Faith at Work
BEFORE we attempt to attack the walled cities in our individual lives, we want to know if faith works. Will our God, to whom we have surrendered all things, work for us as we believe and trust Him? Can we turn from all fleshly resources and depend entirely upon Him to do for us what we have been striving to do in the flesh? The answer to these questions lies in the record of heroes of faith. We cannot review all of them, but we shall select a few in whose behalf God has so ably demonstrated His power.
In these demonstrations many important truths will appear, but we are concerned mainly with these four:
1. We need to return to the God who can do something for us. We have left this God and have turned to the cold-hearted idols of self-sufficiency which we have carved out with our own hands. The miracle of religion is almost gone. We must go back to the God of miracle and power.
2. If we submit to Him to do for us what we are striving and failing to do in the flesh, we will find that His methods of work are wholly different from ours. Since "my ways are not your ways," and since "as the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways," His methods will often seem foolish to us. For, "the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God
is stronger than men." It is "not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord."
3. We will find that what attracts men to God is "the Lord's doings," not ours. When God is on display the people will come to Him and believe; but they will not be moved by the works of our hands for God.
4. The choicest faith is that which believes when there is no sign to encourage, except the Word of God.
Paul says that we are justified by our faith; but James says our faith is justified by our works. So, the question is, can faith do anything? Not, can we do anything, but can our faith do anything? Does faith really work? If so, what does it do? And the answer is, it brings us into that state of utter dependence upon God where God can show His power in our behalf. As long as we try to accomplish our ends in the strength and wisdom of the flesh, God cannot work. It is when we put the responsibility of it all upon Him that He responds with His matchless power. Does the record of God bear out this truth?
Now let us call a few witnesses who will assure us that our God can work for us.
The Israelites face Jericho, a city walled and fortified beyond all power of the chosen people to penetrate its walls. They are now at war with the enemies of God. I have seen many people who thought that when we surrender our lives to God our troubles will then be over, and we shall find a calm, peaceful existence from there on. By all means, no! This is the day when we cease to be babes in Christ and become soldiers of the cross. Israel has been a babe in the wilderness; now the new era dawns: they become soldiers
marching to conquer a land inhabited by the strongest and most warlike tribes of the earth. The war has just begun for the believer who makes complete surrender.
But it is a new kind of fighting, with a different kind of result. In I Timothy 6:12, Paul says: "Fight the good fight of faith." Paul had fought a good fight. But it was the good fight of faith. The battle of faith is a struggle, not to do, but to believe that God will do; to gain the ground of faith when, from all earthly evidence, it looks impossible that a promise can be fulfilled. The battle is always pitched on the question, "Can I believe exactly what God says?"
When Jesus came down off the mount of transfiguration He met a man with a demon-possessed son, who told the sad story that the disciples had been unable to do anything for him. The man said, "If thou canst do anything . . . help us" (Mark 9:22). In substance, Jesus answered, "As to what I can do, that is settled; the question is, can you believe ?" Here is the fight of faith set forth concretely. Can I believe what God says? And that challenge comes to the believer every day. If we could believe, what wonders might God perform! But we lose the battle on faith. If we can win there, we have the victory.
Joshua is preparing to attack a walled city. His army is a straggling group of unfit, undisciplined, unarmed, very poor fighting men. All military aspects have faded from Israel, for, as we have noted, the fighting men which started from Egypt, who would not believe, died in the wilderness. There can now be no reliance upon the resources of the flesh. How can they attack this heavily fortified and important city?
Dramatically, a figure steps out of the shadows (Joshua 5:13-15). That figure has in his hand a drawn sword.
Joshua is very alert and wants to know who he is. "Do you come as a friend or an enemy?" he queries. "I come as the captain of the Lord's host," said the figure, with a modesty that puts Joshua into the dust. Joshua is a surrendered man and knows how to act. If in his own mind he ever bore the title "Captain," it was a relief to his anxious heart to transfer it immediately to the figure before him.
I wonder what might have been our feeling had we been in Joshua's place. I do not decry or belittle the honest efforts put forth by our churches today to improve and better prepare our membership for service. But I cannot help wondering what might have taken place here if Joshua nad been a modern expert in plans and methods of church work: He might have said: "Well, indeed, I am glad you have come along; we shall need you. However, you are a little early. We have much to do before we are ready to attack.
"You see, Jericho is no mean city. Its citizens are modern in their life and customs. They are cultured and educated and very efficient in their way of life. Our people are just out of the wilderness; and they cannot, in their condition, hope to make any appeal to a city like Jericho. We must set up our tabernacle here, but we must make many changes. We must study the most modern ways of life as lived in Jericho and must revamp our whole system to meet their needs, so that we, may not insult their intelligence. Our people are poorly prepared to do this. All they know of religious life is the old out-moded system of sacrifices and offerings, and we have been over and over it again, doing the same things, saying the same things, singing the same old songs, until we are ourselves worn out with its monotony. Jericho is a city of great musical talent and art and culture. Our system would make no appeal to them.
"Besides, our tabernacle is not adequate. A complete change in plan of it must be devised and larger and better accomodations must be provided. New ideas of form and ceremony must be introduced to bring us up to date. We must see how they worship inside the wall and incorporate the best ideas in our own worship. Furthermore, our people must be trained to greet and welcome those who may come to us as well as how to go after them. There is much latent talent in Jericho, which, if we can capture it for the Lord, will be a great asset to us. And they have great wealth there, too, and if we can capture their hearts, their money will go to honor God instead of to their heathen idols.
"Now, this cannot be done hastily. We must train and train and train, until we can meet them on their own basis. We must send overtures of friendship to them and let them see that we are not their enemies, but their friends. Through kindness and understanding we shall seek their friendship, and we are sure that it will not be long until they will open their gates to us. We will continue visiting them and mingling with them in friendliness until we have won their esteem. Then we will arrange some social life in our tabernacle which will be very much like the things they do. On a few occasions we will invite them to meet with us and enjoy our good, wholesome, social life with us.
"Of course, we must have our groups and ages so organized as to make any of them feel at home among us, and to let them take part in our meetings so that they will feel that it is their tabernacle as well as ours.
"We must not speak of them as heathen, or sinners, nor offend them by making them feel that they are any worse than are we. That will require leaders who are trained in the most modern methods of psychology, who
can deal with situations tactfully. After we have established a friendship with them, we will take a census and enumerate the prospects. When all has been classified and set up for them, we will go among them personally and urge them to come with us.
"But if we do not have our work well organized and running with great efficiency, we will lose them; for that is the way they do things in their city. We must remember that they have great talents which we can use for God, and great wealth. They can be a great asset to our communion. When we have gained access to the city, we will doubtless find many ideas among the leaders of Jericho which will be of inestimable value to us. We want to consult their psychologists and psychiatrists especially, and learn the temper of their people.
"We are to have a meeting of our tribal heads in a day or so, and they will lay plans for all this work. You see, we want them to understand that we have not come to tear down their city nor to destroy their way of life, but that we have come to give them also the added blessings of our God. In this we feel we can do a great service for our God.
"When we have the final plans drawn up, and our forces efficiently organized, we hope you will give us your blessing and move with us into the campaign. We are sure that with your assistance our work will so appeal to the citizens of Jericho that we will take the entire city for God, and we will all come out of this great venture with victory, and without a scratch!"
I know this is satire, but I plead before my Lord a sincere motive. I know also that this is not the spirit of all who lead in the plans and methods of modern church life.
I do not decry everything we do. It is the emphasis I am deploring. And, with so much to do in plans and method, it is well nigh impossible for us to avoid looking to our efficiency as our hope of winning the lost. The point I am making is that we are afraid to trust the unworldly, "slow and awkward" ways of our God. That is why I say that, from all world viewpoints, our plans should succeed whether God is in them or not, because they are so efficient.
Joshua, a man of faith, knew a different way. When God stands with sword drawn, it is time to bow down. So, like a surrendered soul, walking entirely by faith, and fighting to believe in spite of the way things looked, he said through lips that kissed the earth, "What saith my Lord to his servant?" If anybody in Israel thought Joshua was captain, it was not Joshua. How that ought to wither the great outlay of distinctions which we have borrowed from the world!
"And the captain of the Lord's host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so."
Worship! that is what God wants. That is what He must have if we are going to see Him fight our battles for us. *Brother W. T. Connor of the Southwestern Baptist Seminary rightly says in one of his books what we have said in substance for years, that the first business of the church is worship. And, to worship God is to resign from all fleshly resources, confess our impotence, and look to Him. It is not merely putting God first, but rather making Him everything.
As far as God was concerned the action had already been taken. "See," He says, "I have given into thy hand Jericho,
* Now deceased.
and the king thereof, and the mighty men thereof." Then He unfolded to Joshua HIS plan! Yes! God has plans! But they are always contrary to the plans of the world mind. Not a military man in the world would have looked upon God's suggestions as being anything but utter foolishness. And that is exactly what God thinks of our plans. For, "the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men" (I Corinthians 1:25). Is it not so!
I can imagine that the spectacle of Israel's army was indeed puzzling to the world's best military men of that day upon the wall. Perhaps they said: "What strange aggregation is that which approaches our city? Surely they cannot be men of war planning to attack us. See, in the forefront there are seven men dressed like leaders of some tribal ceremony, each with a ram's horn. Look behind them - some men bearing a box of some sort and all of them in strange garb. They look like anything but soldiers. Surely, they cannot be an army! There seems to be no discipline, no arms, no armour, no . . . that cannot be an army. But they act strangely. See, they are taking a course around our wall. Well, they seem to intend no harm. We shall watch and see what is their intention." And so, they watch Israel's men march around the city, then see them return to their tents at a distance. It would have been interesting to hear the discussions inside the wall that night.
Next day the same scene is enacted and the same wonder grows inside the city. Finally, after three or four days of this, wonder turns to ridicule, and Jericho's inhabitants hurl their taunts and jeers from the wall against God's people. The people of God never made any progress in this world except at the expense of being laughed at and
belittled by the world. When we fight by faith we shall always be reproached by the world and bear the shame of the ignorant. This world, in its conceit, cannot see the wisdom of God; hence it will look upon any who call us to follow God's simple way as visionary and impractical. All of God's heroes have borne such reproach. That is what the modern church fears.
At last Jericho's army has grown accustomed to Israel's march, and unconcern reigns upon the wall. Pity of the poor and ignorant has arisen in their minds. But today things take on a new interest. It is the sabbath of Israel, and after circling the wall they do not return to their tents. They cIrcle it again. People inside the wall come to see what is going on below. By the time Israel has gone around the seventh time, the whole citizenry has no doubt gathered to watch and to inquire into such extended, but harmless, action. This is just what God has led them to do. Now the Big Attraction comes into view - God! Israel and her army fade out of the picture, and having done nothing but worship and witness and believe, they blew their trumpets to announce the presence of God, and all shouted their praise of Him who had already given the city into the hands of Joshua. "The wall fell down flat."
With Jericho's armies disrupted and its people in chaotic disorder, Israel's men went in and easily defeated them. Utter destruction of men, women, children, oxen, asses, and sheep was carried out with ease. "So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame was noised throughout an the country." The Lord is with any man who will bow down and worship God and acknowledge that God's way, though utterly unworldly and a reproach in the eyes of the world, is better than our ways.
Now, how did Joshua accomplish this great victory? And when? He accomplished the victory when he believed God, and faith was the victory. The victory was not in tearing down the walls and taking Jericho; the victory was in believing that God would do it. This is the victory!
The flesh will fight this truth, for it dishonors the flesh and honors God. But the things that are accomplished by faith can never be done by the flesh. Why? Because that which is done through faith is supernatural, and the flesh knows nothing of such works.
This truth is lost to the modern day church, yet the Bible is full of it. Churches don't tarry before God, asking Him to do great things for them; they organize after the world pattern, and, in the strength and wisdom of the flesh, they rush out to do great things for God. Yet, ever the command of God is, "Go, tell what great things the Lord hath done for thee."
This is the witness that attracts men to God. Nobody cares about what we can do; they want to know what our God can do. And they are looking to us to see what He is doing for us. We can never make a convicting appeal to this lost world on what we can do for our God, but when we go telling and showing what our God has done for us, the world will listen. Always it is the miracle that attracts.
This age is turning out preachers of promotion - "how-to-do-it" preachers - whose business is to organize and foster the Kingdom of God through the church. We have trained them in the most intricate detail of what to do, and how to do it. We have left them entirely ignorant of what God has done and can do for us. We are preaching a program of works throughout. We are trying to enlist
men in a program of doing things for God, and, by advertising what we have been able to do, we try to make a convincing appeal to the lost. Ours is a gospel of promotion instead of a gospel of revelation. We need prophets who can talk about God instead of promoters who can talk about us. We need leaders who can introduce us to a God of power and glory rather than leaders who propose to make gods of us. There is nothing that will separate the church from the world like the revelation of such a God.
And yet, the cry from our churches is ever, "make us gods!" We have lost the mystic God in the cloud, and as for the Moseses who linger up there with Him, we wot not what has become of them. Here are our earrings and our streamlined ideas. Get a graving tool and make us a church life that will give us something to do, and stop this boredom of waiting on God. And when we get through with this heathen business, what we have is a golden calf, just like the one Israel left in Egypt.
But it is recorded to the credit of Joshua's faith that, "By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days" (Hebrews 11:30) Separated from the world and surrendered to God, they demonstrated their faith in what God had said. They obediently and in blind faith marched around the walls just as God had said, they blew their trumpets and shouted the praises of their God, and their God tore down the walls. Such is the witness of Joshua.
The Midianites, armed to the teeth in all that the flesh could devise, lay as thick as grasshoppers in the valley, ready to spring with armed might and discipline upon the pitiful army of Israel. Instead of supplementing the forces
of Israel with more men and arms, God asks Gideon to send back all of his thirty-two thousand men except three hundred. As a man of faith does, Gideon obeys. He knows not how God will do it; he knows only that God knows how He will do it. So, blindly trusting, he obeys. With God the strategy is simple. The three hundred men who are left, each with a candle in a pitcher and a trumpet, take their stand around the hills above the sleeping Midianites. At a signal from Gideon, each man breaks his pitcher revealing his candle light, and each man blows his trumpet. The Midianites leap from their slumbers, see the lights around the hills, imagine the woods are full of men, and, in utter chaos, begin to fight any form that moves in the darkness about them. They slay themselves, as all men do who fight against God, and the result is complete victory for Gideon's little band of three hundred. "The sword of the Lord and Gideon!"
There is not a military strategist in the world who would have endorsed such foolishness. But "the foolishness of God is wiser than men." Who gets the glory for this victory? Not Gideon! Not the army! Not Israel! Just God! But the blessings of the victory fall on those who trust Him, and who were able to believe that God had some tricks up His sleeve which were better than the wisdom of the flesh.
Oh, it takes real faith to believe a God like that! The flesh will cling on with doubt and fear and caution, and forbid any such reckless faith. "Fanaticism!" they will hurl at you. But God will be saying all the time, "Only believe!" Who but God could make fools of a big military outfit as He did of the Midianites? Wonderfully simple! Wonderfully foolish! Wonderfully effective!
But why didn't He let the thirty-two thousand soldiers do it? He tells us why in Judges 7:2: "The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand: hath saved me." God is going to have the glory for all He does. That is why He does everything in such a way that no one can say it was of man's ingenuity or wisdom. All God needed was a man who could believe Him.
David, the shepherd lad who knew nothing about military life, was charged by his brothers with coming down from his occupation to see the battle between Israel and the Philistines. As he watched, Goliath came upon the grounds, big, fierce, heavily armed, skillful and challenged dismay into the heart of every Israelite - everyone except David. When David heard the challenge to his God, he could not stand and take it. Somewhere in the quiet of the fields he had stood before God and had been filled with the wonder of God's size and wisdom. He immediately offered to meet the giant.
After much insistence, big King Saul consents to let him try, but brings out the old clanking armour designed for a man head and shoulders above other men. David tries it on, finds himself imprisoned in it, refuses to wear it, and proposes to go out only in the name of the Lord.
Men of faith find it practically impossible to war against Satan in the garb of modern religious armour. Why? Because that armour is too often designed by the flesh, based on a competitive attack in worldly wisdom by the same methods and plans which the world uses. It is not
different from the world, but is exactly like the world in that it magnifies and g1orifies human efficiency to the exclusion of blind faith in a God who does things in an unworldly way. We are afraid to trust God; so, in order to guarantee that He will be a success and not embarrass us before the world, we must ground Him in that which the world recognizes as successful before we turn Him loose. To rely upon His methods is to run the risk of being branded as impractical and behind the times in modern methods of "church work." And, inasmuch as our appeal is to the world, we must not insult the world's intelligence by using methods or plans which are not derived from the best psychology and science of the day.
That may be useful in a warfare between "flesh and blood," but when we get into the warfare against "principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places," we had better let God chose the armour.
So, David goes out in the armour of God - the invisible armour - clothed in the Name of the Most High God. Hear him declare his armour: "The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of the Philistine." Of course, if we have never had much experience with bears and lions, we probably won't be very well equipped to fight a Philistine. But if once we get the idea that God delivers us instead of our delivering Him, we may catch a vision of a God whom we can trust with His own business, and, like Joshua, bow down and say, "What sayest thou to thy servant?"
The battle is already won before it starts. It wasn't a question of killing the giant; it was a question of believing.
Dear brother, let me tell you, if I had been in David's place, and hadn't won the battle of faith before I started out, you would have seen me starting at a rapid pace the other way. The place for God's people to win victory is on their knees. Can we come to the place where we can believe that God can handle His own affairs, create His own plans, work His own strategy, and do what He wants to do by ways and methods and power unknown to this world? We will have to tarry on our knees and look again into the Bible to get a glimpse of a God like that. If we want a revival of power, all the world's methods will not bring it, though they be conceived in the minds of some of our most prominent leaders. God alone can send it, and we must tarry there to let Him start it in us. And when He does send it, all our plans and methods will have to get out of the way like the flood tides wash away the works of men below it. Nothing we can do will bring such tides; they must come from Heaven. And we will have to make contact with the God who sits up there if we are to see them flow with refreshing revival. It will be nothing we do to bring it, if it come; it will be a miracle of God that will make a great appeal to the world, and with convicting power.
In the eyes of the army of Israel, not to speak of the Philistines, David was an utterly foolish boy who, desiring to be a hero, was tossing himself to a Philistine dog. He was too ignorant to know any better, but could not be restrained from his foolishness. Here again we get the world's opinion of those who trust in God. When you live in an unworldly faith you cannot be understood by people who live only in the flesh. Many a preacher or pastor has been crucified by a church that couldn't see what he saw,
and thought him visionary and impractical. Yes, men of faith are visionary; for they "endure as seeing him who is invisible." What a spectacle a man makes of himself when he goes around saying he sees something others can't see! Nobody can understand a man who lives with his eyes glued on somebody they can't see. What he does, and what he tries to get them to do, marks him as foolish in their eyes. Jesus is the example. They nailed Him to a cross because He saw things they couldn't see.
Well, little David knew he couldn't whip the giant, but back yonder in the hills he had seen a God who could slay a lion and a bear. He knew that God was big enough to whip Goliath or anybody else. So he climbed up inside that God and immediately he was just as big as God is. In that position he could have whipped the whole Philistine army as easily as he slew Goliath. So, he approaches the giant and finds that the giant's pride has been hurt.
That is what the modern church fears, that unless it approach the world in "conventional" method and wisdom it will insult the world. To come in the "foolishness of God" would make no appeal to the world. Besides, the modern church is trying to make friends with the world, not slay it. Modern Christianity does not seek to bring a sense of conviction and death (repentance) to this world; it is trying to socialize it and civilize it and improve it, so that it will be fit company for God. And we must therefore be very careful that that world respects our finesse and effiiciency and good taste as we seek to conquer it. If we bring conviction and condemnation to sinners they will curse us.
"Dare you to make out that I am a low-brow, a dog, without dignity or class?" said the giant. And so, says
the world, "Do you make out that I am a depraved sinner, a condemned and judged convict? You insult my dignity. I am intelligent. If you have anything to offer it must be of an intelligent order, or I shall consider you a back number and a radical, presuming upon my intelligence. Nothing but the most modern methods and ideas will make any appeal to me. Start toward me with anything else, and I will take your head off." And we are afraid to preach condemnation to a world like that, for fear we will not "win" it. We think it wiser to approach sin, both in self and in the world, with a "saner" appeal than condemnation. For who knows but that we might persuade the giant to become one of us? And, seeing his great abilities, we might revamp his talents and use them for our side!
Anyway, God and a sling shot were sufficient, just as God and anything or anybody are, and the giant was up against the INVISIBLE. He could see David, but he couldn't see God. David said, "Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou has defied . . . . And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord's, and he will give you into our hands" (I Samuel 17:45, 47).
The battle is the Lord's! What a wonderful discovery for this modern day, when we thought the battle was all ours, and when we are not only rallying forces and training them to fight, but we have our highly trained experts directing it. That is indeed wonderful! Now we can turn the thing back over to the Lord and see what He can do with it. Or will we?
Well, from now on it is quick work. Just one vulnerable spot in the giant's head, but God takes hold of David's arm and, with godly accuracy, swings a stone at that spot. David prevailed, but "there was no sword in the hand of David." Remarkable! He had never been to a training school, but was the only one in the hosts of Israel who could meet the need that day!
If anyone else had done this, God would not have gotten the glory. The flesh will check up every conquest to itself unless it first be robbed of every source of self-sufficiency. Even here, silly women began to sing David's praises above Saul, wholly unaware of what David knew, that God did it. And here arose the typical jealousy of others that comes when God honors a man's faith above the wisdom of the world. "And Saul eyed David from that day forward."
Like any man of great faith, David felt humbled rather than exalted. If you have ever stood in the darkness, in utter despair, and have heard divine wings rustling above your head, you will not be inclined to boast, but to bow down. If God can do that for you, what could He do against you?
There was a great revival in Israel that day and a great conquest of the enemy. Why? Because Israel had fought a great battle? No! Because they had confessed their impotence, and God had honored the faith of His little saint and had done something for them. This is ever the time of revival. Let God start doing something for a church, blessing it with a presence it has not felt before, raising the hopes of the people, converting sinners, and watch the people start getting happy and praising the Lord. Yes! Praising the Lord! Because it is He that hath done this thing. Oh, if we had that again you would see our little
gods - the works of our own hands - go into hiding! And people would crowd in to see who this Strange God is.
We now come to Mt. Carmel (I Kings 18), Elijah has charge of the weather, and tbere has been no rain on the earth for about three years. Things are really bad, and Ahab is blammg Elijah. Elijah counters by placing the blame upon the sins of the people. How many times God's servants have been accused of disturbing the peace of the church, when all the while the blessings of God have been cut off from the church because of the sins of the people! The one problem of our Lord through all the ages has been the matter of keeping His people separate from the world. He can do great things for them, but their iniquities can separate them from the blessings of God. The worship of other gods stops the blessings of the One God.
Elijah calls a great convocation upon Mt. Carmel, and there the test comes. The prophets of Baal call upon their gods, but to no avail. The contest becomes very intense. They punish themselves in the flesh and cry aloud, but no word comes from their gods. Then Elijah takes charge. Notice something in particular: He does everything that would be contrary to a natural and favorable condition for fire upon the altar. Elijah did not prepare the altar so it would succeed with just a little help from God. He made it so that everybody would know that if God did not do something for Elijah there was no possibility ot anything of natural origin helping out.
So often we are afraid, God can't get over the hard places unless we arrange a natural condition favorable to
Him, and streamline everything so that God can work without natural hindrances. In this way we rob God of the glory and chalk up the success to ourselves, seeing that we were smart enough to make God a success.
When Elijah got the stage set, God was to be the only Actor. And this all had a purpose. Elijah expresses it in his prayer (vv. 36, 37): "Elijah the prophet came near and said, Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again."
That this people may know that thou art God! That was the object of the whole thing. Therefore, everything was fixed to give God a full show: Elijah and Israel took the position of helplessness and left all to God to do something for them. Result? Fire fell, "and consumed the burnt-sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God." And away went the gods and the prophets of Baal.
Now, that is the kind of revival we need. But it will never come till we acknowledge our helplessness and set the stage for God to do something for us, and let Him do it in His own way. Then the people around will be impressed with our God; they will never be impressed with us.
If we ever get a vision of that God again, we will bow down in awe and reverence. We will find ourselves confessing sin. In the sixth chapter of Isaiah you have the
vision of which we speak. As soon as Isaiah, no doubt a good man and religious, saw God in His exalted state, he too kissed the earth with humility and cried, "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts." Oh, that we might again catch a glimpse of the God who can make us bow down! But we have, through the eyes of the flesh, seen God to be only as big as our minds and our hands can make Him, and thus we assume the burden of making Him a success in the eyes of the world.
MARY OF BETHANY
We choose Mary's witness because it gives us a picture of such beautiful trust and understanding of God's ways. The contrast between her and her sister Martha sets forth these great truths in a striking manner. There has been much careless instruction given on this story recorded in the Gospel according to Luke 10:38-42. Often you hear preachers of the how-to-do-it programs say, "Yes, we must have our Marthas as well as our Marys." But what is the Lord's comment on these sisters? "But one thing is needful (not two): and Mary hath chosen the good part (not the better part), which shall not be taken away from."
Was Mary indolent and lazy? I have heard it so said; but her Lord did not say so. Was Martha more devoted to her Lord than was Mary? Not according to our Lord. What, then, is the secret here that makes our Lord commend Mary and rebuke Martha for being so troubled about many things?
It is a comment of our Lord on this busy religious life we are living, by which we are trying to show the Lord we are devoted to Him. It is a comment on our shallow concept of our Lord and His mission in this world. It is a comment on our poor understanding of what our Lord is here for, and on our inappropriate demonstration of our zeal - a zeal without knowledge.
Martha loved her Lord, but she had a shallow understanding of His heart. She is typical of the modern day church worker who is so busy she does not have time to get acquainted with her Lord. She is typical of that earthly zeal which spends itself in doing things for God without knowing what her Lord can do for her.
If a man is going to serve God, he must first sit at the feet of Jesus long enough to find out what God is like, and what would be appropriate to His needs. "Be still, and know that I am God" is a ball and chain to the feet of this fast traveling age. Churches must keep up with the times, must be alert to all new fads and customs. They must keep up with all progress and take shrewd advantage of every worldly device to make the Kingdom of God "click." We have forgotten that the Word of God is the only thing that does not change, and that our changing ways and customs and desires are but proofs of our worldly and temporal minds. The reason God does not have to change His Word and His ways is because they are perfect and endure all changes of time or custom. His methods are the same in every age, for they deal with man who is still the same, and his sin which is still the same, and through a Christ who is still the same.
But only the few who sit at the feet of Jesus will discover this. Mary sat there and listened and discovered
that the best way to serve and honor her Lord was to let Him pour out His heart into hers. If we don't let God do something for us, God can't do anything. He has nothing to work on but us, and no one to give Himself to but us. God doesn't need anything Himself except somebody to whom He can give Himself. If we shut Him out of that privilege, He can't bless us.
Martha understood little of her Lord's heart. She tried so hard to serve her Lord, but with such an inappropriate busy-ness that the Lord had to rule it out. Mary put her devotion all into an act of worship, confessing that she had nothing to give Him but that He had everything to give her. Therefore, she would lay aside everything to let Him unburden His full heart to her worshipful soul.
What was the result? Mary discovered something Martha needed so much to learn, and that this whole world of church life needs to learn, and that is, "The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." That discovery brought her, a little later on, to break an alabaster box of ointment, precious above her other possessions, and anoint Him for His burial. She had found the secret of His mission, and in this act gave her heart to Him in appreciation. That was all Jesus wanted. He still wants to find those who can appreciate what He has done for them, and who will open their hearts in worship. To such hearts God will become great.
And how great was this Lord to Martha and Mary? Let me tell you. He was so great to Martha that she would set her house in complete order for Him; He was so great to Mary that she would set the house completely aside for Him.
If this church age would ever discover Jesus to be so great that we could set our house aside for Him, and quit driving ourselves into the sanitoria trying to set it in order for Him, we would find our hearts in condition to receive blessings which our well-organized house can never contain.
Martha made Jesus the God of her house; Mary made Him the God of her heart. And so many of us these days are busy building temples of wood and stone for Him, and are weighted down with the business of making our household orderly for Him, but we are too busy to let Him come into our hearts with a power unknown to this hour of religion.
Have we chosen the good part? More than that, dare we choose it? Are we not afraid of the embarrassment that would come to us all if we threw away our house gods and bowed down before a heart God? Are we not afraid of a revival that would cast away our gods? Do we not, in our praying, ask God to come and fit into the scheme of things we have set up, and, like the children of Israel under Aaron, have we not said, "These be the gods which brought us up out of Egypt?"
I was made sad recently in a meeting where plans were being laid for a great sweeping revival campaign. I have read and taught many books on "how-to-do-it" in the various phases of church life. I see now the unimportance of many of them.
In this meeting to which I refer they were discussing the work of a certain department in the evangelistic campaign. The earnest and godly leader of the conference distributed to each of us two legal-sized sheets of paper, clipped together, filled with single-spaced, typewritten questions
and instructions for the leader of this department. There were questions on the qualifications and skill of the special leader who would come to the church for the meeting, on his personal appearance, his psychological approach to the situation, his ability to get along with the people; his relationship to the church's own established groups in his field, to their leader, and to other leaders in the church; whether or not these local groups should have a regular place in the revival meeting; whether or not the visiting leader should recognize in a special way the local leader; whether or not the regular routine of the established groups should be carried on through the meeting; what the visiting leader should eat and when, how he should conduct himself in homes and with relation to the pastor and the evangelist; and on and on with endless questions about procedure, relationships, recognitions, and so forth; until it seemed to us that it would require the assistance of psychologists, psychiatrists, philosophers, the mayor and the chief of police, besides all the experts in the fields represented in the church, to conduct a revival meeting with proper attention to all the items set forth in this paper. The author of it is a godly man and earnest in his field, but, like Martha, there is every possibility that he is "troubled about many things" where only one thing is needful. How did God ever conduct revival meetings before the experts got hold of the job? He seems to have gotten aloong well at Pentecost. I say I was made sad, because I felt that God's work was being blocked by the earnest, conscientious, efforts of the flesh.
One day on an eastern train I was conversing with a girl who was probably in her late twenties. I soon learned that she was a student in an American Mission
school, preparing to go back to Japan as a missionary. I had been talking quite freely, as is usual for me if anyone will listen, and she had been resting her head on the back of the seat, watching the scenery as we hastened along. She quietly observed:
"The American people talk so much. They just seem to want to talk all the time. We Japanese like to be quiet. Religion to us is so much quiet; not a lot of talk. We like to worship quietly and think."
I smiled and said apologetically: "You are certainly right. I wish I could be more quiet, and your observation is timely and correct."
She hastened to explain: "I did not mean what you think. I have listened to your explanations with pleasure. But what I mean is - the girls at school; they just talk and talk about so many things which don't seem important. And much of their teaching is so unimportant."
I heartily agreed with her, of course, but I asked her for an example. "Well," she said, "for instance, I was taking an examination on a course I have studied in the mission school, on 'How to conduct the . . . ' (Here she mentioned the name of a familiar organization in modern church life), and the question was, 'Who should introduce new church members to the (organization)?'" Then she looked out the window with what seemed to be a sort of pity for people who deal in such trifles, and quietly observed: "I don't see that it makes any difference who introduces new church members to the (organization)." To this I heartily agreed. Yet, so much of the books on "how-to-do-it" are loaded down with this kind of detail. Millions of pamphlets and books are printed, classes by the thousands are conducted in their detail, and the lives of
our people are filled with so much expertness and finesse, that we feel like dumping Saul's armour into the ocean and going out with God and a sling shot to slay the giants. It will get on the nerves of any man who has contemplated long enough to see that the wisdom of man is foolishness with God.
I have a deep regard for those who toil and work to make possible a great revival. I cannot credit myself with much success along this line. But, going back to the conference I mentioned above, I could not help moaning, "Lord, if you have to fit into all this before we can have a great revival, you will be so harrassed by our red tape that you will never be able to get to us with the blessing." I do not say this with disrespect for those who try to lead us. But I do believe our leaders have made our God small, even to the proportions of our own minds and abilities, and we are afraid to trust God with His own business. Hence we make our plans and ask Him to follow.
Once I was talking with one of our leaders about a proposed great "campaign." I was objecting to some of his conclusions on plans and details. He said to me, "Man, this came out of the greatest minds of our convention." And in my own mind I answered, "Yes, that is exactly where it came from!"
If it be charged that I am advocating a "do-nothing" religion, I reply that I am advocating the only religion that does things that endure.
The witness of our Lord to these truths needs only to be summarized. When did the people believe? When they saw a blind man open his eyes and see, a lame man get up
and walk, a palsied man carry his bed home, demons cast out of a wild boy, a little girl get up from her death bed, a young man climb down from his coffin, a decomposed Lazarus come forth from the tomb. It was always the miracle - what God did - that made men believe. When they saw God on demonstration they were always impressed. It was this that made people turn, with hungry hearts, from the dried up ceremonalism of the Pharisees to a peasant body throbbing with the heart beat of God.
THE HOLY GHOST
Come now to Pentecost. Ten days of waiting and praying, to which nobody paid any attention except about one hundred and twenty humble disciples. But God came down, in the Holy Ghost, and began to act upon men. There was noise of a supernatural kind, and actions not of this world, and speech unworldly, and power which brought the whole city out. We have tried every way to get a crowd except letting God bring one. Men are not going out to see what men can do; they will come only when they can see God in action.
The disciples were filled with God, and through them God demonstrated His power and wisdom which was wholly different from the world's way. Methods? God had methods. His method here is simple enough for a church of five, and complex enough for a church of fifty thousand. It is simply this: Have experience with God and tell it to somebody.
But if people don't have time to pray and get apart from the world, if they are so busy "running the church" that they can't sit at the Master's feet, naturally they can't be filled with the Spirit. So, filled with their own wisdom
and ingenuity, and depending on their own plans copied and adapted from the world, they seek to ensnare sinners into something only a little better than what they are used to.
These disciples were warned that "without me ye can do nothing." So they waited for Him. When He came He didn't fit into any worldly schemes; He simply took over the bodies of the disciples and, with power of Heaven, moved them to do and say things this world never had seen. The Holy Ghost was, for once, unquenched. Result: they had a crowd, they preached, the Holy Spirit convicted and saved, and everybody was praising God, because God was the One who had done it all.
Nobody had to take census in Jerusalem. The population all turned out to hear the wonderful things of God and to see God-possessed human beings under the miracle power of God. I know this is a special day in the life of the church, but the same Holy Spirit is here now. Yet, He cannot kill giants while hampered by Saul's armour.
The thing that is noteworthy here is that the people were happy because the Lord was blessing. They were praising God and having favor with the people, because the Lord's favor upon them was evident to all. He was adding to them.
PETER AND JOHN
Now Peter and John go up to the temple to pray, and they find a lame man at the temple gate. Nobody had ever done anything for him except to give him enough alms to keep him living on as he was born. That is all this world can do for anybody. And the only people who have anything different to offer a helpless man are the people
of God. "Silver and gold," such as the world has, "have I none."
Churches in this day think that if they can get a lot of money, build great buildings, and hire a lot of workers, they can do great things for God. Maybe so, but that is doubtful. In nearly every community there is a church which may be entirely short on silver and gold and beautiful buildings and great systems of work for social betterment, all of which seems to be the great emphasis of this hour, but they could be rich in the "such as I have." That is what the world is needing, and with that we are utterly stingy. What the world needs most, the power to get up and walk, is that in which we are poorest, and that which we use the least.
"In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth," the man leaped up and began praising God. What did Peter give him? God! "I have nothing to offer to you but God," said the apostle, but that was all he needed. Now God is on the stage, and the young man is leaping and praising Him. Here again is the way to get a crowd - let God do something for somebody. "All the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon's, greatly wondering." Such a feeling will never be produced by us with our ponderous figures and records of accomplishments. But let God do something for us, and the people will rush in to see it.
Peter was quick to sense the possibility of hero worship that might obtain, so he quickly told them that it was the "God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers," who "hath glorified his Son Jesus." Then he shot home the condemnation that rested upon them in the crucifixion of this Jesus, and showed how God had exalted
the crucified One to everlasting rule. Therefore, repent, said he, as he went on with his sermon. He had a crowd now, and it was a good time to preach. "Many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand."
Much opposition followed, as it always does when God is working. There wIll not be much opposition to the works of the flesh, for its religious program will be so much like the world that it will be either accepted or ignored. But let God go to performing miracles in the hearts of men, and Satan will oppose that at once and vigorously. The Acts of the Apostles is full of this record. When God works the people are attracted, and when miracles are performed believers are added.
Let it be once and for all understood: God must be on display before this idolatrous world will ever be shaken from its gods and turned to the living God. And it will be God working in us and through us, rather than we working for Him, that will make manifest the miracle power which attracts lost men to Him.
That is the purpose of miracle, from the first to the last, to show people what God can do for us. The greatest miracle God ever performed is the one wrought by the Holy Ghost in us, which transforms us from sinners and worldlings into obedient slaves of God, and which makes us so different from the world that we will be looked upon as not belonging here but to the family of God in heaven. To have people walking around in the world, in whom the power of God is manifest, is the only thing that will attract lost men to Him. The Bible is a record of man's helplessness and God's miracle in his behalf.
If we do not come back to the miracle God, we have no hope. I wonder what would happen if our churches threw down everything for the time, at least, and, empty-handed, gathered around God in prayer and confession of sin, and said, "Lord, we cast down our idols, separate ourselves from the world, and come to thee for help. Do something for us in thine own way, and show us how to walk." A sincere attitude like that would break the flood gates of Heaven open, I doubt not, and blessing would flow in this old sinful world. That is the way it has always been. As long as we cling to our own self-sufficiency and ask God to approve it, we shall always remain helpless. Why don't we confess it and repent?
I believe the answer is in the pride of our own works. We are embarrassed to confess that we have made a mistake: that we have built a machine religion which, according to all "intelligent calculations," should succeed by virtue of its psychological fitness to the mind and natural disposition of man. We have no place in it for the miracle. Instead of pouring water all over the altar and around it, to make it unmistakable that God alone sent down the fire, we have tried to make the altar sizzle a little ourselves so that it would be easy for God to get off to a good start. And, I fear we shall never have the grace to say, "We have been wrong." May God help us!
[Buell H. Kazee, Faith is the Victory, 1951. Used with the permission of Philip R. Kazee. - jrd]
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