Once that faith in God, guided by His Word, became the power and light for the walk of the saint on earth, from that time every visible thing or judgment of man, when entertained, weakened and diverted him from the path of faith. It is important for us, as saints of God, to be assured of the principle of our new being. God has affixed laws to all created things; the sun and the moon obey His order, and it becomes us to ascertain the divine law laid down for us. The great fundamental principle is faith; “for without faith it is impossible to please Him,” and any departure from faith must entail weakness and decline.
When faith works, it is true to itself. Faith reckons on God, and acts independently of other things, looking only to Him. It is when the heart is beset by things around, and faith has lost its control, that other influences spring up and supplant it. Faith is entirely new to man, and contrary to his natural habit of judgment, however keen that may be. It is strange to him to close his eyes to the visible and to his own feelings, and to look for a new light, a divine judgment about everything.
This faith does, and while faith is acting, there is a marked energy in separation from the things which savor of man; but as soon as faith wanes or ceases to be active, then other influences rule. For the heart of man must be governed by something, and unless a power greater that man’s own mind rules his heart, he must be ruled by what springs up there, or by what acts upon him as man. It is plain that man is either under the control of God, entirely outside and beyond the natural, or under that which is natural and within his own reaches.
There is neither spring nor power on the natural mind to reach to what is of God; it must be introduced and communicated to him. And hence if there be any cessation or interruption of the new action, the things which naturally influence man must resume their force and this is looking back. Now we must guard against this in a double way. On the one hand we have to keep the heart with all diligence under the action of the Word; and on the other, to avoid everything which calls up the old influences, because they in themselves suit the natural mind.
So when we begin in faith, and so long as faith is active, there is a going forward in growth, a surrendering of things for the Lord, which after a few years is often resumed. The actual truth which led to a certain profession is not denied, but the activities which, like green leaves on a tree, indicated real life, and there is no growth, but the older it becomes the more its branches wither and leave it a spectacle of declining worth.
The saint is turned aside, or looks to things behind, from two causes; one, from the pressure of circumstances, and the other because of the attractiveness of things here. We find these personated in Proverbs 2; one is the man of evil which causes fear, the other, the woman of flattery. We get an instance of the first in Abram in Genesis 12, when from pressure of famine he went down into Egypt. Again Jonah, fearing service, flees to Tarshish and Peter from fear denies the Lord. There are several examples in Scripture of the saint turning back from fear, or from the pressure of circumstances; and yet the Lord, who has compassion on us because of the weakness of our frame, restores him, and he is found again in the path of faith and obedience. If he had walked in faith, he would have been supported by god, and would have risen above and beyond all that is natural to man. Pressure arises from fear; and for a man to be superior to fear, he must know a power greater than his own; he must be enabled by the power of the Spirit.
- J B Stoney