THE POSSIBILITIES OF FAITH.
"If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. "-Mark
These are bold and stupendous words. They open the treasure house of the
Eternal King to sinful worms, and offer to the children of clay the privilege
of God's own omnipotence and all the possibilities of His infinite resources.
Side by side these two astounding declarations stand, "All things are
possible with God;" "All things are possible to him that believeth."
I. Let us consider the possibilities of faith:--
Salvation is possible to him that believeth. No matter how vile the sin,
how many or how great the sins, how aggravated the guilt, how deep the
corruption, how long the career of impenitence and crime, it is everywhere
and forever true, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life," "Believe
on the Lord Jesus and thou shalt be saved." And thus alone can any soul be
saved, for it is just as true forever, no matter what qualifications the
soul may possess, whether the highest morality or the deepest depravity,
"He that believeth not shall be damned." This blessed text opens the gates
of Paradise and all the possibilities of grace to any and every sinner, and
"whosoever will, may come, and take the Water of Life freely."
Sanctification is possible to him that believeth. "Inheritance among them
that are sanctified by faith that is in me," is still the inscription over
the gates of our full inheritance. "Purifying our hearts by faith "is still
the Divine process of full salvation. Thus alone can the soul be sanctified.
It is not a work, but a gift of grace, and all grace must be by faith. It
is not possible by painful struggling; it is not possible by penance and
self-torture; it is not possible by sickness, suffering or self-crucifixion;
it is not possible by moral suasion, careful training, correct teaching and
perfect example; it is not possible even by the dark, cold waters of death
itself. The soul that dies unsanctified shall be unsanctified forever. "He
that is holy, let him be holy still: he that is filthy, let him be filthy
still." But it is possible to him that believeth. It is the gift of Jesus
Christ; it is the incoming and indwelling of Jesus Christ; it is the interior
life and divine imparting of the Holy Ghost, and it must be by faith alone.
And it is possible to any soul that will believe, no matter how unholy it
has been, no matter how perverse it is; as mean perhaps and crooked as Jacob,
as gross as David in his darkest sin, as self-confident as Simon Peter, as
willful and self-righteous as Paul-it may be and shall be made as spotless
as the Son of God, as holy as the holiness of Jesus Himself, who comes to
dwell within, if we will only believe and receive.
Divine Healing is possible to him that believeth. "The prayer of faith shall
save the sick," is still the Master's unaltered word for His suffering church.
And this faith must be the faith of the receiver, for in the epistle it is
said, "Let not him that wavereth think that he shall receive anything of
the Lord." Still it is as true as when the Master touched the eyes of the
blind men to whom He said it, "According to your faith be it unto you." It
matters not how serious the disease, it may be as helpless as the cripple's
who could not in any wise lift herself up; as chronic as the impotent man
who lay for thirty and eight years helpless at the pool; as obscure and as
despised a case as the poor blind men who begged by the wayside and whom
the multitude thought unworthy of Christ's attention, or as the sinful woman
of Syro-Phoenicia, whom even the Saviour called a dog, and yet to her, as
to others, the healing came when He could say, "Great is thy faith; be it
unto thee even as thou wilt." It is not the faith which heals, it is the
God that the faith touches; but there is no other way of touching God except
by faith, and, therefore, if we would receive His Almighty touch, we must
All power for service is possible to him that believeth. The gift of the
Holy Ghost is received by faith. The power of the apostles was in proportion
to their faith. Stephen ''full of faith and power'' could meet all the wisdom
of Saul of Tarsus and the synagogue of the Cilicians. The simple story of
Barnabas is that "he was a good man. and full of faith and the Holy Ghost,
and much people were added unto the Lord." The secret of effective preaching
is not logic, or rhetoric, or elocution, but to be able to say, "I believed
and therefore have I spoken." The success of some evangelists and Christian
workers is out of all proportion to their talent or capacity in any direction,
but they have one gift which they faithfully exercise, and that is expecting
God to give them souls; and, therefore, they are never disappointed. The
church has yet to see in the present generation the full possibilities of
faith in the work of the Lord. The examples of a Moody and a Harrison are
but types of what is possible for the humblest worker who, with a single
eye to the glory of God and simple fidelity to the gospel of Christ, will
dare to expect the mightiest results. Both these examples, perhaps the most
marked instances of wide fruitfulness in the present generation, are persons
without great natural gifts or educational advantages, and, therefore, the
more encouraging as incentives to the work of faith. Humble toiler in the
vineyard of the Lord, will you go forth to all the possibilities of faith
in your work for Him as you realize the strength of your weakness and the
might of your God? for it is "not by might or by power but by my Spirit,
saith the Lord of Hosts."
The day has come for God to reveal Himself through the very weakness of His
instruments, and to prove once more that He has chosen the foolish things
of the world to confound the wise, and the weak things to confound the things
that are mighty.
All difficulties and dangers must give way before the omnipotence of faith.
By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been compassed seven
days, and still the mightiest citadels of the adversary must give way before
the steadfast and victorious march of faith. By faith Daniel stopped the
mouths of lions, and was delivered, we are expressly told, because he believed
in his God. It was not his uprightness of life, or courageous fidelity that
saved him, but his confidence in Jehovah. Such faith has carried the intrepid
Arnot through the jungles of Africa, and delivered the heroic Paton from
the murderous fury of the savages of Tanna, and held back the stroke of death
and the threatened disaster from many of us in the humbler experiences of
our providential lives. Still the God of faith is as near, as mighty and
as true as when He walked with the Hebrew children through the fire, and
guarded the heroic Paul through all the perils of his changeful life. There
is no difficulty too small for its exercise, and there is no crisis too terrible
for its triumph. Shall we go forth with this shield and buckler, and prove
all the possibilities of faith? Then, indeed, shall we carry a charmed life
even through the very hosts of hell, and know that we are immortal till our
work is done.
All the victories of prayer are possible to him that believeth. "Whatsoever
ye shall ask in prayer, believing, shall ye receive." "When ye pray, believe
that ye receive the things that ye ask, and ye shall have them." It is not
the strength or the length of the prayer that prevails, but the simplicity
of its confidence. It is the prayer of faith that claims the healing power
of the unchanging Saviour. It is the prayer of faith that reaches the soul
that no human hand, perhaps, can approach, and sometimes brings from Heaven
the answer before the echo of the petition has died away. Yonder in the city
of Cleveland a brokenhearted wife is praying with an evangelist for her husband's
soul. At that very hour an influence all unknown to himself is leading him
into a prayer-meeting in Chicago at noon, and before that prayer is ended
the choirs of Heaven are singing over a repentant soul, and the Holy Ghost
is whispering to her heart that the work is accomplished, not less surely
than when on the morrow the swift mail brings the glad tidings from his own
hand. The prayer of faith has reared those enduring monuments on Ashley Down,
where two thousand orphan children are fed every day by the hand of God alone,
in answer to the humble, believing cry of a faithful minister. These are
but patterns of what God has always been ready to do and hindered only by
His people's unbelief. Beloved, these possibilities are open to each of us.
We may not be called to public service, or qualified for instructive speech,
or endowed with wealth and influence, but to each of us is given the power
to touch the hand of omnipotence and minister at the golden altar of prevailing
prayer. One censer only we must bring-the golden bowl of faith, and as we
fill it with the burning coals of the Holy Spirit's fire, and the incense
of the great High Priest, lo! there will be silence once again in Heaven,
as God hushes the universe to listen, and then the living fire will be poured
out upon the earth in the mighty forces of providence and grace by which
the kingdom of our Lord is to be ushered in.
All peace and joy are possible to him that believeth. The apostle's prayer
for the Romans is that the God of hope shall fill them with all joy and peace
in believing. It is God's will and purpose that the unbelieving soul shall
be an unhappy soul, and that he shall be kept in perfect peace whose mind
is stayed on God and trusting in Him. Would you then know the peace that
passeth all understanding? Be careful for nothing, and steadfastly believe
that the Lord is at hand, supreme above every circumstance, and causing all
things to work together for good to them that love Him. Would you be happy
in the darkest hour? Then trust in the Lord and stay yourself upon your God.
Would you have the perennial overflowings of joy? Then learn to say, "Though
now we see Him not, yet believing we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full
of glory." The joy of mere paroxysmal emotion is like the cut flower of a
brief winter's day, separated from the root and withering before another
sun goes down. The joy of faith is the fruit and perpetual bloom that covers
the living tree, or springs from the rooted plant in the watered garden.
"The men of faith have found
Glory begin below-
Celestial fruit on hostile ground
From faith and hope may grow."
The evangelization of the world is to be given to faith. The most successful
missionary operations of to-day are sustained wholly through faith in God
and the power of prayer. If China is to be evangelized in the present century
it will be due to the faith of one humble missionary who has dared to attempt
great things for God and to expect great things from Him. There is no field
for faith so vast and so sublime as the mission field to-day, and there is
no limit to the possibilities which faith may claim. Oh, that some of us
may rise to the magnitude of this great opportunity and become workers together
with God for the greatest achievement of all the Christian centuries.
The Lord's coming will, doubtless, be given at last to faith. There will
be a generation who shall say, "Lo! this is our God, we have waited for Him."
As yet it is our blessed hope, but it will some day become more. And reading
both upon earth and sky the tokens of His coming, His waiting bride shall
hear the glad cry, "The marriage of the Lamb is come." To Simeon of old it
was made known that he should see the Lord's Christ, and to some shall be
given in the last times the Morning Star that shall precede
the Millennial dawn. The Lord help us so to understand our times and the
work the Master expects of us to prepare His coming, that we shall be permitted
to share its glorious recompense of faith and even hasten that joyful day.
But beyond all that has been said this promise means that all things
are possible to him that believeth. It is possible to have any or even many
of the achievements specified and yet miss the all things of God's highest
will. The meaning of this promise in its fullness is that faith may claim
a complete life, a blessing from which nothing shall be lacking, a finished
service, and a crown from which no jewel of recompense shall be found wanting.
There are lives which are not wholly lost and yet are not saved to the uttermost.
There are rainbows whose arch is broken, but there is a rainbow round about
the throne whose perfect circle is the type of a completed record and an
infinite reward. Many of us are coming short of all that God has had in His
highest thought for us. When the king of Israel stood by the bedside of the
dying prophet of the Lord, Elisha put his hand upon the hands of Joash and
helped him shoot the arrows which were symbolic of faith and victory; but
then the prophet required that the king should follow up this act of mutual
faith by a more individual expression of the measure of his own expectation.
Alas, like most of us, his faith evaporated long before its needed work was
done. He smote thrice upon the ground and then he stayed. Too late for him
to recover his lost blessing, the grieved and angry prophet upbraided him
for his negligence and narrowness of heart, and told him sorrowfully that
his blessing should be limited according to the measure of his own little
faith. Never shall I forget the solemnity with which God brought this passage
to my soul in a crisis of my life, and asked how much I would take from Him
and how little would satisfy my faith. Thank God He enabled me to say with
a bursting heart, "Nothing less than all Thy highest thought and will, even
the all things of faith's greatest possibilities." The Lord help us to look
forward ever to the time when all these opportunities shall be passing from
our grasp, and to live each day under the power of those holy aspirations
whose true value we shall then be able to understand, and evermore to say
with Him who cherished the same lofty ambition, "I count not my life dear
unto myself that I may finish my course with joy." Beloved, are you missing
anything out of your life, your one precious, narrow span of earthly opportunity,
the pivot on which eternity revolves, the one eternal possibility that never
will return again? God is waiting to give you all, and all things are possible
to him that believeth.
II. The reasonableness of faith. Why should God make all things dependent
upon our faith?
Because the ruin of the race began with the loss of faith, and its recovery
must come through the exercise of faith. The poison Satan injected into the
blood of Eve was a question of God's faithfulness, and the one prescription
that the Gospel gives to unsaved sinners is, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ
and thou shalt be saved."
Faith is the law of Christianity, the vital principle of the Gospel dispensation.
The law of faith the apostle calls it in distinction from the law of works.
The Lord Jesus expressed it in the simple formula which has become the standard
of answered prayers and every blessing that we receive through the name of
Jesus. God is, therefore, bound to act according to our faith and also according
to our unbelief.
Faith is the only way known to us by which we can accept a gift from God,
and inasmuch as all the blessings of the Gospel are the gifts of grace, they
must come to us through faith and in the measure of our faith, if they come
Faith is necessary as a subjective influence to prepare our own hearts for
the reception of God and His grace. How can the Father communicate His love
to a timid, trembling heart? How can God come near to a frightened child?
I have seen a little bird die of terror in my hand, when I intended it no
harm but tried in vain to caress it and win its love. And so the individual
heart without faith would die in the presence of God in absolute terror,
and be unable to receive the overflowing love of the Father which it could
Faith is an actual, spiritual force. It is, no doubt, one of the attributes
of God Himself. We find it exemplified in Jesus in all His miracles. He explains
to His disciples that it was the very power by which He withered the fig
tree, and the power by which they could overcome and dissolve the mightiest
obstacles in their way. There is no doubt that while the soul is exercising
through the power of God the faith that commands what God commands, that
a mighty force is operating at that very moment upon the obstacle, a force
as real as the currents of electricity or the power of dynamite. God has
really put into our hands one of His own implements of omnipotence and permitted
us to use it in the name of Jesus according to His will and for the establishment
of His Kingdom.
The pre-eminent reason why God requires faith, is because faith is the only
way through which God Himself can have absolute room to work, for faith is
just that colorless and simple attitude by which man ceases from his own
works and enters into the work of God. It is the difference between the human
and the divine, the natural and the supernatural. The reason therefore why
faith is so mighty and indeed omnipotent is that it just makes way for the
omnipotence of God. Therefore the two sentences are strangely and exactly
parallel. "All things are possible with God." "All things are possible to
him that believeth." The very same power is possessed by God and him that
believeth, and the reason is that the latter is lost in, and wholly identified
with, the former. How shall we illustrate the mighty distance between the
earthly and the heavenly, the human and the divine, the finite and the infinite?
Some one has said, take the strongest piece of artillery, load it to the
muzzle with powder or dynamite, put in it the most perfect steel ball, be
sure you have all the latest improvements in advance, then fire it, and your
bullet will sweep through space at the rate of six hundred feet in a second.
But in that second let God, with a single flash of light and without an effort
or a sound, propel a ray from yonder sun or star or midnight lamp, and it
will fly six hundred thousand miles. Six hundred feet, six hundred thousand
miles! This is a feeble figure of the difference between the human and the
divine. That ponderous gun with its slow but destructive power is a type
of man's works. That gentle sunbeam and lightbeam with its silent, swift,
beneficent minis-try is a type of God's infinite resources. This is the world
into which faith introduces us. Surrendering its own insufficiency, it links
itself with the all-sufficiency of God, and goes forth triumphantly exclaiming,
"I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me," while approving
Heaven echoes back, "All things are possible to him that believeth."
III. The possibility of faith. "If thou canst, believe."
Of course we need scarcely say that faith is dependent upon obedience and
rightness of heart and life. We cannot trust God in the face of willful sin,
and even an unsanctified state is fatal to any high degree of faith, for
the carnal heart is not the soil in which it can grow, but it is the fruit
of the Spirit, and is hindered by the weeds of sin and willful indulgence.
The reason that a great many Christians have so little faith is because they
are living in the world and in themselves, and separated in so large a part
of their life from God and holiness. When the Lick Observatory was built
on the Pacific coast, it was necessary to go above the valleys and lowlands
of the coast, where the fogs and mists hung heavily over the land, and select
a site on the top of Mount Hamilton, above the fogs and vapors of the ground,
and in clear, unobstructed view of the heavens. So faith requires for its
heavenly vision, the highlands of holiness and separation, and the clear,
pure sky of a consecrated life.
Beloved, may you find in this the explanation of many of your doubts and
fears, that your plane is too low, your heart is too mixed, and your life
is too near this "present evil world."
Faith is hindered by the weak and unscriptural way in which so many excuse
their unbelief and lightly think and speak of the sin of doubting God. If
we would have strong faith we must recognize it as an imperative and sacred
obligation, and steadfastly and firmly believe God, and refuse ever to doubt
Him. Let us not say we cannot believe. It is true, we cannot of ourselves,
but all that God also provides, and He has provided for us the power to believe
if we will choose to do so. Let us then no more condone and palliate our
doubts as harmless infirmities and sad misfortunes, but "take heed lest there
be in any of us an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living
Faith is hindered by reliance upon human wisdom, whether our own or the wisdom
of others. The devil's first bait to Eve was an offer of wisdom, and for
this she sold her faith. "Ye shall be as gods," he said, "knowing good and
evil," and from the hour she began to know she ceased to trust. It was the
spies that lost the land of promise to Israel of old. It was their foolish
proposition to search out the land, and find out by investigation whether
God had told the truth or not, that led to the awful outbreak of unbelief
that shut the doors of Canaan to a whole generation. It is very significant
that the names of these spies are nearly all suggestive of human wisdom,
greatness and fame. And so in the days of Christ, it was the bondage of the
Jews to the traditions of the fathers and the opinions of men, that kept
them back from receiving Him. "How can ye believe," He asked, "which receive
honor from men, and seek not that which cometh from God only?" This, to-day,
has much to do with the limitation of the church's faith. The Bible is measured
by human criticism, and the promises of God are weighed in the balance of
natural probability and human reason. Our own wisdom is just as dangerous
if it take the place of God's simple word, and therefore, if we would "trust
the Lord with all our heart," we must "lean not to our own understanding."
Self-sufficiency and dependence on our strength is also a hindrance to our
God, therefore, has to reduce us to helplessness before we can have much
trust in Him. The hour of His mightiest interposition is usually the time
of our greatest extremity.
A secular weekly tells the story of a little fellow whose experience represents
a good many older people. He had reached that epoch in a boy's life when
he gets his first pants, and the uplift unsettled his spiritual equilibrium.
Hitherto he had been a devout little Christian and usually joined his little
sister every morning in asking the Lord's help and blessing for the day,
but this morning, when he looked at his new pants, and felt himself a man,
he stopped his little sister as she began to pray for him as usual, "Lord
Jesus, take care of Freddie to-day, and keep him from harm," and like poor
Simon Peter, in his own self-sufficiency, he cried out, "No, Jennie, don't
say that; Freddie can take care of himself now." The little saint was shocked
and frightened, but knew not what to do. And so the day began, but before
noon they both climbed up into a cherry-tree, and while reaching out for
the tempting fruit, Freddie went head foremost down into an angle between
the tree and the fence, and with all his desperate struggles and his frightened
sister's, he was utterly unable to extricate himself, and at last he looked
up to Jennie with a look of mingled shame and intelligence and said, "Jennie,
pray; Freddie can't take care of himself after all." Just then a strong man
was coming along the road, and the answer to their prayer quickly came as
the sturdy arms in a few minutes had taken down the fence and Freddie was
free, and went forth a lesson for life, to walk like Simon Peter, with downward
head and humble trust in a strength and care more mighty than his own.
Truly this is the soil of faith! Wisely said Habakkuk, centuries ago, as
he contrasted pride and confidence, "His soul which is lifted up is not upright
in him; but the just shall live by faith."
Beloved, has God brought you to the end of your strength? Rejoice and be
exceeding glad, for it is the beginning of His Omnipotence, if faith will
but fall into His mighty arms and cry like those of old, "Lord, it is nothing
with Thee to help by many or with those who have no power. Help us, Lord,
for in Thy Name we go against this great multitude."
Faith is hindered by sight and sense, and our foolish dependence upon external
The very evidence in which we must live and grow is the unseen, and therefore
all outward things must be withdrawn before we can truly believe; and as
we look not at the things which are seen but on the things which are not
seen, they grow real, more real than the things of sense, and then God makes
them real in actual accomplishment. But faith must first step out into the
great unknown, and walk upon the water to go to Jesus, nay, walk upon the
air; but where was something only void it will find the rock beneath, like
the traveler in the Alps who had reached the end of the mountain path as
it suddenly disappeared beneath a great mass of ice and snow and became a
subterranean torrent, while the mountain rose sternly in front and the miles
of desolation which he had traveled lay behind. What should he do? Suddenly
his guide exclaimed, "Follow me!" and plunged into the descending torrent
and then disappeared from his view under the great mountain which it tunnelled.
It was an awful venture, but he must either follow or die, and plunging in,
there was a sudden shock, and the whirl of waters and blackness of darkness,
and then a burst of light, and he was lying on the banks of a quiet stream
on the other side of the mountain, in the sweet valley below. The unseen
way had led to life and light.
So faith still walks in paths of mystery oft-times, but God will always make
it plain. Is not this the hindrance to your faith, that you hesitate to believe
before you venture upon the naked word of promise? Your faith alone is the
substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. God help
us to walk by faith and not by sight!
Therefore God has to train us in the way of faith by difficulties, trials,
and seeming refusals, until like the Syro-Phoenician woman, we simply trust
on and refuse to be refused. He is always waiting to recompense our trust
by the glad words, "Great is thy faith! Be it unto thee even as thou wilt."
Finally, this faith is hindered most of all by what we call "our faith,"
and our fruitless struggles to work out a faith which after all is but a
make-believe and a desperate trying to trust God, which must ever come short
of His vast and glorious promises. The truth is that the only faith that
is equal to the stupendous promises of God and the measureless needs of our
life, is "the faith of God" Himself, the very trust which He will breathe
into the heart which intelligently expects Him as its power to believe, as
well as its power to love, obey, or perform any other exercise of the new
Blessed be His name! He has not given us a chain which reaches within a single
link of our poor helpless heart, but that one last link is fatal to all the
chain. Nay, the last link, the one that fastens on the human side, is as
divine as the link that binds the chain of promise to His Throne of promise
in the heavens. "Have the faith of God," is His great command. "I live by
the faith of the Son of God," is the victorious testimony of one who had
proved it true.
Beloved, in the light of this great provision, listen to the mighty promise
now, and in His faith rise to claim, "If thou canst, believe. All things
are possible to him that believeth," and cry, "Lord, I believe, nay, not
I, but Thou! Help Thou my unbelief."
And now, beloved, this mighty engine of spiritual power is placed in our
hands by Omnipotent love. Shall we claim, and by the help of God, rise to
its utmost possibilities, and shall we from this hour turn it, like a heavenly
weapon, upon the field of Christian life and conflict, and use it for all
to which God has called us in the great conflicts of the age and for the
Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ? Our lot has fallen upon momentous
times; the last decade of this stupendous century has just begun, and it
finds the Church of God awaking to the greatest campaign of the Christian
centuries, the evangelization of the world, with a view to the preparation
for our Lord's immediate coming. What a glorious possibility! It is one of
the possibilities of faith.
Last night as I sat at my open window, far into the night watches, from one
of the cottages yonder, I heard the voice of prayer go forth all night long.
It was a ceaseless and mighty cry that the mighty God would work with all
His power and glory, and though the same words were oft repeated by the same
voice, it never seemed to grow monotonous, for there was so much that language
could not express in that prayer that it touched my heart with tenderness
and solemnity, and seemed like a prophecy of that which I trust is to go
forth from this mighty convocation and be caught up by all the world until
it shall be answered by the voices of heaven above, proclaiming, "The kingdoms
of this world have become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. Allelnia!
The Lord God Omnipotent reigneth." Oh, shall we take this engine of omnipotence,
the prayer of faith, and turn it toward the heavens, and turn it upon the
earth, and turn it against every foe, until we shall find it wholly true,
"All things are possible to him that believeth?"
It has been proposed that we should form, this day, a Prayer Alliance, for
the evangelization of the world during this present century, and the speedy
coming of our Lord Jesus. Beloved, can there be a grander opportunity for
the practical application of this great theme, and shall we not with one
heart, join hands in believing prayer, around the world, until the happy
day when we shall join hands once more around the Millennial Throne and praise
Him for the glorious fulfillment?