The Exercise of the Believer
R. T. Prechous, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
We have seen in our previous studies that it is absolutely essential that a Christian must grow in order to fulfil the purpose of God in his life. Secondly, we found that to grow, the Christian required the right kind of diet, not the starvation fare the world gives, but the sincere milk of the Word for the young believer when he first commences the Christian path-way, and the strong meat for the maturer Christian.
Now we reach the third stage, where we are to consider the exercise the believer requires to keep him spiritually fit. Just as the human frame requires good nourishment to build up the body, and then exercise to fit that frame to meet the rigours of life, so the Christian must not be just satisfied with growing and feeding - he must exercise, if he is not to become a lazy person, unsuited to take up the tasks of the kingdom. God has provided an exercise just for the very purpose of making us useful Christians, fit for the Master's use. That exercise is prayer, as far as our relation to Him is concerned, then witness to our fellow men, after we have been in His presence to learn of Him, His glorious will.
I. Prayer in the Believer's Life
Prayer is fundamental in Christian living. There is no substitute. Now prayer is threefold:
1. Listening, that is waiting upon God.
2. Thanksgiving, that is praise and gratitude for His boundless mercies to us.
3. Requests, that means laying our needs before Him and requesting His help. In Psalm 46. 10, we are shown the pattern of waiting on god. Philippians 4. 5,6, reveals the design of thanksgiving, whilst v. 19 of the same chapter gives the promise and conditions for our requests.
I. listening Many a Christian lacks spiritual stamina on account of his impatience. Waiting on God is a very hard thing to do. When the trials and storms of life assail the Christian, when the burden seems almost too heavy to bear, when problems choke up the capacity for clear thinking, it is little wonder that the believer becomes disheartened, and feels he just cannot wait. How little we know of the ancient believer, who wrote the wonderful words of comfort 'they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength', which surely means mental, physical and spiritual energy. Things begin to happen when we really listen to God. Too many of us want to tell Him HOW to answer our petitions, but the wise man waits and trusts. He will bring it to pass, in His own way and time.
'Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God', Phil. 4. 6. This is the second attitude that is required in our prayer life. Our hearts are, or should be, full of adoration and praise for what God has done for us in Christ. Our earthly needs take second place to our eternal needs, therefore He should ever receive from us the thanksgiving of a redeemed heart for the deliverance, sustenance, and prospect that we enjoy through His beloved Son. Make much of Christ, and the other things will seem insignificant compared to Him. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you, Luke 12. 31. God never forgets the temporal or spiritual needs of His children, and He is absolutely able to give us what He thinks best.
3. REQUESTS It is certain that God knows all about our troubles long before we bring them to Him, but He loves to listen to the pleading of His children. For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things, Matt. 6. 32. The Lord Jesus said those words, and who better knew the God who was His Father, than did He? This third thought brings us to Philippians 4.19. Never need we fear that our God will fail us, His promise here is clear and plain, but do remember the conditions. The riches in Christ Jesus, are the guarantee that God will keep His word, but there must be faith on our part, to believe that He is able, and willing to meet our needs, so long as we request them according to His will. So here we have considered -the ministry of prevailing prayer - wait the manner of prevailing prayer - give thanks the method of prevailing prayer - ask believing. May God help us to exercise our hearts in these three ways before Him, then we will know something of the blessing of
2. Witness of the Believer's Life
Now we come to that part of this message which deals with our relationship towards our fellow men. This is divided into two parts (a) our duty to fellow believers, and (b) our duty towards 'them who are without' (outside the faith). I. OUR WITNESS TO FELLOW BELIEVERS Read Philippians 2. 1-4
In this short passage, the apostle commences his exhortation by beginning with the church. He desires a united church. If I look at my own desires, ways and myself, whilst others in the same fellowship do likewise, there will be only one sad result, divisions. There will be no fellowship (sharing), because the Holy Spirit, who cannot tolerate confusion, is not in control of the individual members of the local church. He will not, cannot, work in a divided community. Now the evil one's great object as far as believers are concerned, is to divert their attention from the Lord, thus causing strife amongst them. Sulkiness or stubbornness, a difference of opinion, can take the place of love and grace, and result in the lack of blessing for all who form the 'fellowship'. It is possible that there will be no open dissension, and the elders may try to solve the matter, nevertheless, there is a feeling of estrangement which is conveyed to all, and, which therefore, affects the spiritual well-being of all, in an adverse way. The Lord forgive us for our inability and unwillingness to take all our differences to Him, and may He help us to be as Christ was, ever willing to please the Father in all things. This is the secret of a faithful witness to our Lord Jesus Christ. May the Holy Spirit enable us to put first things first, in order that He may have the pre-eminence in our lives.
2. OUR WITNESS TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD
No one watches those who claim to be followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, more closely than the unbeliever. All his ideas and notions of what is commonly called 'Christianity', are bound up in the impressions which he obtains by studying the behaviour of Christians and very often, he is not to blame for the adverse opinions he holds, for so often their behaviour is opposite to their profession. Their lives do not match up to their talk. Now the outsider will always respect those who are consistent with their claims, though he might not agree with their ideas. It is the duty of the believer to walk worthily so that others may be attracted to the Lord whom we seek to serve and teach.
(a) Witnessing should be full of purpose. No half-hearted confession will have any effect on those we seek to reach. Think of all the energy political forces put into their propaganda; no wonder they succeed where the Christian often fails.
(b) Witnessing should be intelligent. Both mind and heart should be affected by the saving grace of Christ, and we ought to put as much thought into our testimony as we do into our ordinary functions in everyday living. The type and environment of the person must guide us in our approach to him. At the same time, it is most essential that no approach should be made without having first committed the whole operation to God in prayer, and by seeking His guidance, and the definite leading of the Holy Spirit.
The believer is to be a dedicated witness. That means that he himself must be living a life that is pleasing to God before he can possibly commend such a life to others.
The believer has an obligation also to the one he seeks to win for Christ. Not only must he display Christ in his own life, so that others know him to belong to Christ, but he must also know how this experience works in his life so that by communicating it to others he can help to assure the unbeliever that faith in Christ actually works. First a saving faith, then an active faith, then a working faith. With these in evidence, the Christian should be able to convince his hearers of the fact that being a Christian is really worth while.
The responsibility, conduct and obedience of the believer will be a sure passport for a truly useful and victorious soul-winning life. Time is short. We must buy up the opportunities. May the Lord we seek to serve find much pleasure in our dedicated service for Him, and may we not be ashamed at His coming.
The next article 'the PRIVILEGE of the believer' will conclude this present series.