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The Bible speaks of "an evil heart of unbelief." This sin may not be considered as evil as are outward, more visible sins of the flesh. It might be thought of as a "respectable sin." Since it may not be clearly visible outwardly, the heart harboring it might not feel guilt. But Christians can be guilty of the sin of unbelief. It was to believers that the writer of Hebrews wrote, "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in you an evil heart of unbelief" (Heb. 3:12).
We are quick to agree that many cultured, respectable, morally upright people are going to hell, sad, sad to say, because of unbelief. They do not believe Jesus is the Son of God. They do not believe the Bible is the Word of God. They do not believe they are sinners who need a Saviour. The tragedy of it!
But do we take stock to see if we Christians are guilty of unbelief? Could we be limiting God in the greater things He would do for us and for others through us and for the salvation of the world--because of our unbelief? Recall how Jesus was unable to do many mighty works in His home area because of the unbelief of the people (Matt. 13:58).
Do we ever wallow in unbelief over forgiveness of sins instead of, in faith, taking hold of God's promise in 1 John 1:9 and receiving cleansing: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Have we been failing to lay hold of God's wonderful promises for the victorious life, and instead stumble on in lowland living because we do not enter into the heights through faith?
Have we ever had hard thoughts of God? "God couldn't love me and allow this calamity to happen to me." "God isn't fair; I've tried hard to please Him. Why does so and so get the prize?" Unbelief teamed up with pride, self-pity, etc. gives evil, unworthy thoughts of God. If accusing thoughts of God do come to us, do we wholeheartedly resist these evil lies of Satan and turn immediately to God's Word and think or read of His unfailing love, His power, His wisdom? What does He say to us about His character and His ways? Whether we understand the things happening to us or not, do we take God's word as true? I say to my shame that I have at times had to repent deeply for allowing unbelief that surely must have grieved God sorely.
Might God help us to receive humbly and thankfully whatever trials and losses He sees fit to send or allow. God is at work to lead a people into the fullness of what He has for them and the fullness of what He would do through them. If we want to be in that number, we can expect that His workings in us will mean trials and tears and temptings.
We are living in evil, uncertain days. How will we endure and face even greater difficulties if unbelief dwells in our heart? As suggested by Watson's article on pages 3 and 4, it is vital that we nourish and increase our faith so we can go through victoriously. If faith and love operate together, God can accomplish wonderful things. "Love puts faith on the battlefield," Brother Moore used to say to us. And God says, "All things are possible to him that believeth" (Mark 9:23).
How can we take our place in God's great program of spreading the Gospel to the ends of the earth, if we do not cast out unbelief and get our hearts filled with faith and love? We have splendid examples in the lives of heroes of faith who have gone before us. By their faith and prayers, they laid the foundation for the spread of the Gospel into all the world. We all know how Hudson Taylor, for example, was marvelously used of God to open up much of China to the Gospel and to pave the way for many other devoted saints to carry on God's work there.
Taylor was a man of remarkable faith and that faith was built through many trials. His faith was severely tested on his very first voyage to China in 1853. The little sailing ship carrying him had hardly left the shores of Britain when a violent gale struck and for twelve days they were beaten back and forth by the stormy waves. At last the storm subsided and the wind was so calm they could not proceed but slowly drifted back toward shore. At last they were hardly a stone's throw from a rocky shore that would splinter the ship if they ran ashore there.
Hudson Taylor went alone to be with God. A spiritual struggle ensued. At last he could tell the worried captain, who felt doom was near, that he was right where he wanted to be and he strongly expected to reach China, but if not he expected the Lord to be pleased with him that he was found, dead or alive, to be seeking to obey His command to go to China. At the last moment the wind changed sufficiently so they were able to turn the ship and get out to sea.
As the ship sailed on toward China, there was much delay because the winds along the equator were so calm that the ship made little progress and sometimes, should the breeze not be in their favor, was driven backward. One notable time of trouble came when they were near the north of New Guinea. They were drifting idly when a current began carrying them rapidly toward some sunken reefs. Calamity seemed only hours away.
On the shore they could see excited natives rushing about and lighting fires. The captain's book informed him the people were cannibals, so there was double cause for the alarm they felt. Although the captain and crew made every effort to turn the boat around out of danger, they had no success.
The captain said to Hudson Taylor, "We have done everything that can be done; we can only await the result."
"No," replied Taylor, "there is one thing we have not done yet. Four of us on board are Christians. Let us each retire to his own cabin, and in agreed prayer ask the Lord to give us immediately a breeze."
The men went to their cabins and prayed. Soon Taylor was so sure a breeze was coming, that he bounded up the stairs and asked the first officer to let down the corners of the mainsail. The first officer was not pleased to have a novice suggest to him what to do, and beside, he had no expectation that it would do any good.
Taylor told him he had been asking a wind from God and that it was going to come immediately. The officer replied that he would rather see a wind than hear about one, but at the same time he was speaking, he looked toward the topmost sail and saw it beginning to tremble in the coming breeze. "A mere puff of wind," said the officer scornfully, but at Taylor's insistence he let down the mainsail. In another minute the wind had come and was blowing hard on the sails, moving them steadily back out to sea to safety.
Taylor writes, "Thus God encouraged me, before landing on China's shores, to bring every variety of need to Him in prayer, and to expect that He would honor the Name of the Lord Jesus, and give the help which each emergency required."
This Is Our Hour!
Friends, this could be the hour for which God has been drilling us. Might His full purpose be accomplished! We don't have the calling of Hudson Taylor but we do have a God-appointed place to fill! We must not limit God with "I can't do anything." The eternal destiny of souls is in the balance. We who owe everything to God need, in love and faith, to find the place He has for us and fill it, for His sake and for the sake of others whom He would bring to salvation. What matter if we are past age? What matter if we are in a wheelchair? What matter if we are a busy housewife or wage earner with many of life's cares to tend to?
Not many of us will be going in person, but those who do will be faced with formidable foes, for there are many enemies of Christ. God's servants need our backing. There is a place for each of us on the prayer line and in stewardship. It may mean more stress and strain for us as our faith is stretched and proved. I believe we little realize how much God loves us, how much His heart is toward us, and how gentle and wise He is in apportioning to us the trials aimed to ultimately do us good, and to give us the joy of being workers together with Him.
How much Jesus went through! Infinitely more than we will ever know. He had utter faith in His Father. If we follow in the train of our Saviour, we too must know testings and temptations and trials. But we must not stop there. Let's buckle on our prayer armor a little tighter and ready the shield of faith and sword of the Spirit. We have work to do! It may mean blood, sweat and tears, but also the joy of sharing the victory of our Lord. Let's not limit God and miss the fullness He has for us personally nor the part He would have us take in the evangelization of our generation.