|January — February, 1971||Vol. 49, No. 1|
THE SPIRIT OF FAITH
“I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted: I said in my haste, All men are liars” (Psalm 116:10, 11).
“We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you” (2 Corinthians 4:13-14).
PAUL’S situation was extremely difficult. He felt weak in body; he was pressed even beyond measure. There were many enemies and trouble on every side, but he had one thing which made the outcome of that difficult situation quite different from what could have been expected. He had, as he says, “the spirit of faith”, which means the spirit of reality, of real reality. I shall come back to that later.
He goes on to say: “according as it is written”, and this is one of his favourite expressions. You find it in 1 Corinthians 15:3 and 4, where it says: “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures .” What does that mean? It means that it was according to the fixed, eternal will of God. It is something that is real because God decided from eternity that this should be, and when Paul says here that we have the “same spirit of faith, according as it is written”, he is relating himself and his present situation to the eternal, fixed will and plan of God. His situation is no accident, and Paul considers it in the light of this real reality. He is saying: ‘God has a plan and I am connected with that plan. God moves through history according to the Scriptures and now I, in some mystical way, am connected with God’s movements through history. God is fulfilling His plan. I am in difficulties but God is moving and I am with Him. I have the spirit of faith, faith according to the Scriptures, according to what God has planned from eternity.’ As we have this same spirit of faith, we are allowed to quote the Scripture which was in Paul’s mind. He does not quote it himself, but we read it: “All men are liars” (Psalm 116:10-11). This is according to the Scriptures and it is reality — all men are liars.
It means this: All men’s ideas about Paul and his situation were lies. All that they thought, said and planned about Paul in his difficulty was a lie. Perhaps they said: ‘Poor Paul!’, but that would have been a lie, because he was not poor at all. They might have said: ‘This is a hopeless situation!’ That would have been a lie, because the situation was not hopeless. They might have said: ‘Paul’s work has led to nothing!’ That would have been a lie. They might have said: ‘May we come and comfort you, Paul?’, and their comfort would have been a lie. They might have come and said some positive things to cheer him, but that also would have been a lie. All that comes from men — their ideas, their plans, their words — is an illusion. It is in darkness, without any connection with reality, and therefore it is all lies.
Paul has the spirit of faith and therefore he throws all these lies off from himself, that is, he throws off men’s way of thinking about his situation, and the human way of commenting upon the situation. He throws all this off and stands in the spirit of faith in close connection with reality, with God. He says: “knowing“, and when people speak of knowing, then you feel that they are speaking of reality.
What does Paul know? He knows that God raised Jesus! That means everything to Paul. When he says that God raised Jesus, I know that many — perhaps you among them — would say that that cannot be proved and it is only a matter of faith. That is true. It cannot be proved in this world. Why not? Because it is so real, and in the world of lies and illusions that which is really real cannot be proved. The reason why it cannot be proved is that it is the truth. As I said, this world is in darkness and all the ideas of men are illusions. In such a world only illusions can be proved. Reality and truth cannot be proved, and the life of faith is the life of reality. It needs no proofs and it cannot be proved. It is the same with truth. Truth has no entrance into the world of illusions. Jesus said: ‘Because I speak the truth you do not believe it.’ He did not say: ‘In spite of my speaking the truth you will not believe.’ Truth and reality cannot fit into the ideas of men, but if we have the spirit of truth, we are in contact with eternal, real reality, and that is victory. “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.”
Paul was in difficulties and disappointments, weak in himself, and he had many enemies, but in the midst of it all he was kept quiet, confident and [6/7] strong, because all that he was outwardly was not the real thing. The real thing was: ‘I know Him who raised Jesus from the dead. I am one with Him and therefore nothing can spoil me, for He will also raise me. Nothing can harm me. My enemies cannot, disappointments cannot, seeming failures cannot, bodily weakness cannot, death cannot and Satan cannot. Nothing can, because I am one with Him who raised Jesus from the dead.’
He goes on further. Not only does he say that nothing can harm him, but also that nothing can spoil his work: “Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus … shall present us with you.” And “you” means his work. To the Corinthians he said: ‘You are the seed of my apostleship, whether you know it or not, whether you acknowledge it or not, whether you are with me now or not. I have worked in the name of Him who raised up Jesus from the dead and nothing can spoil that work, because I know the One who is raised.’
Do you say that? I would be very surprised if there were not quite a number of difficulties represented among you, personal difficulties, difficulties in work, difficulties in the Church, or difficulties with other Christians. Are you in contact with a risen Saviour? Do you have this spirit of faith which says: ‘As it is written’? Do you feel and know yourself just now in contact with the movements of God through the history of men? If you do, nothing can defeat you. You are not proud and you are not strong in yourself, but nothing can defeat you. Perhaps you have no difficulties now, but I should be very surprised if you do not have some at least in future days. We have, in these days, been reminded of the importance of not fighting our circumstances, but trying to understand their meaning and purpose. I take up this thread and advise you not to speak as a liar. Do not say a word until you can speak in the spirit of faith. If you learn that lesson, you will be able to go on with Paul on a triumphant note. We all know his glorious words: “All things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28), but that is not enough. All things must also work together for good for those among whom we work. It would not be enough if we ourselves came through triumphantly, but our work was spoiled. Therefore Paul says: “All things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 4:15). This is a triumphant note, and something far bigger than we are accustomed to. I myself would feel very sorry if some day I had to say: ‘All things worked together for good to me , but my work was spoilt. The enemy was triumphant there and the difficulties were too great.’ ‘No!’ says Paul, ‘Never!’
The emphasis of the so-called ‘Holiness’ teaching is that the goal of everything is personal holiness, coming through yourself, but that is only half a truth. I do not want to come through by myself only. I want my work to come through also! Satanic opposition and death in our own bodies will never spoil our work, provided we are in contact with reality. What is reality? It is God, and He never suffers a defeat. He uses all His enemies; they run His errands and they are His servants. Having the same spirit of faith, we are connected to the living God, to His eternal plan and to His strong purpose; and therefore all things work together for good to us. ‘It all happens for your sakes that the thanksgiving might redound to the glory of God.’
But this is not enough for Paul. He has the spirit of faith and goes on to say (in verse 17): “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” Not only do we ourselves come through and not only is our work being brought through, but through eternities all our difficulties have accomplished a very real weight of exceeding great glory. Can that be proved? Not in the world of illusions! There you will fight your difficulties and try to get rid of them, but in the world of reality where God reigns and where the spirit of faith prevails, it can be proved.
Paul has been speaking of his very heavy difficulties which in chapter 1 were too great for him and he could not carry them. Now he calls them ‘light’ and says they are ‘but for a moment’; and yet they had lasted all his life! What has happened? He is in contact with God and is just filled with the spirit of faith, so that he now speaks a language which anyone without that spirit cannot use.
I think I may already have told you about my great friend, Pastor Fjord Christensen in Denmark. A lady once came to him and said: ‘My sufferings and afflictions are so heavy and they have lasted for so many years.’ He only replied: ‘Have you become a liberal theologian? The Bible says that afflictions are light and only last for a moment.’ She spoke as a liar, but he spoke as a man of faith. Which of them was speaking the truth? He was and the lady accepted it. The truth made her free and she was brought back into contact with reality.
This is the victory! This is just the other side of the Word of the Cross. We accept everything without fighting it and turn it, through the spirit of faith, into something of real value for ourselves, [7/8] for those among whom we work and for eternity. That is a wonderful thing! That makes life much more interesting and gives us a completely different note when we speak, when we pray and when we sing. That is the Gospel, a message of real joy, not illusionary joy, but real joy. That means lasting joy, joy that cannot be taken away because it is founded on God Himself and therefore is strong, masculine and real. And that joy is for us.
But we must come out of the world of illusions and lies. We cannot remain in our own way of thinking and speaking. If you read one of the famous books of history, such as Toynbee’s History of Mankind, you will never find the most real event in the history of mankind mentioned there. The most real thing, and the thing of most value, was the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but the historians never write about it. They write about the Greeks, the Persians, the Romans, and the British, but they never write about the resurrection of the Lord. Why not? Because this real thing does not fit into their philosophy and their way of thinking.
What I have said does not fit into our way of thinking as natural men and women. It does not fit into our feelings and emotions, nor into our philosophy of life. The only way to accept this word of God is to get out of our way of thinking and out of our philosophy of life. We cannot harmonize these two ways of thinking and speaking. Because it is truth and because it is real, it cannot be accepted by the natural man. We have to have a new conversion and really turn away from our way of thinking, speaking, feeling, advising and comforting one another, and get to terms with the Lord, having a fresh encounter with Him who is real. We have to refresh our spirits with the spirit of faith. Then a new light is thrown upon everything and we can smile and laugh where we used to weep.
Perhaps you will say: ‘I am so weak, so small and so weighed down!’ My answer to that is: ‘Never forget that the greater the importance and the more far-reaching the work is to which the Lord has called you, the lesser and smaller and weaker the vessel must of necessity be.’ The weaker and smaller and lesser the vessel, the greater is the knowledge of reality, the knowledge of the spirit of faith and the knowledge of Him who raised Jesus from the dead. Such a vessel can speak the word of faith which names ‘the things which are not’ as if they were. That word is creative; it creates light out of darkness, hope out of fear, and victory out of what might seem to be a defeat.
This is life in the Spirit. It is the life of faith which the Lord has bought and given to us. – P. M.