The Nature of the Dispensation In Which We Live # 2
If one thing is true among others, it is this, that you and I are utterly hopeless in the matter of making people spiritual. You may put them into institutions and colleges, and make them preachers, and make them organizers,and make them workers, and make them a hundred and one things, but you can never make them spiritual. It is no use having homes and places for gathering together the Lord's people with a view to making them spiritual. If ever you think that that is what you are going to do with them, let me tell you, you cannot do it. You can give them a lot of knowledge, teach them what is in the Bible, can turn them out very different from what they were when they came in in many respects, but you cannot make them spiritual. I cannot make myself spiritual, you cannot make yourself spiritual. You are helpless in that matter. Unless the Spirit of God comes and does something, we are helpless, and that is the great mistake many have made, that they have thought by imparting Biblical knowledge and knowledge of spiritual things and how to work for the Lord, they are qualifying people for the Lord's use. Does it work out like that? Not necessarily; unless there is something extra to all that which is God's own work, then that does not count with God, it does not get anywhere with God, and really it only provides the background of fresh tragedies. It is true of many. I am not saying that those things are wrong and useless. I am speaking of one thing. We cannot make people spiritual, in that matter we are hopeless. Only the Holy Spirit can do it, and that is done only on the basis of life or in a living way. It can only be accomplished by real, inward, spiritual history under the hand of the Holy Spirit.
The Purpose of Suffering
Now, it is just there that suffering, affliction, adversity, frustration and all those things have their place. Why adversity in the Lord's work and in relation to the Lord? Why frustration, why suffering, why affliction? When the story is told at last, when it is fully told at last - and what an immense story it will be - what we shall discover is that it was the frustration, it was the suffering, the affliction, the adversity, the sorrow, the trial, that was the means of making us spiritual, nothing else - it was that that did it. We have to say, by the grace of God, that we owe our spiritual measure of increase to the suffering through which the Lord allowed us to go.
"Our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:17-18).
God is working eternal values which are not seen, but only to be grasped by the eye of faith. We have got to settle this, or else we are beaten before we start. Are we not all the time really fighting strongly to get the Lord on to a temporal basis with us? Why have any adversity why have any suffering? Indeed,k why have an enemy at all, why have a devil, why have afflictions and persecutions? Why should we have this if the Lord is Lord almighty, all-powerful, all-gracious, and really is concerned for His interests and for the progress of His work? If the Lord really is with us and on our side as the Mighty One, then the devil ought to be swept out of the way, and all hindrances and frustration ought to go to the wind, and all sufferings at once ought to be subjugated, and we ought to know nothing of this, we ought to ride triumphantly on without any of this sort of thing which is a weight upon us, and is only interrupting and frustrating growth and progress. The devil all the time is hindering and the Lord is not getting. Is He not? That is a matter you and I have got to settle.
The fact is that the New Testament is full of that sort of thing. The one man who has more of the heavenly vision, the knowledge of things spiritual, than any other man in the New Testament is the man who knows more of this other side than any other man. He tells us more about what he had to go through. "Thrice I was shipwrecked" (2 Cor. 11:25). There is something wrong about that - the Lord letting one of His great apostles be shipwrecked again and again, just escaping with his life on a spar! Imprisoned again and again, thrashed with rods, suffering, hunger cold, nakedness. Oh, the list! We do not know when these things happened. He simply tells us that they did happen. Most of them have never been recorded by Luke. Why? Because he was not writing the life of Paul, he was writing the life of the Lord Jesus, but Paul mentions them. Paul says, "I once and again would have come to you, but satan hindered" (1 Thess. 2:18). Oh, there is something wrong about that! Paul does not explain it, he does not say that it is wrong, he takes it in his stride. You see what I mean.
We are so wanting to bring the Lord again on to the temporal basis, to clear up all these difficulties, to get hindrances out of the way, to have a clear course, to lift us right out of adversity, suffering, affliction, weakness, and very often we are tempted to make that the criterion as to whether the Lord is with us and for us. You know quite well there are plenty of Job's friends about, Christian ones too, always ready to say, 'Yes, it is because you are wrong, you are in error, that is why you have so much of it!' That is a matter that has got to be settled. Here it is. Are we going to expect anything different from what the Lord had Himself, the heavenly Lord? Are we going to expect anything different from what Paul and the believers of his day had? These letters are so full of references to these afflictions and sufferings of the saints. Do they mean that satan is triumphant and the Lord is defeated, or that the Lord is not with His own? Let us get that settled.
What, then, is the meaning of all this? Oh, let us look again. Is it not by these means that we are being made conformable to the heavenly Christ? You know the fact remains that the people who live in that infant stage of temporal things and who will not walk with the Lord unless He gives them proof positive in temporal realms of His being with them are not spiritually helpful people, that is, they are not the people to whom you can go in the deepest hours of your life. There is an inward place. People who can help those who really do know the deepest tests of faith,are those who have gone through and been sustained even when the Lord has not shown His hand for their deliverance. Is that not true? It is a level of life. Conformity to the heavenly Lord is by everything being heavenly and the Lord not letting us off in this matter of heavenliness. You want it down here, you want it in the temporal realm, things seen, things that you can bring up as proof positive, all the evidences. You want it like that, but the way of conformity to the heavenly Christ is not along that line. Things will be heavenly, and oh, my word, they are! We have not got much here, the Lord does not give you much here. It is all heavenly, it is HIMSELF. As soon as you and I begin to make a great deal of the things, the Lord may step in and smite the things in order that He might be the object and not the things, the heavenly Lord known and ministered by the Spirit in a living way on the line of life.
(continued with # 3 - Conception, Not Imitation