Living The Life That Tells For God by Hannah Whitall Smith
If you are a Christian, if you profess to have Christ abiding in you – then let everything else go that you might live out in a practical daily walk and observation the Christ-life you have dwelling in you. You may be the only “Bible” some will ever “read”. So live that your life will show to an unbelieving world the wonderful power of Christ to save from sin to the uttermost.
You are a child of God, and long to please Him. You love your divine Master, and are sick and weary of the sin that grieves Him. You long to be delivered from its power. Everything you have hitherto tried has failed to deliver you, and now, in your despair, you are asking if it can indeed be, as these happy people say, that Jesus is able and willing to deliver you.
Surely you must know in your very soul that He is—that to save you out of the hand of all your enemies is, in fact, just the very thing He came to do. Then trust Him. Commit your case to Him in an absolute unreserve, and believe that He undertakes it, and at once, knowing what He is and what He has said, claim that He does even now save you. Just as you believed at first that He delivered you from the guilt of sin because He said it, so now believe that He delivers you from the power of sin because He says it.
Let your faith now lay hold of a new power in Christ. You have trusted Him as your dying Saviour; now trust Him as your living Saviour. Just as much as He came to deliver you from future punishment, did He also come to deliver you from present bondage. Just as truly as he came to bear your stripes for you has He come to live your life for you.
You are as utterly powerless in the one case as in the other. You could as easily have got yourself rid of your own sins, as you could now accomplish for yourself practical righteousness. Christ, and Christ only, must do both for you, and your part in both cases is simply to give the thing to Him to do, and then believe that He does it.
An Obtainment, Not An Attainment
I would say, first of all, that this blessed life must not be looked upon in any sense as an attainment, but as an obtainment. We cannot earn it, we cannot climb up to it, we cannot win it; we can do nothing but ask for it and receive it. It is the gift of God in Christ Jesus.
And where a thing is a gift, the only course left for the receiver is to take it and thank the giver. We never say of a gift, “See to what I have attained,” and boast of our skill and wisdom in having attained it, but we say, “See what has been given me,” and boast of the love and wealth and generosity of the giver.
Everything in our salvation is a gift. From beginning to end, God is the giver and we are the receivers, and it is not to those who do great things, but to those who “receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness,” that the richest promises are made.
In order, therefore, to enter into a practical experience of this interior life, the soul must be in a receptive attitude, fully recognizing the fact that it is God’s gift in Christ Jesus, and that it cannot be gained by any efforts or works of our own. This will simplify the matter exceedingly, and the only thing left to be considered then, will be to discover upon whom God bestows this gift, and how they are to receive it.
To this I would answer, in short, that He can bestow it only upon the fully consecrated soul, and that it is to be received by faith.
Consecration is the first thing—not in any legal sense, not in order to purchase or deserve the blessing, but to remove the difficulties out of the way and make it possible for God to bestow it. In order for a lump of clay to be made into a beautiful vessel, it must be entirely abandoned to the potter, and must lie passive in his hands.
And similarly, in order for a soul to be made into a vessel unto God’s honor, “sanctified and meet for the Master’s use, and prepared unto every good work,” it must be utterly abandoned to Him, and must lie passive in His hands. This is manifest at the first glance.
To some minds perhaps the word “abandonment” might express this idea better than the word “consecration.” But whatever word we use, we mean an entire surrender of the whole being to God—spirit, soul and body placed under His absolute control, for Him to do with us just what He pleases. We mean that the language of our hearts, under all circumstances and in a view of every act, is to be “Thy will be done.” We mean the giving up of all liberty of choice. We mean a life of inevitable obedience.
To a soul ignorant of God, this may look hard, but to those who know Him, it is the happiest and most restful of lives. He is our Father, and He loves us, and He knows just what is best, and therefore, of course, His will is the very most blessed thing that can come to us under any circumstances.
I do not understand how it is that the eyes of so many Christians have been blinded to this ha. But it really would seem as if God’s own children were more afraid of His will than of anything else in life—His lovely, lovable will, which only means lovingkindnesses and tender mercies, and blessings unspeakable to their souls!
I wish I could show to every one the unfathomable sweetness of the will of God. Heaven is a place of infinite bliss because His will is perfectly done there, and our lives share in this bliss just in proportion as His will is perfectly done in them. He loves us—loves us, I say—and the will of love is always blessing for its loved one.
Some of us know what it is to love, and we know that could we only have our way, our beloved ones would be overwhelmed with blessings. All that is good and sweet and lovely in life would be poured out upon them from our lavish hands, had we but the power to carry out our will for them. And if this is the way of love with us, how much more must it be so with our God, who is love itself!
Could we but for one moment get a glimpse into the mighty depths of His love, our hearts would spring out to meet His will and embrace it as our richest treasure, and we would abandon ourselves to it with an enthusiasm of gratitude and joy that such a wondrous privilege could be ours.
A great many Christians seem practically to think that all their Father in heaven wants is a chance to make them miserable and to take away all their blessings. They imagine, poor souls, that if they hold on to things in their own will, they can hinder Him from doing this. I am ashamed to write the words, yet we must face a fact which is making wretched hundreds of lives.
A Christian who was in a great deal of trouble was recounting to another Christian the various efforts he had made to find deliverance, and concluded by saying, “But it has all been in vain, and there is literally nothing left for me to do now but to trust the Lord.”
“Alas!” exclaimed his friend in a tone of the deepest commiseration, as though no greater risk were possible—“Alas! has it come to that?”
A Christian lady who had this feeling was once expressing to a friend how impossible she found it to say, “Thy will be done,” and how afraid she should be to do it. She was the mother of an only little boy, who was the heir to a great fortune, and the idol of her heart. After she had stated her difficulties fully, her friend said, “Suppose your little Charley should come running to you tomorrow and say, ‘Mother, I have made up my mind to let you have your own way with me from this time forward. I am always going to obey you, and I want you to do just whatever you think best with me. I will trust your love.’
“How would you feel towards him? Would you say to yourself, ‘Ah, now I shall have a chance to make Charley miserable. I will take away all his pleasures, and fill his life with every hard and disagreeable thing that I can find. I will compel hint to do just the things that are the most difficult for him to do, and will give him all sorts of impossible commands.’”
“Oh, no, no, no!” exclaimed the indignant mother. “You know I would not. You know I would hug him to my heart and cover him with kisses, and would hasten to fill his life with all that was sweetest and best.”
“And are you more tender and more loving than God?” asked her friend.
“Ah, no!” was the reply. “I see my mistake. Of course, I must not be any more afraid of saying, ‘Thy will be done,’ to my Heavenly Father, than I would want my Charley to be of saying it to me.”
Better and sweeter than health or friends or money or fame or ease or prosperity—is the adorable will of our God. It gilds the darkest hours with a divine halo, and sheds brightest sunshine on the gloomiest paths. He always reigns who has made it his kingdom, and nothing can go amiss to him.
Surely, then, it is only a glorious privilege that is opening before you, when I tell you that the first step you must take in order to enter into the life hid with Christ in God, is that of entire consecration. I beg of you not to look at it as a hard and stern demand. You must do it gladly, thankfully, enthusiastically. You must go in on what I call the privilege side of consecration, and I can assure you, from the universal testimony of all who have tried it, that you will find it the happiest place you have ever entered yet.
Faith Is Absolutely Necessary
Faith is the next thing after surrender. Faith is an absolutely necessary element in the reception of any gift, for let our friends give a thing to us ever so fully, it is not really ours until we believe it has been given and claim it as our own. Above all, this is true in gifts which are purely mental or spiritual. Love may be lavished upon us by another without stint or measure, but until we believe that we are loved, it never really becomes ours.
I suppose most Christians understand this principle in reference to the matter of their forgiveness. They know that the forgiveness of sins through Jesus might have been preached to them forever, but it would never really have become theirs until they believed this preaching, and claimed the forgiveness as their own.
But when it comes to living the Christian life, they lose sight of this principle, and think that, having been saved by faith, they are now to live by works and efforts. Instead of continuing to receive, they are now to begin to do. This makes our declaration that the life hid with Christ in God is to be entered by faith, seem perfectly unintelligible to them. And yet it is plainly declared that “as we have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so we are to walk in Him.” We received Him by faith, and by faith alone; therefore we are to walk in Him by faith, and by faith alone.
And the faith by which we enter into this hidden life is just the same as the faith by which we were translated out of the kingdom of dark ness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, only it lays hold of a different thing. Then we believed that Jesus was our Saviour from the guilt of sin, and according to our faith it was unto us. Now we must believe that He is our Saviour from the power of sin, and according to our faith it shall be unto us.
Then we trusted Him for forgiveness, and it became ours; now we must trust Him for righteousness, and it shall become ours also. Then we took Him as a Saviour in the future from the penalties of our sins; now we must take Him as a Saviour in the present from the bondage of our sins. Then He was our redeemer; now He is to be our Life. Then He lifted us out of the pit; now He is to seat us in heavenly places with Himself.
I mean all this, of course, experimentally and practically. Theologically and judicially I know that every believer has everything as soon as he is converted. But experimentally nothing is his until by faith he claims it.
“Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you.” God “hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ,” but until we set the foot of faith upon them, they do not practically become ours. “According to our faith,” is always the limit and the rule.
But this faith of which I am speaking, must be a present faith. No faith that is exercised in the future tense amounts to anything. A man may believe forever that his sins will be forgiven at some future time, and he will never find peace. He has to came to the now belief, and say by a present appropriating faith, “My sins are now forgiven,” before his soul can be at rest.
And similarly, no faith that looks for a future deliverance from the power of sin, will ever lead a soul into the life we are describing. The enemy delights in this future faith, for he knows it is powerless to accomplish any practical results. But he trembles and flees when the soul of the believer dares to claim a present deliverance, and to reckon itself now to be free from his power.
Perhaps no four words in the language have more meaning in them than the following, which I would have you repeat over and over with your voice and with your soul, emphasizing each time a different word:
Jesus saves me now.—It is He.
Jesus saves me now.—It is His work to save.
Jesus saves me now.—I am the one to be saved.
Jesus saves me now.—He is doing it every moment.
To sum up, then—in order to enter into this blessed interior life of rest and triumph, you have two steps to take—first, entire abandonment; and second, absolute faith. No matter what may be the complications of your peculiar experience, no matter what your difficulties, or your surroundings, or your “peculiar temperament,” these two steps, definitely taken and unwaveringly persevered in, will certainly bring you out sooner or later into the green pastures and still waters of this life hid with Christ in God.
You may be perfectly sure of this. And if you will let every other consideration go, and simply devote your attention to these two points, and be very clear and definite about them, your progress will be rapid, and your soul will reach its desired haven far sooner than you can now think possible.
Results In The Daily Walk And Conversation
The results of a life hid with Christ in practical daily walk and conversation ought to be very marked, and the people who have entered into the enjoyment of it ought to be, in very truth, a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
My son, now with God, once wrote to a friend something to this effect: that we are God’s witnesses necessarily, because the world will not read the Bible, but they will read our lives, and that upon the report these give, will very much depend their belief in the divine nature of the religion we possess.
This age is essentially an age of facts, and all scientific inquiries are being increasingly turned from theories to realities. If therefore, our religion is to make any headway in the present time, it must be proved to be more than a theory, and we must present to the investigation of the critical minds of our age the realities of lives transformed by the mighty power of God, “working in them all the good pleasure of His will.” We are responsible to “walk worthy of the high calling” wherewith we have been called.
The standard of practical holy living has been so low among Christians, that the least degree of real devotedness of life and walk is looked upon with surprise and often even with disapprobation, by a large portion of the Church. And for the most part, the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ are satisfied with a life so conformed to the world, and so like it in almost every respect, that to a casual observer, no difference is discernible.
But we who have heard the call of our God to a life of entire consecration and perfect trust, must do differently. We must come out from the world and be separate, and must not be conformed to it in our characters or in our lives.
We must set our affections on heavenly things, not on earthly ones, and must seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, surrendering every thing that would interfere with this. We must walk through the world as Christ walked. We must have the mind that was in Him.
As pilgrims and strangers, we must abstain from fleshly lusts that war against the soul. As good soldiers of Jesus Christ, we must disentangle ourselves inwardly from the affairs of this life, that we may please Him who has chosen us to be soldiers.
We must abstain from all appearance of evil. We must be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven us. We must not resent injuries or unkindness, but must return good for evil, and turn the other cheek to the hand that smites us. We must take always the lowest place among our fellow men and seek, not our own honor, but the honor of others.
We must be gentle and meek and yielding, not standing up for our own rights, but for the fights of others. We must do everything not for our own glory, but for the glory of God. And to sum it all up, since He who hath called us is holy, so we must be holy in all manner of conversation, because it is written, “Be ye holy, for I am holy.”
Some Christians seem to think that all the requirements of a holy life are met when there is very active and successful Christian work, and because they do so much for the Lord in public, they feel a liberty to be cross and ugly and unChristlike in private.
But this is not the sort of Christian life I am depicting. If we are to walk as Christ walked, it must be in private as well as in public, at home as well as abroad, and it must be every hour all day long, and not at stated periods or on certain fixed occasions. We must be just as Christlike to our servants as we are to our minister, and just as “good” in our counting house as we are in our prayer meeting.
It is in daily homely living that practical piety can best show itself, and we may well question any “professions” that fail under this test of daily life.
A cross Christian, or an anxious Christian, a discouraged, gloomy Christian, a doubting Christian, a complaining Christian, an exacting Christian, a selfish Christian, a cruel, hardhearted Christian, a self-indulgent Christian, a Christian with a sharp tongue or bitter spirit, all these may be very earnest in their work and may have honorable places in the Church, but they are not Christlike Christians, and they know nothing of the realities of which this book treats, no matter how loud their professions may be.
Walk As Christ Walked
The life hid with Christ in God is a hidden life as to its source, but it must not be hidden as to its practical results. People must see that we walk as Christ walked, if we say that we are abiding in Him. We must prove that we “possess” that which we “profess;” We must, in short, be real followers of Christ, and not theoretical ones only.
And this means a great deal. It means that we must really and absolutely turn our backs on everything that is contrary to the perfect will of God. It means that we are to be a “peculiar people,” not only in the eyes of God, but in the eyes of the world around us, and that wherever we go, it will be known from our habits, our tempers, our conversation and our pursuits, that we are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, and are not of the world even as He was not of the world.
We must no longer look upon our money as our own, but as belonging to the Lord, to be used in His service. We must not feel at liberty to use our energies exclusively in the pursuit of worldly means, but must recognize, that if we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, all needful things shall be added unto us; We shall find ourselves forbidden to seek the highest places, or to strain after worldly advantages.
We shall not be permitted to make self, as heretofore, the centre of all out thoughts and all our aims. Our days will have to be spent not in serving ourselves, but in serving the Lord, and we shall find ourselves called upon to bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. And all our daily duties will be more perfectly performed than ever, because whatever we do will be done, “not with eye service, as men pleasers, but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (Eph. 6:6).
Into all this we shall undoubtedly be led by the Spirit of God, if we give ourselves up to His guidance. But unless we have the right standard of Christian life set before us, we may be hindered by our ignorance from recognizing His voice; and it is for this reason I desire to be very plain and definite in my statements.
I have noticed that wherever there has been a faithful following of the Lord in a consecrated soul, several things have, sooner or later, inevitably followed.
Meekness and quietness of spirit become in time the characteristics of the daily life. A submissive acceptance of the will of God, as it comes in the hourly events of each day, is manifested; pliability in the hands of God to do or to suffer all the good pleasure of His will; sweetness under provocation; calmness in the midst of turmoil and bustle; a yielding to the wishes of others, and an insensibility to slights and affronts; absence of worry or anxiety; deliverance from care and fear—all these, and many other similar graces, are invariably found to be the natural outward development of that inward life which is hid with Christ in God.
Then as to the habits of life: we always see such Christians sooner or later laying aside thoughts of self and becoming full of consideration for others. They dress and live in simple, healthful ways; they renounce self-indulgent habits and surrender all purely fleshly gratifications. Some helpful work for others is taken up, and useless occupations are dropped out of the life. God’s glory and the welfare of His creatures, become the absorbing delight of the soul.
The voice is dedicated to Him, to be used in singing His praises. The purse is placed at His disposal. The pen is dedicated to write for Him, the lips to speak for Him, the hands and the feet to do His bidding. Year after year such Christians are seen to grow more unworldly, more serene, more heavenly-minded, more transformed, more like Christ, until even their very faces express so much of the beautiful inward divine life, that all who look at them cannot but take knowledge of them that they live with Jesus and are abiding in Him.
This Is God’s Call To Us All
I feel sure that to each of you have come some divine intimations or foreshadowings of the life I here describe. Have you not begun to feel dimly conscious of the voice of God speaking to you, in the depths of your soul, about these things? Has it not been a pain and a distress, to you of late to discover how full your lives are of self? Has not your soul been plunged into inward trouble and doubt about certain dispositions or pursuits in which you have been formerly accustomed to indulge? Have you not begun to feel uneasy with some of your habits of life and to wish that you could do differently in certain respects? Have not paths of devotedness and of service begun to open out before you, with the longing thought, “Oh, that I could walk in them!”
All these questions and doubts and this inward yearning, are the voice of the Good Shepherd in your heart, seeking to call you out of that which is contrary to His will. Let me entreat of you not to turn away from His gentle pleadings! You little know the sweet paths into which He means to lead you by these very steps, nor the wonderful stores of blessedness that lie at their end, or you would spring forward with an eager joy to yield to every one of His requirements.
The heights of Christian perfection can only be reached by each moment faithfully following the Guide who is to lead you there, and He reveals the way to us one step at a time, in the little things of our daily lives, asking only on our part that we yield ourselves up to His guidance. Be perfectly pliable then in His dear hands, to go where He entices you, and to turn away from all from which He makes you shrink. Obey Him perfectly the moment you are sure of His will; and you will soon find that He is leading you out swiftly and easily into such a wonderful life of conformity to Himself that it will be a testimony to all around you, beyond what you yourself will ever know.
Ah, dear soul, abandon yourself to the guidance of your divine Master, and shrink from no surrender for which He may call.
“The perfect way is hard to flesh,
It is not hard to love;
If thou wert sick for want of God,
How swiftly wouldst thou move!”
Surely you can trust Him! If some things may be called for that look to you of but little consequence, and not worthy your Lord’s attention, remember that He sees not as man sees, and that things small to you may be in His eyes the key and the clue to the deepest springs of your being. No life can be complete that fails in its little things. A look, a word, a tone of voice even, however small they may seem to human judgment, are often of vital importance in the eyes of God. Your one great desire is to follow Him fully. Can you not say then a continual, “Yes” to all His sweet commands, whether small or great, and trust Him to lead you by the shortest road to your fullest blessedness?
My dear friend, whether you knew it or not, this and nothing less than this is what your consecration meant. It meant inevitable obedience. It meant that the will of your God was henceforth to be your will, under all circumstances and at all times. It meant that from that moment you did surrender your liberty of choice, and gave yourself up utterly into the control of your Lord. It meant an hourly following of Him, whither soever He might lead you, without any turning back.
All this and far more was involved in your surrender to God, and now I appeal to you to make good your word. Let everything else go that you may live out in a practical daily walk and conversation, the Christ-life you have dwelling within you. You are united to your Lord by a wondrous tie; Walk, then, as He walked and show to the unbelieving world the blessed reality of His mighty power to save, by letting Him save you to the uttermost.
You need not fear to consent to this, for He is your Saviour and His power is to do it all. He is not asking you in your poor weakness, to do it yourself. He only asks you to yield yourself to Him, that He may work in you and through you by His own mighty power. Your part is to yield yourself, His part is to work and never, never will He give you any command that is not accompanied by ample power to obey it.
Take no thought for the morrow in this matter, but abandon yourself with a generous mist to the good Shepherd, who has promised never to call His own sheep out into any path without Himself going before them to make the way easy and sat. Take each little step as He makes it plain to you. Bring all your life, in each of its details, to Him to regulate and guide. Follow gladly and quickly the sweet suggestions of His Spirit in your soul.
Day by day you will find Him bringing you more and more into conformity with His will in all things, molding you and fashioning you as you are able to bear it, into a “vessel unto His honor, sanctified and meet for His use, and fitted to every good work” (2 Tim. 2:21). So shall be given to you the sweet joy of being an “epistle … known and read of all men” (2 Cor. 3:3), and your light shall shine so brightly that men seeing, not you, but your good works, shall glorify, not you, but your Father which is in heaven.