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"Powerfully bewitching" The Los Angeles Times
"Funny, touching, wise." The Washington Post
"My heart is inditing a good matter. I speak of the things which I have made touching the king"- Psalm 45:1.
I was once talking about Christianity with an intelligent agnostic, whom I very much wished to influence. After listening to me politely for a little while, he said, "Well, madam, all I have to say is this. If you Christians want to make us agnostics inclined to look into your religion, you must try and be more comfortable in the possession of it yourselves. The Christians I meet seem to me to be the most uncomfortable people anywhere around. They seem to carry their religion as a man carries a headache. He does not want to get rid of his head, but at the same time it is very uncomfortable to have it. And I for one do not care to have that sort of religion."
This was a lesson I have never forgotten, and it is my primary reason for writing this book. I was a very young Christian at the time of this conversation, and I was still experiencing the first joy of my new birth. Consequently, I could not believe that any of God's children could be as uncomfortable in their religious lives as my agnostic friend claimed. But when the early glow of my conversion faded, I came down to the dullness of everyday duties and responsibilities. I soon found that there was far too much truth in his assertion. The religious life of most of us was full of discomfort and unrest. It seemed, as one of my Christian friends said to me, "as if we had just enough religion to make us miserable.
I confess that this was very disappointing, for I expected something completely different. The Bible declares the fruit of the Christian life to be love and joy and peace. But instead of the Biblical fruit, Christians often develop doubt, fear, unrest, conflict, and discomfort of every kind.
Why should the children of God lead spiritually uncomfortable lives when He has led us to believe that His yoke would be easy and His burden light? Why are we tormented with so many doubts and heavy anxieties? Why do we find it difficult to be sure that God truly loves us? Why is it that we never seem able to believe in His kindness and His care? How can we suspect Him of forgetting us and forsaking us in times of need? We trust our earthly friends and feel comfortable with them. Why is it that we cannot trust our heavenly Friend and that we are uncomfortable in His service? I believe I have found the answer to these questions. My purpose in writing this book is to bring genuine comfort into some troubled Christian lives. I am convinced that the spiritual life of a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ was meant to be full of comfort. Furthermore, I believe that every newly converted soul, in the first joy of its conversion, fully expects such a life. And yet, for a large proportion of Christians, their religious lives are the most uncomfortable part of their existence. Is this the Lord's fault? Has He promised more than He is able to supply?
God Keeps His Promises A late writer said, "We know what over-advertisement is. It is a twentieth-century disease from which we all suffer. There are posters on every billboard, exaggerations on every blank wall, representations and misrepresentations without number. "
Is it the same with the Kingdom of God? Do the fruits we raise from the good seed of the Kingdom agree with the description given by Him who gave us that good seed? Has He misled us?
There are some who believe that Christ has offered in His gospel more than He has to give. People admit that they have not experienced what was predicted as the portion of the children of God. But why is this so? Has the Kingdom of God been over-advertised or is it only that it has been under-believed? Has the Lord Jesus Christ been over-estimated, or has He only been under-trusted?
I firmly believe that the Kingdom of God could not possibly be over-advertised nor the Lord Jesus Christ over-estimated. "Eye hath not seen, nor car heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him" (I Corinthians 2:9). All the difficulty arises from the fact that we have under-believed and under-trusted.
In the Lord Jesus Christ, there is a deep and lasting peace and comfort of soul which nothing earthly can disturb. It belongs to those who embrace it. If this is our rightful portion, we must learn how to receive it and what things hinder its becoming a reality in our lives. There is God's part in the matter, and there is man's part. We must look carefully at both.
A wild, young fellow was brought to the Lord at a mission meeting and became a rejoicing Christian. He lived an exemplary life afterward and was asked by someone what he did to get converted. "Oh," he said, "I did my part, and the Lord did His."
"But what was your part," asked the inquirer, "and what was the Lord's part?" "My part," he replied promptly, "was to run away, and the Lord's part was to run after me, until He caught me." A most significant answer, but how few can understand it.
God's part is always to run after us. Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost. "What man of you," He says, "having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing" (Luke 15:4).
This is always the divine part, but in our foolishness we do not understand it. We think that the Lord is the one who is lost and that our part is to seek and find Him. The very expressions we use show this. We urge sinners to "seek the Lord," and we talk about having "found" Him.
"Have you found the Savior?"- asked a zealous mission worker of a happy, trusting little girl. With a look of amazement, she replied in a tone of wonder, "Why, I did not know the Savior was lost!"
Misconceptions And Confusion It is our ignorance of God that causes the problem. Because we do not know Him, we naturally get all sorts of wrong ideas about Him. We think He is an angry Judge who is on the watch for our slightest faults or a harsh Taskmaster determined to exact from us the uttermost service. We imagine Him as a self-absorbed Deity, demanding His full measure of honor and glory or as far-off Sovereign concerned only with His own affairs and indifferent to our welfare. Who can wonder that such a God can neither be loved nor trusted? And who could expect Christians with such ideas concerning Him to be anything but full of discomfort and misery? It is impossible for anyone who truly knows God to have any such uncomfortable thoughts about Him. Plenty of outward discomforts may exist and, with them, many earthly sorrows and trials. But through it all, the soul that knows God can dwell in a fortress of perfect peace.
"But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil" (Proverbs 1:33). This is a statement that no one dare question. We must listen to God, not only hearing Him, but believing what we hear. Then we would know that because He is God, He cannot do anything other than care for us as He cares for the apple of His eye. All that tenderest love and divine wisdom can do for our welfare must be and will be done without fail. Not a single loophole for worry or fear is left to the soul that knows God.
"Ah yes," you say, "but how am I to get to know Him? Other people seem to have some kind of inward revelation that makes them know Him, but I never do. No matter how much I pray, everything seems dark to me. I want to know God, but I do not see how I can manage it."
Your trouble is that you have gotten a wrong idea of what knowing God is. I am not writing about any mystical interior revelations of any kind. Such revelations are delightful when you have them, but they are often variable and uncertain. The kind of knowing I mean is just the plain, matter-offact knowledge of God's nature and character. It comes to us by believing what is revealed to us in the Bible concerning Him.
The apostle John says at the close of his gospel, "And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name" (John 20:30-31). It is believing what is written, not what is inwardly revealed, that gives life. The kind of knowing I mean comes from believing the things that are written.
The Reliable Bible When I read in the Bible that God is love, I am to believe it because it is written, and not because I have any inward revelation that it is true. When the Bible says that He cares for us as He cares for the lilies of the field and the birds of the air and that the very hairs of our heads are all numbered, I am to believe it, just because it is written. It does not matter whether I have any inward revelation of it or not. It is of vital importance for us to understand that the Bible is a statement, not of theories, but of actual facts. Things are not true because they are in the Bible, but they are only in the Bible because they are true.
A little boy, who had been studying at school about the discovery of America, said to his father one day, "Father, if I had been Columbus, I would not have taken all that trouble to discover America.
"Why, what would you have done?" asked the father.
"Oh," replied the little boy, "I would just have gone to the map and found it."
This little boy did not understand that maps are only pictures of already known places. America did not exist because it was on the map; but it could not be on the map until it was already known to exist.
The Bible, like the map, is a simple statement of facts. When it tells us that God loves us, it is only telling us something that is a fact. It would not be in the Bible if it had not been already known to be a fact.
It was a great discovery for me when I grasped this idea. It seemed to take all of the uncertainty and speculation out of the salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ. It made all that is written concerning Him to be simply a statement of incontrovertible facts,
These are facts we can believe. What is more, we do believe them, as soon as we see that they are facts. We cannot depend upon inward revelations, but anyone can believe the thing that is written. Although this may seem very dry to start with, if continued, it will result in glorious inward revelations. Eventually, we will be led into such a knowledge of God that our lives will be transformed.
This kind of knowing brings us convictions. Convictions are far superior to any inward revelations, delightful though they are, An inward revelation may be upset by the state of one's health or by many other circumstances, but a conviction is permanent. Convince a man that two and two makes four, and no amount of indigestion, influenza, hurricane winds, or anything else but actual lunacy can upset his conviction. He knows addition just as well when he has an attack of indigestion as he knows it when his stomach is in good working order. Convictions come from knowledge. No amount of good feelings or bad feelings, or of good health or bad health, can change knowledge.
Perfect Peace And Comfort
I am absolutely certain that coming to know Him as He is will bring unfailing comfort and peace to every troubled heart. One of job's friends said in his arguments against job's bitter complaints, "Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace" (job 2 2:2 1 ). Our Lord, in His last recorded prayer, said, "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3). It is not a question of acquaintance with ourselves or of knowing what we are or what we do or what we feel. It is only a question of becoming acquainted with God and getting to know what He is and what He does and what He feels.
Comfort and peace can never come from anything we know about ourselves, but only and always from what we know about Him. We may spend our days in religious service and fill our devotions with fervor and still be miserable. Nothing can set our hearts at rest but acquaintance with God. After all, everything in our salvation depends upon Him.
If we were planning to take a dangerous voyage, our first concern would be about the sort of Captain we were to have. Our common sense would tell us that if the Captain were untrustworthy, no amount of trustworthiness on our part would make our voyage safe. It would be his character, not our own, that would be of paramount importance to us.
I desire to lift some troubled hearts out of their sad and uncomfortable religious lives into the Kingdom of love, joy, and peace, which is their undisputed inheritance. If I manage this, I will feel that my objective in writing this book has been accomplished. I will be able to say, "Lord, now let Your servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen Your salvation; and my pen has tried to tell it."
It must, however, be clearly understood that my book does not propose to touch on the critical or the theological aspects of our religion. Other and far abler minds can deal with these matters. My book is written for people who, like myself, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and who accept the Bible simply as the revelation of Himself.
Leaving aside all critical questions, therefore, seek only to tell such believers of what seems to me the necessary result of their belief and how they can personally realize it.
There may be mistakes in the telling, and for these I ask the forgiveness of my readers. Never the less, the thing I want to say in such a way that no one can fail to understand it is this: our religious lives should be full of joy, peace, and comfort. If we become better acquainted with God, we will experience all that He has for us.