Chapter 29 – The Hand of Faith

 “Jesus said to the man that had his hand withered . . . stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored.” Luke 6: 10. One of the most common mistakes by which souls are kept back from faith is that they do not feel the strength for faith. They desire first to feel faith living in themselves, and then they would believe. But that the command to believe should come to them while they do not yet feel themselves prepared for it or in a position to believe — this they do not comprehend. They do not understand, because they have not observed, what we experience or may see every day, that readiness and ability for any work is not given before the work but only through the work, and thus after we begin to work. The child that learns to run begins before he can really do it, and learns in the midst of the effort. The man that wishes to learn swimming goes into the water while he cannot yet swim, because he knows that, when he begins, he will in time learn to do it. And this law of nature has a still more glorious application in grace. God gives us commands for which we have previously no power, and yet requires obedience to them with full right; because He has said to us that when we submit, and set ourselves towards obedience, strength will be given along with this incipient activity. And this is the spirit in which we are to believe. Under the conviction of its unbelief, the soul must set itself to believe. In the assurance that power will be bestowed, it is yet to make a beginning: “Lord, I believe.” In this action it is also to persevere and go forward. Very strikingly are both aspects of this truth pictured to us in the case of the man with the withered hand. He feels his hand powerless, and yet Jesus says to him: “Stretch forth thy hand.” He sees in the Savior enough to convince him that He will not mock him, that He who gives this command will certainly never issue it without, at the same time, giving power to carry it out. He obeys and his hand is healed. O soul, the Lord Jesus who calls to you, “Believe in Me, as your Savior,” knows your helplessness. But it is just on this account that He speaks to you to rescue you from it. With a voice of power He commands you, “Believe in Me, that I am given by God to be your Savior: stretch out your hand to lay hold of Me and to appropriate Me for yourself.” Listen to Him, be willing to obey Him; remember that with the command He also gives the strength; begin, although you do not yet feel the power, and, although you can still do nothing, say, like Martha: “I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God.” Show that it is your desire to believe, and that you are in dead earnest about it; set your soul to attend to the fact that He really speaks to you, and to hear how charmingly attractive and kindly encouraging His voice is: “O thou unbelieving one, believe in Me.” As the man with the withered hand obtained power to stretch it out at the command of Jesus, so shall it be with you. The command, “Believe,” will no longer oppress you with the thought, “I cannot do it,” but encourage you to entertain the confidence: “Jesus commands it, thus it is to be, thus it may be.” And if, with every inclination again to be discouraged, you look to Jesus and hear how cheeringly He calls to you, “You may, you must, you can believe in Me,” your soul will be strengthened with an ever-growing steadfastness to entrust yourself to Him. In the endeavor to believe, strength for it is given and exercised: the hand of faith will soon be entirely healed. Soul, Jesus asks you, “If I speak the truth to you, why do you not believe?” He tells you the divine truth that He has come for you. He tells you the truth that your faith may be awakened thereby. I beseech you, understand this. See Him who here speaks: it is Jesus, the faithful and almighty Lover: hear His voice and be no longer unbelieving.