Hudson Taylor: On “Holding His Faithfulness”

Broken Glass-2

Image by akeg via Flickr

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.

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16 Comments on “Hudson Taylor: On “Holding His Faithfulness””

  1. Laurie M. Says:

    I found a lot of comfort here tonight.

  2. Karen Butler Says:

    And your timing was perfect. I was so encouraged by your words this morning. It feels sometimes you are speaking of your dearest moments, but no-one is listening. And I know I write here so I won’t forget, but I can’t ignore that I am encouraged that someone else finds these things comforting too.

    Thank you.

  3. mkayla Says:

    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 closely these words resemble my own thoughts of late. All that was once important is now pointless – does anyone hear, listen, care? And has my life become so broken that it will never make sense, never have a point or purpose. I am caught in confusion and I know it is not His way to confuse His own, but nothing makes sense to me and these days I have again began to doubt if I am even saved as to be such requires something I cannot seem to touch. And like your shattered glass – my life – why do people have the power to break it into pieces?

    You my friend are honest and encouraging. And in these dark moments I find that I miss our giggles and your spin on wakey-wakey… and still I wonder – How are your plants doing? (or…. to coin an old rhyme – how does your garden grow?)

    xoxox

    • Karen Butler Says:

      Mykayla, dear friend, I have missed you too! A bout of insomnia going on for about a month now has me in hibernation to conserve energy. I lurk. I can’t comment much. I do check on you. And I do pray for your grieving heart.

      As for my garden’s growing, I am thankful for the foresight I had to plant sedums other suchlike low maintenance plants, that need weeding but not else. I have put on hold planting new things.

      No coddling this garden! But the artichokes have produced a bumper crop. I am thankful for those thistles that grow like weeds, yet we can feast on their succulent leaves.

      I know this too will pass. I will wait on the Lord for the sun to shine, and the strawberries to fruit. I received an apple tree for Mother’s Day. I will plant it tomorrow, Lord willing, because, like Luther said, even if I knew my world would go to pieces, it is still good to plant trees.

      There is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. There is a bitter time, and a sweet. Yet, the bitter flower of an artichoke can make even plain water taste so sweet!

      And I will wait for the Lord: I know we will laugh together again.

      I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
      in the land of the living!
      Wait for the Lord;
      be strong, and let your heart take courage;
      wait for the Lord! (Ps 27)

      • mkayla Says:

        Karen, so precious your words, your faith.
        Bless you my friend. May the garden of your heart abound with sweet things.

  4. beky Says:

    i luv ya. mucho super grande alot. i been reading this blog of yers all day kinda on an off ya kno? an i really been enjoying yer writing. it is really a good look — talkin about gritty life shtuff, hard real shtuff somehow encouraging but without being too stupid-grinning upbeat, morosely pondering, or jus tired boring cliche type. it’s a hard line to walk mumsy an ya doin it jus breezy. i liked wut you had to say; not that dude as much here but i just have a short attention span so. anyways you are using ya talents doin somethin ya luv for the edification of not jus yourself but extending out to who knows how many people who continue to pass on a good word or smile. k now i’m startin to sound corny but it’s hard to find a way to do that so that’s very cool. i jus wanted to recognize that an nuff respect. XO

    • Karen Butler Says:

      You do not sound corny, and no praise given to my humble scribbles has ever been valued more than yours, my dear beky.

  5. beky Says:

    oh yeah an when haven’t been readin here i been puttin that B.I.B.L.E. ya gave me to some good use. forreal. gettin some mileage on the thang yada?? yeah so my point is thank you an um yer amazing okay? geez just accept it arredy.

  6. beky Says:

    check it: LET US HOLD UNSWERVINGLY TO THE HOPE WE PROFESS, FOR HE WHO PROMISED IS FAITHFUL – hebrews 10:23

  7. beky Says:

    “you will be secure, because there is hope: you will look about you and take your rest in safety.” JOB 11:18

  8. beky Says:

    check it: LET US HOLD UNSWERVINGLY TO THE HOPE WE PROFESS, FOR HE WHO PROMISED IS FAITHFUL. – hebrews 10:23 . . . . . . . . . . “you will be secure, because there is hope: you will look about you and take your rest in safety.” – JOB 11:18

    • Karen Butler Says:

      Amen, and amen!

      You asked me to delete these repetitions because your phone mis-fired, but I’m leaving them as is,sweet thing. They need repetition, we need to say them to ourselves again and again. “He who promised is FAITHFUL!

      And you are living proof, so you now go tell it to the world. You tell it like it is.

      I love you too. XO

    • mkayla Says:

      This is precious to me, thanks Beky.


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  10. Richard Nash Says:

    This is a great article! I was just this morning contemplating the “sabbath rest” of Hebrews 4. Our resting on His faith as opposed to our ginning up our faith in Him really illustrates it!

    Good stuff!

    • Karen Butler Says:

      Thanks Richard!

      How excellent to meet you here on my blog. And I agree, I love these words of Taylor’s.

      Sometimes I would read this everyday in my devotions, to remind myself of that very thing, it is resting in Him alone, and “Not I, but Christ.”


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