“Faith On Trial: Spiritual Thinking”

… a synopsis of the writing of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

“When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me —  until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.” Psalm 73:16-17                                                         

While in great anguish of mind contemplating the prosperity of the wicked and the difficult trials that beset the righteous, the Psalmist went into the sanctuary of God and gained a whole new perspective: his focus turned from self to God, and to God’s people.  He began to realize that his whole problem up to that point was that he was relying on his own understanding in being envious of the wicked; he was thinking rationally, at best fractionally, and not spiritually.

While rational thinking subsists on the ground level, spiritual thinking is not irrational, but equally rational, however taking on a higher level, a thinking that considers all facts and possibilities beyond what rational thinking would deem reasonable.  All things are possible.

The late Earl of Oxford and Asquith once said that the greatest gift a man could ever have is the capacity for “cubical” thinking, the ability to see all sides of a subject.  “Truth is like a cube. You must see all its facets”. 1  Prejudice is a power that predetermines outcomes, by shutting out all other aspects of the truth except one side. This self-elected blindness accounts for much of the tragedy in this world, and oftentimes for most of our own errors in life.

The Psalmist remarks, then understood I their end. The end that awaits the ungodly. Spiritual thinking not only considers all possible angles, but also facilitates thinking things through to their final results.

Jesus Christ foretells the outcomes of two disparate paths: the broad, effortless way of living, versus the “strait and narrow way”:  one eventually leads to destruction, while the other leads to life. How paradoxical that the word “strait” is defined as “a position of difficulty, perplexity, distress, or need2, and yet it leads to life, but the broad and easy way leads to destruction

The Psalmist began to understand the end that awaits the ungodly.  There is a certain hopelessness and dearth of happiness in the godless view of life.

Charles Darwin, the author of “The Origin of the Species”, confessed at the end of his life that, as a result of focusing on only one aspect of life, he had somehow lost the power to enjoy poetry and music, even the capacity to appreciate nature itself.  The final days of H.G. Wells were similar, he who had advocated so much for the mind and understanding, and had ridiculed Christianity, at the end of his life confessed that he was utterly baffled and bewildered.  His last book, “Mind at the End of its Tether”, is an eloquent testimony to the Bible’s teaching about the tragic end of the ungodly.

In contrast, the godly life might seem to be so narrow and miserable, but even a hireling prophet such as Balaam, evil as he was, proclaimed, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!” (Numbers 23:10)

Throughout the hallmarks of life on earth, time and time again, these words have been proven true … But the path of the just is as the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. (Proverbs 4:18)

1  D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “Faith on Trial”, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1965, p. 46

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “Faith on Trial”, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1965, p. 32-53

Photo credit: Seascape by Happy Jack

“Where is Your Faith”?

“Where Is Your Faith?”

“And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, Master, we perish. Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm. And he said unto them, Where is your faith? And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for he commands even the winds and water, and they obey him.
Luke 8:24-25

The Gospels talk about a great storm that arose while Jesus and His disciples sailed across the Sea of Galilee. After being awakened by the terrified men, Jesus rebuked the wind and the raging waters, and immediately, there was a great calm.

Jesus was astonished at the state of mind of His disciples in the midst of the storm: He asked them one pointed question: “Where is your faith?”  The Lord’s question seems to imply that He knows they have got faith, but where was it at the moment?  And this question gives us a key to understanding the nature of faith.

Faith transcends ordinary human reaction, and hence it is not automatic, nor is it a result of reflex thought or action; it is not a matter of feelings alone, but encompasses the whole person, which includes the mind, intellect and understanding.   Faith is an activity that must be consciously put into operation. It is a response to truth.

How do we put faith into practice?

The first thing we must do when we find ourselves in extreme difficulty is to refuse to allow ourselves to be controlled by the situation at hand.  Faith is a refusal to panic.  The disciples panicked in the storm,  with the cold, strong winds tossing their craft, the waters flowing in, and they thought they were going to drown and perish. They allowed their predicament to control them, instead of applying their faith and taking charge.

The second step to applying faith is to remind ourselves as Christians of what we believe in and what we know.  If the disciples had only considered that Jesus was with them, the same Jesus who turned the water into wine, healed the blind and the lame, raised the dead, fed thousands, and performed many other miracles, they would not have feared.  Faith grasps on to the truth and reasons what it knows to be truth.

But there is value even in the weakest faith.  With their little faith, the disciples did the right thing in the end.  They eventually went to Jesus, knowing that He was able to do something about the threatening  situation at hand.

Each of us has been given a measure of faith, and should we find ourselves in the midst of trials and testing, let us take it as an opportunity to put our faith into action, to make our faith clearly manifest, to bring glory to our Lord, as we live our lives on earth.

Reference: D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression, Lowe and Brydone Printers, Ltd, Glasgow, Great Britain, 1965, pp. 134-147.

Image: Christ on the Sea of Galilee, Painting by Eugene Delacroix, circa 1854, in the public domain, courtesy of Wikipaintings.org

Knowing God as Father

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 (NIV 1984)

 I recently traveled twenty thousand miles to be with my father on his birthday, and throughout my journey, I pondered upon the blessings and privileges of being my father’s child.

There was one word, precious to the lips of Jesus, and that word was “Father”.  All through His life on earth, Jesus always spoke to God as “Father”.

In any journey, there is a pathway and a destination.  John 14:6 illustrates that Jesus is the way, and the destination is the Father.  It is through the Lord Jesus Christ that we can know God as Father;  He is the only one who can reveal the Father to us.  By receiving new life through Christ, God becomes our Father, and this is one of the greatest treasures of Redeeming Grace: not only are we received into God’s family, we also gain all the privileges as children of God, being made joint heirs with Christ.

Let us consider some of the blessings of knowing God as our very own Father:

First, we receive a sense of personal identity.  As our earthly fathers give us our identity and our family name, we have the same sense of belonging when we become children of God.  We can run to our Heavenly Father’s arms, knowing that He cares for us and knows our every need.

Second, we obtain a home in heaven.  Heaven becomes very real to us, with the assurance that we have a Father who loves us and awaits us when our earthly lives are over;  our Father, the Creator of the universe, will send forth an escort of angels to usher us into a glorious entrance into our heavenly home.

Third, we have an assurance of total security, knowing that we are in the Father’s hand: “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” John 10:29   It is important to know that we are safe and secure in the Father’s hands, to consider that we are of infinitely more value than the sparrows, who are even under the watchful eye of the Father.

Fourth, knowing God as Father provides a motive for service.  “The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” John 8:29  Many would have us believe that worldly success provides security and a sense of fulfillment; however, the opposite is true, because with success, as the world defines it, comes the fear of losing the very things it brings forth. But the path to fulfillment in life is simple, as demonstrated by the Lord Jesus Christ: it is knowing God as our Father, and making it our intense desire to please Him by our actions, attitudes and motivations.

How wondrous it is to greet each new day, to experience the blessedness of knowing and trusting God as our Father!


Louisa Clayton, The One Great Reality, Address II, 2009, BiblioBazaar Edition

Derek Prince Sermon, “Knowing God as Father”, DP030+DP031

Photography by Dovydenko Vyascheslav

Marks of the Poor in Spirit

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3

The Lord’s discussion on the Beatitudes begins with the attribute of being poor in spirit.  I do not believe that the ordering of the conditions for blessedness was purely by chance: Jesus had a particular reason for calling out this trait first and foremost among the others.  Thomas Watson (1660) describes it in these terms: “Poverty of spirit is the foundation stone on which God lays the superstructure of eternal glory”.

What does being “poor in spirit” mean?

Contrary to what some believe, it does not mean being poor in a material sense, and shunning worldly riches.  It is also not the same as being “spiritually poor”,  that of being without grace and having no sense of one’s own moral poverty; nor is it the same as being “poor-spirited”, that of possessing a mean base spirit, acting below oneself.  (p. 2)

The Greek word for “poor” means being destitute, not only of outward, but also of inward comfort.  Following the lines of this definition, those who are poor in spirit are “those who are brought to  the sense of their own sins, and seeing no goodness in them, despair in themselves and look wholly to the mercy of God in Christ. It is “self-annihilation”, a kind of emptying of self so that God is free to fill the soul with His grace through Jesus Christ. (p. 2)

Why does Jesus begin with poverty of spirit in the Beatitudes?  It is because herein lies the foundation of everything that follows in the Christian experience of salvation.  Unless one is poor in spirit, one cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.  Without being poor in spirit, one cannot mourn, or be meek, or merciful, or hunger and thirst after righteousness.  Being poor in spirit ushers in all the rest.  (p. 2)

What are the marks of a person who is poor in spirit?  Here are some attributes: (pp. 5-7)

* One who is weaned or detached from himself.  In so doing, he becomes an empty vessel so that God can pour in the precious wine of His grace.  In contrast, one who is puffed up in his own self-sufficiency and self-excellence is not fit for God’s grace; he is already full: “his hand is full of pebbles — it cannot receive gold”.  But the poor in spirit are those who are broken in the sense of recognizing their own unworthiness.

* One who is a Christ-admirer.  He runs to Christ in his nakedness to be clothed in the garments of the Lord’s righteousness; he sees himself in a state of death and clings to the tree of life; he sees that all his riches lie in Christ.  Everything is Christ, Christ is all in all.

* One who is ever lamenting of his spiritual estate.  Like a poor man who is about to starve, he ever looks to God, laying down his life at the gate of mercy and living upon the altars of free grace.

* One who is lowly in heart.  As rich men are haughty, the poor are submissive.  The more grace he has, the more humble he is because he now sees himself as a great debtor to God, yet forgiven of his debts;  he lives, yet it is not him, but that Christ lives in him; he labors, yet not he, but by the grace of God.

* One who is content to take Christ upon Christ’s own terms.  The proud sinner will contend and bargain with Christ: he will have Christ and the world’s pleasures; he will have Christ but retain his own righteousness.  “But the poor in spirit sees himself lost without Christ, and is willing to have Christ upon the Lord’s own terms, a Prince to rule him, as well as a Savior to save him”.  He is as Paul when brought to the end of his rope, to the very depths of knowledge of his own human frailty, he calls out to God saying, “Lord, what will you have me to do?” (Acts 9:6)

* One who is an exalter of free grace.  There are none who so magnify God’s mercy as the poor in spirit. As those who are poor are innately thankful, those who are poor in spirit greatly proclaim the goodness and mercy of God, they “bless God for the least crumb which falls from the table of free grace”.

We must labor to be poor in spirit.  “Christ begins with this trait, and this is where we must start if ever we are saved. “ (p. 6)

* Reference: Thomas Watson, 1660, The Beatitudes: An Exposition of Matthew 5:1-12, “Poverty of Spirit”. 

* Photograph: Waiting for the Tide by Kevin Temple

Delusions of Garlic

“Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: “Who will give us meat to eat?   We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic”  Numbers 11:4-5 NKJV

The Bible presents the nature of mankind as age-old and universal.  In spite of the phenomenal achievements of the modern age, human nature has remained virtually the same since the fall of Adam.  Science, economic progress, education, the ideals of humanism, and all the other remarkable feats of the human race still leave this world in as miserable condition as it was thousands of years ago.  All of these advances have not addressed man’s underlying, fundamental dilemma.

At the very root of the problem, the Bible says, is the heart of man.  Jeremiah the prophet lamented, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

Contrary to what humanists believe, the Bible demonstrates that the very nature of man is not basically good, but evil.  Knitted into the fiber of mankind’s nature is the system and structure of sin and its corresponding traits of lust, passion and craving.  This course of sin is so powerful and overwhelming that it grips and enslaves the human heart of natural man.  Education, self-will, and intelligence cannot tame it: sin pervades and masters the very depths of one’s being.

The children of Israel illustrate this lust, this craving in the wilderness, after they fled to freedom from Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Their memories became selective; the craving for the exotic foods in the land they fled from was so intense that they forgot the sufferings and despair they underwent as slaves: the oppression, the arduous labor, the harsh sun, the hunger from lack of food. They wanted to go back to the very place that enslaved them, hankering after the watermelons, the cucumber, the onions and the garlic that they probably ate meagerly as slaves, and not “freely” as they claimed. The craving was so intense that nothing else mattered, not even their freedom.

Sin perverts, creates a duality in man.  On the one hand we behold all the impressive, awe-inspiring achievements; on the other hand we survey the towering garbage heap of  human failures.    No one is exempt from this condition. It made Paul cry out when he realized the gravity of it all:  “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24)

Sin eventually leads to death, physical and spiritual.  It hastens the physical, and elongates the spiritual into eternity.

There is an answer, the only answer to this terrible malady called sin.  In His great love and compassion, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, so that through Him we can be delivered from the tyranny of sin and death and be born again into a new kind of life: everlasting life.  But we must first recognize this oppressive nature of sin within us and yield ourselves to God and His way of salvation. Until then, we will forever be restless, unsure, and live in constant contradictions within ourselves, for as one former sinner St. Augustine prayed: “Thou hast made us for Thyself and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in Thee”.