Edwin Adams, London
The exhortation is needed, for we are all liable at times to lose heart. The Christian race is long and difficult, and we never get beyond the reach of temptation, in some form or other. Backsliding is often the result, of discouragement. Savonarola had as his motto the three phrases, " Hold on; hold fast; hold out."
There are many causes of depression, including constitutional weakness and pessimism, bodily ill-health, monotony of occupation and surroundings, the dark side of the Christian revelation, and the assaults of Satan. We will look briefly at three matters in connection with which we arc liable to faint.
1. Fainting in Prayer. In Luke 18 our Lord exhorts us to unceasing persistence in prayer by drawing a contrast between the selfish and unrighteous judge and our loving heavenly Father. " If that bad man will, for his own interests, respond to the appeal of the widow, surely a good God will be far more ready to listen to the cry of His own children."
Every Christian has asked, " Why arc not my prayers answered ?" The basic reason why our request is not granted is that it is not within the will of God. Why, we do not always know. But we can see that God will not grant a request that is not for our good, or not for our good now, or will work harm for somebody else. The second great reason for unanswered prayer is that the conditions are not met on our side. Arc we living holy lives ? Do we ask in faith? Do we abide in Christ and plead the authority of His Name ?
We may fail to see that prayer has been answered because means have been used to answer it. Again, in answer to believing prayer God changes things in us, and for this reason, too, we may not perceive that prayer has been answered. Further, God may meet the real need rather than answer our petition, which may not correctly interpret that need.
The prayer of faith is offered when we pass from the attitude of asking to that of taking ; when faith rises to the level of assurance ; when we know that the blessing is ours in the Divine intention, and will surely reach us in due time.
George Muller, that expert in prayer, emphasized the importance of not fainting, not giving up, not ceasing to expect God to answer prayer, but continuing until the prayer was answered—or stopped.
2. Fainting under Affliction. Trouble is one great cause of loss of faith and of backsliding. Hence, in Heb. 12, we are urged not to faint under affliction. The mind may be perplexed and the heart wounded, but let us see that the faith is not injured. Let us insist that God knows and loves and cares, in spite of the things that would make us doubt Him. By contemplating God's love and receiving the spiritual and natural good things that come to us as gifts of His love, and by communing with Him constantly, we shall be keeping ourselves in the love of God. And being exercised by the " chastening " or " child-training " of the Lord, it will yield " the peaceable fruit of righteousness."
3. Fainting in Christian Work. Every Christian worker knows the meaning of disappointment. There seems so little fruit! What is our motive for doing Christian work ? Is Christian service, with us, first of all the service of Christ ? Do we view it as His work in our bands ? Has He chosen it, called us to it, does He enable us in it ? Is our aim to be useful to those to whom we minister ? Are we in the will of God ? For it is possible for self-will to operate in such a good thing as Christian service.
In a meeting where nothing seems to happen, the power may be the same as when there are visible results. A large stone is being struck with a hammer. Nothing seems to happen after each of the first five blows has descended, but the stone breaks in pieces at the sixth blow. The power in each of the six blows was the same, and the first five were as needed as the sixth, by " softening up " the fibre of the stone, breaking down its resistance, and so making possible its shattering at the sixth blow. To lead a soul towards Christ is as really soul-winning work as to lead him to Christ. Many sow; some reap. The chief factors in the conversion of the unsaved are a godly home and a spiritually prosperous local church, with its Sunday school and Bible classes.
Every believer has been sent into the world for a definite purpose, and the Sender is our Lord Jesus Christ. If this thought grips our hearts it will give us peace, confidence and hope, and in some measure the force of unity will mark both life and service. In view of all this, " let us not be weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap if vie faint not."