Behind the will to know there must be the will to do. Knowledge is bound up with practice. The power to know comes with the determination to do.
The people marveled at the knowledge of Jesus. He had not been taught in their schools, and yet He surpassed all their masters in wisdom. "How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?" His own explanation acknowledged the absence of learning. He had no masters at whose feet He had sat. Neither was He self-taught. The teaching was not his own. He who sent Him gave it to Him. He lays bare the secret of his own certitude, and announces the moral principle of wisdom. "If any man willeth to do he shall know." It begins with the surrender of the will to the will of God; by which is meant that all the faculties of knowledge are set to know the will of God, and the will is set to the knowing that it may do. There is a decisive and supreme choice of the Father's will, and Christian knowledge and grace develop in life-long obedience to that will. Light comes to those who walk in the light and comes as they walk. Obedience has to keep pace with the ever-widening horizon.
Obedient faith is the condition of knowledge. This is true in all things. The painter who would learn to paint must paint, and the musician who would learn to play must play. No man ever did either by merely mastering the theories of painting or music. The only way to learn is by doing. The will to do is the way to learn, and doing is as much a part of learning as study. The law holds in the region of truth just as surely as in art and craft. Carlyle says somewhere: "I tell you, the noble intellect cannot think the truth, even within its own limits and when it most seriously tries." The power to perceive truth depends upon moral qualities and spiritual motives. The cloister breeds more heresy than the battlefield, and there have always been more infidels in the study than on the pavement. The pursuit of knowledge divorced from practice always errs. Learning of itself cannot make men wise.
This does not mean that practical obedience is a substitute for true thinking. Thought is the raw material of life. The way to truth makes great demands upon thought, and we cannot leave the responsibility of thinking to others. The seed of the Word that came to naught in the Parable of the Sower failed through lack of understanding. There must be hard thinking as well as honest endeavor. The point to be kept in mind is that the will to do is a condition of true knowledge, and that in the act of faith is the way of truth. Even if the sincere effort be made in the wrong way, it will lead to the right way sooner than labored reasoning that never comes to the test of doing. In his Reminiscences, Sir Rabindranath Tagore has this interesting statement on his experience of paths in which there was "No Thoroughfare." "The only way of learning how to use a thing properly, is through its misuse. For myself, at least, I can truly say that what little mischief resulted from my freedom always led the way to the means of curing mischief." That would seem as if the right could only be reached by the wrong, like the saying that he who never makes mistakes never does anything. In a sense that is true, but the believer has the promise of light that saves him from experimenting in blind alleys, though not from the need to experiment. Truth must be sought for doing, and thought once discovered must be translated into action.
Spiritual religion has failed in recent years on its experimental side. No one will say that it has erred on the side of mystical devotion. Its passion has been for the practical. The church has disparaged theology, and the world has despised it. The preacher has called for service, and absolved from devotion. The thing that mattered was the overthrow of social evil and the relief of human suffering. Those from whom the church recruited its workers are turning to nursing and social welfare. Worship, communion, and prayer are left for educational, philanthropic, and social work. The law will work here as elsewhere, and, in willing to do, the right way will be found, but even in such noble service the soul may find its goal. The will to serve must be linked with the will of the Father. Prayer must be linked with work, and work must be in the assured will of God. There is much talk about prayer; and perhaps the abundance of the talk comes out of the absence of praying. Books on prayer sell better than any other kind of religious book, and there is a demand for manuals of instruction on prayer. The demand may be a testimony to their value, but after all the only way to learn to pray is by praying. To obedient faith there comes both the power and the joy. Where there is a will to pray there is always a way. Study about prayer does not necessarily help praying, but the habit of prayer leads to both truth and power. Henry Martyn wrote in his Journal: "Prayer is the great thing. Oh, that I may be a man of prayer!" and he came to be what he willed to do.
There is a widespread anxiety for a revival of religion, but there is some uncertainty as to how it can be secured. There are some who regard revivals as entirely in the secret of God's sovereign power. All we can do is to wait and pray; tarry for the coming of the wind and fire. Charles Finney proclaimed everywhere that God's time for a revival is always “Now.” Heaven waits for the answering faith and cooperation of the redeemed. The prevalence of wickedness is no hindrance; it may be an additional reason. The arrogant unbelief of the world is no barrier; it is not there God looks for faith. The subtle atmosphere of rationalistic culture cannot make revival impossible; for at bottom there is no difference between Greek and barbarian. A revival comes when the hearts of God's people are set upon revival. There is a point at which faith has the authority to decree; it commands and prevails. It says to the mountain, "Be thou removed," and the mountain moves. "Concerning the work of My hands, command ye Me," saith the Lord. When the heart is so set on a revival that it cries out in travail, "Lord, give me souls or I die," the revival comes. St. Paul speaks of travailing in birth for his children in the Gospel; and the Prophet declared that when Zion travailed she brought forth her children." When the heart wills to save the souls of men it comes to know the heart and power of God.—Joyful News.
Herald of gospel liberty, Volume 110, Issues 1-26 By General Convention of the Christian Church