|Faith and Work
Excerpted from Everyday Religion.
Delivered on the Lord's-Day Morning. May 22nd. 1881.
by C. H. Spurgeon,
"The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God."-
Galatians ii. 20.
I am not about to preach from this whole verse, for I have done that before:
this single sentence will suffice me. I shall not attempt to enter into the
fulness of the spiritual meaning of this very deep and fruitful passage; I am
merely going to bring out one thought from it, and to try to work that out, I
trust, to practical ends. It has sometimes been objected to the preaching of the
gospel, that we exhort men to live for another sphere, and do not teach them to
live well in the present life. Nothing can be more untrue than this: I venture
to say that more practical moral teaching is given by ministers of the gospel
than by all the philosophers, lecturers, and moralists put together. While we
count ourselves to be ordained to speak of something higher than mere morals, we
nevertheless, nay, and for that very reason, inculcate the purest code of duty,
and lay down the soundest rules of conduct. It would be a great pity, dear
brethren, if in the process of being qualified for the next life we became
disqualified for this; but it is not so. It would be a very strange thing if, in
order to be fit for the company of angels, we should grow unfit to associate
with men; but it is not so. It would be a singular circumstance if those who
speak of heaven had nothing to say concerning the way thither; but it is not so.
The calumny is almost too stale to need a new denial. My brethren, true religion
has as much to do with this world as with the world to come; it is always urging
us onward to the higher and better life; but it does so by processes and
precepts which fit us worthily to spend our days while here below. Godliness
prepares us for the life which follows the laying down of this mortal flesh; but
as Paul tells us in the text, it moulds the life which we now live in the flesh.
Faith is a principle for present use; see how it has triumphed in ordinary life
according to the record of the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
Godliness with contentment is great gain: it hath the promise of the life that
now is, as well as of that which is to come. The sphere of faith is earth and
heaven, time and eternity; the sweep of its circle takes in the whole of our
being-spirit, soul, and body; it comprehends the past and the future, and it
certainly does not omit the present. With the things that now are the faith of
Christians has to do; and it is concerning the life that we now live in the
flesh that I shall now speak, trying, by the help of God's Spirit, to show the
influence which faith has upon it.
There are seven points in which faith in him who loved us and gave himself for
us wild have a distinct influence upon the life which we now live in the flesh.
I. To begin. FAITH INCLINES A MAN TO AN INDUSTRIOUS LIFE. It suggests activity.
I will venture to say of any lazy man that he has little or no faith in God for
faith always- "worketh by love." I lay it down as a thesis which shall be proved
by observation that a believing man becomes an active man, or else it is because
he cannot act, and, therefore, what would have been activity runs into the
channel of patience, and he endures with resignation the will of the Most High.
He who does nothing believes nothing-that is to say, in reality and in truth.
Faith is but an empty show if it produces no result upon the life. If a
professor manifests no energy, no industry, no zeal, no perseverance, no
endeavour to serve God, there is cause gravely to question whether he is a
believer at all. It is a mark of faith that, whenever it comes into the soul,
even in its lowest degree, it suggests activity. Look at the prodigal, and note
his early desires. The life of grace begins to gleam into his spirit, and its
first effect is the confession of sin. He cries, "Father, I have sinned against
heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son." But what is
the second effect? He desires to be doing something. "Make me as one of thy
hired servants." Having nothing to do had helped to make him the prodigal he
was. He had wasted his substance in riotous idleness, seeking enjoyment without
employment. He had plunged into the foulest vices because he was master of money
but not master of himself. It was not an ill thing for him when he was sent into
the fields to feed swine: the company which he met with at the swine trough was
better than that which he had kept at his banquets. One of the signs of the
return of his soul's sanity was his willingness to work, although it might be
only as a menial servant in his father's house. In actual history observe how
Saul of Tarsus, even before he had found peaceful faith in Christ, cried, "Lord,
what wilt thou have me to do?" Faith arouses the soul to action. It is the first
question of believing anxiety, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" Hence faith
is such a useful thing to men in the labour and travail of this mortal life,
because it puts them into motion and supplies them with a motive for work. Faith
does not permit men to lie upon the bed of the sluggard, listless, frivolous,
idle; but it makes life to appear real and earnest, and so girds the loins for
Everyone should follow an honourable vocation. It was a rule of the old church,
and it ought to be one of the present- "If any man will not work neither let him
eat." It is good for us all to have something to do, and plenty of it. When man
was perfect God placed him in a paradise, but not in a dormitory. He set him in
the garden to "dress it and to keep it." It would not have been a happy place
for Adam if he had had nothing to do but to smell the roses and gaze at the
flowers: work was as essential to the perfect man as it is to us, though it was
not of the kind which brings sweat to the face or weariness to the limbs. In the
garden of grace faith is set to a happy service, and never wishes to be
otherwise than occupied for her Lord.
The text says, "The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of
the Son of God." Does faith in the Son of God, who loved him and gave himself
for him, suggest to the redeemed man that he should be industrious and active?
Assuredly it does; for it sets the divine Saviour before him as an example, and
where was there ever one who worked as Jesus did? In his early youth he said,
"Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" He was no loitering
heir of a gentleman, but the toiling son of a carpenter. In after life it was
his meat and his drink to do the will of him that sent him. He says, "My Father
worketh hitherto, and I work." His was stern labour and sore travail: the zeal
of God's house did eat him up, and the intensity of love consumed him. He worked
on until he could say, "I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do."
Now, it is no small thing for a man to be roused by such an example, and to be
made a partaker of such a spirit.