A Caution Against Two Things—Carnal Fear and Carnal Policy.
Against carnal fear. Many are troubled when they consider the power and cunning of the enemies of God's people. But you need not be dismayed when you, in the simplicity of your hearts, give yourselves up to the direction of God's word. You need not fear all their craft; when they are confounded and broken to pieces by their own devices, you shall stand firm. It seems to be the greatest folly in the world to keep at a distance from the rising side. In time, it will be found to be the greatest wisdom. You may think they carry their matters with a great deal of cunning while they reject God and trample the unquestionable interests of Christ underfoot. Since they reject the word of God, what wisdom do they have? (Jeremiah 8:9). When you fail, will you believe the word of God or the doubtful appearance of outward things? Once you are in God's way, you cannot ultimately miscarry. Will not Christ uphold the ministry in spite of the devil and evil men? Do we not have the word of God to secure these hopes for us? So why should we be afraid?
Then take heed of carnal policy; for we are made wiser than our enemies through the commandment. We must not oppose craft with craft, for then Satan will be too hard for us in the use of his own weapons. It is not wise to run to shifts or to use carnal and sinful devices. There is a wisdom that is necessary for the children of God: "I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be wise as serpents, simple as doves" (Matthew 10:16). God's people are sheep in the midst of wolves, destitute of all outward support. We should carry ourselves prudently and holily in his service. That wisdom and knowledge which do not agree with justice but puts upon doing things that are unjust, that is craft, not wisdom. Although Christ has bid us be wise, he has forbidden us to be crafty. When we run to carnal shifts, we think to be wiser than God. All the mischiefs of the present age have been occasioned by unbelief. We do not trust God in his own way, but we run to carnal practices merely to prevent evil, and we see how we are entangled in all kinds of confusion. Jeroboam would be wiser than God; God would have settled the kingdom upon him, but he ran to his own way, and that was his undoing. Take heed of this fleshly wisdom: "Not in fleshly wisdom, but in simplicity and godly wisdom" (2 Corinthians 1:12). The more simply and plainly a Christian walks according to the direct letter of the scripture, the safer they are. But when they run to baser courses out of distrust of God, all things come to ruin. Carnal policy never succeeds well with the children of God. A Christian never thrives by carnal policy or by using carnal fetches for carnal ends. God crosses them. A man who walks by the light of his own fire is sure to be led out of the way of peace and happiness. When they forsake the light of God's word and Spirit and follow a false light, they run into sorrow and inconvenience. Therefore, weaker Christians are sometimes safer than those of stronger parts who lean on their own understanding and trust in carnal policy.
To gain wisdom from the Word of God that will make you wiser than your adversaries, follow these maxims and graces:
- Understand that it is more important to secure your interest in Christ than in the world (Matthew 6:34; Luke 14:26).
- Focus on duty rather than events or dangers (1 Chronicles 19:13; 2 Timothy 4:17, 18).
- Depend on Christ's care over you rather than using carnal means to secure yourself when fulfilling your duty (1 Peter 5:7; 4:19).
- Know that everything that happens to God's people is either good or leads to good (Romans 8:28).
- Trust that when deliverance is better for us than bondage or oppression, we will receive it, as God has promised not to withhold any good thing (Psalm 84:11).
- Stick close to God and remain obedient to Him to experience present ease and future deliverance (Psalm 125:3).
- Be patient and wait for God's timing rather than resorting to carnal means to escape trouble (Isaiah 38:15).
- Remember that no one can lose by serving God, even if they suffer greatly (Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17).
- Our adversary is only wiser than us if their opposition causes us to sin.
- Faith is essential to this wisdom. If you can rely on God in a straightforward and honest way, you will not resort to deceitful tactics to achieve your goals.
- Fear of God makes us sensitive to sin, so we dare not disobey God's commands or break His rules for anything. Someone who fears God will be safe from fear of danger (Proverbs 13:13). They will not break a commandment for any reason, even if it means facing great danger.
Excerpt from chapter CIV in "An Exposition of Psalm 119" by Thomoas Manton