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I was dusting my dresser, and was heedless to some shards of glass. They lay there as a snare, not just to my fingertips, but to my heart–a framed scripture was shattered, and it had been one of my dearest possessions. A friend had carefully laid oak leaves around the words she had inscribed:
“All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
and great shall be the peace of your children.
In righteousness you shall be established”, Isaiah 54:13,14)
Those words bleakly speaking through the broken pieces of glass seemed a fitting symbol of the struggles of my heart to trust and believe, despite what my eyes see, and to have faith that God is still at work in my life to restore what has been destroyed by the enemy. I have been exhausted, and unbelief has crept in again.
How faithful God is however to restore and revive. From unexpected places–at a bible study for some homeless people, in the Gospel of John, and Christ’s words to the doubting Thomas–how gracious He is to us in our unbelief, and how readily He hears our cry to Him, to help us with it!
I also reread some letters from Hudson Taylor to his sister and others, and a bit from his biography, that have always encouraged me. If you are struggling with a lack of faith, may they encourage you as well. Taylor writes:
“I feel as though the first glimmer of the dawn of a glorious day had arisen upon me. I hail it with trembling, yet with trust- as to work, mine was never so plentiful, so responsible, or so difficult; but the weight and strain are all gone. The last month has been perhaps the happiest of my life; and I long to tell you a little of what the Lord has done for my soul- Perhaps I shall make myself more clear if I go back a little- My mind has been greatly exercised for six or eight months past, feeling the need, personally, and for the mission, of more holiness, life, power, in our souls. But personal need stood first and was the greatest. I felt the ingratitude, the danger, the sin of not living near to God. I prayed, agonized, strove, fasted, made resolutions, read the Word of God more diligently, sought more time for meditation and prayer – but all was with effect. Every day, almost every hour, the consciousness of sin oppressed me- each day brought its register of sin and failure, of lack of power- then came the question Is there no rescue? Must it be thus to the end – constant conflict and instead of victory too often defeat? How, too, could I preach with sincerity that to those who receive Jesus, to them gave He that power to become the sons of God (i.e. God-like) when it was not so on my own experience?-
I hated myself. I hated my sin; and yet, I gained no strength against it. I felt I was a child of God: His Spirit in my heart would cry: ‘Abba Father’; but to rise to my privileges as a child, I was utterly powerless.”
“All the time I felt assured there was in Christ all I needed, but the practical question was how was I to get it out?- I knew full well that there was in the Root abundant fatness; but how to get it into my puny little branch was the question. As the light, gradually dawned on me, I saw that faith was the only prerequisite, was the hand to lay hold on His fullness and make it my own. But I had not this faith! I strove for it but it would not come; tried to exercise it, but in vain. Seeing more and more the wondrous supply laid up in Jesus, the fullness of our precious Savior-my helplessness and guilt seemed to increase. Sins committed seemed but as trifles compared with the sin of unbelief, which was their cause, which could not, or would not, take God at His Word, but rather made Him a liar. Unbelief was, I felt, the damning sin of the world-yet, I indulged in it.
” ‘But how to get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith, but by resting on the Faithful One.’ As I read I saw it all, ‘If we believe not, He abideth faithful’ (2Tim 2:13). I looked to Jesus and saw (and when I saw, oh, how joy flowed!) that He had said: ‘I will never leave you.’ (Heb 13:5) Ah, there is rest, I thought! I have striven in vain to rest in Him. I’ll strive no more. For has He not promised to abide with me?
“But this was not all He showed me, nor one-half. As I thought of the vine and branches, what light the blessed Spirit poured direct into my soul- I saw not only that Jesus would never leave me, but that I was a member of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. The Vine, now I see, is not the root merely, but all- root, stem, branches, twigs, leaves, flowers, fruit; and Jesus is not only that: He is soil and sunshine, air and shower, and ten thousand times more than we have every dreamed, wished for, or needed. Oh, the joy of seeing this truth! I do pray that the eyes of your understanding may be enlightened, that you may know and enjoy the riches freely given us in Christ.”
A biographer writes of Taylor, that as he was reading the Gospel of Mark in Greek, he was struck with the words, “Ekete pistin Theou.” How strangely new they seemed! “Have (or hold) the faithfulness of God“: surely it was a passage he had never seen before? Turning to the corresponding words in English he read (Mark 2:22): “Have faith in God.” Ah, that was familiar enough; and something within him whispered, ’the old difficulty!’ How gladly would he have and increase in faith in God, if only he knew how! But this seemed entirely different. It laid the emphasis on another side of the matter in a way he found surprisingly helpful. It was not “have” in your own heart and mind, however you can get it, “faith in God” but simply “hold fast, count upon, His faithfulness”; and different indeed he saw the one to be from the other. As to the correctness of this modified translation, Mr. Taylor noted for the rendering ‘God’s faithfulness,’ see Rom. 3: 3, where ‘the faith of God’ evidently, means His faithfulness. The verb translated ‘hold,’ is thus rendered in Matt. 21: 26, ‘all hold John as a prophet.’ In the corresponding passage in Mark 11:32, it is rendered ‘ count’; and in that in Luke 20: 6, a different Greek verb is used, which well illustrates the meaning, ‘They be persuaded that John was a prophet.’ Let us see that in theory we hold that God is faithful; that in daily life we count upon it ; and that at all times and under all circumstances we are fully persuaded of this blessed truth.”. Not my faith but God’s faithfulness-what a rest it was.
He wrote “Want of trust is at the root of almost all our sins and all our weaknesses; and how shall we escape it but by looking to Him and observing His faithfulness? … The man who holds God’s faithfulness will not be foolhardy or reckless, but he will be ready for every emergency. The man who holds God’s faithfulness will dare to obey Him, however impolitic it may appear. Abraham held God’s faithfulness and offered up Isaac, “accounting that God was able to raise him from the dead.” Moses held God’s faithfulness and led the millions of Israel into the waste, howling wilderness. Joshua knew Israel well, and was ignorant neither of the fortifications of the Canaanites nor of their martial prowess, but he held God’s faithfulness and led Israel across the Jordan. . . . The Apostles held God’s faithfulness, and were not daunted by the hatred of the Jews or the hostility of the heathen…. ” And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell “of those who, holding God’s faithfulness, had faith, and by it “subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained. promises … out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens?”
“Satan, too, has his creed: Doubt God’s Faithfulness. “Hath God said? Are you not mistaken as to His commands? He could not really mean just that. You take an extreme view, give too literal a meaning to the words:” . . . How constantly, and, alas, how successfully are such arguments used to prevent whole-hearted trust in God, whole-hearted consecration to God! … How many estimate difficulties in the, light of their own resources, and thus attempt little and often fail in the little they attempt! All God’s giants have been weak men, who did great things for God because they reckoned on His being with them….
“Oh! beloved friends, if there is a living God, faithful and true, let us hold His faithfulness. . . . Holding His faithfulness, we may go into every province of China. Holding His faithfulness, we may face with calm and sober but confident assurance of victory every difficulty and danger; we may count on grace for the work, on pecuniary aid, on needful facilities, and on ultimate success. Let us not give Him a partial trust, but daily, hourly serve Him, counting on His faithfulness.”
No weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed,
and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord
and their vindication from me, declares the Lord. (Is. 54:17)
No weapon, not even the sharpest edge of broken glass, can prosper against a servant of the Lord, who looks continually to the One who is faithful, and holds only to His faithfulness.