Living and dying by faith.
Rev. Alexander Maclaren on the hope that gets us by in life’s harrowing days.
I’ve often said that I do not understand how those who do not possess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ can cope with life’s troubles. Without the belief and the hope that there is One above the fray who is sustaining you through it, despite what it might look like, I’m not sure how I would get by. The racked and ruined realm in which we find ourselves is traversable, I’d say, by only one road — and that is the road of faith in the Christ of God who has come to pave the way to the Father with his own blood. As the Rev. Alexander Maclaren affirms in this extended excerpt, that “is the faith to live by, that is the faith to die by.” Indeed, without it, I shudder to think where I’d be. Maclaren explains:
I understand not how a man can front the awful possibilities of a future on earth, knowing all the points at which he is vulnerable, and all the ways by which disaster may come down upon him, and retain his sanity, unless he believes that all is ruled, not merely by a God far above him, who may be as unsympathising as He is omnipotent, but by his Elder Brother, the Son of God, who showed His heart by all His dealings with us here below, and who loves as tenderly, and sympathises as closely with us as ever He did when on earth He gathered the weary and the sick around Him.
Is it not a thing, men and women, worth having, to have this for the settled conviction of your hearts, that Christ is moving all the pulses of your life, and that nothing falls out without the intervention of His presence and the power of His will working through it? Do you not think such a belief would nerve you for difficulty, would lift you buoyantly over trials and depressions, and would set you upon a vantage ground high above all the petty annoyances of life? Tell me, is there any other place where a man can plant his foot and say, “Now I am on a rock and I care not what comes”?
The riddle of Providence is solved, and the discipline of Providence is being accomplished when we have grasped this conviction — All events do serve me, for all circumstances come from His will and pleasure, which is love; and everywhere I go — be it in the darkness of disaster or in the sunshine of prosperity — I shall see standing before me that familiar and beloved Shape, and shall be able to say, “It is the Lord!” Friends and brethren, that is the faith to live by, that is the faith to die by; and without it life is a mockery and a misery. (11:363–64)
The riddle of this world’s winding ways and chaotic hours isn’t necessarily explained but is assuaged by the hope of the providence of God, whose face we shall find behind every maelstrom which heralds disorder and behind every mercy which brings in peace. He is in it all, behind it all, underneath it all, and with you through it all. As the psalmist inquires, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” (Ps. 139:7). Indeed, nowhere. There’s nowhere we can be where he is not. His order extends to the highest heights and lowest depths. He is your sovereign Friend who is never not with you, and whose finger unfold the pages of history before you.
If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. (Ps. 139:8–12)
Grace and peace.
Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, Vols. 1–17 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1944).