"Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord. "
God's quiet operations are like Himself, they are deep, and quiet, and seem to be slow, and circuitous, and have to be searched into in order to be appreciated.
When we stand upon the margin of a swift river, it often happens that there are whirling eddies near the shore, where the water runs back up the stream, which looks as if the river was going the wrong way, but when we look out in the channel, we find the current speeding on toward the ocean. This is a picture of the way God works. In many things in the church, and society, as well as religious experience, it looks as if God was being defeated and that the movements of His grace and providence were failures, and that all His purposes were going the wrong way. It is only when we lift our eyes, and look farther away from the shore of the present moment, and take into consideration the entire stream of God's government among men--that we see. He is constantly getting the victory, as it were by strategy, and in quiet circuitous ways.
He works in a hidden way, as if with gloved hands, under what we call second causes, and by forces that are spiritual and not mechanical. His great operations in grace, in subduing the soul, are accomplished by the invisible and almost unrecognized power of serious thoughts, gentle heart yearnings, heavenly attractions in prayer, secret apprehensions of great danger, or sudden openings in the mind of hope, and bright possibilities, or by the alternations of a sense of utter helplessness on the one hand, and then great courage and determination on the other.
Have you noticed that great rough old sinners are usually captured and conquered in the most unexpected ways, and by some little pathetic circumstance full of quiet gentleness, exactly the opposite of what we would think essential to produce such results? Infidels are not converted by big sermons, but more frequently by the quiet trust of some poor old saint, or the whispered prayer of a little child. Whatever is done by Satan or the flesh is with great show, and noise and demonstration; and you would think they were upsetting the universe at every turn. Carnal churches work on the same line as the world, and when they plan for a revival there must be a great combination of churches, crowds of people, a gigantic choir, with trumpets and drums, and an army of eloquent preachers, and a great spread-eagle splurge, and when the fuss and rattle is over, it is well nigh impossible to find souls truly converted to God. At the same time some humble saint in a back alley, or out in a cornfield, is silently weeping and praying for the salvation of some child, who will turn out to be a great prophet, or reformer, in the power of the Holy Ghost, and worth ten thousand times more in far reaching results than the ecclesiastical thunder of the huge man-managed revival.
God works through persons, through individual souls, instead of committees, and federated bands, or great organizations. The strongest force on earth is the individual soul. God conquers some one heart, and through that heart He pours His purposes like a mighty river.
The closer we get to God, the more we prize the individual soul. When men drift away from the Lord, the individual man counts but little, and confidence is placed in big majorities, and heavy armies. The tower of Babel was built by a national committee who said, "Let us build us a city and a tower".
But God singled out one man, Abraham, and called him to be a pilgrim, and a founder of a race of those who had faith. The King of Syria marshaled an army to capture the prophet Elisha, but that lone prophet prayed, and the army went blind, and he led them into Samaria. This is a sample of universal history.
Men are forever depending on armies, committees, and a show of strength: and in the most quiet, simple, and unexpected way, God gently and secretly inspires some one soul who outwits the wise, and carries out God's purposes in an undreamed-of way.
The Lord carries His point, and makes His conquests, by keeping His saints in a helpless condition in various ways, so as to make them live by faith, and depend on God alone.
If the Lord should give His people what men call success, such as plenty of money and personal prosperity, it would prove a total failure from God's standpoint. God succeeds by making man to fail. To read the Bible and then look at human life, it does seem that God is being defeated. What seems to be a failure in our eyes is a success with the Lord. The Almighty is not working according to human plans; nor men's judgments. The people whom the world calls successful are in reality perfect failures.
Those who are looked upon as worthless, or helpless, or undone, are often-times in God's way made successful.
Men of great faith are never allowed to get beyond having their faith tried. God's plan is: there shall be none of Self and all of Christ. The very people who are doing most for God in saving souls, in mission work, in the care of orphans, are those who are working on short supplies of strength, of money, of talents, of advantages, and are kept in a position of living by faith and taking from God, day by day, both physical and spiritual supplies. This is the way God succeeds and gains conquests over His own people, and over the unbelief of those who look on His providences.
Our true conquest is to form a secret alliance with God, and take His side against our natural selves. We succeed by agreeing to be what other people would call a miserable failure. We obtain treasures by letting them drop out of sight into the hand of God.
We conquer our enemies by loving them, and by quietly letting the Lord manage them, receiving their treatment as a part of God's will for us. God always comes out ahead and on the top. He seems to give Satan and Sinners and old Self all the advantage, and then handicaps Himself, and like Jacob, walks with a lame leg, and goes afoot while all the world, like Esau, rides on horses and makes a great show, but in the end, like lame Jacob, God conquers and carries His point in such a quiet way that He seems to be doing nothing, yet all the while, like the majesty of chemistry, He is working miracles out of sight and far under ground.
I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ, developing and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you. (Phil. 1:6).