By Hannah Whitall Smith
After consecration, the next step in the soul's progress out of the wilderness of a failing Christian experience into the land that flows with milk and honey, is that of faith. And here, as in the first step, the soul encounters certain kinds of difficulty and hindrance at once.
The child of God who understands the fullness of life available to him through Jesus Christ, and whose heart hungers to experience that fullness, can be assured that this fullness is only to be received by faith. But the subject of faith is such a hopeless to his mind, that the idea of faith, instead of shedding light upon the way to fullness of life in Christ, only seems to make it more difficult and involved than ever.
"Of course it must by faith," he says, "for I know that everything in the Christian life is by faith. But that is just what makes it so hard, for I have no faith, and I do not even know what it is, nor how to get it." And, thus, confused at the very beginning by this difficulty, he is plunged into darkness, and almost despair. This trouble arises from the fact that the subject of faith is very generally misunderstood. For, in reality, faith is the simplest and plainest thing in the world and it is most easy to put into practice.
Your idea of faith, I suppose, has been something like this. You have looked upon it as a sort of thing either a Christian exercise of soul, or an inward attitude of heart. You suppose it to be something tangible. In fact, when you have secured it, you suppose you can look at it and rejoice over it. You suppose you can use it as a passport to God's favor, or a coin with which to purchase His gifts. You have been praying for faith, expecting all the while to get something like this. You have never received any such thing, so now you are insisting that you have no faith.
The Simplicity Of Faith
Faith is not in the least like this. It cannot be touched. It is simply believing God. Like sight, it is nothing apart from its object. You might as well shut your eyes and look inside, and see whether you have sight, as to look inside to discover whether you have faith. You see something and know that you have sight. You believe something and know that you have faith. For as sight is only seeing, so faith is only believing. As the only necessary thing about sight is that you see the thing as it is, so the only necessary thing about belief is that you believe the thing as it is. The virtue does not lie in your believing, but in the thing you believe. If you believe the truth, you are saved. If you believe a lie, you are lost. In both cases the act of believing is the same. The things believed are exactly opposite, and it is this which makes the mighty difference. Your salvation does not come because your faith saves you. Your salvation comes because it links you to the Savior who saves. Your believing is really nothing but the link.
I beg you to recognize the extreme simplicity of faith. I beg you to recognize that it is nothing more nor less than just believing God when He says He either has done something for us, or will do it. Then trust Him to keep His word. It is so simple that it is hard to explain.
If any one asks me what it means to trust someone to do a piece of work for me, I can only answer that it means committing the work to the someone and leaving it in his hands without any feelings of anxiety. All of us trust important matters to others in this way. We feel calm in trusting because of the confidence we have in those who take care of the important matters for us. How mothers trust their precious infants to the care of nurses and feel no shadow of anxiety! How often we trust our health and our lives, without a thought of fear, to cooks and taxi drivers, and all sorts of paid workers who have us completely at their mercy. They could, if they chose to do so, or even if they failed in being careful, plunge us into misery or death in a moment. We do this and make no complaint about it. We often put our trust in people we hardly know. We require only a general knowledge of human nature as the foundation of our trust. And, we never feel as if we were doing anything in the least remarkable!
You have done this and continue to do this yourself. You could not live among your fellowmen and go through the customary routine of life for a single day, if you were unable to trust them. It never enters into your head to say you cannot live among them. Yet, you do not hesitate to continually say that you cannot trust your God! You excuse yourself by saying that you are "a poor weak creature" and "have no faith."
I wish you would try to imagine yourself acting in your human relations as you do in your spiritual relations. Suppose you should begin tomorrow with the notion that you could not trust anybody, because you had no faith. When you sat down to breakfast you would say, "I can't eat anything on this table, for I have no faith, and I can't believe the cook hasn't put poison in the coffee, or that the butcher hasn't sent home diseased or unhealthy meat." So you would starve. When you went about your daily business you would say, "I can't ride in this train because I have no faith. I can't trust the engineer, nor the conductor, nor the men who built the train, nor the men who repair the rails." You would have to walk everywhere, and would become completely exhausted. You would be unable to reach the places you could have reached in the train.
When your friends met you with any statements, or your business agent with any accounts, you would say, "I'm sorry that I can't believe you, but I have no faith, and never can believe anybody." If you opened a newspaper, you would be forced to put it down again, saying, "I really can't believe a word this paper says, for I have no faith. I don't believe there is any such person as the Queen, for I never saw her. l can't believe there is any such country as Ireland for I was never there. I have no faith. so of course I can't believe anything that I haven't actually felt and touched myself. It's a great ordeal, but l can't help it, for I have no faith."
Just picture a day like this and see how disastrous it would be to yourself. It would be completely ridiculous to anyone who observes you. Realize how your friends would feel insulted, and how people would refuse to serve you another day. Then realize that if this lack of faith in your fellowmen would be so dreadful, what must it be when you tell God that you have no power to trust Him or to believe His word. If your friends would be insulted, imagine telling God that it is a great ordeal, but you cannot help it "for you have no faith."
Have Confidence In The Holy Spirit
Is it possible that you can trust your fellowmen,and cannot trust your God? Is it possible that you
can receive the witness of men," and cannot receive "the witness of God?" Is it possible that
you can believe man's records, and cannot believe God's record? You can commit your dearest
earthly interest to your weak, failing fellowcreatures without a fear. Yet, you are afraid to commit your spiritual interests to the Savior who laid down His life for you, and of whom it is declared in Hebrews 7:25 that He is "able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by Him?"
Surely, surely, dear believer, you, whose very name "believer" implies that you can believe, you will never again dare to excuse yourself on the plea of having no faith. For when you say this, you mean, of course, that you have no faith in God since you are not asked to have faith in yourself. Your soul would be in very poor condition indeed. Let me beg you, then, when you think or say these things, always to complete the sentence, and say, "I have no faith in God! I can't believe God!" I am sure this will soon become so dreadful to you, that you will not dare to continue it.
However, you say that you cannot believe without the Holy Spirit. Very well. Will you then come to the conclusion that your lack of faith is because of the failure of the Holy Spirit to do His work? For if it is, then you are surely not to blame and need feel no condemnation. All urgings for you to believe are useless.
But no! Don't you see that in saying you have no faith and cannot believe, you are not only "making God a liar," but you are also showing an utter lack of confidence in the Holy Spirit?
He is always ready to help our infirmities. We never have to wait for Him. He is always waiting for us. And I have such absolute confidence in the Holy Spirit and in His being always ready to do His work, that I dare to say to everyone of you, that you can believe now at this very moment. If you do not, it is not the Spirit's fault, but your own.
Put your will, then, on the believing side. Say, "Lord, I will believe, I do believe," and continue to say it. Insist upon believing in the face of every doubt that assails you. Out of your unbelief, throw yourself completely on the Word, (the promises of God), and dare to abandon yourself to the keeping and saving power of the Lord Jesus. If you have ever trusted a friend for an important matter, I beg you, trust yourself and all your spiritual interests in the hands of your heavenly Friend now, and never allow yourself to doubt again.
Cease To Worry
Always remember that there are two things which are more completely incompatible than even oil and water. They are trust and worry. Would you call it trust to give something into the hands of a friend to take care of for you, and then spend your nights and days in anxious thought and worry as to whether it would be done correctly? And can you call it trust, when you have given the saving and keeping of your soul into the hands of the Lord, if day after day, and night after night, you are spending hours of anxious thought questioning the matter?
When a believer really trusts anything, he ceases to worry about the thing he has trusted. And when he worries, it is plain proof that he doesn't trust. Tested by this rule, how little real trust there is in the Church of Christ! No wonder our Lord asked the pathetic question in Luke 18:8, "When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?" He will find plenty of work, a great deal of sincerity, and doubtless many consecrated hearts. But shall He find faith the one thing He values more than all the rest? Every child of God will know how to answer this question regarding himself. If any of you still say "No," I beg you to let this be the last time for such an answer. If you have ever experienced the trustworthiness of our Lord, from now on believe that He is true, by the generous recklessness of your trust in Him!
Very early in my Christian life, I remember having every tender and loyal impulse within me stirred to the depths when I read an appeal in a volume of old sermons. The appeal called all who loved the Lord Jesus, to show others how worthy He was of being trusted by the steadfastness of their own faith in Him. As I read the inspiring words, I had a sudden glimpse of the privilege and the glory of being called to walk in paths so dark that only an utter recklessness of trust would be possible!
It may be true that "Ye have not passed this way heretofore" (Joshua 3:4). But today it is your happy privilege to prove your loyal confidence in Jesus, by starting out with Him on a life and walk of faith, lived moment by moment in absolute and childlike trust in Him. You have trusted Him in a few things, and He has not failed you. Trust Him now for everything, and see if He does not do for you more than you cou Id ever have asked or even thought . And remember that it is not done according to your power or capacity, but according to His own mighty power working in you all the good pleasure of His most blessed will.
You do not find it difficult to trust the management of the universe and all outward creations to the Lord. Can your own case be more complex and difficult than these, that you have to be anxious or troubled about His management of you? Get rid of such doubts! Take your stand on the power and trustworthiness of your God. See how quickly all difficulties will vanish before a steadfast determination to believe. Trust God always and you will find the faith that perhaps begins by a mighty effort, will end, sooner or later, by becoming the easy and natural habit of the soul. A law of the spiritual life is that every act of trust makes the next act less difficult. And at last, if you persist in these acts of trust, trusting becomes like breathing the natural unconscious action of the redeemed soul.
Believe All God's Promises
Put your will into your believing. Your faith must not be passive. Your faith must be active energy. Be firmly resolved and say, "I will believe.
I will not be discouraged. For "we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence (faith) steadfast unto the end'' (Hebrews 3 14). They begin to build a little faith, but then begin to doubt. When we give in to doubts, we cannot have faith! We are told "all things are possible to him that believeth" (Mark 9:23). In Hebrews 11:33,34, we see that faith has subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. The Word assures us that faith can do it again. Our Lord Himself says, "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you" (Matthew 17:20).
If you are a child of God, you must have at least as much faith as a grain of mustard seed. Therefore, you dare not say again that you cannot trust because you have no faith. Instead, you should say, "I can trust my Lord, and I will trust Him. All the powers of earth or hell will not be able to make me doubt my wonderful, glorious, faithful Redeemer!"
Let your faith believe all of God's promises. In every dark hour remember: "Though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations" (1 Peter 1 6), be patient and trustful, and wait. First Peter 1:7 encourages us "that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ."