Faith

 

In preceding chapters we have considered the subject of faith so far as it relates to the receiving of God's cleansing work in the soul; it remains now to consider the general subject as it relates to the Christian life. The word is often applied to a system of belief or teaching, as "the faith of the gospel." This use of the word calls for no notice here. Faith in this work means the faculty of the human soul by which we lay hold upon God and are brought into intimate contact with him, and through which we receive things from him. All have the power to believe. Evangelical faith is believing "that God is and he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Hebrews 11:6). It is believing that God is what the Bible says he is and that he will do what the Bible says he will do. It is a confident and implicit relying upon him. It is counting him true and his word true, and putting that confidence into action in our lives.

In Galatians 5:22 faith is said to be one of the fruits of the Spirit. We have a natural faculty of faith, or the power to believe, and the Spirit of God, working upon this natural power, quickens our faith and turns it into channels that lead Godward, and thus God becomes the object of our faith. Faith being a fruit of the Spirit, it naturally follows that the more spiritual we become the stronger will be our faith and the more effective it will be in its action. Like other natural qualities, it is more highly developed in some persons than in others, but there are none but can have faith in God sufficient for their own salvation and sufficient to enable them to live a godly and true life. Faith is also capable of great development. As we advance from one experience to another in the Christian life and see how God has blessed us and led us on and helped us, that increases our faith, adding to it from day to day. It is God?s will that every one of his children have sufficient faith to make them overcomers in this world, so that they may live a life to please God in all things.

Qualities of Faith

Faith is not as blind Credulity. Faith has keen eyes, and she looks forth with unfaltering gaze. She knows full well that she need not close her eyes to any fact. She knows that the whole realm of truth is hers. She gazes at all the facts in the quiver of Reason and fears none of them. She sees in and beyond these truths a mighty God, the object of her confidence. Credulity fears truth, but Faith rejoices in it, for in every truth she sees the revelation of her Beloved. Her eyes are quickened by love, so that she sees where other eyes cannot see. She sees the unseen and beholds the invisible. Her vision pierces the dark and threatening clouds of earthly circumstances and beholds God still upon his throne and still her helper.

Faith is courageous. She does not triumph because her enemies are weak, but because she is strong, and difficulties only make her stronger. She faces her foes with confidence, for she knows Him in whom she trusts. She is bold with the boldness that comes from strength, for she knows that she has access to all the strength of God. Why should she be timid or shrinking? is not her God greater than all? is he not with her? She is hopeful even in the darkest hour. She can always see something in which to rejoice. Dark skies do not appall her. The keen winds of persecution and the beating waves of trouble cannot silence her song of rejoicing. She knows in whom she trusts. She knows that the end will be victory, and so she goes upon her way confident, courageous, and hopeful.

The Foundation of Faith

Paul told the Corinthians that his preaching to them was not with "enticing words of man?s wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power; that their faith should not stand in the wisdom of men but in the power of God" (I Corinthians 2:4). Faith has a more sure foundation than the wisdom of man. It is based upon the character and promises of God. When we come to know the character of God, through the revelation of himself in the Bible and through what we learn of him by our own experience, it affords us a certain foundation for faith. We learn his truthfulness; therefore we know his promises are true. We learn of his faithfulness; therefore we know that his promises will be fulfilled. We learn of his kindness, and we know that he will be kind to us. We learn of his love, and we know that he will manifest that love to us in helping us. God has spoken many gracious promises to us. He cannot lie. These promises were made to be fulfilled and not to be broken. They are "yea and amen" to every one that believes. God never tries to find a way to excuse himself in not fulfilling his promises. He never desires not to fulfill them. He has never made to us a single promise that it is not his delight to carry out for us. He stands behind them all to make them good, not simply because his faithfulness and truthfulness are at stake, but because what he has promised us is the natural fruitage of his love toward us.

In these things faith has a foundation that can never fail her. Upon it she can confidently stand. This is the only sure foundation that she can have. Any other will give way beneath her feet. God?s character will never change, and so his promises will never fail. If you would have faith, look at the promises of God and then look behind the promises at God himself. Look at his character. Contemplate its beauty and strength until your heart becomes enraptured. Behold his perfection until your heart is warmed with adoration. Many are weak indeed because they do not really know God. They have never really studied his character. They are unaware of his perfection. They are unaware of his interest in them. They do not know the strength and richness of his love. They might know these things if they would read of him in the Bible as they ought and if they would spend proper time in meditating over what they read. Reader, if you have never given sufficient time to the study of the character of God, you ought to take that time now. You can spend profitably many days and months therein. Do not be afraid that you will exhaust the subject, for God is infinite. Too many Christians never become acquainted with God further than to be on just common speaking terms with him. They never attain to that intimate knowledge of him, that intimate relation with him, that it is their privilege to enjoy. The more perfectly we know him and the closer to him, the more certain we shall feel that our faith stands upon a solid foundation, one that will never yield under any circumstances.

Based on anything else than the character and promises of God, faith must ever be weak and wavering. Some base their faith on their experience. As long as they have full confidence in their experience, they think that they can ask God for things and obtain them because of what they are. It is very good to have confidence in our experience, but to base our confidence and our faith on our experience is a very unwise thing. If we do this, anything that makes us doubt our experience in any degree will hinder our faith just when an active vigorous faith is needful. Many times people base their faith upon their emotions. If our feelings are the foundation for our faith, we shall apparently be very strong in faith when we are joyful; but when emotions subside, our faith is gone. Faith must have a substantial grounding, or it will fail just when most needed. To stand, it must be based upon things that are immutable. If we anchor our boat to a floating log, we shall drift with its motions. Our emotions rise and fall as the tide. If we make them the basis for faith, we shall never be able to stand.

Emotion is often a false witness, while faith?s witness is always true. Emotion says that we are strong when we are joyful, and weak when we are in heaviness. Its witness is not true. Our real strength is practically the same in both instances, only we are more encouraged and inclined to use our strength when emotions run high. Joyful emotions stimulate faith, hope, and courage, and render them active; while opposite emotions depress and hinder them. The operation of faith is normal and undisturbed only when emotion is neutral or when it is fully separated in action from faith, and our faith in nowise depends upon it. Just as long as we base our faith upon our feelings, it will rise and fall as our feelings do. We shall be now strong, now weak; now certain, now uncertain; now confident, now fearful. Get your faith and your feelings separated. It is only by so doing that your faith will hold fast in the times when you need it.

When your emotions run high, you have need of little faith, for the strength of your emotions will carry you through; but when emotion subsides and you are left without the stimulus that it gives, it is then that you need faith, and it is then that you must have it in order to keep from being tossed about. Right here is the difficulty with a multitude of Christians. Their faith is based upon their emotions, not upon the Word of God; therefore so long as they feel all right, their faith is steady, but as soon as their feelings subside or as soon as bad feelings begin to come, their faith wavers and shrinks, and they are ready to give up in despair. This is child?s play, and you will never be more than a child in faith so long as you base your faith upon your emotions. God wants you to be man-sized and man-strong. He does not want you to be the creature of your emotions. He wants you to stand by faith, by a faith anchored to his immutable promises. When faith is so anchored, waves of feeling may rise and fall, the wind may blow this way or that, but the man stands firm. He is saved whether he feels good or feels bad, whether he is joyful or sorrowful, whether his heart is overflowing with thankfulness or his emotions are perfectly neutral. Faith must be based on something outside ourselves if it shall ever have a healthy growth and strong development.

Some people base their faith largely upon what other people think of them. They can feel that they are saved so long as certain ones seem to have confidence in them and are manifesting that confidence at every opportunity. It is all right to appreciate the confidence of our brethren and the manifestation of that confidence, but we should not base our hopes of heaven and our confidence in ourselves on such manifestations of approval. We must stand for ourselves. We must know ourselves and our own relations with God; we must not depend upon others to know for us. Get close enough to God so that nobody else can know your state as well as you yourself. Let no one be intermediate between you and God. He has promised that you should know him for yourself and that you should know yourself and your standing before him. Seek this close relation with God. The door is wide open; you may enter into it if you will. God will see that you find the way if you really try. When once your faith is anchored on the solid foundation that he furnishes for you, the accusation of men and devils will not affright you nor make you give up your confidence in God.

The Effect of Faith

Paul says, "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith" (Hebrews 10:22). There are those who tell us that we can never know we are saved, or in fact ever be very sure of anything in regard to our relations with God. Nothing could be more contrary to the teachings of the Scriptures. Faith brings knowledge. There is never a completed action by faith but there is an assurance that follows that action. It is the natural fruit of that action. Faith works with assurance. He who has faith draws nigh to God with expectation. He knows that God is true and that His promise is for him. He lays hold upon the promise because the promise belongs to him and because God is pleased to have him claim his rights in the promise. When he takes hold upon the promise, he is sure of the result. Sometimes people speak of "taking things by faith" when they rather mean claiming them without faith, for it is evident that they do not have the faith they are claiming. The only way to obtain a thing from God is through faith, speaking of those things which come to us through prayer. So whatever of this nature we get from him, we must take by faith, but when we take it by faith we have it. When faith once gets her hands on a thing, it is hers, but it is not hers until she has hold upon it, and when she has gotten hold of it, she has the consciousness of having it in her grasp, the same as we have the consciousness of having in our hands that which we have grasped.

Doubts may come from various sources. One source is a lack of knowledge of God?s will. As long as we hold in question whether it is God?s will to do a thing for us, our faith cannot be active and strong in its grasp. There will be an uncertainty about it all. We need to get this question of God?s will settled first. Sometimes this is very hard for us to decide, but of one thing we may always be sure ? that it is God?s will to give us what we need and what we must have in order to serve him successfully. God is willing to give. He does not have to be forced to give because he has promised. He does not have to be coaxed to give it nor wheedled into granting our request. He stands ready to fulfill his promises. Ordinarily, therefore, when a need is presented to us, we can take it for granted that it is God?s will to supply that need, though he must choose the way in which he will supply it.

Doubts often come because we feel unworthy. We need something, and we desire it very much. We do not doubt that God would give it if we were more worthy to receive it. We could readily believe that he would give it to somebody else, but will he give it to us? If what we receive depended upon our worthiness to receive, we should certainly never receive very much from God, but it does not depend upon our worthiness. It depends upon his graciousness and upon his mercy and upon his kindness and upon his love. If we must wait until we are worthy of his blessings, we shall never receive them. It is often true that the most worthy Christians, or those who are most godlike in their lives, are the very ones who feel most unworthy. This is so because they understand better and see more clearly the perfections of God. There are, of course, those whose lives are unworthy before God and who for that reason cannot have faith to receive, because their consciences trouble them. These must needs get a clear conscience before faith will take hold for other things. But those true Christians who seek things of God never have a strong feeling of their worthiness. It is true that they can often say, like Hezekiah, that they have lived perfect before the Lord up to all their understanding; but notwithstanding that, there is a sense of unworthiness before God, so that they do not base their faith upon their worthiness but upon the great loving-kindness of God.

In order for us to have the assurance of faith, the promises must come to mean us and mean us now. In approaching God for something, you ought to come to him as though you were the only person in the world and that the promise was especially made for you. You should treat the promise just as though nobody else had a share in it. The promises that cover your needs are to you. They are to you and for you just as much as though God had spoken them directly to you personally and had included no one else. Look upon them in this way. Treat them this way, always bearing in mind that he must choose his manner of fulfilling them.

Assurance is not emotion. You may be sure that you own a farm. You may have a deed for it, properly recorded. There may be no claims of any sort against the farm. But though you know all these facts, such knowledge may not excite any emotion at all in you. You may be ever so sure of it, not question it in the least, and at the same time be perfectly unemotional about it. The same is true many times with the Christian experience. We may be perfectly sure about it and yet not be able to tell a thing from our emotions. The promises of God are true whether they excite in us any emotion or not. He has said, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee" (Hebrews 13:5). This is true, no matter how lonely or deserted we feel, so long as we trust. Your part is to trust and obey. The rest belongs to God. Be concerned about doing your part, but throw all the responsibility for his part upon him. Do not try to bear one bit of it yourself. Never try to help God. He is able to do his own part. Never worry and strain yourself about trying to have faith. Just be easy and comfortable about things. When the responsibility of anything is thrown upon God, he will not shrink from that responsibility, neither will he fail to bear it properly.

A little incident from my own experience may help the reader to understand what I mean. I was once traveling in the evangelistic work with two helpers. We had arranged to go on Monday morning to a certain town some distance away to begin a meeting. We did not have the money to pay our railroad fare. On Saturday we made our arrangements to go and prayed the Lord to furnish the means which we needed. On Sunday morning we went to the meeting and had a glorious service. I forgot all about money. On Saturday I had taken it for granted that the Lord would supply our needs at that meeting, but on the way home from the meeting, something seemed to say to me, "Where is your money?" and I suddenly remembered that I had received nothing at all. I had asked the Lord for it and had expected it to come, but it had not come as I had expected. For a moment I did not know what to say. Then I answered: "Well, Lord you will have to look after that. We are going to do our part." We went on a number of miles to stay all night and found that a meeting had been arranged for at that place; so I took it for granted that our needs would be supplied here. We had another very precious meeting, but it closed and the people went home. I was detained a little, but presently started for my stopping place through the darkness. A voice seemed to say to me, "Where is your money?" Here it was late at night, and we were to start early the next morning. But my confidence was in God, and I threw the responsibility on him, saying: "That is your business, Lord. We are doing our part, and we expect you to do yours." I went on my way not concerned about the matter, when shortly I heard a voice calling after me. I answered, and a man came running and put something into my hand. When I reached my lodging-place, I found that it was a bill sufficient to pay all the expenses of our trip.

Do your part, be sure you have done it, and then you can throw the responsibility upon God. You need not worry, you need not fear. He will not fail you. Cast all your cares upon him, for he careth for you. Do not think that God will not attend to his business. Does he let the planets get out of their orbits? Does he let the sun cease to shine? Does he fail to bring spring after the winter? Does he fail to give seed-time and harvest? Be not fearful, but believing. He has said that heaven and earth should pass away, but that his word should never pass away; that is, it is the most certain thing in existence. Plant your feet firmly on the promise. Count it yours. Rejoice in it.

The Relation of Works to Faith

All Catholics and most Protestants trust in their good works more than in God for salvation. This may seem a strong statement, but many years of experience in dealing with souls have brought me to that conclusion. No matter how much the efficacy of faith is preached, when it comes to the matter of practical Christian living, most people trust more or less in their works to make them acceptable before God. They try to do something to merit salvation, and after they are saved they try to do something to merit God?s approval. The ineffectiveness of such efforts is made very plain by Paul. He says, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8, 9). There is absolutely no saving merit in works. Salvation is a gift from God. Anything that is purchased is not a gift. Anything that is ours by right cannot be a gift to us. Salvation is called the "free gift." It can never, therefore, in any degree rest on our good works. Evil works cut us off from God and grace, and so God requires us to shut evil works out of our lives, but simply shutting these evil works out of our lives does not win for us salvation.

"I do right, therefore I am right," is the usual formula. This makes works precede faith, and makes faith dependent on works. Those who base their standing before God on their good works instead of upon his grace, must continually question themselves whether their good works are sufficiently good to recommend them to God. If we could be saved in that manner, we would be saved by faith in ourselves, and not by faith in God. The true formula is, "I am right, therefore I do right." Acts get their quality from intent, and intent comes from the state of the heart. There can be no evil intent in a righteous heart, and hence no evil act in the life. If the fountain is clean, so is the stream; but if the fountain is unclean, nothing that we can do to the stream will cleanse the fountain. In Galatians 5:6 we read of "faith which worketh by love." Faith is therefore a motive power; and if there is true faith abiding in us, it will work out in deeds of love and kindness, of mercy, holiness, and truth.

We should remember, however, that it is not these deeds that make the faith nor preserve it, but it is the faith that makes the deed. James makes works the evidence of faith; that is, faith is the tree and works are the fruit. It is quite true that the fruit is of the same character as the tree, but the fruit upon a good tree is often marred by insects or drouth or damaged by the weather. The fact that damaged or imperfect fruit is taken from a tree does not prove that the tree is not alright. It may only prove that the circumstances prevented the proper development of the fruit. So the fruit of our faith may not always be perfect. We may now and then come short of our expectations. There may be things in our lives that we should like to see better. We may be prevented by circumstances from reaching the full development of our lives and fruits as we should like to have them developed. But nevertheless if we are God?s, the true life-power is working in us. Judging ourselves solely by the fruit that we bear under unfavorable circumstances is no more fair than judging the tree by the imperfect fruit that may grow upon it. I am not arguing in favor of wrongdoing. By no means. If God is in us, our lives will be pure and our deeds will be pure. The point that I wish to emphasize here is that our faith should be in God and not in our works. He who trust in his works may have righteousness, but it is wholly a self-righteousness; but he who trusts in the righteousness of Christ imparted to him by the Holy Spirit has the righteousness of God, which is the "righteousness of faith." We are righteous because God makes us righteous. We remain righteous because he keeps us righteous. Oh, that me would trust him to be their righteousness instead of going about to establish their own righteousness!

Living by Faith

"The just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:17). The Christian graces flourish only in the soil of faith. Under the influence of doubt they droop and die. As already stated, we should never trust in works in order to maintain our righteousness. "We walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7). That inward, conscious, satisfying knowledge of being right with God can come only by faith. Some people are always questioning their experiences. They remind me of a man hiring out to work for another man through harvest. All goes well the first day, but the second morning he rises he feels tired and sore from the work and probably does not feel at all inclined to begin another day?s labor. So he walks off the field and sits down upon a stump while the rest of the laborers go to work. Presently one comes up to him and says, "What is the matter, John?" He looks gloomy and says: "Oh, I don?t feel well this morning. I think I?ve lost my job." He is finally convinced that he has not lost his job, and is persuaded to go to work, and he gets along pretty well during the day. The next morning it is cloudy, and he walks out into the field again and sits down. Again he is asked what is the matter, and his reply is: "Oh, it?s so cloudy and threatening this morning. I think I have lost my job." What do you suppose his employer would say? Would it be, "I am sorry for you; I think you had better go home"? No, it would be, "Get busy there. We need your help."

Some Christians are all the time troubling themselves about having lost their job of serving the Lord. Whenever things are not just as favorable as such Christians think they ought to be, they begin to question themselves. The Scripture says, "Know ye not ? that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" (2 Corinthians 13:5). He will not cast you off unless you turn away from him. You will not lose your job of serving him, unless you want to lose it. If you do something that causes him to discharge you, he will tell you plainly what it is. He will not leave you to guess and wonder. Obey him and trust him, and you will be his.

He who has faith has both arms and armor. It is a defensive armor to shield us against our foe. In I Thessalonians 5:8 Paul calls it a breastplate. In Ephesians 6:16 he says, "Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked." By this he means that faith is our principal protection. With his shield the ancient soldier stopped the arrows of his adversary , and with the shield of faith we may quench all the fiery darts that are shot at our souls and turn aside all the other things that would wound us. This is how we should use it for defense: Disbelieve all that contradicts God ? circumstances, people, feeling, or whatever it may be. God is true no matter who or what may testify to the contrary nor how strong that testimony. If God is true, that which is contrary to that which he says is false, and we should treat it as being false. It is by faith that we stand (Romans 11:20). We may be sure of one thing; that is, that we shall never fall by faith. We may fall by unbelief, but never by faith. No soul ever went down trusting. Take God at his word. You need not worry about falling. Just believe. God has promised to protect you. If you will build a form about you with your faith, God will pour in the concrete until he has made a solid, impenetrable wall all around you.

Faith is not only our armor, but also our weapons of offense. John said, "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" (I John 5:4, 5). In the eleventh chapter of Hebrews we find a list of some of the wonderful things wrought through faith. Through it armies were put to flight, the dead brought to life, and great obstacles overcome. It is our surest weapon. Let us arm ourselves with it and go forward to victory.

There is one foundation upon which we can build which will never yield. Jude speaks of it thus: "But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith" (verse 20). All other virtues must be built upon this foundation. It is the only foundation for Christian character or Christian attainment. There is no solid foundation but this. It alone will stand the tests of life?s storms. Do you want to live a victorious life? Faith is the victory. As long as you have faith, you have victory, and you will keep the victory until you surrender your faith. Therefore hold fast your faith and confidence in God and in yourself.

There are hindrances to faith. We may either hinder or help our faith. One way in which it is often hindered is by making the promise mean someone else instead of us. It is often easier to have faith for others than for ourselves, or it seems to be easier. It looks very reasonable that God would answer the prayer of others. The promise means other; of course it does. But it means us just as well. We should not think that it is easier for others to have faith than it is for us. We should not think that God is more likely to answer others than he is to answer us. God wants us to have confidence in our own prayers. He wants us to believe that he will do as much for us as for others, and that his promise means us just as well as anyone else. His promise does mean us. God is no respecter of persons. If our hearts are true to him, he will hear us just as quickly as he will hear anyone else. Do not let yourself get the idea that your prayers will not be heard as surely as the prayers of others. If you do, it will be a hindrance to your faith. It is not true. God gives the promise to us as well as to anyone else, and he wants us to look upon it that way, and act upon it that way. Your prayers are just as acceptable as the prayers of any other of God?s children. He will be as true to his word in your case as in theirs. He will do for you what he will do for them, if you believe. God makes no difference between his children. He treats them all alike if they believe him alike and obey him alike.

Another hindrance to faith is the idea that some people have, that they must work themselves up to some emotional state or have some particular feeling, in order to be heard. There is a great difference between faith and emotion. It is faith that brings the answer. God?s promises are true no matter how we feel about them. They are true absolutely and always, and they will be made effectual for us according to our needs if we will rely upon them. But God fulfills his promises in his own way. We must leave the choosing to him. But if we ask in a submissive way, he always answers more wisely than we ask. We must remember this one fact: that God will not take dictation from us as to how he shall answer. If we try to dictate to him, we only put a barrier in the way of his answering us. Therefore when you pray, pray submissively, "Not my will, but thine be done."

Many people limit God in his answering, because they are so sure just how it ought to be that God must answer their way or not at all. Is our wisdom greater than God?s? Do we know what ought to be better than he knows? Sometimes people will accept an answer only in the way that they want it. God sees that they are self-willed, and so he must deny them. We cannot make God work according to our plan; we must work according to his. When we pray without submitting to his will, or give him the privilege of answering in his own way, we are wasting our time. Not only so, but we are developing rebellion in our hearts against God. He hates self-will and stubbornness. It shows that we have more confidence in ourselves than in him.

Confidence is the basis of faith. John says: "Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight" (I John 3:21, 22). We cannot have faith over sin in the heart. Sin is a barrier to faith unless there is repentance. The heart must be right or seeking to be right before faith can be effectual. Any unwillingness in our hearts to do all we know of the will of God or any drawing back from his commandments will act as a barrier to our faith. If our hearts bear us witness that we are doing the will of God so far as we know it, this will bring to us confidence. In this confidence we can approach God, knowing that he will hear us. Disobedience, or rebellion against anything that we know to be the will of God, is ruinous to faith, so that she cannot soar upward. Hezekiah could pray to God with faith for his healing, only because of the fact that his heart testified to his uprightness of character and his whole-hearted obedience.

Sometimes there are other things besides sin that hinder our confidence in ourselves before the Lord. Doubt, or anything that makes us question our standing, will hinder our faith. When anything comes up that makes us question ourselves, we ought to have it settled immediately, and not let it drag along to trouble us. It is our privilege to have such things settled without delay. When our good judgment tells us that we have not sinned against the Lord, we ought not to let ourselves be troubled about other things. If God, for our profit, has chastised us, or Satan has brought a feeling of condemnation upon us, or whatever it may be that troubles us, it is our privilege to look to God through it all and count ourselves victorious. Such things need not be a hindrance to us if we will keep our confidence and our integrity steadfast.

We also must have confidence in God. We may know from a reasonable standpoint that all God?s promises are true and true for us, and still we may not have that assurance and that confidence in him which enables us to lay hold up on his promise and make it ours. Sometimes we cannot bring ourselves to feel the reality of his promises. This does not change them nor render them untrue. The question is not whether we feel that his promises are true, but whether we will believe they are true and appropriate them for ourselves.

Looking at ourselves or our failures is also a great hindrance. There is reason for every failure, but some things that are called failures are not failures at all. It is only God answering in a different way. There are many failures because people give up too soon. They are too quick to think that if others have failed they also are sure to fail. If you have failed in the past, it is not proof that you will do so now. If you know a reason for failure, get that reason out of the way; if you can find no reason for failure, press right on till you get what you desire.

Another hindrance is trying to force faith. When we try to force it beyond its natural limit, we weaken it. We do not need to nerve ourselves up to the highest pitch in order to have faith. In fact, that has nothing to do with faith. When faith works at all, it works easily and naturally, without any straining or forcing. God is true, he has promised, and we simply take it for granted that he will do as he has promised, and rely upon that. That is faith; that is a natural operation of faith; that is the way faith reaches results. We have to develop faith. Faith is not accidental. The conditions favorable or unfavorable to it are often of our own making. Spirituality is one necessary condition. A careless life is poor soil in which to develop faith. Anything that we can do to develop our spirituality and draw nearer to God will make faith work more naturally and will make it stronger and more effectual. Carelessness in our living, neglect of prayer, and various other means by which we are made less spiritual will react upon our faith. We may build a good foundation for future action of faith by reading the Scriptures and impressing forcibly upon our minds that ?"this promise is true." Whenever a doubt comes to your mind, challenge it and overbalance it with the assertion that "God is true and his Word is true." This is the way to cure your doubts. You know that God is true. Meet every doubt with a positive assertion of his trueness. Make this your daily habit. Whenever the Word of God comes to your mind, refresh yourself with the thought of its absolute truthfulness. God is true, and God is true to you. Never give place to a suggestion to the contrary, for it is not, and cannot be, the truth. Follow out this plan of impressing upon your heart and mind that God is true and that his Word is true, and you will find him becoming more and more real to you.

Seeking should always be definite and persistent, and always with a definite goal. To seek for a little while and then without an answer to give up seeking, weakens faith. Do not pray haphazardly, just saying words to fill space. We can commune with God, speaking out to him all that is in our hearts; but when it comes to the concentration of faith on some particular point to bring results, there must be earnest and definite action. The best way I know to increase faith is this: When you feel anything to be necessary or to be the will of God for you to have, go to asking him and keep right on till you get an answer. One answered prayer is worth more than a thousand prayers unanswered. Do not pray at random; always make your prayers definite. Put faith into them. Many prayers are prayed that people do not expect to get any answer to. They would be very much surprised at getting an answer. Why do they pray such prayers? Are not such prayers an insult to God? Do not play the fool with God. Do not ask a thing unless you mean it and want it and are willing to throw your faith into the seeking to get it. If you do not mean business, you had better keep quiet; and if you do mean business, keep on till you accomplish what you set out to do, or find a good reason for not doing so. If God shows that it is his will not to grant what you ask, that is reason enough; but get an answer of some kind.

Some get into trouble, and their faith fails, and they wonder why, when the real secret lies in their careless habits of prayer. They have formed a habit of praying for things a while and then giving up without an answer, and when they come to a place of real need, the habit of giving up asserts itself and faith fails. Continuity is a necessary quality of the faith that wins; continuity can be developed only by continual practice. Do not expect to develop faith in a crisis of need. God is often pleased to give us special faith for a special need; but in general he expects us to develop the faith we need through the daily use of what we already have. Do not look upon strong faith as a thing that is to you unattainable. It is unattainable only to those who are too indolent or too careless to do what is necessary to attain it. You will never find faith as you might find someone?s lost purse. It will never come to you by accident. It is a thing that must be developed, and we must work with God to bring about that development.

There are some people who were naturally strong in faith, but who in some way have become baffled in their faith. A reaction of some sort appears to have come upon them. They seem unable to rely upon the promises of God as they formerly did. In a way, they believe them just as much as they ever did, but they seem to have lost the power to grasp them and make them their own. Whatever may have been the cause of the weakening of their faith, the important thing now is the restoration of that faith. This is sometimes very difficult. People in this condition ought to be treated with the greatest care and consideration. Condemning them or blaming them will never help them out. The important thing is to find where the trouble is and to help them build up their faith again. I know something of this relaxation of faith by personal experience, and I know that it cannot be regained by radical action. As a rule, the recovery is gradual. People in this relaxed condition need our sympathy and our help rather than our condemnation. Their faith needs encouragement, and it is only through this that it can overcome and rise to the normal again.

There are two ways in which God answers prayer. One is that he hears our requests and gives immediately that which we desire. The other is that he grants our request and gives us the consciousness of such granting, but does not bestow the thing asked until a later time. To illustrate: A boy comes to his father and asks, "Father, will you let me have your knife?" The father says, "Yes, my son," and takes it from his pocket and gives it to him at once. Another child come sup to him and says, "Papa, will you get me a new hat?" He says, "Yes, my son," but perhaps he does not purchase the new hat for a week or two. In both cases the request is granted, but in one instance the asker gains immediate possession of the object desired, while in the other the asker does not receive the desired object at once. So sometimes when we come to God, he gives us immediately what we ask of him; we obtain possession of it at once. At other times we have the consciousness that he has granted our petition, but possibly we may have to wait some little time before the thing wanted actually comes into our possession. When it is granted, it is ours, in one respect, just as much as though we had it, but we do not have the joy of possession nor the use of the object until it is actually bestowed upon us. It is at this time ? when we realize that our petition is granted and still we do not possess that which we desire ? that we "have need of patience, ? that we might receive the promise." Sometimes in praying for healing there is the assurance that God hears, the he is pleased to heal, and a consciousness that he is granting our request; but at the same time there may be no manifestation of the healing power in our bodies. At such times we can confidently wait, looking forward to the coming of the healing. Of course, we do not have the healing in our possession until the work is wrought in our bodies, but the answer to our prayer may be granted. At such times we need only to have faith, and God will manifest himself in power to us when it is his good pleasure to do so.

Faith and Testimony

Overlooking the fact just stated, people sometimes get the evidence or assurance of their healing and testify that they are healed when, in reality, there has been no change in their bodies. People look upon them and perceive no difference. They seem to be exactly as they were before, and they act the same as they did before, and still they claim to be healed. We are not really healed until the work is done in our bodies, though if God has answered our prayer, we are just as sure of the healing as if the work were already done. We ought, however, to be wise in our testimony. If God has given us the assurance of healing, let us testify to that assurance. We can testify to what we have, and look with confidence and expectation to the coming of the healing power. We ought, however, to be careful as to the extent of our testimony, and not let it go beyond the mark. When God says yes to our prayers, we can rejoice in that, just as the little boy could rejoice at his father?s promise to buy him a new hat; but he could not rejoice in its possession, and neither an we rejoice in possession until the thing desired is actually bestowed.