A young woman who had come to pray at one of D.L. Moody’s meetings told him that she had been seeking the Lord for three years but could not find Him. He told her she must be mistaken. She was seeking something else, but not the Lord.
She explained, “When it comes to the place where I am to believe, I seem to stop. How can I believe? I try to believe but do not feel any different.”
Moody told her that she must be seeking a feeling. Then he gave her some advice.
“Lay aside the word believe, for a moment. Can you trust Jesus to take away your sins if you ask Him? Can you trust His promise to take you in?”
She thought a moment and then said yes, she could trust Jesus to do that for her. Moody told her to tell of her trust in Jesus to others. As she left the room, she stopped several people and told them that she trusted Jesus. From then on she had no problem with believing and lived a happy Christian life.
It is possible to have a problem with a word because of past experience or mistaken ideas. The word faith can carry with it a multitude of meanings. Faith can be so broad that it means the whole body of a religion. So we speak of the Christian faith or the Jewish faith. Or faith can mean that one believes in something nebulous, that has no substance but is a help in a pinch. When Mark Twain’s wife was in deep despair after the loss of their child, he asked her if she could go to her faith. “You’ve left me none,” was her sad reply.
S. D. Herron, first president of Hobe Sound Bible College, said two things were important about faith. One, faith must be the right kind of faith. It must be a trusting faith where one not only claims belief, but entrusts himself to what he believes in. Second, faith must be in the right object. One can cast himself upon a faulty belief system. Years ago a bridge in West Virginia collapsed, causing the deaths of numerous people who had trusted themselves to an unworthy object.
When Jesus comes back, He will be looking for people with the right kind of faith.
“Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others” (Lk. 18:8b, 9).
There is a terrible tendency among us humans to trust in ourselves for righteousness. This is not only true of non-believers, but can also be true of those who have been saved and profess the name of Christ. How many in their hearts pray the prayer of the Pharisee who said, “Lord, I thank thee that I am not as other men are…” and proceed to list what they do and don’t do?
One man I knew who did not profess to be saved saw a down-and-outer and said, “There but for the grace of God go I.” I remain puzzled when people say that. Does that mean that the grace you have that keeps you from a horrible addiction was not available to that addict? Is the “normal” non-Christian who is not a pervert blessed with more grace? The truth is, before we are saved by grace, we are all without God and without hope in the world, no matter how normal we seem.
Those who feel in themselves that they are righteous look down upon others whom they consider to be less spiritual. They are not in our group, so they are of no real account. They do things differently than we do, so why bother with them?
Another man, a lowly tax-collector, went to the place of prayer and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Jesus said that man went home justified. Isn’t it interesting that two of the shortest prayers in the Bible resulted in Jesus telling us that those prayers were answered with eternal life? The thief on the cross prayed, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” Jesus told him he would be that very day in paradise. Jesus confirmed salvation in the life of the humble sinner who was looked down upon by the self-righteous Pharisee.
I was seated next to a pastor in a service when the message was very heavy. Later, the pastor told me that he examined himself. Had he done something that made him feel so heavy? Had he failed to do something that was causing his discomfort? I recall feeling somewhat perplexed by the pastor’s statement. Why did he say nothing about faith? Where was his faith during that sermon? Was it in his performance? Was it in his diligence? Why did he not check his faith?
Jesus is looking for faith. When the people followed Him and heard His teachings, they wondered what to do that would please God. So they asked Jesus, “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” Theirs was a good question asked of the right person. “Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:28, 29)”.
When the Bible tells us to examine ourselves, it makes clear what should be foremost. “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Cor.13:5). We should examine our faith. Are we trusting in ourselves or are we trusting God’s grace? If we look to Christ and His work on the cross on our behalf, we can be confident that we are not reprobates.
The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe. The power to change us is in Christ. The power to cleanse us is in Christ. The power to keep us is in Christ. It is only by constant faith in Christ that we can have constant victory. When we begin to have faith in ourselves, we begin a road to trouble. Jesus is looking for faith.
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.