A Sevenfold Divine Ability.
THE fundamental postulate of Hebrews 11, is that all Christian living and all belief in the efficacy of prayer are derived from an acknowledgment of the great fact: "He that cometh to God must believe that He is." Such reality as lays hold upon the mind of a believer, impresses itself on a behaviour that betokens sincerity and dependence, obedience and truth. Everything beyond that fact is mere circumstance; consequently, the community which has lost its conviction of the majesty and glory and power of God has, at the same time, degenerated by losing its serenity and stability.
The cure for the shiftiness of the present day is to be found in a constant reassertion of the ability of God to perform in our day and for us, what He has done in other days and for other saints. In the New Testament, there is a sevenfold expression of Divine power as it affects the saints from the initial stage of the spiritual life until it is consummated in unspeakable bliss.
I. Creative Ability.
"GOD IS ABLE OF THESE STONES TO RAISE UP CHILDREN UNTO ABRAHAM" (Matt. 3. 9). That was no idle boast, no extravagant declaration. It was sober truth. The great quest of the modern physicist and chemist has been to find a formula by which they may build living tissue from non-living matter. Every attempt has failed in spite of boastful pronouncements to the contrary. But what man, with all his skill, knowledge, and ingenuity, has failed to do, and may probably never accomplish, God as almighty Creator could perform if and when He willed.
He, however, is not spectacular, and prefers to work towards moral ends with spiritual means. Still, it stands as a warrantable assertion that God in the realm of created things, stands apart as the Originator, Sustainer, and Manipulator of every infinitesimal particle; and when need and occasion arise, He can and does demonstrate to the hard-to-be-convinced world that He is Master in His own house.
The attempted excision of the supernatural element from the Bible is tantamount to a denial to the Creator of the personal right to interfere with the regular movements of the material world, that He might accomplish His purpose for His own glory and for the benefit of His creatures.
Our Lord's claim for His Father is a bald, matter-of-fact statement, reminding His religious critics and their descendants in succeeding generations, that God is not bound to act in an extraordinary way when the ordinary will suffice. Inactivity does not mean inability.
We do well to assure ourselves that if God is silent, then He is so, not from lack of power, but for moral causes hid in "the will of God."
What comfort it is to the thoughtful and intelligent Christian, confronted as he is with the amazing complexity of the universe, and the myriads of forms of material manifestation, to discern with awe and reverence, with faith and trust, God in everything, yet above and apart from all, and to hear, silencing the wild and changing guesses of modern scientific investigation, the unequivocal words of the Lord, "God is able!"
II. Regenerative Ability.
But if God is silent, and so far as the rationalist and materialist are concerned, has withdrawn that extraordinary power by the manifestation of which, so they say, they would be convinced to believe, He has not withheld His power in other spheres of activity. He continues to perform what are more convincing proofs of His power, viz., miracles of grace.
How many there are, even at this late day, who would declare without hesitation as the apostle did: "I know . . . HE IS ABLE TO KEEP THAT WHICH I HAVE COMMITTED UNTO HIM against that Day" (2 Tim. 1. 12), for with a conviction that deepened as years of service passed, the great warrior became more and more aware of the grandeur and the reality of the transaction on the Damascus road.
Such a crisis, reached only once in a lifetime, is an all-important one. Like Paul, every one who knows with assurance the ability of the One Who has accepted the guardianship of the deposit —the soul—will accept the experiences of life as so many opportunities of proving the faithfulness of God and the power of the indwelling Spirit to triumph.
Personal testimony of this nature having the depths of sincerity for its guarantee, and coming from the lips of those who have already warred a good warfare, should go a long way in steadying the march of younger soldiers, and in intensifying their desire to please Him Who has called them.
The end of the journey has been secured, God cannot fail, and in "that Day," He will count as “His own" all who are "in Christ."
What encouragement, then, we ought to take as, with the records of God's faithfulness constantly before us, we make our way Homeward, singing, if not lustily, at least sincerely:
"His love in times past forbids me to think.
He'll leave me at last in ruin to sink:
Each sweet Ebenezer I have in review,
Confirms His good pleasure to see me right through."
III. Keeping Ability.
Because that initial act of God-given faith and that once-for-all committal of the soul's keeping to Omnipotent Hands has unburdened our hearts of fears for the end; so too, may we have strength for the conflict of life through the knowledge that the same power is constantly and freely placed at our disposal for every step of the way.
"GOD IS ABLE TO KEEP FROM STUMBLING," Jude writes. Last days, like those described in the short Epistle, must abound with difficulties for even the weariest Christian. No pathway is altogether pleasant and safe. The Enemy, ever busy to encompass our downfall, allows no opportunity to escape, but, taking advantage of the slightest situation of promise, multiplies his traps for feet that are unwise. Yet we need not fear, if we "trust and obey." Scripture both guides and assures. If we follow the Spirit-given instruction, we shall build ourselves up in our most holy faith. We shall form the habit of praying in the Holy Ghost, we shall, by willing submission to His desires, keep ourselves in the enjoyment of the love of God. We shall persistently hate the garments of our lives to be stained by actions springing from fleshly desires, and we shall know how true is the promise that God is able to keep and to "present faultless before the presence of his glory" (Jude 24).
Thus, the two extremities of Christian life are safeguarded by the omnipotence of a Heavenly Father Who guarantees for the use of faith, the exceeding greatness of His power, that we may neither falter nor fall, but, trusting in Him, witness a good confession to the end of the journey. Marvellous grace!
IV. Sympathizing Ability.
In spite of the fact that God is for him, the Christian is still subjected to temptation. No amount of theorizing to the contrary can ever silence the multifold testimony of the Scriptures, or the corroborating witness of saintly men. We are on the verge of spiritual collapse when we forget that the Christian is a "dual personality." He consists of a "natural man and a "spiritual man;" "an outward man" and "an inner man;" "an old man" and "a new man." He still has the flesh, "in which dwelleth no good thing," and in Christ, he has the Spirit Who lusteth against the flesh. Peace he has—but he lives on a battlefield. Forces conspire to endanger his testimony. Oftentimes the wicked inclination of his former manner of life, and the tremendous insistence to evil in things around, combine with the insidious devices of the Devil to make him almost despair.
No situation, however, is beyond the possibility of victory. One there is Who is always near—a Great High Priest of Whom it is written: "For in that He Himself hath suffered, being tempted, HE IS ABLE TO SUCCOUR THEM THAT ARE TEMPTED" (Heb. 2. 18). Almost unbelievable as it is, past reason, but true to experience and faith, the believer asserts, because he knows that he has a merciful and faithful High Priest Who hastens to aid all who call upon His Throne of grace.
As years pass over one's head and dangers thicken, the more one realizes the blessedness of that "fellow-feeling" that throbs in the heart of the Son-Priest for every one of the sons He is bringing to glory. We all need a truer sense of that to-day, do we not? Then let us sincerely practice the habit of maintaining on earth a similar "fellow-feeling" for the interests of our Lord on high. He will not fail us if we do.
V. Saving Ability.
Enthroned in majesty, invested with all authority in Heaven and on earth, living in the power of an indissoluble life, possessing an unchangeable priesthood, this Lord Whom we love and Who loves us beyond comprehension, "IS ABLE TO SAVE TO THE UTTERMOST" (Heb. 7. 25).
Too frequently do we forget that there is a salvation greater than the forgiveness of our sins—a salvation from ourselves.
The same Saviour who pleaded for our acceptance as sinners believing, lives to present our needs to God when we draw near through Him. No limit is placed to His ability—that is unquestioned and unbounded. Yet its actual conveyance to us is limited and conditioned. Only those "who draw near," who avail themselves of the privilege of prayer, know the power. Our safety and our victory lie in fleeing to God in the Name of our never-failing Intercessor. Grace follows grace until we are compelled to admit:
"Every virtue we possess,
And every victory won,
And every thought of holiness
Are Thine alone."
VI. Supplying Ability.
One of the greatest temptations that confronts the Christian is that of forgetting that, in the accumulation of material wealth, it is required in a steward that he be found faithful. Perhaps the greatest condemnation of the Christian Church is its selfishly-hoarded wealth, while the work of extensification cries with incessant voice.
To counteract this human tendency, the Scriptures repeatedly warn us, and teach, on the other hand, the grace of Christian giving. Whole sections of Holy Writ are devoted to this subject, yet it is one to which our attention is all too infrequently directed. By our own silence, one would almost deem God also to be silent. He is not, by any means. There is no greater hindrance to spiritual growth than the anxiety which springs from the contemplated hardships resulting from a generous liberality towards the Lord.
We give at times, but how grudgingly! We may give liberally at times, but how seldom! We should like to give more, but how unsystematic we are! Yet the apostle, when writing to the Corinthian saints, incited them to unstinted giving by reminding them of God’s interest in their affairs: "GOD IS ABLE TO MAKE ALL GRACE (means) ABOUND, that ye always having all sufficiency may abound unto every good work" (2 Cor. 9. 8).
There is a crying need in our materialistic generation for a thorough investigation of this subject by every devoted Christian, that he might know the liberality of God in spiritual things (and sometimes, though not always, in material things), is largely conditioned by our liberality in monetary matters.
Over our purses and our pockets, and especially plain at the moments of our giving, we ought to remind ourselves that "God is able to make all means abound."
VII. Conforming Ability.
For the saint, the best is yet to be. However glorious the past, or however pleasant the present, the future is most wonderful. Christ is Coming. That truth warms our hearts. And once again, the ability of God is declared, for we look for our "Saviour . . . Who shall change OUR VILE BODY, THAT IT MAY BE FASHIONED LIKE UNTO HIS GLORIOUS BODY, according to the power whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself" (Phil. 3. 21). What an exhibition of Divine grace and Divine power!
No scientific formula can state the method of the change or demonstrate the amount of the power. No human mind can conceive the marvellous conformity which will eternally exist between the image of the invisible God and the conformed ones of the image. But every saint will experience the blessedness at the Coming of Christ. How poorly we have been conformed to His will here, how perfectly there! Yes, and “GOD IS ABLE" to do it!
As we think upon all that God has done for us and will yet do for us, shall we not, out of simple gratitude, allow Him to take these mortal bodies of ours, relinquishing all immediate right to control over our lives, and permitting God to do as He pleases with that which is His Own. He deserves it, He demands it. Let us do it.
If we do so, our lives will be one long doxology: "Now unto Him that is ABLE TO DO EXCEEDING ABUNDANTLY ABOVE ALL THAT WE ASK OR THINK according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."
“The Witness” 1932