Quaker apostle George Fox tells in his journal of the early years when he struggled continually with his sinful condition and could get no victory. He sought counsel from various Christians, but time and again came away disappointed and empty. Nothing they said could deal with his condition. Then came the day when he heard a voice speaking to him and saying, “There is one who can speak to thy condition – even Christ Jesus.” It was a life-changing word for Fox, for it was the kind of word that had quickening power in it. “And when I heard it my heart did leap for joy.” From this point on Fox walked in a realm of spiritual victory seldom seen in the church from that day to this.
Further back in church history is the story of Augustine who struggled to the point of despair over the lusts of the flesh. One day he was sitting out in the garden of a friend weeping bitterly when he heard a child next door repeating over and over, “Take up and read, take up and read…” It seemed strange to Augustine that a child at play would say such words. He got up and ran for the volume of the writings of Paul he had earlier been reading, and when he opened it his eyes fell on the words, “Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ and make not provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof” (Rom. 13.13,14). Immediately the shackles of his bondage fell from him. Augustine was familiar with these words; he had read them many times before. But this time they went forth in the power of life that liberated him.
This does not, of course, vindicate the later teachings of Augustine that became foundational Roman Catholic doctrine. But it certainly causes us to realize that there is a quality to the word of God that we simply cannot do without. There is more to the word of God than the letter of Scripture. In Hebrews we read that “the word of God is living, and powerful…”
The founder of the China Inland Mission Hudson Taylor spent many years trying to live the Christian life. His experience was one of struggle and defeat spliced with times of short-lived victory. He would begin his day with prayer, but the pressures and burdens and difficulties of life bore down on him. All too often he found himself irritable with hard thoughts in his mind and unkind words in his mouth. Taylor described this time in a letter to his sister.
To will was present with me, but how to perform I found not. Then came the question, is there no rescue? Must it be thus to the end – constant conflict, and too often defeat? …Instead of growing stronger I seemed to be getting weaker and to have less power against sin; and no wonder, for faith and hope were getting low. I hated myself, I hated my sin, yet gained no strength against it… Sometimes there were seasons not only of peace but of joy in the Lord; but they were transitory, and at best there was a sad lack of power.