is, his faith. It is not always easy to believe. If the good purpose of God were readily discernible, there would have been no need for Jesus, for example, to urge men to have faith in God, nor for His apostles to do all they could to strengthen and confirm men's faith. There are failures as well as successes recorded in the New Testament, and Demas was surely neither the first nor the last to find the effort to live the life of faith too strenuous for his tastes.

      3. "Faith" in Today's World

      If we are genuinely willing to welcome the fresh wind of the Spirit and to experience once again the Godgiven vigour of the early Church, we must plainly begin by reusing the faculty of faith. Perhaps it would not be out of place here to make a few suggestions which for con venience' sake may be numbered:

      1. Let us deliberately take time to consider our modern situation, not so much its problems but its attitude of mind and spirit. A few chapters read from the Acts of the Apostles might help us to appreciate by contrast how closed we have grown on the Godward side. Perhaps we might, with as fresh minds as we can, read some of the Gospel incidents as well so that we may become convinced afresh that the fault in our presentday Christian ity lies not in God, with His astonishing generosity, but in our own neglected capacity to believe, to reach out and appropriate His resources. Although we are not re sponsible for our talents or lack of them, we are very largely responsible for our own attitude of mind. Let us, without morbid selfaccusing, confess that we have largely neglected to use our Godgiven faculty of faith. Let us freely admit that at heart our life attitude has been a long way from that of men attuned to unseen realities.

      2. Let us by conscious and deliberate effort begin to exercise the longdisused faculty. Whatever our circum stances may be, life is so arranged that there is never a lack of opportunity for such exercise. It is apparent that, both for considering our own position in relation to God and in deliberately using our power of faith, we need a quiet space in our lives. This is absolutely essential, and nothing is more important than securing this space amid all our busyness. No one is too busy to set aside a period of, say, a quarter of an hour each day for such quiet. (We are all rather ridiculous here. For if we knew for certain that a space of a quarter of an hour's quiet was essential for our physical health, for example, we should unhesitatingly make room for it. It would become a top priority. Can we not see that such a period, which should be regarded as a minimum, could be absolutely essential for our spiritual health?) For many people this period of quiet must of necessity be solitary, but since a great deal of the vigour of the early Church depended on Christian fellowship and was, in fact, given and demonstrated through Christian fellowship, there is good reason to suppose that a small Godseeking group of people might help one another enormously in redeveloping the faith -faculty.

      3. Study of the New Testament with as unbiased and unprejudiced a mind as possible will undoubtedly stimulate faith itself and the desire to develop the faculty more. Before long we cannot help realising, if we "soak" ourselves in the meaning and spirit of these inspired pages, that this other world, which we have been in the habit of regarding as shadowy and faraway, can, and in fact historically did, permeate ordinary human life. Fur ther, we shall conclude that there is no valid reason for supposing that if the right conditions are fulfilled the same suprahuman quality and power could not pene trate life today.

      4. Jesus told men "to knock", "to seek", and "to ask", by which I understand Him to mean that although the resources of God are always available it is up to us men to make use of them. I think, too, that He may well have meant men to make spiritual experiments, to try out, as it were, the Divine resource. As we do this, we shall inevitably find that the values and fortunes of this passing world become less important and clamant. Nevertheless, I think we should be wise, by deliberately training our selves, to see that real security does not, indeed cannot, rest in this world, however lucky or careful we may be. Moreover, all experiences of love and beauty, much as we may enjoy and appreciate them in this transitory life, are not rooted here at all. We should save ourselves a lot of disillusionment and heartbreak if we reminded ourselves constantly that here we have "no continuing city" (Hebrews 13:14). The world is rich with all kinds of wonders and beauties, but we only doom ourselves to disappointment if we think that the stuff of this world is permanent; its change and decay are inevitable. The rich variety of transitory beauty is no more than a reflection or a fore taste of the real and the permanent. Something surely of this thought is included in Christ's words, "lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal" (Matthew 6:20).

      5. Finally, we must accept as one of the facts of life that to live on this level and to retain this attitude of mind and heart is not as easy as falling off a log. Some times, it is true, it is easy and natural, but there are other times when contemporary pressures and even our own lethargy make it difficult to rise and live as sons and daughters of the Most High. We must cheerfully accept the fact that, cost what it may, for the time being, "we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7). To exercise faith will often mean an effort on our part, a determined breaking through of the matted layers of this world's selfsuffi ciency, and a persistent reaching out to touch the living God.

Back to J.B. Phillips index.

See Also:
   Chapter 1 - Explanation
   Chapter 2 - The Angels' Point of View
   Chapter 3 - God Makes News
   Chapter 4 - The Faith-faculty
   Chapter 5 - Ground for Hope
   Chapter 6 - Love
   Chapter 7 - The Love-deficiency
   Chapter 8 - Peace
   Chapter 9 - Christian Maintenance
   Chapter 10 - Christian Service
   Chapter 11 - Some Conclusions

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