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Spirituality and the Knowledge of God


There is no sort of Christianity that does not involve the knowledge of God. God is personal, and hence the knowledge of Him is not wholly disparate from the knowledge of others who are personal. Certainly, the fact that His is infinite glory, knowledge and love, is unique; His eternity is shared even by His adopted children, ONLY from this time hence, and none was there with Him before the world became one of His productions, except His eternal Word and Spirit. The former He sent at the predated time, as described and designated by the prophet Daniel (9:24ff., cf. Galatians 4:4, and Highway of Holiness Ch. 4). The latter He has sent often and deeply into the hearts of mankind, and with Him He strove in the creation (Genesis 1:3), as He has likewise wrought through Him in applying His salvation to the hearts of men (John 3, II Corinthians 4:6, I Cor. 12:13). Indeed, He Himself makes just that comparison in II Cor. 4:6.

Yet this does not remove, but exhibits the fact that being personal, He is knowable by persons in His image, in His likeness, who are so designed, so possessed of spirit themselves (I Thess. 5:23), that this amazing correlation is possible. A man, a woman and yes a child CAN and SHOULD know God personally.

  • Failure to do so is a blight far worse than tuberculosis; for that kills slowly, but this outright.


  • To lack the knowledge of God is like lacking air itself. It is a deficiency so terrible, a plight so shocking that history is its witness. Empty are the carnal enthusiasms of fleshly religions like the Islamic, with Medina put to the sword as a first testimony to the mode of its establishment, and hideous and vile violations of the human spirit conducted progressively over time with the chanting cry, SUBMIT! or like transcendental meditation, at the other extreme, with vague intuitions replacing the actual knowledge of God, with mind turned out and propositional reality evacuated, making it like knowing someone without name, or address, or functional factuality, indistinguishable from nothing at the personal level.


  • From this ignorance, this failure to know God personally, to count Him one's chief friend, best guide and ever present resource, recourse and delight, available by covenant, present by guarantee, active in polishing imperfections, rebuking sins, conducting life, a Father to the afflicted, offered as Saviour to all men and active in that with those who believe in Him, from this needless lack and heedless omission, what follows ?


  • From this, then, there comes cruelty, compulsion, invasion of faith's arena by the passionate horsemen of force; from this comes fanaticism which imagines the selective slaughter of children is in some way a godly duty, as in Israel's oppression under the wilting eye of mankind, who talks much but does not seem to want to recognise that this terrorism is a compliment to hell! and almost a complement of it.


  • From this omission, come endless pagan surges of religiosity, people trying to save their lives by the passion of their conduct, without being able to find any ground for the belief, but following it, following it, like dogs on some scent, the nature of which they are not quite sure! (cf. Tender Times for Timely Truths Ch. 8). Because of this, the panting heart that is never sated seeks in hope to be part of some number of people to have this or that felicity, the Islamic mind seeks to sway the balance at judgment in its favour, as if eternity rested on some arithmetic, some statistic, and the infinite differences were thus devised.


  • Through this, follies like anarchy, nihilism and communism breed their pagan pollutions, aflame with derisible philosophy, and execrable logic, making something 'arise' from nowhere, in order to conduct its ordered course with a felicity which is in phrase only, being forgotten by history when it comes to the test (cf. SMR pp. 925ff.), and failed like a student in its Russian exams.


  • From this comes arrogance, as man struts like a god (cf. Psalm 82, Ezekiel 28:9).

HOW do you do this ? one asks. In reply, it is necessary to point out that it is a work of God (John 6:29). "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent." The Spirit, said Christ, blows (like a wind, in meteorological analogy) where it will. You do not know where it comes from; it is so with everyone born of the Spirit.

In other words, the Spirit of God is a person, is not manipulable, does not arise like wealth after due exertion in favourable circumstances, is not a product of man, but as man is a product of God so is his completion found in that knowledge to which His image bearing realities point, through what they permit, in what they cry for, without being sated, when faith is not found, and truth is ignored.

  • Failure to know God leaves man circling like a stranded aircraft, looking vainly for suitable landing, having no gear with which to touch the ground, and finding no authority to allow such a landing, alien in alienated territory, adrift like a dandelion seed, floating in the wind, but far less elegant: rather filled with noise and mechanics, contrivance and maps, knowing nothing to the point and pointing to nothing but hell, that all but indescribable horror where meaning being ignored, truth is not found, except the truth that judgment is just, where light is despised (John 3:19).


  • Vacuity is its ground, nebulosity is its feast, mist is its gist, loitering its life. It rises like hot air, and finds only the atmosphere above; it falls like a stone, and finds only the meaningless base. It looks for truth, but not with all the heart (Hosea 7:13-16), and finds its desire in evacuation of reality, like a vacuum that walks.

Let us hear Hosea (7:10-16a), for often seeing the situation in ancient history stirs the modern mind to a perspective to which special contemporary pleadings make blind.

 "And the pride of Israel testifies to his face,
But they do not return to the Lord their God,
Nor seek Him for all this. Ephraim also is like a silly dove, without sense -
They call to Egypt,
They go to Assyria.
Wherever they go, I will spread My net on them;
I will bring them down like birds of the air;
I will chastise them
According to what their congregation has heard.

“Woe to them, for they have fled from Me!
Destruction to them,
Because they have transgressed against Me!
Though I redeemed them,
Yet they have spoken lies against Me.

"They did not cry out to Me with their heart
When they wailed upon their beds.
“They assemble together for grain and new wine,
They rebel against Me;
Though I disciplined and strengthened their arms,
Yet they devise evil against Me;
They return, but not to the Most High;
They are like a treacherous bow.

Ignorance of God leads to aching spirits, muddled minds, execration of the universe, tragedies as if on call, the worship of chance, as if the structure of the stage for life were life, or the foolish fumbling and stumbling were the way to run, on a road which is not seen, to a destination which is ignored. (Cf. Ancient Words, Modern Deeds Chs.  9 13.)



To know God however, this is the culmination of what man is made for, the consummation of the needs of his spirit, the confirmation of his calling, the acme of his ardour, the rest of his mind, the hope of his countenance, the breeding ground of his riches, for in God are unsearchable riches, available of course, where He is to be found, and that ? It is given to man to know God through His eternal word, inscribed into flesh, incarnated into a virgin, expressed in a life, sent by a call, given a striking series of identikit devices by which He was to be recognised, and may be by those who look, pitiful to mankind, able for his deliverance, capable of removing the smog and fog of life and bringing to the eyes of the spirit the power to discern at length the landing ground for the motion, the peace for the power and the power for peace. (Cf. Isaiah 9:7, 26:1-3,8, 40:26ff., 64:4.)

Without this knowledge, man is lost. His history is lost, except for this, that it does what it has been told to the point, to the jot, to the tittle as we have often seen*1 . His soul is lost, except for this, that it MAY be found (Ezekiel 47 cf. Biblical Blessings Ch. 5, Luke 15:4-7, Matthew 23:37, Mark 2:10, Luke 10:10, Colossians 1:19ff.). The loss is eternal, but the necessity is temporal: to FIND the way, the knowledge of God. ANYONE reading these words has the opportunity.

You may say, I am irretrievably lost from my sins, which I acknowledge. How do you know ? If the desire is there, is this not of the Lord ? If HE has given you desire, then use it! If you want Him, then take Him.

You may say, My theology will not let me! There are such people ... Then is theology your god ? It does not save; for it is but the  compilations of man. It is the word of God by which you are begotten, and by His Spirit (John 3:1ff., I Peter 1:23, Titus 3:5). You say, But my theology is from the Bible ? Ah fine! Then you know that you are to seek the Lord while He may be found (Isaiah 55:6), even to the extent of this applying to the very ends of the earth (Isaiah 45:22), and since you are now interested enough to be reading this summary of the situation, go ahead and seek Him.

Perhaps however one will reply: But while I am happy to do this, and in fact, sometimes do seek Him more or less, I know nothing will happen, because I may not be elect.

May you not then ? If you find Him, you MUST have been elect (Romans 8:29ff.). If you seek with all your heart, you are GUARANTEED to find (Jeremiah 29:13) Him.

Yet one may say, How can I seek with all my heart, when my heart is so divided that it might as well be a short map of the world, with northern and southern hemispheres ?

Is not the whole world, however, one world ? You do not need to HEAL your heart, for that is the prerogative of the Maker who is likewise the Great Physician. The eyes you have CLOSED, Christ challenged many of His day, in disclosing their condition! Yes, far from wanting Him, they SHUT TIGHT their eyes lest they should find Him. Indeed, this is what He actually said (New Century Version, with paragraphs. for ease of reading):

" ‘You will listen and listen, but you will not understand.
You will look and look, but you will not learn.
 For the minds of these people have become stubborn.

" 'They do not hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might really understand
what they see with their eyes
and hear with their ears.
They might really understand in their minds
and come back to me and be healed.’   Isaiah 6:9-10

"But you are blessed, because you see with your eyes and hear with your ears. I tell you the truth, many prophets and good people wanted to see the things that you now see, but they did not see them. And they wanted to hear the things that you now hear, but they did not hear them."

In the New King James Version you have it similarly:

"Hearing you will hear and shall not understand,
And seeing you will see and not perceive;
For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them."

It proceeds after this citation from Isaiah, at the lips of Jesus Christ:

“But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear..."

But HOW is it that the disciples HEARD and SAW ? WHY were they so blessed, and how is it that you, some reader, may feel incapable in this, and find no way to open your eyes in order that you might see with your eyes, and turn, and HE SHOULD HEAL YOU ?

Is it to hard to open the eyes ? You do not have to create WHAT YOU SEE, merely to look.

As Isaiah put it (45),

"Look to Me, and be saved,
All you ends of the earth?
For I am god, and there is no other.

"I have sworn by Myself,
The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness,
And shall not return,
That to Me every knee shall bow.
Every tongue swear.

"One  shall say,
'Surely in the LORD I have righteousness and strength.
To Him men shall come,
Who are incensed against Him..."

There is a passion for disclosure on the part of the Lord. You do not have to persuade Him to be interested! He IS statedly interested, and it has pleased Him that ALL might be reconciled (Colossians 1). If it does not please you, so be it. That is your affair, a resistance for your own part, in the face of an insistence, limited by the sanctity of love, on His part.

You have to come to His acclaimed way, to Jesus the Christ and confessing your sins, repent of them, and accept His provision for your soul. If you WANT it, take it, for it is there. If you do not want it, do not grumble, for this is your desire. Certainly, there is a cost. Of course, you have to have Him as Lord, ruler, the One who calls the shots, gives the direction, shows you what He would have you do (as He did for Paul, whose very name was changed! Acts 9:6, 11-16).

If you do not want God to be your Lord, so be it. He made you; and if you want to BE God, it is impossible; but if a friend of God, then there is the first necessity to acknowledge Him, that He IS God, and not yourself. This is reasonable because it is true!

Are you going to elect yourself to doom by imagining the heart of God is other than He says, or that His commands to the soul of man are meant as prohibitions ? that 'repent' means do not repent, or that 'come to Me' means do not do so! You come ? but no, you do not want to. You want to, then you come. In Him are the springs of eternity, and He knows His own. Never blame Him because He is inscrutable to prying eyes, for to His friends His heart opens, and His love is made plain.

You must however trust Him; but if you prefer, really, to trust in yourself, what is this ? A poignantly self-besotted soul finding in its created stature, a ground for rejecting the saving power of the living God who made Him, and whose testimony is truth, whose mercy is profound, who calls His friends those who follow Him, in whom is strength and what is due, whose sacrificial serviceability is without stint, whose redemption is total, who makes of mankind who come, from what is their created condition, the consummation intended.

Such however is the heart of man, that many find illegitimate ways of seeking to make God, who paid for all who would ever come and invited all to the reception of such payment, responsible for their own spiritual indolence, alienation or procrastination. HE WOULD HAVE ALL. Put that in the mind and consider it. If you would evacuate just one, yourself, so be it. That is what YOU WOULD HAVE.


That is birth. What is involved is ceasing to be your own aircraft, circling, and becoming a sent and despatch aircraft, on mission for the Lord.

Very well. This is profoundly wonderful and wonderfully profound. When however you realise that God is personal, it is simple. He did not create personality out of impersonality, or make the point of purpose in the brilliant contrivances of DNA, in order to know no purpose. You do not lack what you show. His person is of course infinite and ours is finite. This is interesting but no barrier. The professor way beyond the student in MENTAL AWARENESS, it may be, but personal communion and instruction, sharing of purposes, is not excluded for this. The cat is a very small thing compared with man, but one is capable of following a man about, seeking to interpret his purposes, and even to forestall them.

There are modes of interaction of the greater and the lesser of which we are very much aware. They provide no difficulty, and one of the reasons for this fact is acutely simple: the greater the comprehension of the greater, the easier it is to relate to the comprehension of the smaller. To man is given the power to survey, analyse and purpose; and to God is the authority to accredit these musings, or discredit them. If man is to be discreditable, so be it. The profundity enters when God seeing the discreditable, and the pandemic of alienation from Himself in all the vapid thoughts of man (as Ecclesiastes puts it, God made man upright, but they have brought out many schemes - 7:29), resolves to the point of sending His OWN word in MAN's DRESS, so that man seeing God as man, can seek to know God, though man.

What however when this consummation is reached ? Is there then a bliss incomparable, without deviation or defilement, a life immutable ?

No, for man does not thus become God.

Is there a celestial understanding, a light that shows the way, and leaves shadows to their own domain ?

But of course (John 8:12 cf. 11:10, 12:35-36). It is often stated and delightfully verified in practice.




But is this an absence of growth, a felicity which avoids discipline, an energy which has instant satisfaction under all circumstances ? No, for man is a person, is personal, and is susceptible to the challenges, corrections, developments, griefs and uplifts which are the terrain of the personal in the pilgrimage of life. Thus, though the whole is characterisable in joy, parts may be heavy with grief, stern in developmental rigours, or transcendent in illuminative marvels, as the course requires! (cf. Hebrews 12:9-11, I Peter 1:5-9).

Notice Peter's fatherly word, which we shall then consider:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away,
reserved in heaven for you,
who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

"In this you greatly rejoice,
though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials,
that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,
whom having not seen you love.

"Though now you do not see Him,
yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,
receiving the end of your faith - the salvation of your souls.

"Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.

"To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven - things which angels desire to look into."

Lines have been separated without alteration of the text, in order to make more readiy comprehensible the flow of the presentation from the Lord.

FIRST, is the direct  statement of action. There has (as in movement from ice to water, from water to steam) been a change of state. The man, woman, child is still a person, still personal, but the condition in which this is now exhibited has radically changed. You have had a personal regeneration which has made you a child of God, with an inheritance in God, as a child of His. Like God, this His inheritance is incorruptible, unerodable, undimmed. Further it is RESERVED in heaven. It is easy to book a theatre ticket, and in the old days, the seat would be clearly marked, 'reserved'. It was obvious someone had taken action to secure it. So here.

FOR the inheritance (getting to the theatre in the analogy), you are KEPT by the POWER of God. As one delightful old lady once said, perhaps with a touch of humour that was none the less respectful, "that ought to be sufficient". The time will come, and in the meantime, you are kept for what is to be. It is so with an inheritance from the infinite, ever unfailing God (Zephaniah 3:5). It is almost too obvious: If it were not so, I should have told you! said Christ in specifying this certainty (John 14:1-3).

Greatly rejoicing is thus your underlying CONDITION. However, there may be annealings, purifications, resolutions of weaknesses and the like, and so, IF NEED BE, there may be a season here or there of HEAVINESS, while the surgery of the soul proceeds. So be it, there is physical surgery, which interrupts a little but does not annihilate life, rather being designed to facilitate it. These are difficult times; but they pass, as for that matter does discipline (as in Hebrews 12) bringing forth in the end, the "peaceable fruit of righteousness".

This Christ the spiritual Physician, is one in whom one rejoices in a way which is "full of glory". There is the spiritual propriety of it, the delighted gratitude in it, the splendour of the eminent nature of one's focus, the divinity of the King and the delight in His action, together with the relish for following Him in actual practice in real history at the appointed time! To compromise such a Lord, or His principles, though like David, one may slip in a moment of foolishness, is like deliberately breaking one's leg! That is assuredly not the way of His children; and where there is a failure, so as the case needs, is the correction. it is not slavish, nor is the response servile. This is a procedure of love, development, like a coach plus mother plus father plus school, plus nurse, plus friend, all in one.

The prophet of old were inspired to forecast in some detail this whole gospel and era, and realised at the time, that it was indeed forecast for a blessed future. As it was stated then, so it is now. This is what Peter is in essence saying.

How then does this concern us in our present topic ? In this way: there are lights and shades, there are difficulties for the development of character, corrections for its removal from deformation and the like. Since it IS personal, it can be very fascinating and of great depth. As David declared (Psalm 42:7), "Deep calls to deep at the noise of your waterfalls. All your waves and billows have gone over me."


This leads us to an intriguing situation with the famed missionary to China, Dr Hudson Taylor, from which much wisdom may be found; for it concerned a highly PERSONAL fibrillation of his spiritual heart, and its resolution shows both the power and the wisdom of God, His grace and His conscientious persistence in life, to bring it to where it should lie, yes and work and labour, not in vain.

In preface, let us note the statement of the apostle Paul, who had a quite amazing, but most illuminating crisis, himself, in the very midst of his amazing empowered, astutely wise and carefully controlled missionary outreach. It shows the PERSONAL side of the apostle, and that we are not, as almost seems the case in Social Welfare States, on the one hand, and Communist ones on the other, DEPERSONALISED, either into 'good' recipients, or 'management' manipulees (if it were possible!).

Far removed from such a fate, though it may try to press itself upon him/her, like an assassin, the Christian has very different examples and exemplars.

Thus in II Corinthians 1, Paul is found, if you will, punched in the spiritual solar plexus. In the midst of much vast activity (and Acts gives a clear idea of HOW vast, as does I Corinthians 4 with II Corinthians 4:7ff). It might have seemed that such a warrior, such a man of discipline would not need the soft tissue of the heart to be so treated; but he did, and it was!

He was seeking to find Titus, and events seemed to impinge on him like a wall of fire. Many things mounted like billows, and many difficulties dipped like troughs in the ocean. He seemed almost dizzied, and he reports that he "despaired even of life". It seemed that he was inadequate, thrown about by forces of destructive kind, and that his physical life would go. From II Cor. 4, this might not seem surprising, for here you might think was a spiritual iron man; but he had the need of being made soft in the tissue of the spiritual heart, of NOT TRUSTING IN HIMSELF.

Why of course! you guffaw ? That is the most elementary of lessons. In doctrine ? Yes (Jeremiah 17, Proverbs 3). Sometimes however the very plethora of events, the cumulative consequences of many irons in the fire, many works in the making, can bring about a spiritual superficiality (relatively speaking), a sort of work load pressure session, in which the steam of effort tends to diffuse the light of the Lord! In such flurries, it is easy for worries to arise. Paul notes that in this instance he was taught not to trust in himself, and clearly, this is a PERSONAL and PROCEDURAL matter, not a doctrinal one. He was made to realise AFRESH, that life is not automatic, however fruitful; it is not a matter of energetic performances alone, however one may be strengthened.

It was necessary, it seems, for this apostle to realise afresh his own weakness, since it was obviously a case of personal IN-sufficiency AT THIS LEVEL. That done, he could resume his normal and functional trust in the Lord SO THAT he rested in HIM WHILE He did the works, awaited HIS wisdom and was upheld by HIS power alone! Perhaps it was a little like an exceedingly skilful hunting dog, one who passes all tests, wins championships for astute co-operaiton with his trainer, and then becoming a little over the top, self-assured instead of assured of action IF and AS he responds to his trainer, starts making decisions too soon, based on experience and not on REFERRAL TO THE BOSS!

Such a case would simply be a defect of a virtue ? Both less and more than that: it does not have to be, but may develop; and it is more than a defect. It is a NO WAY GO BACK situation, in which correction is needed. Like the true warrior he was (and is), Paul quickly learned, acutely realised, was speedily corrected. It is better so, than being appalled that one should HAVE to suffer, or be ABLE to have such a fall.

Who is the Christian ? a prince or a functionary ? a servant or the boss ? This is often lost sight of in the modern substitutes for Christianity; but not by Paul. When functionally and in an intensely personal way, his emphasis began to stray, he was corrected as by the pull on the cord of the walker, out with his dog. It is more than that ? Of course; but we can wend our own ways most readily, and it is well to be brought to realise that there is but one Master, whose wisdom and power are unassailable, and delightful when properly received, with humility, happiness, expectation and friendliness. Then it is charming and delightful; but when one errs, the tug is less so. But what would you ? If the error is UNDESIRED, the correction can be speedy and sure!

There is far more to it than this. Thus Job was specifically tested in order to display the LOVE FOR GOD was not selfish or self-interested, but called forth from the factuality of His actuality. He deserved it, it was freely given; God was NOT a means to an end, but the end of all means. Job showed this (despite many PERSONAL growth pains) and was greatly used, BY his abasement; after which God honoured him again. Honour is great; but not to be sought: for if it is, then the honour fo the Master being compromised, it can be like dust in the eyes. (See Job in Index.)

Now we come to the Hudson Taylor case, and from his own words, we can discern it. For this purpose, we shall plan to take some excerpts, not the continuous narrative, from Taylor's letter to his sister, as published in "Biography of James Hudson Taylor"  by Dr and Mrs Howard Taylor, pp. 212-215.



"The last month or more has been, perhaps, the happiest of my life, and I long to tell you a little of what the Lord hs done for my soul. I do not know how far I may be able to make myself intelligible about it, for there is nothing new or strange or wonderful - and yet, all is new! In a word, 'Where as I was blind, now I see..'

"Perhaps I shall make myself more clear if I go back a little. Well, dearie, my mind has been greatly exercised for six or eight months past, feeling the need personally, and for our 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 nearer to God. I pray, agonized, fasted, strove, made resolutions, read the Word more diligently sought more time for retirement and meditation - but all without effect. Every day, almost every hour, the consciousness of sin oppressed me. I knew that if I could only abide in Christ all would be well, but I could not.  I began the day with prayer determined not to take my eye from Him for a moment; but pressure of duties, sometimes very trying, constant interruptions apt to be so wearing, temptation to irritability, hard thoughts and sometimes unkind words are ll the more difficult to control. Each day brought its register of sin and failure, of lack of power. To will was indeed present with me, but how to perform I could not.

"Then came the question, 'Is there no rescue ? Must it be thus to the end - constant conflict and, instead of victory, too often defeat?' ....

"I felt I was a child of God: His Spirit in my heart would cry, in spite of all, 'Abba, Father' : but to rise to my privileges as a child, I was utterly powerless. I thought that holiness, practical holiness, was to be gradually attained by a diligent use of the means of grace. I felt that there was nothing I so much desired in this world, nothing I so much needed. But so far from in any measure attaining it, the more I pursued and strove after it, the more it eluded my grasp ...

"I do not think I was striving to attain it in my own strength. I knew I was powerless. I told the Lord so, and asked Him to give me help and strength; and sometimes I almost believed He would keep and uphold me. But on looking back in the evening, alas! ...

"I would not give you the impression that this was the daily experience of all those long, weary months. It was a too frequent state of soul; that toward which I as tending, and which almost ended in despair. And yet never did Christ seem more precious - a Saviour who could and would save such a sinner!

"Sometimes there were seasons not only of peace but of joy in the Lord. But they were transitory, and at best there a a sad lack of power. Oh, how good the Lord was in bringing this conflict to an end!...

"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 it 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 ot abide with me - never to leave me, never to fail me.' And dearie, He never will.

"But this was not all He showed me, not one half. As I thought of the vine and the branches, what light the blessed Spirit poured direct in to my soul! How great seemed my mistake in having wished to get the sap, the fulness out of Him. I saw not only that Jesus could 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 showers, and ten thousand times more than we have ever dreamed, wished for, or needed. Oh, the joy of seeing this truth! ...

{One must be a little careful here. It is true that the vine comprises all its parts; but in the analogy of Christ, it is the FATHER who is the husbandman; and the conditions about the vine, are not the same as the vine. The branches, in being said to abide in the vine, are not abiding in themselves, but in what is distinct from them, namely the stock, which is Christ.

On the other hand, the effort of Taylor here is to show that as part of His body, we are, for all that, integrally related to, though not of course identical with, Himself, so that His care, concern and action is as to His own! This is the crucial feature. Abiding in His faithful trustworthiness is not an egregious oddity, but a restful reality. Again, while the vine is not the weather condition, the One who IS the vine, is He who DOES control the weather conditions as shown so dramatically in Mark 4:35-41, Matthew 8:26. His illumination therefore, as he thought, is not made entirely clear; but its point is quite clear, and its message overall perfectly valid.}

"Oh, my dear sister, it is a wonderful thing to be really one with a risen and exalted Saviour; to be a member of Christ! Think what it involves ? Can Christ be rich and I
poor ? Can your right hand be rich and the left poor ? or your head be well fed while your
body starves ? Again, think of its bearing on prayer. Could a bank clerk say to a customer, 'It was only your hand wrote that cheque, not you,' or 'I cannot supply this sum to your hand, but only to yourself'?  Nor more can your prayers, or mine, be discredited if offered in the Name of Jesus (i.e. not in our own name, or for the sake of Jesus merely, but on the ground that we are His, His members) so long as we keep within the extent of Christ's credit - a tolerably wide limit! ...

"The sweetest part, if one may speak of one part being sweeter than another, is the rest which full identification with Christ brings. I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize this; for He, I know, is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine. It makes no matter where He places me, or how. That is rather for Him to consider than for me; for in the easiest positions He must give me His grace, and in the most difficult, His grace is sufficient. ... It little mattes to my servant whether I send him to buy a few cash worth of things, or the most expensive articles. In either case he looks to me for the money ... So, if God places me in great perplexity, must He not give me much guidance; in positions of great difficulty, much grace; in circumstances of great pressure and trial, much strength?"

End of Excerpt


In the above we find three aspects of interest to our topic.

First, a very remarkable missionary, filled with 'successful' labours, is yet dissatisfied with his reliance on the Lord. It is not a lack of zeal. It is not a lack of effort. It is a slight but significant lack of perception. It is like an aircraft travelling at 600 mph, one degree off course. The deviation is slight; the result is not!

Secondly, he sought in a personal way, not without faith as a unit, in the Lord, but with difficulties in applying it in the realm of personal holiness; or if you prefer, he became aware of a restful and refreshing strength which is inhabited by a compelling peace that passes all understanding. Something like a stone had been thrown into the waters of his soul.

In the end, Dr Taylor realised that there had been a drift in the midst of his multitudinous missionary affairs. It was this. He was not entirely RESTING on the gracious presence of the Lord, the entire undertaking of His Spirit, the utter resolve of His determination, the natural supply of all needs to His ends; and tended to too fretful, at numerous times.

What he found then, after much search, like a housewife in spring-cleaning, was this. He should have been more intimately RESTING ON THE FAITHFUL ONE. While his faith was an instrument, yet it was IN One who by nature WAS faithful, and would not fail him. Hudson did not have to stir HIM up, so much as to rely on the fact that He is zealous, faithful and near. His missionary faith was not in such need of microscopic examination as was his use of it, in reliance on the certainties of Christ. You do not have to be super-reliant, but you do need to rely on Him, in practical things, in His governance.

Does this however mean that zeal in seeking Him is not needed ? Far from it. The more certain you are of the practical reliability of Jesus Christ, the more zealous you would tend to be in seeking it; unless of course, secretly, you were in some way still trusting in your own wits and ways (Proverbs 3:5-6 shows the exact contrary is what is required).

If such an illicit trust were found to be entering into your spiritual equilibrium, or lack of it, then that secret, as a tubercular spot in an X-ray, would need to be seen and removed. Thus King David in Psalm 139:23 cried:

"Search me, O God, and know my heart:
Try me, and know my thoughts;
And see if there be any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting."

USE your wits; TRUST in the Lord's wisdom and power. His is the outcome; HIS wisdom is the income to be sought and accepted by and in faith.

As part of His body, look to His working as Head. Does not the Lord "meet him who rejoices and does righteousness, who remembers You in Your ways ?"  Does He not act for the one who waits for Him ? (Isaiah 64:4-5).

Then wait, then seek. But in waiting, in seeking, trust first that you are heard because, as one of His (cf. Psalm 84:7, 10-12)*2, you come in faith for His work and will, power and wisdom in the performance of His desire (Ephesians 1:19); and because secondly you come in the name of Jesus Christ, whose body moves as He will (I Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4). You look to the Head, not to your problems. His is the decision making; His the power; His the plenitude.

Things so obvious as to some to appear almost banal, may be precious when their misjudgment in some aspect, has led to chafing. Who could even think of the difficulty of walking as he strides across the moors ? but who, in whose stride has come a chafing, does not have difficulty ignoring it!

LABOUR to enter into your rest! is the advice from Hebrews 4:7-11, and do not cease in mid-air, like some Russian test craft, about to hover, and instead, diving to ruin. Soar in His word till you find your resting place in His works, His living power, His available wisdom (James 1), and His massive might (Ephesians 1:17ff.), instilling wisdom into your spirit, light into your heart.

It is here that an automatic cut-off comes into play. IF someone does not REALLY believe in Him, in His resurrection from the dead, then of course that person will not REALLY expect what only God can do in this physical world. According to your faith, in such a case, be it done to you!

It is then like a broken wire. Only actual faith can replace it. When actual faith is present, then the practicalities are only a matter of time, and seeking, as is shown in Hudson Taylor's case. It is rather like a tune-up for Winter driving. Neglect it and you may meet with rather a serious accident. Meanwhile, having had it, do not trust in it, but drive with wisdom!

You have trusted in the Lord, are a believer in His covenant, have taken His death as the purgation of your own sin, have received His pardon, have assurance of His resurrection, discerning its necessities and believing its actuality, therefore of your own (Romans 8:16, I John 5:11ff.), accept His word (Matthew 7:21ff.), follow it with zeal, have no trust in yourself or yoru works but in Christ only, His redemption (Ephesians 2:1-12, Romans 3, Galatians 3-5): very well. This is good.

Now ensure that this being your ATTITUDE to the LIVING GOD who is PERSONAL, that you for your own part, personally, are resting in His power, as if you were a disciple even now by His side, and it was still Himself, visibly doing the many miracles and meeting the multitudes of tests which, infallibly and unerringly, He always met for the very simple reason that God CAN, and HE was God in the flesh!

It is not different now. Always His works are at His own discretion; but what is needed for His work and will, is available.

and the

Thus when you consider the work of Christ in the believer, you should if in verifying mode, observe the following.







All this, with Hudson Taylor as an excellent example, shows that complacency is one form of sin; that self-reliance is one form of quite unconscious displacement of faith which may come as one is busy with many things, like Martha (Luke 10:36-42); that the condition can become deeply embedded in one's attitudes, as a thorn may, in one's foot.  The other biblical examples equally show that God's dealing with persons is inter-personal, that spirit is crucial in all Christian deallings, the intimate, actual, functional, faith-utilising, covenant-claiming, deliberate accord and concord with the living Christ as you operate, so that it is HE and not you who is the director; while in Him not yourself, is the outcome.

As to that, it is the expectation precisely. If God desires as He does, worshippers in spirit and in truth (John 4:23), so that they might partake of His purity, have fellowship with His balm, acquire His understanding and walk in His Spirit, then any form of self-trust would be the deviation, the misdirection, just as the wandering from this basic premiss of spiritual worship in reality and truth, is what would call for and receive correction. That such power and wisdom from God is AVAILABLE, adequate and intimate, effectual and developmental, this is the other side of the matter. The need is there; the care is there; and as Peter wrote, Cast your care upon Him, for He cares for you (I Peter 5:7).

How do you do that ? By faith, if you are indeed a Christian.

What is the object of this faith ? The subject, Jesus Christ.

How can a subject, then, be the object of your faith ? Simply because He is personal and so a subject, while as a Being, He has your complete trust.

Since however, objectively, you trust in a subject, that subject personally will mould and form, rebuke and challenge, exhort or help, overcome mountains and move them for you (Mark 11:23ff.); or give you the trials of Job as a demonstration lesson for someone else, while pruning you, as He may so desire. This makes Christian life more like a garden than a field; one that can have pests, sometimes from lack of care! In such cases, the pests need removal, the care component needs to be addressed, and prudence needs to be learned!

Complex ? Not at all. The essence of it is far from challenging. It is the practical living of it which holds challenge. That ? it is as one would expect, for when a created being deals with his/her Creator, and acts in friendship mode, there are bound to be differences to be resolved, partly from the need to increase in understanding, partly from the imperfection of the human part of the friendship, oneself, and partly because God may deploy His troops of truth, in peace, in ways most subtle, and choose to test faith in the process ... EXACTLY as with Job.

As to THAT test, it proved that Job was not built on self-righteousness (though he had to watch this danger as you see when he refers to the way in which others used to defer to him!), nor on lust for indirect gain by having so lustrous a Being as God Himself as His friend and Protector , nor on some reward chart of inverted selfishness, merely using God for his own advancement (Job 1:9ff.).

His trust was in God, yes, as he said, though He should slay him (Job 13:15)! He came to realise the depth of sin (Job 9:27-31, 42:3,6), which so readily presses itself into the soul, and thus the extent of the grace which is the more earnestly pressed, so that he made that famous cry, his preaching out of suffering to the hearts of countless millions for millenia (19:14-27):

"My relatives have failed,
And my close friends have forgotten me.
Those who dwell in my house, and my maidservants,
Count me as a stranger;
I am an alien in their sight.

"I call my servant, but he gives no answer;
I beg him with my mouth.
My breath is offensive to my wife,
And I am repulsive to the children of my own body.
Even young children despise me;
I arise, and they speak against me.
All my close friends abhor me,
And those whom I love have turned against me.

"My bone clings to my skin and to my flesh,
And I have escaped by the skin of my teeth.

“Have pity on me, have pity on me, O you my friends,
For the hand of God has struck me!
Why do you persecute me as God does,
And are not satisfied with my flesh?

“Oh, that my words were written!
Oh, that they were inscribed in a book!
That they were engraved on a rock
With an iron pen and lead, forever!
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
And He shall stand at last on the earth;
And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God,
Whom I shall see for myself,
And my eyes shall behold, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!"

This staggering outburst of faith in the very mist of a trial prolonged, a challenge incisive, covered with the warm, oppressive mulch of muddling meddlesome friends, acquaintances meaning well but doing very badly, then brings one to something nearer to the Cross of Jesus Christ. The Lord Himself, who HAS come, and WILL come in the latter days to stand upon the earth, precisely as Job declared in words indicative of the time duration which would be required before that great day, the day of the Lord, endured the worst of all.

He Himself  found the sheer abysmal horror of shouldering the actual SINS of others almost unbearable (Hebrews 5:7); and He laboured in prayer till the sweat was like blood (Luke 22:44).

Yet HE DID it.

In fact, in Psalm 40, we see prophetically that Christ Jesus even DELIGHTED to do the will of His Father (cf. John 8:29, Matthew 26:39, 52-54 cf. Joyful Jottings 22). That will meant coming from innate glory with His Father to overt shame while feeling far from Him, since sin separates from Him (Isaiah 59:1ff.).

We who are Christians can not in the least degree pay for sins (Psalm 49:7,15, Matthew 20:28, 28::19-20, Ephesians 2); our own payment would be death (Romans 6:23), with nothing of life left over. Yet we may "fill up what is lacking of the sufferings of Christ" (Colossians 1:24). How ? By obedience, by being willing to demonstrate as the Lord may will, the lessons, the love and the patience which is appropriate in His sight. In this way, the contemporary demonstration of the ancient sacrifice of Christ is given legs. The sacrifice is complete but the love is thus given arms of application. But this, it is never easy.

How would it be expected (or desired) that it should be easy, which brings a man, a woman, a child into the flaming purity of the very Son of God! Is there not a cost ? Verdigris is very comfortable for copper, in this, that it protects the underlying copper from more direct action from any attacking chemicals in the air. On the other hand, the copper itself is not then burnished.  Losing all its beauty, its very copperiness is lost, and it can appear ugly, a sullen metal all but like lead! It is a coherent and embracing thing, Christianity. ALL parts mutually relate; personal relationships are not stifled; what man is, is met, and being met, is brought to its mettlesome lustre.

The sheer originality, the wonderful delicacy, the immovable certainty of it all is as always, just on the one hand, and gracious on the other (cf. John 1:16, Proverbs 3:3). In Christ  is life as it is meant to be lived: challenging, sometimes scouring, cleansing, in the grace of pardon, the warmth of fellowship and the active application of talent, not for the purpose of wealth or comfort (which pass without much meaning), but for the reason of a righteousness in which love inheres, a love in which peace inheres, a grandness of framework and design, in which wisdom inheres. In all this, self-righteousness, and self-indulgence, self-acclaim and self-esteem are like noises off, vain racket.

What hits is reality; and as to this, it is clean. The law of the Lord is clean, the fear of the Lord is clean (Psalms 19, 119), and His righteousness rejoices the heart. Other ways fail and founder: in this way, there is life, not lordliness, love not pretension, grace not ambition, service not self-seeking. In the spirituality found when God Himself is with you and for you, there is a certain relish, the tenderness of the nurse (cf. I Thessalonians 2:7), the rigour of the coach (II Cor. 12:7-10, I Cor. 9:22-27), the grace of the best of teachers, and more, the purpose to keep what you have committed to Him with such a certainty (II Timothy 1:12), that a death on the cross of ultimate shame, bearing your sin, if you are His, is its acclaim. There is your guarantee, signed in blood that took the incarnation of God personally, to make available, blood that purges, a purification that stings, to a life that has wings (Ephesians 2:6).

Nothing has such a testimony; for nothing else has the wisdom and the power of God, both to cover all questions and answer them as nought else can, and to cover all the dynamic realities of life, and to cover them, whether with chastening, testing or power, as the case requires, as generation succeeds generation, for PERSONS, AS persons; and many fall into unthinkable absurdities, either in the misused name and acclaim of Christ, like literary thieves, puny plagiarists without skill but no small profit during their time of evil pollution on this globe, or in some other name, without logical basis, evidential testability or personal grace.


*1 Cf. SMR Appendix D, and Chs. 8  -  9:  see also prophecy in index.

*2 From Psalm 84...

"They go from strength to strength;
Each one appears before God in Zion."

"For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
The Lord will give grace and glory;
No good thing will He withhold
From those who walk uprightly.
O Lord of hosts,
Blessed is the man who trusts in You!"