The evil is that we are slow to learn that we can do nothing good without God. This we know so well; we can confess it so truly and heartily. Yet, the more we confess it, the more often we neglect it in our deeds. We take for granted that since we know this truth, we shall act on what we know. Yet, because we take it for granted, we are not watchful, and we therefore forget it. Christians confess truly that without God they cannot think one good thought, say one good word, or do one good act. And yet they act as if nothing were less true.
Persons think it very unlikely they shall die this day, or that they shall fall into any evil accident on this particular day, for they have lived so many days without any great accidents. Similarly, they take for granted that their food will nourish them, because it has always nourished them heretofore. Yet, how could anyone be said to really depend upon God who lies down to sleep each night with merely a formal prayer to God to protect him, yet all the while scarcely thinking but that He will protect him without any prayer at all? The same is true of one who takes his food as a matter of course, perhaps with some formal grace, yet only thinking of what is pleasant or nourishing. This is more the way of a heathen, than of one who really believes in the special Providence of God.
The same principle is true as to deeds of grace. What a wonderful thing it would be if professing Christians, really prayed, morning by morning, to God, to carry them through the temptations and trials of the day—truly believing that they needed the special aid of God to carry them through the trials of that day. In contrast, what must we think of the very many so-called Christians? If they are honest, they will admit that if they prayed at all or thought at all, they hoped that they should somehow do right almost through the very wish and intention of doing it. They have thought that it is enough merely to call upon God in some general way. They think that if they do so, then things will not be much amiss with them.
God is indeed more ready to hear us than we are to pray. But where has He told us that He will hear such prayers as these? I fear that deeds done amid such prayers as these are deeds of nature, not deeds of grace. They are the deeds that a good heathen might have done, being done with perhaps as little thought of the grace of Christ as those of the very heathen. It may seem that I am being overly harsh. Yet, take any of the words of Holy Scripture as to Christian duty or Christian life:
- “Pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks.”
- “Giving thanks always for all things.”
- “Whatsoever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord.”
- “The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
- “If we live, we live unto the Lord.”
- “We live in the Spirit.”
- “If we be dead with Christ....”
- “Whether you eat, or whether you drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
- “Thou hast wrought all our deeds in us.”
“He that doeth good cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest that they are wrought in God.” What words are these! What a light of inward life streams forth through them! What a power of the Spirit! What might of holiness! “Deeds wrought in God,” done heartily to the Lord, a life in the Spirit, Christ living in us. How many of us, if we were forced to confess, would have to say that our works were wrought without Christ, than dare to claim such words as these?
Or take Christians again in their daily trials. We know how difficult it is not to sin in words. The Apostle says that someone who does not sin with his mouth “is a perfect man.” Yet people converse together on all sorts of perilous subjects: Public evils. The ills of the Church. The measures of those in authority. Their spiritual rulers. Their neighbors. Notorious sins. Parties to whom they are opposed or who are opposed to their beliefs. Persons uncongenial to themselves. Persons who have vexed them. Or persons who have done them an injury. Who really thinks that he can speak on those subjects without displeasing God by pride, or unloving, or irreverent thoughts or words? Of the many conversations carried on every moment throughout the Christian world, for how many of them is any aid of God at all asked? Before speaking, how many Christians pray that God will give good thoughts or keep the tongue from evil words?
As strange as it may sound, most Christians go about their daily deeds and conversations thinking that they cannot help but to sin. What people hate is having any strife with themselves, having to keep watch over themselves. They do not wish to pray for the grace of God, because they do not wish to be at the pains to use it. They shrink from the pain of putting restraint upon themselves. Therefore, they are ready to think that they cannot help themselves, that they must fall into these daily sins of infirmity. In this way, they can cast back their own faults upon God. What is the answer to all this?
The Apostle gives the remedy: “Whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.” In the Name of the Lord Jesus—as one who bears His Name. In the might of His Name. Calling upon His Name. To the Glory of His Great Name. Or in few words, referring all things to Him and receiving all things from Him. Let Him be the Beginning of all. For He is the End of all. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith. The Beginning from Whom all flows. The End, in Whom we are gathered. The Aim of all we do. The Reward to Whom we look for all things that were done through Him and unto Him. He is the Fountain of all Goodness from Whom all graces flow. He is the Ocean to Whom all should flow back, receiving the streams of our thanksgivings, supplying them again to us.
Have Him before you as the Pattern Whom you are to copy. The Redeemer in Whom is your strength. The Master and Friend, Whom you are to serve and please. Your God by Whom you have been created and re-created, and Who, in His infinite love, is your Everlasting Reward. Fix your eyes on Him as your Help, your Aim, the Center of your being. Rivet yourself unto Himself to steady your soul and to guide you.