By SAMUEL H. WILKINSON
The first essential in the adoption of the faith principle is that of direct “call”. If it be mere slavish copy-work of others, such as a George Muller or Hudson Taylor or William Quarrier, or if (still worse) it be adopted because it will be likely to present a stronger appeal to the Christian public, then it is almost certainly foredoomed to failure. For it is not given to all to apply the faith principle to organized Christian and philanthropic undertakings; and when so given, it is generally a “call” to some one person rather than to a Committee or Association. But with that essential condition granted, what has been found, in the light of experience, to be a satisfactory application of the faith principle?
1. - FRANKNESS
“Ask the Lord and tell His people.” This axiom, first enunciated by John Wilkinson, is meant to carry with it the implication that while importunate appeal should be addressed to God alone, nevertheless God’s people should be kept informed as opportunity may offer and God guide, as to the work and its needs. If God’s work, then theirs: the work, that is, not of one leader or group, but equally of all who love and serve God: requiring that they should be taken into full confidence concerning it, its progress, its prospects, its projects, its needs. Such frankness, however, is to be distinguished from “appeal”: hence only certain avenues should be used to present the work: first its own periodical, that being of the nature of an account of stewardship; second, response to spontaneous invitations to address gatherings or to supply articles for the Christian press: always refraining from paid public advertisement, from private requests for money or pulpits and from the employment of deputation secretaries: but liberating active missionaries from time to time as may be desirable without dislocation of their missionary duties, in order to respond to invitations to give simple accounts descriptions of actual missionary work. Frankness may also include special circulars, if special conditions and special guidance seem to indicate that form of providing information.
2. - PRECISION
The most careful and clear accounts and bookkeeping, properly audited, and so conducted as to be capable of presenting promptly and at any time the exact available balance of all moneys, whether for general use in the furtherance of the Gospel through the operations of the Mission abroad and at home, or whether “earmarked” as designated for particular objects or undertakings.
3. - ECONOMY
The most rigid and watchful economy in the expenditure of all Mission moneys, both in regard to large undertakings or to petty expenditure, such as stamps or stationery and the like. Yet, as part of true economy, the provision of sufficient allowances for missionary workers which, while calculated on a basis of actual and reasonable need, should place no member of the staff under the necessity of suffering shortage or contracting debt.
4. - CAUTION
The habit of looking ahead to note what obligations are about to fall due; and the preservation of a minimum balance in hand of about one month’s normal requirements, so as to be prepared to meet unforeseen or overhead charges and to make reasonable provision against the involuntary contraction of debt.
5. - PRAYER AND FAITH HABIT
To make the practice of prayer and faith, in respect of the funds required, a matter of habit, whether the money in hand may happen to be in temporary abundance or in temporary insufficiency, i.e. whether above or below the minimum normal balance required. To cultivate the spirit and habit of prayer, not only in the leader (though in him the most directly), but in all the missionary staff and, so far as possible, in all the circles of supporters and sympathizers: to organize to that end a fellowship of prayer in order to focus united intercession upon definite needs as they arise, whether financial or other.
6 - OBEDIENCE
Recognition of the fact that honest faith in God does not compel mechanical adhesion to lines adopted by others, or indeed to any hard and fast line, but rather to a readiness of mind to apprehend what God would have done under particular circumstances and at special times. For instance, should He, to test faith, withhold funds for the maintenance of the work, His object in so doing might conceivably be either to call attention to some failure in attitude or conduct, to indicate the necessity of closing down some branch of the work not fully in His plan, to call a halt in the work as a whole in order to give the opportunity of united and believing prayer, to awaken His people in general to a sense of their full dependence on Him for supplies, to call forth special Sacrifice of substance or other reason. Hence the vital thing at all times and specially at times when faith is tested is to wait on God for special guidance and to follow it, regardless of the criticism it may possibly provoke from those who judge only from the outside.
7 - JUDGMENT
And since human judgment is a Divine entrustment, not to be ignored but to be utilized side by side with, although subordinate to, the spirit of dependence on Divine guidance, a line of conduct indicated as most pleasing to God in the supplication of the faith-principle is that of being wise and thoughtful and yet simple and dependent; of being experienced and level-headed and well-balanced and yet childlike and honest; prepared to judge every situation in all its hearings, to consider all its factors in their due proportion and yet to be faithful to the principle of dependence and submission; in a word, to be strong and yet weak, with capacity for leadership and yet with the characteristic of Godliness.
8 - CO-OPERATION
This word implies that while God uses force in the physical sphere, He uses co-operation in the spiritual and moral spheres. We act for Him, by Him He acts in us, and through us; similarly we co-operate necessarily with one another. Organized Christian work is but a form of co-operation in full-time service as regards the actual missionary staff in prayer and gift and sympathy and at times counsel, as regards the much wider circle of supporters, intercessors and sympathizers. And as we seek to know and to follow the Divine will, so should we also consult from time to time the minds of fellow believers, remembering that the work, being first of all the Lord’s, is theirs as much as ours; and that our leadership of it and full-time participation in it does not make it our concern alone, but leaves us rather under obligation to inform and consult that large constituency of God’s people with and for whom we act as fellow-trustees of the Gospel.
Nothing either in conduct or devoted effort can ever merit God’s response to believing prayer; but that there are attitudes of heart and forms of effort on which God delights to show approval is provable from His own Word. To conduct a work in a manner pleasing to Him involves more than keeping certain set forms of effort in operation in a machine-like manner; there must be alertness, readiness, heart-burden, thought, plan concerning the ministry of the Gospel in the needy field itself and also quick understanding " (i.e. intuition) of the doors God is opening, the way He is leading, both in the prosecution of the work and in the provision of its needs. If Divine guidance be honestly sought, fully apprehended and obediently followed, it will be found rarely to lead two persons on exactly the same lines, nor even to lead any one person by precisely the same road on two occasions. But to all who sincerely seek the mind of the Lord with the full intention of following it, God’s way will be revealed by token and by assurance and in respect of every need or problem, whether of method, of men, of supply, of courage or of removal of obstacles.
10. - RESTFULNESS
The faith life, it has been said, is either easy or impossible; it is, that is to say, either as natural to walk the path of simple faith as to breathe; or else it is a fight, a struggle, a state of foreboding and apprehension, of self-effort and fleshly wisdom, in a word anything but faith except in name. Real trust is real rest; the deeper the trust, the more perfect the rest, the fuller the deliverance from anxiety, care, worry, nerve-strain and scheming to get prayer answered. The waiting time is the greatest faith-test. There is often a long period between the receiving of assurance and the experiencing of a realized fact. “Patience must have her perfect work;” patience, not worry; patience, not restlessness. “Be careful for nothing (‘Let no anxieties fret you’:‑Way’s translation),
but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil. ; . 6)
.‑Trusting and Toiling.