At times, faith is strongly exercised by the Holy Spirit in the life If a true believer: sin is repressed, the old nature subdued, and sinful desires restrained. At other times, the believer is left more to himself. Then sinful self, world, and Satan gain the upper hand; the old nature overpowers the new; doubt overcomes faith. Therefore, while there is no doubting in the essence and exercise of faith itself, here may be doubts -even overpowering doubts -in the lives of believers.
Elijah was a man of God who received a rich measure of true saving faith. Yet we observe the following contradictory behavior:
The one day, he stands alone before the king and all Israel on Mt. Carmel, through prayer receives fire and rain from heaven, and slays the 450 priests of Baal! The following day, however, he flees from Queen Jezebel and runs for his life.
Read the following two groups of verses. How can we explain the great difference in Elijah's behavior? How does this relate to the difference in the exercise of saving faith in the believer's life?
And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow Him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.
Hear me, 0 LORD, hear me, that this people may know that Thou art the LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that Thou art God in Israel, and that I am Thy servant, and that I have done all these things at Thy Word.
Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.
And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the Brook Kishon, and slew them there.
And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain.
Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.
And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there.
In I John we read the following:
We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not.
- I John 5:18a
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
- I John 1:8
How can both of these verses be true?
From the life of Peter, can you relate how differently his behavior was when faith was more in exercise compared to that when he was left to himself?