WHAT greater promises could be given us than are found in these verses? A cunning and cruel foe attends our steps, and is working every moment, with all his strength and skill, to turn us from the right way. Ever since he succeeded in overcoming our first parents in their beautiful Eden home, he has been engaged in this work. More than six thousand years of continual practice has greatly increased his skill to deceive and allure.
On the other hand, he who once yields to temptation becomes spiritually weak, and yields more readily the second time. Every repetition of sin blinds his eyes, stifles conviction, and weakens his power of resistance. Thus while the power of the human race to resist temptation is continually decreasing, Satan's skill and power to tempt are continually increasing. This is one great reason why the temptations of the last days will be more severe than those of any other age.
The admonition of the Saviour is, "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation." If Satan cannot prevent persons from exercising faith, he will try to lead them to presume upon the willingness and power of God, by placing themselves unnecessarily in the way of temptation. Presumption is a most common temptation, and as Satan assails men with this, he obtains the victory nine times out of ten. Those who profess to be fol lowers of Christ, and who claim by their faith to be enlisted in the warfare against all evil in their nature, frequently plunge without thought into temptations from which it would require a miracle to bring them forth unsullied. Meditation and prayer would have preserved them from these temptations by leading them to shun the critical, dangerous position in which they placed themselves.
Although the promises of God are not to be rashly claimed by us when we recklessly rush into danger, violating the laws of nature, and disregarding prudence, and the judgment with which God has endowed us, we should not lose courage when temptations come upon us. If we do not knowingly place ourselves in the way of temptation, it is our privilege to claim the promise of the inspired word: "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."
Those who have weighty responsibilities to bear in connection with the work of God are the ones that will be beset with the strongest temptations. If Satan can cause them to waver from the right, he not only takes away their own strength, but he destroys their influence for good over others. They lose their confidence in God, and feel that they hardly dare approach him in prayer; for they are under condemnation. Acting upon the principle that Christ presented in his prayer, "I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth," they should take the position that they will be steadfast to God under every circumstance, that they may exert an influence to make others steadfast.
The temptations of Satan are manifold; but those to which our attention is called in the text are unbelief and impatience. "Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience." Impatience, then, is the result of a lack of faith. "But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." If we do not maintain the grace of patience, we shall never reach a state of perfection. Some of us have a nervous temperament, and are naturally as quick as a flash to think and to act; but let no one think that he cannot learn to become patient. Patience is a plant that will make rapid growth if carefully cultivated. By becoming thoroughly acquainted with ourselves, and then combining with the grace of God a firm determination on our part, we may be conquerors, and become perfect in all things, wanting in nothing.
"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." It is our privilege in our great weakness to take hold of the strength of the Mighty One. If we think to meet and overcome the enemy in our own strength, we shall be disappointed. It may seem at times that when we pray the most and try the hardest to do right, we have the greatest temptations. This is because Satan is perfectly satisfied with our condition when we are clothed with self-righteousness and do not realize our need of divine aid; but when we see our great need of help, and begin to draw near to God, he knows that God will draw near to us; therefore he places every possible obstruction in the way so that we shall not come into close connection with the Source of our strength.
The exhortation of the apostle is, "Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded." It is by engaging in this work, and by exercising living faith in God, that we are to perfect Christian character. The work of cleansing the soul-temple and preparing for Christ's appearing must be done while we are in this world of temptation. Just as Christ finds us in character when he comes, so we shall remain.
We should make daily advancement in the work of character-building. When we try to separate from us our sinful habits, it may at times seem that we are tearing ourselves all to pieces; but this is the very work that we must do if we would grow up unto the full stature of men and women in Christ Jesus, if we would become fit temples for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is not the will of God that we should remain in feebleness and darkness. He would have us put on the whole armor, and fight valiantly the battle against sin and self. And after we have truly repented of our sins, and done all that we can to overcome them, he would have us manifest a calm, unyielding trust in the merits of a crucified and risen Saviour.
If we make an entire surrender to him, leave our life of sin and passion and pride, and cling to Christ and his merits, he will ful fill to us all that he has promised. He says that he will give liberally to all who ask him. Cannot we believe it? 1 have tested him on this point, and know that he is faithful to fulfill all his promises.
Let not him that wavereth think that he shall receive anything of the Lord. When persons begin to draw nigh to God, Satan is always ready to press in his darkness. As they look back over their past life, he causes every defect to be so exaggerated in their minds that they become discouraged, and begin to doubt the power and willingness of Jesus to save. Their faith wavers, and they say, "I do not believe that Jesus will forgive my sins." Let not such expect to receive anything from the Lord. If they would only exercise true repentance toward God, at the same time possessing a firm faith in Christ, he would cover their sins and pardon their transgressions. But, instead of this, they too often allow themselves to be controlled by impulse and feeling.
When Satan tells you that your sins are such that you need not expect any great victories in God, tell him the Bible teaches that those who love most are those who have been forgiven most. Do not try to lessen your guilt by excusing sin. You cannot come near to God by faith unless you realize your sinfulness. Then you can place yourselves right on the promises, and with unwavering faith can claim a share in the in finite sacrifice that has been made for the human race. Cling closely to Jesus, and his great heart of love will draw you unto himself.
I cannot bear the thought that any should go away from this meeting without having their faith greatly strengthened. There are those here who will develop into good and useful workers. But every advance step they take must be a step of faith. If they have a religious experience that is rich in faith, one can chase a thousand, and two can put ten thousand to flight. But all the talents that they may posesss, all the skill and eloquence that they may acquire, will effect nothing unless they are consecrated to God.
I am so anxious that those who labor in the cause shall have all the strength, and peace, and joy that Christ has for them. I want them to have the consolation of the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul desired that his brethren should be comforted with "the consolation wherewith he was comforted." The Christian finds constant comfort and strength in Jesus. And when he complains of weakness and darkness, he gives good evidence that he has not a close connection with Jesus.
Brethren, let us have an eye single to the glory of God. Let us not allow anything to interpose between us and him. "If we follow on to know the Lord," we shall know that "his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth." If we are partakers of the divine nature, we shall reflect in life and character the image of our divine Lord. We can not be indolent in seeking this perfection of character. We cannot yield passively to our surroundings, and think that others will do the work for us. "Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure." We must be workers together with God. Life must become to us a humble, earnest working out of salvation with fear and trembling; and then faith, hope, and love will abide in our hearts, giving us an earnest of the reward that awaits the overcomer.
A relentless and determined foe has prepared his wiles for every soul that is not braced for trial, and guarded by constant prayer and living faith. We cannot individually, or as a body, secure ourselves from his constant assaults; but in the strength of Jesus every temptation, every opposing influence, whether open or secret, may be successfully resisted. Remember that "your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." Therefore "be sober, be vigilant." --Historical Sketches, pp. 133-136.