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The Life and Growth of Faith: Ch. 6 of “Faith Is Substance”

This entry is part 8 of 12 in the series Faith Is Substance

Copyright © 20021

Percy Gutteridge


Chapter image for 'The Life and Growth of Faith' - a green leaf overlaid with the titleYes, faith is substance, a living substance
that's meant to grow within us.2

Life is the greatest of all human desires. Even most suicides rush out of this life because they think that the next life cannot be as unpleasant as the one which they are now enduring. When Graceless in Pilgrim’s Progress was convinced that the City of Destruction, in which he dwelt, was going to fall into Tophet,3 “the man put his fingers in his ears and ran on, crying, ‘Life! Eternal life!’” Because of this, his name was changed to Christian. The Lord Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

This life, the life of God, is not an added stimulus to the old one.  The Lord Jesus does not add a piece of new cloth to an old garment (Matthew 9:16,17). A weaver well knows what He means.  Freshly woven cloth, known as “grey cloth” in the industry, must not be added to material that has already been shrunk, bleached, and dyed.  If a piece of “undressed cloth” (original word) is used for such a purpose, when the garment is washed the new cloth will shrink and pull away from the other material.  What the Lord is indicating is that His kind of life is narrower than that of this world.

It is the same message, but in a different metaphor, when He speaks of entering into life through the strait gate into the narrow way. Your heavenly life, with its new and deeper faith, is too narrow for those who only know the earthly one. Even some of the best people will censure your faith.  The disciples once said to Jesus, “Knowest Thou that the Pharisees were offended?” Jesus answered, “Let them alone!” (Matthew 15:12-14) You let them alone, too!

Paradoxically, your new faith-life is much too big for these same people; you have become exceedingly fanatical to them. The Lord Jesus warns you of this also, when in the same scripture He says, “Neither do men put new wine into old bottles [wineskins, and so throughout the passage] else the bottles break and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved” (Matthew 9:17). The life of faith is too narrow, and too expansive, for this world. There is a reproach in this new life, but faith must not be a sneak; it puts out its hand to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, even though disapproving religious people are looking on (Luke 8:43-48).

How Abraham Learned Faith:
Steps of Obedience

We are always learning lessons from Abraham. Paul tells us that we are to “walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham” (Romans 4:12). Abraham did not learn his faith all at once; he walked one step at a time. His first step was to leave Ur of the Chaldees (the idolaters’ city) with his father Terah. This began his life of faith. After a journey of a thousand miles, along the Euphrates to Charan, he was called to his second step—to Canaan. He did not arrive in Canaan all at once, nor did the children of Israel. Their first step was through the Red Sea into the wilderness; their second was over Jordan into the Promised Land. You will probably have to do the same thing. Very few step from Egypt into Canaan; they usually have to put in some time in the desert before the life of faith is established. Abram, which means “high father,” became Abraham—“father of a multitude”—only because he walked in obedience to God. Every promise of God is also a command. Conversely, every command contains a promise. The first lesson which we learn from Abraham, then, is to be obedient. Obedience will always bring the reward.

Faith is almost synonymous with obedience. Abraham “staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God” (Romans 4:20). This was when the Lord had promised him a son when he was past age. He staggered not then, because he staggered not when God first called him out. If he had staggered on the Charan road or on the last lap of the journey to Canaan, he would then have staggered when he was faced with greater promises. A man hit by an arrow staggers and falls. Doubts are the devil’s arrows. Abraham did not indulge himself in the luxury of doubting; he held aloft the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16). Not one of the arrows of unbelief hit him; thus “he staggered not through unbelief.”

You will always be led on, step by step, to greater, higher steps of faith. An adult chamois,4 five thousand feet up among the rocks, can leap from pinnacle to pinnacle, where the foothold is but the size of an English crown piece or an American silver dollar. It could not have done this when only a few days old; it had to start to balance on a tiny height which had a broader platform. I have held my breath as I have seen the baby lambs skipping from rock to rock high up on the mountains of Wales. I have also seen their dead bodies at the foot of a precipice. These were presumptuous, and were out of reach of the shepherd. Also, they had not learned obedience. “Thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear” (Romans 11:20). You are watched over by the Good Shepherd, who “when He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them, and the sheep follow Him” (John 10:4); so you are perfectly safe if you will obey and follow. “Follow” means “come after,” not “go before.”

Not His Own Faith

Paul also says that Abraham was “the father of us all—before Him whom he believed” (Romans 4:16-17); but the marginal rendering is more significant: “Like unto Him whom he believed.” He was like to God in his faith; he did not use his own faith, but the faith that God gave to him. Abraham was not an extraordinary man; he was just an ordinary man believing in an extraordinary Person, the Living God. Abraham never performed a miracle, but God was always doing signs and wonders for him. Abraham’s life was full of visions, theophanies,5 prophecies, manifestations, victories, and miracles; but all that Abraham really did was to obey and go on believing God. Will you ask the Lord to teach you Abraham’s walk of faith, which is the operation of the faith of the Son of God? Let the Lord Jesus then operate His faith through you.

Dr. A.B. Simpson wrote of a copperplate engraving that, examined at reading distance, was a copy of the American Constitution, but held at arm’s length, revealed a wonderful likeness of George Washington—so cleverly had it been written and arranged. The Bible is like that engraving—its words are meant to reveal the Truth, that is, Christ, of whom the Bible is but a revelation. “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). All is Christ and Christ is all. Having Him, you have all things—a boundless store of faith for today and for every tomorrow with all the unknown needs and conflicts.

They who know the Saviour shall in Him be strong,
Mighty in the conflict of the right ’gainst wrong.
This the blessèd promise given in God’s Word,
Doing wondrous exploits, they who know the Lord.

Victory! victory! blessèd blood-bought victory,
Victory! victory! vict’ry all the time!
As Jehovah liveth, strength divine He giveth
Unto those who know Him, vict’ry all the time.

In the midst of battle, be not thou dismayed,
Tho’ the powers of darkness ’gainst thee are arrayed;
God, thy strength, is with thee, causing thee to stand.
Heaven’s allied armies wait at thy command.

Brave to bear life’s testing, strong the foe to meet,
Walking like a hero midst the furnace heat,
Doing wondrous exploits with the Spirit’s sword,
Winning souls for Jesus; praise, O praise the Lord!

—Mrs. C. H. Morris—
[These are the full lyrics to the hymn
They Who Know the Saviour.]

You are not going to be deluded, for what He calls you to believe is true; count on His faithfulness. He calls you to have faith, and the One who does so “is faithful that promised” (Hebrews 10:23). The centurion said, “Speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed” (Matthew 8:8). He was “like unto God”; he could count the things that are not, as though they were. And Jesus said, “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel” (Matthew 8:10).

Growth in Maturity: Effort and Rest

All earthly life grows toward maturity. This is also true of life in the Spirit, but with this difference—spiritual life is always becoming mature only to commence another phase of maturity. This will go on through all eternity. Paul commends the Thessalonians because “your faith groweth exceedingly” (2 Thessalonians 1:3). The divine tree of faith has been planted in good and fruitful soil; now, provided that the conditions for growth are kept right, Paul is satisfied that the tree will bud and leaf and blossom and bear fruit with ever-increasing measure, forever.

The Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things and for whom are all things, knows all that there is to know about horticulture. Had you forgotten for a moment that He invented it? “All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3). He wants you to be well instructed in this most important subject of fruitful faith, so He says, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow” (Matthew 6:28). The emphasis in the verse is on the word how; let us therefore consider, without wandering down the paths of botany or biology, how plants grow. This is a book on faith, so do not expect a treatise on photosynthesis or the process of osmosis (which were, however, both originated by the Lord Jesus and are great necessities in the life and growth of plants).

Effort and Rest

But we will deal with more simple things. How do plants grow? By alternate effort and rest. So important is the rest period that God created the earth with a necessity for rest. He rested Himself from creating, and made for us a sabbath rest of one day in seven. More than this, He instituted a one year’s rest in seven for the soil, when it could recover its strength by lying fallow. Much of earth’s sickness is caused by greedy, unbelieving man denying to the earth its proper rest. Our harvests would be more plentiful and our food more wholesome if we obeyed God. (See Leviticus 25:1-6; 2 Chronicles 36:21.) This is more clearly seen when one realizes that God has provided a rest period through autumn and winter, with revival in spring and full growth in summer—then rest again.

Effort and rest are even more evident in the opening of a bud, the emergence of an imago6 from its nymph state in the metamorphosis of an insect, or the breaking out of a chick from an egg. The only way, of course, to see the opening of a bud is by means of time-lapse photography, where a film has been taken over many hours and then greatly speeded up. But anyone may watch a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis; or, easier still, see a baby chicken coming out of the egg. In every case, there is a strong, impulsive, effort followed by a time of inertia, of quiet rest. This is God’s way of growth for lilies—and men. You will not be called to a continual effort of extraordinary faith, but to a succession of periods of special times of faith, and then to rest.

Retaining the Ground Won

Nevertheless, to change the metaphor—the ground won must be retained. The plateau gained is a camping site to provide a base for a higher climb up the mountainside; so it is in a life of faith, all the time. The Lord would have you to be without anxiety. A lily grows in simple faith; so, if you discover that you have been put on one side for a time, still believe! It is a time for consolidation of ground won, in preparation for claiming further territory ahead. Those who do not know these simple rules of growth in faith will tell you that you are backslidden, and would have you begin a perilous time of heart-searching for secret sin. It is very dangerous to keep company with that lying jade “introspection”; she usually haunts the steps of those who long to walk closely with their Lord. This attitude of searching one’s own heart is against faith. The Lord is the only true searcher of the heart, for He alone knows it, and He has promised to reveal to us anything there that displeases Him. “And if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you” (Philippians 3:15). Again, “thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, ‘This is the way, walk ye in it,’ when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left” (Isaiah 30:21). Those who are the Lord’s sheep will hear and know His voice, and will have no need to be anxious lest their ways are displeasing to the Shepherd. Faith has confidence in Him that He will, by His indwelling Spirit, reveal all faults as we walk in the light. This is one of the privileges of the rest of faith.

Faith has its delays, which are all a part of the work of faith. After the Lord Jesus had cursed the barren fig tree (Mark 11:12-14), the disciples saw no immediate difference, for there was none apparent to the eye. However, the almighty Word had spoken—the same Word that had originally said, “Let the earth bring forth…the fruit tree yielding fruit” (Genesis 1:11). The Word was now commanding the reverse, and the destroying work had instantly begun. The Lord Jesus passed calmly on. The disciples may have foolishly thought that this was an indignant word spoken, a word of annoyance because He was hungry; but they did not then know the Lord. They were astonished when, upon their return, they found that the fig tree had dried up from the roots. It was a demonstration to them that God expects fruit from those whom He has created to produce it, as Jesus taught His disciples later when He said, “I am the true vine and My Father is the husbandman; every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away” (John 15:1,2). It was also a solemn warning to the “fig-tree” nation—the Jews—that because of their sin, they would be dried up. We must not expect instantaneous action unless it is necessary. So many believe and look, see nothing, and doubt. True faith swamps the doubts with “I believe.”

Faith is a hidden thing; it is like a grain of mustard seed that one hides away in the earth. The sower must have faith to believe that there is growth, although it may be hidden. “Be patient therefore, brethren…Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth and hath long patience for it…Be ye also patient” (James 5:7,8). The man who continually digs his seed up to see how it is getting on will have no harvest. So, speak the word of faith and believe; then in due time the work of faith will be revealed, for “blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). Restless unbelief kills the seed; an agitated spirit looking for signs of growth is not operating the faith of God.

Faith Comes by Hearing

The great necessity in all this is to have received a word from God; an act of faith must always be the product of a divinely given word. We have already pointed out—but it must be repeated again and again—that faith cometh by hearing (so are you listening?) and “hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). That is, not just words that God once said to someone else under other circumstances, or even under similar ones to your own at some time in the past (as recorded in the Bible), but a word that He is saying personally to you now!

Because there is such a dearth of men and women who are walking with God at this time, the teaching is usually given that one may take one’s own word from the Scriptures: “Every promise in the book is yours, and there are over five thousand promises in the Bible,” and so on. I have found that when I have been counseling a Christian in need, and I have asked him, “Has the Lord given you a word?” the reply almost invariably is, “What do you mean by the Lord giving me a word?” They have been taught to believe that the word of the Lord—“My sheep hear My voice” [John 10:27]—means that they should read and memorize the Bible, but nothing more than that. It takes time to receive the word of the Lord; He speaks at His time, in His will, not ours. It is much quicker, in this hour of rush and shortcuts, to fly to the “promise box” with its heterogeneous collection of pleasant scripture texts.

The Rest of Faith

We have made a brief mention of the rest of faith, but it is such an important part of the life and growth of faith that we must have a closer look at it. The rest of faith is not the enjoyment of future Paradise, but a present breathing of the atmosphere of Heaven. It is an abiding in a deep-settled peace, which is at the very root of the life of faith, even though storms of adversity and persecution, with waves of trouble and conflict, are going over the head. It is of the mind, the attitude and the very nature of Jesus; it is peace flowing like a river; it is righteousness as certain, as progressive, as abundant, as ceaseless as the waves of the ocean. It is God’s full purpose in creating man. Adam and Eve had a great measure of it while they were in the Garden of Eden.

This rest is the complete opposite of that which sin generates in the fallen nature. The rest of faith is like Lazarus—the one-time beggar—now in Abraham’s bosom, above the great gulf under which lies the selfish, once-rich man, “Dives,”7 who is restless, tormented, and unsatisfied (Luke 16:19-31), because “the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace…to the wicked” (Isaiah 57:20,21). No unregenerate human being can enjoy the rest of faith, because it is of the peace of God. No psychiatric treatment can ever bring it, because all that the sincere psychiatrist can do is to work with the material he has in hand, which is the limited human mind; and what we are considering is “the peace of God which passeth all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). This is a rest that is only “for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9). “Be zealous therefore,” says the writer of Hebrews, “to enter into that rest” (Hebrews 4:11). It cannot be entered into by just assenting to the truth of the Scriptures about faith, but only by allowing the Lord to bring one to the place of faith by His chastening. It is always true “that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Those who, with Job, are willing to say to their Beloved, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (Job 13:15), and who, without complaining—but perhaps often with tears and sighing—still look up to and trust in Him, will be brought at last to the place of faith where they will enter into His rest. There is no other way.

In this life of faith, what does the rest of faith effect? The greatest thing is that it pleases God.  We were made for Him, and it is “His rest” that we enter into. It begets in us a constancy, a nobility of character that is like Jesus: so gentle and yet so strong; completely pliable and yet absolutely unbreakable; dignified and yet humble. He was taken captive and led to the slaughter as unresisting as a lamb, but he could not be compelled to speak a word. The one who has entered into this rest of faith knows, not just assumes or makes an effort to believe, that his “old man is crucified with Christ.” The slightest variance with the way of the Spirit, or any conduct that is of the nature of sin, is instantly recognized, because of the check of the Spirit, and is confessed, pardoned, and cleansed because of the ever-prevailing Blood of the everlasting covenant that abides upon the child of God. Even such momentary transgressions are utilized to enter more deeply into the rest of faith. The reliance upon the Father’s word that He forgives upon confession, the loving acceptance of His forgiveness, the refusal to think upon the wrong act or thought, makes even the lapse a means of grace to establish the soul in oneness with God.

What of others’ sin? We are grieved for them, but we do not allow it to disturb the peace of God. “Fret not thyself because of evil doers” (Psalm 37:1) is the gracious enabling command of our Father, who also adds:

  • “Trust in the Lord” [verse 3]
  • “Delight thyself also in the Lord” [verse 4]
  • “Commit thy way unto the Lord” [verse 5]
  • “Rest in the Lord [verse 7],” for “the meek shall inherit the earth and delight themselves in the abundance of peace” [verse 11].

“Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright for the end of that man is peace” [verse 37]. The Most High regards all the evil of all the earth; does He fret?

Brother Lawrence, who was a lay brother in the Carmelite Monastery in Paris in the seventeenth century, entered into this rest and learned to practice the presence of God. Once, when he was very ill, he was asked whether he would like to live a little longer in order that he might still grow in holiness, or die and enter into the blessedness of the saints. He replied that he left the choice with God, for he had only to await God’s will in peace. John Wesley also records a number of such cases in his journal. In this rest all is done for the love of God; the strident call of duty, the imperative voice of law, or the motive of personal pleasure no longer are the governing factors in the life. Fear of the wrath of God as an incentive to keep His commandments has gone for ever, for perfect love has come in and has cast out such fear (1 John 4:18). Is the task distasteful to the flesh? Then the disciple is glad to do it with a willing heart out of love for his Master, for he serves the Lord Christ and of Him he will receive the recompense of the reward (Hebrews 10:35). Is the work so very small? Still all is well, for the Lord looks not at the size of the work, but at the willing love of the one who does it. Does He need our service? Can He not, at a word, speak a world into existence, or raise up from stones children to Abraham? Is the work too great? Love never fails; and He who has chosen the task will prove by many a sign and wonder that He will be with him unto the end whom He has chosen to perform the work.

All things are possible to him
That can in Jesu’s name believe.
Lord, I no more Thy truth blaspheme,
Thy truth I lovingly receive;
I can, I do believe in Thee,
All things are possible to me.

—Charles Wesley—
[from the hymn
All Things Are Possible To Him.]

“Consider the Lilies of the Field…”

  1. And why take ye thought for raiment?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
  2. And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Matthew 6:28-29

Let us consider the lilies. There has been a concern among the commentators, who wish to rightly expound the truth of the Scriptures, as to what those lilies were that the Lord Jesus was speaking about. Was it the lilium candidum, a fair white lily that grows in Syria, although not in a wild state? Was it the lotus, or the anemone, or the tulip? Was the color scarlet, violet, or orange? All these varieties and colors have had their supporters; but does not the Lord say lilies [plural]? He is emphasizing that one kind of lily is not sufficient to describe the quality, the beauty, the character of one of His saints. Does He not say that “the righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon” (Psalm 92:12)? Neither the upright, resilient, and fruitful palm, nor the sturdy, fragrant, disease-resisting cedar can alone typify one of His children; both are needed to give an adequate image. So put all the virtues of many forms of flowers with all the glories of their diverse coloring together if you would describe the exceeding fairness of the Bride, the Lamb’s wife. He gave Himself that she might be sanctified and cleansed—“a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:26,27).

“…They Toil Not…”

These lilies toil not. They have entered (as we have seen) into the rest that remains for the people of God. There is no perspiring anxiety to work for God; no passionate or sentimental human appeal is needed to touch their hearts, for they are moved with the compassionate love of Jesus. Like the early Christians, they have not to be constantly reminded to witness for the Lord Jesus (there are no exhortations to do this or emotional appeals for funds to carry out this work in the epistles), for the Holy Spirit has come and, having come, He ever witnesses through them to the Lord Jesus.

“…Neither Do They Spin…”

These lilies spin not. They no longer attempt to spin and weave and cut out and make up their own garments of righteousness, for they have learned that they have received “forgiveness of sins and inheritance amongst those who are sanctified by faith” that is in Jesus (Acts 26:18). They have a love gift given to them—the gift of their Lord’s seamless dress which comes on them from above; it cannot be put on in any other way. The kings and priests of Christ’s kingdom, then, do not spin; their garments are made for them of fine linen, a love gift of holiness through faith in Jesus. They are not garments of their own, manufactured through suppression of sin, and self-righteousness; for as Ezekiel says, “They shall not gird themselves with anything that causeth sweat” (Ezekiel 44:18). “Let us be glad and rejoice and give honour to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints” (Revelation 19:7,8).

Holiness by faith in Jesus,
Not by effort of thine own,
Sin’s dominion crushed and broken
By the power of grace alone,
God’s own holiness within thee,
His own beauty on thy brow;
This shall be thy pilgrim brightness,
This thy blessèd portion now.

—Frances Ridley Havergal—
[from the hymn
Church of God, Beloved and Chosen]

“…Even Solomon in All His Glory…”

The adorning of the lily has a different quality than that of man. Solomon’s regal robes were most carefully preserved, and used only for state occasions. They were held in most special honor, for, arrayed in his robes, Solomon looked a king indeed; without them, he looked like any other man. No one was allowed to wear purple in the days of imperial Rome but the emperor only. Until almost recent history, the dress of the different classes of society was, by tradition and also by law (in Europe), assigned to them. There was severe punishment for those who presumed to dress above their station in life. Why was this? Because, as in the days of Solomon, without extraordinary dress, folk appeared to be just ordinary people. I regret to have to remind you that in the days of the apostles there was no such thing as clerical attire; they had no need to dress to look different, because they were different. As ecclesiastical formalism grew, the anointing of the Holy Spirit no longer rested upon the presbyters, the ministers of the Church, and they did what the world around them did—they wore special religious vestments, some dressing like the priests of the Old Covenant, the ministry of which has passed away. It is not that it is wrong to wear special clerical robes; it is just unnecessary where the pastor and his flock are under the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

“…Was Not Arrayed Like One of These.”

The Lord Jesus has a different viewpoint than man; in His eyes His lilies have a glory far beyond the most majestic king—even Solomon. But their array can be trampled upon; the flower can be bruised and the beauty dimmed. But, patience! For below the surface of things, deep down, is the true lily, and from its corm8 and roots will come up again another flower as fair and as glorious as the first. As Elizabeth Barrett Browning says:

Very whitely still
The lilies of our lives may reassure
Their blossoms from their roots, accessible
Alone to heavenly dews.9

Man does not recognize the glory of the saints of God; they have a different quality, hidden from natural eyes, away underneath. Their adornment is “the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible,” even “the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which in the sight of God is of great price” (1 Peter 3:4). This is something that the best religion cannot create. We can make a fair imitation and today the plastic or silk imitation lilies which are manufactured would deceive a florist—at a distance—but they are not alive, and they cannot grow. It is food for thought that some churches have these imitation lilies on their altars; I wonder if that is a parable? Only the Holy Spirit, “the Lord and Giver of life,” can produce Christ’s lilies.

So lilies grow in rest, without constant effort, and in doing so are clothed with garments of glory and beauty. But, although they grow so fair, so straight and tall, yet their feet are in the earth. This deserves a comment. All the King’s lilies must remember that although their heads and hearts are in heaven, their feet are on the earth. They are in the world, but not of it. One whose head, heart, and feet are all on earth ceases to be His lily at all; and one whose feet, heart, and head are all in the heavenlies tends to become a fanatic. Feet on earth keep the heart and head lowly so that the child of God can walk in a true faith and grow in it.

Where Lilies Grow

We have spoken of the “how,” but let us now consider the where of lily growth. “As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters,” (Song of Songs 2:2). Lilies often have to grow among the thorns. The Lord often places one of His most precious saints in the roughest circumstances and amongst the wicked, who are as thorns. Very bitter, petty, carping, and sarcastic are the world’s children, and they know well how to wound the sensitive spirit of a child of God.  The Lord, whose head was crowned with thorns, has fullest sympathy because of His knowledge and experience, and will comfort the one who rests by faith in Him. The water-lily, as Tennyson says, knows how to take refuge from the chilly darkness and buffeting winds of the night by folding up her flowers and sinking beneath the surface. Let us apply the poet’s words and do the same by finding our refuge in Jesus.

Now folds the lily all her sweetness up,
And slips into the bosom of the lake;
So fold thyself, My dearest, thou and slip
Into My bosom, and be lost in Me.10

A lily among thorns, or a lily growing from the mud is all the more lovely by contrast. Psalm 45 is a “Song of loves upon Shoshannim.” Shoshannim means lilies. It is a lily psalm—a song of loves concerning the Lord and His lilies. He says that if we (like Ruth) will forget our own people and our father’s house (verse 10), that is, if we will go out after Him, leaving all and following, then the King will greatly desire our beauty. We shall be “all glorious within,” having a pure heart, and like the lilies whose dress was more glorious than Solomon’s, our clothing shall be of wrought gold (verse 13).

It will be thought by some that the nature that we have been describing, which is the nature of Jesus and of His bride, will be weak, irresolute, and characterless. It is not so; those who have grown like the lily have proved strong in faith and patience, and the names of many are emblazoned forever on the martyr rolls of Heaven. When Solomon built his magnificent temple—a faint type of the more glorious one built of living stones, to be a habitation of the Most High God—he had two bronze pillars cast to represent the strength of the place. One of the pillars he called “Jachin” and the other “Boaz.” Jachin means He [God] will establish; Boaz means In Him [God] is strength. “Upon the top of the pillars was lily work” (1 Kings 7:13-22). This is the Lord’s picture of His saints (and especially of the elders of the Church), men and women with strength of character, through whom He establishes the Church, but who are adorned with the lily character of Jesus.

The Lord and His Lilies

I am not one of those whom the Lord honors with visions, but I thank God for all those like Joseph and Daniel who dream dreams, and for all the Pauls and Johns who see visions, under the glory of the New Covenant, as Joel promised.11 Once during a time of waiting upon God in the company of two other pastors (who were men of experience in the things of the Spirit), a vision was given to us.

In that vision, the Lord Jesus Christ was seen walking along the road—in His arms a number of lilies; but each one was broken, and He was weeping. With many tears He took each broken lily and sadly dropped it onto the road. It was revealed to us that these were the backsliders who had gone back to a life of sin and who had refused, despite His pleading, to return to Him. Then again the Lord was seen walking down the road, once more with lilies in His hands. But these had crushed stems and were useless. He was broken-hearted and, with tears, He regretfully dropped them on the road too, for these were those whom He had sought to perfect by chastening. However, instead of being exercised thereby, they had turned away from Him and had gone for comfort back into the pleasures of the world. Yet again we saw Him, walking with a radiant countenance through a field of growing, sweet-scented and upright white lilies. As He walked among them, He laughed for joy and caressed them with His fingers, for these were His children who had asked for grace that they might kiss His rod, lean upon His staff, and ever increase in their love for Him.

“Behold I come quickly; hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.  Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God…and My new name.”

Revelation 3:11,12



  1. Copyright held by Finest of the Wheat Teaching Fellowship, Inc. Edited and annotated by Jim Kerwin. Co-edited by Denise Kerwin.
  2. Image created by Jim Kerwin using as a background a free photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash.
  3. Tophet, mentioned in Isaiah 30:33, was a place of burning in the Valley of Hinnom (Ge hinnom, from which the word Gehenna, translated Hell, is derived) outside of Jerusalem, and, as such, is a type of Hell.
  4. Chamois (pronounced “SHAM-mee”): a sort of goat-antelope native to mountainous regions of Europe and parts of Asia
  5. Theophany: an appearance of God in human form to a person
  6. Imago: an insect in its final, adult, sexually mature, and (typically) winged state
  7. While Jesus’ narration (note that He did not call this a parable) names the poor beggar as Lazarus, He never names the rich man. However, tradition has bestowed upon this rich man the name of Dives (DI-veez). The name is actually nothing more than the transliteration of the word “rich”—dives—in the Vulgate (Latin) translation of Luke 16:19 (“homo quidam erat dives…”).
  8. Corm: the enlarged, fleshy, underground part of the stem, similar to a bulb
  9. This quote comes from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s work, “Sonnets from the Portuguese,” Canto XXIV, from the book entitled simply Poems.
  10. As indicated, this is from one of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poems, “Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal,” from the book The Princess.
  11. See Joel 2:28-29.
Series Navigation<< The Perfecting of Faith: Ch. 5 of “Faith Is Substance”The Preparation of the Man of Faith: Ch. 7 of “Faith Is Substance” >>
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