Everything in me cries against this post becoming another cliche essay on faith, and for the reader gleaning some real, applicable value concerning faith, what it means to believe.
This post was borne out of the personal and very recent realization that I had been in the camp of those whom A.B. Simpson described in his poem, saying, “And some who trust with a reservation…”
See, if you talk with people about perfect faith (remember, “perfect” means “whole”, “complete”, “lacking nothing”), the main protest against it will be that it’s “just not safe.” It’s too great a risk to stake everything on God, because it inherently means that one’s own control is forfeited.
It’s difficult to proceed further in the discussion without referencing the second chapter of James where he said,
Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
If it bothers you to hear that Abraham was justified by works, it shouldn’t. I think this passage of James, that so tormented Martin Luther and likely countless others (myself as well, for a time), is not quite as difficult as it seems when one considers that the object lesson James is sharing with his believing audience is not how to become or prove oneself justified, but how to keep one’s faith from becoming dead through inactivity. I may write more on the significance of this teaching at a later point.
Nevertheless, my focus at this juncture is “how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect”. Could there be any greater risk to your son’s life and well-being than for him to be the object of a sacrifice to God? Not only was Isaac Abraham’s precious son, he was the promised son, and the one through whom all future generations would be blessed! Abraham could have protested, “No, Lord!”, but by that time, he had witnessed the faithfulness of God repeatedly and so he went and began to do what he was told, without a single argument.
A person could say he has faith, while leaving his brother or sister out in the cold, not giving him or her the things needful for survival, but his faith would be dead. He would be contradicting his own statement of believing in God, the same God who states that if anyone asks for your help and it’s in the power of your hand to provide it, you give help, and the God who commanded, “Love your neighbor as you would love yourself.”
If, however, a man invites the destitute brother or sister in, and clothes and feeds him or her, that man’s faith is alive, and perfect because it has actually done something.
That is a good example of perfect faith. It is faith that refuses to let another suffer as long as one has the resources to help, even if those resources are severely limited. And, along those lines, if we would but trust Paul when he says,
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:
2 Corinthians 9:8
we would know that God is the supplier of the things necessary to, not just once, but continually provide for the needs of others.
Returning to the protest that “faith is too risky.”
I had the realization that one can have no other recourse but God if he wishes to have perfect faith. That’s the crux of faith–where the rubber meets the road. To trust God for the necessary funds, all-the-while knowing you have a sizable line of credit to draw from as needed, is not perfect faith. It is trust with a reservation. It says, “I believe, but just in case…”
Credit institutions and the grace of God are wildly different things. The former is established by man as a means of financial help, but carries the penalty of having to pay it back in full with interest. The latter is established by God as a means of help and is entirely free. The only “risk” (if you can call it that) with God’s provision is that, unlike with Visa, you don’t know how much will come, at what time and by what means–only that it will come. Your control and say in the matter is gone, and you must simply trust in the goodness of God and his own commitment to the fulfillment of his own promises.
If there’s anyone good for his word, it’s God. The Psalmist wrote, “…for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name” (Psalms 138:2). In other words, God has set his word even above his very name.
I think it is just and true to say that God’s jealousy is most seen in terms of who gets the glory for deliverance. He does not share that glory with anyone or anything. And historically, God has always fixed situations such that no man, woman or child witnessing the wondrous works before them could say that anyone other than God was responsible.
One cannot have perfect faith and say, “Yes, Jesus died for all my sins, but just to be sure, I’ll do some penance.” Nor can one have perfect faith and say, “Yes, I’m made righteous by the obedience of Christ, but just in case, I’ll do good works.” I would not say someone who had those doubts was utterly faithless (have a look at the struggles of faith among the brethren in Galatia and Corinth, among others), but clearly the faith of such is not perfect and is in desperate need of being confirmed in absolute truth.
Yet God is very pleased when his children relinquish any grasp, even the smallest hold, on safeguards other than the Lord.
Yes, it may seem risky, but that’s only according to the flesh and walking by sight. Someone with false, faithless prudence will say, “You can’t give that away! Hang onto it, you might need that later!” or, “Where’s your money coming from?”
A similar accusation came from a woman visiting the orphan houses of George Muller, and it’s clear God chose the right workers for that place, as one of them, a faithful woman, answered on behalf of George to this effect: “We are supplied by a treasury that is inexhaustible”. The accuser knew of Whom she spoke, and her mouth was stopped. Even Charles Dickens voiced skepticism that the orphans under Muller’s supervision were being well cared for, and his mouth, too, was stopped after witnessing, by open invitation, the good conditions of the place.
And thus, the reward for trusting without reservation is also not “just scraping by”. For those who give, it is adequate and full provision, just as Christ said when he declared,
Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.
That is the essence of Paul’s words, which I so often reference and which so often strengthen my heart,
But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
That is the inexhaustible treasury of which Muller’s faithful coworker spoke.
Financial woes are the bane of many a man’s and woman’s existence in this world. And they should not be. It is not the job of the children to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children; and God, as Father, does just that. And if as children we would expect our earthly fathers to be actively participating and helping in our lives, why would we expect less from our heavenly Father?
In Matthew 6:32 and 33:
“(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things”, Jesus said. When he came to the children of Israel, he spoke about how all the Godless nations sought and toiled after the securities of food and clothing, while the children of Israel had their Father to give them such things. And his conclusion was, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
I have found a constant conflict within my heart in light of the scriptures. It is this: how much time of my sojourning in this world can I justifiably spend focusing on the things which are seen–the things not of heaven but of the earth–when I am instructed to set my affections on things above, and to fix my eyes on the things not seen because they are eternal? With so much wisdom from above in the Spirit yet to be attained and passed on to others, how can I spend countless hours entangled in the affairs of this life?
Imagine a realm entirely unseen (though, often its effects can be witnessed with the physical eyes); and in that realm are good and holy and joyous and upright pleasures, many of which are yet to be understood. If you believed such a place existed, would you busy yourself with the visible world around you? I would think not. Yet this is the reality of things for the believer in Christ Jesus. And this is why Jesus promised his disciples that if they sought first God’s kingdom and righteousness, he would take care of the things necessary to sustain life in the flesh.
There is simply not time enough in this life to devote so much of it to merely surviving when there are spiritual things to uncover, practice and teach, and people to minister to. Therefore, it seems the wisest choice to, while not neglecting essential matters in this life, and not forsaking work, dial down the time spent on them in favor of the greater thing. And that includes also time spent thinking about them.
15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.
Many hours can be spent worrying over what one does not have enough of, either for himself or others. I have been a terrific example of this. But those many hours would be better spent praying to the One who can satisfy all those needs with his unlimited resources, and trusting that he will.
Such a course of action may not be safe in the eyes of the world because they do not see God. They live by their reality, and that to them is, “There is no mystical magician in the sky who grants you help if you ask him. All we have is our own hard work, our own accomplishments, our own wise financial decisions. That is all.” Of course, they leave out the lack of peace they possess, and all the hours spent anguishing about what they do not have and wish they did, and maybe even how they wish there was a God whose help they could ask for, but to request anything from him would be against all logic and what they think they know.
But by faith, we can see this God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has very directly and purposefully promised a great deal about just what he is willing to do for those who trust him.
So you see, it’s a paradox: although faith is not safe to those who don’t have it, it is to those who do. In fact, it is the very safest place of all.