Monthly Archives: February 2019

Co-operating Faith

I’ve been wanting to share with you further about those two entries from F.B. Meyer’s Our Daily Walk that I wrote about last time. They both centred on the raising of Lazarus, and Martha’s faith. To refresh your memory here are extracts:

From the January 12th entry:

THIS CROWNING miracle of our Lord’s life is generally described as the Raising of Lazarus. I am not sure that it might not with equal truth be called the Awakening of Martha, for it is certain that the Lord lifted this soul, whom we have been wont to count prosaic and matter-of-fact, to a most remarkable elevation of faith and hope, as they stood together in the shadow of a great sorrow.

In common with the majority of religious people, Martha believed in a general resurrection at some still future date, but she had not realised that God lives in the present tense, that the Eternal is here and now, and that faith must learn to reckon on God’s I AM. We are always putting the manifestation of the Divine in the far past, or the far future. The heaven is high above the earth on which we stand; only at the horizon, behind us and before us, do heaven and earth touch. We all need to learn the lesson that here, in the prosaic commonplaces of life, Jesus Christ is the present and immediate answer to every need.

Christ always needed faith in some one, as the fulcrum on which to rest the lever of His mighty power, and He found it in Martha. What can He not do, even here and now, in the hearts of those who are slow to believe, and those who are dead in trespasses and sins? Believest thou this?

From the April 19th entry:

This chapter might be more truly known as “The Raising of Martha,” for our Lord enabled her, matter-of-fact and practical as she was, to realize that He was the Resurrection and the Life. He insisted that her faith was an essential condition in the raising of her brother to life. The emphasis is on the word “thou” (Jn11:40). Our Lord always needs the co-operating faith of some true heart to be with Him when He works a miracle, and He chose the least likely of the two sisters to supply the pivot on which He could rest the lever of His Divine help. As she withdrew her objection to the removal of the stone, her faith suddenly became capable of claiming the greatest of Christ’s miracles.

You see that the entries are strikingly similar; what is more striking is the way I discovered the similarity. It was as a matter of course that I read the first one on January 12. I “happened upon” the second one when, having closed the book after reading the first one, and, still thinking on what I had just read, I absent-mindedly ran my thumb across the page ends and opened the book again. Lo and behold: the April 19th entry. I began reading, and… this is more than a coincidence! Suddenly I realized my Lord was speaking to me. And I knew what He was speaking to me about.

This is what He was, and still is, speaking to me about.

F.B. Meyer says rightly that “our Lord always needs the co-operating faith of some true heart to be with Him when He works a miracle…” Of course He is able to do whatever He wants, but it is not His desire to grant or impart anything to anyone arbitrarily; he desires our consent, our cooperation, our fellowship, in all He says and does. And so Meyer says that the story of the awakening of Lazarus from sleep could well be called the awakening of Martha. For Christ awakened Martha from her sleepy faith in the last-day resurrection to the living faith that “the resurrection and the life” was standing right before her eyes. “Believest thou this?” He asked.  “Yea Lord,” she responded, “I believe that Thou art the Christ which should come into the world.” Perhaps she did not fully comprehend what He had just said to her, but she believed in Him.

The raising of Lazarus was truly a manifestation of great power; as Meyer has said, it was perhaps the greatest work of power that Jesus ever did while on earth. Let me tell you of another resurrection which is by far the greater miracle. In his epistle to the Ephesians Paul says that God displayed the exceeding greatness of His power when He raised up Jesus from the dead. How much power was that? I think it was all of it, if that can be said. But I’ve left out some words here. Let’s fill them in. In Ephesians Paul prays that the eyes of our heart may be enlightened by the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ, to the intent that we may know:

          1) the hope of His calling;

          2) the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints;

          3) the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe

          There. The words I left out. Paul declares that the same power by which God raised Christ from the dead is the power that works in us who believe. And so here we have our Lord seeking to awaken faith in you and me as He did with Martha of old. Do we believe this? The power of God toward us who believe is according to the working of the strength of His might which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenlies… and we will just stop midstream in the rushing current of this sentence to quote Bible scholar F.F. Bruce on the passage:

                    The third thing which the apostle desires his readers to know is the power of God. But when he thinks of the power of God, he presses all the terms for power in his vocabulary into service in order to convey something of its all-surpassing character… . He piles synonym on synonym as he describes how God’s ‘power’ (dynamis) operates according to the inworking (energeia) of the strength (kratos) of His might (ischys)… . (F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Ephesians)

That same power—yes, the same power that God wrought when He raised Christ from the dead—is working, is at work, in us who believe. This is why F.B. Meyer’s words laid hold of me. Here they are again:

               Christ always needed faith in some one, as the fulcrum on which to rest the lever of His mighty power, and He found it in Martha. What can He not do, even here and now, in the hearts of those who are slow to believe, and those who are dead in trespasses and sins? Believest thou this?

What is He able to do in the hearts of those dead in trespasses and sins? Let us not be slow to believe. He is able to quicken them together with Christ so that they are no longer dead in trespasses and sins, but alive unto God. This—the miracle of regeneration—is the very resurrection life of Jesus Christ Himself in those who believe in Him and have received His Spirit. Indeed, this is the greatest of all miracles, and comes to the one whose heart is prepared by faith.

And this is just the beginning of a life that has no end. To be born from above by the Spirit of God means the beginning of a new life on resurrection ground, a step-by-step walk in which God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or even think according to this power working in us (Eph. 3:20). We are empowered to walk with Christ “in newness of life,” His own resurrection life, completely free from sin (Rom. 6:4).

Believest thou this? (Believe is the verb; faith is the noun.) I want to emphasize that word because when the regenerating Spirit comes in Christ’s baptism—baptism in Holy Spirit—faith must continually reach out and apprehend the implications of this baptism. It is possible to be baptized in Holy Spirit and still lack knowledge as to what this baptism includes. It is possible even when the knowledge comes by revelation, to still lack faith to receive it. “Know ye not…” Paul asked the Romans. (Is it not likely that the Holy Spirit had you and me in mind when Paul was inspired to write that?)  “Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?”

What kind of death is that? Death to sin. “In that He died, He died unto sin once…”

“…But in that He liveth He liveth unto God” (Rom. 6:10).

Wonderful for Him, you say. But the whole purpose of the Christ, to the glory of God, is that this might be wonderful in you and me as well. And He has the provision and power to make it so. Paul continues that we who are in Christ are to account ourselves dead indeed unto sin and alive unto God. “Likewise,” he says, “reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin but alive unto God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:11).

You say you are in Christ but this is not true of you, your experience is just the opposite, and you are still waiting for God to do this in you? But have you seen this, have you received the revelation? If so, are you sure your problem is not one of unbelief? For this is true of those in Christ.

“Now, if we died with Christ, we believe (there’s that word again) that we shall also live with him…” (Rom. 8:8).

We, like Martha

The point I am making is that we, like Martha before she was awakened to faith, are prone to put this life some distance into the future when a mighty move of the Spirit shall  take place, and then we shall begin to walk in this beautiful resurrection life. God has grace, the provision for those who hear and believe, to begin walking in it now. Jesus continues to say, “I am the resurrection and the life.” I realize that we may not hear this livingly merely by reading it in our Bible. Let us open our hearts then, willing to receive. When Christ by His Spirit speaks the living word to us, “the word of His grace,” let us be ready to embrace, to believe that word, in spite of present experience. When revelation comes our part is to believe on the basis of the word of God—not our experience.

Sometimes you may find yourself in a vein of revelation and it is wonderful. But I find often that revelation comes with the sudden flash of illumination, the “quickening ray” from the eye of the Lord that Wesley described:

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

We know the wonder, the ecstasy, the rapture, of revelation, that it opens the mind to truth we did not know existed. And we rejoice in it. Yet revelation can be devastating. Have you had that experience? Revelation, when received, breaks up the long-set concrete of darkness in the mind, it looses the bonds and hindrances of the flesh—self pity, moroseness, defeatedness, doubt, congenital unbelief, “nature’s night,” as Wesley called it. “For ye were once darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord…”

When are we light in the Lord? Now, says the apostle.  

          Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light (Eph. 5:14)

Let us awaken, then, and be loosed from our bonds and our grave clothes!  

          Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city… Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bonds of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion (Isa. 52:1,2).

“Arise, and sit down…” For God has “raised us up together, and seated us together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus…” (Eph. 2:6). Believest thou this?

Let us cooperate with God, then. When the word of His grace comes to us, however it comes, as devastating as it may be, as impossible as it may be, let the response of our heart be, Amen. I receive this, I believe you. Your word works effectually in the one who believes. And the bonds of darkness, of death, fall off; we rise to walk with Christ in newness of life.  Amen.

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