True Faith: The “No Pain, No Gain” Rule of Spiritual Exercise

Ecclesiastes 3:10; I Peter 1:7
       I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.
       The trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): If thou hast faith, thou shalt have trials.

WILLIAM MORLEY PUNSHON (1824-1881): In the party-coloured world in which we live, there are days of various sorts and experiences, making up the aggregate of the Christian’s life. There are waiting days, in which, because Providence fences us round, and it seems as if we cannot march, we cannot move, as though we must just wait to see what the Lord is about to do in us and for us; and there are watching days, when it behooves us never to slumber, but to be always ready for the attacks of our spiritual enemy; and there are warring days, when with nodding plume, and with ample armour, we must go forth to do battle for the truth; and there are weeping days, when it seems as if the fountains of the great deep within us were broken up; and as though, through much tribulation, we had to pass to heaven in tears.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): Let us mark that God intendeth to try His faithful ones. For as much as He suffereth and ordaineth them to be grieved and vexed during this earthly life, so as they pass through many troubles, and things fall not out as they would have them: He seemeth to have forsaken them, yea, and even to be their enemy. But we must understand that He doeth it not without cause, and that we have need to be so exercised.

SAMUEL RUTHERFORD (1600-1661): Our pride must have winter weather to rot it.

THOMAS BROOKS (1608-1680): Consider the reasons why the Lord is pleased to have his people exercised, troubled, and vexed with the operations of sinful corruptions; and they are these: partly to keep them humble and low in their own eyes, and partly to put them upon the use of all divine helps, whereby sin may be subdued and mortified; and partly, that they may live upon Christ for perfecting the work of sanctification; and partly, to wean them from things below, and to make them heart-sick of their absence from Christ, and to maintain in them bowels of compassion towards others that are subject to the same infirmities with them; and that they may distinguish between a state of grace and a state of glory, and that heaven may be more sweet to them in the close.

WILLIAM S. PLUMER (1802-1880): The whole of life is a test, a trial of what is in us, so arranged by God Himself.

JOHN CALVIN: If a man should deliver us gold or silver, we should [want to] know whether it were good or no: and if we doubted of it, we would make it pass through the fire. And is not our faith more precious than all the corruptible metals that are tried so carefully? Then it is good reason that so worthy a thing as our faith is should have the fear of God, that it might be tried in good earnest.

ROBERT TRAILL (1642-1716): Such as know not the trials of faith, never had the truth of faith.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): This is clear to the spiritual mind: trials and temptations are the means which God employs to make manifest to the soul the reality and strength of that faith which He bestows, for there is in every trial and temptation an opposition made to the faith which is in the heart, and trial and temptation, so to speak, threatens the life of faith. How so? Because under the trial, God, for the most part, hides Himself: the light of His countenance is no longer visible, His smile is overcast by a dark Providence.

JAMES DURHAM (1622-1658): When God has a mind to exercise one, He will not give distinctness of access to Him, but though they seek, they will not get Him. This is one of the hardest exercises that souls are put to; and yet God will put them to it, partly to make their affliction an exercise, partly to let souls know that His presence is not tied to affliction. If folks always got God’s presence in affliction, they would be vain and conceited in their own eyes, and not be humbled under God’s hand; therefore to learn them to stoop, He will both afflict and hide His face.

JOHN CALVIN: So, those who lose courage when our God does not respond to their first wish show that they do not know what it is to pray. For the certain rule for finding our refuge in God involves perseverance. Thus it is that the principal exercise of our faith is prayer. Now faith cannot exist without waiting…It is needful that He delay and that He let us languish oftentimes so that we may know what it is to call upon Him sincerely and without pretense, so that we may declare our faith is so founded upon the Word of God that it checks us as bridle so that we may be patient to endure until the opportune time to help us shall have come.

A. W. PINK: Nevertheless, He puts forth a secret power which upholds the soul, otherwise it would sink into utter despair, be swallowed up by the power of unbelief. Here, then, is the conflict: the trial fighting against faith, and that faith against the trial. Now then in this trial, under this sharp conflict, in this hot furnace, the spiritual and supernatural faith is not burned or destroyed, but instead, grips firmly the promise, and the faithfulness of Him who has given it. And thus “the trial of faith” becomes exceedingly precious.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): We live by faith, and faith lives by exercise.

C. H. SPURGEON: God will exercise faith. There is not a single grain of faith in the breast of any living believer that is not exercised. God will not allow it to sleep—a sleeping faith, a dormant faith, I believe such a thing doesn’t exist. If thou hast faith, my brother, expect labour; for, as sure as God gives faith, he will put it into the gymnasium and make it exercise itself; sometimes dashing at a troop, and then trying its limbs another way, no more to exercise its arm in fight, but its knees in prayer; all sorts of exercises to keep our faith in order that we may be ready for any exercise, whatever it may be. Some men seem as if they only had to meet one form of trial—they remind me of the Indian Fakir; he [continually] holds his arm straight up; that is the triumph of his strength. Now, God does not exercise a believer’s limbs till they grow stiff; but He exercises them in every way, that they may become supple, so that, come what may, he is ready to achieve any exploit.

JAMES DURHAM: The exercise of faith makes faith to increase.

JOHN CALVIN: Where are those who think they have made so great progress that they do not need any more exercise?


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