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Exercise your Faith

Greetings All,

I can always tell the books I brought with me to Honduras. Most of them have one or two termite holes eaten all the way through! Such is true of today's book - except it has three holes!

The book from which today's 'thought' comes is Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones book, "Spiritual Depression." I send it out because so many people -- even earnest believers -- wrestle with bouts of depression from time to time (20,000,000 people in America alone if the current statistics are accurate). It was not much different back when he wrote the book in 1965, and one of the main reasons he wrote it.

Lloyd-Jones was a medical doctor and one of the best preachers in the last century, ministering at the
Westminster Chapel in London, England, for almost 30 years, until his death in 1981. Thus he speaks as both an M.D. and a theologian as he shares these thoughts on how faith plays a part in the cure of depressive feelings. His thoughts are good even if you don't wrestle with depression, yet I pray that if you do struggle with such emotions, or know anyone who does, these words may be of some help. Enjoy.

"Many people seem to think that faith operates automatically. They assume that it does not matter what happens to them, that faith will operate and all will be well. Faith, however, is not something that acts magically or automatically. If it did these [disciples in the boat with Jesus during the storm] would never have been frightened. Faith would have come into quiet operation and they would have been calm and quiet and all would have been well. But faith is not like that.

What is faith? Faith is an activity. It is something that has to be exercised. It does not come into operation itself, you and I have to put it into operation. It is a form of activity -- something you and I have to bring into operation. That is exactly what our Lord said to these men. He said: 'Where is your faith?' which means, 'Why are you not taking your faith and applying it to this situation?' You see, it was because they did not do so, because they did not put their faith into operation, that the disciples had become unhappy and were in this state of consternation.

How then does one put faith into operation? The first thing I must do when I find myself in a difficult position is to refuse to allow myself to be controlled by the situation. The disciples were in the boat, the Master was asleep, the water was coming in, and they could not bale it out fast enough. It looked like they were going to sink, and their trouble was that they were controlled by the situation. They should have applied their faith and taken charge of it, and said: 'No, we are not going to panic.' They should have started in that way, but they did not do so...

Faith is a refusal to panic, come what may. Browning, I think had that idea when he defined faith like this: 'With me, faith means perpetual unbelief kept quiet, like the snake 'neath Michael's foot.' Here is Michael and there is the snake beneath his foot, and he just keeps it quiet under the pressure of his foot. Faith is unbelief kept quiet, kept down. That is what these men did not do. They allowed this situation to grip them, and they became panicky. Faith, however, is a refusal to allow that. It says, 'I am not going to be controlled by these circumstances--I am in control.' By faith you take charge of yourself, pull yourself up, control yourself. You do not let yourself get swept away, you assert yourself.

Yet that is not the whole of faith. Having taken that first step, you then remind yourself of what you believe and what you know. That again is something these foolish disciples did not do. If only they had stopped a moment and said: 'Now then, is it possible that we are going to drown with Him in the boat? Is there anything He cannot do? We have seen His miracles, He turned the water into wine, He can heal the blind and the lame, He can even raise the dead, is it likely that He is going to allow us and Himself to be drowned in this way? Impossible! In any case He loves us, He cares for us, He has told us that the very hairs of our head are numbered!' That is the way faith reasons. It says: 'All right, I see the waves and the wind, but...' It always puts up this, 'but...' That is faith. It holds on to truth and reasons from what it knows to be fact...

Very well, then, faith says: 'I cannot believe that He who has brought me so far is going to let me down at this point. It is impossible. It would be inconsistent with the character of God.' So faith, having refused to be controlled by circumstances, reminds itself of what it believes and what it knows... You may not have a full explanation of what is happening, but you will know for certain that God is not unconcerned. That is impossible. The One who has done the greatest thing of all for you, must be concerned about you in everything, and though the clouds are thick and you cannot see His face, you know He is there. 'Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.'

These earthborn clouds prevent my seeing Him, but He is there and He will never allow anything finally harmful to take place. Nothing can happen to you but what He allows, I do not care what it may be -- some great disappointment, perhaps, or it may be an illness, it may be a tragedy of some sort, I do not know what it is, but you can be certain of this -- that God permits that thing to happen to you because it is ultimately for your good. 'Now no chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grevious; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness...' (Heb. 12:11)

That is the way faith works, but you have to exercise it... If you find yourself is this position of trial and trouble and testing, take it as a wonderful opportunity of proving your faith, of showing your faith, of manifesting your faith, and bringing glory to His great and Holy Name. But even if you should fail to do that, if you should be too weak to apply your faith; if you are being besieged and attacked by the devil, and by hell, and by the world, well, then, I say, just fly to Him at once and He will receive you and bless you. He will give you deliverance. He will give you peace. 'Where is your faith?' Let us make certain it is always at the place of need and testing."

As one man put it, "Faith is a verb, not a noun." It's an activity, not a commodity. It's something we do or put into practice, not something we simply hold on to or possess. It is active trust. "When I am afraid, I will trust in You." (Ps. 56:3-4) It is looking, seeing, leaning, clinging, believing, standing firm, refusing to let go, and refusing to allow doubt to persude us of anything contrary to the promises of God.

It is not the absence of doubt, but trusting God in spite of our doubts. It is preaching the truth to ourselves when our feelings, or the little voice of doubt in our heads, seeks to convince us to give up -- "Why are you so downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me. Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." (Ps. 42:5 and 11) That's what the person of faith does -- he or she preaches to their own soul and tells their soul what to do -- like David, who tells his own downcast soul to put its hope in God! And as one who has taken David's advice, I can tell you it works.

In the Bonds of Christian Charity, Pastor Jeff