Walking by Faith

A number of years ago, Thomas Manton taught me a very helpful little triad on the topic of faith. He wrote, “we are justified by faith, we live by faith, we walk by faith” (13:15). This simple statement was very helpful to a man with such a narrow view of faith that I thought of “faith” primarily in reference to initial saving faith or in reference to the weighty doctrinal content of “the faith.” Both are true. But like lungs forcing air into a deflated pool toy, Manton stretched my brain and heart to see the awesome reality now reinforced through my life in Sovereign Grace Ministries—faith has everything to do with daily life. The life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20). And it led me to realize that even those with genuine saving faith often struggle with unbelief (Mark 9:24, 16:14).

Manton convinced me of the importance of walking by faith by revealing the fruit that grows from a life of faith. He taught me that it is a life of faith that produces sincerity in the soul, vigor in the affections, watchfulness over the heart, self-denial of sinful compulsions, comfort in affliction, and confidence through our pilgrimage in this life. And I realized this life of faith impacts and influences my entire day, from the moment I awake until I fall asleep at night.

This is what I learned from Manton’s sermon on 2 Cor. 5:7: “for we walk by faith, not by sight” …

“Those who have faith must walk by it; for faith is here considered as working and putting forth itself. We walk, that is, we live, for in the dialect of the Hebrews this life is a walk; vitam nostram componimus, we must govern and direct our lives by the power and influence of faith. It is not enough to have faith, but we must walk by it; our whole conversation is carried on and influenced by faith, and by the Spirit of God on Christ’s part: Gal. 2:20, ‘I live by the faith of the Son of God ;’ a lively faith. There living by faith is spoken of as it respecteth the principle of the spiritual life; here walking by faith as the scope and end of it: there, as we derive virtue from Christ; here, as we press on to heaven, in the practice of holiness. In short, walking noteth a progress, and passing on from one place to another, through a straight and beaten way which lieth between both. So we pass on from the earthly state to the heavenly by the power and influence of our way; our way is through all conditions we are appointed unto, and through all duties required of us. …

Reasons—

1. Walking by faith maketh a man sincere, because he expecteth his reward from God only, though no man observe him, no man commend him: Mat. 6:6, ‘Thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.’ Yea, though all men hate him and condemn him: Mat 5:11-12, ‘Blessed are you when men shall revile and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my name’s sake; rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven.’ Now this is true sincerity, when we make God alone our paymaster, and count his rewards enough to repair our losses and repay our cost.

2. It maketh a man vigorous and lively. When we consider at the end of our work there is a life of endless joys to be possessed in heaven with God, that we shall never repent of the labour and pain that we have taken in the spiritual life: 1 Cor. 15:58, ‘Always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour shall not be in vain in the Lord;’ Phil. 3:14, ‘I press towards the mark, because of the high prize of the calling of God in Jesus Christ.’ The thoughts of the prize and worth of the reward do add spirits to the runner.

3. It maketh a man watchful, that he be not corrupted with the delights of sense, which are apt to call back our thoughts, to interrupt our affections, to divert us from our work, and quench our zeal. Now one that walks by faith can compare his eternal happiness with these transitory pleasures which will soon have an end, and everlastingly forsake those miserable souls who were deluded by them. As Moses: Heb. 11:24-25, ‘By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.’

4. Walking by faith will make a man self-denying
; for, having heaven in his eye, he knoweth that he cannot be a loser by God: Mark 10:21, ‘ Forsake all that thou hast, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven;’ so verses 29, 30, ‘Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sister, or father, or mother, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, but he shall receive an hundred-fold.’

5. Walking by faith maketh a man comfortable and confident
; a believer is encouraged in all his duty, emboldened in his conflicts, comforted in all his sufferings. The quieting or emboldening of the soul is the great work of faith, or trust in God’s fidelity. A promise to him is more than all the visible things on earth, or sensible objects in the world; it can do more with him to make him forsake all earthly pleasures, possessions, and hopes : Ps. 56:4, ‘In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me;’ so Paul: Acts 20:24, ‘But none of those things move me, neither count I my life dear unto me, so I may fulfill my course with joy. Save the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me’—did wait for him everywhere. I make no reckoning of these things. It maketh us constant. Have ye fixed upon these hopes with so great deliberation, and will you drawback, and slack in the prosecution of them? Have you gone so far in the way to heaven, and do you begin to look behind you, as if you were about to change your mind, Heb. 10:39. The apostle saith, Phil. 3:13, ‘I forget the things which are behind, reaching forth unto the things which are before.’ The world and the flesh are things behind us; we turned our backs upon them when we first looked after heavenly things.

Use, Is to show the advantage the people of God have above the carnal and unregenerate. The people of God walk by faith, against the present want of sight. How do the world walk? Not by faith, they have it not; nor by the sight of heaven, for they are not there, and so continuing never shall be there. So they have neither faith nor sight; what do they live by, then? They live by sense and by fancy: by sense as to the present world; and they live by fancy and vain conceit as to the world to come. Live in their sins and vain pleasures, and yet hope to be saved. Here they walk by sight, but not such a sight as the apostle meaneth; they must have something in the view of sense—lands, honours, pleasures; and when these are out of sight, they are in darkness, and have nothing to live upon. But now a Christian is never at a loss, let his condition be what it will. Suppose God should bring him so low and bare that he hath no estate to live on, no house to dwell in, yet he hath an inheritance in the promises: Ps. 119:111, ‘Thy testimonies I have taken for an heritage for ever;’ and ‘God is his habitation,’ Ps. 90:1. A full heap in his own keeping is not such a supply to him as God’s all-sufficiency, Gen. 17:11. That is his storehouse. But his great happiness is in the other world; there is all his hope and his desire, and he looketh upon other promises only in order to that.”

-Thomas Manton, Sermons Upon 2 Corinthians V.: Sermon X. (SGCB), Works 13:20-22.

“Show me your faith by your joy”

“Live by faith; again I say, always live by it. Always rejoice through faith in the Lord! It is neglecting this exercise that allows your own low moods and Satan to interrupt your happiness and spiritual cheerfulness and to hold you in the dumps and in gloominess.

What if you have a natural inclination to melancholy? Cannot faith correct nature? Does it not have power to clear the mind of all cares, fears and griefs? Can it not exhilarate the whole man? But what good is this faith if it is not used? It is like a soldier, with a sword at his side, not drawing his weapon when he is attacked. If a discouragement overtakes, cannot your faith say to your soul, ‘Why are you disturbed? Know and consider in whom you believe.’ Would not the master rebuke the winds and the storms and bring calm to your mind again? Do not most men have something they use to counteract their discouragements, like David with his harp? Some seek refreshment in company, or wine, or tobacco. They would not go far without a supply of these! But would not the least taste of faith be far better?

Should not the wise Christian rather take in the sweet air from the precious promises of God? Keep your faith, and it will keep your joy. It will keep it in an even, ever-flowing current, without ebb and flow, clouds or eclipses, turning ever upon the hinges of heavenly and solid joy. How can it be otherwise?

Do not Christians consider how unsuitable it is for them to go about drooping and hanging the head? Is it not becoming for the righteous to rejoice? What is a Christian but one who is joyful? Does not the kingdom of heaven consist in joy? Does not heaviness drive people away while joy draws and wins? Men wonder to see a rich man, who has all his heart’s desire, in a fit of heaviness. But I wonder a thousand times more to see one that has Christ as his friend, and God as his shepherd, and knows that all must work for the best, to be any time out of tune or out of sorts. For a Nabal to be as dead as a stone is no surprise to me, but if Nehemiah’s countenance is changed, there must be some extraordinary cause.

Can you be sad when you have all possible treasures laid up in heavenly places, where moth and rust and thieves may not come? Our treasures are out of the devil’s reach, and not only for a number of years, but for ever and ever!

O vain man! Show me your faith by your joy. If you say you have faith and live a life of sadness, I will not believe you. Use your faith, and have joy; increase your faith and increase your joy.

Faith and a Mature Christian

I must now draw you a little higher. It is a small thing for you to be cheerful at an ordinary level. Your joy should exceed the happiness of those in the world both in quantity and quality. If your joy is not sweeter, and higher, and more pure, more constant than that of a carnal man, you dishonour your faith and show you are young in the kingdom of heaven, which is joy unspeakable and full of glory in the Holy Spirit. Do you not have living water flowing out of your soul? Should you that have tasted of the grapes of Canaan, pine for the onions and garlic of Egypt? Do you need to stoop to the world’s puddle to drink when you have tasted faith’s sweet fruits?

Certainly God gives us ordinary and lawful delights in the world, the wine and oil, music, recreations, etc. These God allows us to enjoy for the sake of bodily health, but not to stuff ourselves with them. We enjoy them, but we can be happy without them. We do not live for them, but live by faith.

It is sad to see a Christian pursuing joy in coarse and earthly pleasures when he has more noble and angelical delights, second only in degree and manner of enjoyment to heaven itself. Our faith takes us to the third heaven. We roll and tumble our souls in beds of roses, that is, our meditations of justification, sanctification, and salvation through Christ. No day should pass without these enjoyments. Should not our soul have her due drinks, breakfasts, meals, snacks, and desserts, as well as our body? Cannot such meditations make pleasant work of our daily tasks? They would make time pass by like a boat with full wind and tide, needing no oars. They would make all of our days like holidays and celebrations.”

—Samuel Ward, Living Faith (Banner of Truth, 2008) pp. 25-30.

New: Night of Weeping & Morning of Joy

Night of Weeping & Morning of Joy by Horatius Bonar

In his exposition of Psalm 80, Augustine defines idolatry as the inability to break from “earthbound thoughts.” His understanding of idolatry stretches to encompass a communion of idolaters—of “pagans” and “heretics,” of both the polytheistic man clutching an armful of gods, and the man who identifies himself as a Christian yet whose so-called faith does not extend beyond what is seen. For Augustine, the link here between the “pagan” and the “heretic” is a paralleled inability to interpret this world by the eternal hope and promise in Christ. The antithesis of idolatry, for Augustine, is not to gain more “spirituality,” but to “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2).

Augustine’s understanding of idolatry must surely have been shocking, especially to the professing Christians who were forced to stop and ask themselves a simple question: Is my religion based upon anything more than “earthbound thoughts”?

The echo of Augustine’s exhortation—delivered almost 1600 years ago—continues to be an important in light of various influences (like theological liberalism) where it’s not uncommon to hear Christianity described in words that carry little more significance than “earthbound thoughts.” Talk of heaven and talk of hell—both used by Christ as motivating factors for decisions in this life—can too easily become unpopular themes in contemporary books and sermons. And too frequently they are not part of our thinking as individual Christians.

Night of Weeping & Morning of Joy

I was reminded of Augustine’s challenge to the “communion of idolaters” when I saw Reformation Heritage Book’s new title, Night of Weeping & Morning of Joy by Horatius Bonar (1808-1889). Here Bonar models for us how to interpret the difficult circumstances of our life on earth in light of the eternal promises and purposes of God.

Let me briefly outline the content of the book, and provide an “above-minded” excerpt at the end.

Night of Weeping

In the first half of the book, Bonar explains the nature of God’s discipline towards his children. God disciplines his children out of his eternal character—his love, wisdom, faithfulness, and power. This discipline is a training of the mind, will, heart, and conscience. God uses bodily sickness, bereavement, and adversity as he sets to work refining, sifting, pruning, and polishing. During this discipline our comforts come in several forms—Jesus weeps with us as we partake of his suffering, he reassures us in his word that all things work together for our good, he pours out special grace in every trial, he uses our afflictions as an opportunity to glorify God, he makes us useful here on earth, he supplies the means of mortifying sin, and he provides the Holy Spirit to comfort us.

In our age, which sometimes teeters on an overdose of “temporal spirituality,” the eternal spirituality and glory we are being prepared for can be easily forgotten. Life in Christ is preparation for something greater—”the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Bonar calls us to pay attention to the suffering and trials of this life because God is at work in all of the trials and struggles of this life, to prepare us for something greater, more gracious, and more glorious.

Simply stated, our trials are God’s means of purifying our desires and preparing us for the “pleasures forevermore” awaiting those who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb!

Morning of Joy

The second half of the book details these eternally glorious promises of God. God disciplines us now, to prepare us eternally. This connection is important as we fend of the encroaching idolatry in our own hearts. Throughout the book, Bonar encourages us to look beyond the circumstances in life and to the eternal weight of glory. Here is a lengthy excerpt from chapter 12, “The Glory.”

In those vast blocks of unquarried rock what various forms are lying concealed! What shapes of statuary or architecture are there! Yet they have no history. They can have none. They are but parts of a hideous block, in which not one line or curve of beauty is visible. But the noise of hammers is heard. Man lifts up his tool. A single block is severed. Again he lifts up his tool, and it begins to assume a form; till, as stroke after stroke falls on it, and touch after touch smooths and shapes it, the perfect image of the human form is seen, and it seems as if the hand of the artist had only been employed in unwrapping the stony folds from that fair form, and awakening it from the slumber of its marble tomb. From the moment that the chisel touched that piece of rock its history began.

Such is the case of a saint. From the moment that the hand of the Spirit is laid on him to begin the process of separation, from that moment his history begins. He then receives a conscious, outstanding personality, that fits him for having a history—a history entirely marvelous; a history whose pages are both written and read in heaven; a history which in its divine brightness spreads over eternity. His true dignity now commences. He is fit to take a place in history. Each event in his life becomes worthy of a record. “The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance.” …

“The wise shall inherit glory” (Prov. 3:35). “The saints shall be joyful in glory” (Ps. 149:5). They are “vessels of mercy, afore prepared unto glory” (Rom. 9:23). That to which we are called is “eternal glory” (1 Peter 5:10). That which we obtain is “salvation in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Tim. 2:10). It is to glory that God is “bringing many sons” (Heb. 2:10); so that as He, through whom we are brought to it, is “crowned with glory and honour,” so shall we be (Heb. 2:9). We are “to rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). We are not only “witnesses of the sufferings of Christ, but partakers of the glory that shall be revealed” (1 Peter 5:1). So that the word of exhortation runs thus: “Rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:13). And the promise is not only, “if we suffer we shall also reign with him;” but, “if we suffer with him, we shall be also glorified together” (Rom. 8:17). …

Glory, then, is our inheritance. The best, the richest, the brightest, the most beautiful of all that is in God, of good, and rich, and bright, and beautiful, shall be ours. The glory that fills heaven above, the glory that spreads over the earth beneath, shall be ours. But while “the glory of the terrestrial” shall be ours, yet in a truer sense “the glory of the celestial shall be ours.” Already by faith we have taken our place amid things celestial, “being quickened together with Christ, and raised up with him, and made to sit with him in heavenly places” (Eph. 2:6). Thus we have already claimed the celestial as, our own; and having risen with Christ, we “set our affection upon things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:2). Far-ranging dominion shall be ours; with all varying shades and kinds of glory shall we be encompassed, circle beyond circle stretching over the universe; but it is the celestial glory that is so truly ours, as the redeemed and the risen; and in the midst of that celestial glory shall be the family mansion, the church’s dwelling-place and palace—our true home for eternity. …

All that awaits us is glorious. There is an inheritance in reversion; and it is “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away” (1 Peter 1:4). There is a rest, a sabbath-keeping in store for us (Heb. 4:9); and this “rest shall be glorious” (Isa. 11:10). The kingdom which we claim is a glorious kingdom. The crown which we are to wear is a glorious crown. The city of our habitation is a glorious city. The garments which shall clothe us are garments “for glory and for beauty.” Our bodies shall be glorious bodies, fashioned after the likeness of Christ’s “glorious body” (Phil. 3:21). Our society shall be that of the glorified. Our songs shall be songs of glory. And of the region which we are to inhabit it is said, that “the glory of God doth lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof” (Rev. 21:23).

The hope of this glory cheers us. From under a canopy of night we look out upon these promised scenes of blessedness, and we are comforted. Our dark thoughts are softened down, even when they are not wholly brightened. For day is near, and joy is near, and the warfare is ending, and the tear shall be dried up, and the shame be lost in the glory, and “we shall be presented faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.”

-Horatius Bonar, Night of Weeping & Morning of Joy (Reformation Heritage, 2008), pp. 227-232.