The Riches of His Grace (continued)
"O the Depth of the Riches (continued)
And if ever a man had a reason to ask, "Why?" it was that man. "Why, Lord, are you letting me spend a night and a day in the deep? Being again and again and yet again thrashed with rods, imprisoned, dealt with treacherously by mine own brethren," and so on and so ion. "Why, Lord? I am devoted to You. I have a heart for You. I am not seeking mine own ends, but Yours. I am utterly committed to Your interests. There are many who are not so committed to Your interests. There are many who are not so committed, and they do not have to go the way that I am going." Why? For such a man with such a devotion, with such an abandon to the interests of his Lord, why is this man suffering more than any other man, perhaps even more than the whole apostolic company?! Not one of us will ever measure up to this man's sufferings, although we may sometimes think that ours are just about the limit. I imagine that very few in this little company this afternoon have not had times when they have asked the big "Why?" as to the strangeness of the Lord's dealings and the Lord's ways with them.
Now does it not strike you very forcibly, and very significantly that such a man cries for language to express what he has seen in the Lord Jesus and says: "O for the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:33). He says, "To me, not the greatest of the apostles, to me, not the greatest saint, to me, not as one more than any other, but less than all, to me, who am less than the least of all saints, was this grace given, to preach ... the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Ephesians 3:8). Yes, we know the riches came through this man, because for two thousand years, the Church has been drawing upon the riches which he reached and received through trials and sufferings. Riches are still coming to us today from that man, perhaps even now. May it be so Lord, today, for that reason. It may sound discouraging, but, dear ones, there is no other way to receive the riches than through suffering.
Some time ago, on one of my visits to India, we came on the Persian Gulf; and as I looked on the Gulf of Persia, I saw the pearl fishers way out there in the depths, spending their long, patient hours seeking goodly pearls. This is a very lonely and perilous business. For there in the water, I saw sharks lurking about and looking for prey. And then later that night, after dark, I went into the Persian market, the bazaar, and through the narrow isles between the stalls, I saw displayed in those stalls glorious pearls and other priceless gems. There they were, having been brought in from the depths, now polished and displayed.
And then, as I boarded the boat to go on to India, a pearl merchant came on with his cabinets of gems and pearls. These were bound in iron, with strong padlocks on them; and as that sheik sat in his seat, he kept his eye on those cabinets and would not take his eye off of them until we landed and he had delivered them to the merchants in India. These were valuable things, precious things, from the depths. They were valuable, because there was painful and lonely vigil behind their obtaining. You see,perils had been associated with securing them.
This is a parable, but this is what Paul is really talking about - the perils, the loneliness, the long drawn out vigils, the sufferings and the afflictions to obtain the riches, and that not for himself, but for the Church. He said, "I now rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body's sake, which is the Church" (Colossians 1:24). I say, there is no other way for us to do more than to talk about and read about and use the language of the riches. There is no other way for us to possess them than to go into the depth and find them. The unsearchable riches - does that sound like a contradiction? -
you have them and they are unsearchable - you have them and yet they are too deep to lay hold of - I know this sounds like a contradiction, but Paul simply means: all the meaning, all the value, all the wealth that is here, only a little of which we may know in this life, all that wealth is really beyond us, it is too big; it is past finding out; "it is past tracing out." Well, that is where we begin with the riches, but we do not end there, for we are going to look, as the Lord will help us, at some of these riches, these unsearchable riches.
(continued with # 3)