Living by Faith
“The just shall live by his faith”, (Hab. 2: 4). This tremendous statement of the prophet is quoted no less than three times in the NT: It is quoted in Romans, (Rom. 1: 17), in relation to justification: The just shall live by his faith; it is quoted in Galations, (Gal: 3: 11), in relation to the life: The just shall live by his faith; and in Hebrews, (Heb. 10: 35–38) in relation to faith: The just shall live by his faith. Thus faith is not only the ground of righteousness, but it is the vital principle by which we are to live, day by day, from the starting–post to the goal of the Christian course. We are to live by faith.
Now this is true of all Christians, and all should seek to enter into it fully. Every child of God is called to live by faith. It is a very grave mistake indeed to single out certain individuals who happen to have no visible source of temporal supplies, and speak of them as though they alone lived by faith. According to this view, the great majority of Christians would be deprived of the precious privilege of living by faith. If a man has a settled income, if he has a certain salary, if he has what is termed a secular calling by which he earns bread for himself and his family, is he not privileged to live by faith? Do none live by faith except those who have no visible means of support? Is the life of faith to be confined to the matter of trusting God for food and clothing?
What a lowering of the life of faith it is to confine it to the question of temporal supplies! No doubt it is a very blessed and a very real thing to trust God for everything, but the life of faith has a far higher and wider range than mere bodily wants. It embraces all that in any way concerns us, in body, soul and spirit. To live by faith is to walk with God, to cling to Him, to lean on Him, to draw from His exhaustless springs, to have Him as the satisfying object for our hearts, to know Him as our only resource in all our difficulties and trials. It is to be absolutely, completely, and continually shut up to Him; to be undividedly dependent upon Him, apart from and above every creature confidence, every human hope, and every earthly expectation.
Such is the life of faith. Let us see that we understand it! It must be a reality, or nothing at all. It will not do to talk about the life of faith; we must live it; and in order to live it, we must know God practically—know Him intimately, in the deep secret of our own souls. It is utterly vain and delusive to profess to be living by faith and looking to the Lord, while in reality our hearts are looking to some resource of man. How often do people speak and write about their dependence upon God to meet certain wants, and by the very fact of their making it known to a fellow mortal, they are, in principle, departing from the life of faith!
If I write to a friend, or publish to the Church, the fact that I am looking to the Lord to meet a certain need, I am virtually off the ground of faith in that matter. The language of faith is this: “Upon God alone, O my soul, rest peacefully; for my expectation is from him”, (see Ps. 62: 5) To make known my wants, whether directly or indirectly, to another human being is departure from the life of faith, and a positive dishonour to God. It is actually betraying Him. It is tantamount to saying that God has failed me, and I must look to my fellow for help. It is forsaking the living fountain and turning to a broken cistern. It is placing the creature between my soul and God, thus robbing my soul of rich blessing, and God of the glory due to Him.
This is serious work, and it demands our most serious attention. God deals in realities. He can never fail a trusting heart. Still He must be trusted. It is of no possible use to talk about trusting Him when our hearts are really looking to the resources of man. What is the profit, my brethren, if any one say he have faith?, (see James 2: 14). Empty profession is but a delusion to the soul and a dishonour to God. The true life of faith is a grand reality. God delights in it, and He is glorified by it. There is nothing in all this world that so gratifies and glorifies God as the life of faith. “[Oh] how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee, [which] thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee, before the sons of men!”, (Ps. 31: 19).
How is it with you in reference to this great question? Are you living by faith? Can you say, “But [in] that I now live in flesh, I live by faith, the [faith] of the Son of God, who has loved me and given himself for me”, (Gal. 2: 20)? Do you know what it is to have the living God filling the whole range of your soul’s vision? Is He enough for you? Can you trust Him for everything—body, soul, and spirit, for time and eternity? Or are you in the habit of making known your wants to man? Is it the habit of your heart to turn to the creature for sympathy, help, or counsel?
These are searching questions, but I would ask you in all earnestness not to turn away from them. Be assured it is morally healthy for our souls to be tested faithfully, as in the very presence of God. Our hearts are so terribly treacherous, that we can imagine we are leaning upon God when we are really leaning upon some human prop. Thus God is shut out, and we are left in barrenness and desolation.
Of course I am not saying that God does not use the creature to help and bless us. He does so constantly, and the man of faith will be deeply conscious of this fact, and truly grateful to every human agent that God uses to help him. But he will not be depending on them. God comforted Paul by the coming of Titus, but had Paul been looking to Titus, he would have had but little comfort. God uses the poor widow to feed Elijah, but Elijah’s dependence was not upon the widow but upon God. They were living not in dependence upon human agency, but by faith in God.