HH, Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,–Luke 4:18
Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:–Hebrews 11:35
Faith Leads to Deliverance
Among the blessings which we connect with faith, one of the most conspicuous is deliverance. The Bible is a great record of deliverance effected through the agency of faith.
- Abraham was delivered from idolatry.
- Joseph was delivered from his brethren.
- David was delivered from Goliath,
- Peter from the prison at Jerusalem.
And most notable of all, there was the Exodus, when Israel was delivered from its bondage–drawn out of Egypt, by the might of God, into the peril and the prize of liberty. All these are instances of deliverance, wrought in the power of a living faith. Men trusted God, and in the joy of trust were freed from darkness and captivity. And so the Bible, as we read its pages, grows into a great argument for this, that God is able and willing, if we trust Him, to set the feet in a large room.
The same issue of faith also arrests us when we come into the company of Jesus. Here, too, as in the rest of Scriptures, faith is a mighty power to deliver. We see the maniac released from the legion, and sitting clothed and in his right mind. We see the withered arm restored again; the eye that had been blind regaining sight. We see a woman delivered from infirmity, and a loved brother delivered from the grave, and a great company whose eyes are glad because they have been delivered from their sin. Christ was the great enemy of bonds. He was the lover and the light of liberty. He came to preach deliverance to the captives, and to bestow the gift which was His message. And so again we learn this happy lesson, that faith is a mighty power to redeem; and that in every sphere where faith is active, one of its blessed fruits is liberty.
There Is a Faith That Refuses Deliverance
Yet while that is true, and gloriously true, in a way I trust we all know something of, there is a suggestion in our second text that it is fitting we should not forget. “They were tortured, not accepting deliverance,” and the whole chapter is a song of faith. The chapter is a magnificent review of all that faith is powerful to achieve. So this is also a result of faith, not that it brings deliverance to a man, but that sometimes when deliverance is offered, it gives him fine courage to refuse it. There are seasons when faith shows itself in taking. There are seasons when it is witnessed in refusing. There is a deliverance that faith embraces. There is a deliverance that faith rejects. They were tortured, not accepting deliverance–that was the sign and seal that they were faithful. There are hours when the strongest proof of faith is the swift rejection of the larger room.
Better to Be Faithful Than Free
Think in the first place of the martyrs, to whom our text immediately applies. When a man was charged with being a Christian, deliverance was always at his hand. He had only to blaspheme the Name of Christ–a word or two of cursing–that was all. He had only to spit upon the Name of Christ when the Roman centurion scratched it on the wall. He had only to put his hand into a box, and take a grain or two of incense from the box, and sprinkle it without a single word before the beautiful statue of Diana. On the one hand, was life, and life was sweet. On the other hand, was death, and death was terrible. On the one hand, were liberty and home. On the other hand, were torture and the grave. And they were tortured, not accepting deliverance. They might have had it by a single word. It was their faith that led them to the scaffold. It was better to be faithful than being free.
It Takes Faith to Refuse to Be Liberated from the Troubles
Entailed in the Performance of Needed Common Tasks
The same issue of faith is seen again amid the troubles of our common life. in precisely the same manner it is witnessed in the pettier martyrdoms of every day. Each of us has got his cross to carry. There is no escaping from the law. Each of us has got his secret bitterness, and his burden, and his travail or his fear. For one the trouble may be in business matters; for another, the cross may be at home; while for a third, perhaps, it is the body that wakes the heart to trembling in the night. Now I believe that whatever be the trouble, Jesus Christ has come to preach deliverance. There is peace in Him, and quietness of soul, and conquest over death and all its terrors. But remember that there are other outlets which sometimes loom upon our gaze invitingly, and promise us the release that we are craving–if only we are untrue to our best selves. I think that all of us are tempted so, though these are temptations of which we seldom speak. Sometimes indeed we hardly understand them, they are so subtly hidden and disguised. But always there is tampering with the conscience in them, and a certain lowering of the flag of youth, and a sinking clown upon a lower level than we know to be worthy in our hearts. it is when a man or woman is so tempted that faith in God is needed to be true. To choose the drudgery and spurn the liberty is the sign-manual of faith in him. “They were tortured, not accepting deliverance.” They let the laughter and the sunshine go. And sometimes in the quiet of our obscurity, you and I may be called to be their children.
Don’t Miss the Best by Choosing the Easier and More
Remunerative in Disregard of Conscience
Now I might illustrate how to beware of choosing the easier in disregard of conscience by many instances. For example, the case of a young man. His work is hard and irksome and ill-paid, and he has a father who is dependent on him. From morning till evening it is a weary grind. There is no encouragement. There are scarce any prospects. And when evening comes he is so fagged that he can hardly follow a good book. And then there comes to him the glittering chance of work that is easier, and pay that is far better, on the condition that he shuts his eyes, and does not trouble about a tender conscience. Many a man accepts that swift deliverance. He offers the grain of incense to Diana. And then he prospers and is kind at home, and there are comforts for the aged father. But nothing on earth can alter the old fact that such an act was faithless and untrue and that a man forever from that moment has left the company of saints and martyrs. He has been tortured and accepted deliverance, and the world and the devil are exacting creditors. Somehow, as the years unroll themselves, he will discover he has missed the best. And if my words have any weight on young men who are starting out on life, they will write upon their hearts this text of Hebrews, and avoid that tragic mistake.