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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Let Us Press On Unto Full Growth # 3

Let Us Press On Unto Full Growth # 3

Jesus was not loved by the world nor by the Jewish nation, and those who were His were suffering with Him. So, "Let us therefore go forth unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach" (Heb. 13:13). But many were saying that they did not know whether they were going on any further. It was too costly for them and they thought they would save themselves a lot of trouble if they did not go on. And it was to those that the letter was written.

Read this letter through and note how many times the phrase "Let us" occurs. "Let us fear" (Heb. 4:1), "Let us...lay aside every weight" (Heb 12:1), "Let us run" (Heb. 12:1), "Let us go on" (Heb. 6:1). Look them up and you will see how much of the book is summed up in that phrase, "Let us."

So, let us go on! 

There is another little word that is used. I will not take time to turn to all the references now, but you will find it everywhere in the book, so I will mention it. It is the word "lest". Study it for yourself. "Let us give diligence lest..." (Heb. 2:1). We have got to be very watchful. This verse is a word picture of a ship coming into harbor. I used to have a boat and come into harbor in it. I used to steer in the direction of the moorings and when I got near them, I would get hold of my boat-hook and try to hook up my moorings. Perhaps the tide would be running fast and the wind would be strong and I would drift past my moorings and not get them. And what a lot of trouble that meant. I had to start up the engine again and go out to sea and come round and try all over again. That is the picture here. Give  diligence lest you miss that for which God has called you and have to start all over again. Those who have drifted away from the Lord are the most miserable people, so this word says: don't be the most miserable people. Just go right on with the Lord. And if you have missed the way, come back; He waits to receive you and has not given you up. He says to us all: "Let us go on."

We can say all that has been said in a few words and in a short time, but it will take all our lives to live it out. We go on all our lives, but the fullness is only at the end. But there can be more of Christ all the way along. That is a wonderful thing to say.

May I give you my testimony? What we say ought to be true of ourselves. There was a  time in my life when I was preaching a lot and many people were calling me to preach. And the whole thing was becoming a terrible burden. I was working day and night to find something to preach about. I had a library of two thousand books - all the latest ones - and the preaching business was a great burden to me. I felt like the poor Israelites when Pharaoh told them that they would have to find the straw to make their bricks with; I was looking everywhere for straw.

The day came when I said that I could go on like that no longer. People might have thought me a good preacher, but they never knew how miserable the preacher was. So one day I went into my room and shut the door. I got down on my knees and told the Lord that I could go on no longer, unless He did something for me greater than He had ever done before. If not, I was going to give up the preaching. And I meant it. I should have sent in my resignation for I was a minister of a church.

The Lord did do something. He led me to my Bible, to Romans 6. And I read the first four verses. There were no new words to me; I knew them quite well. As a Bible teacher I could tell you what was in any book of the Bible and I knew Romans and could have quoted the verses. But the Lord spoke to me that day and it was as though He put His finger on those words and said: "Do you know that when I died, you died, and not only as a sinner, but as a man and not only as a man, but as a preacher. It has been you who have been doing all the preaching, and not I who have been doing it. You have been doing it all by yourself. You looked up a certain subject and thought it was a good thing to preach about it and so you preached on it. So I have left you to it. But when I died you died. It ought not now to be you, but Me. I should decide what you preach about; I should give you your messages; I should be your wisdom and your power in your ministry."

Those sound like words, but it you had been in my condition, it would have been more than words. Those verses that I knew so well became new to me. I said: "It can be no longer me, Lord, but it must be You. I will never preach again unless You give me the message!" And the Lord did that. It was over thirty years ago. I have done much more preaching in those thirty years than ever before. My testimony is that never in thirty years have I had to work to get a message. Yes, I have studied the Bible and worked hard with the Word of God, but God has been giving the messages. Often I begin and I could go on and on and it would be a joy to do so. You see, we can have the fullness of Christ all the way along.

In my New Testament there is one part which is more marked than any other portion and that is the epistle to the Ephesians. I have talked more about that letter than any other part of the Bible. Yet while that is true, and I have been thinking about the letter for many years, I feel as though I know nothing about it. Something more comes to me every time I go back to it. And you know that this is the letter about the fullness of Christ. We shall never exhaust that. We can know something of Him all the way along. That is how it ought to be. Let us go on to full growth. There is much more before us than we have any idea of.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(The End)

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Let Us Press On Unto Full Growth # 2

Let Us Press on Unto Full Growth # 2

The second picture is in 1 Corinthians 15. This is one of the most wonderful chapters in the Bible. There we see what God intends man to be like and what he intended the first Adam to be. There we are told what we are going to be like in Christ. The moment is coming when the body of corruption is going to be put away and we are going to be clothed upon with a body like His glorious body, just like the body of the Lord Jesus when He was transfigured. That is a very wonderful thing. Is it too wonderful for you? It is not so wonderful to you as you think it is. You look at any born again child of God. Before they were saved, what miserable faces they had! Now look at their faces. Now look at your own faces! I have never seen faces like this in unsaved people. So something of the glorifying of our mortal bodies has already begun. Isn't that just what you say about Christians? What a glory about this one! Something about their very looks is different! Something of the glory is in their faces. Now that is only the beginning. It is impossible for us to describe what we shall be. John writes: "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God... It is not yet made manifest what we shall be. We know that, if He shall be manifested, we shall be like Him" (1 John 3:1-2). That is, we shall be like the Lord Jesus on the mount of transfiguration, like Jesus with His glorified body.

But we have got to go right back to the first Adam. That is what God intended for him and he missed it all because he did not go on with God. He stopped, he did not go on to full growth. The Bible, right through, is all about that. God is trying to get His people to come on to maturity. He sent them priests whose work was to bring the children of God to full growth. He sent them kings for the same purpose. And when these too failed, He sent them prophets. Their work was to bring God's people on to His full thought for them. And then He sent His Son and Jesus represents God's full thought for us. The purpose of God is that we should be transformed, conformed to the image of His Son. There are going to be a lot of people who come to that. God's purpose cannot be defeated. And when God has things as He intended them to be, what will things be like? Everywhere we look we shall see the Lord Jesus Christ. Everyone will remind us of the Lord Jesus. We shall see nothing but Him in people. Won't that be a wonderful time? The Word of God says that Jesus is going to fill all things. We shall not meet all the unpleasant things we meet in one another now. We shall only meet the Lord Jesus in one another. God's whole universe will be full of Him. Now, He has commended to do that in you and me.

When we meet now we meet something of the Lord Jesus in one another, but I am afraid it is true that you don't meet only the Lord Jesus in me. There is very much of me still there and very much of you still there, very much that is not Christ at all. But, thank God, He has begun to do something in us and He says: "Let us go on to full growth." Never be satisfied with having a little of the Lord Jesus, with being just saved. "Let us go on."

There is a need of this word to be said to us. When Israel was in the wilderness there were many things to stop them going on into the land of promise, things outside and things inside of themselves.

This little phrase "Let us" appears often in the book of Hebrews. Twice in chapter 12 we find: "Let us lay aside every weight...let us run with patience." The writer sums it up in the picture of a race. Now, young people can appreciate this. You all know what is necessary to win a race. If a man came to run a race with all his clothes on and a bundle under each arm and another on his head, you would say that he could never win. There would be no hope for him. We would say, "Now young man, you get rid of those bundles and all the clothes you can spare". You "lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset you."

That is what the apostle is talking about. First, let us go on and in order that we do that, we must lay aside every weight. And then, let us run. When people run, they usually have a reason. If you saw a young man or woman running, you might wonder what it was all about. But if you saw an old man or woman running, you would think that there must be something very important or serious. And when the apostle says, "Let us run" he means that there is something very important and we have got to realize how important it is. It is a very important thing that  we should come to the fullness of Christ. So we must be like these people who run and say that they are going to let nothing prevent them from running.

It is a spirit - the spirit of people who mean business. We will have nothing less than all God means by our salvation. Now this is a very serious matter and I think I can illustrate how serious it can be.

We have a big and sad illustration in the world today. We look at the great land of China. There were very many Christians in the land of China when the Communists came in and the persecution of Christians commenced. Many were thrown into prison and a large number killed. Almost everywhere the Christians were made to suffer. And it is like that now. Well, what has happened? The sad thing is that a great number have let go their love for the Lord. On the other hand there are those who have gone right on and have stood firm. What made the difference? Those who have gone back from the Lord are those who were not going on with Him. At a point they said that they were not going on with Him any further. They loved their own lives more than the Lord. But the others said that it did not matter if they lost their lives; they would go on with Him.

It does matter whether we are going on with the Lord. Such a day may be very near for us, when it may be much more costly to belong to the Lord than it is now. That is exactly how it was when the apostle wrote this letter. These Christians to whom he wrote were suffering because they belonged to the Lord. The reproach of Christ was coming upon them. 

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 3)

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Let Us Press On Unto Full Growth # 1

Let Us Press On Unto Full Growth # 1

Hebrews 6:1

I have divided these words into two parts: The first is: "Let us press on", and the second part: "to full growth." That means that we are not just to go on being Christians. I am not speaking to you about just continuing to be Christians in the sense that you just do not give up being a Christian and go back. That may be very important, but is not what this passage in Hebrews is talking about.

We may just go on being Christians, or Christian workers, or being missionaries, but that is not what is meant here. My boyhood home was in Scotland and out of my window I could see some mountains. When I was quite a little boy, I looked out of the window and saw those mountains. I was up there two weeks ago and am an old man now. I looked and saw those same mountains and they had not moved or grown or changed shape. There was no difference between them then or now. That is like some Christians. They have been Christians for many years, but they are just the same now as at the beginning. Yes, they are still Christians, but they have neither moved nor grown in all the years. That is all right for mountains, but there must be something very wrong when Christians are like that.

So our passage says this: "Let us go on..." not just being Christians, but "unto full growth" - that is, unto the purpose for which we are Christians. For when the Lord brought us to Himself that was not the end of everything, but only a beginning. It is a wonderful thing to be a Christian. God had to put forth very great power to make us Christians. But there is still a more wonderful thing for us in being Christians.

You must first see where this letter to the Hebrews fits in. It was written to Christians, but where were these Christians to which this letter was written? They were in the position that the children of Israel were in when they were brought out of Egypt. Do you remember what a great miracle it was to get the Israelites out of Egypt? Read the story of it again. It is the story of the exceeding great power of God. For ten times everything sought to stand in God's way. God did one great thing, but Pharaoh would not let them go. Then God did a second, but still Pharaoh would not let them go. And so nine times God did great things and when you get to the ninth, you say surely he would let them go this time, but Pharaoh said "No!" What a tremendous resistance to God's will this was. And then God did it a tenth time and that time He broke Pharaoh's will. He broke the power of Egypt and later had to drown the whole Egyptian army in the Red Sea. All this was necessary to get His people out of Egypt. What great power that was!

Well, I was saved with an exceeding great power; and God has exercised His exceeding great power in saving each one of us. He has broken the whole power of satan to save us. It is a wonderful thing to belong to the Lord. And yet when all that had happened in the case of Israel, all but two of the whole nation died in the wilderness. That is not what God had brought them out for. God had worked by His mighty power for something more than having people saved. God's purpose was that they should go in and inherit the land. When they were out of Egypt they were in figure and in type "In Christ". But God's thought for them was entry to the land - a type of the fullness of Christ. They did not come into the fullness of Christ because they did not go on. They were in type Christians; they were saved people. But God had a great purpose in saving them. And that is what this letter to the Hebrews is all about. It is not only about people being saved. I would say to everybody here today who is not saved that you are missing the most wonderful thing that God has done for man. For it is a very great thing. But when we have said all we can say of that, there is this message to those who are saved. There is something much greater for you than you at first imagine in your salvation and it is what God has called you unto. When God's Word says: "Let us go on to full growth...", then there must be something very much more in God's will for us. If He says "full growth", then full growth is His will for us.

Now, if you take up your Bible, you will find that that is what the Bible is all about. You begin the Bible with the story of Adam. Although Adam was a wonderful creature when he was created, he was not perfect, but was capable of development. He could become a very much greater man than he was. So God put him to a test. Would he believe and obey God? Everything depended on that. And because he did not believe and obey God, he never came to be the man God intended him to be. Do you want to know what kind of a man God intended Adam to be? Well, we have two pictures of that man. The first is on the mount of Transfiguration with the Lord Jesus. Jesus is called by Paul the "Second Man". The Last Adam, Paul says, took the form of a servant. And He called Himself the Son of man. Now look at Him on the mount of Transfiguration. This is the Son of Man glorified, the Last Adam as God intended the first Adam to be.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2)

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Bible Truths Illustrated # 3

Bible Truths Illustrated # 3

Through one sin, angels left their proper habitation (Jude 6).

Through one sin, man was banished from paradise - and the eternal curse and its punishment rested upon him and his descendants.

Sin is a clenched fist - and a blow in the face of God! Sin is the only thing which God abhors! All sins, great or small, are objects of intense aversion to God.

Nothing speaks louder concerning God's hatred of sin - than Calvary! Surely, he who asserts that sin is a trivial thing, a mere ripple on the ocean of God's love - has never looked upon the Cross! In view of what it cost Jesus to atone for it - sin is heinous, hellish, and damnable! It required nothing less than the suffering and death of the Son of God on the Cross!

Suppose a man should come to the dinner table and it should be told to him: "This is the knife that cut the throat of your child!" If he could now use that knife as any other knife, would not we say, "Surely there was but little love to the child!"

Oh, with what detestation would a man fling away such a knife!

In the same way, when there is temptation to any sin - this is the knife...
which was the cause of Christ's sufferings,
which cut the throat of Christ,
which pierced His side,
which mad Christ to be a curse!

Now, will you not look on that as a cursed thing - which made Christ to be a curse? With what detestation should a Christian renounce sin - for that, and that alone, was the cause of the death of Christ!

Conformity to the world has in all ages proved the ruin of the church! It is utterly impossible to live in nearness to God - and in friendship with the world.

You call Me Master - and obey Me not,
You call Me light - and see Me not,
You call Me the way - and follow Me not,
You call Me Life - and desire Me not,
You call Me wise - and acknowledge me not,
You call Me fair - and love Me not,
You call Me rich - and ask Me not,
You call Me eternal - and seek Me not,
You call Me gracious - and trust Me not,
You call Me noble - and serve Me not,
You call Me mighty - and honor Me not,
You call Me just - and fear Me not,
If I condemn you - blame Me not.

Not a single sigh for past sins, escapes His ears;
not a groan of the heart, but is heard by Him;
not a tear falls to the ground, but He puts it into His bottle.

Not a breathing of the soul after His holiness;
not a loathing of our own unholiness;
not an act of self-abasement, or humbling ourselves for sin;
not a yearning of the soul for a purity which it has not,
not an act of mercy, done in hopes that we may obtain mercy;
not an act of self-denial,in token of our displeasure
and self-condemnation at our offences - but we shall find there.

Every fragment of our poor sorrow and service - we shall find there gathered and stored up, nothing lost.

Some look upon the Bible as a garden of spices, in which you may walk, and at your leisure pluck the flowers and gather the fruits of the Eden of God.

Most truly is it a mine, in which you must dig and labor - the wealth of which is not to be obtained without labor. The Bible is a mine rich in gold and precious things, but it must be wrought day and night in order to produce them.

~J. C. Pittman~

(The End)

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Bible Truths Illustrated # 2

Bible Truths Illustrated # 2

Over the triple doorways of a European Cathedral, there are three inscriptions spanning the splendid arches.

Over one is carved a beautiful wreath of roses, and underneath is the lettering:
"All which pleases us - is but for a moment."

Over the other arch is sculptured a cross, and there are the words:
"All which troubles us - is but for a moment."

But on the great central entrance to the main aisle, is the inscription:
"That alone is important, which is eternal."

If we always realize these three truths, we would not let trifles trouble us; nor would we be so much interested in the passing pageants of the hour. We would live, as we do not now - for the permanent and the eternal.

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:18).

One day, Johann Tauler of Strosbourg met a peasant and greeted him, "God give you a good day, my friend!" The peasant answered briskly, "I thank God that I never have a bad day!"

Tauler, astonished, kept silent for a moment. Tauler then added, "God give you a happy life, my friend."

The peasant replied composedly, "I thank God that I am never unhappy!"

"Never unhappy!" cried Tauler bewildered, "What do you mean?"

"Well," came the reply, "When it is sunshine - I thank God; and when it rains - I thank God. When I have plenty - I thank God; and when I am hungry - I thank God. Since God's will is my will, and whatever pleases God pleases me - I am never unhappy."

Tauler looked upon him with awe. "Who are you?" he asked.

"I am a king!" said the peasant.

"A king?" Tauler asked, "Where is your kingdom?"

The peasant smiled and whispered softly, "In my heart!" 

"Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus." (1 Thess. 5:18).

In all circumstances!  This comes as a surprise when one considers the vicissitudes of human life. Sickness and health, poverty and wealth, joy and sorrow - are all ingredients of the cup placed to human lips - so all must come within the scope of thanksgiving. Why be thankful for everything? Because God causes everything to work together for good to those who love Him.

A godly farmer was asked to dine with a well-known gentleman. While there, he asked a blessing at the table as he was accustomed to do at home. His host said jeeringly, "That is old fashioned; it is not customary nowadays for well-educated people to pray before they eat."

The farmer answered that with him it was customary - but that some of those on his farm never thanked God for their food.

"Ah, then," said the gentleman, "they are sensible and enlightened! Who are they?"

"My pigs!" the farmer answered.

"A man's life does not consist in the abundance of the things that he possesses." (Luke 12:15).

"Implanted within us is a desire for amusement - the entire suppression of which ids as injurious, as it is unauthorized. The Christian religion is antagonistic only to that which is hurtful to spiritual life. It is not opposed to wholesome amusements. it does not rob us of any pleasures which are consistent with our eternal welfare."

"Healthy recreation should be encouraged, with one proviso - that it never be forgotten that there is a higher end in life than to be amused. Care should be taken, not to suppress the desire for amusement - but to moderate and rightly direct it. The limitation which devotion to Christ imposes, must ever be observed, lest pleasure be made the business of life, instead of life's relaxation."

"The selection of fitting sources of amusement should not be difficult. There are many such, without tampering with questionable ones, which may prove detrimental and even destructive to spiritual life. The question requiring settlement is: "Am I, by the amusement in which I indulge, being spiritually helped or hindered? Is my soul being lifted up - or more heavily weighted down?"

"All things are yours. Take them and use them; but never let them interfere with the higher life which you are called on to lead."

"A ship is all right in the sea - so long as the sea is not in the ship. In the same way, a Christian is all right in the world - so long as the world is not in the Christian."

~J. C. Pittman~

(continued with # 3)

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Bible Truths Illustrated # 1

Bible Truths Illustrated # 1

A Roman emperor, after a successful military campaign, was returning in triumph to Rome. Great throngs filled the city to welcome the mighty hero. While passing through one of the crowded thoroughfares, a little girl, wild with joy, dashed toward his chariot.

The officer stopped her and said: "That is the chariot of the emperor, and you must not attempt to reach him."

The little girl replied: "He may be your emperor - but he is my father!" In a moment she was not only in the chariot, but also in the arms of her father.

It is even so with true believers. While God is the Emperor of all men - He is that, and infinitely more, to us - He is our Father!

"This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in Heaven..." (Matt. 6:9).

"He heals the brokenhearted, binding up their wounds. He counts the stars and calls them all by name. How great is our Lord! His power is absolute! His understanding is beyond comprehension!" (Psalm 147:3-5).

He who counts the stars and calls them by their names, is in no danger of forgetting His own children! He knows you case as thoroughly as if you were the only creature He ever made, or the only saint He ever loved! It is most important for us to learn, that the smallest trifles are as much arranged by the God of Providence, as the most startling events. He who counts the stars - has also numbered the hairs of our heads. Our lives and deaths are predestined - but so, also, are our sitting down and our rising up!

"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Heavenly Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered!" (Matt. 10:29-30).

The eternal God is your refuge - and underneath are the everlasting arms!" (Deut. 33:27).

If we are held in the clasp of the everlasting arms - we need not feat that we shall ever be separated from the enfolding. "Underneath". The are always underneath us. No matter how low we sink in weakness, in fainting, in pain, in sorrow - we never can sink below these everlasting arms. We can never drop out of their clasp!

God's love is deeper than human sorrow. Sorrow is very deep,but still and forever, in the greatest grief - these arms of Divine love are underneath the believing sufferer.

God's love is deeper than death. When every earthly support is gone from beneath us, when every human arm unclasps and every face fades from before our eyes, and we sink away into what seems darkness and the shadow of death - we shall only sink into the everlasting arms!

Drop your plummet into the deepest sea of sorrow, and at the end of your soundings: "Underneath are the everlasting arms!"

What abiding consolation! What all-embracing, never-failing strength!

Among the truly popular girls I have known, one stands out preeminently. I never knew one person who did not find her just lovable.

Once during her sophomore year in high school, a group of her friends were discussing mottoes and naming their favorites. "Hitch your wagon to a star!" and "To the stars through difficulties!" were favored.

Turning to Jessie, someone said, "Haven't you a motto?"

"Yes", she said; "it is this: 'Me last!' "

"What do you mean by that?" the others asked.

"That's my motto, and I think it is a good one."

"But what does it mean?"

Then Jessie explained: "It means just what it says - 'me last.' That is, I am to think of myself last. I am to put everyone else ahead of me, and then can look after myself when everybody else is taken care of."

The girls saw, and they knew that right there lay the secret of her popularity.

"Jesus called the twelve and said: If anyone wants to be first - he must be the very last, and the servant of all" (Mark 9:35).

"Jesus got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him."

"Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet - you also should wash one another's feet. I have given you an example that you should do as I have done for you" (John 13:4-5, 14, 15).

~J. C. Pittman~

(continued with # 2)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Work of God At The End-Time # 12

The Work of God At The End-Time # 12

That kingdom was embodied in Christ Himself, not in Jerusalem, nor now in any earthly celebrations of historic feasts. He is the kingdom of God, therefore He does not make it a matter of mere occasional celebration in an external way like that. The celebration was empty, false. Their deliverance from this present evil world! Why, they were as much involved with the prince of this world as anybody! Worldly considerations governed them altogether, and the Lord Jesus said, in effect, 'I am publicly having nothing to do with that. I stand for the true essence of this heavenly kingdom, and for absolute separation from this world.' Thus in no way would He allow it to be thought that He was in that. He was apart from it, and if He did go up "not publicly but as it were in secret" it was because He went to try to get people out of the false representation of heavenly things, to bring  them to Himself as the embodiment of the heavenly thought of God about the feast of tabernacles.

I have just cited that by way of illustration in order to try to focus what I am saying. He was a provocation because in His own behavior He signified something of another, a heavenly order. It is ever so. Where the Lord's children become heavenly and spiritual people in very truth, emancipated even from the established religious system, and are living by heavenly principles, what provocation it arouses, what speaking against! You cannot be a heavenly child of God and not be spoken against. Do not try to escape being spoken against. You signify something, and everything of this world is against that something. We come to that with the next point that arises in connection with Simeon.

(c) The Challenge Of His Cross

There was further the significance of His death and of His resurrection as a sign that was spoken against. Yes, His Cross indeed was the signal for much speaking against. Has it not been so all the way through, and is it not so today? How hated is that Cross, when given its true interpretation! It is all right as heroics: yes, men will have the Cross on that basis. But bring in the true meaning of the Cross of Christ - that it is God's No to man and all his heroics, His final and utter No to every man, good and bad, and that when Jesus cried, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34), He was bearing our curse in God's utter No to the fallen race: bring that in, and it is an offence. Say that to anyone who has any feeling of his own importance and dignity and goodness, and who considers there is something of account in himself and he will be very offended. We never accept the Cross of the Lord Jesus until we see how utterly worthless we are, and then the Cross becomes our glory; we side with God and say, "Thou art right, Lord, in saying No to me.' Have you got there, are you being brought there? You see what God is doing if you are being brought where you recognize you have no claims upon God, no rights before Him, and where you realize your utter wretchedness and unworthiness and unfitness for His presence. You are in agreement with the Cross as heaven's No when you get there. They all had to come there - Peter and John and all the rest. But to be there is to be very near the great Yes of God in the resurrection. The resurrection proclaims that another Man, other than ourselves, passes through into heaven. The door is wide open to this other Man, Who has taken that first man down into judgment and death and has left him there. Heaven is opened to this new Man, this risen Man, and "if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection" (Romans 6:5). It is God's great Yes to the risen Christ, and we who have been united with Him come into that. Yes; we have the open door of heaven. Now, you see, that doctrine is an offence to any self-important, self-sufficient flesh in this world, and it is spoken against. Christ crucified is a sign spoken against; to the Greeks foolishness, to the Jews a stumblingblock; but to us who believe, Christ (yes, crucified) the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:23-24).

The Fruit of the Fellowship of His Sufferings

And Simeon said to Mary His mother, "yea and a sword shall pierce through thine own soul, that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed." The significance of Christ - "a sword shall pierce through thine own soul!" The sword there is not a little thing. The word used to describe it is the same as that used by the translators of the Old Testament into Greek, the word which was used for Goliath's sword. Here the Greek word signifies the great Ghracian sword, an immense thing. 'A great sword shall pierce through thine own soul,' speaking of course of her suffering, her anguish, when she would stand and see this child, then grown to full manhood, stretched upon the Cross. Simeon said, "That will have the effect or be the means of disclosing the thoughts of many hearts.' What it really amounts to is that the fellowship of Christ's sufferings is the means by which hearts are revealed. It is when we are brought into the fellowship of His sufferings and are suffering together with Him that the thoughts of many hearts come to light, either sympathetically or the reverse. Some hearts, as they see the Lord's people suffering for His sake, will show bitterness, resentment, and be all against the Lord because they do not understand. Oh, how often do parents rise in rebellion and resentment when a young man or woman, in full consecration to the Lord Jesus, accepts the fellowship of His sufferings, and goes out into a life of self-sacrifice - a life in which eternal and heavenly interests take precedence over earthly advancements and privileges, and the things of the Lord are very costly in terms of worldly things. How friends turn against such and call them fools, and all the rest of it! The hearts of others are beginning to be exposed by their fellowship with their Lord in His sufferings. It is coming out all around; hearts are being laid bare. It is necessary that that sort of thing should happen. You will so often find that the effect of such a thing is to precipitate a crisis in those very hearts sooner or later. Oh, what a story is bound up with this! How often has a man been called upon, because of his devotion to the Lord, to suffer terribly at the hands of his own family - persecuted, subjected to every kind of ignominy, shown no favors. That may have gone on for a long time, increasing all the while, but the one has stood faithfully, yielded no ground, gone on with the Lord quietly, humbly, meekly, lovingly, showing no resentment; and that very exposure of what was in those other hearts has at a later time become the means used by God to break those lives, and to bring them to Himself. That is only one aspect of this matter - the thoughts of many hearts being revealed by the fellowship of His sufferings.

The disclosure comes out also in the other way, thank God. Many hearts are revealed as to what they have of love for the Lord when His children are going through bad times in fellowship with Him. But whichever way it may issue, the principle operates. If we are, like Mary, brought into the sharing of His travail, it has a tremendous effect upon other people. The fact is that it has always been by way of the fellowship of His sufferings that other hearts have been touched. If the Lord takes you into a deep way of suffering with Himself, in sharing something of the cost of the coming of the Kingdom, that in itself is a testimony which touches hearts; whereas we may stand and preach and nothing happens. When something happens to us, when we go into the depths, something begins to happen in other people.

So, servant of the Lord, realize that the Holy Spirit works upon other lives through your suffering with the Lord, and takes you into suffering for this very purpose. Hearts are disclosed. The worldly heart will be uncovered by the Cross of the Lord Jesus. Paul said, "Far be it from me to glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Gal. 6:14). The Cross finds out how much worldliness there is in our hearts and brings it to light. By worldliness we mean, of course, the standards of this world, its ways, its opinions, and so on.

The Cross finds out what is in our hearts as to ourselves - how much selfishness there is about us. You cannot know the Cross in any real way and be a really selfish person. The Cross will expose all selfishness and demand the setting aside of all that is self; self-interest, self-consideration,self-pity and every form of self comes to light by the Cross.

Well, this is the particular ministry of any end-time, which is also always a time of transition.

We have seen that Simeon represented a remnant clinging to a heavenly vision in a time when what was of God had become earth-bound and largely traditional and formal; that he gathered up in himself all the fragmentary, diverse and partial revelations of God's speaking; that he embodied the idea of spiritual maturity, while at the same time he signified that which had waxed old and was nigh unto passing away. But, with all, he linked on with God's new and full manifestation as he held the infant Christ in his arms. Thus he showed by declaration and prophecy the immense issues bound up with Christ, and the course and cost of a ministry of "the fullness of Christ." Here we leave the matter for the contemplation of all such as look for "that blessed hope", and, in looking, ask what the Lord would have as the ministry of this present transitional phase which will issue in His appearing.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(The End)

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Work of God At The End-Time # 11

The Work of God At The End-Time # 11

These words may also mean that many will fall and also rise, and in this connection there is a mighty army. I see Peter in that company. Oh, this self-elevated, self-confident, self-assured, boasting Peter! "Even if I must die with thee, yet will I not deny thee" (Matt. 26:35). There was a man who was up, but up on a false platform, and when he came really into touch with Christ crucified he fell - but, praise God, to rise again. Christ, Who brought him down, brought him up. See the great Saul of Tarsus riding his highhorse to Damascus, and what a highhorse it was! Oh, how self-sufficient and self-important, and self-confident was young Saul of Tarsus! He came down off that highhorse into the dust at the feet of Jesus of Nazareth - the most humiliating thing that could ever have been conceived by him. 'Jesus of Nazareth, that false prophet, that imposter, that blasphemer of God, that one who was hanged on a Cross, bearing what our law declares to be the mark of the curse of God resting upon him!' Think of that man humbled at the feet of Jesus of Nazareth and saying, "What shall I do, Lord?" Has he not come down? Yes, but did he not come up? "This child is set for the falling and the rising of many."

It will always be like that, one thing or the other. We shall go down before Jesus Christ, we shall come up, according to our attitude and response to Him, according to whether we refuse or accept, obey or disobey; He determines it. Coming down from our own natural strength and fullness, in brokenness, humiliation and shame at His feet, confessing Him Lord - a hand will take us and lift us to such wonderful heights of grace.

Christ A Sign Spoken Against

(a) The Challenge of His Presence

Then said Simeon, "and for a sign which is spoken against." What is that? It means that He is set for a provocation by implication. A sign is an implication. It implies something, and the effect of this implication is to provoke. Should you begin to see what Jesus implies, there will be some reaction; and if you are not prepared to accept the implication of Jesus Christ you will be strongly provoked. You will not remain neutral, you will begin to fight. That is where Saul of Tarsus was. Deeper down than all else, he was fighting against the Lord, kicking against the goad. That was the innermost meaning of it. He was provoked by the significance of Jesus, the significance of Christ Himself. In the person of Christ you have a different kind of man, no mere earthly man, but a heavenly Man. Here is a Man embodying in His own person a holy, heavenly standard, the standard of heaven,and men are being measured and weighed by heavenly standards in the presence of the Lord Jesus: not only by what He says, and the judgments that He verbally passes, but by His presence. They are discovering that here is a standard that find out their smallness, their lack, and their difference. You know that is very true. We have often said that if a true child of God, indwelt by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, goes into a business house to work or into some ungodly home, it often happens that, without their saying anything about their being a Christian, a strain begins to be felt, and people begin to be nasty or pass remarks. Something in the very atmosphere has been stirred up and provoked by the presence of Christ in the believer. Without being awkward or difficult (some people are that, of course, and provoke by their foolishness) by even a true, humble, loving child of God something is provoked, and he or she becomes a marked person and known to be different, and that difference is awkward for other people. People begin to feel uncomfortable. If that is true of some simple child of God, how much more true it must have been of the very Son of god Himself. His presence was the standard measure of heaven. Men could not measure up to it, and they felt all wrong and uncomfortable in Its presence. He was a sign. There was significance about Him, about His very presence which was spoken against: it provoked.

It is a grand thing to be at home in the presence of Jesus Christ, to know the grace of God which makes it possible to sit down with this holy and righteous and perfect One. But He finds us out. Often that is just what is going on. We are being provoked, upset, annoyed, we know not why; but if we did know, we should realize that the Spirit of Jesus Christ is at work upon us because we are out of harmony with our Lord. In such a case we can take one of two attitudes, either get right, or go from bad to worse and become more and more bitter, even against the Lord. He is a sign spoken against.

(b) The Challenge Of His Manner Of Life

His life and behavior constituted that significance which was so provocative. You see, He did not conform to their earthly system, even their religious system. He did not fall into line and do the customary thing. He belonged to a heavenly system. Spiritual and heavenly principles were everything to Him and not just outward rites and performances, and He was not going to be drawn into the more externalities and formalities; He was hold to the inner principles; and the significance of His behavior provoked those who were concerned for the form of things rather than for the spirit, for the framework rather than for the heart. This people offer lip service: God is seeking heart service. The presence of the Lord Jesus is the repudiation of mere formalities and customs and traditions. He brings in the heavenly standard, the heavenly laws, the heavenly system, and it is not easy for you unless you are on the side of heaven. Follow that out, for that was the sign which was spoken against. They could not get Him to conform to the customary thing, because He as not going to be a party to their falsehood, their hypocrisy, their formality, to their unspiritual condition which lay back of their outward ritual; He was not going to be involved in it, and therefore He was a provocation; and He is always like that. He will find out whether we are governed more by policy than by principle, whether temporal interests concern us more than eternal considerations. He was always bringing a whole series of things like that into the world, and in that sense they just could not bear Him and Its way of going on. We have often cited the occasion when He said to His brethren, after being urged by them to go up to the feast, "Go ye up unto the feast: I go not up unto this feast." "But when his brethren were gone up unto the feast, then went he also up, not publicly, but as it were in secret" (John 7:8-10). It looks a little difficult, does it not? as though He is involved in some duplicity. But what does it mean? It was the feast of tabernacles that was at hand; and what was the feast of tabernacles? It celebrated the consummation of the emancipation from Egypt and the entrance into the kingdom of God, the deliverance from this present evil world and translation into the kingdom of the Son of God's love.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 12)

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Work of God At The End-Time # 10

The Work of God At The End-Time # 10

A Ministry of the Significance of Christ

"And his father and his mother were marveling at the things which were spoken concerning him; and Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the falling and the rising of many in Israel; and for a sign which is spoken against; yea and a sword shall pierce through thine own soul; that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed" (Luke 2:33-35).

The Meaning of Christ Must Be Inwrought

In the passage quoted above we have given us something of the meaning of Christ, something of what is involved when Christ comes into our lives with ministry in view. That is the real significance of Simeon's vision and service. Sooner or later, to those who are "called according to his purpose" the meaning of Christ will be brought home in a forceful and much fuller way. It may be that we have a deep and very real knowledge brought to us at our conversion; but whether that be so or, on the contrary, we are born again in a simple and comparatively easy way, the time will come when, through deep crises and upheavals in our lives, we shall move up to the fact that Christ, and union with Him, is something infinitely greater than we had ever imagined. It is true that salvation is free and all of grace, but it is not cheap and superficial. If we so regard it we may just fade out, count for little, or be among the offended. The eternal counsels of God, comprehending all ages and realms, and centering in a redeemed people, are so full of meaning, so vast in their import, that much deepening work has to be done to bring about a correspondence with them. We have to come to a realization of what it means to us that we have been called into fellowship with so momentous and so vast a One as God's Son. There are three aspects of "the fellowship of his sufferings:" the first, cooperation with Him in His work of delivering souls from a jealous and bitterly hostile enemy; the second, the discipline and purifying which makes for Christlikeness; the third, the enlarging of capacity, and developing of faculties for apprehending and understanding the greatness of Divine things, particularly the knowledge of Christ. All this is suffering indeed. We cannot attain unto this knowledge along the line of merely being informed; it has to be inwrought. No amount of listening to teaching will bring it about. Often a large amount of long-standing teaching only springs into life when the one possessing it passes into an almost devastating experience of suffering and testing. One world seems to be entirely breaking up and falling away, and a new one is essential to survival. Those who know Christ more fully and really are those who have discovered Him in deep spiritual agony and perplexity. Christ is the door into an immense realm of Divine meaning, and there is nothing casual or haphazard about that way. The whole being becomes involved in this issue if we are really going to represent spiritual measure for others. "A sword shall pierce through thine own soul."

John Bunyan, in his great allegory, sought to personify characteristics and propensities, and to represent them in life-size form,so that they would make us see ourselves, our weaknesses, our perils. As we see them passing before us we smile, we feel ashamed, we are disgusted, and then we find that Bunyan has portrayed ourselves.

One of these characters, in which Bunyan has concentrated his genius for humor, sarcasm and irony, is Mr. By-Ends. He tells us that Mr. By-Ends' ancestors gave their name to the town of Fairspeech, that his great-grandfather was a waterman, who always looked one way and rowed the other. Mrs. By-Ends, his wife, was a very virtuous woman, the daughter of my Lady Feigning, and By-Ends and his wife had two firm religious principles to which they most strictly adhered, and brought up their family accordingly. These established religious principles were (1) never to strive against the wind and the tide, and (2) to walk with Religion when he goes in his silver slippers, and if the sun shines and if the people applaud him. Bunyan says that is a tendency found in human nature to pretend, to feign, to look one way and really be going the other, to make-believe, to choose the line of least resistance, to go the popular way, but to disappear when things are difficult. We all have nothing but contempt for Mr. By-Ends. But that kind of things can be the peril of us all, more or less. Indeed, it is going to be disastrous unless the Lord deals drastically with it, for it is so utterly incompatible with Christ and with God's eternal purpose as centered in Him.

Let us look again then at the words of Luke and see something of what is involved through Christ being brought in.

Christ Determines Destiny

First of all, Simeon says that this Child - the Christ - is going to determine destiny. He "is set for the falling and the rising of many in Israel." There are several different translations of these words. Firstly, they may mean that some will fall, never to rise again, as they come up against the Lord Jesus. They will find Him a stumblingblock. It was said in the Scriptures that He would be a stumblingblock to many (Isa. 8:14). Many would strike their foot against Him and go headlong. How true that has proved to be! Coming up against the Lord Jesus, and not being willing to accept the offence of the Cross, not being willing to suffer affliction with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, not being willing to take up the Cross and follow Him, they have gone headlong, and their destiny has been settled by their contact with the Lord Jesus. It is ever so. On that side He is set for the falling of many; that is, He is put there to find out whether we really mean business with God or not; and many coming up to Him, and finding Him and His way an offense have turned and gone again, God only knows to what. "Set for the falling...of many."

"And the rising of many;" and oh, what a glorious story is bound up with that! Many have come to Him, sensible of something of the cost, recognizing that in which they will be involved if they should link on and go with Him. Nevertheless, they have chosen Him; and what a lifting it has meant for them! Yes, from the dunghill to be set among the Princes of His people (1 Sam. 2:8). "We maketh the rebel a priest and a king." You and I know just a little of what it means to have been lifted by reason of union with the Lord Jesus. But how much more there is yet to be, for He has given His word that some shall sit with Him in His Throne, even as He overcame and sat down with His Father in His Throne (Rev. 3:21). What a rising! A long and wonderful story could be told of men who have been lifted by the Lord Jesus. The settling of destiny: some will fall, some will rise. Their attitude toward the Christ will determine for ever which it is going to be.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 11)

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Work of God At The End-Time # 9

The Work of God At The End-Time # 9

(g) No Satisfaction Short of the Full Divine Intention

Come back to Simeon. You see, Simeon was a man of great interests. He has been traced by scholars to be the son of Hillel, the great Jewish scholar who founded a school of interpretation of the law. He has also been declared to be the father of the great Gamaliel, at whose feet Paul was brought up. If these facts be true, he must have had a tremendous heritage, a wide field of interest. But, for Simeon, the coming of the hand of the Lord upon him meant that none of that - his scholarly interest, his inheritance, his world, great and full as it was - answered to the deepest thing in him; and it was that same deep thing in him still unanswered, still unsettled, that was his apprehending. We ourselves come to some extent into this very thing when we find that, however much there may be in life  and in this world which interests us and occupies much of our time and attention,somehow or other it is not answering to something in us. We may get as far as we can get in that, in success and so on, and yet somehow even the best and the greatest is still a disappointment: there is something remaining. That is the apprehending hand of God, so that nothing just 'fills the bill,' as we say: there is something which has still to be met, some question still to be answered, some compelling sense of our standing in relationship to something more and higher. That is a mark of God's having a greater purpose in our lives, for He never lets us be satisfied with anything less than the full object of which He has called us. We may think we now have our field, but if that is less than all God's thought we may explore and exploit our field but we shall discover that we have not found all that in our heart of hearts we know to be the answer to our existence, to that sense of destiny, of Divine purpose, which casts an emptiness and dissatisfaction upon all else. It was like that, undoubtedly, with Simeon, and yet that something else had not yet come actually into view. But the day that it came, his whole world passed out as nothing. He said, 'Now I have it, now I have arrived!' The day when he held the child Jesus in his arms, he knew he had his answer.

Have you had an experience like that? Do you know something of what that means? -waiting, longing, praying, feeling, and then the Lord brings you into touch with that thing which is peculiarly of Himself, and you say, 'This is what I have been sensing the need of, this is it.'

That is the dealing of the Lord with a servant of His, or an instrument, be it personal or corporate, that is chosen for something more than the ordinary, that is called unto the fuller instead of the partial.

Let us then really face this whole question of the Lord's need of an apprehended vessel to bring in the greater measure of the fullness of Christ, and ponder the strange spiritual history through which such a vessel will go - the unusual dealings of God, and the unusual interest of the powers of evil as they concentrate upon putting that vessel out of action, upon frustrating that purpose. Here it is so clearly represented by this man.

You see, I feel the Lord is wanting to say something to us at this time about the end which is at hand, and of His concern to have a vessel that will serve Him in this fuller way regarding His Christ in a time of coming spiritual need, and of what, therefore, we may expect as to our own experience, our own handling, in view of our having to meet forces so unusual, the awful drive of the enemy. How necessary it is for there to be more than an ordinary abandonment to the Lord - coming to the place where He is Master and Lord in very truth, and where we are utterly subject to Him. Let us make this a very definite matter of prayer. If we can at all discern these signs, both as to the world and the coming phase of things, as well as in our own spiritual experience, let us see that they are of tremendous meaning, and get very much to the Lord that He shall find us a vessel to hand, completely under His mastery.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 10 - A Ministry of the Significance of Christ)

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Jellyfish Christianity

Jellyfish Christianity

(J.C. Ryle, "The Importance of Dogma")

Eighteen centuries ago the apostle Paul forewarned us, "The time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear!" 2 Timothy 4:3

The natural man hates the Gospel and all its distinctive doctrines--and delights in any vain excuse for refusing it.

The plain truth is, that the root of the whole evil lies in the fallen nature of man, and his deeply-seated unbelief in God's infallible Word. I suspect we have no idea how little saving faith there is on earth, and how few people entirely believe Bible truths.

One man is proud--he dislikes the distinctive doctrines of Christianity, because they leave him no room to boast.

Another is lazy and indolent--he dislikes distinctive doctrine, because it summons him to troublesome thought, and self-inquiry, and mental self-exertion.

Another is grossly ignorant--he imagines that all distinctive doctrine is a mere matter of words and names, and that it does not matter a jot what we believe.

Another is thoroughly worldly--he shrinks from distinctive doctrine, because it condemns his darling world.

But in one form or another, I am satisfied that "original sin" is the cause of all the mischief. And the whole result is, that vast numbers of men greedily swallow down the seemingly new idea that doctrine is of no great importance. It supplies a convenient excuse for their sins.

The consequences of this widespread dislike to doctrine are very serious in the present day. Whether we like to allow it or not, it is an epidemic which is doing great harm. It creates, fosters, and keeps up an immense amount of instability in religion. It produces what I must venture to call, if I may coin the phrase, ajellyfish Christianity in the churches--that is, a Christianity without bone, or muscle, or power.

A jellyfish, as everyone knows who has been much by the sea-side, is a pretty and graceful object when it floats in the sea, contracting and expanding like a little, delicate, transparent umbrella. Yet the same jellyfish, when cast on the shore--is a mere helpless lump, without capacity for movement, self-defense, or self-preservation.

Alas! It is a vivid type of much of the religion of this day, of which the leading principle is, "No dogma, no distinct tenets, no positive doctrine."

We have hundreds of jellyfish clergymen, who seem not to have a single bone in their body of divinity. They have no definite opinions--they belong to no school or party. They are so afraid of "extreme views"--that they have no views at all.

We have thousands of jellyfish sermons preached every year--sermons without an edge or a point. They are as smooth as billiard balls--awakening no sinner, and edifying no saint.

We have legions of jellyfish young men annually turned out from our seminaries, armed with a few scraps of second-hand philosophy, who think it a mark of cleverness and intellect to have no decided opinions about anything in religion, and to be utterly unable to make up their minds as to what Christian truth is. Their proud hearts are not satisfied with truths which satisfied the godly of former years. Their only creed is a kind of "Anythingism." They believe everything--and are sure and positive about nothing!

And last, and worst of all, we have myriads of jellyfish worshipers--respectable church-going people, who have no distinct and definite views about any point in theology. They cannot discern things that differ, any more than color-blind people can distinguish colors! They think that . . .
   everybody is right--and nobody is wrong,
   everything is true--and nothing is false,
   all sermons are good--and none are bad,
   every minister is sound--and none are unsound. 
They are "tossed to and fro, like children, by every wind of doctrine!" They are often carried away by any new excitement and sensational movement. They are ever ready for new things, because they have no firm grasp on the old Scripture truths.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Singing In Adversity

Singing in Adversity

Charles Naylor

Life has its adversities. It must needs have them. Adversity, pain, sorrow, and disappointment — are the lathe upon which God shapes us. They are the grinding-wheel which grinds and smoothes us. They are the polishing-wheel which makes us shine. If we can never be happy until we are so situated that nothing which exists may tend to render us unhappy — then we shall have little happiness in life. Happiness does not come from a life of ease and indolence. It is not the result of the absence of obstacles and difficulties. Happiness comes from triumphing over them. Therefore the song of true happiness often arises from the soul which undergoes many adversities.
Paul understood what life must be. He went through the cities of Asia after he had been stoned and left for dead, "Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through many hardships and tribulations, enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). He enumerated the things he suffered in his work for Christ. Doubtless you have read that list again and again. Notwithstanding all this, no one has more to say about rejoicing, being filled with joy, and singing the songs of victory — than does this same sufferer of tribulations.
The Psalmist also knew about tribulations. He said, "I will be glad and rejoice in your mercy — for you have considered my trouble; you have known my soul in adversities" (Psalm 31:7). God did not leave him to himself in his tribulations. Being conscious of this, he could rejoice.
Jesus said to his disciples, "Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows." Did he say, "Mourn and weep because of this"? Did he intimate that they should shrink from them? Did he indicate there was something wrong in them which brought these tribulations? Not so. He had already told them that the world would hate them. Now he showed them that as a result of that hatred of the world, and also as the result of natural conditions in life — they would have tribulations. Did he say to them, "This will take away much from your happiness; you will be sad and disconsolate much of the time; you will sorrow on account of these tribulations; it is too bad you are to have them"? No — he said nothing of this kind. He told them plainly what was to come; then added, "But be of good cheer — I have overcome the world."
Think of the boldness of Jesus in saying this. Just before him lay Gethsemane. Just beyond that, the trials before the high priest and Pilate, and Calvary awaited him. He knew this very well. He knew he must pass through the bitterest of tribulations. Nevertheless he said, "Be of good cheer — I have overcome the world."
What a wonderful example for us this is. He has overcome the world not merely for himself — but for us as well. As the Psalmist pointed out, he knows our adversities. He knows that lying ahead of us there are adversities and difficulties, perhaps dangers, sorrows, and many things to try the soul. He also knows when we are in those things, when they are pressing hard upon us, when we are tempted to bow down our heads and give up. He knows exactly how we feel, how things seem, how the future looks, how the present troubles us. In spite of it all he is saying to us, "Be of good cheer — I have overcome."
Dear soul, Jesus knows all about your troubles. He knows every heartache, every difficulty, everything you must overcome, everything you must bear. Trusting in his grace, relying upon his help — you shall soon find your heart filling again with melody, for the clouds will pass away.
Paul asks, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" Then he adds, "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us!" (Romans 8:35, 37).
Speaking of our acceptance with God and our justification by faith through grace, Paul says we "rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Romans 5:2). But are the good things of God all in which we can rejoice? No, for he continues, "And not only so but we glory in tribulations also."
Paul could rejoice in the bad things, as well as in the good things. Why could he do this? Was he a mere enthusiast? Was he a man who shut his eyes to the facts? No, he was sober-minded, consistent, and sane. He looked behind the frowning face of circumstances. He saw the results that follow tribulations. He set them down for us that we might consider them and rejoice with him. "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us!" Romans 5:3-5. That was the secret of Paul's rejoicing.
Again Paul tells his experience in 2 Corinthians 7:4, "I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles, my joy knows no bounds." He tells why this is: "God, who comforts those who are cast down, comforts us" (verse 6). "Who comforts us in all our tribulation" (2 Corinthians 1:4). The comfort of God is wonderful. The satisfying, soul-delighting blessedness of it, can be known only by those who have gone deeply into the waters of tribulation. So many in times of trouble, are prone to feel that God does not care for them or to feel that they have offended him. Just when they need him most, and just when he would be most ready to help — they cease to seek that help and feel they must meet their difficulties in their own strength without the help they so much crave.
Right here many are tempted to give up trying. They feel they are unable to overcome or to endure through to better days. They feel that God has forsaken them in their hour of need. Their feelings and their attitude shut them off from that help which God would delight to give them. It is just here that we need to face things squarely. We need to consider God as he is. We need to take a right view of our relationship with him.
In the time of the child's need, a true and loving parent yearns with sympathy and with an earnest desire to help. The heart of God is more tender than the heart of a mother. His love is stronger than any human love. In these times of tribulation and trouble, of sorrow or care, of anxiety or foreboding — we should remember that he is waiting to take us into his arms and to comfort us with that comfort which only he can give.
The clouds may seem to hide his face; he may seem far off — but he is not far off. The clouds may prevent us from seeing him — but they do not prevent his seeing us. He does see us and he desires us to turn to him for that support in trouble which we need in order that the heavy load may be borne. He desires that we confide in him, and that we pour out our soul's bitterness and longing to him. He expects us to act as men and women who trust him. He expects us to use what strength we have. But beyond and above our strength, is his abundant strength and help ready to supply whatever deficiency there may be in us. He always sees the way out of our difficulties. He always knows just how much grace we must have. He always measures out to us the needed supply we must have.
No one has ever lived, who has not had his times of discouragement, heaviness, sorrow, and disappointment. Care and anxiety come to all. Unsaved people have to bear their own burdens, meet their own adversities, suffer their own sorrows — without divine help. They get through them in some way in their own strength, and we could do the same without divine help. There would always be a way that we could get through somehow. But God knows a better way than we know, and he will help us into that better way. He will give us the strength and fortitude necessary — if we only trust and go forward courageously.
James tells us, "Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds." There is a way to do this. That way is the way Paul took. Paul looked behind the tribulations to the outcome. James exhorts us to do likewise. These tribulations all are fruitful. They are good for us. If we bear them as we should — then we shall look back upon them shortly and rejoice that God let them come.
Let us now look at Paul. It was midnight. He and Silas lay in a Philippian dungeon. Their feet were fast in the stocks. Their clothes were torn, their backs were bleeding from the many stripes that had been laid upon them. It seemed that death might be only a little ahead of them. Under these unfavorable circumstances they did not lament — they prayed (Acts 16:25). After they had prayed, they did something else; they sang praises to God. They did not do this for mere bravado. They did not do it to keep the other prisoners awake. They did it because of the joy that was welling up in their own hearts. They were suffering, so they could not sleep; so they spent the time in the very best possible manner. They spent not a moment in regretting what had happened. They did look for the needed help. Their faith reached out to God — and help came. Their souls were filled with joyful praises — and they sang from full hearts.
There were reasons why they could do this. First, they were innocent. They had a consciousness they had done nothing wrong. They had been trying to do good. Now they were suffering for it. There is "rest" — comfort in being innocent under such circumstances, or in any circumstances. A clear conscience inspires to song. So if our conscience is clear, we can rise above our circumstances if we follow the course taken by Paul and Silas.
Second, they were hopeful Christians. They did not look on the dark side. They looked beyond the present suffering and the threatening circumstances. They neither saw the dungeon nor the stocks nor the executioner's sword. They neither felt their galled ankles nor their smarting backs. They looked to God. They saw his approving smile — and they sang praises.
Third, they exercised definite faith. They believed God knew all about their circumstances. They believed they were in his care. They believed nothing could come to them, without coming through his will. So they rested in full assurance of faith in him — and in their tribulations they sang joyfully. Paul taught others to rejoice, and he set them an example. If we face our adversities as he faced his — we too may sing in adversity.
In adversity we sing a different song than we do when we are untroubled. We must join courage to trust. When we do this, we can sing songs of confidence born of our confidence in God's help. We can sing songs of trust which allay our fears. We can sing songs of anticipation as we look forward to the victories which lie before us, and at the crown at the end of the road. We can sing in joyful remembrance of God's former mercies.

The song of adversity is more difficult to learn, than the song we sing when everything is going pleasantly and prosperously — but these songs are no less joyous in the depths of the heart when they spring from faith. In fact they can often be more truly joyous than the songs of prosperity, because they go deeper into the depths of the heart and rise with fuller trust. But no matter how many tribulations we have, if we trust God, we may be "exceeding joyful" in all those tribulations.