IN our own circumstances, and in the church, there is a 'needs be' for straits or the trying of our faith. To this end "tribulation worketh patience", and we are to count it all joy when we fall into divers trials, because the trying of our faith worketh patience, or endurance; and in the church there must be heresies, that they which are approved may be made manifest. Straits then are to be expected and looked for, as in the circle of the year the winter is looked for. The ant not only provides for the winter, but also knows what are its resources or helps at such a time, and what its hindrances. Now this is just our wisdom, to ascertain what are our helps and hin drances in our winter or strait. It is said of the ant that it displays its wisdom by providing in summer for the winter. This teaches us that it is the joy and confidence we have in the Lord in the bright day, or the summer, which we are to use and call up afresh to our hearts in the dark day, or the winter. In a word, we are to be supplied with the good things of summer in the depth of winter. The same Lord is to comfort and sustain our hearts in the dark day, as He has done in the bright day. The one help then is the Lord. I do not say that help may not be given by others, but if it is it must be because of their faith. Faith in God is the one simple help. Now though this is not only known, but also acted on in a measure, yet we are constantly exposed to hindrances from those who should have helped us by their faith.
Let us trace how the two are presented in Scripture. Adam in the moment of his wife's apostasy is beguiled by her; she who should have helped him is his hindrance, and simply because she has fallen herself, she drags him into the same depths. But he rises in faith out of it when he calls her Eve, "the mother of all living". He is alone in his faith; and this is the great principle taught in Scripture, that in faith one must act alone, and the hindrances come from persons whose coalescence or cooperation we seek, either indirectly or directly. Here Abraham was hampered and hindered. Lot was not a help, but a hindrance, from which he only extricated himself by acting in simple faith, surrendering his natural rights in confidence in God. At another time Sarah hindered him in the path and blessing of faith (Genesis 16), but God restored him to it in the circumcision (Genesis 17).
Moses began in faith, and "refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season"; yet his confidence in God failed when he said, "I am not eloquent". In too much confidence in his own power he had attempted by his own hand to deliver his people. But now, though self-distrusting, he did not reckon fully on God as able to act independently and in spite of his slowness of speech. His brother Aaron was given to help him; but more than once he was his greatest hindrance in the hour of trial. In his absence he made the golden calf, and made the people naked to their shame. So much for the one whom Moses had accepted to help him in lieu of the Lord, or in lack of faith; and this very brother afterwards joined with his sister Miriam in disparaging Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom e had married (Numbers 12). He was also hindered by Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. However, when he took the ground of simple faith alone, and from thence invited and called to those "on the Lord's side", the children of the house of Levi gathered themselves unto him. Faith is the one real help, and as we walk distinctly in it we encourage and promote the faith of any who have it. It is of all importance to see that this help is from the Lord only, and though co-operation and countenance from our fellows are not to be refused or disregarded, yet any help we receive through them must come to them from the Lord; for if not, their support, however well intended, will be a hindrance. How often was Joab a hindrance to David; and eventually he died by the sword -- the necessary penalty of those who assume to do God's work after their own devices. It is refreshing to see how David succeeded when he walked alone in faith, whether in the matter of Goliath, Ziklag, or Mount Moriah. Surely he could in the depth of his heart say, "blessed is the man that trusteth in thee". When the man of faith has recourse to man's ways, and accepts the help even of the best disposed, there is sure to be a Perez-Uzzah, as David found to his sorrow when he submitted to the influences around him, and sanctioned that the ark of the Lord should be carried on a cart.
Thus in times of difficulty there is less danger of being hindered, when there is no apparent help at all, than when one or more offer their assistance. We do well to watch and examine every proffer of help in every strait. Anything or any one who turns us from faith, however promising or enterprising, is really hindering. We get full and clear instruction as to this in the walk of our blessed Lord. When He had come down from the mount and was journeying to Jerusalem to die, even John, by his natural jealousy on His behalf, hinders Him. "We saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbade him, because he followeth not with us", Luke 9:49. The great significance and warning in this incident is that the best natural feeling leads one astray in divine things. Hence in Luke 9:54 we have John and James praying the Lord to command fire to come down from heaven to destroy those who did not receive Him; which drew forth from the Lord the well-merited and sharp rebuke, "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of". It is here that all the error arises, and the consequent hindrance to the man of faith. The most loving or the most devoted may suggest or adopt some natural course which is not of God, and there is necessarily a check and breach. If there were not, it would prove that God could sanction what He disallows, namely, sowing your field with divers seeds, or ploughing with an ox and an ass. If these helps were proffered by any one whose friendship were in any way questionable, there would not be so much danger from them, because one would be more wary in accepting them; but when they come from those who are not only most deeply attached, but truly devoted to their Lord, then there is a greater probability of being drawn away by them. No one, thank God, could turn our Lord from the path of simple faith. The suggestion or counsel of the most loving disciple was as unheeded and as sharply rebuked by Him as the worst and most inveterate effort of an enemy. Thus when Peter, in real consideration for Him, said, with reference to His death, "Be it far from thee, Lord : this shall not be unto thee", the Lord indignantly replied, "Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men". It is here that the man of faith is so often hindered; natural affection suggests some easy path instead of the path of testimony and suffering; and if one has not his heart fixed on the Lord, he will be hindered by the very one who may at the same moment have the most light and the most of nature, as it was with Peter, for his counsel was most inopportune and inadequate in that trying moment. He errs in the same way when he cuts off the ear of the high priest's servant. Daring zeal or extreme acts in the attempt to accomplish a desired end are often more hindering than slackness or cowardice. How entirely Peter misunderstood the mind and path of the Lord at the time; and instead of being in fellowship with Him in it, he in his eager haste had done a wrong which nothing but the immediate mercy of the Lord could rectify or remove.
In Paul's history we are taught how he was helped in times of difficulty, and how he was hindered. Peter, having shown how fully he agreed with him by eating with the gentiles, withdrew when certain came from James, fearing them of the circumcision. The one whose approbation and countenance had for a moment most helped him was the one who by his unfaithfulness or fear most hindered him; so much so that his chief friend and companion Barnabas was carried away by their dissimulation. When Paul refused to take with them John, whose surname was Mark, Barnabas betrayed the damage he had sustained, and acted unfaithfully; he took Mark and sailed unto Cyprus. When one assents to another's departure from principle, he is sure to depart from it himself when the pressure comes upon him. Barnabas yields to Peter, and he at length is foremost and violent in opposing the faithfulness of the apostle Paul. In like manner at Jerusalem James hindered Paul by his well-intentioned prudence, involving him in troubles from which he escaped through human means and contrivances more than by direct interposition. Paul learned in the ship (Acts 27), that his help came from the Lord; that when everything on which man could count would be wrecked, God was mighty to save. His word was, "God hath given thee all them that sail with thee". We find afterwards that when all in Asia had turned away from him, when those he might have reckoned on had slid away, yea, when all men forsook him, he surmounted each and all of these hindrances. He is not discouraged, his sure resource is in God. At the most trying moment he can testify, "the Lord stood with me... and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion"; an example and a witness to us that, however hindered and unsupported by man, the solitary saint dependent on the Lord will be supported by Him.