By Hannah Whitall Smith
Having sought to settle the question regarding the scriptural basis of actually living a life hid with Christ in God, and having also shown a little of what it is, the next point concerns how it is to be reached and realized.
First of all, I would say that this blessed life must not in any way be looked upon as an attainment, but as an obtainment. We cannot earn it. We cannot strive for it. We cannot win it. We can do nothing but ask for it and receive it. It is the gift of God in Christ Jesus. And when something is a gift, the only course left for the receiver is to take it and thank the giver for it. We never say of a gift, "See what I have attained," and boast of our skill and wisdom in having attained it. Rather we say, "See what has been given to me," and boast of the love and wealth and generosity of the giver. Everything in our salvation is a gift. From beginning to end, God is the giver and we are the receivers. God does not give to those who do great things. He gives to those who "receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness" (Romans 5:17), the richest promises.
In order to enter into a practical experience of this interior life, the soul must be in a receptive attitude, fully recognizing the fact that the higher Christian life is God's gift in Christ Jesus, and that it cannot be gained by any efforts or works of our own. This will greatly simplify the matter. The only thing left to be considered is to discover who receives this gift from God and how they receive it. In short, He can bestow it only upon the fully consecrated soul. And finally, it is to be received by faith.
Entire Surrender To God
Consecration (the act of setting apart for the service of God) removes the difficulties out of the way and makes it possible for God to bestow the higher Christian life. In order for a lump of clay to be made into a beautiful vessel, it must be entirely abandoned to the potter. It must lie passive in his hands.
I was once trying to explain to a physician who was in charge of a large hospital, the necessity and meaning of consecration, but he seemed unable to understand. At last I said to him, "Suppose, in making your rounds among your patients, you would meet with one man who earnestly asked you to take his case in your care in order to cure him, but who at the same time refused to tell you all his symptoms or to take all your prescribed remedies. Suppose he should say to you, 'I am quite willing to follow your directions regarding certain things because they seem good to me, but I prefer judging other matters for myself, and following my own directions. "What would you do in such a case?" I asked. "Do!" he replied with indignation: "Do! I would soon leave a man like that to his own care. For, of course," he added, "I could do nothing for him unless he would put his whole case into my hands without any reservations and would obey my directions implicitly." "It is necessary, then," I said, "for doctors to be obeyed, if they are to have any chance to cure their patient?" "Implicitly obeyed!" he replied emphatically. "And that is consecration," I continued. "God must have the whole case put into His hands without any reservations, and His directions must be implicitly followed." "I see it," he exclaimed. "I see it! And I will do it. God will have His own way with me from now on."
To some minds the word "abandonment" might express this idea better than the word "consecration." But whatever word we use, we mean an entire surrender of the whole being to God spirit, soul, and body placed under His absolute control, for Him to do with us just what He pleases. The language of our hearts, under all circumstances and in view of every act, is to be "Thy will be done." Freedom of choice must be given up. A life of complete obedience is the key.
This may appear to be difficult to those who truly do not know God. But to those who know Him, it is the happiest and most restful of lives. He is our Father, He loves us and He knows just what is best for us. Therefore, His will is the most blessed thing that can come to us under any circumstances. I do not understand how it is that the eyes of so many Christians have been blinded to this fact. But it really would seem as if God's own children were more afraid of His will than of anything else in life. His lovely, lovable will, which only means lovingkindnesses and tender mercies and blessings unspeakable to their souls! I wish I could show every one the immeasurable sweetness of the will of God. Heaven is a place of infinite bliss because His will is done there perfectly.
Our lives share in this bliss in the proportion that His will is perfectly done in them. He loves us -loves us, I say and the will of love is always blessing for its loved one. Some of us know what it is to love, and we know that if we could only have our way, our loved ones would be overwhelmed with blessings. All that is good and sweet and lovely in life would be poured out upon them from our lavish hands, if we only had the power to carry out our will for them. And if this is the way we love, how much more it must be so with God, who is love itself. If we for one moment could get a glimpse into the mighty depths of His love, our hearts would spring out to meet His will and embrace it as our richest treasure. We would abandon ourselves to it with an enthusiasm of gratitude and joy that such a wondrous privilege could be ours.
Many Christians seem to think that all their Father in heaven wants is a chance to make them miserable and to take away all their blessings. They imagine, poor souls, that if they try to govern things by their will they can hinder Him from doing this. I am ashamed to write this, yet we must face a fact which is making hundreds of lives miserable.
A Christian who was in a great deal of trouble was telling another Christian about the various efforts he had tried for deliverance, and concluded by saying, "But it has all been in vain, and there is literally nothing left for me to do now but to trust the Lord." "Alas!" exclaimed his friend in a tone of the deepest commiseration, as though no greater risk were possible "Has it come to that?"
A Christian lady who had this feeling was once telling a friend how she found it impossible to say, "Thy will be done," and how afraid she was to do it. She was the mother of an only little boy who was the heir to a great fortune and the idol of her heart. After she had completely stated her difficulties, her friend said, "Suppose your little Charley should come running to you tomorrow and say 'Mother, I have made up my mind to let you have your own way with me from now on. I am always going to obey you, and I want you to do just whatever you think best with me. I will trust your love.' How would you feel towards him? Would you say to yourself, 'Ah, now I will have a chance to make Charley miserable. I will take away all his pleasures, and fill his life with every hard and disagreeable thing that I can find. I will compel him to do just the things that are the most difficult for him to do, and will give him all sorts of impossible commands ? "Oh, no, no, no!" exclaimed the indignant mother. "You know I wouldn't do that. You know I would hug him to my heart, cover him with kisses, and hurry to fill his life with all that was sweetest and best." "And are you more tender and more loving than God?" asked her friend. "No!" was the reply. "I see my mistake. Of course I must not be anymore afraid of saying, 'Thy will be done,' to my Heavenly Father, than I would want my Charley to be afraid of saying it to me."
Better and sweeter than health, or friends, or money, or fame, or ease, or prosperity, is the adorable will of our God. It gilds the darkest hours with a divine halo, and sheds brightest sunshine on the gloomiest paths. When one reigns in the Kingdom, nothing can go wrong for him. Surely, then, it is only a glorious privilege that is opening before you, when I tell you that the first step you must take in order to enter into the life hid with Christ in God, is that of entire consecration. I beg you not to look at it as a difficult and stern demand. You must do it gladly, thankfully, enthusiastically. You must go in on what I call the privilege side of consecration. I can assure you, from the universal testimony of all who have tried it, that you will find it the happiest place you have ever entered yet.
According To Our Faith
After surrender, faith is important next. Faith is an absolutely necessary element when receiving any gift. When our friends give a thing to us, it is not really ours until we believe it has been given and we claim it as our own. Above all, this is true about gifts which are purely mental or spiritual. Love may be lavished upon us by another without measure, but until we believe that we are loved, it never really becomes ours.
I suppose most Christians understand this principle in reference to the matter of their forgiveness. They know that the forgiveness of sins through Jesus could have been preached to them forever, but it would never really have become theirs until they believed this preaching, and claimed the forgiveness as their own. But when it comes to living the Christian life, they lose sight of this principle, and think that, having been saved by faith, they are now to live by works and efforts. Instead of continuing to receive, they are now to begin to do. Our declaration that the life hid with Christ in God is to be entered by faith, seems perfectly unintelligible to them. And yet it is plainly declared, 'as ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him" (Colossians 2:6). We received Him by faith, and by faith alone. Therefore, we are to walk in Him by faith, and by faith alone. And the faith by which we enter into this hidden life is the same as the faith by which we were translated out of the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of God's dear Son, only it lays hold of a different thing.
Then we believed that Jesus was our Savior from the guilt of sin, and according to our faith it was done for us. Now we must believe that He is our Savior from the power of sin, and according to our faith it shall be done for us. Then we trusted Him for forgiveness, and it became ours. Now we must trust Him for righteousness, and it shall become ours also. Then we took Him as Savior from the penalties of our sins in the future. Now we must take Him as a Savior in the present from the bondage of our sins. Then He was our Redeemer. Now He is to be our Life. Then He lifted us out of the pit. Now He is to seat us in heavenly places with Himself.
Theologically I know that every believer has everything as soon as he is converted. But nothing is his until he claims it by faith. "Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you" (Joshua 1:3). God "hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3). But until we set the foot of faith upon them, they do not practically become ours. "According to our faith" is always the limit and the rule (see Matthew 9:29).
But this faith that I am speaking of must be a present faith. No faith that is practiced in the future tense amounts to anything. A man may believe forever that his sins will be forgiven at some future time and he will never find peace. He has to come to the now belief, and say by a present appropriating faith, "My sins are now forgiven," before his soul can be at rest. And, similarly, no faith that looks for a future deliverance from the power of sin will ever lead a soul into the life we are describing. The enemy delights in this future faith, for he knows it is powerless to accomplish any practical results. However, he trembles and flees when the soul of the believer dares to claim a present deliverance and to consider itself to be free from his power now.
Perhaps no four words in the language have more meaning in them than the following, which I would have you repeat over and over with your voice and with your soul, emphasizing a different word each time:
Believe God Will Do It
Jesus saves me now. It is He.
Jesus saves me now._It is His work to save.
Jesus saves me now. I am the one to be saved.
Jesus saves me now. He is doing it every moment.
Let us sum this up. In order to enter into this blessed interior life of rest and triumph, you have two steps to take: first, entire abandonment, and second, absolute faith. No matter what the complications of your experience, no matter what your difficulties, or your surroundings, or your "peculiar temperament," these two steps will certainly bring you out into the green pastures and still waters of this life hid with Christ in God. You may be perfectly sure of this. And if you will let every other consideration go, and simply devote your attention to these two points, your progress will be rapid, and your soul will reach its desired haven far sooner than you can now think possible.
I will repeat the steps so there is no mistake. You are a child of God, and long to please Him. You love your divine Master, and you are sick and weary of the sin that grieves Him. You long to be delivered from its power. Everything you have tried up to now has failed to deliver you. Now in your despair, you are asking if it can be as happy people say, that Jesus is able and willing to deliver you. Surely you must know in your very soul that to save you out of the hand of all your enemies is, in fact, just the very thing He came to do. Then trust Him. Commit your case to Him without hesitation. Believe that He takes all. And at once, knowing what He is and what He has said, claim that He saves you even now. Just as you first believed that He delivered you from the guilt of sin because He said it, believe now that He delivers you from the power of sin because He says it.
Let your faith lay hold of a new power in Christ now. You have trusted Him as your dying Savior. Trust Him now as your living Savior. Just as He came to deliver you from future punishment, He also came to deliver you from present bondage. Just as sure as He came to bear your stripes for you, He has come to live your life for you. You are as completely powerless in the one case as in the other. You could not have gotten rid of your own sins and you could not accomplish practical righteousness for yourself. Christ, and Christ only, must do both for you. Your part in both cases is simply to give Him the thing to do, and then believe that He does it.
A woman, now very strong in this life of trust was at first in great darkness and perplexity when trying to come to an understanding of the higher Christian life. At that time she said to the friend who was trying to help her, "You all say abandon yourself and trust, abandon yourself and trust. But I don't know how. I wish you would just do it out loud, so that I can see how you do it."
Would you like me to do it out loud for you?
"Lord Jesus, I believe that you are able and willing to deliver me from all the care and unrest and bondage of my life. I believe you died to set me free, not only in the future, but here and now. I believe you are stronger than sin, and that you can keep me, even in my extreme weakness, from falling into its snares or obeying its commands. And, Lord, I am going to trust you to keep me. I have tried keeping myself, and have failed terribly. I am absolutely helpless. So now I will trust you. I give myself to you. Body, soul, and spirit, I present myself to you, as a piece of clay, to be fashioned into anything your love and your wisdom chooses. I hold back nothing. And now I am yours. I believe you accept all that I present to you. I believe that you have taken possession of this poor, weak, foolish heart. I believe that at this very moment you have begun to work in me to will and to do of your good pleasure. I trust you completely and I trust you now."
Are you afraid to take this step? Does it seem too sudden, too much like a leap in the dark? Don't you know that the step of faith always seems to be void, but the rock is always beneath: If you are ever to enter this glorious land flowing with milk and honey, you must first enter the brimming waters, for there is no other path. To do it now may save you months and even years of disappointment and grief. Hear the word of the Lord: "Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest" (Joshua 1:9).