By Hannah Whitall Smith
When the child of God completely trusts the Lord for all areas of his life, and begins to know something of the blessedness of the life hid with Christ in God he may face a difficulty. If his experiences of peace and rest have somewhat subsided, or if he has never experienced them, he begins to feel that his situation is unreal. He begins to feel like a hypocrite. It seems to him that his belief does not go below the surface. It appears to be mere lipbelief. Therefore, he thinks it is of no account, and that his surrender is not a surrender of the heart and consequently cannot be acceptable to God. He is afraid to say he is completely the lord's, for fear he will be telling an untruth. Yet he cannot bring himself to say he is not the Lord's because he longs for it so intensely. The difficulty is real and very disheartening.
This can be overcome when the Christian thoroughly understands the principles of the new life, and has learned how to live in it. The common thought is that this life hid with Christ in God is to be lived in the realm of emotions. Consequently, all the attention of the soul is directed toward the emotions. Whether the soul is at rest or troubled depends on whether the emotions are satisfied or not. Now, the higher Christian life is not to be lived in the emotions at all, but in the will. If the will of the Christian abides in the center of God's will the varying states of emotion do not disturb or affect the reality of the life in the least.
Fenelon makes this clear by stating: "pure religion resides in the will alone." He means that the will is the governing power in man's nature and, if the will is Goddirected, all the rest of man's nature must come into harmony. When I speak of the will, I do not mean the wish of the man, or even his purpose, but the deliberate choice, the deciding power to which all that is in the man must yield obedience.
Choose To Believe
The emotions are sometimes thought to be the governing power in our nature. But I think all of us know as a matter of practical experience, that there is something within us, behind our emotions and our wishes, an independent self that decides everything and controls everything. Our emotions belong to us. We endure them and enjoy them, but they are not truly "us". If God is to take possession of us, He must enter into this central will or personality. As He reigns there by the power of His Spirit, all the rest of our nature must come under His sway. As the will is, so is the man. This truth is very important. The decisions of our will are often directly opposed to the decisions of your emotions. If we are in the habit of considering our emotions as the test, we will feel like hypocrites in declaring those things to be real which our will alone has decided. But the moment we see that the will rules, we will completely disregard anything that goes against it. We will claim the decisions of the will as reality. Let the emotions rebel as they may.
I am aware that this is a difficult subject to deal with. But it is so practical regarding the life of faith that I beg you to master it.
Perhaps an illustration will help you. An intelligent young man seeking to enter into this new life was completely discouraged at finding himself the slave to the habit of doubting. Nothing seemed "true" or "real" to his emotions. The more he struggled, the more unreal it all became. He was told a secret concerning the will: if he would only choose to believe he need not then trouble about his emotions, for they would find themselves compelled, sooner or later, to come into harmony with the will. "What!'' he said, "do you mean to tell me that I can choose to believe when nothing seems .true to me? And will. that kind of believing be. real?" "Yes," was the answer. "It will. Fenelon says that true religion resides in the will alone. He means that, since a man's will is really the man's self, what his will does, he does. Your part is simply to put your will in this matter of believing over on God's side. Make up your mind that you will believe what He says, because He says it, and that you will not pay any attention to the feelings that make it seem so unreal. God will not fail to respond, sooner or later, to his revelation to such faith. "
The young man paused a moment, and then solemnly said, "I understand, and will do what you say. I cannot control my emotions, but I can control my will. The new life begins to look possible to me if only my will needs to be set straight in the matter. I can give my will to God, and I do ."
From that moment, disregarding his emotions which continually accused him of being a hypocrite, this young man held firmly to the decision of his will. Instead of paying attention to his emotions, he continued to choose to believe. At the end of a few days, he found himself triumphant. Every emotion and every thought was brought into captivity to the power of the Spirit of God who had taken possession of the will put into His hands. The young man had firmly professed his faith without wavering. At times it took all the will power he possessed to say that he believed, because his senses and emotions did not support the fact. But he had understood the idea that his will was, after all, himself, and that if he kept his will on God's side, he was doing all he could do. God alone could change his emotions or control his being. The result has been one of the strongest Christian lives I know of, in its marvellous simplicity, directness, and power over sin.
A Surrendered Will
Here is the secret. Our will is the source of all our actions. Under the control of sin and self, our will caused us to act for our own pleasure. But God calls us to yield our wills to Him so He can take control of them and work in us to will and to do of His good pleasure. If we will obey this call and present ourselves to Him as a living sacrifice, He will take possession of our surrendered wills, and will begin at once to work in us, "that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ" (Hebrews 13:21), giving us the mind that was in Christ, and transforming us into His image (see Romans 12:1,2).
Here is another illustration. A lady who had entered into this life hid with Christ was facing a great trial. If she had listened to her emotions she would have been discouraged. But she had learned the secret of the will, and knowing that she had chosen the will of God for her portion, she didn't pay the slightest attention to her emotions. She persisted in confronting ever thought concerning the trial with the words, "Thy will be done! Thy will be done!" That His will should be done was her delight! The result was that in an incredibly short space of time every thought was brought into captivity, and she began to find even her emotions rejoicing in the will of God.
There was another lady who had an habitual sin which her emotions dearly loved, but which in her will she hated. Believing herself to be under the control of her emotions, she thought she was unable to conquer it, unless her emotions changed first. But she learned the secret concerning the will, and prayed, "Lord, you see that I love this sin emotionally but in my real central self I hate it. Until now my emotions have had the mastery. But now I put my will into your hands, and give it up to your working. I will never again consent in my will to yield to this sin. Take possession of my will, and work in me to will and to do of your good pleasure."
Immediately she began to find deliverance. The Lord took possession of the will surrendered to Him and began to work in her by His own power. His will gained mastery over her emotions in the situation and she was delivered by the inward power of the Spirit of God.
Let me show you how to apply this principle to your own situation. Do not consider your emotions. They are only servants. Simply regard your will, which is the real ruler of your being. Is your will given up to God? Is your will put into His hands? Does your will decide to believe? Does your will choose to obey? If this is the case, then you are in the Lord's hands. You decide to believe, and you choose to obey. Your will is yourself. The thing is done. The transaction with God is real when your will acts. It is real in God's sight. Get hold of this secret. Discover that you do not need to pay attention to your emotions. You must simply pay attention to the state of your will.
"Yield yourself to God" (Romans 6:13). "Present yourself a living sacrifice to Him" (Romans 12:1). "Abide in Christ" (John 15:4). "Walk in the light" (1 John 1:7). All these Scripture commands become possible for you because you are aware that your will can act and can take God's side. Whereas, if you had to rely on your uncontrollable emotions, you would sink down in helpless despair.
When this feeling of unreality or hypocrisy comes, do not be troubled by it. It is only in your emotions and is not worth a moment's thought. Only see to it that your will is in God's hands. See that your inward self is abandoned to His working, that your choice, your decision, is on His side. Then leave it there. Your uncontrollable emotions, attached to the mighty power of God by the choice of your will must inevitably come into captivity and give their allegiance to Him.
Will What God Wills
The will is like a wise mother in a nursery. The emotions are like crying children. The mother makes up her mind to have her children do what she believes to be right and best. The children complain and say they won't do it. However, the mother knows that she is the one in control and pursues her course lovingly and calmly in spite of all their complaints. The result is that the children are sooner or later won over to the mother's course of action. They fall in with her decision and all is harmonious and happy. But if for a moment that mother should think that the children were the masters instead of herself, confusion would reign. At this very moment there are many who are confused, simply because their feelings are allowed to govern instead of their will.
Remember that the real thing in your experience is what your will decides, not what your emotions decide. You are in far more danger of hypocrisy and untruth in giving in to your feelings, than in holding firm to the decision of your will. If your will is on God's side, you are no hypocrite in claiming at this moment the blessed reality of belonging completely to Him, even though your emotions are not in agreement.
I am convinced that throughout the Bible the expressions concerning the "heart" do not mean the emotions (that which we now understand by the word "heart"). Rather, they mean the will, man's own central self. The object of God's dealing with man is that this "I" may be yielded up to Him, and this central life given up to His total control. It is not the feelings of the man God wants, but the man himself.
We must be careful not to make a mistake here. I say we must "give up" our wills, but I do not mean we are to be left willless. We are not to give up our wills in order to be left like limp nerveless creatures without any will at all We are simply to put the higher, divine, mature will of God in place of our foolish, misdirected wills of ignorance and immaturity. If we put the emphasis on the word "our," we will understand it better. The will we are to give up is our will, as it is misdirected and separated from God's will. We are not to "give up" our will when it is one with God's will. For when our will is in harmony with His will, it would be wrong for us to give it up.
The child is required to give up the misdirected will that belongs to it as a child, and we cannot let it say "I will" or "I will not." But when its will is in harmony with ours, we want it to stand up for those beliefs and, according to conscience say "I will" or "I will not" with all the force of which it is capable.
When God is "working in us to will," we must be firmly resolved to carry out this will. We must respond with an emphatic "I will" to every "Thou shalt" of His. For God can only carry out His own will with us as much as we consent to it.
Have you consented? Are you firmly resolved to will what God wills? He wills that you should be entirely surrendered to Him, and He wills that you should trust Him perfectly. Do you will the same?