Reading: Josh. 1:1-11.
For we are become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end. (Heb. 3:14).
Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it... Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. (Heb. 4:1,11).
For every high priest, being taken from among men, is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. (Heb. 5:1).
There is one remaining emphasis, one note which I feel the Lord wishes to be sounded ere we pass on from this time, and it has to do with the secret and law of attaining unto God's end, the secret of spiritual progress, of growth in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus, of increase in His fulness. This secret and law is
Action in Faith
"Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, to you have I given it..." (Josh. 1:3).
There are two or three things about that statement which need to be recognised. While it is true that the Lord has secured everything in Christ for the believer, and the Lord Jesus has not Himself to secure anything, but stands already possessed of all, and that not for Himself but for His own, yet this word makes it perfectly clear that with reference to the believer's realisation of this inheritance a step of faith is demanded in respect of every fragment of it. That is the Divine declaration: "Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, to you have I given it..." We never know what the Lord has given us until we put our foot on it, that is, until we act in faith. Although it is ours in the Divine intent and purpose, and design, it never becomes ours in reality, until we act in relation to it. All that Divine inheritance which has been placed to our account is of no practical value to us until we do this.
With regard to the many things which the Lord has promised, offered, declared, or of which He has given assurance, His question as to whether we will believe has never back of it primarily the thought of our consent or agreement, as though He said to us: If that is your attitude you will come into possession; if you will assent to what I have said you will have it. While believing is so much associated with possessing, from the Divine standpoint it is always an active thing, never a passive thing; it means taking action in faith. It can never be merely a matter of our agreement with the Lord, our assent to the Lord's offers, promises, or propositions. Possession can only be on this basis: "If any man will do his will, he shall know..." (John 7:17). That is an abiding secret, an abiding and unalterable law of progress, of growth, of increase, of reaching God's end. Not one fragment, not one foothold, is ever possible apart from action in faith.
There is all the difference in the world between a geographer and a traveller. Of course, a geographer may be a traveller, but not necessarily so. He may study the subject theoretically, and make maps, and give you all the longitude and the latitude, and yet may never have been outside his door. It is quite easy for us to be geographers in that sense with regard to spiritual territory. There are a lot of people who talk of what is in Christ, of the fulness of Christ, who have all the doctrine, and can map it out beautifully, but they have never taken action in relation to it. When it comes to real value they are a contradiction. They have seen it in the Word, and have mapped it out; they could give you all the details concerning it, and speak much of what is for us in Christ, but when it comes to the practical test they are undone, they know nothing about it. They are geographers, but not travellers. In other words, there is a great deal of difference between seeing the land and putting your foot down in it. These people might have had the account of the land, and might have had a certain vantage point from whence to see it, but there is a great difference between seeing, and talking about what you see, and really putting your foot upon it in faith. The Lord bounds everything with the latter. He bounds everything with the putting down of the foot.
See what a thorough working out of that principle the Lord required right at the commencement of Israel's possession of the land. How was the fall of Jericho brought about? Certainly not by preaching nor theorising about possession. As one man Israel "put their foot down" as they went round Jericho in faith, and they came into possession of it. It was a very thorough working out of the principle.
Thus the writer of the letter to the Hebrews says,"By faith the walls of Jericho fell down..." But faith was action. Believe me, that is a law of progress all the way along. It does not matter what else we may possess or know, we may take it for granted that we never make genuine progress apart from the action of faith. We may think that we are making progress because there is an increase in our store of knowledge, but real, genuine progress is measured by what we possess, by what to us is a working basis, not by mere knowledge; we never progress an inch apart from action in faith.
The Peril of Being a Hearer Only
Along with this fact we do well to note that there is an infinite peril in hearing and not acting. What results from that? We become dull of hearing. That was the trouble with these Hebrews. Concerning his desire to unveil the deeper truths about Melchizedek the writer of the Hebrews has to say, "Of whom we have many things to say, and hard of interpretation, seeing ye are become dull of hearing" (Heb. 5:11). Evidently Melchizedek held something very rich for the spiritually mature. It required an advanced position, a state of spiritual maturity, to understand all the fulness of Melchizedek.
The point is that they had heard but had not acted in relation to what they had heard; they had become dull of hearing. So that what the Apostle desired to say would have fallen upon ears that were dull, and there would have been no glorying in the truth, no joyful, glad response, no bounding of heart toward it. He might have said the most wonderful things, and it would have made very little difference to them. That is an infinite peril. Let me ask whether haply that is taking place with you. When the fulness of Christ is being spoken about, our inheritance, the vast glories in Christ, can you sit without any stirring of heart? Does the message come to you merely as words, phrases, ideas, more or less intelligible? You attend the meeting, hear what has been said, and go away, and within you there is no stir, no movement, no glorying in it. That is a test for us. Making allowances for all human imperfections in the channel through which the ministry comes; perhaps making allowances for a tremendous amount of words, nevertheless in the midst of it all there must be something of the Lord. Is there at any point at all some leap of your heart to it, some rejoicing in the truth? If not, you may be dangerously near this position: "Ye have become dull of hearing". You do not discern, detect, recognise the real meaning and value of the things which are being said. How is it you have become like that? How is that possible? Because somewhere, somehow, sometime in relation to something that the Lord has said, you have not taken action; you have not in an active way come into co-operation with the Lord in the purpose that was bound up with the thing which He said. The result is you have become dull of hearing, and what is further said will signify but little. The most glorious things may be said about Christ, but to you it will seem merely as another address. The Lord deliver us all from such a state and keep us glorying in the truth.
The Principle Applied
The law and the secret, then, is that we must come into action in relation to every fragment of truth, put our foot down upon everything that is presented to us as our inheritance in Christ. That will begin with the forgiveness of sins. The very first point of our inheritance in fellowship with Christ is the forgiveness of sins. Put your foot down upon that; it is yours. God has secured it in Christ for you. You have not to plead with God to forgive you. You have not to wrestle with God for the forgiveness of sin. If you have come to the place where you recognise the need of forgiveness, the consciousness that you are a sinner, there is no need to plead with God to forgive you. God has in Christ forgiven you all your sins-"having forgiven us all our trespasses" (Col. 2:13). God has done it in Christ, but the enjoyment of it requires the putting of your foot down upon it in faith, and saying: Lord, I honour you in this matter; You have said that forgiveness of sins is secured for me in Christ; I believe that and take it. By faith you put your foot down upon it. Then do not from that point go away and wonder if you are forgiven. Go on as being forgiven, and refuse every retaliation of the enemy to say that it is not true.
Justification by faith is yours in Christ, but to enjoy it you have to put your foot upon it. Now we launch out upon a mighty ocean, and in that ocean the elements of our inheritance are far, far too numerous for any man, or any company of men or angels, to describe or enumerate. "God... hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ"; "My God shall supply every need of yours, according to his riches in glory..." Can you comprehend that? That is in Christ Jesus for us.
We shall not stay to enumerate such blessings, but the point is that you and I know our need. What is your particular need? I do not mean that which you need for your personal enjoyment and satisfaction, but that which relates to the glory and honour of the Lord Jesus in your life. What is your particular form of need in relation to that? It is secured for you. What will you do about it? Will you plead with the Lord to supply it; cry and groan and wrestle about it? The Lord's simple and very definite way is that you should put your foot down on it in faith. You have to act in relation to it thus: That is my need! That need is supplied in Christ! For that supply to become a practical thing in my life I have to take action in faith! It does not matter how great may be our need as we advance we shall never get beyond the place where God in Christ has provided for such need. "My God shall supply all your need...", every need of yours! That provision is not according to our standards, so let us not begin to put the Divine resources, provisions and beneficence into the narrow limits of our own ideas as to how far God can or will go with us, and say: Well, I have got to a place now where I doubt whether the Lord can help me! I think I have got beyond things now! No! Never! Never beyond God! His provision is not according to the measure of our mind but according to His riches in glory. If we can get beyond that, then of course we have made God bankrupt; but we shall never exhaust those heavenly resources. In the deepest need the action of faith will prove there is a provision which God has made. This is the putting of the foot down upon all that is ours in fellowship with Christ as joint-heirs, as called to be partners with Christ.
The Trial of Faith
There is this always to be borne in mind, that when the foot has been put down the Lord very often tests us as to whether we will take it up again. That is, of course, speaking figuratively. Sometimes after having put our foot down, we are all too ready to take it back again, because we do not at once see the result as we hoped. Jericho did not immediately fall when Israel "put their foot down" on their first march round, nor did it fall at the second time, nor the third; they had to go on and maintain the position that they had taken. God tested their faith. God tested them upon their action.
That has always been the case. The words, "Harden not your heart as in the provocation..." may be literally rendered "...as in the embitterment in the wilderness". They had taken a step of faith out with God. God tested them upon their step, and because the result which they expected was not instantly forthcoming, but there was a test as to the position, they became embittered. That is only undoing the step. They hardened their hearts in embitterment, because of the test of faith.
It is as well for us to recognise that the Lord will very often call upon us to take a position and to hold it through a time of testing, before all that is bound up therewith becomes ours in experience; not to withdraw the foot, but to say: I have put my foot down on this; it is mine in Christ; I do not take my foot up, but stand my ground. Associated with the fall of Jericho and the putting down of the foot was the call for one or two practical things which are a part of true faith.
Persistence! It was persistence in the position which they had taken which was demanded. The first day passed without any apparent result. The second day was a repetition of the first. The next day, and throughout the week they had to maintain their position. There had to be a persistence in faith.
Patience! "Ye have need of patience, that, after ye have, done the will of God, ye might receive the promise" (Heb. 10:36). Patience is a part of faith.
Joyfulness! Trumpets may mean several things, but there is no doubt that they express joyfulness. As the children of Israel went round, putting their feet down in persistence and patience, the trumpets sounded a joyful note. I think faith, when it is true, must have a note of joyfulness in it, even under testing. I am not sure that it is not a note of certain victory. The victory of faith is in the joyfulness of faith.
Some of us know of a dear brother who went through a long tunnel of trial; of trial within and trial without; of darkness and suffering. Though he maintained a dogged attitude of trust in the Lord he lost his triumphant joyfulness, and after being for several years in that condition he came to a point where he could go on no longer, and set out to find help. On his journey the Lord met him through a servant of His, and in the course of conversation, when this dear brother was unburdening his heart, this servant of the Lord was led to put the finger upon the very point, and said: Are you praising the Lord in the fire? It came to the one in need like a blow, with a startling effect. He saw that he had lost his note of praise because of trial and went to the Lord about it. He sought to get right through to a place where, without any alteration of the conditions, he could rejoice. He got through, and no sooner had he gained the victory there than he found himself altogether renewed. He did not pursue his journey, but went back, and from that day he has been triumphant, and the Lord has been doing mighty things. There had been a kind of dogged, persistent, bulldog faith, but without joyfulness.
Many people have found that deliverance has come when, in spite of everything, they have struck up a joyful note before the Lord. The trumpets seem at least to break through the awful, drab monotony with a joyful note as the children of Israel marched round Jericho. True faith which is to lead to possession must have a note like that in it. Persistence? Yes. Patience? Yes. But these can be very dead, very dull, very hard, and not altogether beautiful. The Apostle exhorts to patience with joyfulness (Col. 1:11). That is faith which results in possession, enlargement, enrichment. It is that kind of action that accompanies enlargement. Let us try it, not as an experiment on God, but because it is His way, and we believe Him. Do not let us approach these things in that experimental mood which makes trial of God to see if He really is what He says He is. "He that cometh to God must believe that he is (not come to see if He is, but believe that He is), and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Heb. 11:6).
Now, we have said many things in these meditations concerning the fulness of Christ. How is it to become real? How are we to know in a living way every fragment of that fulness, every bit of that progress, that dominion? By taking action. We shall never know except as we take action, not in experimental mood but in faith; not saying, I am going to see whether it is so! but, I believe it is so, and I take it as being so, because God has said it! It is for you to go and see at what point such action is necessary; to see what the need is, and there, in relation to that, put down your foot; not with a view to trying it out, but to prove that it is so. Let us go on to full growth.
If there is one fragment of the Scriptures that we have been using, which I would like to be the last sounding word at this time, it would be this: "Firm unto the end." "For we are become partners with Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end". The Lord enable us unto it.