A Step at a Time by J R Miller
All the passages below are taken from J R Miller, “Intimate Letters on Personal Problems.”
Let me say to you in this letter what I tried to say to you in our little talk today. Do not allow the doctrinal theories about Christ’s person to interfere at all with your receiving of Christ. As a teacher you know that every pupil has to begin somewhere, usually in a very vague and uncertain way, and learn little by little, line upon line, until the whole truth has been made clear. Do not think that you have been doing wrong, that, as you suggest it, you have been dishonest in not quite understanding or accepting all that your church teaches concerning the person of Christ. All that you can be expected to do, is to take the truth that is made known to you, and follow it out. Indeed, I wish other people would do as you have done — think for themselves. So few people do this. The great majority of church members accept, or think they accept, just what their church teaches, asking no questions for themselves, never thinking out the articles of their creed in any personal way. I am glad that you are thinking for yourself. Even if your creed does not have as many articles in it as the creed of your church has — if you have only two or three things that you have worked out for yourself and believe because you have made personal investigation — these two or three great fundamental truths will mean far more to you than your nominal assent to a long creed, no single article of which you have ever thought through for yourself.
Let me say to you further, that the true way to follow Christ is to follow him just as fast as he lights the way for you. One evening, a good many years ago, a young fellow had been talking for several hours to the president of the college where he was attending, on difficulties very much like yours. The young man could not see the truth as clearly as he wanted to see it. At the close of the conversation, when the young man was leaving the door, it was very dark and he had some distance to go out into the country where he was boarding.
The president brought him a lighted lantern and gave it to him, saying, “This will light you all the way home.” Then the president added, “But it will light you only a step at a time as you go on.” The words were just in line with the drift of the conversation during the evening, and the young man understood what his friend meant. The lantern lighted only one step; but, as he took that step, he carried the light forward, and a second step was made clear to him, and then the third, and then the fourth, until by and by he reached the door of his own home. He had walked all the way in the light, and yet he had never been able to see more than one step in advance of his feet.
This is the way you want to learn about Christ. Take your present belief and let it work its way out in your own life without hesitation. When Christ says to you, “Come unto me, . . . and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; . . . and you shall find rest,” do just what he says. Come to him, let him be your teacher, listen to his words, accept him in just the way he offers himself to you. Do not hesitate at any extent of following him, but follow his teachings at the very fullest meaning.
While you ponder these truths, be sure to let the personal Christ into your life in any way he wants to come. Simply let Christ have his way with you. If he is to be your teacher, you are to be a faithful pupil, an earnest, sincere and true follower. As you go on, believing what he says, doing what he wants you to do, letting him come into your life as he wants to come, testing every teaching by actual faith and experience — he will guide you step by step. Live up to the light you have today, and you will have a little more light for tomorrow. Take the step which the lantern makes light for your feet, and as you go forward, another step will be lighted for you. Do not worry. Do not try to force yourself into any beliefs. Jesus says, “He who follows me shall not walk in darkness — but shall have the light of life.” As you follow him, you will find the light growing brighter all the time.
Remember that Christ is not merely a Savior who died two thousand years ago, who now lives away up above the stars in Heaven and thinks of you — but he is a friend right by your side, coming into your everyday life, into all your experiences, into your joys and sorrows, into your pleasures and your pain. You have no affairs in which he is not deeply interested, and in which he will not help you. There are no troubles which you cannot take to him, assured that he will help you to bear them, or will relieve you of them. The Christian life is simply making Christ more and more, your close personal friend.
Replying to your question about prayer, let me say that it is not necessary for you to make a long prayer to God, telling Him everything you need. Christ and you are friends, and you know that two friends may sit together for hours and ask no favors of each other, make no request. They may even sit together in silence, holding each other’s hands. That is the kind of prayer that Christ likes best. We may call it communing with Him. You say you do not know what to pray for. Then you should say a little prayer like this:
“O Jesus, my Friend, I do not know what is best for me, what I need most, what I ought to ask You to do for me — so I just put my life into Your hands and into Your loving care — and leave it there. Take care of me, do for me the things that are best, make me well and strong that I may take up my duties. Take into Your skillful hands, the tangles and perplexities of my life — and smooth them all out in Your own best way. Keep me trustful and keep me patient, keep me submissive to Your will, and keep me songful and joyful at heart. Help me to be just the person You would have me to be, and make my life holy and beautiful. Prepare me for whatever You have in plan for me in the future. Make me strong in duty, and brave in all trouble. I ask all this in Your precious name.”