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Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Duty of Forgetting Sorrow

makes deep scars; indeed, it writes its record ineffaceably on the heart which suffers. We really never get over our deep griefs; we are really never altogether the same after we have passed through them—as we were before. 
In one sense, sorrow can never be forgotten. The cares of a long busy life may supervene—but the memory of the first deep sorrows in early youth, lives on in perpetual freshness as the little flowers live on beneath the cold snowdrifts through all the long winter. The old woman of ninety, remembers her grief and sense of loss seventy years ago, when God took her first baby out of her bosom. We never can actually forget our sorrows, nor is it meant that we should do so. 
There is a way of remembering grief—that is not wrong, that is not a mark of unsubmission, and that brings rich blessing to our hearts and lives. There is a humanizing and fertilizing influence in sorrow rightly accepted, and "the memory of things precious, keeps warm the heart that once enfolded them." Recollections of losses, if sweetened by faith, hope and love—are blessings to the lives they overshadow. 
Indeed, they are poor who have never suffered and have none of sorrow's marks upon them; they are poorer far who, having suffered, have forgotten their sufferings and bear in their lives no beautifying traces of the experiences of pain through which they have passed. 
Yet there is a way of remembering sorrow, which brings no blessing, no enrichment—which does not soften the heart, nor add beauty to the life. There is an unsubmissive remembering which brings no joy, which keeps the heart bitter, which shuts out the sunshine, which broods over losses and trials. Only evil can result from such memory of grief. In this sense, we ought to forget our sorrow. We certainly ought not to stop in the midst of our duties and turn aside and sit down by the graves of our losses, staying there while the tides of busy life sweep on. We should leave our sorrows behind us—while we go on reverently, faithfully and quietly in our appointed way. 
There are many people, however, who have not learned this lesson; they live perpetually in the shadows of the griefs and losses of their by-gone days. Nothing could be more unwholesome or more untrue to the spirit of Christian faith, than such a course. What would be said or thought of the man who should build a house for himself out of black stones, paint all the walls black, hang black curtains over the dark-stained windows, put black carpets on every floor, have only sad pictures on the walls and sad books on the shelves, and should have no lovely plants growing and no sweet flowers blooming anywhere about his home? Would we not look upon such a man with pity—as one into whose soul the outer darkness had crept, eclipsing all the beauty of life? 
Yet that is just the way some people do live. They build for their souls houses just like that; they have memories that let all the bright and joyous things flow away—while they retain all the sad and bitter things! They forget the pleasant incidents and experiences, the happy hours, the days that came laden with gladness as ships come from distant shores with cargoes of spices; but there has been no painful event in all their life whose memory is not kept ever vivid. They will talk for hours of their griefs and bereavements in the past, dwelling with a strange morbid pleasure on each sad incident. They keep the old wounds ever unhealed in their hearts; they keep continually in sight pictures and reminiscences of all their lost joys—but none of the joys that are not lost; they forget all their ten thousand blessings—in the abiding recollection of the two or three sorrows that have come amid the multitudinous and unremembered joys. These people live perpetually in the shadows and glooms of their own sorrows. The darkness creeps into their souls, and all the joyous brightness passes out of their lives, until their very vision becomes so stained that they can no more even discern the glad and lovely colors in God's universe! 
Few perversions of life, could be sadder than this dwelling ever in the glooms and the shadows of past griefs. It is the will of God that we should turn our eyes away from our sorrows, that we should let the dead past bury its dead—while we go on with reverent earnestness to the new duties and the new joys that await us. By standing and weeping over the grave where it is buried—we cannot get back what we have lost. When David's child was dead, he dried his tears and went at once to God's house and worshiped, saying, "Now he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again?" Instead of weeping over the grave where his dead was not, he turned all the pressure of his grief into the channels of holy living. That is the way every believer in Christ should treat his sorrows. Weeping inconsolably beside a grave, can never give back love's vanished treasure. Nor can any blessing come out of such sadness. It does not make the heart any softer; it develops no feature of Christlikeness in the life. It only embitters our present joys—and stunts the growth of all beautiful things. The graces of the heart are like flowers; they grow well only in the sunshine
There was a mother who lost a lovely Christian daughter by death. For a long time the mother had been a consistent Christian—but when her child died—she refused to be comforted. Her pastor and other Christian friends sought by tender sympathy to draw her thoughts away from her grief—yet all their effort was vain. She would look at nothing but her sorrow; she spent a portion of nearly every day beside the grave where her dead daughter was buried; she would listen to no words of consolation; she would not lift an eye toward the heaven into which her child had gone; she went back no more to the church, where in the days of her joy she had loved to worship; she shut out of her heart every conception of God's love and kindness—and thought of him only as the powerful Being who had torn her sweet child away from her bosom. Thus dwelling in the darkness of inconsolable grief—the joy of her religion left her. Hope's bright visions no longer cheered her, and her heart grew cold and sick with despair. She refused to leave her sorrow—and to go on to new joys and toward the glory in which for Christian faith all earth's lost things wait. 
There was another mother who also lost her godly child—one of the rarest and sweetest children that God ever sent to this earth. Never was a heart more completely crushed—than was the heart of this bereft mother. Yet she did not, like the other woman, sit down in the gloom and dwell there; she did not shut out the sunshine and thrust away the blessing of comfort. She recognized her Father's hand in the grief that had fallen so heavily upon her, and bowed in sweet acquiescence to his will. She opened her heart to the glorious truth of the immortal life, and was comforted by the simple faith that her child was with Christ. She remembered, too, that she had duties to the living, and turned away from the grave where her little one slept in such security, requiring no more, any service of earthly affection, to minister to those who still lived and needed her care and love. The result was, that her life grew richer and more beautiful beneath its baptism of sore grief. She came from the deep shadow—a lovelier Christian, and her home and a whole community shared the blessing which she had found in her sorrow. 
It is easy to see which of these two ways of enduring sorrow is the true one. We should forget what we have suffered. The joy set before us should shine upon our souls as the sun shines through clouds, glorifying them. We should cherish sacredly and tenderly, the memory of our Christian dead—but should train ourselves to think of them as in the home of the blessed, with Christ, safely folded—waiting for us. Thus the bright and blessed hopes of immortality, should fill us with tranquility and healthy gladness—as we move over the waves of trial. 
We should remember that the blessings which have gone away—are not all that God has for us. This summer's flowers will all fade by and by, when winter's cold breath smites them—we shall not be able to find one of them in the fields or gardens during the long, cold, dreary months to come—yet we shall know all the while that God has other flowers preparing, just as fragrant and as lovely as those which have perished. Spring will come again, and under its warm breath the earth will be covered once more with floral beauty as rich as that which faded in the autumn. So the joys that have gone from our homes and our hearts—are not the only joys; God has others in store just as rich as those we have lost, and in due time he will give us these to fill our emptied hands. 
One of the worst dangers of inconsolable sorrow—is that it may lead us to neglect our duty to the living—in our mourning for the dead. This we should never do. God does not desire us to give up our work, because our hearts are broken. We may not even pause long with our sorrows; we may not sit down beside the graves of our dead and linger there, cherishing our grief. "Let the dead bury their dead," said the Master, to one who wished to bury his father and then follow him; "but you come and follow me." Not even the tender offices of love, might detain him who was called to the higher service. The lesson is for all—and for all time. Duty ever presses, and we have scarcely laid our dead away out of our sight—before its earnest calls that will not be denied, are sounding in our ears. 
A distinguished general related this pathetic incident of his own experience in our civil war. The general's son was an army lieutenant. An assault was in progress. The father was leading his division in a charge; as he pressed on in the field, suddenly his eye was caught by the sight of a dead army-officer lying just before him. One glance showed him it was his own son. His fatherly impulse was to stop beside the dear form, and give vent to his grief—but the duty of the moment demanded that he should press on in the charge; so, quickly placing one hot kiss on the dead lips, he hastened away, leading his command in the assault. 
Ordinarily the pressure is not so intense, and we can pause longer to weep and do honor to the memory of our dead. Yet in all sorrow, the principle is the same. God does not desire us—to waste our life in tears. We are to put our grief into new energy of service. Sorrow should make us more reverent, more earnest, more useful. God's work should never be allowed to suffer—while we stop to weep. The fires must still be kept burning on the altar, and the worship must go on. The work in the household, in the school, in the store, in the field, must be taken up again—the sooner, the better. Ofttimes, indeed, the death of one in the family circle—is a divine voice calling the living to new duty. Thus, when a father dies, the mother is ordained to double responsibility; if there is a son of thoughtful age, his duty is not bitter grieving—but prompt taking up of the work that has fallen from the father's dead hands. When our friends are taken from us, our bereavement is a call, not to bitter weeping—but to new duty. 
Sometimes it is care alone—which is laid down when death comes, as when a mother puts her baby away into the grave; no work drops out of the little hands for the mother to take up. But may we not then say that, since God has emptied her hands of their own care and duty, he has some other work for them to do? He has set them free from their own tasks—that with their trained skill and their enriched sympathies, they may serve others. 
In a sick-room there was a little rosebush in a pot in the window. There was only one rose on the bush, and its face was turned fully toward the light. This fact was noticed and spoken of, when one said that the rose would look no other way but toward the light. Experiments had been made with it; it had been turned away from the window, its face toward the gloom of the interior—but in a little time it would resume its old position. With wonderful persistence it refused to face the darkness, and insisted on ever looking toward the light.
The flower has its lesson for us. We should never allow ourselves to face toward life's glooms; we should never sit down in the shadows of any sorrow—and let the night darken over us into the gloom of despair; we should turn our-faces away toward the light and quicken every energy for braver duty and truer, holier service. Grief should always make us better and give us new skill and power; it should make our hearts softer, our spirits kindlier, our touch more gentle; it should teach us its holy lessons, and we should learn them, and then go on with sorrow's sacred ordination upon us—to new love and better service. 
It is thus, too, that lonely hearts find their sweetest, richest comfort. Sitting down to brood over our sorrows—the darkness deepens about us—and our little strength changes to weakness; but if we turn away from the gloom, and take up the tasks of comforting and helping others, the light will come again and we shall grow strong!

~J. R. Miller~ 

Life In The Spirit # 4

The Holy Spirit An Earnest

The Holy Spirit is a basic necessity, but mark that the Word puts it in this way. "... ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is an earnest of our inheritance" (Ephesians 1:14). What does it mean? Well, if the Holy Spirit is the energy, the power, the intelligence, by Whom we are doing this very thing of which I have been speaking, He is pointing on to something. What is it that He is pointing on to as an earnest of something that is to be? Why, He is pointing on to a time when you and I will, in spirit, have our souls utterly and perfectly under our government; and I do not believe that in the resurrection life, the life hereafter, we are going to be only naked spirits. We shall be men, we shall have souls, but without the evil principle and without the soul being in the place of mastery. Through the organ of the spirit we shall govern all the rest of our being and enjoy a perfectly adjusted manhood. Manhood is not a temporary thing. It is an idea of God which is to go on.

Well now, you see the principle. But the question is answered when you get the law. All questions are answered. The question is this in general. What does the Holy Spirit do in us? How does the Holy Spirit lead us? What does it mean to us in a practical way day by day to be led of the Spirit? Oh, do not just narrow that down to the question of, Lord, shall I go here or there, shall I do this or that? That is only a mere fragment of being led of the Spirit. Without any such questions arising, the Spirit is in us to lead us, and to lead us to moral issues in the way I have just been indicating; that is, to show us the way and to say to us, No, that other is not the way, this is the way; and we know, not by His pointing it out but by His effective working in us. Our reactions, as true children of God, are the work of the Spirit. That jumping back from the ground that we have touched to our hurt, that is the energy of the Spirit in us leading us, and it is a terrible thing for any child of God ever to come to the place where he can indulge without a reaction.

The enemy would like us, because of our failures, to say, Oh, well, it is no good, we give it up! If you and I have a bad time when we touch the natural realm, that is a glorious evidence of sonship. Do not try to rule out all your bad times and make light of them, but beware that the enemy does not turn them to such effect as to make you introspective and morbid. But remember the Spirit will keep alive in you a very active sense of what is, and what is not, in accord with the mind of God. There are the sons of God who are thus led by the Spirit of God.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 5)

Reasons for Not Worrying

George MacDonald tells of a castle in which lived an old man and his son. Though they owned the castle, they were yet very poor. They could scarcely get enough bread to keep them from starving. Yet all the time there was great wealth, which, if they had known about it, would have supplied all their wants. Through long generations there had been concealed within the castle—very valuable jewels, which had been placed there by some remote ancestor, so that if he or any of his descendants should be in need, there would be something in reserve. 
For a long time the old man and his son suffered for lack of food, not knowing of the hidden treasures. At last, however, they learned in some way of the jewels, and instantly their distress was ended. Yet all the years of their pinching poverty, these treasures had lain there, ready to furnish comfort, if only they had known of them. 
This story illustrates the case of many Christians. They are living in their Father's house, in which are concealed the rich treasures of Divine love. Yet many of God's children seem not to know of these treasures, and live in distress. There really never is any reason why a child of God should worry about anything. 
We have this teaching in plainest words in the Sermon on the Mount. Christ gives a number of strong reasons for not worrying
One of the reasons is that anxiety about food and clothing and the world's things—is serving mammon, and we cannot serve mammon and serve God at the same time. It is trusting in money to provide for our needs, instead of in God. When money fails, then we are in distress. George MacDonald says again, "How often do we look upon God as our last and feeblest resource! We go to Him because we have nowhere else to go!" We feel safer when mammon's abundance fills the pantry and the wardrobe—than when mammon threatens to fail and we have only God. 
Another reason against worry is that God, having given us our life—is certainly able to provide for our life's needs. The life is more than its provision. What a strange, mysterious thing it is, this thing which we call life! It is more wonderful than the mountains and the stars. 
Think of physical life—that beats in the heart, and pulses in the veins, and stirs in all the fibers. 
Think of mental life—that knows, and remembers, and feels, and chooses, and loves, and suffers; that can dart across seas and fly to the skies! 
Think of spiritual life—that can climb the stairways of light and commune with God; that can worship; that can be fashioned into Christ's image; that is capable of heavenly blessedness; and that shall live as long as God lives. God has made this wonderful life—can He not provide for it the piece of bread and the cup of water it daily needs for its daily sustenance? Why, then, should we be anxious for these things? 
Another reason why we should not worry the great Teacher draws from nature. God feeds the birds and clothes the flowers. "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" Is the teaching that since the birds neither sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns, therefore we should put forth no exertion to provide for our own needs? No; the birds do the best they know, but God has given us power by which we can gather for ourselves. 
It is not an untoiling life—which our Lord enjoins. Curse rests not upon work—but upon idleness. The lesson from the untoiling birds is, not that we are not to work—but that we are to fill our own place as the birds fill theirs—and that then God will take care of us. God's children are better than His birds. Birds have no soul, no mental faculties. They cannot think nor reason. They do not wear God's image. They are not God's children. God is the birds' Creator—but not their Father. An earthly father will do more for his children—than for his hens. A mother will give more thought to her baby—than to her canary. Just so, our heavenly Father will provide more surely and more carefully for His children—than for His birds. 
A like lesson Jesus teaches from the flowers. God clothes the lilies in loveliness far surpassing any adornment which the finest skill that art can produce. We are better than flowers. They live but for a day, and their rich beauty fades. They are lovely—but there is no soul in them, and they have no future. If our Father lavishes so much beauty on perishing plants, is there any ground for fear that He will not clothe His own dear children? Like the lily, we should grow into sweet beauty wherever God places us, not complaining, not vexing ourselves with anxious care, fulfilling God's purpose and doing God's will. 
Another of the reasons Jesus gives why we should not worry—is the uselessness of it. We cannot by being anxious about our height, for example, make ourselves any taller. We cannot by worry change the color of our hair—unless it be that we vex ourselves until our hair becomes grey! When we think of it, a great deal of the worrying that is so common—is over matters that we have no power to change! There is much fretting about the weather. There are many people who never get it just as they want it. They are always complaining and finding fault. But who ever heard of such fretting changing the weather? It were better far just to accept it as it comes, and be cheerful whichever way the wind blows, and whether it is hot or cold, rainy or dry. 
There are many people whose condition in life disappoints them. They are poor and have to work hard to provide for their families. They have troubles and trials. They meet difficulties. Sometimes one can change one's circumstances by making an earnest effort. That is good and right. God wants us to make the most of our life. He would not have us live on in unpleasant conditions which with a little energy and taste—we might transform into comfort. If the roof leaks, we ought to mend it. If the fence is broken and our neighbor's cattle get into our garden, we ought to repair the fence. If the chimney smokes, we ought to have the flues cleaned out. There are many worries of this class which we ought to have sense enough to cure for ourselves, without vexing our souls with worry over them. 
But there are many things, not just to our mind, which we cannot alter. Many young people fret over the limitations of their home, the narrowness of their opportunities. They think that if only they had the home and the opportunities of some envied neighbor, they would get on so much better and make so much more of their life! They have to work constantly on the farm or in the shop. They have no time for reading. Their home is without cheerfulness. They love it, of course—but it lacks the privileges they crave. 
Now, what good can ever come from worrying over such things? The noble way is to accept the conditions that are hard—is to live cheerfully in them. Hard work is made easier—when one can sing at it. Burdens are made lighter—when one's heart is full of joy. When we acquiesce in any unpleasant experience, we have conquered the unpleasantness. A thoughtful writer says: "The soul loses command of itself when it is impatient, whereas, when it submits without a murmur, it possesses itself in peace, and possesses God. When we acquiesce in an evil, it is no longer such. Why make a real calamity of it by resistance? Peace does not dwell in outward things—but within the soul. We may preserve peace of heart in the midst of bitterest pain—if we remain trusting and submissive. Peace in this life springs from acquiescence, even in disagreeable things, not in exemption from bearing them." 
Besides, the very hardness of our condition—is ofttimes that from which the greatest blessing comes. The world's best men—have not been grown in easy circumstances. Pampered, petted boys—do not usually make the heroes and the great men of their generation. Hardship in early years, nine times out of ten, is that which makes a man strong and stalwart and a power among men when he reaches his prime.
Herodotus wrote: "It is a law of nature that faint-hearted men should be the fruit of luxurious countries; for we never find that the same soil produces both delicacies and heroes." Therefore, instead of worrying over the rough, stern, and severe things in his environment, a healthy, wholesome boy ought to set to work to master them, and in mastering them—get strength and victoriousness for his own life. 
A jeweler brought a large and beautiful onyx to an engraver of precious stones. "See how clear, pure, and transparent this stone is," said the jeweler. "What a fine one for your skill, were it not for this one fatal blemish!" Then he showed him at one point an underlying tinge of iron-rust, which, as he said, made the stone almost worthless. 
But the engraver took it, and with matchless skill and delicacy wrought upon the stone, carving a graceful figure. By most ingenious and patient use of his engraving tool, he fashioned it so that what had seemed an irreparable blemish was made into a leopard-skin, on which rested the foot of the lovely figure—the contrasting colors enhancing the beauty of the lovely cameo. 
This illustrates what God would have us do with the hard things in our condition. We think we can never make anything of our life, with all the discouraging things there are in our lot. Really, however we can make our life all the nobler, greater, stronger, more beautiful—by means of the very things which we think ruin us. We can make them yield new strength and beauty, for our character. 
This is the way to treat the hard, discouraging things in life. It is useless to fret over them—fretting will never remove them, and it only weakens our energy and mars our life! But if we meet them with undismayed courage and persistent resolve, we shall conquer them, and in conquering them carve royalty of character and noble worth of ourselves.
Another of our Master's reasons why we should not worry—is that worrying is a sin. He says that the heathen worry. But they know no better. They have never learned about God and His fatherhood, and it is no wonder if they are anxious sometimes about the needs of their lives. But we know what God is. We have learned to call Him our Father. If we believe what we say we believe concerning our privileges as God's children—we ought not to worry. Worry is doubting God, unbelief. It dishonors Him whose love is infinite and eternal, and whose promises are so wide and full. 
For, really, as Jesus tells us again—we have nothing to do with the care of our own life. We have only one thing to do: "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness." The rest is God's responsibility, "And all these things shall be added unto you." When we grow anxious about food or clothing or shelter—we are taking the care of our life out of our Father's hand. We should learn to put the emphasis on our own duty. We never can be too careful at this point. We must leave no duty undone, no task neglected. We must not seek to care of ourselves by sinful means, by living dishonestly. Our part is to be true, loyal, and faithful. Then we may leave all the rest in God's hands. 
At the close of His wonderful talk about worry, our Lord gives us a wonderful secret. He tells us that we should keep the fences up between the days. We must not bring tomorrow's cares—into today. The morrow must look to its own matters. When its cares actually come—it will be soon enough to take them up. This is a golden lesson—living by the day. We should learn it!
"One day at a time. A burden too great
To be borne for two—can be borne for one.
Who knows what will enter tomorrow's gate?
While yet we are speaking, all may be done.
"One day at a time. But a single day,
Whatever its load, whatever its length;
And there's a bit of precious Scripture to say
That according to each—shall be our strength."
He who learns the lesson, living without worrying, has mastered life. He is ready then to live sweetly and most effectively. It is said that the electro-dynamo is well-near perfect in its conservation of energy. Ninety-five percent of the force it generates is utilized—goes into light or power. If we can learn so to live so that only five percent of our energy is expended in friction or needless waste, we shall have learned indeed, in one sense at least—to make the most of our life. Many people have not learned to live in this economical way. They waste in anxious care—what they ought to use in lighting the world with their peace, or helping others with their strength. For nothing wastes life's energies more rapidly and more needlessly, than worry.

~J. R. Miller~

Saturday, May 30, 2015

That Will Do!

Someone says that the sentence, "That will do!" has done more harm than any other sentence in the English language! It indicates the acceptance of a standard below the highest — a person has done something which is not his best. He recognizes the fact; but he is too indolent to do it over again, or he is impatient to get the matter off his hands, and decides to let it go as it is. "That will do," is a confession of unworthiness in what is done, and of indolence in the person who does it. He knows he could do better — but decides to let it pass. 
Yet this miserable sentence is the ruling motto of many people's lives. They never do the best they might do. Their whole life is slipshod. They began as children in school, doing barely well enough to pass. They never aimed to excel. They had no ambition to be first or to do perfect work. It was the same on the playground as in the schoolroom — they were satisfied to drag through the game, playing only passably well. They never put quite their whole soul into anything they did. 
Thus habits of slothfulness were formed in their early years, and they have gone through life with the same unworthy spirit. They know they are not working up to their best — but it does not worry them. They have learned to say at every point, "That will do" — and this covers up the delinquencies, and apologizes for the failures. 
All the standards of life are affected by it. Conduct is not what it should be. A man knows he is not doing what is really right, that his act would not bear the scrutiny of a rigid judgment; but he says indolently, "Oh, that will do" — and so passes over the matter without further compunction. Next time it is easier to fall below the mark; and so the trend is ever downward, until conscience ceases to sting and chide. 
A man's work or business also is affected by this spirit. He is content with small achievements and low attainments. He knows he is not accomplishing what he might accomplish — but it costs less to do things in this easy way, than to do them well — and he soon gets used to the low standard. So it comes about that the man who might have made a splendid mark for himself in his profession, in his business, or in his trade — never rises above a pitiable mediocrity. "That will do"has soothed his languishing enthusiasm into a sleep, out of which nothing ever can wholly awaken it. 
Young people should train themselves from childhood never to be satisfied with anything but the very best they can do. A much better maxim to rule them would be, "The good — is the enemy of the best." The good should not be enough; nothing should satisfy but the best. Children should begin in school by mastering every lesson, and keeping a high standard in all their studies. Then in their conduct and behavior, they should be most rigid with themselves, exacting . . .
the strictest truth in word and act,  
the whitest purity in motive, thought, and feeling, and
the utmost sincerity and faithfulness in all their relations with others. 
In whatever they do, they should be satisfied with nothing less than their very best. They should never allow themselves to say of any poor effort, whatever the haste or the weariness, "That will do." 
Nothing else is so enervating as the indolent, self-indulgent character. He who thus seeks to save himself — loses himself. Youth should scorn self-indulgence in every form. It should court hardship — rather than ease. What right have strong young men to demand luxury — soft beds, smooth roads, light burdens, short work hours? Rather it should be their goal to grapple with hardness and difficulty, and to be heroic in their struggles. Young men should be ashamed to do any duty indolently, or even to fall short of the best
It is a great thing to have a lofty ideal and to live up to it. Michael Angelo said, "Nothing makes the soul so pure, so pious, as the endeavor to create something perfect; for God is perfect, and whoever strives for perfection, strives for something Godlike." The blessing is in the striving. "Not failure — but low aim, is crime." 
Though we fail to reach our ideal, the effort to reach it does us good. First, it proves our faithfulness. How can we ever look God in the face, if we have not earnestly tried to do our best? But when we have struggled with all our might toward the attainment of the noble ideal which haunts us, though we have come short of it — we shall not be ashamed to stand before God at last, conscious that we have done our best
Striving always after the perfect ideal, also lifts us step by step toward the ever-unattained excellence. We grow better, through every effort we make to be better. Every time we try to do any most common work perfectly — we are doing also another work of far greater importance on our own character. The carpenter is a better man, for having wrought a good piece of carpentering. The housekeeper is a better woman, for having made her home beautiful, and filled it with comfort and the sweetness of love. Doing the most common tasks well, makes the life itself nobler and more Christlike.
On the other hand, he who does anything indolently, in slovenly fashion, less skillfully than he could have done it — has not only left a piece of work in the world which will shame him some day — but has also done harm to his own soul and character. 
We do not think enough of this effect on our character, of what we do in our ordinary tasks. We say it makes no difference if we skimp our work, when there is nothing important in it. You write a postal-card carelessly. The carpenter does not take pains with the piece of carpentering he is doing. The pupil does not get the lesson thoroughly. The housekeeper does not sweep the dark corners of her rooms. The author writes his book hurriedly, not doing his best. None of these people thinks of any other evil result, but that which is left in the work itself; that they confess is not what it might have been. But in each case, a far more serious evil result was left in the life of him who did his task in a negligent way. We are working all the while in two spheres — on matter, where men see the kind of work we do — and on our own inner life and character, where only God's eye can see the marks we make. 
We are not accustomed to consider this close identifying of our common task-work, in the world with our own moral and spiritual up-building. Carelessness in our daily duties, hinders our growth and sanctification. Doing the best we can in our secular occupations, makes us holier, and helps to fashion the image of Christ in our heart. 
Thus it is much more important than we are apt to think, that we strive always to do perfect work, even in the lowliest and the commonest things we undertake. What we do outside for men's eyes — we do also within for God's eyes. "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men" Colossians 3:23 
Slovenly work in school, or in business, or on a building, or on a farm, or in the home — is also slovenly work on one's own character! 
Many catastrophes come in later years from doing imperfect or careless work in youth. When digging for the foundation of a great building, the workmen came upon a piece of old wall. "That will do," they said; and they left it in the new wall, building around it. The great structure went up, and was filled with business. One day there was a crash. The fragment of old wall had given way, and the whole building fell in ruin! 
Continually, young people are leaving in the foundation walls of their character — a fault, a wrong habit, a weakness, a flaw. It would be hard to dig it out. It is easier just to build over and around it, and so they let it stay. "That will do," they say apologetically. Then years afterward, in some great stress or strain, the character fails and falls into ruin; it is seen then that that careless piece of foundation-building was the cause of it all. 
No more serious problem arises in a young person's life, than the temptation, ever-recurring — to do things negligently, to pass slipshod or slovenly work. Nothing but the best we can do in the circumstances, should ever be allowed to leave our hands. Never should any young person permit his work, his words, his life, any of his habits — to be ruled by a motto so unworthy, so debasing in its influence, as, "That will do!"
"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed" 2 Timothy 2:15
"So that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ" Philippians 1:10

~J. R. Miller~ 

Life In The Spirit # 3

A Principle of Spiritual Guidance (continued)

Now, it does not follow that you never do slip in the same way again, but as you go on you do spiritually grow out of that particular thing, and what is happening is that in spirit you are taking the mastery of your soul. You are not annihilating your soul, but you are bringing it under government and making it your servant; for mark, that frequently the occasion of stumbling is only the evil form of an expression which in itself may be necessary. Take anger, for example. You become angry; but you become angry in your nature, your natural life, and it was because there was a self-interest or some self-element in your anger that you had such a bad time. Anger is not evil. "God is angry with the wicked every day" (Psalm 7:11. "Be ye angry, and sin not" (Ephesians 4:26). Anger is not evil. You are not therefore going to annihilate your soul and make anger non-existent. You can take any other feature that you like in the same way and you will find that the soul itself is not essentially evil. The evil lies in the evil principle that has got hold of it.

What are you going to do then? In spirit you are going to destroy the evil principle and get the mastery of your soul, so that anger is going to serve you. Love may have personal elements in it; but you are not gong to annihilate love because you find love trips you up sometimes on a personal life and leads you astray. You are going to destroy the evil principle by the power of the death of Christ and master your soul and bring it under, so that by your spirit you use love, you govern the matter of love. Now then, the point that I am after is not so much the difference between the soul and spirit, but rather something related to the Holy Spirit Himself.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 4 - (The Holy Spirit An Earnest)

The God Who Saves

Recently I was talking with a fellow about his spiritual life. When I asked, "Are you saved?" he answered, "No, but I'm working at it." When I pressed him, he explained that he was making some changes in his life. He had given up smoking and drinking, among other things. I knew that I should help him understand a few important principles, as his only guarantee so far was better health.

What this gentleman needed to realize was that what we do or what we give up for Jesus doesn't amount to much. The Lord isn't looking for people who change a few habits by sheer force of will; He's calling people to surrender themselves to Him. The only action God expects of a "seeker" is to believe in Jesus--that He is who He says, He will do what He says, He has the authority to forgive, and He will equip His people to live a godly life. Because of those convictions, a new Christian is empowered to turn away from his old life--in other words, to repent--and begin the process of becoming "a new creation" (2 Cor. 5:17).

We don't evolve into a saved people by deleting old habits and instituting better religious ones; we are transformed by the saving power of Jesus Christ when we believe in Him.

Since salvation isn't something we earn, no one can boast before God. All of our moral living, good deeds, and strenuous efforts to change bad habits amount to a pile of trash compared to the holiness of Jesus Christ (Isa. 64:6). Only His righteousness can cover our sins and make us right before the Father.

~Dr. Charles F. Stanley~

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Silent Christ

A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to Him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession." Jesus did not answer her a word! So His disciples came to Him and urged Him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us." He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." The woman came and knelt before Him. "Lord, help me!" she said. He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread—and toss it to their dogs!" Matthew 15:22-26

Usually, Jesus was quick to answer cries for His help. No mother's heart ever waked so easily to her child's calls—as the heart of Christ waked to the calls of human distress! But once at least, He was silent to a very bitter cry. It was over in the edge of a heathen country. The story begins by saying that He went into a house and wanted nobody to know that He was there. He desired a little time of quiet. Even Jesus needed sometimes to rest. But He could not be hidden.

An Indian legend tells of a sorcerer who sought to hide the sun, moon, and stars in three great chests—but failed in his effort. One cannot hide light—it reveals itself by its beams. One cannot hide fragrant flowers—their perfume reveals their place of concealment.

There is a kind of wood in China, which, though buried in the earth—yet fills all the air about it with its perfumes. Nor can holy lives be hidden! No matter how modest and shy they are, wherever they go, people know of their presence. There is something in them which always reveals them.

Never was there another such rich, loving, helpful life in this world—as that of Jesus. He was everybody's friend. His heart was full of compassion. His hand was ever stretched out to serve. No wonder He could not be hidden—even in a strange place. Burdened hearts would be drawn to Him—by the very power of His love and sympathy.

A heathen woman heard of Him that day, and came to Him with a pitiful plea. It is worth while to notice, that it was this woman's trouble which sent her to Christ. If all had been sunshine in her house, she would not have gone to seek Him. This is one of the blessings of affliction—it often leads us into experiences of blessing we never would have had—but for our suffering. We never shall know until we have gone to heaven—how much we owe to pain and sorrow. Then we shall see that the long days when we were sick—were days of wondrous divine revealing; that what we called our misfortunes and calamities—were really pieces of shaded path, leading to nobler blessings.

It is interesting to think of the good that has come to the world through the centuries, from the mere telling of the story of this woman's trouble. Other mothers with suffering children have been encouraged to bring their burdens to Christ, as they have read of this mother and her persistent and finally availing plea. Other pleaders at the throne of grace, discouraged for a time—as they have seen this prayer prevail at length, have taken fresh hope. No one can tell what a history of blessing this one fragment of the gospel has left among men. Yet this story never would have been written—but for the pitiful suffering of a little girl.

We do not know what blessing may go out into the world from the anguish in our home, which is so hard for us to endure. Every human pain or sorrow—is intended to make this world a little gentler, sweeter, warmer-hearted. We should never forget that the gospel, which, these nineteen centuries, has been changing the earth from coldness, harshness, cruelty, and barbarism—into love, gentleness, humane feeling, and brotherly kindness, is the story of a sorrow—the sorrow of Calvary. We ought to be willing to endure pain—to make the world more heaven-like.
We are not told anything about this woman, save that she was a woman with a great burden of sorrow. She was a broken-hearted mother, with a demoniac child. But that is enough for us to know. Her sorrow makes her kin to us all. It was not her own trouble, either. She was not sick. Yet hear her cry: "Lord, help me!" She represented a great class of burdened and crushed people, who are bowed down under the maladies or the sins of others. Especially was she the type of many human mothers, whose hearts are broken by the sufferings or by the evil ways of their children. You never enter a sick-room where a child lies in pain, and the mother keeps watch—but the mother is suffering more than the child. There are many parents prematurely stooped and aged—by reason of the burdens they are bearing for or on account of their children.

This mother's persistence in pressing her plea, was very remarkable. When she came first, Jesus "did not answer her a word." He stood silent before her piteous appealing. But she would not be discouraged, and as He walked on and talked with His disciples, she continued following, and beseeching Him to have mercy on her. When the silence was broken at length, it was in words which seemed strangely harsh and insulting, coming from the lips of the Christ. Yet even the offensive words did not chill the ardor of her earnestness. Indeed, she caught at the very offensiveness, seeing hope in them. She was content to be a dog—and to take a dog's portion. Even the crumbs from that table, would abundantly satisfy her.

The woman's prayer and its final answer tell us that we may bring to Christ in our love and faith—those who cannot come to Him themselves. Many of Christ's healings were in answer to the prayers of friends. It is not enough for us to pray for ourselves. That love is not doing its full duty—which does not carry its dear ones to God in supplication.

Then this mother teaches us how to pray not timidly, faintly, and feebly—but with all the earnestness of passionate love, strengthened by overcoming faith. When we are at Christ's feet with our burden, we are before One who can help us whatever our need. We should determine to stay there—until we get our plea. This mother's supplication was as different from many of ourtame, mildly-uttered requests which we call prayers—as the storm's wild sweep is different from evening's soft zephyr. Jesus'silence did not discourage her. Jesus' refusal did not check her pleadings. Jesus' reproach had no power to drive her away. Such faith overcomes every obstacle—and wins its way to sublimest victory!

Christ's treatment of this distressed mother, is one of the strangest things in the Bible. It seems at first scarcely consistent with our conception of Christ's character. On nearly all other occasions He answered at once—but now, when the woman came to Him with her broken-hearted supplication, He did not answer her a word. When she continued crying, His only reply was a refusal, on the ground that His mission was not to any but His own people. Then, when she still persisted and cast herself at His feet, looking up appealingly to Him and pleading still for mercy, what was His reply? Not a kindly "no," such as He might have spoken, to make the pain of refusal as little as possible—but words which some haughty Pharisee might have used, calling the sorrowing woman a Gentile dog.

How can this be explained? If we were to hear that some good, generous, kindly Christian man, whom we know, had treated a poor distressed woman in this way, either we would not believe it, or we would say that the man must have been mentally disturbed, that he was not himself that day, because of some secret trouble of his own. Men do such things—they do treat the poor and distressed coldly, rudely, even in these late Christian days—but not men like Jesus. When we think of the character of Jesus—so gracious, so unselfish, so compassionate, and that He was always so ready to help even outcasts—this narrative perplexes us beyond measure.

We may as well admit, too, that there are difficulties, not unlike those we meet here, in many of God's providences in our own days. We believe in God's fatherhood, in His love and grace, in His tender thought and care of His children. Yet the world is full of sorrows. Distressed mothers yet cry to heaven for relief in their troubles, and He who sits on the throne is silent to them. Prayers seem to go long unanswered, and suppliants appear to get no pity from Him whom we believe to be full of compassion. These are painful perplexities with many godly people.

If we can find an explanation for Christ's treatment of this heathen mother—it will help us to understand many of the other difficulties in God's ways with His people. It is very clear that what seemed unkindness, was not unkindness. While Jesus was silent to her pleading and apparently indifferent, He was not really indifferent. He did hear her, and His heart was greatly interested in Her sorrow. When He seemed to spurn her, there was not in His heart toward her—the slightest feeling of real contempt or spurning. He did not despise her. His thought toward her did not change at last, when He yielded to her importunity and healed her child. His compassion was moved at her first approach to Him. He intended all the while—to grant her request. His treatment of her was only seemingly unkind. Suppose she had given up and turned away, when Jesus seemed to be so indifferent to her, what would she have lost? Her faith faltered not, and at last she got the blessing.

It is evident, too, that there was wise love in Christ's apparently harsh and severe treatment of this woman. It was the very treatment her faith needed. Of this we may be sure, as we read the story through to its close. We are safe in saying that gentle kindness from the first, would not have brought out such a noble faith in the end—as did the apparent harshness. We are apt to forget that the aim of God with us—is not to flood us all the time with tenderness, not to keep our path strewn always with flowers, not to give us everything we want, not to save us from all manner of suffering. God's aim with us—is to make something of us, to build up in us strong and noble character, to mature in us, qualities of grace and beauty, to make us like Christ. To do this—He must ofttimes deny us what we ask for, and must seem indifferent to our cries.

There are 'sentimental ideas of God' prevalent, which are dishonoring to Him. There are those who imagine that God's love, means tenderness that cannot cause pain. They think that He cannot look a moment on suffering, without relieving it; that He must instantly hear and answer every cry for the removal of trouble.

Not such a God is the God of the Bible. When suffering is the best thing for us—He is not too sympathetic to let us suffer—until the work of suffering is accomplished in us. He is not too kind to be silent to our prayers—when it is better that He should be silent for a time to allow faith to grow strong, self-confidence to be swept away, and the evil in us to be burned out in the furnace of pain!

Here, in this very story, we have an example of human compassion that seems more tender than Christ's compassion. The disciples begged the Master to listen to the woman's cries. They could not bear the anguish of her sorrow. It was too much for their nerves. But Jesus remained unmoved. No one will say that these rough fishermen were really more gentle-hearted than Jesus; but they were less wise in their love, than He was. They were not strong enough to wait until the right time for helping. They would have helped at once, and thus would have marred the work the Master was doing in the woman's soul.

This is a danger with all of us. Our tenderness lacks strength. We cannot see people suffer, and so we hasten to give relief—before the ministry of suffering is accomplished. We think of our mission to men, as being only to make life easier for them. We are continually lifting away burdens, which it were better to have left resting longer on our friend's shoulder. We are eager to make life easy for our children—when it were better if it had been left hard. We answer prayers too soon ofttimes, not asking if it were better for the suppliant to wait longer before receiving. In our dealing with human souls, we break down when we hear the first cries of penitence, hurrying to give assurance of pardon—when it were better if we left the penitent spirit longer with God for the deepening of conviction and of the sense of sin, and for the most complete humbling of the soul.

We must learn, that God does not deal with us in this 'sentimental' way. He is not too tender to see us suffer—if more suffering is needed to work in us the discipline that will make us like Christ. Here we have the key of many of the mysteries of Providence. Life is not easy for us—and God does not intend it to be easy! Prayers are not all answered the moment they are offered. Cries for the relief of pain do not always bring instant relief.

Suppose for a moment that God did give us everything we ask for—and did remove immediately every little pain, trouble, difficulty, and hardness that we seek to have removed; what would be the result on us? How selfish it would make us! We should become weak, unable to endure suffering, to bear trial, to carry burdens, or to struggle. We would be only children always, and would never rise into manly strength. God's over-kindness to us would pamper in us all the worst elements of our nature, and would make us only poor driveling creatures!

On the other hand, however, God's wise and firm treatment of us, teaches us the great lessons which make us strong with the strength of Christ Himself. He teaches us to yield our own will to Him. He develops in us patience, faith, love, hope, and peace. He trains us to endure hardness—that we may grow heroic, courageous and strong.

It is evident that at no time in the progress of this experience, did Jesus mean to refuse this woman's plea. His cold silence—was not denial. His apparent refusal—was not rejection. He delayed for wise reasons. His treatment of the woman from beginning to end—was for the training of her faith. He did not answer her a word—that her pleading might grow stronger. At the last He commended the woman, as He commended few other people in all His ministry!

It is well for us to make careful note of this—that in all God's delays when we pray—His aim is some good in us. Perhaps we are willful, asking only for our own way—and must learn to say, "May Your will be done." Perhaps we are weak, unable to bear pain or to endure adversity or loss—and we must be trained and disciplined into strength. Perhaps our desires are only for earthly good, not for heavenly blessings—and we must be taught the transitory character of all worldly things, and led to desire things which are eternal. Perhaps we are impatient—and must be taught to wait for God. We are like children in our eager restlessness—and need to learn self-restraint. At least we may always know that silence is not refusal, that God hears and cares, and that when our faith has learned its lessons He will answer in blessing.

When God does not seem to answer—He is drawing us nearer to Himself. Ofttimes our unanswered prayers mean more of blessing to us—than those that are answered. The lessons set for us in them are harder—but they are greater, richer lessons. It is better for us to learn the lesson of submission and trust—than it is to get some new sweet joy which adds to our present comfort. Whether, therefore, He speaks or is silent—He has a blessing for us!

~J. R. Miller~

Life In The Spirit # 2

A Principle of Spiritual Guidance

There are a great many questions which arise, and which we are often asked. They sometimes seem to be theoretical questions, technical questions about the Christian life. Now, we may seek to help one another by giving what we might call a technical answer, an answer, for example, from the Scriptures on some passages or some interpretation. But I am always doubtful as to the real helpfulness of that kind of answer. I think, beloved, there is an answer which goes deeper and which is much more satisfactory.

I have recently been asked a question, and I will answer it publicly so that what help there may be in the answer will be afforded to others. The question turned upon the difficulty over the difference between soul and spirit, and the place which the soul is going to have in the future life. Is it going to have any place at all or is it going to cease? Now you know I might answer a question like that with passages of Scripture, but I do not think that would be the most helpful way, because it would probably only raise more questions. But I am going to answer it in this way, because, although we are not dealing now with the matter of soul and spirit, I am seeking to get at a principle of guidance, a principle of spiritual guidance, the law of sonship.

I would ask you, What is your experience as a child of God in the matter of soul and spirit? Perhaps those words are too technical. Let me put it more simply. What is you experience with regard to that side of your life which is directly in touch with the Lord (in the measure in which you have a conscious life in the Lord: I think every child of God ought to have some little measure of a conscious life with the Lord), and that other side of your life which you know to be yourself - not the Lord, but yourself, your natural life; your  spiritual life on the one side, and your natural life on the other. Now when, as a child of God, you take just a little excursion into that region which is your natural life, what is the result? It may happen through a slip, a momentary breakdown, an indulgence - "overtaken in a fault" is how the Apostle expresses it - anything which means that, just at that moment, you drop down into the natural life, or the natural life rises up and gets the advantage for the moment. asserts itself and becomes the dominating thing. What is the effect of that upon you? If you are a true child of God and are really seeking to live with the Lord, you have a terribly bad time, and it is not just a matter of your conscience in the same way as any man might have a twinge of conscience. You know that there are other factors in this, that of the Lord being grieved, of something between  yourself and the Lord having been damaged. It is something much more than just conscience. You have a bad time and you react, you rebound, you are stung by that, and you make haste to get back on to the other side. You seek to recover your spiritual ground as soon as you can, with considerable regret and remorse and repentance. What has happened? Well, you have come out of your spirit in its union with God into your soul. You have learned a lesson. You take account of this thing and say, "How was it that I slipped up there? Why was it, what accounts for that? I will prayerfully watch that in the future. I know now what that means.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 3)

How To Distinguish A True Christian from a Hypocrite

How can you tell whether you’re a genuine believer or a false professor? One of the best books describing the true nature of conversion is The Christian’s Great Interest by William Guthrie. The great Puritan theologian John Owen highly commended it and wrote, “The author [of The Christian’s Great Interest] I take to have been one of the greatest divines that ever wrote; it is my Vade-mecum [that is, “handbook”], and I carry it and the Sedan New Testament, still about with me. I have written several folios, but there is more divinity in it than in them all.”
Consider what William Guthrie says in chapter 5 of his book about the differences between the true Christian and the hypocrite. Here are some ways in which the hypocrite may be like the Christian.

1. A hypocrite may be influenced by the gospel in every part of himself. He may come to great knowledge of God’s truth (Heb 6:4). His emotions about Christ may be high (Matt 13:20). He may even experience drastic changes in the outward man, like the Pharisee who prayed, “God, I thank You that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, etc.” (Lk 18:11–12).

2. A hypocrite may look to others like he’s a true believer. He might talk of the law and the gospel (Ps 50:16), openly confess his sin to his own shame (1 Sam 26:21), and humble himself in sackcloth (1 Kgs 21:27). He may even carefully consider what duties he needs to perform and seek after them (Is 58:2), persevere even in hard times, give his possessions away to God and the saints, or even give his body away to be burned (1 Cor 13:3).

3. A hypocrite may advance far in God’s ordinary graces. He may come under great convictions of sin, just as Judas did (Matt 27:3–5). He may tremble at the word of God, just as Felix did (Acts 24:25), rejoice in receiving the truth (Matt 13:20), and have many experiences of tasting the good graces of God (Heb 6:4).

4. A hypocrite may have some characteristics very similar to the saving graces of the Holy Spirit. He may have a kind of faith, like Simon Magus who “believed also” (Acts 8:13) but then proved to be a false believer. He may have a kind of legal and outward repentance that looks very much like true repentance (Mal 3:14). He may have a great and powerful fear of God, like Balaam did (Num22:18). He may experience a kind of hope (Job 8:13). The hypocrite may even have some love, as Herod had of John (Mk 6:26).

5. A hypocrite can even have great and powerful experiences of God. He may have “tasted of the heavenly gift” and become “partakers of the Holy Spirit” and experienced the “powers of the age to come” and yet not be genuinely converted.

So, what are the marks of a true believer? How is genuine conversion to be distinguished from false conversion? Guthrie provides five marks of a true believer that are not possessed by the hypocrite.

1. A true believer’s heart is changed forever. In Jeremiah 32:39the Lord says, “I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me forever.” Hypocrites never have a changed nature. Hypocrites want Christ for the good that He might do them in the world. But a true believer’s heart loves Christ as the all-satisfying treasure of this life and the next.

2. A true believer’s changed life comes from a heart of love to Christ. Hypocrites can clean up their outward behavior to be seen by men, to ease their troubled consciences, or to keep themselves from the consequences of their sins. But true believers love Christ and keep His commandments for His sake, to serve Him, to know Him, and to bring glory to His name (Ps 119:6).

3. A true believer seeks Christ and His kingdom above all else. This is the one thing necessary: Christ’s friendship and fellowship. But that is never the “one thing” and heart-satisfying choice of the hypocrites. True believers, on the other hand, desire that this “better part would never be taken from them” (Lk 10:42).

4. A true believer submits to the righteousness of God. He abandons all hope in himself and his own righteousness, and rests wholly in the righteousness of Christ for his acceptance before God. A true believer rests in Christ and Him only as his Savior. Hypocrites don’t do this (Rom 10:3). They depend, in some degree, upon their own righteousness.

5. A true believer has the three great essentials of genuine Christianity. First, he is broken in heart and emptied of his own righteousness so as to loath himself (Lk 19:10). Second, he takes up Christ Jesus as the only treasure and jewel that can enrich and satisfy (Matt 13:44). Third, he sincerely closes with Christ’s whole yoke without exception, judging all His “will just and good, holy and spiritual” (Rom 7:12). A hypocrite does none of these things.

~Tom Hicks serves as the Pastor of Discipleship at Morningview Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama~

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Manliness of Jesus

The question has been raised, whether Christianity is not a religion for women, rather than for men. It has been claimed by some that the virtues it inculcates are feminine, rather than masculine; that it does not appeal to the manly instincts and sentiments, as it does to the womanly; that its principles and qualities are not those recognized among men as belonging to the truest and sturdiest manhood. There is at least a widespread impression, that in actual experience, Christianity is not making the best possible men. That is what the world charges. It says Christianity's men are lacking in the stalwart qualities, that they are sentimental and weak—and not always unalterably true, not always upright, lacking in virile force.

No doubt there are in Jesus, all the gentler qualities which we think of as belonging to woman. But are not these very graces,adornments also of manly character? Is it a shame for a man to be kindly, tender-hearted, patient, sympathetic? Yet while these gentler qualities undoubtedly appear in the character of Jesus—no less are there in Him the elements of strength, courage, heroism, justice, unflinching integrity. It takes both to make complete manliness.
F. W. Robertson says that Christ's heart had in it, the blended qualities of both sexes. "There is in Him," he says, "the woman heart—as well as the manly brain." There is something very beautiful in this thought, that in Jesus whatever is best and truest in both man and woman is found. A woman who is seeking for whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely in womanhood, the graces of refined character: gentleness, sweetness, lovingness— finds all these qualities in Jesus Christ. On the other hand, aman who is looking for whatever things are just, whatever things are honorable the elements of noble manhood, will also find these qualities in Christ. In Him all the excellences of manhood, as planned by God, found their perfection.

As Robertson says, "Once in this world's history was born a Man. Once in the roll of ages, out of innumerable failures, from the stock of human nature one bud developed itself into a faultless flower. One perfect specimen of humanity has God exhibited on earth." Other men, the best, the truest, the worthiest, have in them only a little fragment of a complete life; but in Christ is the perfect humanity, as if that which is best and truest in every man, and that which is tenderest, gentlest, and purest in every woman—were in His character.

What are the manly qualities? Thomas Hughes says courage is the foundation of all true manliness. He means not mere physical courage, which one may have and yet be a moral coward—but that courage which adheres to that which is right—quietly, firmly, in the face of all danger and all antagonism, and goes straight on, with unwavering persistence, to its goal. Do we find courage in Jesus? Recall the meaning of His mission. He came into the world to destroy the works of the devil. He was the second Adam, standing for the race. The first Adam had failed and fallen. What the consequences of ruin and sorrow were, we know in a little measure. Now Jesus came to fight the battle over, to reclaim what had been lost. The interests of the whole human race were in His hands that day, as the heavens opened and the Spirit came down upon Him.

Suppose He had failed. But He did not fail. He met terrible antagonism. He went from His baptism into the wilderness, where He endured terrific assaults from Satan. Suppose He had failed then, what would have been the consequence? But He met the tempter in fierce battle, and stood like a rock. So it was through all His life. He never wavered in His purpose to be true. He had in His year of popularity, a sorer test of moral courage, than opposition. Many men yield to the seductions of flattery and favor—and fail to be true; who in the storm of enmity—are as faithful as the compass. But Jesus was not swayed by popularity, and never veered aside from the straight path.

Then opposition came. The crowds began to forsake Him. The rulers were against Him. Enemies gathered in increasing number. The end was drawing near, and He knew what the end would be. The shadow of the cross fell upon His soul that day when He was being baptized. Every step of His life—was toward Calvary. Yet as the plots thickened, as the shadows deepened, He wavered not. He set His face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem though He knew what waited there for Him. Never before nor since has the world seen any other such trial of courage—as was Christ's. He was standing for our salvation, and He faltered not in the testing. "For I, the Son of Man, must suffer many terrible things; I will be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and must be killed!" Luke 9:22

We praise the heroism of the soldier who stands unflinching, at the risk of death, in defense of his country. We praise the heroes at all life's posts of danger who are faithful to their trust. That is well. But the loftiest heroism of the ages—was that of Jesus.

Strength is another quality of manliness. It is good to be physically strong. But one may be a Hercules in body—and a pygmy in moral strength. Samson could carry off city gates—but could not withstand the temptations of idleness and lust. The strength of many men is marred by weakness of some sort. We say, "Every man has his weak point." But you will search in vain in the story of Jesus, for any betrayal of weakness in Him. We see His majestic strength, side by side with His courage, in His conflicts with the tempter, in His persistent devotion to the divine will, in His blamelessness and sinlessness amid all the seductions of life. Everywhere we see Him—He is kingly.

Take His self-control, as a token of His strength. The truly strong man—is he who has great capacities, feelings, passions, powers—and has perfect mastery over them. No matter how great a man may be in abilities, what tremendous energies he may carry in his life—if he is not able to control them, he is pitiably weak! The truly strong man has mighty internal forces, a soul of strength, intense passions, feelings, tempers—and all under perfect control. Jesus stood this test. In Him all human powers reached their highest development, and then He was perfect master of Himself. He was never swerved by opposition, by injustice, by torture—to speak a word unadvisedly. He never lost His temper. He never grew impatient. He never spoke rashly. He never showed envy or resentment. He never fretted, never complained, never was disturbed in the calm of His soul—by outward circumstances. He stood quietly on the boat in the midnight storm. He faced the violent maniac among the tombs—as if he had been a sleeping babe. He went in and out among the hostile Jews—as quietly as if they had been His dearest friends.

Think of His self-control in suffering. Never has any being undergone pain so deep and terrible—as was the pain of Christ in the garden and on the cross! We sometimes think that our sorrows are bitter—but they are nothing, compared to those which Jesus endured! We have hints of the almost unbearable burden of His heart, in the strong cryings which came from Gethsemane, and in the word of forsakenness which breaks from His lips on the cross. But through all His indescribable sufferings—He maintained the most perfect calm! He never murmured. His peace was never once broken. It is manly strength—which endured so quietly such incomprehensible suffering!

Or think of His patient bearing of wrong and enmity. From the beginning of His public ministry, He met injustice. He was rejected by those He sought to help. Toward the end, these antagonisms became more bitter. But He endured them all with heroic patience. He never showed the slightest fear. He never grew angry. Recall His patient bearing in His unjust trials—and His silence before the Jewish council, before Pilate, before Herod. Think of His silence and patient submission when crowned with thorns, mocked, scourged, spit upon! It takes a great deal more strength to bear indignities and reproaches quietly and sweetly—than it does to resent them, to resist them, to lift up voice and hand against them, especially if one has power to resist. Yet that was the strength Jesus had. "Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?" Matthew 26:53

When about to be crucified, they offered Him a stupefying potion, to deaden His consciousness of pain. It was a kindness offered by Jewish women. But He quietly refused it, and accepted the full measure of pain which crucifixion involved, with every sense at its keenest. When the nails were driven through His flesh, the only cry wrung from Him—was a prayer for the men who were crucifying Him. Can anyone read the story of Jesus, and note the strength which marks it all—and then say that He was not a manly man?

Another element of ideal manliness is true love, or generosity. We may call it by different names. It is large-heartedness. One writer puts it thus, "A sincere and kindly temper, which overlooks faults, which easily forgives wrong—is a part of any ordinary notion of manliness." There are men with many strong points, who are lacking in this quality. They are suspicious, jealous, envious, secretive, narrow, intolerant. They are envious of other men's prosperity. They are ungenerous toward other men's faults. They are selfish, exacting, thoughtless, resentful. They are brusque, stern, harsh in their talk. These are blemishes on their manliness. But those who read the story of the life of Jesus—find in Him at every point the finest spirit of kindness and generosity. He was the truest gentleman that ever lived. We have seen His courage and His strength; no less wonderful was thegentle side of His character. He was large-hearted, tolerant of other men, patient with men's weaknesses, sincere in all His words and acts, gentle and kindly in all His converse.

Even in His trial, Pilate concluded, "I find no fault at all in Him." John 18:38. Those nearest to Him—saw the most in Him to love and admire. This is not always true of men. Close association with them reveals faults, and unveils blemished and flawed traits. Too close intimacy is ofttimes fatal to admiration. Many people appear better at a distance—than when near. But the life of Christ stood the test of close familiarity. He was gentle, thoughtful, patient, unselfish, full of sympathy. He loved men, not because He saw beauty in them—but because He wished to do them good. He treated men always with a love which was ready to make any sacrifice to serve them. The Christian, after looking at Jesus from every viewpoint, declares, "Yes, He is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend!" Song of Songs 5:16

The world's idea of what makes a man—is not always infallibly true. Some people call brutality manly. In some countries "the code of honor," as it is most falsely called, prevails as a canon of manly behavior. If a man thinks he is insulted, he must some way get revenge on his alleged insulter. If he does not, they call him a cringing coward, and he loses social standing. In some places, true virtue in a man is laughed at. They call purity unmanly. But these are low, debased standards. No man who looks God in the face and desires to grow into divine beauty—will call brutality manly, or revenge, or sensuality, or dishonesty, or untruthfulness. The only standard of manly character—is that set for us in the moral law, a transcript of the character of God Himself.

Jesus brought into the world a new standard of 'manhood'—a divine standard. Jesus showed the world what it is to be truly a man. He showed us a pattern on which we should all seek to fashion our lives. He was a true man—from the crown of His head to the soles of His feet. His was the truest, noblest, strongest, bravest, most unselfish life that ever was lived on the earth! If we seek to grow into His likeness, we shall climb nearer to God and into the noblest, loftiest reach of humanity!

In the teaching of Jesus, too, we find the precepts which set forth the qualities of true manhood. Any man who feels that the gospel of Christ is not fitted to make men brave men, strong men, true men—should read over thoughtfully the sermon on the mount. It begins with the beatitudes, in which the great Teacher sketches in a few bold strokes ideal manliness.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit." The world would not write that beatitude; yet who will say that true, unconscious humility is not a shining quality in manly character?

"Blessed are the meek." Again the world would sneer. "It is contemptible and cowardly to bear injuries patiently, to forgive wrongs, to repay hatred with love!" But true meekness is really manly. It is easier far to let resentment blaze out, to let anger burn, to strike the retaliatory blow. But if strength is a quality of manliness, it takes strength to be meek. If generosity be a manly quality, then meekness is manly.

"Blessed are the pure in heart." The world does not insist on purity, as a cardinal element in its manliness. But the more shame for the world. Who will stand up before men, in the clear light of day, and contend that impurity of life is not unmanly—that purity of heart is not a radiant quality in true manliness?

All of Christ's teachings, if accepted and obeyed, will help toward the truest manliness. There is nothing weak or unmanly in any quality of character which He commends. There is no easy-going virtue such as the world likes. There are no elements that are not pure, true, and right. A false-hearted man will not find his ideal manliness in Christ. The gospel deals mercilessly with all shams, all unrealities, all unworthy things in life. It denounces in burning words all untruth. Jesus had no patience with anything that was not right and beautiful.

A story is told of one who, reading thoughtfully the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of Matthew's Gospel, where so many duties that are strange to flesh and blood are taught, broke out, "Jesus, either this is not Your gospel—or we are not Christians!" The lives of professing Christians seemed to him so far below the standard of the sermon on the mount, that he felt these could not be Christ's followers.

But Christ is more than a teacher. A teacher shows us lofty qualities and attainments, and then leaves us in hopeless weakness in the dust. But Christ is Helper, Friend, Savior—as well as Teacher. He shows us what true manliness is—and then comes into our life and inspires us to strive after the things He commends, and then breathes His life into us to help us to be what He teaches us to be.

It is not easy to be a man—a true, noble, Christlike man. It means continual struggle, for enemies of manliness meet us at every step; every inch of the way must be won in battle. It means constant restraint and repression of sin; for the 'old man' in us must be subdued and kept under control, by the new man we have resolved to be. It means constant, painful discipline; for the powers of nature are evil and unruly, and hard to tame and control. It means unending toil and self-denial; for we must climb everupward, and the way is steep and rugged, and SELF must be trampled to death under our feet as we rise to higher life. It is hard to be a true man, for all the odds seem against us. But Christ lives, and He is Helper, Friend, and Guide to every man who truly receives Him as Lord and Master.

~J. R. Miller~