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Not Looking, but Trusting | William J. Harney

Not Looking, but Trusting

“And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees.”* (1 Kings 18:42)

There never has been in the history of the world a greater crisis than at Elijah’s time. The devil had made inroads on God’s people; they had backslidden and gone into frightful sins. They had lost connection; their grip upon God had been loosened, and God had to chasten them to win them back, to get their ears, to open their eyes, to wake them up.

God does not delight in affliction, but if that is the only channel through which He can reach the soul, He will use the rod and not spoil the child. Too often we are so immersed in business, engaged in pursuit, lost in our callings, that we neglect the all-important thing—waiting, waiting, waiting upon God in protracted seasons of earnest prayer. We may be engaged in His work, but, nevertheless, we owe it to ourselves, to our fellows, and to our God, to have seasons of waiting—patient, heart-searching waiting before Him. The disciples were so blessed in the upper room in a ten-days’ prayer meeting. When they came from that prayer meeting, they were so qualified that, in one short service, three thousand were saved and added to the church. We are weaker when we neglect these protracted seasons of prayer. We are less liable to be on the victory side, and more liable to be in the dumps. To neglect prayer is to neglect feeding the soul, hence, we are too weak to resist the devil and abstain from all temptation. Prayer is God’s way, one of His essential ways, of feeding the soul. The man that prays much has much joy and soul rest. He is empowered for service. His praying, his singing, his preaching, his working are bearing fruit, because he has waited upon God. “They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”* (Isaiah 40:31)

Elijah “put his face between his knees.” He covered up his eyes; he would not look. Oftimes to look is to fall. Adam and Eve looked at the forbidden fruit, fell into sin, and entailed the awful curse upon poor humanity. Listen to the sighs, sobs, and heart-agony; look at the tears, think of the deception. Look longer, tens of thousands of mothers’ precious daughters housed in slumdom. See the gallows and the electric chair, and remember that nine-tenths of the crime is chargeable to King Alcohol. Then you have a faint picture of what was brought upon humanity by that look, by that gaze, of Adam and Eve.

Samson, the mightiest man, the strongest man, one of the most fruitful preachers God ever pitted against hell’s artillery, lost his locks and died with the Philistines, all because he gazed at Delilah. David, the sweet singer of Israel, the author of many psalms, who could touch the harp strings and the sweet strains of music would chase the wicked spirits away from the first king of Israel—he, even he, lost his hold upon God, hung his harp upon a willow, and was thrust into the deep dungeon of apostasy by gazing at Mrs. Uriah. Judas lost his house and lot in heaven by gazing at a bag of money. Achan was stoned to death because of his hellish gaze at the shekel of silver, the Babylonian garment, and golden wedge.

Elijah would not, and could not afford to look at surroundings and circumstances. To look would have meant discouragement; to look would have defeated God’s purpose; to look meant he would never have been the channel through which God sent gracious rain; to look would have meant the loss of all. So he covered up his “lookers,” and just would not look.

It is not by sight, but by faith, that the victory is won—and faith has no “lookers.” That is, faith does not look at earth, and earthly environments; but faith looks, gazes, upon the Son of God. Let me give you an illustration of such faith.

The following occured in the midst of a gracious revival. A young lady arose from her seat one night when we were about to dismiss the audience. She was a very delicate woman who looked as if she were about eaten up with tuberculosis. “Brother H——,” she said, “may I say just a few words?” We knew her to be a level-headed, sane young lady, one who did not go at things spasmodically, so we granted her request.

The tears were running down her face; all concluded that she was under a tremendous strain. She said, “Friends and neighbors and kinsmen, you have known me for twenty-seven years. I have taught your town school for seven years; I have been your organist for twelve years; but I am frank to say, that I never have been so burdened in all my life. There is a burden upon my soul that is crushing the very life out of me.

“I have gladly watched, joyfully watched, these stalwart men rush to the altar and get saved; I have listened to their bright testimonies, and looked into their shining faces with a glad heart. I am rejoicing because God has answered mothers’ prayers and saved their sons.

“The thought just struck me—and with the thought came this crushing burden—so I want to ask all of you Christians with our good pastor and evangelist, to cry to God mightily in behalf of my poor, drunken brother. I intend to fast. I shall not eat nor sleep nor rest until my drunken brother is sweetly saved.”

As she sank in her chair, we looked at that tall woman, we looked into her pale face, and as she buried her face in her hands and sobbed aloud, that great audience was moved. Men—stout men, sinners—wept. Her father, an eminent lawyer, jumped to his feet, saying, “Daughter, you are not able to fast. You cannot stand it. You are too weak physically. You have had nervous prostration, and you are bordering on a general break-down, so I ask you, for your own sake and for your parents’ sake, to here and now recall that rash vow.”

She jumped to her feet and said in a low tone, “Precious Father, I love you. I honor you because you are a Christian man; you have set a pious example before your family. But I must say that God has placed this awful burden upon my poor heart, and the Holy Ghost has whispered this fast into my soul. I promise the triune God and my drunken brother never to swallow another mouthful of food, never to close my eyes again in slumber, until he is saved.”

I at once exhorted the people to much prayer. I said to the pastor after the benediction, “We are both strong men. We must fast and pray. We must get under this burden. If the devil can harden this young man, get him drunker and keep him from the altar and from getting saved, and this girl dies, it will hurt the cause. It will almost lock the doors of the revival. For Jesus’ sake, for the young woman’s sake, and for that drunken brother’s sake, let us betake ourselves to wrestling, agonizing, soul-travailing prayer.”

We met the young lady in the vestibule the next morning. She said to us, “The body is weak, but my faith is strong.” I met her the second morning. She said, “I am weak, but my faith is mounting up.” We met her the third morning, and she said, “I’ll not meet you tomorrow morning unless my brother gets saved today. My body is growing awfully weak.”

And her brother? All this while her brother was pouring more red liquor down him. He was cursing, awfully cross; cursing right in his own house.

That third night, before we preached we were led to have a short testimony service, and the last one to testify was the young lady. She arose and came forward. As she looked out over that great audience, the tears streaming from her face, she said, “My dear neighbors, friends, kinsmen, pupils, and darling drunken brother, I want you all to hear me, for I believe, honestly believe, that this will be my last testimony in this church. This is the third day I have fasted, and God only knows the heart agony; my body is awfully weak, but I purpose to die before I’ll eat or sleep. The Holy Ghost put this upon me, and I am going to let Him have His way. I want to say to my drunken brother—who is so drunk on the last pew of this church that he cannot sit up straight—that by tomorrow this time my lips and my eyes will be closed, my hands will be folded across my peaceful breast. I want him to look upon my face, and my closed eyes and lifeless form, and say, ‘Sister died for me.’ ”

As she finished, she sank into her chair. The young man jumped to his feet. Leaning against the rear end of the church, he cried out, “My ——, Sister, I can’t stand it! How could I see you go down into the cold grave?! I have been miserable for three days; yes, I’ve been in hell. I have done my utmost to drown conviction, but it has gotten stronger until I can’t stand it! How can I live?—” and the young man staggered down the aisle and fell at the altar.

That sister threw her arms around him, and such a prayer we never heard before. The young man threw up his hands, and, oh, how he confessed, how he repented, how he begged God for pardon, how he begged his sister to forgive him, how he begged his parents to forgive him. He jumped from that altar blessedly saved. He grabbed his sister up in his arms; he ran up and down the aisle, shouting: “If she hadn’t fasted; if she hadn’t prayed; if she hadn’t kept at it, I would have gone to a drunkard’s grave and a drunkard’s hell.” As they stood in that aisle, his arms around his sister, he said, “Good people, this woman prayed me through. I felt this was the time and my last time. Had she let up, I would have been damned forever and forever.” They went home that night and had a midnight supper, and this brother said grace at the table.

This young lady had to cover up her eyes. She could not look at her father, for he was begging her to cease, to quit. She could not look at her neighbors, for they said, “It is radical.” She could not look at her kinsmen, for some of them said, “You’ll go crazy.” Like Elijah, she covered up her face, hid her “lookers,” cried to God for three long days and nights, prayed clear through, and her drunken brother was gloriously saved, triumphantly saved.

We must never look at environments: they cannot help us to pray through; they cannot inspire us; they can never bring the assurance of the witness—but they may dismay us, bring doubts and fearful forebodings. Peter looked at the waves, his surroundings, his environment, got his eyes off Christ, and was sinking rapidly to a watery grave when Jesus Christ grasped his hand. Had Peter never looked at the waves, but looked straight ahead, looked at Christ, kept his eyes on the Master, he would never have sunk—never, no, never. His “lookers” sunk him down.