Christian experience is a great adventure. We never arrive at the finality of that walk or experience. No matter what mountain peak we climb today, there is always another one to be climbed a little way ahead. The future is greater than the past, for there are Elysian fields and meadows of glory that have never been explored. It is this great truth which presents such a challenge to the follower of the Lord Jesus. Under His leadership—for He never drives or coerces—we are privileged to climb in spirit very near to the gates of a world that human eyes can not see; and are kept by the Peace of God which passeth all understanding, through Christ Jesus. It is then we begin to comprehend the incomprehensible, and to watch the apocalypse of the mysteries that are hidden to so many.
Of one thing, among many, the Bible speaks with no uncertain voice. It distinctly states that spiritual things are discerned only with the mind of the Spirit. The finite mind of man is incapable of understanding, not only the Infinite, but also the things which pertain to the Infinite. The reason for this is that they are two distinct and different realms. There is no gate which leads from one to the other, apart from the Lord Himself; and there is no method by which man has ever been able to understand or approach God, except through our Savior.
He said of Himself, “I am the door; no man cometh to the Father but by me.” If it were possible for man to enter the realm of the spiritual though the gateways of the mind and along the roads of the intellect, he would soon be building a Tower of Babel which would reach into the heavens; and the next thing you know, he would be attempting to dethrone God Himself. As a matter of fact, that is just what he has been trying to do. Nearly all of our modern philosophies, which are offering substitutes for the “old time religion,” are attempting to humanize God and deify man. Thwarted in their attempt to understand the Infinite with their finite minds, they have sought to materialize all things which relate to the Spirit and which are connected with the power of God.
What has this done? Because of man’s limited, finite understanding, he has attempted to turn “salvation by grace, through faith,” into a salvation by conduct. He has sought to put the emphasis upon what he does rather than what he is. In his sight, therefore, character has become the “cross” upon which self is crucified and the baser instincts are doomed to writhe and twist but never die. As a result, the Cross on which the Savior died becomes to him unnecessary and obsolete.
All this is of very great importance in the light of what I am now going to say. Why has natural man made faith a product of a finite mind, when all of the other fruits of the Spirit he has attributed to God? To many, many Christians, faith still is their own ability to believe a promise or a truth, and is often based on their struggles to drive away doubt and unbelief through a process of continuous affirmations.
Only the other day I heard a minister illustrating what faith is. He told us that it is a necessary factor in the development of every phase of our lives. In that I agreed—to some extent, at any rate. He said that when we get on a streetcar, we exercise faith. We have faith in the car, faith in the motorman, and faith in the power that will propel the vehicle along its tracks.
He went into a multitude of departments connected with our everyday living, and used many homely illustrations in support of what he said were manifestations of our faith. He concluded with this question: “If we have faith in the motorman, should we not have faith in God?”
The faith of which he spoke was not New Testament faith at all. It was not even related to it. To say that the “mountain-moving faith,” of which Jesus spoke, is a grown-up brother of “faith in a motorman,” is ludicrous to me. No matter how much you nurture and culture the spirit which the world interprets as “faith,” it will never grow into the faith which was introduced by Jesus in the days of long ago. Let us be honest! Have not we also tried to do that very thing?
Have we not said, “I am going to believe that it is done, and if I can believe it is done, then it will be done?” Have we not looked at a promise, and then struggled and striven with all our mental might and main to bring about the result by our own ability to believe? Some time ago a poor, deluded man, who undoubtedly loved his Lord, stuck his hand into a basket of snakes to prove his faith in God. For weeks he was sick, lingering between life and death. He came through all right, but it was a regrettable incident which did much to destroy the confidence of many in real Christian experience and a scriptural walk with God. He no doubt believed God; but what he called faith savored of sinful presumption.
One day some years ago, I had a long conversation with one of the secretaries of Pandita Ramabai who was a beloved spiritual leader in India. She told me the story of how the “cobras came to Mukti,” following a wonderful and glorious visitation of the Blessed Holy Spirit upon the girls in the home and school. It was during the night that these cobras appeared and bit many of the girls in the compound. No doubt for a moment or two there was great fear; but so wonderfully did the Spirit of the Lord impart faith for the emergency, that instead of groans and cries of anguish, there arose to heaven a great shout of victory and praise. Not a girl died from the deadly bites! Every one was healed. The power of the Lord delivered them! It was the imparted faith of God which brought them through.
There is belief in faith, but faith is more than belief! There is a rock on the mountain, but the mountain is more than the rock. Should the rock assert that it is the mountain, then I would say to it, “You are presuming too much.” The truth that should be emphasized is this: the ingredients of one’s own mental manufacture cannot be mixed in spiritual, apothecaries’ crucibles, and produce faith. A little more confidence, an extra pinch of trust mixed with a little stronger belief—plus a few other things—will not produce the Faith which moves mountains. You are nearest the manifestation of this imparted grace when you realize your own helplessness and entire dependence upon the Lord!
THE LOVE OF GOD
Galatians 5:22 states that faith is a fruit of the Spirit. Is it not time we commenced to believe it? Look at the other gracious fruit growing on the tree of the blood-washed heart and life. First, there is love. Whose love is it with which we love? Is it our own love that has been made cleaner and sweeter because of something which has happened in our hearts? No, ten thousand times no! It is the love of God shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost. It is God’s wonderful love that fills the rooms of the heart; and only the possession of that Love Divine makes it possible for us to love our enemies.
When Stephen was stoned by cruel iniquitous men, what made him cry, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge”? It was not said for effect! Neither was it an assumed exposé of heroism in a moment of crisis. It was the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Spirit which enabled him to bless those who cursed him in genuine love for his murderers! The world might say it is ridiculous for a man to act like that; and ridiculous it is to an unregenerate heart—but not to the Christian—not to the redeemed who by grace have become partakers of the Divine Nature.
It was real love—God’s love bursting though the heart of Stephen, which flowed like a river from the Source of Grace. Was it not much like our Savior who spoke, in the sufferings of Calvary, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”? It was love which caused Jesus to say that. God’s love! It was the Love of Heaven in Jesus paying earth a little visit.
It was not by chance that both Stephen and Jesus said practically the same thing. Stephen was not trying to imitate his Master; neither was Jesus holding Himself up as only an example for men to struggle to emulate. The fact is that they both said the same thing because both had the same love. It was the love of God in both hearts. Jesus had it because He was God; Stephen had it because he had God in his heart.
Human love can be improved. It can be made better by increasing in quality and quantity; but if man were to live a million years he could never make it good enough to equal the love of God. How do we get God’s Love? God gives it, and the Spirit imparts it. Not only is this true of the Love of God but it is also true of the Faith of God.
JOY FROM THE HILLS
Then, we have joy! Joy is the second fruit of the Spirit mentioned by Paul in his letter to the Galatians. It is not the second in importance, but it is the second in the list of those graces which the Spirit cultivates and enables to grow in the heart of the blood-washed. What is this joy? Is it dependent upon environment and circumstance for its manifestation and expression? Do many other things have to be equal in order for it to work out in the realm of experience?
Some years ago I was a speaker in a camp meeting in a district in which many of the people were very, very poor. One night, just before time for the service, I drove down the road in my car to get away from people in order to have opportunity to meditate a little while before going into the pulpit to preach. In the modern automobile it does not take much time to cover the distance of a few miles, and soon I was five miles away from the camp. As I passed a wooded section, I saw a man and a woman with four children come out of the woods and start up the road. They were all barefooted. They were carrying their shoes in their hands; that is, those who were fortunate enough to possess shoes. Only the oldest child of the four children had shoes!
I stopped my car and hailed them. Smilingly, but with evident bashfulness, they accepted my offer to them of a ride. They were on their way to the camp meeting. At the gates of the camp they sat on the grass and put on their shoes. In just a few minutes they had travelled the three miles in my car which would have taken them over an hour to walk. The next night I happened to pass that way again, and gave them a ride. It so happened that I was in that vicinity every night, and asked them to ride with me to the services.
On the way, after the strangeness and bashfulness had worn off, they would testify and sing, and sing and testify! Their joy was so abundant, that it was a tonic to my soul. It helped me to preach better! They carried their shoes to save the leather from wearing out on the concrete road. They were as poor as the proverbial turkey owned by Job and lived many, many miles back in the mountains; but they were richer by far than many who lived in great houses and who had more than enough of the possessions of this fleeting world.
One night, toward the end of the camp, I said to the father, “Perhaps, My Brother, the day will come when the Lord will give you a better and larger home. You know that He often prospers us temporally as well as spiritually. The Bible says that…” The brother interrupted me. A smile of happiness came across his face and he commenced to sing:
“A tent or a cottage, why should I care?
They’re building a palace for me over there;
Though exiled from home, yet still I may sing,
All glory to God, I’m a child of the King.”
The little folks helped him sing it, and his good wife sang it too. When he was finished, he scratched his matted hair on his old mountain-born head, and said, “Brother Price, you never need to tell me that I got to have a big house to make me happy. If the Lord gives it to me, then I will thank Him, but I have something in my heart I wouldn’t sell for all the money in the world. It is the joy of the Holy Ghost.”
That is what I mean. You cannot get up in the morning and say, “This is the day in which I will be full of joy. I am going to be very happy today, for I have made up my mind to have lots of joy.” Either you have it, or you don’t. The worldly man can have his synthetic joy which is the plaything of environment and the slave of circumstance. But the Christian can have imparted joy in the Holy Ghost, and rejoice in its manifestation under every condition of life. It is not dependent upon surroundings; nor is it the slave of circumstance. It is the gift of God!
PEACE, PERFECT PEACE
Then, there is peace. Oh, the sweetness of that beautiful peace which God implants in the hearts of all who love Him! What a wonderful day it was for the disciples when Jesus said, “My peace I give unto you!” It was not to be the peace that the world knows, for that peace is false, weak and flimsy, and can be lashed into a storm at any moment by the blowing of the winds of trouble.
The peace He gives passes all human understanding. It is so deep, that no surface troubles can ever affect it; so divine that no human hand can ever reach it to take it away; deep settled peace in the soul! It is the peace Jesus had when in His regal dignity He “held his peace” before the howling mob in the halls of Pilate.
Let me ask you (for it is necessary that we recognize and receive this truth). Let me ask you again: “Can you create that peace? Can you bring it about by a switch in mental attitude, or a change in outlook? Can you even so much as develop the Peace that He alone can give?” You and I know the answer! Just settle into the arms of love in the heart of the storm, and know: “Peace, perfect peace, though sorrows surge around. On Jesus’ bosom naught but calm is found.” It is His peace, imparted by the Spirit. All we have to do is to receive it. That is the beauty of the Christ-centered life—a life that is hid with Christ in God.
So it is with faith. He does not give it as a plaything to be operated for our own undoing and in things otherwise contrary to His will. He knows my need. He knows yours, too; and He has given His promise that no good thing will He withhold from them who walk uprightly. So we rest in that promise; and abide in Him, even as He abides in us.
To know that He is present—that He understands and cares—this is sufficient for me to know the joy which springs eternal in the knowledge that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose. Then shall we know the rest that comes from turning self-reliance into Christ-reliance, as we cast all our cares upon Him.
In the development of His will in your life, let me assure you that when faith is needed, it will not be withheld; for The Giver of every good and perfect gift is the Author and Finisher of our faith.