“I find it very difficult to lead a Christian life,” said a young man to me lately.
He had been converted, and had to a certain extent confessed that blessed fact to many; but yet, like multitudes in similar circumstances, he found the Christian life difficult. And why? Why should a life of practical godliness be difficult? Why do we find many, specially amongst the young Christian men of the day, oppressed by what they call the difficulties of the way? They believe; they accept the word of God; they refuse to be caught by the infidelity that surrounds them; they desire to live for Christ; they thankfully own the value of His blood, and admit in measure His claims over them as their risen Lord; and yet with all that they complain of difficulties, and of their inability to live up to the standard. Now where does the fault lie? Granted that salvation is known and enjoyed, that eternal life is consciously possessed, and that the experience is that of Romans 8, as contrasted with Romans 7; that is, that the soul has acknowledged that “in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing,” but that, on the other hand, it can truly say, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus . . . For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit”—if it can really through grace rejoice in this liberty, then how comes it still to find difficulty?
Clearly that difficulty is not one that arises from ignorance of doctrine. The soul in this case does not require truth in order to deliver or set it free from sin. That deliverance is known. No, the hitch does not lie there. A clear gospel has been heard and accredited; and the soul, so far as mere knowledge is concerned, is right enough. Lack of scriptural information is not the point. Thank God for a firm grasp of a gospel that delivers the soul from the entire question of sin, and that places it before Himself in conscious acceptance! But this does not touch the difficulty in question.
Truth is moral as well as intellectual; and seeing that we are made of heart as much as of head—the heart having far more influence over us than the brain—it is necessary to own this effect of the Word on our ways. The heart is king, and the other members are its vassals. The will is liege-lord, and ever claims the throne.
Now, young men, what you want is a heart—a heart devoted to Christ. Oh, how difficulties vanish before the omnipotence of a devoted heart! It is half-heartedness that is the cause of all your trouble. You are ashamed of Christ. Your confession of His name is sadly restricted. You often play the coward. Your flag is not nailed to the mast. Oh, what liberty of soul is found in making a final committal of yourself, and in taking a stand of uncompromising decision for the Lord! Reservation is fatal. To hold Christ in one hand and the world in the other is misery to yourself and dishonour to Him. A divided heart means chronic defeat.
You plead circumstances. Well, proper circumstances are no hindrance; but if your line of life is improper; that is, unscriptural, leave it. Better be poor with Christ than rich without Him, or only a part of Him. God will never fail the man who follows the Lord. Christ wants followers. True service flows from true following. If you do not follow you cannot serve; and in order to follow there must be heart-affection.
Difficulties is not the word. Say that they are impossibilities, and then you will know in whose strength to face them. The path of faith is not difficult—it is impossible.
To cross the Red Sea was impossible; yet, faith marched through dry-shod. To traverse the desert was impossible; yet faith was fed by the food of angels, and refreshed by water from the rock. To pass the Jordan was impossible; yet again faith walked through the flood, and placed her foot on the shores of promise.
If a thing be only difficult we will face it in our own strength, and perhaps be beaten. If it be impossible, we repudiate all confidence in ourselves, and go forward in the grace and power of the living God, and the mighty giant falls by a stone from the sling. “Grasshoppers”? Yes, but God can use “a worm to thresh a mountain,” and a Paul to establish the Church.
Courage, dear young fellow-Christians! Throw your hearts unreservedly into the interests of Christ, and speak no more of difficulties. Love knows none.
Three years after I was converted I went on my knees and asked the Lord the meaning of, “That they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:15).
And the result? Well, I saw it had been self hitherto, but it was to be Christ henceforth.
Ah! the sweetness of His love who died for me filled my soul, and now His claims as risen Lord asserted themselves worthily over my affections. A new vista opened, and a new life lay before me.
You will find it in full power if you read the epistle to the Philippians.
In chapter 1 Christ is the Life.
In chapter 2 Christ is the Pattern.
In chapter 3 Christ is the Object.
In chapter 4 Christ is the Power.
There we find Christ both the Motive, Power, and Object of the Christian life. What more can be needed?
There is a new motive—not self, but Christ. A new power—not natural energy, but Christ. And a new, blessed, and worthy object to command my entire life—not our poor, ignoble interests, but a living, loving, glorified Saviour.
“One thing I do,” said the apostle Paul, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
Did Paul sit at the foot of “Hill Difficulty” and shed effeminate tears of unmanly irresolution? Did he shrink from the lions that terrified “Timorous” and “Mistrust”? Far from it! No; man of like passions though he were, his heart was so intense, and his pursuit so keen, that none of these things moved him, neither did he count his life dear unto him, so that he might finish his course with joy. Happy man! Bright, victorious witness!
I am persuaded, dear young fellow-Christian, that these wretched difficulties are but the phantoms of half-hearted indecision, and that they would vanish like vapour if you had but the moral courage to put down your foot in the bold, gracious refusal of all that is of the world.
The first injunction in the book of Proverbs is, that you say “no” to evil. (See Prov. 1:10, &c.) Oh the immense moral power of that virtuous little adverb! Moses knew its value when he “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.” And our life, in order to be complete and full-orbed, must be negative as well as positive. Each coin has its reverse and its obverse. Each true Christian must assert his “no” as well as his “yes”—“no” to sin and the world, “yes,” by grace, to Christ and His blessed ways.
Go and bathe your heart, dear friend, in the ocean-fulness of His love. Let it be suffused by and satisfied with the story of His grace; and then seek that you henceforth may be marked by one bright idea, the glory of Him who died for you and rose again.