W. K. (P).
Christian Friend vol. 16, 1889, p. 14.
Beloved Brother, - Many thanks for your letter. There are many points of very great interest raised in it. It is well when we learn things with God, for we are fitted thereby to be here for the Lord, which is an immense privilege.
We are losers when we do not turn first to God in all our exercises. When we do turn to God, it shows we have learnt that He is for us in all our pathway here. There are three illustrations before my mind in connection with God's ways with us.
The first is Hannah. She had a right desire of heart, but had to wait a long time for the answer to that desire. There are three lessons learnt in the waiting - first, she ceases to expect from herself - self set aside; second, she learns God is the source of everything to her, she turns to Him, but still has to wait; third, she has a single eye to the glory of God; the "child shall be devoted to the Lord." Now she gets her desire, and gives it to the Lord all the days of her life.
Balaam is the second. Here we see self-will manifested, going his own self-chosen way; and though the Lord seeks to stop him, he still pursues it, till he comes to a place where he is hedged in, and cannot turn to the right or left. Then he is stopped; but at what a cost - the breakdown of everything!
David is the third. Here the Lord is opening his ear to instruction. He sends one year of famine, but David is not "exercised thereby;" perhaps he looks upon it as coming in the ordinary course of events. The Lord sends a second year of famine (a more severe trial), but still he is not troubled; and the Lord is obliged to send a third year. Then David is awakened, and turns to the Lord to enquire the reason. Had he done so at the first there would be no need for the third year. It is so with us at times. Our ears are not opened till the severe trial comes, and then we are driven to the Lord to enquire the cause.
The next point - confidence in God - is one that cannot be overestimated. "Have faith in God," is the word of the Lord, and this embraces very much indeed. Paul says, "I know whom I have believed," but the knowing Him is as much faith as believing His word. Getting hold of God in our souls as He is revealed to us in Christ is faith. Although I cannot follow out this subject here, the practical importance of it leads me to mention one or two things. We are to have the shield of faith in presence of the enemy, to enable us to stand. "Faith" here I believe to be the state of the heart towards God, that unshaken confidence which is produced in learning what God is. We are to have the shield of faith and love in the presence of the world and Satan's power as we go through it. In Abraham's faith there are four qualities, which will also be found in ours when God is before the heart. First, he "considered not." Here reasoning is shut out; faith reasons not. "He staggered not." No matter what the munificence of the grace revealed, "he staggered not." He was "fully persuaded" there could not be a question; when God had spoken all was settled; and he gave glory to God.
In Psalm 37 there are four conditions of soul in connection with this, and each is dependent on the other, or each is fitness for the next. "Trust in the Lord;" "Delight thyself in the Lord;" "Commit thy way unto the Lord;" "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him;" i.e. wait till He acts for you.
Two more points you mention - "patience," and "the grace of God." Both of these are so connected together that they come under the one heading "grace." To know grace is to know God. There was a time when I looked at grace as a sort of substantive quality, a certain quantity of which was given to us, and I was troubled because I could not say I had this. I have spent hours looking for it before I went to do anything, and so had no liberty. Grace is God acting in love, in a sinful scene, from Himself (the motive in His own heart always, the occasion in us), because of what He is. This is rather a long definition, but I could not give it in fewer words.
Now, as to practical ways, let us see how grace meets us; and it is here I mean that patience is linked with it. The lessons we learnt for deliverance must also be learnt for practice in deepening ways - viz., that the flesh is not ourselves, that there is no good thing in it, and that we have no power to do the good - for though we know what deliverance is, and have received the Spirit of God, this of itself is not power. Paul had both in Corinthians 12, but there he learns he is weak; and turning to the Lord about this, the answer is, "My grace is sufficient for thee;" "My strength is made perfect in weakness." He does not say, I will help you. That is the general thought, and that the Lord's power is a supplement. No; the truth is, the Lord does it all. We have no power, and hence His power is perfected in weakness. To walk in this calls in the exercise of patience.
But there is a point of immense interest here. It is very well to know in the abstract, "My grace is sufficient for you;" and, "Without Me ye can do nothing;" but the point here is, "He said unto me, My grace," etc. Now there is a secret between Paul's heart and the Lord. Paul is weak, the Lord is his strength, and He will act for him on every needed occasion. I take it to be an immense comfort for the Lord to say, "Do this," to one who is weak, for then he goes forth in the Lord's strength. When the disciples are sent forth to "raise the dead," how could they do it unless the Lord was their power perfected in their weakness? Paul, in writing to Philippi, lets the saints into this secret. He says, "I have strength for all things in Him who gives me power."* Paul is never made a storehouse of power, but, as every occasion arises, the Lord gives him the needed grace, and this keeps Paul in continual dependence upon the Lord for the grace . . . .
(*See the New Translation. - Ed.)
I would say, Where there is effort weakness is not known. A person who is the vessel of the Lord's power does not try to do things, for he has learnt that his power lies in the Lord's grace, and the Lord's strength; and that therefore the greater his sense of weakness, the more fully will the Lord's power be displayed through the vessel. The more the weakness is felt, the more entire will be the dependence, and in dependence it is that the secret of power is known.
W. K. (P).