THE PROMISES OF GOD ARE STREAMS THAT NEVER RUN DRY
--by Virginia Brandt Berg
How sweet the memory--as a child when disappointments came
I can never forget the day when it dawned upon my consciousness as a reality, a FACT, that the promises of the Bible were practical, could actually be applied to my everyday needs. It was a revelation to me. I had been taught the Bible since earliest childhood, but never had I realized that God meant exactly what He said in the numerous promises given in His Word, and that He would fulfill them to the very letter if faith would reach out and claim them in a definite manner.
God's Word said, "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2Pet.1:4).
So after all it is a very serious matter to either overlook or look lightly at the promises of God, because by these we become "partakers of the divine nature." I would never dared to have taken a promise and stepped out on it expecting God to really meet me, for to my limited faith-knowledge they were only beautiful scripture language, never meant to be taken seriously or for practical application. I fear I was like the woman who was asked, "Well, why do you think God put all these promises in His Word? What are they for?"
"Why just to fill up space," I suppose.
I believe, however, if I had thought about it at all, I was more like the very ignorant Scottish woman who had lived most of her life hidden way back in the hill country of Scotland, and who was so poor she was unable to pay her rent, and so had to depend upon her church to take care of it for her.
One day when her pastor, a very kind-hearted man, brought the rent to her, he said, "Mrs. McKintrick, you will pardon me if I speak very plainly to you about something and I am sure you will understand. Your friends, who are helping you with the rent cannot understand why it is that your boy does not support you. I understand he has a very good position in Australia, and that he is a good boy and loves you dearly, Is this not the case?"
"Oh yes, said the mother, "and he never forgets me, for every week he writes me the most loving letter; I would like for you to see one of his letters." Curious to know more of such a son, who could so love a mother, and yet leave her without support, the pastor instantly signified that he would be glad to hear some of the letters. Soon the woman returned with two packages, one of which she put in the pastor's hands and said, "These are his letters." The pastor was untying the faded string about them when she said, "With every letter he always sends me a pretty picture. They aren't very big, and just fit nicely in the letter, but it shows he thinks about me."
The pastor lifted his head, interested at once. "A picture in every letter." He was more curious than ever. "May I see them also?"
"Oh, surely," she answered, "some are of a man's head, some of a man sitting on a horse, and a number of them have the king's picture on them. See this one here has the King of England--long live the king!"
"Long live your son," said the astonished pastor. "Why, my dear friend, do you know that you are a rich woman? These are bank notes, this is money. Why, you have wealth here; and to think of how you have suffered and done without, when right here in the house all the time you had riches and thought they were just pretty pictures."
This was surely my trouble when it came to the promises in God's Word. I thought they were just pretty pictures, just beautiful language. For instance the twenty-third Psalm: "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters." To me this was just beautiful poetry, a picture story. I never dreamed for a moment that it has a literal application--that Jesus would be to us just such a shepherd and fulfill in our experience every verse of that Psalm, if we really trusted Him. What a pity that so many today look upon the hundreds of promises in God's Word in the same manner.
How few there are after all who are like the other dear saint of God in whose home the minister was taking tea. While she was in the kitchen he picked up her much worn Bible and rather absently began to turn the leaves, when he noticed here and there along the margin these two letters, T.P. When she came back in the room with the tea he said, "Auntie, I was enjoying looking at your Bible, but what do these letters mean, that you have written here so many places? T.P. and here it is again, T.P. and here."
"Oh, Brother," she said, her face lighting with joy, "that means tried and proven. In the time of some great need I have taken those promises and claimed them as my very own. They are the ones that I have tried and proven true."
How precious, indeed, and that's exactly the way the Lord intends us to use them. He wants us to prove His Word, use it in our time of need. "Prove Me now herewith, saith the Lord," until with strength, faith, and sweet confidence we can write on the margin beside many a verse, "tried and proven."
God's Word says, "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises," and there are hundreds of them.
Abundant supply! Limitless resources! "Streams that never run dry." "Let us go in and possess the land," or we will be like the thick-headed Israelites for whom God had made such large provision, and yet they never inherited the promise because of their unbelief. "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."
But how can I have this overcoming faith? How can I appropriate these promises for myself? How can I try and prove them?
We have tried to give you in the following pages practical suggestions of how you can get things from God.
WHEN IS IT WRONG TO PRAY?
It would seem strange that there possibly could be a time when it would be wrong to pray. In a sense that is true. But in another sense it is just as true that there is a time when it is wrong to petition the Lord any longer for the desire of your heart. First let me give you the scripture: Joshua 7:10: "And the Lord said unto Joshua, Get three up, wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?" This scripture is self-explanatory. The man of the story had been pleading with God for the desire of his heart, and it seems as we read that he keeps up this pleading long after God has heard him and sent the answer on the way. And so the Lord asks him why he should tarry any longer, and indicates very definitely that it is time for him to rise and go about his business, because he has been heard and there is no need of any further praying so far as the Lord is concerned. There undoubtedly comes a time when further praying is unbelief. There are those who have found without doubt that they can pray themselves out of faith. Let us look deep into the heart of this question and see if we have scriptural foundation for this assumption.
Some years ago in a little Western town, I was speaking in a hall where there was somewhat of a demand at the close of the meeting for a little souvenir that we were giving away that had our picture on it. I had only one left the last night when I came to the meeting, and this one I had kept for a sample to give the printer for renewing the order. As I came into the building that night, a young man, sweet of nature but not thoroughly developed mentally, asked me so earnestly for the picture that I promised him the one I had for a sample, and proceeded to write his name and address upon it, telling him it was his and I would send it to him just as soon as the printer had looked it over. That night, at the close of the service, the young man came to me again, insisting that he did not want me to leave the town without his securing the picture. I took it from my purse and showed him how I had written his name upon it, thereby making it completely his, and I was only holding it for the time being. At the close of the service, I heard him asking another member of the party for a copy of the souvenir, saying that he had come for two evenings, inquiring for same. There was in his voice a note of irritation, because others had received, and he had been seemingly overlooked. The printing was to be done in another city to which we were going for our next campaign, so I still had the souvenir with me on the following night, which was our last evening in the city where the young man lived.
At the close of this last service, someone came to me and said that they felt very sorry for a certain young man in that city who was quite childish in his way, but worthy nevertheless, who was deeply disappointed because he didn't receive one of the souvenirs, and they would be so happy if I had one that I could give him. The young man had evidently complained to this party. I found him, and taking him aside, explained to him definitely that he did have a souvenir; that I had already written his name and address upon it, that although he did not have it in his own hand to take home with him, it was just as surely his, as if he that moment carried it in his hands.
Turning then to the group that stood near, I made an object lesson of the circumstance, explaining that that was just the way we do with the Lord, asking Him for something which He promises definitely to give, and then when we do not get it on the instant, or rather, that we do not see that we receive it, or hold it in our hands, or otherwise recognize with one of the five senses that we have received it, we immediately go back to the Lord again and begin to renew our petitioning just as though he were deaf, dumb, and blind, and had never heard us at all, or had been entirely indifferent to His own Word, which He had given us so definitely as authority on which to come and seek the desire of our heart. Not once, but again and again we will come to Him, like half-witted children, babbling vain repetitions and acting as if His promises meant no more than the promises of some faithless human being who thoughtlessly made a lot of promises without the least intention of ever fulfilling them, or having any conscience regarding the same. It is truly an insult to the infinite heart of the Heavenly Father, whose Word, which is unfailing from the everlasting to everlasting, has said: "He hath never failed in one of all His good promises"; "the promises of God are yea and Amen to the glory of God"; "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My Word shall never pass away"; "whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises."
God's promises cannot be compared to Man's. Man is only human, and can break his word, but God dare not break His. His justice, mercy, truth, love and faithfulness are behind His Word, and not only that, God has the power to fulfill His promises, and it is not always within man's power to do so.
What is the reason so few people GET THINGS FROM GOD? Christians are divided into two different classes; those who pray and really expect something to happen, and those who just pray and do not expect anything to happen. Prayer is first a means unto an end, a connecting link between human needs and divine resources, the cry of the child unto its Father with the expectation that the great Father Heart loves to give to them more than they do to receive. "For if an earthly father knows how to give good gifts to his children, how much more will the Heavenly Father give good things to those that ask Him."
A friend of our rather humorously said that his whole congregation had the "gimme's"; that they were continually asking the Lord, and yet never believing. They were continually saying "Give me, give me, give me" ("Gimme, gimme, gimme").
Like the old janitor in the country church in the foothills of Virginia who was found standing on top of a ladder, working at something in the belfry, which opened into the prayer-meeting room. At last he sat down on top of the ladder and spoke to the group of prayer-meeting folks that had gathered about a little early for the service. "You-all know what's the matter with that bell, that it don't ring? That ole belfry up there is so chuck full of prayers that never went any higher than the roof of this church, that that ole bell hasn't got room to move. Those prayers are right there, hundreds of them, stuck in there, and never gone any higher, jes' 'cause you folks never believed 'em when you prayed 'em. Don't you-all know that a prayer ain't real 'cept you expect somethin' to happen? You-all didn't expect somethin' to happen when you prayed mos' all of those prayers. I tells you, real faith expects somethin' when it prays, and if you don't expect sometin', that ain't faith, that's jes' bosh." There was a different prayer service in the old meeting-house that night, and how different it would be with us if there was a real expectancy when we pray. Do we just pray, or expect something? Does prayer change things for us?
Prayer is not simply a "pious reverie," that has only a subconscious effect upon the individual, but prayer is an intensely practical thing, as real, as uniform, as genuine a means unto an end as using the telegraph or the telephone, only it is MORE SO. The party at the other end of the line is always there, and He says to us, "Ye have not because ye ask not."
Is it not a real heartbreak that we, as believers, are actually the cause of unbelief being born in the hearts of others, and make our Heavenly Father a laughing stock in the eyes of the unbeliever, because we do not get answers to prayer, making it seem to those that either our God is not there, is asleep, or has gone on a long journey. As in the case of Elijah, mocking the heathen, when they cried unto their god (1Kgs.18:26:) "Oh, Baal, hear us. But there was no voice nor any that answered. And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god, either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is on a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner, with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. And it came to pass, when midday was past, there was neither voice, nor any that regarded. And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down. And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD GOD of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant. Hear me, O Lord, hear me; that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. Then the fire of the Lord fell. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said The LORD, He is the God; The LORD, His is the God."
Some years ago, in Big Cabin, Oklahoma, a father came to me, asking for prayer for his boy, who was very wicked. We prayed a good deal from day to day about the matter, and every time there were requests for prayer, he asked again for the salvation of this boy, and at last one night, the boy came down to the front in response to the invitation and gave his heart to God. The place was packed, and I found it difficult to make my way to the back of the building, where some workers had called me to pray with someone. After the prayer, I saw this father, who had prayed so long for his boy. Reaching out my hand, I grasped his arm, and said: "Brother, your son is down front, and he has been saved." And what do you suppose he said?
"Surely not. You must be mistaken. Not my boy. It must be some boy by the same name. There is another fellow in this community by the same name." And it took me about five minutes to persuade that man that it was his boy, and that he had really been saved.
That night, the father testified in this wise: "I have been praying for this boy of mine for twenty years, and I was never so surprised in my life as tonight when I found that he had been saved." Think of twenty years of praying and never expecting God to do anything. There was love of God, and deep confidence in the Bible as being truly the Word of God, but so far as any actual expectancy, there was not a particle. How pitiful, and how it must grieve the heart of the Infinite, for His child to pray on and on and on, but never the least expectancy. As we have explained before in this talk, we expect God to do the giving and the taking also. We want Him, without the least effort on our part, to come right down and lay it in our laps. This latter He will do, but on His own conditions, and those conditions are, "Believe that ye receive them and ye shall have them."
He has a right to set down His own conditions, and what less could He ask than that we honor Him by believing in His Word. His Word never said that without perfection it is impossible to please God. If there is in your heart today a desire to please God, just honor His Word by believing in something that is impossible for you yourself to obtain. Just take a step of faith out on the impossible where there is not a thing in sight but His promises to cling to, expecting Him to meet you and give you what you desire. This is what pleases Him.
Some of the most exemplary Christians, in whose lives you could hardly find a flaw, nevertheless rarely get things from God simply because they fail along this very line. They lack this expectancy--they do not know the least thing about this mighty principle of faith. While on the other hand, I have known some very weak Christians--I mean weak in their oft-repeated stumbling in time of temptation, though so earnest in their desire, it would seem, to do only that which is right--I have known some of these, I say, to frequently receive the most remarkable answers to prayer, because of the simple child-like faith they have, and after every prayer, you could not help but note a genuinely expectant attitude.
There is more failure in the prayer life than along any other line, for the simple reason that we start so many petitions and never wait for the answer; just keep sending them up and sending them up, without any real expectation of getting the answers back, until the muscles of our soul become flabby because we do not exercise our powers of receptivity. I would rather send one prayer up to the throne, backed by real faith, and get the answer back, than to send scores of petitions and never see the answers return. How much better to ask God for fewer things and get the answers, than to injure our faith by weakening these powers of receptivity. How the Infinite heart must go out in pity and yearning to those who pray and pray, wait and wait, then weep and weep, because their prayers seem to be unheard and unanswered, and at last, broken-hearted and discouraged, they give up, thinking God does not care, when they themselves are breaking every law of faith that God has given them, and fail to find the very principle of faith so often minutely and definitely written for them in His Word. What is the trouble? We act as if God is some hard-hearted autocrat, whose stubborn unwillingness we are compelled to overcome by much pleading, numerous prayers, long heart-broken petitions, and oft-repeated beggings, when the fact of the matter is He is trying to overcome OUR unbelief, and longs to give us the desire of our heart. But He cannot do the giving and the taking also.
IT IS OUR PART TO DO THE TAKING. It is His to do the giving. Oh, yes, we do the asking, all right, but we do not take. Mark 11:24: "When ye pray, believe that ye receive." He has given, and He is simply waiting for you to take, and you can take, for He has given you the power to do so. We sing a little hymn: "I can and I will and I do believe." I CAN because God gives me the power to do so. He would never command a child of His to do that which he does not have the power to do, so I can believe if I will do so. I WILL, therefore, because God expects me to exercise my will in believing His Word: I DO, because now is God's accepted time, and because I pray for the thing now, I believe that I receive it now, just as the scripture says: "Whatsoever things ye desire when you pray, believe that ye receive, and ye shall have them."
There is, therefore, a given time when I must cease to pray and begin to believe, and that time is "when I pray." When I ask, I must believe then, not some future time. Belief in some future time is hope, and not faith, and as someone has so wisely said, "Faith is not hope." Hope puts a thing far in the future, looking forward to some distant time when, if God sees fit, he may give the answer; faith puts the thing in the past, and counts it done. It is done simply because God say so. As He has said, "Whatsoever things ye desire WHEN YE PRAY, believe that ye receive them and ye shall have them." Hope looks over the fence into tomorrow, while faith leaves the matter over the fence of yesterday as a finished work, and will forever look back to that spot saying, "It was there I closed the contract with the Lord. I took Him at His Word, and counted the thing done, and it is done, because He said so. 1Jn.5:14-15: "And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us: And if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him."
It does not say going to have, but it says we have. We have it now, but, you say, "I cannot see it, I cannot handle it, so I do not really know that I have received." But we do know, because God said so, and His Word is enough. We believe we have, not because any of the senses testified to it, but because of God's testimony. "Let every man be found a liar, but God be found true." It is so, simply because God said so. Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. But that which waits to SEE before it believes is NOT faith. It is not what we think about it, it is what God says about it, that counts. It is not what we feel, it is what faith claims. It is not what we see, for "The just shall walk by faith." By a decisive act of faith I do receive.
You may have faith but do you have appropriating faith?
One of our leading evangelists one evening, in desperation, trying to explain the principle of faith, offered an Ingersoll watch he held in his hand to the largest of a group of boys sitting on the front seat of the church.
"Sonny, would you like to have this watch?" said the evangelist, holding it out to him. "Aw, go 'long," answered the little fellow. "You can't fool me." Looking at the next lad, the evangelist repeated the question. Quickly there came the answer, "Whatcha think I am?" This ain't any April Fool."
Again the question was repeated, and again and again down the line came similar jocular answers. At last the evangelist offered the watch to a little fellow about five years old, who was sitting on the edge of his seat, with bright, eager eyes, focused intently on the face of the speaker. His little feet didn't touch the floor, but he was balanced on the edge of the seat just ready to leap, and the evangelist did not even have the opportunity of finishing his sentence, which he began on this wise: "Little man, would you like ..." That was enough, for the chubby hand quickly grabbed the watch. Grabbed is the only word to describe the intense, eager action of the believing child, who instantly pocketed the gift, and while wiggling back on the seat in a pleased manner, said with a satisfied, grown-up sigh, that it was just what he had been wanting all the time.
After the service, the crowd of boys surrounded the evangelist with protests. "Aw, g'wan, how'd a feller know you really meant it?" and "Say, that's jus' the kind of watch I was wanting."
"Why didn't you tell us you were in earnest?" and then another, "If you really meant it, why didn't you put it in my hand, or say it to me again, so's I'd know."
Each boy wanted the evangelist to literally put it right in his hand, rather than to reach out and take it for himself, while the tiny tot had real appropriating faith, and reached out to take unto himself that which was proffered. He really put his faith into action.
Many people do not have appropriating faith. Somehow they believe they are saved, and they believe the promises of God in sort of an impersonal, indefinite way. But they do not know how to "appropriate" God's promises unto themselves. They simply do not know how to "get things from God," and while always asking, they are never receiving, for the simple reason that they cannot comprehend this principle of faith. It is so simply explained in the very quotation so often repeated here, "When ye pray, believe that ye receive, and ye shall have," for without this act of appropriation by the soul we can never come into all the glorious privileges of the child of God, or partake fully of our birthright.
There must be definiteness in our transactions with God. He has been definite with us, giving us very definite promises, stating them in very definite terms, so simple that a child can understand them. You must be definite with Him. We are definite in our business dealings with other, especially in any matter of importance that involves a money transaction. How careful we are to have a perfect understanding. We say we are "making a deal" or "closing a deal" with a person. There comes a time, a moment when we write our name on the dotted line and in a very definite, careful manner; we close the deal. Just so, there must be a definiteness in closing a deal with God. There must be a definite moment in which we (so to speak) write our name on the dotted line under His promises, take Him at His Word, and close the deal. At that moment it is done; we drive the stake down, and forevermore count it a closed matter. Praying is now turned to praising. Asking is turned to receiving. Pleading is changed to praising. The future tense changed to the present. We are no longer petitioning, we are appropriating. Our whole attitude is changed; hope has changed to faith. Faith-belief in the things not seen. Oh, what a pity that we can take man's word so easily, and be so definite in our transactions with each other, and be so indefinite in our transactions with God, so wishy-washy, as though prayer were an ethereal, uncertain sort of thing that did not really mean anything anyhow.
We get into the habit of asking, asking, asking, and not receiving, then making excuses for the Lord as though we had forced Him into a tight place of some kind and had to make explanations for Him, by saying, "Oh, I guess I wasn't worthy," or "I didn't pray long enough," or "I didn't get enough people to pray," or "The Lord had some unknown reason why He didn't give it to me:, when oftener than anything else the truth of the matter is, we did not have appropriating faith. We were not definite with Him. The very essential principle of faith we are ignorant of, i.e., that we must believe that we receive. This is the principle of faith around which so-called "science," "philosophical societies," and "modern philosophers" have wrapped unscriptural teachings and presented them to the world as new things. They are bloodless religions that take a part of the wonderful whole and distort it beyond recognition. Thousands upon thousands of people have left our churches seeking mental and physical relief in these modern cults, just because this little grain of truth, i.e., the principle of faith, has been enlarged upon and explained to them for the first time by these cult leaders and like dying men grasping at a straw they see hope where there has been despair, but they do not see that with this grain of truth there is mixed so much that is false that by accepting them they are denying some of the foundation truths of the Gospel.
This many have done in order to gain physical deliverance. Poor deluded hearts, they do not realize that the enemy often uses truth from the Word of God, and mingles it with the false, thus striving to make the counterfeit religious substitute for the genuine. And thousands accept the counterfeit because it has scripture in it. But we of the churches have neglected this mighty principle of faith and as a result, not one out of a thousand knows anything about appropriating faith, that is, how to get things from God.
The man who gets things from God will ACT OUT HIS FAITH. James 2:17-26: "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead." What is a dead faith? It is a faith that is not WORKING. It is a faith that is not OPERATIVE. Real faith is not a passive thing; it will act out what it believes. It is a practical thing. It does not expect God to do the thing that we alone can do. A believing person puts faith into action. When he has asked God for something, he proceeds as if he possesses. When he takes God at His Word on some promise, the word changes into works, so far as he is concerned, and he proceeds exactly as if he already possessed the thing which he desired (which by believing faith he surely does), though the natural senses may deny every step of the way that which faith has claimed is true. This is often called the "stand of faith."
A splendid illustration of this thought is the part of scripture where the lepers were told by Jesus to go show themselves to the priest for cleansing, and the scripture says, "AS THEY WENT THEY WERE HEALED," that is, as they put their faith into action God met them. If we put forth the effort of a believing will, God honors that step and meets us. In the case of the man with the withered arm, Jesus said, "Stretch forth thy hand." It was really impossible for the man to stretch forth his hand, but when Christ commanded he made the effort and his hand was made perfectly whole. The seat of faith is in the will, and I have found that God certainly expects us to put our faith into action. Some one has said, "When faith goes to market, it takes a basket along." Like the old lady who was on the way to a prayer meeting, where they were going to pray for rain, for there was a drought, and it was very hot and dry. As she carried with her a fan, she was put to shame by her little faith, when she met on the way to this same meeting a little girl of eight, wearing overshoes, raincoat and carrying an umbrella. The following illustration is an example of what we mean by acting out your faint--proceeding as if possessing.
When pastor of a church in Wagoner, Oklahoma, there was a very consecrated Christian girl named Etta, who desired very much to go to Bible College and prepare for Christian service. For two years she prayed and waited for the money to come. In fact the last year that she remained at home praying and looking for the finances to be advanced for her schooling, she got deeply in debt, and it looked as though the schooling was an absolute impossibility. She came to me weeping and much discouraged. I asked her if she knew that it was God's will for her to go, and she answered she was absolutely sure of that. Then I said, "I would certainly not wait any longer. You have been asking the Lord for the money for two years, but you have never really definitely claimed it or shown in any way by your actions that you are really expecting Him to send it. If you really believed He was going to answer your prayer and give you the funds for railroad fair, tuition, etc., what would you do?"
"I'd get my clothes ready and write the school that I was coming and make all the other arrangements preparatory to going," she answered.
"Well, then that is exactly what I would do if I really believed God heard my prayer and it was His will for me to go. I would definitely stand on His premise and go right ahead making every arrangement, just as you would do, if you had the money in hand, for real faith will proceed as if it already had the money. If someone wired you they were sending the money, you would believe that little yellow slip of paper, only a telegram, but when God Himself has wired you through His precious Word and promised you most definitely to give you the desire of your heart, you do not believe Him but act exactly as if you were saying, 'Oh, that's only the Word of God; that doesn't mean anything; I wish some man or woman would send me word they'd help me.' "But, Mrs. Berg," the dear girl answered, "I don't feel that way about God's Word. I'll prove to you that I believe Him and trust His promises to the limit. I'm going home and pack my clothes and get ready now. School open in a very short time, and I'll have to hurry to get ready." And that dear girl claimed a promise from God and never wavered from that moment. She went straight ahead with her preparations, just as if she already had the funds, so positive was she that God would not fail her, "And the bank of heaven would open its windows" (Malachi 3:10) at just the right time. If this dear girl is reading this story now, she will smile with me as memory turns back to one peculiar incident that occurred during that preparation. She called me on the phone one day, in fact the very day before she was to leave, saying that her clothing was all ready, together with her other belongings, in neat piles in her room, but that she had no trunk. Over the phone we took the scripture promise "And He shall supply your every need, according to His riches in glory," I went about my work forgetting the incident. About an hour later Mrs. M., a friend, called me over the phone, saying they were cleaning house and amongst a number of other things there was a trunk she had no use for, that was really in the way in the closet, and she wondered if I could use it. Laughingly, I told her she was filling an order from heaven, only she had the wrong address, and the Lord wanted the trunk sent to Etta's home. Next night a number of us went to the train to bid farewell to this dear girl, as she started to college. At the depot she whispered to me, "Sister Berg, the money hasn't come yet, but I am not the least bit frightened, for I absolutely know the Lord has heard my prayer and I know 'that I have the petition that I desired'" (1Jn.5:14-15). I will confess I was the least bit distressed and thought there must have been a mistake somewhere, for the Board of the church had told me they had taken up a little offering for her amongst themselves. As I was wondering about this, I heard the train whistle in the distance, and far away I saw the glow of the headlight. I noted Etta was earnestly watching my face. There was nothing to say. I could not help but wonder, but I knew that God did not dare fail such faith as hers. Suddenly a friend our ours, chairman of the Board at the time and a very active Christian worker, named Trollinger, came hurrying into the depot and up to us. He greeted us with these words, "I was doing some work at the office (just a couple of blocks away) when I heard the train whistle and thought of the money the men had given me to give to Etta, and here is some more, a gift from my wife and me."
"And here is some," said another voice--a friend of Mr. Trollinger who had met him hurrying to the depot.
"All aboard," called the conductor, "all aboard."
"All aboard God's promises," I said to Etta. "It pays, doesn't it?"
"It's wonderful," she answered, "simply wonderful, what faith can do."
And that is the story of one who dared to put faith into action; to proceed as if possessing; one who reckoned on the faithfulness of God.
THE STAND OF FAITH
I well remember a time in my own life when I had prayed, ceaselessly it seemed, and in fact had done almost everything else that I knew to do, and yet there was no answer to my prayer. I had come to the end of myself and could do nothing more. But why did not God answer? I took my Bible and turning the pages I prayed earnestly, when my eyes fell on these very words, "Having done all, stand" (Ephesians 6:13). Immediately I saw the truth. I had been asking and asking of the Lord but there had been no receiving on my part, and I said to myself, "Why, here I have been virtually blaming the Lord for not answering my prayer when I have not been doing my part at all, though I felt I had done everything I could think of. I will do what this verse of scripture says, that is, "Having done all, TO STAND." Immediately upon this determination the following words formed themselves in my mind. Though I had never thought of them before, they seemed to come from out my very heart, sentence after sentence until each verse took shape:
"I take the stand, I count it done,
God answers through His precious Son.
It is His Word, it cannot fail,
Though all the powers of Hell assail.
So come what may, the promise mine.
I'll hold it to the end of time.
I take the stand, I count it done,
God answers through His precious Son.
He's never failed, oh, praise His Name;
For Jesus Christ is just the same.
So live or die, or sink or swim,
Through every test I'll trust in Him."
I believed that the Lord had heard me, that His Word could not fail and that what I was asking was absolutely within His will. So I began to praise and thank Him that the answer was on the way. "And having done all" I STOOD my ground with real expectancy of seeing soon the complete realization. Within six hours the prayer was definitely answered, but I could not praise Him any more than I had when I took the "stand of faith" upon His Word, for so deep had been my assurance and so keen my expectation that it was already mine by faith--"the evidence of things not seen." I know how deepseated the natural desire to have some visible evidence that our petition is granted, but to have any other evidence than God's Word is not faith. God says so, and that's enough. The man or woman who walks by faith needs no other evidence than that. We shall see because we have believed, NOT believe because we have seen. David says in Psalm 27:13, "I had fainted unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." You will note that he had not yet seen the answer, but "he believed to see."
It is during this period when we are "believing to see," (after we have taken the stand of faith, yet we have not seen the full realization) that there comes the test period. You remember that Daniel went through this trying time and how the Lord spoke these words unto him: "From the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard"; yet God's Word teaches that there was a delay of three weeks before Daniel really received the answer, though the scripture says he was heard from the very first day. What sweet comfort there is in this story for we can say to our own hearts right now, "From the first day that you prayed He heard you."
The answer's coming,
The answer's coming,
It's almost here.
Keep on believing
Just trust and obey,
The answer's coming,
It's on the way.
I would like to add one more verse of scripture at this point. This is one of the sweetest faith verses in God's Word; "They that believe have entered into rest."
It would really be amusing at times if it were not so serious how very difficult it is for people to grasp this simple principle of faith that can secure them so many blessings and definite answers to prayer. Difficult perhaps, because so simple.
Countless times I have prayed with people claiming some precious promise from His Word and feeling that everything was right, and within His will, and that we might really praise Him for the answer; but upon arising from my knees, I would find to my amazement that the one I had been praying with was not believing at all, but simply hoping that the Lord had somehow heard. Then over and over again I've said, "Why your part is to believe that you receive; only believe, Sister, only believe." And they would repeat the words after me, but I knew from the expression of their face that they were not believing for that moment, but hoping in an indefinite sort of way for some future evidence that God had heard that prayer. And sometimes months and even years afterwards they have come excited as a child, faces all aglow, jubilant in spirit, as if they had just made a brand new discovery, of which no one had ever told them a thing. "Why, Sister, the Lord has just revealed to me the most wonderful thing--I am just to believe that I have received, just as Mark 11:24 says, 'when you pray, believe that you receive and you shall have.' Oh, it's so wonderful to find that all I have to do is just believe." Somewhat wearily one has to answer, "That is just what I have been trying to tell you for two years"; and I have had them look back at me rather surprised and say: "Oh, is that what you were trying to explain to me?"
So after all God's spirit must enlighten the heart to understand this great principle of faith. Ask him and He will "Do exceedingly abundantly, above all you ask or think."
THE STAND OF FAITH is described in Ephesians 6:13, which says, "take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand," and then it describes very fully, just what we shall do when we want something from the Lord, in other words, "how to get things from God."
Let us take up this armour piece by piece and put it on ready to go out and face the enemy, who of course will fight us every inch of the way in his effort to keep us from getting things from God. He is an enemy so strong that no natural strength can combat his onslaughts. Ephesians 6:12. "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."
But with this armour that the Lord gives us, we are perfectly equipped to stand against fiercest attacks.
First we will note He says: "TAKE UNTO YOU THE WHOLE ARMOUR OF GOD." Ephesians 6:13. We do not have to MAKE this armour; God has done that. We have only to TAKE it. The scripture says for us to take it for our use "in the evil day"; that is, the day of Satan's special assaults, which may come at any moment, the war being perpetual. Then "having done all, STAND." Standing means to maintain our ground, not yielding nor fleeing. (We have already explained this in detail).
"HAVING YOUR LOINS GIRT ABOUT WITH TRUTH." that is with sincerity. Truth is the band that girds up and keeps together the flowing robes, so that the Christian soldier may not be encumbered for action. Sincerity is absolutely necessary in the stand of faith, for we are dealing personally with the Lord Himself and any shams or subterfuges will be checked by the Spirit of God immediately.
"AND HAVING ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS." It is of course understood in getting things from God, that the heart must be right; any unconfessed sin in the life will hinder faith. Anything unyielded to God will come up before you and accuse you mightily in some time of testing. Do not let this discourage you, because God does not ask for perfection. He only asks that we put our will over on His side, that with all our hearts we are trying the very best we know how. Here is where so many stumble and say, "Oh, I am not good enough. Others may be worthy, but I am not." And yet in their hearts, there is the deep desire to do right and the great longing to please the Lord. This is all that He asks; a perfect yieldedness, an entire surrender, that everything should be on the altar, and He will do the rest.
"AND YOUR FEET SHOD WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE." This refers to the military shoes used by soldiers of that day and is significant of preparedness, readiness for the march. The Christian soldier should be ready at any minute to do and suffer all that God wills.
"ABOVE ALL, TAKING THE STAND OF FAITH, WHEREWITH YE SHALL BE ABLE TO QUENCH ALL THE FIERY DARTS OF THE WICKED." Now God's Word says, "Faith is evidence of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1. Faith is that attitude of heart that calls the things that are not as though they are, as in Romans 4:17 the Word says, "God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were." If we are asking God to let us see before we believe, this is not faith, but unbelief. You say this is a strange teaching, but we know there's not a business in the world that's not based on this very principle of faith. But the natural man's attitude towards God is such that while he will take man's word, he refuses to believe God's in the same way. "Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual", "the natural man is at enmity towards God." Why is it that we thank a man who makes us a promise, just as soon as he makes it, before there is the slightest evidence that he will keep it? but we are not willing to thank God on His promise long before we see it. This has been called the reckonings of faith. This is dead reckoning on the Word of God. One great Bible teacher wonderfully describes this in the illustration of the mariner, who gets his bearings when the sun is shining and all is well; then, when the storm in the night comes and he can no longer sail by sight, nor does he have the opportunity of getting his bearings again, he sails by what is called dead reckoning; utterly dependent upon the "reckonings" he secured when the sun shone. Just so the one who is getting something from God takes a promise from His Word, stands upon it, and from that moment fully reckons upon it, no matter what happens after he claims the promise and though he may not be able to see a foot ahead of him, yet he sails by dead reckoning. He says, "Back there I claimed that promise from the Lord and I am still standing upon it, no matter if I sail in perfect darkness." Then according to Romans 4:20 we will be "fully persuaded that what He has promised, He is able to perform." Then we do not look around at the waves, the fog, or the storm--the circumstances--we keep our eyes simply on that promise of scripture, as someone has rightfully said, "For every look at your trouble, take a hundred looks at the promise of God." This will look foolish sometimes to you and to others, but you can afford to look foolish to uphold God's Word, for you only honor God when you believe His Word against all feelings, circumstances, and conditions.
Faith is not some great thing, not some glorious feeling, some wonderful sensation, as many think, but simply TAKING GOD AT HIS WORD. Faith says amen to everything God says. Faith is utter dependence upon the veracity of another. You tell a man you have no faith in him and you cannot do business with him. Just so God's Word says, "Without faith it is impossible to please God." Hard times were caused by the loss of confidence on the part of men, and so there are "hard times" in the life of faith, when a man or woman loses the least confidence in the Word of God. In Hebrews 11:1 the Scripture says, "Faith is the evidence of things not seen." Just as your physical hand reaches out and takes hold of something, so faith is the spiritual hand that reaches out and takes hold of promises of God and appropriates them.
Now God has given us five senses: feeling, seeing, hearing, tasting, and smelling. When we taste something that is sweet we have the evidence that it is so, because our taste has given us this evidence. No matter what any one else says we KNOW its sweet, because we have evidence. This same application can be worked out with the other senses. Now in spiritual life God gives us faith to witness to us of spiritual things, just as our five senses bring us the evidence of temporal things. We accept what our five senses tell us. Why do we not accept faith as the evidence, for it will bring to pass, and absolutely make real to us, all that we take by faith. Matthew 8:13: "As thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee." Just as our taste is the evidence that the thing we partook was sweet, so our faith is the evidence that we have the thing we have asked. Faith is not an uncertain sort of thing, but is a principle which operates in the spiritual world as surely as the unseen principle of force does in the material world. In the social world, that is the human sphere, faith is a principle that binds families together and cements friendships. It is the very foundation stone of commercial confidence and business transactions between men. Why is it thought strange then that this same principle should be applied in the spiritual kingdom? For just as an unseen force of attraction holds the material world together, and an unseen principle holds the social and financial world together, just so an unseen law of faith is the underlying force which holds the spiritual world together. It is the mightiest force in the spiritual world, the active creative force, which produces effects and brings things to pass. Just because faith in God's promises is not in the natural realm, it is none the less a real active force in the universe.
Faith is practical. The law of faith is just as real as any other of God's laws. And so God says, "The just shall walk by faith"; "without faith it is impossible to please God"; "this is the victory that overcomes the world, even your faith." And then He gives a very simple clean definition of faith, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen." But let us now continue putting the rest of our armour on.
"AND TAKE THE HELMET OF SALVATION." The head of the soldier was among the principal parts to be defended, as on it the deadliest strokes might fall, and it is the head that commands the whole body. The head is the seat of the mind, which when it has laid hold of the sure gospel hope of eternal life, will not receive false doctrine, nor give way to Satan's temptations to despair. The helmet is subjoined to the shield of faith, as being its inseparable accompaniment.
"AND THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT, WHICH IS THE WORD OF GOD." It is absolutely necessary when we are asking God for something, that we have the authority of His Word upon which to stand. We must get hold of His promises, not only commit them to memory, but get them deep down into our hearts, ingrained into our beings. We must find the authority in God's Word, and then faith will come of itself. God's Words says, "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing, by the Word of God." you can never have faith for anything if you are not sure God has given you authority to ask for it. If you really believe the scripture means, "Whatsoever things you desire," then you will have faith for "whatsoever things." It would be impossible to stress too much the committing to memory of some of the outstanding promises. Here are a few that have been standbys of many faith warriors for years: Mark 11:24, "Therefore I say unto you, what things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them"; Mark 9:23, "Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth"; 1Jn.5:14, "And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask any thing according to His will, He heareth us"; 1Jn.5:15, "and if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desire of Him"; Jer.33:3, "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knoweth not."
You may not be able to commit a great many promises, but even one or two will so strengthen your faith in time of need that you will wonder how you ever got along without knowing them before.
EIGHT PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS
I believe it will help you to, as briefly as possible, condense these thoughts into the following steps:
First: A SURRENDER, complete and unconditional unto the Lord; a laying on the altar every part of the life, past and future; heart and mind; will and emotions; hopes and desires; plans and ambitions; in fact, ALL.
Second: STUDY God's Word for the building up of faith, reading promise after promise until they are ingrained into your heart.
Third: COMMIT at least one promise to heart, know it thoroughly (three or four, if possible).
Fourth: CLAIM this promise definitely of the Lord. Hold it up before Him, saying: "This is Thy Word on which Thou hast caused me to hope."
Fifth: CLOSE the deal with God. Make the transaction very definite, literally writing your name on the dotted line. For you are really to count it done.
Sixth: COUNT it done; it is a closed matter now. You are not to go back over the same ground, excepting to point back to the time you made the transaction, saying, "It was at that moment I drove the stake down and took the stand of faith." Now, "having done all, I stand."
Seventh: STAND now on the promise you have taken; STAND on the Word of God; Stand notwithstanding every onslaught of the enemy; STAND, though doubts and fears would try to move you; STAND, saying, "I believe God's Word against everything else; I believe, though every natural sense of my own makes it untrue. "Let God be true, but every man a liar that thou mightest be justified in thy saying" (Romans 3:4).
Eighth: PRAISE. Thank Him now for the answer; praise Him for His faithfulness. The parcel has not been delivered at your door, but you have closed the deal with Him over the royal telephone, and there is in your heart a very sweet trust and precious confidence in His promise, while you are waiting for the doorbell to ring. We began with prayer, but we end with praise. "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able to bear, but he will, with every temptation, make a way to escape" (1Corinthians 10:13).
VENTURES IN FAITH
In closing this little talk together, I want to beseech you that you take some new ventures in faith. There are many adventurers in the world. Vast fortunes have been spent in exploration. Many have risked their lives and many have lost them for the sake of discovering new territory.
Can we not as Christians venture out on the promises of God into new realms of faith and blessings? Can we not venture out and scale the heights to higher ground? Are we so fearful, so lacking in real courage, that we cannot step out upon God' promises and risk our all on his faithfulness? No matter if Peter did sink for a moment beneath the waves, he had at least the courage to venture out. Are we always going to stay in the same little circumscribed limits? If we will not venture out and put His Word to the test we will never know what He means by "The great and mighty things" He speaks of in Jeremiah 33:3, "Call unto Me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, that you know not." His Word says He will lead you out into a larger place. he will "show you a new thing." How can I know whether I have little or great faith or any faith at all, if I do not put His promises to the test; if I do not make ventures in faith. Some day an emergency will come into your life, when only God can help you, and you will need a strong faith--you will need to know how to appropriate these promises for your desperate need. Then there is the wonderful possibility of blessing and service for others, as you see God's Word fulfilled in their lives. The possibilities of the faith life are unlimited. No man dare limit our faith. We have only touched the dim outer edge of what God has for us. Jesus said, "I am come that ye might have life and have it more abundantly." The faith life is indeed an abundant life. The promises of God are so numerous, so all-inclusive, that there is a promise for every need; hundreds of promises in God's Word; promises abundant, unfailing, inexhaustible, exceeding great and precious promises ... "Streams that Never Run Dry."
GIFT OR GIVER?
Are you wanting a blessing without the Blesser? A gift without the Giver? It would seem impossible that there could be anyone who would want the blessings of the Lord and yet not want the Lord Himself: that anyone would seek His gifts without the desire to find the Giver: yet this sometimes happens. People who do not want to make the full surrender that is necessary to get in touch with Christ Himself. They will read books about His blessings and promises, ask others to pray for them, attend all kinds of meetings; but to get alone with Him in prayer and tarry before Him with open heart until He has a chance to deal directly with them--this they WILL not do. They do not want to come to CLOSE GRIPS with Him, for He might look directly into their face and speak to them about some little matters which they would rather have overlooked. They do not want to have PERSONAL DEALINGS with Him, for in the light of His presence there might be some revealings they are not ready for. They are not seeking PERSONAL CONTACT, for they are not ready just now to pay the price such contact always demands. No; better follow afar off, they figure--try to get the blessing in some other way, than to come too close to the clear, white searchlight of that Presence; it would cost too much--a heart-searching for which they are not ready. Better not try to reach out and TOUCH HIM, as the woman of old touched the hem of His garment, for He would surely turn about and ask, "Who touched Me?" and then would follow a conversation which would surely bring to light some things that would be better hidden in the shadows, on the outskirts of the crowd. No; better not try to touch Him, for that means an unconditional surrender, al allegiance undivided, a real heart-searching. Better leave the heart out of it entirely, and just use head-faith instead of heart-faith. Thus reasons, perhaps unconsciously, the one who wants the blessing without the Blesser, the gift without the Giver. But head-faith will not bring the blessing and there are no gifts without the Giver, for CHRIST HIMSELF is the fulfillment of every promise; the solution to every problem; the answer to every need. Without HIM ye can do nothing. You must get into personal contact with Him. You must have personal dealings with Christ Himself. YOU MUST TOUCH JESUS; for there ARE no gifts without the Giver, no blessings without the Blesser! It is the quickest, easiest way, after all, to just step right out into the white searchlight of His presence, throw down every defense, put away every subterfuge, make a complete surrender. He who climbs up any other way and tries to rob the storehouse of Heaven is a thief and robber. You can't pick the locks of God's treasure-house. You must enter through the Door. Christ Himself is the Door. THIS is the supreme blessing, the greatest benefit of the faith life, the highest reward--that it brings you into personal touch with the Lord Himself--straight into the very presence of the Giver, the King of kings. This touch is worth more than all the gifts. This personal contact is far more blessed than all the blessing, for it not only brings you the supply of your material need--it also brings the supply of your spiritual need, and throws open to the soul new vistas of glory, heights of attainment, and visions of riches in Christ Jesus never dreamed of. For you who are seeking for some blessing, warning to "get things from God," let me give you this one verse of scripture in closing: let it sink deep into your heart, and my earnest prayer is that it shall be fulfilled in your life: "Delight thyself IN THE LORD, and He will give thee the desires of thine heart." Oh, that God would reveal to each one NOW, so that we can get beyond all secondary things quickly, that it is Christ Himself--Jesus only, that is the greatest need of our life; the only Source of supply. Reveal to us, O Lord, that we cannot have the blessings without the Blesser; the victory without the Victor; the light without the Sun of Righteousness; the fragrance without the Rose of Sharon; holiness without the Holy One; healing without the Healer; the life abundant without the Life-Giver ... for Jesus is ALL and IN ALL, the Source of Supply, the Stream that Never Runs Dry!
Copyright (c) 1998 by The Family