April 1, 2012

The Trial of Our Faith

Florence Crawford had a burning desire to spread the Gospel—a flame that was ignited in her heart when she received the baptism of the Holy Spirit during the Azusa Revival of April, 1906, in Los Angeles, California. In commemoration of that event, we are republishing one of her sermons, which was preached at the campground in Portland on July 26, 1929.

Faith is a great subject. There is nothing we need more than faith, for we read in Hebrews 11:6, “Without faith it is impossible to please him.” Jesus said, in Luke 18:8, “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” He was looking down through the ages to these last days, when people give heed to “seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils,” and depart from real faith in God.

In Hebrews 11:1 we read, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” A substance is something real, tangible; it is actual material which comes into one’s possession. If we have a book in our hands, a million people might tell us it is not there, but we know it is. We feel that substance in our hands. If we have that “substance” of faith in our hearts, it will bring things that are not seen into our vision. Faith is that reliance upon God by the human heart that will bring to pass that which we hope for, though it remains unseen. Faith will cause hope to be realized.

In 1 John 5:14, we find these words, “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us.” There must be an underlying confidence in God in order for us to have faith. Confidence engenders faith. It would be impossible for us to believe that God could do anything for us if we had no confidence in Him.

The natural inclination of parents is to give, nurture, and bestow care upon their children. So it is with God the Father toward His children. You and I belong to God—we are are His children through the second birth—and He desires to give, nurture, and care for us.

A child has confidence in his mother and father because he knows that they are his parents, and he has a right to ask them. He might shrink from asking someone else, but he has no fear of his own parents and goes to them boldly with his request. Just so do we go boldly to the Father. We ask because we are His sons and daughters, and we expect Him to give us that for which we ask, if it is according to His will.

What makes a child fear a parent? If he has disobeyed, there is a fear on the part of the child when he comes into the presence of the father or mother. So it is with us and God, our Father. If we have something in our hearts that separates us from God, we do not come boldly to the Throne of Grace and ask for that which we need.

We read in Hebrews 12:1-2, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” We are in a race from earth to Glory, and the writer of Hebrews tells us we are to run this race with patience. Further on in the same chapter, he admonishes, “Make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way” (Hebrews 12:13). Many are turned out of the way on account of lameness that comes into their souls. If they do not have a steadfast faith in God, that immovable confidence in Him, it is easy for someone to come along and shake their faith or bring in a doubt concerning the Word. Then they become lame and are turned out of the way.

As we run, we look unto Jesus, “the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” At times, temptations, tests, trials, persecutions, and slanders come against us; but like Jesus, we are looking for the joy that is set before us. Therefore, we run this race with patience, because we believe that it is profitable and that it will pay to be true to God at any cost.

Jesus faced trials when He lived on this earth. Verse 3 says, “For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” Many people begin to faint in their minds because of tests. The enemy attempts to bring discouragement, perhaps saying, “You will never make it anyway, so you might as well quit.” Or, “The people of God don’t feel that you are getting along very well.” The enemy is doing his best to turn you out of the way by causing discouragement. In such times, we need only to look at what Christ suffered, and that spurs our faith and courage to go forward.

Verse 4 says, “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” Many people think that they have done a wonderful thing if they resist the least little temptation. Jesus resisted unto blood! We have not resisted unto blood yet. If a temptation were so severe that it would bring blood from your body, then you might have something to faint about in your mind. God will enable us to resist the devil and to stand against him.

At times God chastens us. We read, “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him” (Hebrews 12:5). You may feel discouraged if someone says something to you that disturbs you—we have all been through that. God is permitting that person to try you. We cannot always see that. At times God has sent His Spirit down and rebuked us directly, but many times the chastening of the Lord comes from those who are the closest to us: those in our household, in our place of labor, or in our ministry for God. God wants us to accept all as the chastening that He has permitted to come. Romans 8:28 says, “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” All means everything.

God does not afflict His people, for He is not the author of disease—it is a result of the curse—but God does permit these things to come into our lives. We read, “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Hebrews 12:6). At times, God may permit the chastening hand of affliction to be laid on those He loves. The writer of Hebrews tells us, “If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” Whatever the reason for the trial of our faith, we can have an underlying confidence that God will take us through to the end. We need not lose our faith in Him.

A woman said to me not long ago, “Well, God doesn’t do this for me, and God doesn’t do that for me, and I just don’t know where I am.” I said, “When I ask God to do something and He doesn’t do it, I just fall back into the will of God and say, ‘God, You know the end from the beginning. All of my ways are in Your hands. I am not planning my way; I submit to what You permit.’” God sees whether we will submit and not become rebellious, or anxious, or begin to find fault with Him. We want to be clay in the hands of the Potter, and if the Potter sees fit to mold us a little, that does not give us permission to say to God, “Why doest Thou this?”

I have seen potters work with clay, and it offers a great lesson. Many times you think the vessel is perfect; yet the potter will take that vessel and cut off a little here and there, and a vessel comes forth which is much more beautiful than you ever imagined! That is the way God is molding us today, and the only way to becomes what He wants us to be is to stay pliable in the hands of the Spirit and let Him mold us, chisel us, and get us into the place where He will call us a good vessel.

The writer goes on, “Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.” Will chastening pay? Oh yes, it will pay!

“Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous.” It does hurt when the chastening hand of God is put on us that He might try our faith. But He says, “Nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”

“Exercise” means work. Late last night I saw some men laboring on the campground; they were at their task until three o’clock in the morning. I thought, “The camp is all at rest, but these willing hands still laboring.” God wants us to be exercised—to be affected by the test that comes upon us, even if it hurts terribly. We will apply ourselves to accepting it, and let it do its work in our lives. When this exercising of our faith is going on, the faith in our hearts is deepening.

The enemy may come in like a flood, but you can hold onto your faith from the moment God saves you.

If you are newly saved, God has given you faith. You may be scarcely a day old in the Gospel when God will permit that faith to be tried. The enemy will come along; he may come disguised as an angel of light, or as a roaring lion. He may say, “You weren’t really saved after all; I don’t believe God did anything for you.” The devil will do anything on earth to rob a soul of eternal life. That is his business! But your business is to have that faith in your heart and stand by it as long as the heavens hold. When God saves you, drive down a stake at that spot. Let the devil howl and rage and do what he will. You stand firm and say, “I am saved, and I know I am saved. I have the witness that I have passed from death unto life.” The enemy may come in like a flood, but you can hold onto your faith from the moment God saves you.

The devil does everything in his satanic power to draw people from God and to wreck the faith of the saints of God. But God has given us, through the new birth, a work in our hearts which, if we will hold it fast, will cause the devil to take his flight.

I was brought up in an infidel’s home and after God saved me, I had a battle royal. But God had planted the truth in my heart; I knew that I was a child of God. Neither men nor devils could tell me that the change wasn’t real. In the night the enemy would shout in my ears, “Now, do you believe you are saved? What about this? and that?” I would say, “But God saved me, that I know!” Many times I would speak it right out loud, and things would clear up like a bell.

When God comes into the human heart, that heart is transformed by power divine. The angels of God, God Himself, and Christ the Mediator between God and man, are back of him, enabling the Christian to hold fast in the integrity of his heart.

In Luke chapter 4, we read of the temptation of the Son of God. “And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered. And the devil said unto him, if thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread.”

The Son of God had all power. He could have commanded that stone and it would have become bread, but God was permitting Him to bear the temptation that He might be a High Priest who was “in all points tempted like as we are.” He answered, “It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God” (Luke 4:4).

Many times we might attempt to lift ourselves out of suffering that God has permitted to come upon us by communing with someone else and getting a little help from that one. I feel that it is better for us to bear our suffering and let God prove us, rather than to seek for relief from some other source to lift us out of what God has permitted to come. Now, I do not say that we cannot ask God to lighten it, if our trouble seems more than we can bear. But why not let God try the reins of our hearts?

The devil was not done tempting Jesus. We read that he took Jesus up to a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world, telling Him, “If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.” Jesus answered, “Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” The devil was a liar, for all the kingdoms of the world belonged to God anyway. However, the temptation was not any lighter because Christ knew that. It was not the appointed time for Him to take into His power all the kingdoms of the world, so He resisted the enemy.

I feel that we have a great lesson there in just leaving matters in the hands of God when God sees fit to allow something to try us. Many people, when they face a test, begin to complain and say, “Oh, I am going through such a dark place. The enemy is just buffeting me about!” You would come out much better if you would leave those things unsaid. Many times people say those things to draw sympathy to themselves. God help us to just bear it quietly rather than telling it to everybody. If we flaunt our suffering, we may lose all the benefit God has for us.

Scripture tells us that the gold of our faith is purified by the trial of fire. 1 Peter 1:6-7 says: “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”

Gold is brought into perfection through heat. Twenty years ago in the city of San Francisco, I went into a place where they were refining gold. There were vats of molten gold, and as we came to the hottest vats, we could bend over and see our faces reflected perfectly. They may have other methods of refining gold now, but purified gold is like a mirror.

Gold can buy almost anything, yet as precious as it is, Peter said that the trial of our faith is much more precious.

Gold can buy almost anything, yet as precious as it is, Peter said that the trial of our faith is much more precious. Through times of trial, God is perfecting His Church—those who are born again, those who belong to that mystical body of Jesus Christ.

We read in 1 Peter 4:12-13: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” This Scripture is inserted here, I believe, so that when these strange trials come, we might know what they really mean. At times an oppression will settle down until you almost gasp. Many times I have asked, “What can this mean?” And then God brings that Scripture, “Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.”

In Psalm 66:10 we read: “For thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us, as silver is tried.” Solomon said, “The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the Lord trieth the hearts” (Proverbs 17:3). Job said, “When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). There was the trying of the heart; it happened to the stalwarts of the Old Testament, and it will happen to us.

The Bible is full of the precious truths that can satisfy our hearts and can make us strong, healthy, sturdy pillars in the temple of God. That is what we want. When we wholly surrender to Him, faith just pours into our hearts. Then God begins to try that faith, and we must say, “Lord, have Your way.” In the very depths of our hearts we say, “Lord, not my will, but Thine be done.”

Is that the purpose of your heart? By the help and grace of God, it can be.

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