Faith, not Sight

Faith, not Sight

“We walk by faith, not by sight.” – 2 Corinthians 5:7

This walk of faith takes in all the minute circumstances of every day’s history; a walking every step by faith: a looking above trials, above necessities, above perplexities, above improbabilities and impossibilities, above all second causes; and, in the face of difficulties and discouragements, going forward, leaning upon God. If the Lord were to roll the Red Sea before us and marshal the Egyptians behind us, and thus, hemming us in on every side, should yet bid us advance, it would be the duty and the privilege of faith instantly to obey, believing that, before our feet touched the water, God, in our extremity, would divide the sea and take us dry-shod over it. This is the only holy and happy life of a believer. If he for a moment leaves this path and attempts to walk by sight, difficulties will throng him, troubles will multiply, the smallest trials will become heavy crosses, temptations to depart from the simple and upright walk will increase in number and power, the heart will sicken at disappointment, the Spirit will be grieved, and God will be dishonored. Let this precious truth ever be before the mind, “We walk by faith, not by sight.”

– Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, page 71.

Controlling the Universe, or Controlling Ourselves?

Controlling the Universe, or Controlling Ourselves?

It is reported of a king of Spain, or rather of Portugal, that he presumed to say that if God had consulted him at the creation about the dispositions and motions of the planets, he would have contrived them better than they are. I suppose the poor man took the schemes and dreams of the astronomers of his day to be a just representation of the system. It sounds, however, like a blasphemous speech in our ears. We take it for granted that the sun, the moon, Jupiter, and the rest are exactly where they should be and move as they ought. But if we are content the Lord should manage the heavenly bodies without our assistance, we are ready enough to advise Him how He should dispose of our insignificant selves. We think we could point at twenty things in our situation which might be mended; and that we should serve Him much better than we do if we were but at liberty to choose where and how we would be thus placed.

Thus we can gravely censure the vanity and folly of King Alphonso, without being aware that the thoughts we sometimes indulge are no less arrogant than his, and that we might with as much reason offer to assist God in the government of the universe as in the direction of our own paltry concerns. I hope, however, as we grow older we shall grow wiser, and be more satisfied, that whether we are placed in town or country, whether we are sick or well, the present circumstances for the present time must be the best, because of His appointment.

…The most pleasant and most profitable course we can take is to be thankful. Let us praise the Lord that we know our disease and know our physician; that He has undertaken our case, and will, consequently, perfect it. But let us pray for patience and submission to be willing to wait His time and to take things in His way. The plain English of half our complaints is that we don’t like the cross. We would have victory without conflicts, and the crown without fighting for it. And while we lament many of the evils, we are apt to overlook or make light of the chief of all, which is the impatient workings of the self, which would have everything its own way. We are, we must be, sinners while we remain here; but if we are sinners believing in the name of Jesus, we may rejoice and sing. We must fight, we may be wounded, but we cannot be overcome.

– John Newton, 1778

Spurgeon Sermon #1955: Jesus Declining the Legions (Matthew 26: 53,54)

Spurgeon Sermon #1955: Jesus Declining the Legions (Matthew 26: 53,54)

Let us learn from our Master to rely on invisible forces. Let us not trust in what is seen by the eye, and heard by the ear, but let us have respect for spiritual agencies which evade the senses, but are known to faith. Angels play a far greater part in the affairs of providence than we know about. God can raise up friends on earth for us, and if he does not do so he can find us abler friends in heaven. There is no need to draw the sword with which to cut off men’s ears; for infinitely better agencies will work for us. Have faith in God, and all things shall work for your good. The angels of God think it an honour and a delight to protect the least of his children.

But if the Scriptures are only the writings of men, there is no necessity that they should be fulfilled. If they are merely the fallible utterances of good men, I see no particular necessity that they should be fulfilled. Our Lord Jesus Christ insisted upon it that the Scriptures must be fulfilled, and the reason was that they are not the word of man, but the Word of God.

Holy Scripture is the transcript of the secret decree of God. We do not believe in fate, a blind, harsh thing; but we believe in predestination, the settled purpose of a wise and loving Father. The Book of Fate is cruel reading, but the book of divine Foreordination is full of charming sentences, and those lines out of it which are written in the Scriptures we joyfully choose to have fulfilled. It is the will of our Father who is in heaven who settles the things which must be; and because of this we cheerfully yield ourselves up to predestination. Once being assured that God has appointed it, we have no struggles, no, we will not even breathe a wish to have the matter otherwise. Let the will of the Father be the supreme law. It ought to be so.

Desire no other forces for God’s work than God himself ordains to use. Do not desire that the Government should come to your rescue to support your church. Do not desire that the charms of eloquence should be given to ministers, so that they may with it command listening ears, and so maintain the faith by the wisdom of words. Do not ask that learning and rank and prestige may come to the side of Christianity, and so religion may become respectable and influential. Means that God has not chosen to use should not be looked upon by us with covetous eyes.

When you are in argument for the truth, do not grow angry; for this would be to fight the Lord’s battles with the devil’s weapons. Do not wish to oppress a person whose views are erroneous or even blasphemous. The use of bribes for the propagation of opinions is base, and the refusal of charities to those who differ from us in sentiment is detestable. Let no threat escape your lip, nor bribe pollute your hand. It is not like this that the battles of truth are to be fought. If you ever feel inclined to shut a man’s mouth by wishing him banishment, or sickness, or any kind of evil, be grieved with yourself that so unchristly a thought should have entered your head. Desire only good for the most perverse of men. Fighting for Christ would be wounding him severely.

The Lord Jesus desires you, my brethren, to fight for him by your faith, by your holy life, by your confidence in truth, by your reliance upon the Spirit of God; but whenever your hand begins to itch for the sword hilt, then may you hear him say, “Put up your sword into its sheath.”

Would you like to be throughout life screened from all affliction? I think I hear a great many say, “I should.” Would you? Would you be always free from sickness, poverty, care, bereavement, slander, persecution? How, then, could that word be true, “I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction!” What would that text mean, “What son is he whom the Father does not chasten?” Jesus said, “Unless a man takes up his cross and follows me, he cannot be my disciple.” Are you to be an exception to the rule? Oh, do not kick against suffering, for in so doing you may be fighting against God. When Peter drew his sword he was unconsciously fighting to prevent our redemption. When we struggle against tribulation or persecution we may be warring against untold benefit. Do you desire to ride through the world like princes? Do not desire such a dangerous fate; for how then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that the disciple is not above his Lord? Bow your spirit before the majesty of Scripture, and patiently endure all things for the elect’s sake.

The Cheerless Attic

The Cheerless Attic

One of the books that has had a great influence on me is The Days of the Fathers in Ross-Shire by Dr. John Kennedy of Dingwall, Scotland. I first read it when our entire family (about nine of us, I think) went to Gulf Shores, Alabama, and stayed in a rented house for a few days back in 1993.

Dr. Kennedy wasn’t converted until in college, sometime after (and because of) the death of his father. He was to have a very fruitful and influential ministry in the Scottish highlands during the late 1800’s through his preaching and writing.

I think this is his best book because of stories like these that he includes. The Minister of Killearnan (included in Days of the Fathers) is about his father’s ministry. In it, he relates visiting some old women who remembered his father:

I cannot forget a trying scene, into which a streak of light of those days [of my father’s ministry] was once cast to cheer my heart.

Being called to see a dying woman, I found on reaching the place to which I was directed a dark filthy attic, in which I could observe nothing till the light I had carried in had quite departed from my eye. The first object I could discern was an old woman crouching on a stone beside a low fire, who, as I afterwards ascertained, was unable to move but “on all fours.” Quite near the fire I then saw a bed, on which an older woman still was stretched, who was stone blind, and lying at the very gates of death.

The two women were sisters, and miserable indeed they seemed to be; the one with her breast and face devoured by cancer, and the other blind and dying. They were from Lochbroom; and we had spoken but little when one of them referred to the days of my father’s labours in their native parish, and told of her first impression of divine things under a sermon which he preached at that time. The doctrine of that sermon was as fresh in her mind, and as cheering, as when she first heard it half a century before. Such was the humble hope of both of them, and their cheerful resignation to the will of God, that I could not but regard them, even in their dark and filthy attic, as at the very threshold of glory.

I left them with a very different feeling from that with which I first looked on them; nor could I, after leaving them, see among the happy and frivolous whom I passed on the street, any who, with all their health, cheerfulness, and comforts, I would compare in point of true happiness with the two old women in the cheerless attic.

Why Study Theology?

Why Study Theology?

Everyone should study theology because everyone has some belief about God. Even the atheist cannot deny God’s existence without reference to some sort of belief in God. And since the idea of God always deals with questions of creation, existence, law, ethics, morals, sin, the nature and purpose of mankind, and, ultimately, what happens after we die, then it is important that we know what we believe about God.

The Christian particularly needs to study theology because Jesus has commanded that we go into all the world teaching and making disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). And there’s no way one can teach without first knowing the subject matter. One reason for this is that all teachers know that the best way to learn your subject matter is to teach it – we learn as we teach. Or, we learn as we talk about it, not necessarily in a formal teaching setting. But the idea is that of communicating these idea about God to others and in the process, we learn, too.

Studying theology and doctrine has a very practical benefit to us. It helps us overcome wrong ideas and helps us make better decisions as a result. You can’t do better if you don’t know better. And in the Word of God we have the help of the One Who knows everything. The Bible teaches us that we shouldn’t lie and we see the negative effects of lying all around us. We actually have laws on the books that match up with the Ten Commandments and we ignore those at our own peril! Or take the Biblical view of monetary debt. How many heartaches and heartbreaks would couples and individuals be spared if they only stayed within their means? But why did they spend more than they made? Could it be because they weren’t patient? Or, maybe they were coveting something and really wanted it, even though others warned them about it? A Biblical doctrine of contentment or a Scriptural view of work would certainly have had an effect if only heeded.

Theology also helps us grow and mature. As we live and deal with the various joys and disappointments in life, Biblical doctrine helps us to keep the right perspective. It helps us to learn from our own and others’ mistakes. We learn to avoid certain things and practices because of what Scripture teaches, but also because we’ve experienced the truth of Scripture first-hand.

Probably the main reason to study theology, though, is this is how we learn about God and ourselves. We can’t know God without learning about ourselves, and we can’t learn about ourselves without knowing about God. This is how John Calvin begins his Institutes – “Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” He later states, “we cannot aspire to Him in earnest until we have begun to be displeased with ourselves.” It is theology from God’s Word that helps us do that.