Friday, August 21, 2009

Trusting Christ for Faith to Trust

By S. Michael Durham

(Fifth installment on faith)

The Lord Jesus is the Author and Finisher of our faith. This means He is the creator of our faith. It is He, and not us, who creates faith, initiates faith and stimulates our faith. That does not mean we have no responsibility in the exercise of faith or that we can excuse ourselves for not believing God. It only means we cannot create our faith in God. It is a grace given to us from the very One who calls us to trust Him.

I am learning this and have been over the course of my life as a believer. I am obviously a very slow learner. But actually, the problem hasn’t been my intellect. I learned the principle of where my faith comes from a long time ago, within three years after my conversion. But my stubborn pride has prevented me from believing it. You can know something is true in the realm of the intellect but not understand experientially in your spirit. There is something in me that resists absolute trust in God; a need to impress my heavenly Father exists that is as real as was my need to impress my earthly father as a child. For years I have wrestled with a deep-seated conviction that pleasing God meant showing Him I am capable and worthy of His attention.

This is so deceiving because you know the gospel proclaims otherwise, but your knowledge blinds you to flesh’s impulse to do. You are convinced that you are walking by the Spirit only because you know you are to do so. But knowing something to be true and doing it are not the same. Intellectually, we get it. But internally the two, knowing and doing, somehow get garbled up as being one and the same. In my case, I know I can’t have faith in God without God’s granting of faith and helping me to exercise it but instead of looking to Christ, the Author and Completer of my faith, I look within to strengthen my faith and cause it to grow. The result is stress, frustration and exhaustion.

A couple of years ago the Lord again enrolled me into the class of faith by putting me on a path of frustrating failures. I sensed that my help would come by reading chapters 13-17 of John’s gospel. And so on my knees I began reading slowly, prayerfully Jesus’ discourse to His disciples on the eve of His crucifixion. When I got to chapter 15 and read the parable of the Vine something clicked. I knew that within these verses was the answer I was seeking. Day after day I would read the words of this simple illustration, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser . . . Abide in Me, and I in you . . . I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” The words washed over my starving soul like rain water removing the dust and filth of a long, dry barren season. The Lord began to open my eyes and see with spiritual understanding what my brain could recite and even preach with ease. But this time it was mine—it was my truth; it was affecting my heart and not just my mind.

The truth was I couldn’t even have faith in Christ without Him. There was nothing I could do without Him, including abiding. We are completely helpless in the realm of the spirit, and if it were not for Jesus we would be hopeless.

After this I remembered long ago reading Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret. I recalled that I did not understand what in the world the man was talking about. In theory it sounded right, but I couldn’t make it happen for me. And then I would read well-intentioned brothers attack Taylor’s position on abiding in Christ as an unbiblical passivity.

But now I get it, and it’s not passivity. It is no more passive than a branch is passive in the producing of fruit. But the agenda, ability and energy to produce fruit comes from the vine and not the branch. Here is what Taylor said.
When my agony of soul was at its height, a sentence in a letter from dear McCarthy was used to remove the scales from my eyes, and the Spirit of God revealed the truth of our oneness with Jesus as I had never known it before. McCarthy, who had been much exercised by the same sense of failure, but saw the light before I did, wrote, (I quote from memory): “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.” I looked to Jesus and saw (and when I saw, oh, how joy flowed!) that He had said, “I will never leave you.” “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 - never to leave me, never to fail me?” And, dearie, He never will!
The title of this blog posting may sound redundant, if not confusing: Trusting Christ for Faith to Trust. But really it is quite simple. Instead of trying to trust, I rest in Christ to grant me the ability to trust. In other words, I ask Him to give me the faith that I need for whatever His will is for me. I am assured of this. I know this is more certain than the sun rising tomorrow. And He never fails. Oh, I still fail at this and therefore fail Him, but “He remains faithful.” Truly, He is the Author and Completer of our faith. Without Him, we can do nothing, not even trust Him.

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