Seven Questions Of Vital Importance
By Oswald J. Smith (1889 – 1986)
There are seven questions that every Christian should face, questions of such vital importance that to ignore them is to imperil one’s spiritual life. Let us consider them, then, one by one, and may God help us to answer them honestly and sincerely.
1. Am I committing any known sin? “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Psa. 66:18). He will not even listen to what I say. Hence, my prayers will not be answered while I am harboring sin.
Note, if you will, that I have said “known” sin, for it may be that you have to face what the Bible terms “the sin which doth so easily beset us” (Heb. 12:1), some one sin to which from time to time, you yield. It may be but a weight, an idol, and yet it is sin, and God says you must give it up.
“...Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear” (Isa. 59:2). Sin separates. Sin hides God’s face. There can be no communion, no fellowship where there is sin.
“...Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Tim. 2:19).
That is God’s command. We must forsake all known sin if we are to be approved of Him. Oh, then, let us turn from everything we know to be wrong, everything that grieves the Holy Spirit. Let us put it out of our lives, for we will never make any progress in the Christian life until we break with sin.
Sin is like a millstone; it will always hold us down. And if we yield to it, we will crave it again. To feed desire is to fan it into a flame that can never be quenched. The only real sorrow that can ever come into the life of a Christian is the torture and anguish of the heart that harbors sin.
Therefore let us break with it, break with it at all costs, or we will never know “the peace of God that passeth all understanding” (Phil. 4:7). Sin will ruin us unless we give it up. “...The way of transgressors is hard” (Prov. 13:15).
My friend, “Remember Jesus Christ.” He can break every fetter and snap every chain. He can set the prisoner free. And He can set you free, yes, even from your besetting sin. Not only is He mighty to save; He is also able to keep. You can be victorious over every known sin by the power of His indwelling Spirit. It pays to be an “Overcomer.”
2. Am I living in obedience to God’s will? “...Yield yourselves unto God...” (Rom. 6:13). Have I surrendered all? I sing it, I know. Again and again I exclaim, “Have Thine own way, Lord,” but do I really mean it? Will I go where He wants me to go? Or do I still want my own way? And do I put self first instead of Christ? Is He the Lord and Master of my life?
God must have obedient children. If we are self-willed He cannot use us. “...To obey is better than sacrifice...” (1 Sam. 15:22). Rebellion in the camp is fatal to the cause. Loyalty He must have. Blunders are permissible; mistakes will be overlooked, but disloyalty – never!
If we are to be used of God we must be obedient. We must be prepared to go where God wants us to go. It must be His way instead of our own, His choice rather than ours. And, blessed be God, when we really yield to Him, His plan becomes ours, and we delight to do His will.
Let us not think of Him as a hard taskmaster; One who insists on us doing things we do not want to do. Not at all. He is our Father. He loves to lead us to the still waters. Within our hearts He puts the very desires that are pleasing to Him. All He asks is that we yield, for we are His, body, soul and spirit. Hence, there can be no fellowship apart from obedience.
3. Am I spending time each day in prayer? No one can be victorious apart from prayer. No one can make a success of the Christian life unless he prays. If you have neglected prayer you are weak. It is those who wait upon the Lord who renew their strength. Unless you have been living, therefore, in an atmosphere of prayer you are open to the attacks of the enemy. Jesus prayed. He spent whole nights in prayer. Paul prayed. The early church prayed. All those who have been used of God have been men and women of prayer.
So, let me ask myself the question, do I pray? Do I keep tryst with God? Have I an appointment with Him day by day and am I careful to keep it? Does God know me as a man of prayer? Or have I failed Him? If so, may He enable me to renew my covenant and begin again to meet Him morning by morning, lest He come and find me sleeping.
4. Am I a diligent student of God’s Word? To neglect the Word of God is to cut myself off from hearing His voice, for God speaks through His Word. Hence, if I am not giving time to Bible Study I am without guidance. Many a man has gone astray simply because he has ignored the Word of God. Nothing can take its place. It is God’s Word to man, and if I really know Him I will want to study it. And the more I read it the more interesting it will become. I will find that I cannot do without it. It will be my meat and my drink for the day’s work.
Again and again I turned to it in the early days of my Christian life. When I was first converted I read it daily. But – am I still poring over its pages? Is it just as new to me now as it was the first time I read it? Do I revel in the experiences of the apostles and prophets? Am I still finding comfort from the Psalms of David? Is the Word of God a living Book to me, and am I feeding on it daily?
Perhaps I am weak. God compares His Word to milk and meat. Hence, if I am to be strong I must turn to it constantly. May He enable me, therefore, to become a diligent student of His Word.
5. Am I confessing Christ publicly? During the early years of my Christian experience I was on fire for souls. I enjoyed getting out on the street corner with a company of God’s people and giving my testimony. I reveled in the opportunity of working in rescue missions and pointing souls to Christ. I was burdened about the condition of the unsaved. In the glow of my first love for Christ I eagerly sought to tell others what He had done for me. I went home to my friends even as the demoniac of old.
But what about today? Have I lost my first love? Have I become cold and indifferent? Does the fire of God no longer burn in my heart? Can I attend church and go through religious performances without any burden concerning the lost? If so, why? What has happened? I sing, “Rescue the perishing,” but do I do anything to rescue them? I sing, “Care for the dying,” but do I care for them? And when I join in the words, “Weep o’er the erring one,” are my eyes dry or do I actually weep over the perishing? Have I any heart-interest in the salvation of lost men and women?
If not, there is something seriously the matter, and I should start at once to discover the cause and remedy it. I must confess Christ publicly. I must make Him known. He has commanded me to bear witness. Let me again, therefore, testify. Surely, I can distribute gospel tracts. Surely, I can write soul-winning letters to my friends. At least I can speak to those with whom I work. If I am God’s representative, I must be true.
6. Am I giving liberally as God prospers me? “Give, and it shall be given unto you...” (Luke 6:38). As we give God gives, for He will be no man’s debtor. You cannot beat God giving. One tenth at least should be set aside for God’s work, and then as much more as He asks. For if you are faithful with Him He will be faithful to you. Seldom will you find one who has faithfully given to God’s work in a systematic way through the years of prosperity who is in want. “The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself” (Prov. 11:25).
But when you do give, be sure you are giving to a definite, soul-winning work. For God will hold you responsible to find out how your gifts are being used.
And give cheerfully, for “God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). Give systematically, month by month, or week by week. Keep books with God. But however you give, give, for “How shall they preach except they be sent?...” (Rom. 10:15). If the Gospel is to be given to the world someone must pay the bill. It is like water. The water is free, but you have to pay for the piping. And so with salvation. It costs to send it on its way, and we must speed it to the uttermost part of the earth. Hence, in the language of the Apostle Paul, giving becomes a Christian grace, and if we are New Testament Christians, we will give and give liberally.
7. Am I doing something definite for the Lord Jesus Christ? If I am to be used of God I must find a place and a people where I can give my testimony and not feel that I am condemned by those around me. A soul-winning church must become my home. I am saved to serve, and unless I am doing something for the Lord Jesus I am not true to the vision He has given me. I may not have many talents, but I can do something. I can visit the sick, I can distribute gospel tracts, I can testify, I can do something.
There are those who wait to be asked. They attend the church, enjoy the services, but never think of taking part themselves. They have an idea that the pastor will seek them out if he needs them and tell them what to do. It seems to me, however, that if they are really saved they will find something themselves. Paul’s first cry was, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6). And that ought to be the cry of every newborn soul. Love is service, and those who really love the Lord Jesus will want to serve Him. They will never be satisfied to be drones.
Instead of waiting for their pastor or someone to tell them what to do, they will go direct to God and get their instructions from Him. It may be He will want them to teach a Sunday school class. If so, they will approach the superintendent and offer their services. If they have a voice they will be eager to sing in the choir, or if there is an orchestra and they can play an instrument, they will play.
Some may be called to usher, others to serve in the young people’s organizations, or as intercessors. It may be that the foreign field is calling, and that there is an urge to train and prepare for whole-time service. One thing is certain: they will never be at rest if they have been truly born again until they are doing something for the Lord Jesus Christ.
And so I ask again, am I working for Christ? Am I active? Is my time devoted to God? Or am I still on the reserve list waiting for a call? There are two kinds of volunteers, remember, the active and the inactive. The inactive volunteer says, “Lord, here am I.” The active volunteer says, “Send me.” Which am I? Am I doing something for the Lord Jesus Christ?
These, then, are the questions that must be faced if we are to receive His approbation. “Study to show thyself approved unto God,” is His Word, “a workman that needeth not to be ashamed...” (2 Tim. 2:15). For if we would receive a full reward; if we would hear Him say, “...Well done, thou good and faithful servant...” (Matt. 25:21), we must examine ourselves and see to it that we measure up to His requirements.