This Is the Victory
I AM conscious of the fact that I have repeated a great deal in this book. I have done it because I have feared my reader will miss the emphasis. I do not underestimate the intelligence of those who read; I merely question the ability of the author to make himself clearly understood. This truth is so buried beneath the handiwork of modern churches that we are likely to miss it in the most manifest portrayals. Hence, if my reader has tired of repetition, charge it to my zeal for this truth to be known.
I am also conscious of the fact that I have discussed many angles of the believer's life, and some may remark that I have tried to deal with everything in one book. But what is there of a spiritual nature that is not connected in some way with this life of faith? Besides, there is much in my heart yet that I would like to put in this volume, but I have refrained in order not to be tiresome.
Now, in the hope that I shall be able to clinch the truth with a personal testimony, let me bring it to as hasty a conclusion as I can. I submit it humbly, guarding against any undue exploitation of my own experiences, and because my reader has a right to know how faith has worked in my own life.
I am coming to the close of my twentieth year in the present pastorate. It is not, nor has it ever been, a large
pastorate. The church is small and struggling. I have never been recognized as any great personality anywhere. I am just one of the thousands of plodding pastors buried in the small fields of our land, g6ing on in face of great opposition both in the church and out, but trying to be faithful where we are called.
About two years after I had given my whole life over to God and started leaving everything to Him, I soon came to see that God was not to lead me along the highway of great accomplishment. He was going to take me into the storm where I could learn of Him. I had trusted Him to lead; now He was leading.
My experiences are not singular; many a life has been shattered by sorrow. I was preaching a life of faith; now I was to see if it worked. Without giving details, let me say that one of life's great tragedies fell across my pathway, and in a manner which brought me great anguish and embarassment. For a year I saw it coming. I submitted the matter to God in prayer and believed that He would prevent what was threatening. I was often informed of prospective events, but I did not believe they would finally come to pass. I lived on with the secret bottled up in my heart, working as if nothing were wrong, believing that God would intervene at His own time and bring me victory. I was sure that, while He was driving me to my face in humility and confession of sin, He would break through the cloud in time to save me from utter darkness.
Result? The event transpired on schedule. I was plunged into great sorrow and embarassment. I lived only one day at a time, trying to conduct myself as a believer, feeling sure that God would, out of the wreckage, bring glory at last. I then began to pray for restoration of order in
my life. I was sure now that God could put things back together, and out of it all would shine His glory. I prayed and believed and expected, but He did not do this. Then, there was one more event in prospect which, if it came to pass, would complete the wreckage and doom any hope of restoration. I set this before my God and prayed and believed that He would not let this take place. It, too, came to pass on schedule.
Humbled as I was, God gave me nothing I had prayed for, and I was stunned. It took some time to recover from my shock. All the while I was going on with my work as pastor, but my heart was like lead. I had preached to others that if we prayed for something in faith, God would grant it. I still believe that is true, but sometimes God deals with us in exceptional ways for His own sovereign purpose. We must learn to trust and follow His will as He reveals it day by day.
After I had humbled myself more and had prepared to fold up my ministry and retire to seclusion, if that seemed to be the way God wanted it, I put my aching heart before the Lord and leaned upon His breast like a hurt child, "snubbing" out my'"sorrow and asking my Father to tell me what was wrong. I was saying, "Lord, I preached it to others, and I believed it. And when I tried it, it hasn't seemed to work. All that was dear to me is gone, and the whole thing looks so utterly contrary to what is favorable to your cause. I was willing to be chastened; I deserved that. But 1 am confused about faith, and I don't know what to say. If I cannot demonstrate what I have preached, I want to know what is wrong with my understanding. I am so confused, and my heart is aching."
As I mused, and leaned upon His breast for succor, thoughts came to my mind. He seemed to say: "Yes, my child, you humbled yourself, you prayed earnestly, and believed, as you had told otHers to do. You counted on me to do just what you asked, and you wanted it for my glory. I failed to answer your first request, then your second, then your third. And then, as you thought, all was over. Your loss was complete. I allowed Satan to bring complete wreckage to all that was dear to you. In the first place, that is the way this world is set up, and, except for the grace and power of God, that is what would happen to all men. But you - you are mine! Suppose you did not have me? I gave up my all for you. And, by so doing, I have been able to save you and others. I know it looks hopeless to you, but is anything so bad that God cannot bring something out of it? Is it not in the most impossible situations where God's work shines most brightly? Leave the wreckage to me. It may take a long time. You may be called home before it is finished. Didn't you start out by trusting me with everything?"
Then I felt a whimpering "yes" pressing for expression. I gave assent. Then he continued, "Faith is not trusting God to get something; faith is trusting God when there seems to be nothing left. When everything is gone, with no hope of restoration; when there is nothing on which to base one's faith; then, can you still trust God?"
Now I had met the test. I took stock of my faith. Thank God it had not occurred to me to quit believing Him. So, hurt as I was, and leaving all the wreckage to Him, seeing no way that it could be restored, 1 said to Him as I lay my head again on His breast, "Yes, Lord, I still believe." It was only a thought in my mind, but it came as quickly
and as clearly as if He had spoken, "Then, my child, you have the victory!"
Through years of preaching 1 had quoted that verse in John's letter many a time, "'This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith," but here for the first time in my life I got its meaning. It was so simple I was ashamed that I had not seen it before. Unconsciously, I had preached that if we trust God our faith will bring the victory. But now I saw that it rather says, "Faith IS the victory!" And that is what the old song says, too, but I hadn't seen it before. So, it is not when you get what faith is asking for, that you have the victory; it is when you have faith, though everything be denied, that you have victory.
Does God give answers to prayers? Certainly, and often something better than what we are asking. But we must always leave that to Him. One thing we must remember, He did not come into this world to quiet all the storms, nor to heal all our diseases, nor to set aright all the tangled relationships of our lives, nor to relieve all our heartaches.
And if we have that faith we can sing:We have an anchor that keeps the soul,One day He is coming to lift us out of this stormy deep; to take us from troubled seas to peaceful shores. And it does not matter if the storms blow hard, and there is wreckage all around, we must demonstrate to the world that Christ holds us steady and serene through it all. We
Stedfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour's love."
must believe when there is no earthly reason to believe. That will tend to cause other people to forsake the false securities of this world and attract them to the faith which penetrates the sureties of Heaven. And whether or not God puts together, by a miracle for us, the pieces of our battered ship, we must believe so as to let them see the miracle of faith that He has performed in us - that faith which believes God in spite of everything. And in so doing we shall, after all, let them see God's miracle through us. This IS the victory, even our FAITH!
And is my reader curious as to how it works ten years after trial began? The battle goes on."Temptations, hidden snares, often take us unawares,I have never become a sensational success. Good brethren have said to me, "Your life is like a book. Why don't you tell your story as a testimony?" Then I have had men speak, in order to accentuate my labors in the Lord, of what I could have done had I traveled with the world. To me this is absolutely asinine from a world viewpoint, and blasphemy from God's viewpoint. I get sick at heart when I hear men praising men for their great accomplishments. When we get to talking about what men have given up to serve God, I grow pale with fear. Who has anything to offer God? Who can make sacrifices but God? Everything we have is sinful and we are utterly depraved. What can we give Him but the consent of our wills to let Him enrich us with His own treasures of grace?
And our hearts are made to bleed
For many a thoughtless word or deed,
And we wonder why the test, when we try to do our best,
But we'll understand it better by and by."
Tell my story? What is it but shame and misery and wretchedness? Who of us has a story that is worth telling? There is but one Hero! There is but one story to tell, and that is the story of Jesus and redeeming love.
In my own eyes I am a greater sinner than I ever was before. I believe this is because "mine eyes have seen the King." I am weaker today, in my own eyes, than I ever was before. I believe this is because I have felt His power. I will never be a hero now; only Christ can be that. I will never shine nor be recognized as a great light in. this world; for the light. of His glory has blinded my eyes to the tinsel glitter of this world. I seem to have a continual decrease of what I used to think of as my talents and abilities. I have no idea of the accomplishments of my feeble ministry. To me it is a constant failure, for I see what He has done.
I rejoice when people who are in trouble, especially "heart" trouble, come to me for help. Maybe they think I :understand. But I am not popular. I am constant1y criticized, both in. the church and out. Like all men, I long for more evidence of success, but God knows what I am doing, and why. He needs men everywhere. As far as I am concerned He has me here.
I cannot emphasize too much that no one will find any aspects of a super-man of faith in me. We have a tendency to "glamorize" people who talk as I have written. Those who come to know me will be disappointed in the living example of what I say. Like Elijah, I am "a man of like passions" such as others, and in my own estimation I am a total failure of what a man of faith should be. I grow restless, at times irritable, have all the little complaints that are human, and am afflicted with moods that drive me to the juniper tree. I often languish under the gourd vine and
the flesh is ever knocking for admittance into my sense of self pity. I grow lonely and feel the simple desires of human life as much as all others. I am introspective, feel now the immodesty of using the personal pronoun "I" as I have in this book, but feel that it is necessary for this personal testimony. All I say is to accentuate what God has done for me, not what I am doing for Him. By that I mean that, in spite of what I am, He is still glorious. No one need be surprised at what I may do, erring as 1 am, but I will always have a glorious and perfect account to give of Him. And that is what He has done for me.
Then, is there nothing to do but "be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease ?" Yes, there is much to do. I am always tired. By the time I use my opportunities to preach and tell the things I have written in this book, I am mighty busy. And, by the time I have waited on the Lord, still believing, and have told by word of mouth what God has done for me, I have the feeling that I have done what He really wants me to do for Him. For thus the world has seen faith working! Indeed, THIS IS THE VICTORY!
[Buell H. Kazee, Faith is the Victory, 1951. Used with the permission of Philip R. Kazee. - jrd]
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