Martin Lloyd-Jones on Faith, Rejoicing in Grace
In the Christian life, we must “desire nothing but His glory!” nothing but to “please Him!” The truth is, there is nothing so gracious as God’s method of accountancy.
Be prepared for surprises in this Kingdom.
The truth is, you never know what is going to happen! The last shall be first! What a complete reversal of our materialistic outlook – everything in God’s kingdom is upside down!
When Jesus separates the “sheep” from the “goats” on judgment day (Mt 25:31-40), He will say to us His sheep, “To the extent that you served one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you served Me – come inherit the Kingdom prepared for you!” We will be totally surprised by many of our acts of kindness and service.
This life is all of grace! “By the grace of God we are what we are!”
Jesus asked His disciples, “Where is your faith?” The whole issue here is the problem and question of the nature of faith. Many believers are often troubled because they have never clearly understood the nature of faith.
Remember all believers have been given the “gift of faith,” that enables us to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, but that does not mean that they fully understand the nature of faith.
Though faith is given as a “gift,” from there on we have to do certain things about it – there is a vital difference between the gift of faith and the walk of faith or the life of faith.
“We walk by faith, not by sight!”
God starts us off in this Christian life and then we have to walk in it – “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7). When Jesus rebuked the disciples during the storm that raged on the sea of Galilee, He did not rebuke them because of their alarm or their terror, but for their “lack of faith.” Jesus marveled at their “unbelief.” The disciples had done everything they could in the storm, but it did not seem to be of any avail.
Here is a critical point: Jesus rebuked them for being in that state of agitation and terror while He was with them in the boat! A Christian should never, like the worldly person, be depressed, agitated, alarmed, frantic, not knowing what to do.
Paul said, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I’m in” (Phil 4:11). That is what the Christian is meant to be like. The Christian is never meant to be carried away by his feelings, and “lack self-control” – whatever his circumstances. That is why the disciples were so alarmed, agitated, miserable and unhappy.
The disciples condition also implied a “lack of trust and confidence in God”
– Jesus said in effect: “Do you feel like this in spite of the fact that I am with you? Do you not trust Me?” Remember the words of the disciples: “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” (Mk 4:38).
Such a response shows a lack of faith in Christ’s concern and care for us – as such, we become agitated and disturbed. It is the same response as the unbeliever.
The issue is this: We must never allow ourselves to be agitated and disturbed whatever the circumstances, because to do so implies a “lack of faith and confidence in Christ” – at this point we simply do not believe God.
A Trial by Faith
One might call this kind of situation “the trial of faith.” Take the eleventh chapter of Hebrews – every one of those men was “tried.” They had been given the gift of faith and great promises, and then their faith was tried. Peter says the same thing: “Though you are distressed by various trials, the reason for the trials is that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, though it be tested with fire, might be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1:6-7).
That is the theme of all Scripture.
Storms and trials are a vital part of life for the believer – they are allowed by God for a reason. . . our faith is being tried – proven – tested – purified. James says, “Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials” (Jam 1:2). Paul writes, “Unto you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil 1:29). Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation; but take courage, I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33).
Likewise Paul also says, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). When everything seems to be against us; when the Lord Himself appears to be utterly unconcerned; when we are fearful and desperate; when we may even be in danger of our lives – that is where the real trial of faith comes in.
In just such circumstances, follow the words of the Christian poet –
When all things seem against us
To drive us to despair,
We know one gate is open
One ear will hear our prayer.
What is the nature of “your faith”?
Observe our Lord’s response when dealing with His disciples in the midst of the storm – He knows perfectly well that “they have faith.” The question He asks them is this: “You have faith – but where is it at the moment?”
That gives us the “key” to understanding the nature of faith. First, faith is not merely a matter of “feeling” – it can’t be, because our feelings change from one minute to the next; as such, our faith would be there one minute, and gone the next. Faith involves the “mind,” the understanding – it is a “response to truth” (truth implies intelligibilia). Faith is not something that acts automatically or magically. Faith has to be exercised. Faith does not come into operation by itself, you have to put it into operation.
So, how does one put faith into operation? The first thing you must do when you find yourself in a difficult position is to refuse to allow yourself to be controlled by the situation – that was the disciple’s problem; they allowed the situation to control them. Faith is a refusal to panic.
That is the very nature of faith – it is a refusal to panic, come what may. Faith has been described thus: “Faith is perpetual unbelief kept quiet” – faith does not allow unbelief to surface. Genuine faith does not entertain the temptation – it immediately rejects the temptation – by considering temptation, you allow it to “take root” in your heart.
“Faith is perpetual unbelief kept quiet”
Believers do not have the capacity to fully consider temptation and then turn away from it, because it “engages the flesh!” Satan isn’t stupid! He knows if you will just “listen” to him and consider what he has to say – he’s got you!!!
Faith immediately responds to difficult situations with these words: “I am not going to entertain these thoughts! And I am not going to be controlled by these circumstances!” Right out of the shoot, you take charge of yourself! and pull yourself up! and control yourself! You do not let your thoughts wander into Satan’s territory! You assert yourself! Now is the time to control your thinking! You need to remind yourself immediately of what you believe and what you know!
Faith holds on to reason, to the foundations Truth – God’s Word.
That is faith – it holds on to truth and reasons from what it knows to be fact. That is the way faith reasons. The foundation stone of faith is Truth – God’s Word – Scripture. Faith reasons, “All right, I see the waves and the billows. . . BUT (and then you remind yourself of ultimate reality – “truth” – God is God, and He is in charge).
To reiterate, one of the most critical steps you can take when faced with a difficult situation, is to “immediately reject the temptation and refuse to consider it,” and then “affirm what you know to be the truth,” including the acknowledgment of your own weakness. Faith agrees with everything God says about reality – and that includes the need for you to be utterly dependent upon Him.
Here is an example of what to say –
God, all things seem to be against me to “drive me to despair.”
I don’t understand what is happening, but this I know – I know
that You so loved me that You sent Your only begotten Son into
this world for me. You did that for me while I was an enemy,
a rebellious alien. I know that Jesus loves me and gave Himself
for me. I know that at the cost of His life’s blood I have salvation
and that I am now Your child and an heir to everlasting joy and peace. I know that.
Faith logically argues “the exceedingly great and precious promises”.
Faith argues like that – it amounts to “logically thinking through what we know to be true.” Faith reminds itself of what the Scripture calls “the exceeding great and precious promises.” Faith says, “I cannot believe that He who has brought me so far is going to let me down at this point. It is impossible, because it would be inconsistent with the character of God.
So faith, having refused to be controlled by circumstances, reminds itself of what it believes and what it knows to be true. Jesus in effect said to His disciples, “Where is your faith? You have it! Why don’t you apply it?” Bring all you know to be true of your relationship to God to bear upon it – then you will know full well that He will never allow anything to happen to you that is harmful.
Remember the words of Paul: “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God.” Not a hair of your head shall be harmed. He loves you with an everlasting love.
You may not have a full understanding of your predicament, but this you know for certain – “God is not unconcerned.” God permits everything that happens to you because it is ultimately for your good. That is the way faith works – but you have to exercise it. You refuse to be moved. You stand on your faith.
“This is the victory that overcomes the world – your faith!” (1 Jn 5:4).
David Martyn Lloyd-Jones (20 December 1899 – 1 March 1981) was a Welsh Protestant minister, preacher and medical doctor who was influential in the Reformed wing of the British evangelical movement in the 20th century. For almost 30 years, he was the minister of Westminster Chapel in London.
source: Spiritual Depression by Martin Lloyd-Jones (Chapter One)