Ah! That's Hard Work!
by James Smith, 1860
What appears to be very easy in theory — is often found to be very difficult in practice! Talk about faith, or believing, or trusting, and how easy it appears — but endeavor to exercise faith in Christ, to believe the precious promises of God with application to yourself, or to trust in the faithfulness of God in seasons of trial and trouble — and without the special aid of the Holy Spirit, you will find it hard work!
These thoughts have been suggested by the following circumstance. A minister of Christ, the other day, met with a young person, one of his congregation, and entering into conversation with her, found her very earnest in reference to spiritual things — but tossed about and tormented with many fears. As he spoke with her about the state of her soul, she said, "I am very uncomfortable." He said, "You should believe in Jesus." Looking at him with a very grave countenance, she replied, "Ah! That's hard work!" He could not deny that, for he had often found it hard work too. So had John Newton, who wrote,
"O could I but believe,
Then all would easy be;
I would — but cannot!
Lord, make known
The power of faith in me!"
Some may question this, and others may deny it — but every experienced Christian will assent to it. And let those who deny it, only try it — when sin stares them in the face, and the corruptions of the heart boil up within them, and the terrors of God appear to be set in array against them. It is easy to talk about believing, and to seem to believe — when there is . . .
no deep conviction of sin,
no sense of the wrath of God,
no vivid fears of Hell;
but a soul quickened by the power of the Holy Spirit, filled with a sense of the wrath of God, and dwelling on the number and nature of its transgressions — finds it hard work indeed.
True, when the Spirit reveals Christ in . . .
the riches of his grace,
the merit of his blood, and
the glory of his forgiving love,
and sweetly draws out the heart to him — it is easy to believe, nothing is easier! We can then . . .
venture on him,
commit our souls to him, and
trust him to save us without the least hesitation.
It seems natural to do so, and without the least effort we do it. But under other circumstances, we find it very difficult.
But what makes it so DIFFICULT to believe in Christ? There are many reasons — but we can only name a few.
1. Sometimes we mistake the nature of faith — which is a persuasion of the truth of what is revealed concerning Christ, and the exercising of confidence in Christ to make good his Word. As for instance, I read that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners — that he is able to save to the uttermost — that he will cast out none who come unto him — and he invites all who are burdened, and are thirsting, to come unto him, and obtain rest, and satisfaction, or be saved. Well, I feel fully persuaded that all this is true. But being persuaded of the truth of this, and being myself in need of salvation, I come to Jesus, and taking him at his word, appeal to him to be saved by him.
This is faith, and appears to be easy enough — but when we come to try to do so — we find that without the gracious agency and power of the Holy Spirit — we cannot do it! At least, I could not. Could not! At times, I cannot now!
2. Another thing that makes believing difficult is, that we have in our natural hearts, a prejudice against God, and when this is removed, there is still a suspicion lurking there. We do not heartily receive the testimony that God is love, that Jesus is the expression of that love, and that out of pure love, God will save anyone, and everyone — who is willing and desirous to be saved by Christ.
Search your heart, reader, and see if you do not find something of this kind there — to my shame I say it, I do still, after all the proofs of his love which I have had. Yes. I find it hard work at times — to believe that God is so good, so gracious, so loving, as his Word declares him to be.
3. Also, Satan is the great enemy of faith, and does all he can . . .
to misrepresent God,
to slander the Lord Jesus,
to pervert the gospel, and
to foster unbelief in us.
He is always active, endeavoring . . .
to divert the eyes from the cross,
to suggest that we are 'peculiar' sinners,
that our case is singular,
that we have no right, no warrant to believe in Jesus.
Indeed he will try a thousand means to prevent our receiving God's testimony in simplicity, and resting upon it without questioning. To believe therefore in the teeth of the most determined opposition of Satan, who knows the human heart so well, and has been accustomed to exercise such power over it — is hard work indeed!
4. Also, we are much more easily affected by the visible — than by the invisible; by the sensible — than by the spiritual. The invisibility of Jesus therefore, and the spiritual nature of faith — make it a difficult thing at times to believe.
However, let anyone have a deep sense and clear perception . . .
of the infinite value of the soul,
of the true nature of sin,
of the terrible character of the wrath of God,
of the solemn importance of eternal things,
of the numerous sins of the life,
of the deep depravity of the heart, and
of the utter unworthiness of the person
— and then let it be known that the soul, in these circumstances, is required to apply to Christ, and to trust only in Christ, and to expect to be saved by Christ alone — without one good work, good word, or good feeling — and it will be found to be hard work to do so!
But I forbear, for there appears no reason to go further into this part of the subject, for every quickened soul indeed feels it, and the dead in sin will not be convinced by any words I can write.
What then, is a soul in such a state to do?
First, beware of excusing unbelief, for it is a sin, and is one of the effects of the depravity of our hearts.
Beware also of indulging doubts and fears, and of dwelling upon your sin, depravity, and unworthiness. Instead we should be reading, receiving, and endeavoring to believe God's testimony in the gospel.
As much as possible fix the mind . . .
on what Christ IS — the Savior;
on what Christ has DONE — put away sin by the sacrifice of himself;
for WHOM Christ died — for the ungodly, and sinners;
on the INVITATION Christ has given — to come to him;
and the PROMISE Christ has made — "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away!"
Think of these facts:
Christ has saved the vilest sinners — and yet has not gone to the utmost of what he can do.
Christ never refused to save anyone who sought salvation at his feet; nor can he, consistently with his Word, refuse to save you.
Christ cannot break his Word — he cannot.
Christ cannot deny himself — he will not.
His glory will be advanced,
his Word will be confirmed,
his grace will be magnified,
his justice, holiness, and majesty, will be honored
— by your salvation!
Endeavor to believe, as if it was in your own power to do so, because God commands you; and yet realizing your weakness, entreat the Holy Spirit to work faith in your heart, and to enable you to believe to the saving of your soul.
Though you may find it hard to believe — it is not impossible. Thousands have felt just as you feel now — and yet have afterwards been enabled to rejoice in a personal assurance of . . .
a saving interest in Christ,
union to Christ, and
salvation by Christ.
Anxiety about faith, a desire to believe, and a realizing of the difficulty of doing so — are indications that the Spirit of God is now at work in your soul. The good work is begun — and he who has begun it, will carry it on, and complete it in the day of Christ.
But, until there is a distinct recognition that salvation is all of grace, pure grace; and a renunciation of everything done by us; until we perceive that we may as well depend upon our grossest sins — as our best deeds, or most comfortable feelings to recommend us to God, or ensure our salvation — and so trust in Christ alone, to be saved by his blood and righteousness — we shall never enjoy peace, or be happy in God.
Salvation is by Christ — by Christ alone!
Salvation is of grace — of grace alone!
Salvation is by believing — by believing alone!
God saves us by his grace — and therefore saves us freely.
Christ saves us by his blood and obedience — and therefore without any works or merit of our own.
We are saved by faith — or by . . .
venturing on Christ,
trusting in Christ, and
committing ourselves unreservedly to Christ.
Reader, how do you feel on this subject? Do you believe? Do you know anything of the difficulty of believing? Could you at all sympathize with the poor girl who said in reference to it, "Ah! that's hard work!"
You must believe, or you cannot be saved; "for he who believes not — shall be damned!" When you come to exercise faith in Christ, you will find it more or less difficult; and will thus learn out the necessity there is for the work of the Holy Spirit of God in the heart. You read of "obtaining like precious faith," of faith "being the gift of God," of "the faith of the operation of God," and of its being "given," to some, "on the behalf of Christ, to believe on his name." All which shows, that the God who works in his people to will and to do of his good pleasure — must work faith in our hearts, and give us to believe on his Son, Jesus Christ.
May the Lord fulfill in us, both writer, and reader — all the good pleasure of his goodness and the work of faith with power — that the name of Jesus Christ may be glorified in us, and we in him, according to the grace of our God, and the Lord Jesus Christ.