Only Believe

“This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” —John 6:29

THE apostle tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God. (Heb. 11:6) This is understandable, for we see the same principle exemplified in human relationships. If faith in one another is requisite to a genuine friendship among human beings, how much more essential it is to have faith in God if we expect to be pleasing to him and to enjoy the rich benefits of being his friends! Abraham was called a friend of God, because he was faithful and believed the promises God made to him. And throughout all the ages of the divine plan, faith in God has opened the door of divine favor to all the blessings and honor his wisdom and love had planned for his faithful people.

There is no other approach to a friendly relationship with God except by faith. All works of righteousness, apart from faith, are “as filthy rags” in his sight. (Isa. 64:6) Any attempt to cooperate in his plan which is not based upon full confidence in him and a belief that his will and way are best, is unacceptable. And our faith in him must be absolute—so full, so complete, that whatever he reveals his will to be, even though it may lead to privation, hardship, suffering, or death, we will do it. A faith that trusts God only when the sunshine of joy is brightening our lives is not the kind of faith which constitutes a basis of true friendship with God.

So fundamental to at-one-ment with God is true belief in him that in our text Jesus indicates it to be the sum total of everything which may properly be considered “the work of God.” In this passage the test of true belief in God is shown to be the acceptance of Jesus, whom God had sent. The full force of the thought is more readily grasped when we remember that it was addressed to a people who considered themselves the elect of God in the earth, the ones to whom God had committed his work of blessing all nations.

The Israelites claimed Abraham as their father and Moses as their lawgiver. They believed that the promises made to Abraham concerning his “seed” were to have fulfillment through them. They considered themselves to be God’s royal nation, his special people; that the Messiah would exalt their nation to prominence in the earth; and that all other nations, in order to receive God’s promised blessings, would have to bow down to them. As they understood the matter, this was God’s program for the human family, the works of God in the earth—works in which they assumed they had an assured part.

Moreover, the Israelites supposed that they were qualified to be God’s servants through their keeping of the Law. Indeed, they viewed their many ceremonies as being properly a part of the works of God. The Israelites as a nation had never been too faithful in keeping the Law, but they did make a better show of outward obedience to the Law and its ceremonies than they did of exercising genuine faith in God. Their lack of faith is displayed throughout the entire period of their national existence. It kept them in the wilderness for forty years after leaving Egypt. It prevented their entering into rest under the leadership of Joshua. It led to the loss of national independence in 606 B.C., and hindered them from accepting the Messiah when he came to them at his first advent. They thought they were the true servants of God, and they could have been, but their lack of belief in God hindered their participation in his works.

Partners with God

There IS work to do for God, and the Scriptures refer to those who are “workers together” with him. (II Cor. 6:1) But God will not use anyone in such an exalted work who does not have full faith and confidence in him. So Jesus said, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” This struck right at the root of Israel’s most damaging weakness. Ostensibly they were the nation to whom and through whom the Messiah of promise would come. They professed to be God’s co-workers in the earth; but all of their professions, all of their claims, all of their ambitions, were meaningless unless they believed on the Messiah whom God had sent.

Whether Jew or Gentile, no one can be a co-worker with God except through Jesus. All things are of the Father and through the Son. (I Cor. 8:6) “In the dispensation of the fulness of times” he will “gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.” (Eph. 1:10) How apparent it is, then, that belief in Jesus is essential, both to salvation for ourselves and as a basis of acceptable service to God. The entire plan of God—all his works—is the gathering of mankind into Jesus, through belief in him, a work which will not be complete until the close of the “dispensation of the fulness of times.”

But to “believe” on Jesus is much more far-reaching in its implications than many have supposed. It was so for the Jews at the time of his first advent. They looked for a Messiah who would exalt their nation to a position of glory among the other nations and hence were not prepared to believe on the One who was “despised and rejected of men.” (Isa. 53:3) After Jesus was raised from the dead he said to two of his disciples that they were “slow of heart to believe” all that the prophets had said concerning the Messiah. (Luke 24:25) They had exulted over the promises of the Messiah’s glory but had not believed the prophetic record telling of his suffering and death.

The Jews were “slow of heart” to believe that which was not pleasing to them. In all the ages this has constituted the supreme test of genuine belief. Abraham demonstrated his living faith in God by an obedience which caused him to leave his own people and his father’s house. It was certainly no alluring prospect for Abraham to leave his home in Ur and to start out on a long journey to a land of promise, “not knowing whither he went.” (Heb. 11:8) But had he not done this, he would have given no evidence that he truly believed God.

All Israel would readily have believed on Jesus had he come in glory and in conquering power; but because he was meek and lowly, a friend of publicans and sinners, and a reprover of unrighteousness, they “hid as it were” their faces from him. (Isa. 53:3) Those who did believe did so at great cost. They lost their standing among their fellows. Their names were cast out as evil. Their belief made it incumbent upon them to become witnesses for the despised Nazarene, not only in Judea but to the uttermost parts of the earth. Had they side-stepped these results of their belief, it would have been an evidence that their profession of faith was not wholehearted and sincere.

No Faith Without Works

James declares that “faith without works is dead.” (Jas. 2:20) This is evidenced all along the line of Christian discipleship. When Jesus said that the works of God were accomplished by believing on him, he certainly did not mean that a mere lip profession of belief that he is the Messiah and Redeemer of the world is all the works of God his followers are expected to perform. Jesus said too many other things in explanation of Christian discipleship to permit us to misinterpret this one statement so grossly as to find in it an excuse for an easy way of living the Christian life.

Jesus’ disciples believed on him. They had confidence that he was the Messiah and visualized the glory of his kingdom. They wanted to be with him in that kingdom. The mother of two of them, ambitious for her boys, asked that one might sit on his right hand and the other on his left hand in the kingdom. Jesus asked them, “Are ye able … to be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” and also, “Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of?” (Matt. 20:22) Here was something besides giving mental assent to the fact of his messiahship. Here was the real test of their belief—a severe test, a test of willingness to suffer and to die with him.

To believe on Jesus in the full, absolute sense is to believe that through him the entire plan of human redemption and salvation is to be carried out. It is to accept his leadership by faithfully following in his steps. It is to accept his headship in a body of which we are the controlled members—controlled by his will. It is a willingness to obey his commands, to be guided by his principles, and to die as he died. It is to work for God as he worked for God, and to speak the things God gives us to speak, as Jesus did. It is our faithfulness along all these lines that proves our sincere belief in Jesus, the “sent” of God.

In brief, the real evidence of belief is our willingness to do God’s will as expressed in and through Jesus, even when his will runs contrary to our own natural inclinations. The Sermon on the Mount contains many expressions of the divine will which are not easy to carry out in our lives. For example, we are instructed to love our enemies and to do good to those who despitefully use us and persecute us. Instructions like these run counter to the will of the flesh; but if we believe in Jesus, we will obey them, no matter what the cost may be—and it IS costly.

A Severe Test

Circumstances vary, of course, but there comes to mind in this connection the inspiring example of those who have refused combatant military service because it was contrary to the Master’s instructions. To have taken this stand cost these young Christians a great deal. They were looked down upon by their unbelieving friends and relatives. Some of them toiled for years without compensation. All of them were made to suffer in one way or another—not so severely in this country, but in other countries the suffering on the part of these was cruel indeed.

And why? Simply because they believed on Jesus in that full measure which leads to obedience! Millions profess to believe but claim that his teachings on love are not practical for this day and age, that if he were here today he would probably be a recruiting agent for the armies of the world. In this way the nominal believers draw near to the Lord with their lips, but their hearts are far from him, even as the prophet foretold would be the case.—Isa. 29:13; Matt. 15:8

When Jesus first sent his disciples into the ministry, these believers were given what has always appeared to the half-hearted Christian very radical instructions. He instructed them in his Sermon on the Mount, “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat,” or how you shall be clothed. (Luke 12:22; Matt. 6:25,31) Their willingness to obey these instructions was the practical test of their genuine belief in Jesus’ leadership. And it was a severe test! The idea was contrary to human wisdom. It was basically unsound and foolhardy. So was the course of Abraham when he left his own people and his father’s house. But as with Abraham, so with these disciples, their obedience to the instructions of the Lord was the proof of their belief.

Later, at the close of his ministry, the Master inquired of these faithful ones, “Lacked ye anything?” (Luke 22:35) Of course they hadn’t! There is never any danger of lacking either temporal or spiritual blessings so long as we are faithful to the Lord’s commands, for the promise is that “no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.”—Ps. 84:11

Times have changed, and many of the circumstances of life are now quite different from what they were in Jesus’ day. But the underlying principle of these instructions is the same, and obedience to that principle is still one of the severest tests of our faith. The disciples of Jesus today are also called to be his ambassadors, his representatives. Their belief, leading up to their full consecration to do God’s will, puts them on the side of God and of truth and of righteousness. They are told plainly that they are no longer the servants of self, but of God. Their approach to the entire problem of life is therefore changed.

The chief concern of the man or woman in the world is to “make a living.” From childhood on there is the planning and working for home, for food, for clothing, for ease, and for security in approaching old age. This is legitimate for the natural man; but belief in Christ, if it is genuine, changes the whole outlook and approach. Mere nominal belief does not make much of a change, but a genuine belief does. The wholehearted believer notes the instructions of the Word which reveal that his chief concern now is the doing of God’s will. He still recognizes that he needs food and clothing and that his family does also; but the providing of these is now secondary, while the main purpose of his whole life is to do the will and work of God.

But it is not easy to make this change in our hearts and lives. Only an unbounded faith in God and in Jesus will enable us to do it in a real sense. It is a radical change, and to the extent our unconsecrated friends know about it they will think we are foolish, that our judgment is unsound. Religion is all right, such say, when kept within bounds and in its proper sphere. It is all right, they say, to go to church on Sunday and to send our children to Sunday School. It is good for our children, and an hour inside the church won’t hurt any of us; but to make religion the chief thing in our lives, well, that is all right for the minister; it is his business, and he gets paid for it.

Thus it is that the true believer finds himself at odds with the world and with nominal churchianity. But his true belief leaves him no choice. He hears the Word say, “Ye are ambassadors for Christ,” ministers of reconciliation. (II Cor. 5:20,18) From this and other instructions he knows that he has been called to be a minister, and as a minister of God his chief work is the service of God. However, he knows better than to expect a salary for his services; for they are to be given freely and without stint—given until he makes himself poor in order that others might be blessed.

Things Needful

For some it is a severe test of faith to wait upon the Lord. The knowledge of God and of his plans and purposes is so inspiring that we want to tell it out far and wide. If upon coming into the truth we presume we are handicapped because of scriptural obligations toward our families, we might be tempted to neglect these obligations in order to devote ourselves more fully to the service of the Lord. In such an event the test of our belief would be our obedience to the instructions of the Word concerning the matter of providing for our own, for “if any provide not for his own … he is worse than an infidel.”—I Tim. 5:8

And this might well be a severe test of faith for some. We might see the need of workers in the vineyard and, feeling that we possess talent for some particular part of the work, be inclined to reason that surely the Lord would not want us to neglect this opportunity merely because we have a family to support. But this would be the reasoning of the flesh. Any service that is rendered contrary to the instructions of God’s Word is not acceptable to him and evidences a lack of confidence in the divine arrangements.

Moses waited forty years before the Lord was ready to use him and before he was ready, from God’s standpoint, to be used. Jesus waited eighteen years. At the age of twelve he was desirous of being about his Father’s business, but not until he was thirty could he enter upon that ministry. So if the instructions of the Word and the circumstances of life seem to circumscribe our activities in the Lord’s service, we should wait patiently on the Lord, meanwhile making the very best use possible of whatever opportunities we may rightfully enjoy. Thus we will demonstrate our true belief.

Belief and Consecration

True belief implies action; hence belief in Christ means consecration to do the will of God as it is expressed through him. So if we say, “Yes, Lord, I believe,” it is the equivalent of saying to him that he should take our lives and use them to his glory. Any other attitude would come short of revealing a genuine and full belief.

Just think of what it is that we profess to believe! It is that Jesus is the Son of the Creator and God of the universe; that he was with the Father from the beginning and shared in the work of creation. We believe that the human race was created to live upon this earth forever, and that sickness and death entered into the world only because of sin. We believe that the Creator of the universe, whom we call our Heavenly Father, sent his Son into the world to redeem the dying race and restore the people to life. We believe that his followers of this age are invited to share in his sufferings now and are promised a share in his kingdom glory—if they are faithful unto death.

Do we believe these things? Do we believe that the Creator of this vast universe is thus really dealing with us? Do we actually believe that the merit of Jesus’ sacrifice compensates for our imperfections, so that our imperfect works are acceptable to our Heavenly Father? Do we believe that it is actually our privilege to share in the sufferings of Christ? Do we believe that if faithful we will share in his glory, sit on his throne, be partakers of the divine nature, and with him participate in the future work of blessing all the families of the earth?

All these things are included in our belief in Jesus, for he is the embodiment of the entire divine plan. Is it not evident, then, that such a belief is bound to change our entire perspective of life? Of what value are the transitory toys and joys of this fitful and uncertain human life when compared with the privilege that is ours of being “workers together” with God? (II Cor. 6:1) Once we permit the power of our belief to take proper hold upon us, there is nothing we can do except place ourselves entirely in God’s hands to be used according to the wise decisions of his will.

Ah, yes, Lord, take my life—I realize that there is little left of it, and that it is marred by sin and very imperfect; but I want thee to have it and to use it, for I believe in all of thy arrangements for mankind and for me. I believe in Jesus and in the merit of his blood. Lord, if I did not believe, I would have little heart in offering thee my life—it is so imperfect—but because I believe, I know that my life—what is left of it—will be acceptable. Yes, I thank thee for the assurance that this, my “reasonable service,” will be “holy and acceptable unto thee.”—Rom. 12:1

And I want every part of me used in thy service. So take my hands. There isn’t much that they can do, but I do want them used for thee. I want thy great love to be a moving power in my life, causing my hands to serve thee. So show me things for my hands to do. And my feet also, Lord—I want them to be swift on errands for thee. And give me more and more errands to do that my feet may be ever in thy service.

And Lord, I also want my voice used for thee. May it ever bring honor and glory to thy name! Take my lips, too. May the impulse of thy love cause my lips to be moved with messages from thee. There is so much to be said concerning thy love. Eternity will not suffice to tell it all; but Lord, I do want to be faithful in telling as much about it as I can; so take my lips, sanctify and use them to thy glory.

And take my time! It is a fleeting thing, but help me to “redeem” as much of it as possible to be used in thy service. There are so many things, Lord, which crowd in upon my time and take it away from use in thy service; but help me to be more watchful, for I want all my moments and all my days to be used in ceaseless praise to thee because thou hast called me out of darkness into thy marvelous light.

And take my intellect, Lord. I know that it is only in thy great mercy that thou wilt be able to use that which is so inferior. Angels, cherubim, and seraphim could be used far more efficiently, but I believe thy promise to give me the spirit of a sound mind. So take the little mental faculty I have and use it. I am renewing my mind day by day the best I can through the study of thy Word. I will seek to discern thy will in all that I do, and I know that my shortcomings will be covered by the blood; so, because I believe, I say again,

“Take my intellect and use
Every pow’r as thou shalt choose.”

Nor would I withhold my silver and my gold—my money! I know, Lord, that the cattle on a thousand hills belong to thee, and that thou dost not need my money, but I want to give it as an evidence of my belief. I want to give it to show my love for thee and for the truth and for my brethren. I want to give it to show my faith in thy promises to care for me. I want to give it because it is a part of my all which I have devoted to thee in full consecration. “Nothing, Lord, would I withhold.”

Take my will, Lord, and make it thine. I don’t want any will of my own. I want my life to be used as thou wouldest have it used. I want my hands to serve as thou, my Lord, desirest them to serve. I want my feet to go where thou wouldest have them to go. I want my intellect to search out thy ways and not my own. I want my silver and my gold to be used for thy glory and not to further any plans of my own. I want my every moment to be devoted to thee and to the doing of thy will. In no way whatever do I want my will to be done. So take my will, Lord—take it and make it thine.

And take my heart, too—my affections. I don’t want them to be set on the things of this earth but upon things above. I esteem the things of this earth as of trifling worth, and in view of what thou hast promised concerning heavenly treasures I want my affections to be set upon them, for I recognize that this is thy will for me. So take my heart, Lord, and from henceforth, may all the things which tug at my heartstrings be those only which are pleasing to thee.

And I want thee, Lord, to have all of my love. I want my love for thee to be so complete that no other loves will be permitted to thwart my determined purpose to do thy will. I want, indeed, to be ever, only, all for thee. This is the declaration of my desire because I believe. I have no misgivings concerning the wisdom of thy plans and purposes, or concerning thy ability to accomplish them. Thy love as revealed through Jesus overwhelms me, and I no longer have any desire to live for self or to spend time and strength and means in furthering my own interests and plans.

To me, nothing is worthwhile now but to live for thee. Lord, increase my faith that I may increase my faithfulness. I want no earthborn clouds of doubt to hide thy face from me or quench the fires which are consuming my sacrifice. Give me strength to endure the trials of the narrow way, to be unmoved by the indifference of earthly friends, and to glory in the weariness of service. Through faith, give me the victory over self and self-will, that thy will may reign supreme in my mortal body, causing me to be consumed wholly in thy service.

To truly believe means much. It must inevitably lead us to the complete surrender of ourselves to God and to the devoting of everything we have and are to the doing of his will. It is thus that we share in the work of God according to his plan of the ages, as ministers of reconciliation both now and when exalted to kingdom glory.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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