The following is adapted from the Daily Meditations of Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
Be Careful to Maintain Good Works
“How long will it be ere they believe me?” (Numbers 14:11)
Strive with all diligence to keep out that monster unbelief. It so dishonors Christ that He will withdraw His visible presence if we insult Him by indulging it.
It is true that unbelief is a weed, the seeds of which we can never entirely extract from the soil; but we must aim at its root with zeal and perseverance. Among hateful things, it is the most to be abhorred; its injurious nature is so venomous that he that exercises it, and he upon whom it is exercised, are both hurt thereby.
In your case, O believer, unbelief is most wicked, for the mercies of your Lord in the past increase your guilt in doubting Him now—this is crowning His head with thorns of the sharpest kind.
When you distrust the Lord Jesus, He may well cry out: “Behold I am pressed under you, as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves.”
As it is very cruel for a well beloved wife to mistrust a kind and faithful husband, so it is very cruel to distrust the Lord: the sin is needless, foolish, and unwarranted.
Jesus has never given the slightest ground for suspicion, and it is hard to be doubted by those to whom our conduct is uniformly affectionate and true. Jesus is the Son of the Highest and has unbounded wealth. It is shameful to doubt Omnipotence and distrust all sufficiency.
The cattle on a thousand hills will suffice for our most hungry feeding, and the granaries of heaven are not likely to be emptied by our eating. If Christ were only a cistern, we might soon exhaust His fullness, but who can drain a fountain? Myriad spirits have drawn their supplies from Him, and not one of them has murmured at the scantiness of His resources.
Away, then, with this lying traitor unbelief, for his only errand is to cut the bonds of communion and make us mourn an absent Savior.
Bunyan tells us that unbelief has “as many lives as a cat.” If so, let us kill one life now and continue the work till the whole nine are gone.
“Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands.” (Isaiah 49:16)
There is no doubt that a part of the wonder concentrated in the word “behold” is excited by the unbelieving lamentation of the preceding sentence. Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, and my God has forgotten me.” How amazed the divine mind seems to be at this wicked unbelief!
What can be more astounding than the unfounded doubts and fears of God’s favored people? The Lord’s loving word of rebuke should make us blush—He cries: “How can I have forgotten you, when I have graven you upon the palms of my hands? How dare you doubt my constant remembrance, when the memorial is set upon my very flesh?”
O unbelief, how strange a marvel you are! We do not know at which we should most wonder: the faithfulness of God or the unbelief of His people.
God keeps His promise a thousand times, and yet the next trial makes us doubt Him. He never fails; He is never a dry well; He is never as a setting sun, a passing meteor, or a melting vapor. And yet we are as continually vexed with anxieties, molested with suspicions, and disturbed with fears as if our God were the mirage of the desert.
“Behold,” is a word intended to excite admiration. Here, indeed, we have a theme for marveling.
Heaven and earth may well be astonished that rebels should obtain so great a nearness to the heart of infinite love as to be written upon the palms of His hands—“I have graven you”—It does not say, “your name.” The name is there, but that is not all: “I have graven you.”
See the fullness of this! I have graven your person, your image, your case, your circumstances, your sins, your temptations, your weaknesses, your wants, your works. I have graven you, everything about you, all that concerns you. I have put you altogether there.
Will you ever say again that your God has forsaken you when He has graven you upon His own palms?
“Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.” (Exodus 14:13)
These words contain God’s command to the believer when he is reduced to great straits and brought into extraordinary difficulties. He cannot retreat; he cannot go forward; he is shut up on the right hand and on the left; what is he now to do? The Master’s word to him is, “Stand still.”
It will be well for him if, at such times, he listen only to His Master’s word, for other and evil advisers come with their suggestions.
- Despair whispers: “Lie down and die; give it all up.”
But God would have us put on a cheerful courage and, even in our worst times, rejoice in His love and faithfulness.
- Cowardice says: “Retreat; go back to the worldling’s way of action; you cannot play the Christian’s part, it is too difficult. Relinquish your principles.”
But, however much Satan may urge this course upon you, you cannot follow it if you are a child of God. His divine fiat has bid you go from strength to strength, and so you shall; and neither death nor hell shall turn you from your course. What, if for a while, you are called to stand still, yet this is but to renew your strength for some greater advance in due time.
- Precipitancy cries: “Do something. Stir yourself—to stand still and wait is sheer idleness.”
We must be doing something at once—we must do it, so we think, instead of looking to the Lord, who will not only do something, but will do everything.
- Presumption boasts: “If the sea be before you, march into it and expect a miracle.”
“Stand still”—keep the posture of an upright man, ready for action, expecting further orders, cheerfully and patiently awaiting the directing voice; and it will not be long before God shall say to you, as distinctly as Moses said it to the people of Israel, “Go forward.”
Avoid Foolish Questions
Avoid foolish questions. (Titus 3:9)
Our days are few and are far better spent in doing good, than in disputing over matters that are, at best, of minor importance. The old schoolmen did a world of mischief by their incessant discussion of subjects of no practical importance; and our Churches suffer much from petty wars over abstruse points and unimportant questions. After everything has been said that can be said, neither party is any the wiser and, therefore, the discussion no more promotes knowledge than love, and it is foolish to sow in so barren a field.
Questions upon points wherein Scripture is silent; upon mysteries which belong to God alone; upon prophecies of doubtful interpretation; and upon mere modes of observing human ceremonials are all foolish, and wise men avoid them.
Our business is neither to ask nor answer foolish questions, but to avoid them altogether. If we observe the apostle’s precept (Titus 3:8) to be careful to maintain good works, we shall find ourselves far too much occupied with profitable business to take much interest in unworthy, contentious, and needless strivings.
There are, however, some questions that are the reverse of foolish, which we must not avoid, but fairly and honestly meet, such as these:
- Do I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?
- Am I renewed in the spirit of my mind?
- Am I walking not after the flesh, but after the Spirit?
- Am I growing in grace?
- Does my conversation adorn the doctrine of God my Savior?
- Am I looking for the coming of the Lord and watching as a servant should do who expects his master?
- What more can I do for Jesus?
Other Related Scripture
Put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:22-32)
And a certain ruler asked Him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, “Why callest thou me good? None is good, save one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother.” And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. Now when Jesus heard these things, He said unto him, “Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.” (Luke 18:18-22)
And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted Him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, “What is written in the law? How readest thou?” And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And He said unto him, “Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.” (Luke 10:25-28)
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. (Romans 6:12-18)
Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men. But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. (Titus 3:1-9)
For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand. As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. (Galatians 6:8-16)
But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you. My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you. Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. (Galatians 4:18-26)