Why Do You Not Believe?
by Andrew Murray
Beloved friends, who are seeking the Lord, but have not yet found Him, it is for you that this little book has been written. When I recently spoke with you, in the course of my pastoral visitation, my soul was filled with deep sorrow over your condition. I still met with many who with manifest earnestness and spiritual desire were seeking salvation, some indeed for many years past, and who, notwithstanding, had not yet arrived at faith.
This ought not to remain so. It tends to the dishonor of our Lord. True religion is thereby brought into contempt, for the world is then right in concluding: the service of Jesus gives neither joy nor salvation. On young converts your influence is by no means helpful, for your example gives them absolutely no encouragement. In this way also, the congregation suffers loss, for instead of helping as joyfully active members to build it up, you are on the contrary serving to divide its energies, and you hinder its spiritual prosperity. To your minister you are often the cause of care and anxiety; you make him dispirited with the thought that the Word of God has so little influence with you. You spend your life in sorrow and gloom, and you place your souls in peril for eternity.
Beloved, your condition goes to my heart, and many a time I ask myself, What is really the cause of this unbelief? I know that there are some who cannot believe, because their heart is not right before God. The man who loves the world, and does not, with confession of his guilt, betake himself to Jesus with the prayer that he may be delivered from the love of the world, cannot, may not, believe. The man who still cleaves to this and that bosom sin, and, for instance, will not have done with deception, love of strife, pride, avarice, and such like iniquities, ought not to be surprised that he cannot believe. Jesus would ask him, "How can ye believe?" (John 5: 44). It is an impossibility. But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you. I write to you as those of whom I hope that it is in truth their earnest desire to find the Savior, and of whom I really trust that they have truly declared before the Lord: "LORD, Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee." And with my eye fixed on your condition, I ask myself, What can be the cause of it, and is there no means of delivering you out of it? "Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?"
The cause cannot be that God has closed His dealings with you, and that it is no longer possible for you to believe. No: God commands you to believe. He desires this, and in His word has laid down before your faith promises for it to take up. And yet I fear that there are some among you who imagine that there is an appointment of God, against which you can do nothing, until God makes some alteration. With all earnestness, I entreat you to put these thoughts far from you. It is your own guilt that you do not believe, and indeed a heavy guilt, which you ought to confess with humility, and of which you should be ashamed. If you do not fully acknowledge this, I see no remedy for bringing you to faith, for this secret thought will make all your endeavors of no avail.
The cause of this unbelief of yours can just as little be that God has not given you power for faith. I know that this misunderstanding is prevailing with some of you. Because there are some Christians that have been brought to faith very suddenly and effectually, it is imagined that such a mode of conversion, if not the only one, is certainly at least the best. Secretly, therefore, some are waiting for a powerful impulse whereby they shall be as if driven to faith and brought to it at once. This thought also is a very dangerous hindrance in the way of faith. There are always two ways, along which one can attain to the enjoyment of abundance. To make the first plain by an example: one may become rich at once by an inheritance that one receives, or by this or that successful undertaking; but one can also attain to wealth by the more gradual and quiet method of faithful industry and economy, or by making a wise use of every opportunity of increasing one's resources. So, to use another illustration, one can have a large space filled with water by a plentiful shower of rain as well as by a watercourse from a clear fountain; by which latter method the thing is done more slowly. The first is the easier way, but it is also that which stands exposed to the most dangers. The second is the longer and more troublesome way, but in some respects also the safer. The souls that find the heavenly treasure of the assurance of faith at once are to be accounted happy that the way for them has been so short; if others have to tread a more difficult path, they can nevertheless at least reach the goal. If they only move along the pathway of means with real desire, and with the positive conviction that they also can believe, they shall be brought to this point.
In connection with the two erroneous ideas just mentioned, stands what I have also just referred to, namely, the means of healing for your complaint, and therefore on this point, too, I shall say a few words.
You must acknowledge that it is the will of God that you should believe. "If I speak the truth, why do you not believe me?" (John 8: 46). This question of the Lord Jesus to the Jews, which He also puts to us, shows that unbelief must have a cause apart from Him. He spoke the truth with the aim and desire of awakening faith. You must further take into consideration that there is nothing for which you have to wait, before you begin to believe. You have to set yourselves forthwith in the way of the means, and with them you must be diligent; then you may hope for the blessing of the Spirit. On the Spirit you have not to wait, as if He had still first to come and were to make you by one token or another know that He was now ready, and that you could thus believe. No; He is promised to you. He has already often desired to work in your souls; and instead of your having to wait for Him, before you begin to believe, you have just to make haste to believe, for the Spirit waits for you. You have already kept Him waiting too long. Begin, therefore, immediately without further delay. And if, trusting in the promises of God, that the Spirit is given to those who ask for Him, you are diligent in learning to believe, you may also certainly expect that He, the Spirit of grace, will make you capable of faith. Wait not then, and delay not under the impression that all is not yet ready, or that it is not yet your duty actually to believe. In this sense there is nothing for which you have still to wait. No: ask for the Spirit, expect His influence, be diligent, and, although you do not then as yet actually observe His workings, you may, nevertheless, reckon upon it that, even while you may suppose yourselves to have been passed by, the Spirit is already cooperating with your first feeble endeavors.
You must pay special attention to what the means for coming to faith is, and to what way it has to be used. The means is the word: but the main stress falls on the manner in which the word is employed. When one searches it merely in a general way, and reads it to get knowledge and religious instruction, it operates so strongly in the line of reflection and repentance that the anxious soul is often embarrassed by the influx of thought, and thus fails to attain his object in reading. It is my counsel, therefore, that you should read the Bible with a definite aim, namely, to find out what promises there are that you have to believe. It is my counsel that you should seek and come to know what promises there are that are available for you, in order that you may be occupied with them, and so take advantage of every expedient for receiving them in faith. Meditate upon them, learn them by heart, remain continuously absorbed with them, bow your knees before the Lord, and say to Him that you are resolved to believe them. Grudge not the time that this exercise costs you. Do not fancy that this business can be finished in ten minutes or so. The vast eternity is surely worth the striving of some hours. Take time thus to search the word with set purpose, with that one definite aim of arriving at faith. Ponder the word and pray for enlightening influences from above: such earnestness cannot remain unblessed.
There is still another remark to be made respecting the manner in which this means is to be used, namely, that the duty is to be done with faithfulness and perseverance. We all know how great the power of habit is. By continuous and intentional repetition a thing that was at the outset strange and opposed to our taste, becomes a second nature and thereby easy and acceptable. In religion the laws of human nature are not set aside; the Spirit is indeed above them, but He still makes use of them. So is it also with faith. The heart that is habituated to distrust and doubt does not arrive at the new, holy habit of faith without the continual, often repeated exercise of the act of faith. The promise that found a slight entrance today loses its influence in turn tomorrow, just because the soul does not persevere, and has taken no pains to keep and confirm the blessing received. Thus I have often observed that, after a sermon or a conversation, a soul had a little light but speedily again lost it. And why? Because he did not recognize the importance and the necessity of his still keeping the promises anew before him, to the end that the old habit of unbelief might not again obtain the upper hand. Therefore, beloved be faithful continue FROM DAY TO DAY, YES, AS MUCH AS YOU CAN, occupied with the promises of God. The question must be continually repeated, "What does God require me to believe?" and in like manner, in the face of whatever weakness, must the answer be expressed at His feet: "Lord, I believe; I will believe."
To hold out a helpful hand to this perseverance, I have written for you this little book. It is offered to you with this urgent entreaty that for a month, day by day, you specially concentrate your attention on that faith to which God calls you. It was in the midst of prayer that these words were addressed to you: do you read them also with a praying heart. May it please the Lord to deliver you soon from the chains with which you to this day are still fettered. God grant it. Amen.
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