CHOICE EXCERPTS by J R Miller
J. R. Miller
A believer’s life-mission
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind!” Romans 12:2
“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness.” 2 Corinthians 3:18
The character of every true believer is being transformed. If Christ dwells in you, He will produce in you the same kind of life which He himself lived when He was on the earth. This change does not come in its completeness, or instantaneously the moment one believes in Christ. But it does begin then.
Life is large. Life’s lessons are many and hard to learn! Paul was an old man when he said, “I have learned, in whatever state I am, therein to be content.” It had taken him many years to learn this lesson of contentment.
Likewise, it takes us years to get life’s lessons learned. But nothing is clearer, than that a believer’s life-mission —is to be transformed into the likeness of Christ. There is to be atransformation of character. Holiness must become the every-day dress of the Christian. We are called to be saints, even in this sinful world.
“So that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe!” Philippians 2:15
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A book for the unsuccessful
The Bible is indeed a book for the unsuccessful. Its sweetest messages are to those who have fallen. It is the book of love and sympathy. It is like a mother’s bosom to lay one’s head upon—in the time of distress or pain. Its pages teem with cheer for those who are discouraged. It sets its lamps of hope to shine in darkened chambers. It reaches out its hands of help to the fainting, and to those who have fallen. It is full of comfort for those who are in sorrow. It has its many special promises for the needy, the poor, and the bereft. It is a book for those who have failed, for the disappointed, the defeated, and the discouraged.
It is this quality in the Bible, which makes it so dear to the heart of humanity. If it were a book only for the strong, the successful, the victorious, the unfallen, those who have no sorrow, who never fail, the whole, the happy—it would not find such a welcome wherever it goes in the world. So long as there are tears and sorrows, and broken hearts, and crushed hopes, and human failures, and lives burdened and bowed down, and spirits sad and despairing—so long will the Bible be full of inspiration, light, help, and strength—for earth’s weary ones.
The God of the Bible is the God of those who have not succeeded. Wherever there is a weak, stumbling Christian, unable to walk alone—to him the divine heart goes out in tender thought and sympathy; and the divine hand is extended to support him, and keep him from falling. Whenever a Christian has fallen, and lies in defeat or failure—over him bends the heavenly Father in kindly pity, to raise him up and to help him to begin again. The God of the Bible is the God of the weak, the unsheltered. Their very helplessness of His children, is their strongest plea to the divine heart.
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A device for saving people from toil, struggle and responsibility
“But we prayed to our God—AND posted a guard day and night to meet this threat!” Nehemiah 4:9
We are in danger of making prayer a substitute for duty; or of trying to roll over on God, the burden of caring for us and doing things for us—while we sit still and do nothing! When we pray to be delivered from temptation—we must keep out of the way of temptation, unless duty clearly calls us there. We must also guard against temptation, resist the Devil, and stand firm in obedience and faith. When we ask God for our daily bread, pleading the promise that we shall not lack—we must also labor to earn God’s bread, and thus make it ours honestly.
A lazy man came once and asked for money, saying that he could not find bread for his family. “Neither can I!” replied the industrious mechanic to whom he had applied. “I am obliged to work for it!”
While we pray for health—we must use the means to obtain it.
While we ask for wisdom—we must use our brains and think, searching for wisdom as for hidden treasure.
While we ask God to help us break off a bad habit—we must also strive to overcome the habit.
Prayer is not merely a device for saving people from toil, struggle and responsibility. When there is no human power adequate to the need—we may ask God to work without us, and in some way He will help us. But ordinarily WE must do our part, asking God to work in and through us, and to bless us through faithful obedience.
“I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me!” Colossians 1:29
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A good many people have to die—to be appreciated
“About that time she became sick and died. The room was filled with widows who were weeping and showing him the coats and other garments Dorcas had made for them.” Acts 9:37,39
A good many people have to die—to be appreciated. They go through the world living quietly, devoted to the interests of those who are dear to them, seeking no recognition. They are merely commonplace people, and so are allowed to love and serve without appreciation.
But one day they are missed from their accustomed place—their work on earth is done—and they are gone! Then the empty place reveals the value of the blessing they have been. In their absence, people learn for the first time—the value of the services they had been accustomed to receive from them.
A life of ease, leisure, and luxury
“Woe to you who are rich!” Luke 6:24
Many of life’s worst dangers are unsuspected. Where we suppose there is good and blessing—there may be hidden peril. Most of us think of a life of ease, leisure, and luxury—as the most highly favored lot, one to be envied. We are not apt to think of it as one of danger. Yet there is no doubt that a life of rugged toil, hardship, and self-denial, which we look upon as almost a misfortune, is far safer than one of ease.
When we open our Bible we find that a state of wealth, is indeed set down as one full of spiritual peril. It was Jesus who said, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And Paul said, “Those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all evil.”
It is not the popular impression, that wealth is a condition in which danger lurks. Yet thousands of souls have been lost in the valley of gold! Many a man’s envied fortune, is in God’s sight, but the splendid mausoleum of his soul.
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A little nook in the very heart of God
God’s plan for every marriage is happiness.
Marriage is meant to be a miniature of heaven—a fragment of the celestial blessedness, let down into
Marriage is meant to be a little sanctuary, into which husband and wife may flee from earth’s storms and dangers, where in love’s shelter, their hearts fed with affection’s daily bread—they may dwell in quiet peace.
Marriage is meant to be a shelter in which, covered from the frosts of the world and shielded from its cold and tempests—two lives may grow together into richest beauty, realizing their sweetest dreams of happiness, blending in whatever things are true, whatever things are pure, and attaining the finest possibilities of godly character.
Marriage is meant to be a holy ark, floating on the wild floods of human life—like Noah’s ark on the deluge, bearing to heaven’s gates, to the harbor of glory—the lives which God has shut within its doors.
A godly marriage is a little nook in the very heart of God, where faithful souls are held close to the Father’s heart, and carried safely, amid dangers and sorrows, to the home above!
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A little picture of Christ!
No sooner do we begin to behold the lovely face of Christ, which looks out at us from the gospel chapters, than a great hope springs up in our hearts. We can become like Jesus! Indeed, if we are God’s children, we shall become like Him. We are foreordained to be conformed to His image. It matters not, how faintly the divine beauty glimmers now in our soiled and imperfect lives—some day we shall be like Him! As we struggle here with imperfections and infirmities, with scarcely one trace of Christlikeness yet apparent in our life, we still may say, when we catch glimpses of the glorious loveliness of Christ, “Some day I shall be like that!” “For those He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son!” Romans 8:29. “We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him as He is!” 1 John 3:2.
But how may we now grow into the Christlikeness of Christ? Not merely by our own strugglings and strivings. We cannot make ourselves Christlike by any efforts of our own. Nothing less than a divine power is sufficient to produce this transformation in us.
The Scripture describes the process. “Beholding the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the image of the glory.“ That is, we are to find the likeness of Christ, and are to look upon it and ponder it, gazing intently and lovingly upon it—and as we gaze we are transformed and grow like Christ!
It is not merely a brief glance now and then that is here implied, not the turning of the eye toward him for a few hurried moments in the early morning or in the late evening—but a constant, loving and reverent beholding of Him through days and years, until His image burns itself upon the soul. If we thus train our heart’s eyes to look at Christ, we shall be transformed into His image.
“Beholding we are changed.” The verb is passive. We do not produce the change. The marble can never carve itself into the lovely figure which floats in the artist’s mind—the transformation must be wrought with patience, by the sculptor’s own hands. Just so—we cannot change ourselves into the image of Christ’s glory. The work is wrought in us by the Holy Spirit. We simply look upon the image of the Christ, and His blessed light streams in upon us and prints its own radiant glory upon our hearts!
We have nothing to do, but to keep our eyes fixed upon Christ’s beauty (as the flowers hold up their faces toward the sun,) and the transformation is divinely wrought in us. It is not wrought instantaneously. At first there are but dimmest glimmerings of the likeness of Christ. We cannot in a single day learn all the long, hard lessons of patience, meekness, unselfishness, humility, joy and peace. Little by little the change is wrought, and the beauty comes out as we continue to gaze upon Christ. Little by little the glory flows into our lives from the radiant face of the Master—and flows out again through our dull lives, transforming them!
If we continue ever beholding the glory, gazing upon it—we shall be mirrors, reflecting Him into whose face we gaze! Then those who look upon our lives will see in us—a dim image at least—a little picture of Christ!
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A living, loving, personal Savior
We are in the habit of saying that Christ saved us by dying for us on the Cross. In an important sense this is true. We never could have been saved—if He had not died for us.
But we are actually saved by our relation to a living, loving, personal Savior—into whose hands we commit all the interests of our lives; and who becomes our Friend, our Helper, our Keeper, our Burden bearer—our all in all.
Christian faith is not merely laying our sins on the Lamb of God, and trusting to His one great sacrifice; it is the laying of ourselves on the living, loving heart of one whose friendship becomes
thenceforward the sweetest joy of our lives!
“The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me!” Galatians 2:20
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A living, loving, personal Savior
We are in the habit of saying that Christ saved us by dying for us on the Cross. In an important
sense, this is true. We never could have been saved, if He had not died for us.
But we are actually saved by our relation to a living, loving, personal Savior—into whose
hands we commit all the interests of our lives; and who becomes our friend, our helper, our
keeper, our burden bearer—our all in all.
Christian faith is not merely laying our sins on the Lamb of God and trusting to His one great
sacrifice; it is the laying of ourselves on the living, loving heart of one whose friendship becomes
thenceforward the sweetest joy of our lives!
“The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave
Himself for me!” Galatians 2:20
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A memento of divine affection
“Cast your burden upon the Lord—and He shall sustain you.” Psalm 55:22
This privilege is a very precious one. We all have our burden. No matter how happy anyone is—he is bearing some weight of care, or sorrow, or responsibility. Continually we find our load too heavy for our own unaided strength. We feel that we cannot carry it without help. Human love comes up close beside us, willing, if it were possible, to take the burden from our shoulder, and carry it for us. But this is not possible. “Every man must bear his own burden.” Most of life’s loads, are not transferable.
Take pain, for instance. No tenderest, truest love—can bear our pain for us, or even bear any smallest part of it.
Or take sorrow. As close as human friendship may come to us when our heart is breaking with grief—it cannot take from us any least portion of the anguish we suffer, as we meet bereavement.
Or take struggle with temptation. We can get no human help in it, and must pass through the struggle alone.
It will be noticed, too, that God Himself does not promise to bear our burden for us. So much is it an essential and inseparable part of our life—that even divine love will not relieve us of its weight.
The teaching from all this, is that we cannot hope to have our life-burden lifted off. Help cannot come to us, in the way of relief. The prayer to be freed from the load, cannot be answered. The assurance is—not that the Lord will take away our burden when we cast it upon Him, lifting it away from our shoulder. It is, instead, a promise that while we bear our burden, whatever it may be—that the Lord will sustain us. “Cast your burden upon the Lord—and He shall sustain you.” He will give us strength to continue faithful, to go on with our doing of His will, unimpeded, unhindered, by the pressure of the load we must carry.
An alternative rendering of this verse is, “Cast your gift upon the Lord—and He shall sustain you.” Thus we see, that our burden is a gift of God to us! At once the thing, which a moment ago seemed so oppressive in its weight, so unlovely in its form—is hallowed and transformed! We had thought it to be an evil—whose effect upon us could be only hurtful, hindering our growth, marring our happiness. But now we see that it is another of God’s blessings, not evil—but good, designed not to hurt us, nor to impede our progress—but to help us onward!
A gift from a human friend, is a token and pledge of their love for us. In like manner, God sent this gift to us—because He loves us. It is a memento of divine affection. It may be hard for us to understand this. It may be a burden of pain, and pain seems so opposed to comfort—that we cannot see how it can be a gift of love. It may be sorrow; and sorrow never for the present seems to be joyous—but always grievous. It may be great loss—the stripping from us of life’s pleasant things, leaving emptiness and desolation. How such burdens as these can be tokens of divine affection, God’s gift of love—it is hard for us to conceive. Yet we know that God is our Father, and that His love for us never fails. Whatever comes from His hand to us—must be sent in love!
The world offers attractive things—pleasures, gains, promises of honor and delight. To the eye of sense, these appear to be life’s best things. But too often they enfold bitterness and hurt, the fruit of evil. At the bottom of the cup—are dregs of poison! On the other hand, the things that God gives, appear sometimes unattractive, undesirable, even repulsive! We shrink from accepting them. But they enfold, in their severe and unpromising form—the blessings of divine love.
We know how true this is of life’s pains and sorrows. Though grievous to sense, they leave in the heart which receives them with faith and trust—the fruits of divine blessing. Whatever our burden may be, it is God’s gift, and brings to us some precious thing, from the treasury of divine love. This fact makes it sacred to us. Not to accept it—is to thrust away from us, a blessing sent from heaven. We need, therefore, to treat most reverently—the things in our life, which we call burdens.
We should regard all the gifts of God to us—with affection. This is easy for us so long as these gifts come to us in pleasant form—things that give joy to us. But with no less love and gratitude should we receive and cherish God’s gifts, which come in forbidding form. It is the same divine love which sends the one—and also the other. The one is no less good—than the other. There is blessing as truly in the gift of pain or loss or trial—as in the gift of song and gain and gladness. Whatever God sends—we should receive in confidence, as a gift of His love. Thus it is, that our burden, whatever it may be, is hallowed.
It may not always be easy to carry it, for even love sometimes lays heavy burdens on the shoulders of its beloved. A wise father does not seek always to make life easy for his child. Nothing could be more unkind! He would have his child grow strong—and, therefore, he refuses to take away the hard task. God is too loving and kind, too true a father—to give us only easy things. He makes the burden heavy—that we may become strong in bearing it. But He is always near; and He gives us the help we need, that we may never faint beneath it. Thus we may always know, that our burden is our Father’s gift to us!
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A most valuable lesson for every Christian to learn
“I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day.” Exodus 16:4
They were not to lay up in store—but were taught to live simply by the day. When night came, they did not have a supply of food left over for the next day—but were entirely dependent upon God’s new supply to come in the morning.
In this method of providing, God was teaching all future generations a lesson. When the Master gave the disciples the Lord’s Prayer, He put this same thought of life into it, for He taught us to say: “Give us this day—our daily bread.”
This is a most valuable lesson for every Christian to learn. We should make a little fence of trust around each day, and never allow any past or future care or anxiety to break in. God does not provide in advance for our needs. We cannot get grace today—for tomorrow’s duties; and if we try to bear tomorrow’s cares and burdens today—we shall break down in the attempt.
TIME comes to us, not in years, not even in weeks—but in little days. We have nothing to do with ‘life in the aggregate’ —that great bulk of duties, anxieties, struggles, trials and needs, which belong to a year or even to a month. We really have nothing to do even with tomorrow.
Our sole business is with the one little day now passing, and the one day’s burdens will never crush us; we can easily carry them until the sun goes down. We can always get along for one short day—and that is really, all we ever have.
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A poor shoemaker in his dreary little shop
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16
“For our perishable earthly bodies must be transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die!” 1 Corinthians 15:53
The lesson of the imperishable life, has a special application to those who suffer from sickness or from any bodily affliction. It will help us to endure physical sufferings quietly and unmurmuringly, if we will remember that it is only the outward man that can be touched and affected by these experiences, and that the inward man may not only be kept unharmed, but may be growing all the while in beauty and strength, being spiritually renewed through pain and suffering.
A poor shoemaker in his dreary little shop in a great city, one day noticed that there was one little place in his dark room, from which he could get a view of green fields, blue skies and faraway hills. He wisely set up his bench at that point, so that at any moment he could lift his eyes from his dull work—and have a glimpse of the great, beautiful world outside.
Just so, from the darkest sick-room, and from the midst of the keenest sufferings, there is always a point from which we can see the face of Christ and have a glimpse of the glory of heaven. If only we will find this place and get this vision—it will make it easy to endure even the greatest suffering.
“For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down—when we die and leave these bodies—we will have a home in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God Himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long for the day when we will put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing.” 2 Corinthians 5:1-2
Sickness is discouraging and is hard to bear. But we should remember that the doing of the will of God is always the noblest, holiest thing we can do any hour—however hard it may be for us. If we are called to suffer—let us suffer patiently and sweetly. Under all our sharp trials—let us keep the peace of God in our hearts. The outward man may indeed decay—but the inward man will be renewed day by day.
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A secret of victorious living
There is a secret of victorious living which, if people knew it, would make all of life easier for them. It may be stated thus: that as we take up any duty and go forward with it, we shall receive the strength we need to do it. There are several Divine promises that give this assurance.
One reads, “As your days—so shall your strength be.” Deuteronomy 33:25. This seems to mean that the help which God gives, varies according to the necessity of the particular day. God fits His blessing—to our days.
When we are faint—He increases strength.
When we are sorrowful—He gives comfort.
When we are in danger—He grants protection.
When we are weary—He gives rest.
“As your days—so shall your strength be.”
Another of Christ’s promises reads, “My grace is sufficient for you.” Every word of this assurance shines with radiant light.
“My grace is sufficient for you.” It is Christ’s grace that is sufficient. We know that He has all Divine fullness, and therefore we are sure that no human need can ever exhaust His power to give help!
“My grace is sufficient for you.” It is Christ’s gracethat is sufficient. If it were anything else but grace, it might not give us such comfort. Grace is undeserved favor, goodness shown to the unworthy. We deserve nothing, for we are sinners. But it is Christ’s grace which is sufficient, and so we can claim it.
“My grace is sufficient for you.” It is present tense—ISsufficient. Christ is always speaking personally to the one who is in any need, and saying, “My grace IS sufficient for you.”
“My grace is sufficient for you.” The word “sufficient” is one whose meaning expands and amplifies with the measure of the need. No necessity is so small as not to be included; and none is so great as to go beyond the capacity of the blessing that is promised.
“My grace is sufficient for you.” The grace is sufficient for each of His redeemed children—”for you” the promise runs.
Life lies before us, with . . .
It does not come to us all in one piece. God breaks our years—into months and weeks and days, and never gives us more than just a little at a time—never more than we can bear or do for the day.
If we take up the present duty or burden—we shall always have strength to do it. If we do not have strength of our own sufficient for the work or struggle, we need not falter—but should go on, just as if we had omnipotence in our arm; for as we obey God, though the task is impossible to our ability—He will sustain us by giving us all the help we need.
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A sort of a strange, indefinable something
Every one of us casts a shadow.
There hangs about us, a sort of a strange, indefinable something, which we call personal influence—that has its effect on every other life on which it falls. It goes with us wherever we go. It is not something we can have when we want to have it—and then lay aside when we will, as we lay aside a garment. It is something that always pours out from our lives . . .
as light from a lamp,
as heat from flame,
as perfume from a flower.
The ministry of personal influence is something very wonderful. Without being conscious of it, we are always impressing others by this strange power that exudes from us. Others watch us—and their thinking and actions are modified by our influence.
“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity.” Ephesians 5:15-16
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A threefold cord which cannot be broken!
“When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven!” Nehemiah 1:4
TEARS were not all. Nehemiah also carried the burden to God in prayer. He did this before he took any step himself for the relief of the suffering, and the advancement of his work. Compassion is Christlike; but tears alone are not enough. This is a lesson we should not forget in our compassion for others: God cares more for them than we do, and His compassion is deeper than ours; we may, therefore, be sure of interest upon His part—when we speak the names of our friends into His ear. Besides, He knows best how to help. We should take the burden to Him first—and then be ready to do whatever He may tell us to do.
The best way for us to help others—usually is to PRAY for them. Of course praying is not all we should do; Nehemiah did not stop with tears and prayers. He gave himself to the work in behalf of his people. He left the luxurious palace, and journeyed away to Jerusalem, and took earnest hold with both hands, giving all his energy and influence to the cause.
Likewise, more than tears and prayers are needed; there is something for us to DO. Many people can weep over distress, and then pray fervently for the relief that is needed—but never DO anything themselves!
Nehemiah’s way is better: sympathy, prayer, work.
This makes a threefold cord which cannot be broken!
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A truly thoughtful person
Some people seem to have a genius for making others miserable! They are continually touching sensitive hearts, so as to cause pain. They are always saying things which sting and irritate. If you have any bodily defect, they never see you without in some crude way, making you conscious of it. If any relative or friend of yours has done some dishonorable thing, they seem to take a cruel delight in constantly referring to it when speaking with you. They lack all delicacy of feeling, having no eye for the sensitive things in others, which demand gentleness of treatment.
Thoughtfulness is the reverse of all this. It simply does not do the things which thoughtlessness does. It avoids the painful subject. It never alludes to a man’s clubfoot or humpback, nor ever casts an eye at the defect, nor does anything to direct attention to it or to make the man conscious of it. It respects your sorrow—and refrains from harshly touching your wound. It has the utmost kindliness of feeling and expression. A truly thoughtful person, is one who never needlessly gives pain to another.
Thoughtfulness does not merely keep one from doing thoughtless things; it also leads to continued acts of kindness and good will. It ever watches for opportunities to give pleasure and happiness. It does not wait to be asked for sympathy or help—but has eyes of its own, and sees every need, and supplies it unsolicited. When a friend is in sorrow, the thoughtful man is ready with his offer of comfort. He does not come the next day, when the need is past—but is prompt with his kindness, when kindness means something.
Thoughtfulness is always doing little kindnesses. It has an instinct for seeing the little things that need to be done, and then for doing them!
There are some rare Christians who seem born for thoughtfulness. They have a genius for sympathy. Instinctively they seem to understand the experiences of pain in others, and from their heart, there flows a blessing of tenderness which is full of healing. This is the highest and holiest ministry of love. It is not softness nor weakness; it is strength—but strength enriched bydivine gentleness.
Thoughtfulness is one of the truest and best tests of a noble Christian character. It is love working in all delicate ways. It is unselfishness which forgets self, and thinks only of others. It is love which demands not to be served, to be honored, to be helped—but thinks continually of serving and honoring others. He who has a truly gentle heart, cannot but be thoughtful. Love is always thoughtful.
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A wonderful Mecca for weary pilgrims
Every church should be in its community, as nearly as possible—what Christ would be—if He lived again in human form in a house just where the church stands.
Imagine Jesus living here, and people coming to Him just as they used to do when He had His home for many months at a certain home on a certain street in Capernaum. Would not our church become a wonderful Mecca for weary pilgrims? The sorrowing, would come to find comfort. People having problems and perplexities, would come to have them solved. Those who have stumbled and fallen, would come to be forgiven and helped to start again. The weary, would come to get rest. This corner would be a great resort—for all who feel any need of help.
Then all who come—would find a home for their souls here. We know how Christ welcomed all who came to Him. He was everybody’s friend! No one was ever turned away from Him, unhelped. The church should be to the people who come to it—what Christ was to those who came to Him. It should be a true home of the soul.
It is in a spiritual way, that the church should chiefly serve us. Some people forget this, and think that it is the business of the church to provide entertainment for those who come to it. We sometimes hear people complain that the church does nothing to furnish ‘good times’ for the young. But frankly, that is not the purpose of the church.
Are schools—public schools, high schools, colleges—established to entertain those who come to them? Places of amusement are established to entertain—but the purpose of a school is to teach, to educate, to train the mind, to develop the intellect.
Just so, the mission of a church is not to amuse, to provide fun and entertainment—but to lead people to Christ, to train them in Christian duties, to build up godly character in them, and to prepare them for usefulness and service to the souls of men.
Entertainment is never to be the great purpose of the church. The aim must always be to honor God—and make the worshipers more holy!
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Absolutely and without question
“If you love Me, you will obey what I command.” John 14:15
God is our Father and we are His children. We are to obey Him absolutely and without question. Yet it is no blind obedience. We know that He loves us with a deep, tender, unchanging love. We know that He is wiser than we, infinitely wiser, and can never err. We know that when He denies a request—that the granting of it would be unkindness. We know that when He leads us in another path than the one we had marked out—that His is the right way. We know that when He chastens or corrects—that there is love in His chastisement or correction. We know that in all His government and discipline—that He is seeking only our highest good. Our whole duty therefore as God’s children, is to yield ourselves to His will.
“If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” John 14:23
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Afflictions, when sanctified
“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your Word.” Psalm 119:67
“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I could learn Your statutes.” Psalm 119:71
By affliction, the Master Artist is adding some new touch of loveliness, to the picture He is bringing out in our souls.
Afflictions, when sanctified—
temper worldly ambitions,
burn out the dross of selfishness,
quell fierce passions,
reveal the evil in our hearts,
manifest our weaknesses, faults, and blemishes,
teach patience and submission,
discipline unruly spirits,
deepen and enrich our graces.
Afflictions, when sanctified—plough the hard soil and cut long and deep furrows in the heart. The heavenly Sower follows, and fruits of righteousness spring up. “No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11
Affliction is a messenger of God—sent to minister to us in the best of ways! When under God’s chastening hand, we should ask,
What would God have this sorrow do for me?
What is its mission?
What its great design?
What golden fruit lies hidden in its husk?
How shall it . . .
strengthen my virtue,
nerve my courage,
chasten my passions,
purify my love, and
make me like Him who bore the cross of sorrow while He lived, and hung and bled upon it when He died, and now wears the victor’s crown in glory?
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After you are dead
Did you ever sit down quietly and seriously consider where you will be, and what you will be—after you are dead?
“It is appointed for people to die once—and and after that, to face judgment.” Hebrews 9:27
“Then the King will say to those on His right: Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world!” Matthew 25:34
“Then He will also say to those on the left: Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels!” Matthew 25:41
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Afterwards you will understand
“He got up from the table, took off His robe, wrapped a towel around His waist, and poured water into a basin. Then He began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel He had around Him.” John 13:4-5
“What I am doing, you do not understand now—but afterwards you will understand.” John 13:7
At this time Peter did not know why the Messiah he really needed—was a Messiah with basin and towel. He was thinking of a Messiah with throne and crown and scepter and earthly pomp! He did not understand it—until after the blood of Calvary had been shed. Christ referred to these days by “afterwards.”
This saying of Christ, however, may be used in a much wider sense. There are a great many things that He does, which at the time we cannot understand; yet in due time—all of them will become clear. As they appear to us, while we are passing through them, they are unfinished acts; when the work is completed—it will appear beautiful. This is especially true of many mysterious providences in our lives. One time Jacob thought and said, “All these things are against me!” But he lived to see that the very things which he thought were against him—were really all working together for his good.
So it is always, in the providences of God with His own people. “We know that all things work together for good, to those who love God.”
The back side of a tapestry appears to be a mystery of tangle and confusion—but there is a beautiful picture on the other side. Just so—we are looking at our lives, largely on the back side. We cannot see the Master’s plan—until ‘afterwards’.
All God’s dealings with us
“Be silent before the Lord.” Psalm 37:7
We are not to speak back to God, when He speaks to us. We are not to reason with Him or dispute with Him; but are to bow in silent and loving acquiescence before Him. “Be still, and know that I am God.” It is in those providences which cut sorely into our lives, and require sacrifice and loss on our part—that we are especially called to this duty.
There is a moving illustration of silence to God, in the case of Aaron when his sons had offered strange fire, and had died for their disobedience and sacrilege. The record says, “And Aaron held his peace.” He made no natural human outcry of grief. He accepted the terrible penalty as unquestionably just—and bowed in the acquiescence of faith.
This silence to God, should be our attitude in all times of trial, when God’s ways with us are bitter and painful. Why should we complain at anything that our Father may do? We have no right to utter a word of murmuring, for He is our sovereign Lord; and our simple duty is instant, unquestioning submission. We have no reason to complain—for we know that all God’s dealings with us are in
loving wisdom. His will is always best for us—whatever sacrifice or suffering it may cost.
“I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for You
are the one who has done this!” Psalm 39:9
All life’s tangles
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.”
Our affairs are forever getting tangled, like threads in a child’s hands—and we cannot straighten out
the tangles ourselves! We cannot see how anything beautiful or good can come out of our poor living, or our feeble striving.
Our days are full of disappointments, and our night’s rest is broken by anxieties. Yet it is the Christian’s privilege to commit all life’s tangles into the hands of Jesus Christ. He can take our
broken things—and build them up into beauty.
One of the finest windows in a great cathedral is said to have been made out of the fragments of
broken glass which the workmen had thrown away as worthless. A skillful hand gathered them up—
and wrought them into lovely form.
Just so, Jesus Christ can take . . .
our broken fragments of life,
even our sins, and
make them into beautiful life and character!
“Commit your way unto the Lord; trust also in
Him; and He shall bring it to pass.” Psalm 37:5
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Amid all the confusion and tangle
“Hold me up—and I shall be safe!” Psalm 119:117
Certain ancient mariners were accustomed to say, as they put out to sea, “Keep me, O God, for my boat is so small—and the ocean is so great and stormy!”
There could not be a fitter prayer for a Christian—as he sets out in life. The world is vast and full of perils, and a Christian, even the best, is very weak and frail. He has no ability to face the difficulties, the obstacles, the hardships he must face, if he is to pass successfully through life. The world is large, and full of storm and struggle—and only a few get through it safely.
If there were no one greater and stronger than ourselves, into whose keeping we may commit our lives, as we go out to meet the perils—what hope could we have of ever getting through safely?
The Christian cannot guide himself. He cannot master the storms. He cannot shelter himself. “Keep of me safe, O God, for in You I take refuge!” (Psalm 16:1) should be his prayer, not only once when he launches his barque—but daily, hourly.
Christ alone, is able to keep our lives. But does Jesus really care for our little individual lives? Yes! The very thing that Jesus does for us—is to be the keeper of our lives as we pass through the world with its storms and dangers.
Christ alone, is able to guide us. The world is a great mass of tangled paths. They run everywhere, crossing each other in all directions. Hands are forever beckoning us here and there—and we know not which beckoning to follow. Even friendship, loyal as it may be, sincere and sympathetic as it is—lacks wisdom and may guide us mistakenly.
But there is One only whose wisdom is infallible, whose advice never errs—and He is our Guide! There is a little prayer in Psalm 143 which pleads: “Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go, for to You I lift up my soul.” This prayer, if sincere, will always be answered. We may see no hand leading us. We may hear no voice
saying, as we walk in the darkness, “This is the way—walk in it.” Yet if we seek divine guidance and accept it implicitly—we shall always have it.
Not only do we have keeping and guidance in Christ—but everything we need on the way—and then eternal blessedness! We may commit our lives into His hands with absolute confidence. He will take us with all our faults and our sins—and will keep us from hurt in all the perils of the way. He will lead us in the right path amid all the confusion and tangle—and then He will bring us to glory!
“To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore!” Jude 1:24-25
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An arm that can never be broken!
“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms!” Deuteronomy 33:27
The picture suggested, is that of a little child, lying in the strong arms of a father who is able to withstand all storms and dangers.
At the two extremes of life, childhood and old age—this promise comes with special assurance.
“He shall gather the lambs in His arms, and carry them in His bosom” (Isaiah 40:11), is a word for the children.
“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He; I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you!” (Isaiah 46:4), brings its blessed comfort to the aged.
The thought of God’s embracing arms is very suggestive. What does an arm represent? What is the thought suggested by the arm of God enfolded around His child?
One suggestion, is protection. As a father puts his arm about his child when it is in danger—so God protects His children. Life is full of peril. There are temptations on every hand! Enemies lurk in every shadow—enemies strong and swift! Yet we are assured that nothing can separate us from the love of God. “Underneath are the everlasting arms!”
Another thought, is affection. The father’s arm drawn around a child—is a token of love. The child is held in the father’s bosom, near his heart. The shepherd carries the lambs in his bosom. John lay on Jesus’ bosom. The mother holds the child in her bosom, because she loves it. This picture of God embracing His children in His arms—tells of His love for them—His love is tender, close, intimate.
Another thought suggested by an arm, is strength. The arm is a symbol of strength. His arm is omnipotence. “In the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength” (Isaiah 26:4). His is an arm that can never be broken! Out of this clasp—we can never be taken. “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand!” (John 10:28)
Another suggestion is endurance. The arms of God are “everlasting.” Human arms grow weary even in love’s embrace; they cannot forever press the child to the bosom. Soon they lie folded in death.
A husband stood by the coffin of his beloved wife after only one short year of wedded happiness. The clasp of that love was very sweet—but how brief a time it lasted, and how desolatewas the life that had lost the precious companionship!
A little baby two weeks old—was left motherless. The mother clasped the child to her bosom and drew her feeble arms about it in one loving embrace; the little one will never more have a mother’s arm around it.
So pathetic is human life with—its broken affections, its little moments of love, its embraces that are torn away in one hour. But these arms of God—are everlasting arms! They shall never unclasp!
There is another important suggestion in the word “underneath.” Not only do the arms of God embrace His child—but they are underneath — always underneath! That means that we can never sink—for these arms will ever be beneath us!
Sometimes we say the waters of trouble are very deep; like great floods they roll over us. But still and forever, underneath the deepest floods—are these everlasting arms! We cannot sink below them—or out of their clasp!
And when death comes, and every earthly thing is gone from beneath us, and we sink away into what seems darkness—out of all human love, out of warmth and gladness and life—into the gloom and strange mystery of death—still it will only be—into the everlasting arms!
This view of God’s divine care is full of inspiration and comfort. We are not saving ourselves. A strong One, the mighty God—holds us in His omnipotent clasp! We are not tossed like a leaf on life’s wild sea—driven at the mercy of wind and wave. We are in divine keeping. Our security does not depend upon our own feeble, wavering faith—but upon the omnipotence, the love, and the faithfulness of the unchanging, the eternal God!
No power in the universe can snatch us out of His hands! Neither death nor life, nor things present, nor things to come—can separate us from His everlasting arms!
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An ideal Christian home
An ideal Christian home ought to be a place where love rules. It ought to be beautiful, bright, joyous, full of tenderness and affection, a place in which all are growing happier and holier each day. There should never be any discord, any wrangling, any angry words or bitter feelings. The home-life should be a harmonious song without one marring note, day after day. The home, no matter how humble it is, how plain, how small—should be the dearest spot on the earth to each member of the family. It should be made so happy a place, and so full of life, that no matter where one may wander in after years, in any of the ends of the earth—his home should still hold its invisible cords of influence about him, and should ever draw resistless upon his heart. It ought to be the one spot in all the earth, to which he would turn first, when in trouble or in danger. It should be his refuge, in every trial and grief.
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An infallible test of our real self
We have a beautiful prayer at the close of Psalm 19: “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.” There could be no higher standard of life, than is set for us in this prayer.
The conduct may be blameless—while the thoughts are stained with sin. It is easier to keep our acts without fault—than to keep our feelings, our desires, and our affections pure. We may do no outward act of cruelty or unkindness; while our hearts may be full of jealousies, envies, and all selfishness. We are to seek that our thoughts be so white and clean—that they will be acceptable in God’s sight.
The prayer covers our words, our thoughts, and our meditations; each a closer test than the one before. It is a great thing to be faultless in speech—but perfect grammar is not enough. Our words may be beautiful and graceful—and yet our thoughts may be full of hypocrisy, of deceit, of all evil! The prayer here is that our thoughts may please God. This is a higher spiritual attainment, than merely faultless words.
Then, a still higher test of life—is our meditation. Meditations are our deepest thoughts, the quiet ponderings of our hearts. Meditation is almost an obsolete word in these times of hustle and bustle. The word belongs rather to the days when men had much time to think—and think deeply. We meditate when we are alone, when we are shut away from others. Our minds then follow the drift of our own desires, dispositions, and imaginations. If our hearts are clean and good—our meditations are pure and holy. But if our hearts are evil and unclean—our meditations are of the same moral quality. Thus, our meditations are an infallible test of our real self. “As a man thinks in his heart—so is he.” Proverbs 23:6
This prayer is, therefore, for a life of the highest character—one acceptable to God, not only in words and thoughts—but also in meditations. Such a life, everyone who loves God and would be like God—should seek to live!
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Any moment we may be stricken down!
“Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord, for I hide myself in You.” Psalm 143:9
Each day is full of dangers—dangers we cannot see, and from which we cannot protect ourselves. Disease lurks in the air we breathe, and hides in the water we drink, or in the food we eat. Along the street where we walk, on the railway over which we ride—there are perils. Any moment we may be stricken down! There may be enemies who are plotting against us, conspiring to do us harm.
There are certainly spiritual enemies, who are seeking to destroy us! The sunniest day is full of them. No African jungle is so full of savage and blood-thirsty wild beasts—as the common days in our lives are full of spiritual enemies and perils. These dangers are unseen—and hence cannot protect ourselves. “Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy! He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour!” 1 Peter 5:8
What, then, can we do? As we go out in the morning we can offer this prayer, “Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord, for I hide myself in You.” We can thus put our frail, imperiled lives—into the hands of our almighty God!
“Cast your burden upon the Lord—and He shall sustain you.” Psalm 55:22. We are not promised that our prayers shall take the perils and temptations out of our day. It is not thus, that God usually helps. We are bidden to cast our burden upon the Lord—but we are not told that He will lift it away from us. The promise is that we shall be sustained and strengthened in bearing it.
We need the burden! It is God’s gift to us, and has a blessing in it, which we cannot afford to miss. Prayer does not take our trials away—but it puts our life into the hands of God—so that in His keeping, we shall be kept from harm while we pass through our trials. It brings God’s grace into our heart—to preserve us from falling into sin; and God’s strength into our life—that we may be victorious over our enemies.
Not to pray as we go into the day’s dangers and trials—is to meet them without the help of Christ, and surely to suffer hurt, and possibly to fall into sin!
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As the tree falls—so must it lie
“Let him who does wrong—continue to do wrong; let him who is vile—continue to be vile” Revelation 22:11
The character with which men reach the final judgment—will be their permanent character forever. The man who lives in sin unto the end—is making his own destiny. Habits of sin—make the whole life sinful. It is this that gives such solemnity to life. The seeds of our future eternity—lie in our present.
Out of our little acts—habits grow;
from our habits—character springs;
and our character—fixes our destiny!
Everyone goes to his own place—that is, the place for which he is fitted by his life on the earth. He who has always sinned here on earth—will continue to sin forever. Eternal death—is simply eternal sin, along with the punishments and consequences thereof. The punishment of the wicked will not be an arbitrary punishment—but the natural result of their own choices and acts in this life.
As the tree falls—so must it lie;
As the man lives—so must he die!
As a man dies—such must he be;
All through the ages of eternity!
It makes a great difference, therefore, how we live in this world. There is an false impression in some people’s minds, that they can live in sin all their days, and then by a few tears of penitence and a few cries of mercy in a dying hour—can change all the course of their life and spend eternity in heaven. This verse does not favor such a view. The future life—is but the harvest of this present life.
Men will be judged by their deeds. The New Testament everywhere teaches the same solemn truth. This does not mean that salvation is by works. We are saved by grace—but grace changes the life and makes us holy.
“To die is gain”—only to those who can sincerely say, “To me, to live is Christ!”
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As we pass through its foul streets
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this—to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27
Holiness means separation unto God. The life which belongs to Christ—must be kept from sin. The hands which are held up in prayer—must not touch any unclean thing. The lips which speak to God, and sing His praise—must not be stained by any sinful or bitter words. The heart which is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit—must not open to any thought or affection which would defile God’s temple. The feet which Christ’s pierced hands have washed—must not walk in any of sin’s unhallowed paths. A Christian’s life must be holy.
Unholiness is very subtle. It creeps in when we are not aware. It begins in the heart. At first it is but a thought, a moment’s imagination, a passing emotion, or a desire. Hence the heart should be kept with unremitting diligence. Only pure and holy thoughts should be entertained.
It is in the thoughts, that all acts begin. All acts are first thoughts. Our thoughts build up our character, as the coral insects build up the great reefs. “As a man thinks in his heart—so is he.” If we are to keep ourselves unspotted from the world, as we pass through its foul streets—we must see to it that no unholy thing is for a moment tolerated in our heart! A crime stains one’s name before the world; a sinful thought or desire stains the soul in God’s sight, and grieves the divine Spirit within us! “Above all else, guard your heart, for out of it are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23
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Begin where you can!
“I am God Almighty; walk before Me and be perfect.” Genesis 17:1
“Perfection is impossible!” we are in the habit of saying; and therefore we do not try to reach perfection. But it is better for us always to keep our aim high, although we cannot hope to reach it. If we have low ideals and aims—our attainments will be low. We cannot look with approval upon anything lower than the perfect beauty of God Himself—and not have the beauty of our own life dimmed thereby. We should always keep perfection before us—as our aim. We should keep our eyes ever fixed upon the perfect model, Jesus Christ!
He Himself taught, “Be perfect, therefore—as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48. We are always to seek to model our life upon the divine pattern. Of course we cannot reach this lofty standard in a day—but the way to Christlikeness, is to strive toward it.
When a child begins to write, his scrawling lines fall far short of the beauty of the original at the top of the page. Book after book he fills with his scribble—but if he is diligent, each new page shows a little improvement, and by and by—his writing rivals the original. We can learn to live holy and sweetly, only in the same way. Begin where you can, no matter how imperfect or faulty your life—but strive always toward perfection, and at last you shall be like Christ! That is the hope which shines before us: when we shall see Him as He is—and shall be like Him!
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Better to rot in prison!
“How can I do this great wickedness—and sin against God!” Genesis 39:9
“After hearing his wife’s story, Potiphar was furious! He took Joseph and threw him into the prison!” Genesis 39:19-20
Sometimes it costs very dearly—to be true to God. Joseph lay now in a dungeon. But his loss through doing right, was nothing in comparison with what he would have lost—had he done the wickedness to which he was tempted. His prison gloom, deep as it was—was as noonday, compared with what would have been the darkness of his soul under the blight of evil, and the bitterness of remorse. The chains that hung upon him in his dungeon, were but like feathers—in comparison with the heavy chains which would have bound his soul, had he yielded to the temptation. Though in a prison, his feet hurt by the fetters—he was a free man because his conscience was free, and his heart was pure!
No fear of consequences should ever drive us to do a wrong thing.
It is better to suffer any loss, any cost, any sacrifice—than be eaten up by remorse!
Better be hurled down from a high place for doing right—than win worldly honor by doing wrong.
Better lose our right hand—than lose our purity of soul.
Better to rot in prison—than to sin against God!
It was the prayer of a young queen, which she wrote with a diamond point on her castle window, “Keep me pure; make others great.” That is the lesson of Joseph’s victory over temptation; dishonor, loss, dungeon, death—anything before sin!
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Books and magazines
In considering the influences in the home-life which leave deep and permanent impressions on character, thought must be given to the books and magazines which are read. On the printed pages which fly everywhere like the leaves of autumn, drifting to our doors and swept into our innermost chambers—are borne to us the golden thoughts of the best and wisest men and women of all ages. The blessings which the printing press scatters, are infinite and rich beyond all estimates. But the same press which today gives us pure and holy thoughts, words of truth and life; tomorrow gives us veiled suggestions of evil, words of honeyed sweetness—but in which deadly poison is concealed!
It is fabled that a soldier found a casket which was reported to be full of valuable treasures. It was opened, and out of it came a poisonous atmosphere which caused a terrible plague in the army. Just so—many a book which is bound in bright colors, has stored within those covers, the most deadly moral influences! To open it in a pure home, among young and tender lives, is to let loose evils which never can be gathered back and locked up again!
The printing press puts into the hands of parents a means of good, which they may use to the greatest advantage in the culture of their home-life, and in the shaping of the lives of their household. But they must keep a most diligent watch over the pages which they introduce. They should know the character of every book and magazine which comes within their doors, and should resolutely exclude everything which would defile. Then, while they exclude everything whose influence would be for evil, if they are wise they will bring into their home as much as possible of pure, elevating, and refining literature. Every beautiful thought which enters a child’s mind, adds to the strength and loveliness of the character in after days. The educating influence of the best books and magazines is incalculable, and no parent can afford to lose it in the training of his family.
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Building their nests in our hair!
The experience of temptation is universal. Every life must grow up amid unfriendly and opposing influences. Some of them are subtle and insidious, like a pestilence in the air. Some of them fierce and wild, like the blast of storm, or the rush of battle.
The question in life is not how to escape temptation—but how to pass through it so as not to be harmed by it. Christ’s way of helping us, is not by keeping us out of the conflicts. This would leave us forever weak, untried, and undisciplined. The price of spiritual attainment and culture, is struggle. Jesus Himself was made perfect through suffering.
All the best things in life—the only things worth obtaining—lie beyond fields of battle, and we can get them only by overcoming. It would be no kindness to us—were God to withdraw us into some sheltered spot whenever there is danger; or if He were to fight our battles for us, thus freeing us from all necessity to struggle.
Yet there is a way of so living in this world—as not to suffer harm in even the fiercest temptations—to pass through them and not be damaged by them. There is even a way of so meeting temptations as to get benefit and blessing from them! “Blessed is the man who endures temptation—for when he has been approved, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to those who love Him.”
Rightly meeting and victoriously resisting temptation, puts new fiber into the soul. The Indians say that when a warrior kills a foe—the spirit of the vanquished enemy enters the victor’s heart and adds to his own strength. This is true in spiritual warfare. We grow stronger through our struggles and victories! Each lust conquered, each evil subdued—adds to the strength of our soul.
The question, then—is how to meet temptation so as to overcome it, and thus win the blessing there is in it. We must remember, first of all, that we are not able in ourselves successfully to fight our battles. If we think we are, and go forth in our own name and strength, we shall utterly fail. Life is too large, and its struggles and conflicts are too great—for the strongest human, unaided by divine power.
We must settle it once for all—that we can conquer only in the name and by the help of the strong Son of God. We may come off the field more than conquerors—but only through him who loved us. We can pass safely through all the fierce dangers of this world and be kept unspotted amid its sin and foulness—but only if we have with us, Him who is able to keep us from stumbling, and set us before the presence of His glory without blemish in exceeding joy. Self-confidence in our own ability to overcome temptation—is fatal folly!
Men and devils may tempt us—but men and devils cannot force us to yield! Others may seek to influence us—they may plead, entreat and persuade—but they cannot compel us.
We cannot avoid being tempted—but we ought to avoid yielding to temptation. Luther used to say, “We cannot keep the birds from flying over our heads—but we can prevent them from building their nests in our hair!” Just so, we cannot keep temptations away from our ears, nor prevent them whispering their seductive words close by us—but we can hinder them making their nests in our hearts!
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Do not forget all His benefits!
“Praise the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all His benefits:
who forgives all your sins,
who heals all your diseases,
who saves your life from the pit,
who crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things!”
What an enumeration of divine blessings is this!
Any one of them is worth more than all earth’s treasures combined!
If we are not forgiven—we must lie forever under the burden of sin, a weight greater than all the Alps! But God forgives—and forgives all our sins—and forgives freely, fully and forever!
If we are not healed—we must be sick forever, sick with the plague and leprosy of sin! But God heals—and heals all our evils, and heals completely!
If we are not savedfrom the dangers of this ensnaring world—we never can reach heaven! But God keeps, rescues, and saves our life from all impending destructions!
Earth’s crowns are made of thorns, and at the best are only what the children call, ‘play-crowns’, for they are but of leaves that wither, or of gold and gems that will not last. But God crowns His people with crowns of love and compassion, which are real and radiant, which shall never fade—but shall shine forever, becoming crowns of eternal life and glory in heaven!
This world cannot satisfy our heart’s deepest cravings. Its possessions only make our hunger more intense! But God satisfies the souls of His people, and meets all their cravings and hungers with truly good and eternal realities!
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Does God hear when we grumble about the weather?
“The Lord hears your murmurings which you murmur against Him!” Exodus 16:8
This is startling! Does God really hear every discontented word we speak?
Does God hear when we grumble about the weather, about the hard winter, about the late spring, about the dry summer, about the wet harvest, about the high winds, about the storms?
Does God hear when we complain about our circumstances, about the hardness of our lot, about our losses and disappointments?
If we could get into our hearts and keep there continually, the consciousness that every word we speak is heard in heaven, and falls upon God’s ears before it falls upon any other ear—would we murmur as we now do?
“The Lord hears your murmurings which you murmur against Him!” Exodus 16:8
“And I tell you this, that you must give an account on judgment day of every idle word you speak!” Matthew 12:36
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Does God really care for us?
“I am poor and needy—yet the Lord thinks upon me!” Psalm 40:17
Did God really care for him? And does God care for us, and think upon us—when we are poor and needy? Does God really care for us, as individuals? Does He give personal thought to any of us—to you, to me—according to our condition? Does pain or trouble in us—cause pity in His heart? Does God care? Does He see the individual in the crowd? When you are passing through some great trouble, enduring pain or adversity—does God know it, and does He care?
A daughter had a bitter sorrow, a sore disappointment. The mother knew just what her daughter was passing through. Her love for her child, entered into and shared all the child’s experiences. The mother cared. Is there ever anything like this in the heart of God—as He looks upon His children and knows that they are suffering?
When we turn to the Bible, we find on every page the revelation—that God does care—and has personal interest in His people.
Christ assured His disciples, that the very hairs of their heads are all numbered; meaning that God personally cares for all the minutest affairs of our lives—He cares for us as individuals. His love is as personal and individual, as the love of a mother for each one of her children.
Paul took the love of Christ to himself—as if he were the only one Christ loved! “He loved me—and gave Himself up for me!” God’slove is personal. He cares for us—for me!
Whatever your need, your trial, your perplexity, your struggle may be—you may be sure that God knows and cares—and that when you come to Him with it, He will take time amid all His infinite affairs, to help you—as if He had nothing else in all the world to do!
God cares! His love for each one of His children is so deep, so personal, so tender—that He has compassion on our every pain, every distress, every struggle. “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.” Psalm 103:13. God is our Father, and His care is gentler than a human father’s—as His love exceeds human love.
Much human care has no power to help—but when God cares—He helps omnipotently. When human friendship can give no relief—then God will come. When no one in all the world cares—then God cares! “Cast all your cares upon Him, because He cares about you!” 1 Peter 5:7
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Earth’s broken things
“This man welcomes sinners—and eats with them!” Luke 15:2
“I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you!” Matthew 21:31
Christ is building His kingdom with earth’s broken things.
Men want only the strong, the successful, the victorious, the unbroken—in building their kingdoms. But God is the God of the broken, the unsuccessful, of those who have failed. Heaven is filling with earth’s broken lives, and there is no ‘bruised reed’ which Christ cannot take and restore to glorious blessedness and beauty. He can take the life crushed by pain or sorrow—and make it into a harp whose music shall be all praise. He can lift earth’s saddest failure—up to heaven’s glory!
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Evil chapters in your ‘life story’
“May you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should—how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love really is! May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it!” Ephesians 3:18-19
Think of thelength of the love of Christ—in its wonderful forgiveness, its infinite patience, its mercy that endures forever.
Human mercy is usually very short. There are evil chapters in your ‘life story’, which you would not for the world, uncover to the eye of even your gentlest friend! “He would detest me!” you say, “if he knew these things about me!”
There are evil thoughts in your inner life—feelings, emotions, desires, lusts, imaginations, jealousies, envyings—which you would not dare to lay open to your neighbor’s gaze! “He would loathe me!” you say, “if he knew these things about me!”
Yet Christ sees all, knows all—and still He loves. He loves unto the uttermost. His mercy endures forever. His patience never fails. When the love of Christ clasps a human life—its clasp is for eternal years! He says to each of His children, “I have loved you with an everlasting love!” “The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but My kindness shall not depart from you!”
We may think also of the depth of Christ’s love. How shall we fathom it? Human love is often a stream so shallow—that it cannot cover even the minor faults and the trivial mistakes of its object. But the love of Christ is so deep—that it covers everything, hides completely out of sight, the multitude of our sins, and buries them forever in its unfathomable abysses!
“May you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should—how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love really is! May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it!” Ephesians 3:18-19
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For final revision and approval
“No good thing will He withhold, from those who walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11
This may seem to be a surprising statement at first glance. Does God withhold no good thing from His people? We must focus on the word “good”. It is notmerely the things which we want—that God always gives. Nor is it not the things which we think are good—that God gives. Perhaps they are not really ‘good things’—as God sees them. We must always leave to Him—to decide whether they are good or not. He is wiser than we are—and knows just what effect on us, the things we crave would have. We must submit all our requests to Him—for final revision and approval, when we make them.
This is the teaching about prayer, so prominent in the New Testament, which bids us to add to all our most earnest pleadings: “Nevertheless not my will—but may Your will be done.” If the thing we ask for does not come—we must therefore conclude that in God’s sight, it is not a “good thing” for us. Thus it is—that God’s withholdings are as great a blessing to us—as His bestowings!
There is another phrase here, which we must study. It is “from those who walk uprightly” that God will withhold no good thing. It is only when we are walking obediently, in God’s ways—that we have a right to claim this promise. For, “if I regard iniquity in my heart—the Lord will not hear me!” Psalm 66:18
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Four walls do not make a home
Four walls do not make a home—though it is a palace filled with all the elegances which wealth can buy! The home-life itself is more important than the house and its adornments. By the home-life, is meant the happy art of living together in tender love. We enter some homes, and they are full of sweetness—as fields of summer flowers are full of fragrance. All is order, beauty, gentleness and peace. We enter other homes, where we find jarring, selfishness, harshness and disorder. This difference is not accidental. They are influences at work in each home, which yield just the result we see in each. No home-life can ever be better than the life of those who make it.
Homes are the real schools in which men and women are trained—and fathers and mothers are the real teachers and builders of life!
Sadly, the goal which most parents have for their home—is to have as good and showy a house as they can afford, furnished in as rich a style as their means will warrant, and then to live in it as comfortably as they are able, without too much exertion or self-denial.
But the true idea of a Christian home, is that it is a place for spiritual growth. It is a place for the parents themselves to grow—to grow into beauty of character, to grow in spiritual refinement, in knowledge, in strength, in wisdom, in patience, gentleness, kindliness, and all the Christian graces and virtues. It is a place for children to grow—to grow into physical vigor and health, and to be trained in all that shall make them true and noble men and women.
A true home is set up and all its life ordered—for the definite purpose of training, building up and sending our human lives fashioned into Christlike symmetry, filled with lofty impulses and aspirations, governed by principles of rectitude and honor, and fitted to enter upon the duties and struggles of life with spiritual wisdom and strength.
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Gather more worldly trinkets
“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed! A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15
Few people think of the danger of getting rich.
Most think that they become great—just in proportion as they gather wealth. Yet there never was a more fatal error!
A man is really measured by what he IS—not by what he HAS. We may find a shriveled soul in the midst of a great fortune; and a noble soul in the barest poverty.
A man’s real “life” is what would be left of him—if everything he has were stripped off. His real ‘worth’ is his character, as it appears in God’s sight.
We will make a great mistake if our goal in life—is simply to gather more worldly trinkets than our neighbor!
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God does not deal with us in this ‘sentimental’ way!
“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!” Matthew 15:22
We are apt to forget that the aim of God with us, is . . .
not to flood us with tenderness all the time,
not to keep our path always strewn with flowers,
not to continually give us everything we want,
not to save us from all manner of suffering.
No! God’s aim with us, is . . .
to make something of us,
to build up strong and noble character in us,
to mature qualities of grace and beauty in us,
to make us more like Christ!
To do this—He must ofttimes deny us what we ask for, and must seem indifferent to our cries. “Jesus did not answer her a word!“
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!
There is a danger with all of us—our tenderness lacks strength. We cannot tolerate to see people suffer, and so we hasten to give relief—before the ministry of suffering is accomplished. We think of our mission to others, 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 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!
Suppose for a moment, that God immediately gave us everything we ask for—and immediately removed 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 would 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 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 the 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!
“The Lord disciplines the one He loves, and punishes every son whom He receives.” Hebrews 12:6
“God disciplines us for our good—that we may share in His holiness.” Hebrews 12:10
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Grow old sweetly and beautifully
It takes a great deal of grace to grow old sweetly and beautifully. It is not possible to carry the alertness and energy of young manhood, into advanced years. Yet if we live wisely and rightly all our lives—old age ought to be the best of life. We certainly ought to make it beautiful and godly, for our life is not finished until we come to its very last day.
We ought to be wiser when we are old—than ever we have been in any former years. We ought to have learned by experience. We ought to be better in every way—with more of God’s peace in our hearts, with more gentleness and patience. We ought to have learned self-control, and to be better able to rule our own spirit. We ought to have more love, more joy, more thoughtfulness, to be more considerate, to have more humility.
Old age never should be the dregs of the years, the mere cinder of a burnt-out life. One may not have the vigor and strenuousness of the mid-years—but one should be every way truer, richer-hearted, holier. If the outward man has grown weaker and feebler—the inner man should have grown stronger and Christlier.
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“Mordecai gave Hathach a copy of the decree issued in Susa that called for the death of all Jews, and he asked Hathach to show it to Esther. He also asked Hathach to explain it to her and to urge her to go to the king to beg for mercy and plead for her people. So Hathach returned to Esther with Mordecai’s message. Then Esther told Hathach to go back and relay this message to Mordecai . . .” Esther 4:8-10
We are apt to overlook the minor actors in Scripture stories—in our absorbed interest in the prominent ones. Yet ofttimes these lesser people are just as important in their own place, and their service is just as essential to the final success of the whole—as the greater ones.
The little girl in the story of Naaman the leper, is scarcely seen among the splendors of the Syrian court; but without her part, we would never have had the story at all.
The young lad with the basket, is hardly thought of when we read the account of the miracle; but they were his loaves with which the Master fed all those hungry thousands that day on the green grass.
The smallest links in a chain—are ofttimes quite as important as the greatest links.
Hathach was one of these obscure characters. But his part was by no means unimportant. Without his being a trustworthy messenger, Mordecai’s communication with Esther would have been impossible—and the whole nation would have perished!
If we cannot do brave things like Esther, nor give wise counsels like Mordecai—we may at least be useful, as Hathach was, in faithful service. And perhaps our lowly part may some day prove to have been as essential—as the great deeds which all men praise. We may at least help some others in doing the great things that they are set to do in this world.
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He had to ‘learn the lesson’ just as we do!
“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in need.” Philippians 4:11-12
Life is a ‘school’. All its experiences are ‘lessons’.
We are all in ‘Christ’s school’—and He is always ‘educating’ us.
Disciples are ‘learners’ and all true Christians are disciples. We enter the lowest grade when we begin to be Christians. We have everything to learn. Each new experience, is a new lessonset for us by the great Teacher.
The business of noble Christian living—is learning. We know nothing when we begin. Learning is not confined to what we get from reading books. All of life is a school. ‘Christ’s books’ are ever being put into our hands, and ‘lessons’ are set for us continually.
Paul tells us of one of the lessons he had learned in the ‘school of experience’. “I have learned,” he said, “the secret of being content in any and every situation.” We are glad to know that Paul had to learn to be contented. We are apt to think that such a man as he was—did not have to learn to live as we common people do; that he always knew, for instance, how to be contented. Here, however, we have the confession that he had to ‘learn the lesson’ just as we do. He did not always know ‘the secret of contentment’. He was well on in years when he said this, from which we conclude that it took him a long time to learn the lesson—and that it was not easy for him to do it. Christ’s school is not easy.
Sorrow is a choice lesson in Christ’s school. Sorrow is not an accident breaking into our life, without meaning or purpose. God could prevent the coming of the sorrow—if He so desired. He has all power, and nothing can touch the life of any of His children—unless He is willing. Since we know that God loves us and yet permits us to suffer—we may be quite sure that there is a blessing, something good, in whatever it is that brings us pain or sorrow.
We shrink from pain. We would run away from afflictions. We would refuse to accept sorrow. But there are things worth suffering for, things dearer than ease and pleasure. We learn lessons in pain, which repay a thousand times—the cost of our tears!
The Bible tells us that God preserves the tears of His children, putting them in His tear-bottle. Tears are sacred to God, because of the blessings that come through them, to His children. In heaven, we will look back on our lives of pain and sorrow on the earth—and will find that our best lessons have come through our tears!
All the ‘Christian graces’ have to be learned in ‘Christ’s school’. There Paul had learned contentment. He never would have learned it, however, if he had had only pleasure and ease all his life. Contentment comes from learning to do without things, which we once supposed to be essential to our comfort. Paul had learned contentment through finding such fullness of blessing in Christ—that he did not need the ‘secondary things’ any more.
Perhaps we would succeed better in learning this same grace—if we had fewer of life’s comforts—if sometimes we had experience of need. The continuity of blessings that flow like a river into our lives—gives us no opportunity to learn contentment.
When sufferings come into our life . . .
disagreeable things—instead of pleasant things;
hunger and poverty—instead of plenty;
rough ways—instead of flower-strewn paths;
God is teaching us the ‘lesson of contentment’, so that we can say at length, that we have learned the secret of being content!
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He is especially kind to the lambs
“I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep!” John 10:11
The shepherd is a favorite Scriptural picture of the divine love and care. In the Old Testament, the twenty-third Psalm gathers the whole wonderful truth in exquisite lines which are dear to both young and old, wherever the Bible is known. Then in the New Testament, when our Lord would give His friends the sweetest revealings of His heart toward them, and tell them what they are to Him, and what He would be to them—He says, “I am the Good Shepherd.”
The earthly shepherd lives with his sheep. If they are out in the storm, or exposed to any danger—he is with them. Likewise, Christ lives with His people—in all their afflictions, and all their storms. He enters into closest relations with them.
The earthly shepherd knows his sheep. He has a name for each one—and calls them all by their names. Christ knows each one of His friends, and has intimate personal knowledge of each one. He knows the best in us—and also the worst. He knows our faults, our sins, our wanderings. Yet, knowing us as we are—He loves us still, and never wearies of us!
The earthly shepherd is most gentle with his sheep. He does not drive them—but goes before them and leads them. When they need rest on the way, he makes them lie down, and chooses for their resting-place, not the dusty road—but green pastures. He is especially kind to the lambs, gathers them in his arms and carries them in his bosom. All this is an exquisite picture of the gentleness of our Good Shepherd, in His care of His sheep. He is thoughtful toward the weak. He loves the ‘lambs’ and makes room for them in His bosom. Whatever the need is, there is something in the heart of Christ which meets its craving, and supplies its lack.
The earthly shepherd defends his flock in all danger. Often he has to risk his own safety, even his life, in protecting his sheep. Just so, the Good Shepherd gives His life for His sheep. Christ’s sheep are absolutely safe in His keeping. “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand!” John 10:28. Then at last He will bring His own all safely home, “and they shall become one flock, one Shepherd.”
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He loves us too well
“I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are just, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.” Psalm 119:75
Sometimes the ways of God do seem hard. Our fondest hopes are crushed; our fairest joys fade like summer flowers; the desires of our hearts are withheld from us.
Yet, if we are God’s children, we believe that a blessing is hidden in every one of these losses or denials. Right here, we get a glimpse into the mystery of many unanswered prayers. The things we seek, would not work good for us in the end—but evil. The things we plead to have removed—are essential to our highest interests.
Health is supposed to be better than sickness—but there comes a time when God’s kindness will be most wisely shown—by denying us health. He never takes pleasure in causing us to suffer; He is touched by our sorrows. Yet He loves us too well, to give us things that would harm us, or to spare us the trial that is needful for our spiritual good. It will be seen in the end, that many of the very richest blessings of all our lives—have come to us through God’s denials, His withholdings, or His shattering of our hopes and joys.
We should never forget that the object of all of God’s dealings with His children—is to sanctify us, and make us vessels fit for His use. To this high and glorious end, our present pleasure and gratification must ofttimes be sacrificed. This isthe true key to all the mysteries of Providence. Anything that hinders entire consecration to Christ, is working us harm; and though it be our tenderest joy, it is best that it be taken away.
Prayer is not always granted, even when the heart clings with holiest affection to its most precious joy. Nothing must hinder our consecration. We should never think first of what will give us earthly joy or comfort—but of what will fit us for doing the Master’s service.
Pain is often better for us—than pleasure;
loss is often better for us—than gain;
sorrow is often better for us—than joy;
disaster is often better for us—than deliverance.
Faith should know that God’s withholdings from us, when He does not give what we ask—are richer blessings than were He to open to us all His treasure-houses at whose doors we stand and knock with so great vehemence. Our unanswered prayers have just as real and as blessed answer—as those which bring what we seek.
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He must increase—but I must decrease
“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men—to be seen by them.” Matthew 6:1
One of the most difficult lessons to learn, is self-effacement. It seems to us, that we have a right to put our name on every piece of work we do, and to get full honor for it. We like people to know of the good and virtuous things we do—the kindnesses we show, our gifts, our sacrifices, and our services.
SELF always dies hard.
John the Baptist, in his life and ministry, illustrated the grace of self-effacement as few other men have done. When he first began to preach, great throngs flocked about him. But when Jesus came—the crowds melted away from John and went after the new preacher. John rejoiced in seeing Jesus thus honored, though at the cost of his own fame. “He must increase—but I must decrease” was his answer, when his disciples grew envious of the Galilean Rabbi. He understood that the highest use to which his life could be put—was to add to the honor of his Master. He was glad to be unnoticed, to have his own name extinguished, that the glory of Christ might shine the more brightly.
Renunciation of self should characterize all who follow Christ. They should seek only to get recognition for Him, willing for themselves to be unrecognized and unhonored. Yet not always are the Master’s friends content to be nothing—that the praise may be given to Christ. Too often do they insist upon having their own name written in bold letters on their work. It would be the mark of a higher degree in spiritual attainment, if we were willing to be anonymous in every service for Christ.
Not only should we do all our work for the divine approval—but we should not be seeking to get our own name on what we do. If it is done solely for the honor of Christ, why should we be solicitous to have everybody know our part in it? Should it not be honor enough—to have Christ accept our work and use it?
Only what we do for the honor of Christ—is really gold and silver and precious stones in the spiritual building; all the rest is but wood, hay, and stubble, which cannot abide.
Are we willing to do deeds of service and love, and then keep absolutely quiet about what we have done? Is there not among us, too much of the spirit which our Lord so severely condemned—sounding a trumpet before us—when we are going out to do some deed of charity, some act of kindness?
“Everything they do—is done for men to see.” Matthew 23:5
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He saw that they were in serious trouble!
“Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side. After leaving them, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray.
He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. About three o’clock in the morning He came to them, walking on the water.” Mark 6:45, 46, 48
Jesus did not come immediately; indeed, it was almost morning when He came, and the disciples had been struggling all night in the storm. Yet He had not been indifferent to them meanwhile. From the mountainside where He was praying—He kept His eye upon them. “He saw that they were in serious trouble.” All that dark night, He kept a watch upon that little boat that bore His disciples in the midst of the waves.
There is something very suggestive in the narrative. This ‘boat in the storm’, is a picture of ‘Christ’s friends in this world, in the storms of life’. Sometimes we think we are forgotten—but from His place in glory, Christ’s eye is always on us! He sees us struggling, battling with the waves, beaten, and distressed. He has full sympathy with us in all our struggles. It ought to be a great strength and comfort to us in trial, to know this. Jesus intercedes for us in our distresses!
It may not be best always to deliver us immediately—but His prayer continually ascends, that our faith may not fail in the struggle. This also should encourage us.
Then, He always comes in time. He may delay long—but it is never too long. If we call upon Him in trouble—we may be sure that He hears and sees us, and knows just how hard it is for us to endure; that He prays for us that we may not fail, and that He will come at the right time for our deliverance!
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He who holds the pruning-knife
“Every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15:2
Every sorrow has a mission. It comes to us, as God’s messenger—with a message!
Of lessons to be learned in sorrow, the first always is submission.
A strong, abiding confidence that all the trials, sorrows, and losses of our lives are parts of our
Father’s husbandry—ought to silence every question, quiet every fear, and give peace and
restful assurance to our hearts in all their pain. We cannot know the reason for the painful
strokes—but we know that He who holds the pruning-knife is our Father! That ought
always to be enough for us to know.
“Every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15:2
He who holds the pruning-knife!
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the gardener. . . . He prunes every branch that produces fruit—so that it will produce more fruit.” John 15:1-2
Our Father is the gardener; we are branches under His care. He watches over our lives. The painful afflictions which cut into our very souls, the taking from us of objects that are dear to us, as when the gardener with his sharp knife removes luxuriant branches from the vine—are our Father’s prunings! No hand but His—ever holds the knife! We are sure, then, that there is never any careless cutting, any unwise or mistaken pruning, any needless removing of rich branches or growths.
We really need to go no farther than this. A strong, abiding confidence that all the trials, sorrows and losses of our lives—are parts of our Father’s prunings—ought to silence every question, quiet every fear and give peace and restful assurance to our hearts, in all their pain. We cannot know the reason for the painful strokes—but we know that He who holds the pruning-knife is our Father! That is all we need to know.
The other thought in the Lord’s parable, is scarcely less full of comfort to a Christian. Jesus says, that it is the fruitful branches which the Father prunes: “He prunes every branch that produces fruit—so that it will produce more fruit.”
Afflictions are not, then, a mark of God’s anger or disapproval; rather, they are a mark of His favor. The branches into which He cuts, from which he trims away the luxuriant growths—are fruit-bearing already. He does not prune the fruitless branches—He cuts them off altogether as useless, as mere cumberers, absorbing life and yielding nothing of blessing or good.
Some Christians have the impression that their many troubles indicate that God does not love them—that they cannot be true Christians, or they would not be so chastened. This teaching of Christ shows how mistaken they are. The much chastening shows that the Father is pruning His fruitful branch—to make it more fruitful! All whom the Father loves—He chastens!
It is the fruitless branch that is never pruned; the fruitful branch is pruned, and pruned—not by one without skill, not by an enemy—but by the wise Father! Thus we see how we may rejoice—even in our trials and afflictions!
One who was altogether ignorant of the art and purpose of pruning, who should see a man with a sharp knife cutting off branch after branch of a luxuriant vine, would at first suppose that the pruner was ruining the vine. So at the time it seems—but by and by, it appears that the prunings have made the vine more fruitful. In the season of vintage, the grapes are more luscious, with a richer flavor in them—because of the cutting away of the superfluous branches.
In like manner, if an angel who had never witnessed anything of human suffering, and who knew nothing of its object, were to see the Father causing pain and affliction to His children, it would seem to him that these experiences could be only destructive of happiness and blessing; but if the angel were to follow those chastened lives on to the end, he would see untold blessing coming out of the chastenings! The Father was but pruning the branches—that they might bear more and better fruit!
We should never lose sight of the divine purpose in all trials—to make our lives more fruitful.
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Here is an arm that never can be broken!
“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms!” Deuteronomy 33:27
There are some choice thoughts in the figure of ‘God’s embracing arm’.
One thought is protection. A father puts his arm around his child when it is in danger. Just so, God protects His children. Temptations beset us on every hand. Many people think of ‘dying’ with dread, fearing to meet it. But life has far more perils than death! It is easy to die—when one has truly lived for Christ; it is only entering into eternal joy and blessedness. But it is hard to live. At every point there are perils. We need protection. Here we have it, “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms!”
Another suggestion is affection. The father’s arm around the child, means love. The child is held in the bosom, near the heart. John lay on Christ’s bosom. The shepherd gathers the lambs with his arms and carries them in his bosom. This picture of God embracing His children with His arm, tells of His love for them. It tells also of intimacy, and closeness of relation. The bosom is the children’s place.
There is yet a tenderer phase of the thought here. It is especially in the time of danger or suffering, that the mother carries the child in her arms. She takes it up when it has fallen and hurt itself, and comforts it by enfolding it in her arms. When it is sick, she presses it to her bosom.
We have here, a picture of the special sympathy and tenderness of our heavenly Father for His children—when they are in pain or in trouble. This is one of the blessings of suffering—it gets us to the inner place of divine affection, nearest to the Father’s heart! God draws us nearest—when we are in trouble or in pain!
The arm is also the symbol of strength. A mother’s arm may be physically frail—but love makes it strong. The arm of God is strong—it is omnipotent. It supports worlds! When that divine arm encircles one of His feeble children—all the power of the universe cannot tear it away!
Every true human friend is more or less a strength to us. Yet the finest, securest human strength—is only a little fragment of the divine strength. “Trust in the Lord always—for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength!” Isaiah 26:4. This is omnipotence! Here is an arm that never can be broken, and out of its clasp we never can be torn!
Another thought concerning the everlasting arms, is endurance. There might be protection, affection, and strength—and yet the blessings might not last. We have all these in human love—but human arms grow weary—even in love’s embrace. But the arms of God are everlasting. They shall never grow weary. It is everlastingness, which is the highest blessedness of divine affection and care!
Here is something that lasts, which knows no separation, which never unclasps. The arms of God are everlasting. Neither death nor life can separate. The mountains shall depart, crumble, vanish—but God’s kindness shall never depart from His beloved child!
There is a very sacred thought in the word ‘underneath‘. A father tried to save his child in the waves, clasping his arms around the beloved form. But his arms were too weak, and the child slipped from them, sank away in the dark waters, and perished. But the arms of God are underneath His children—and none can sink out of His embrace! His arms are always ‘underneath’.
The waves of sorrow are very deep—but still and forever underneath the deepest floods—are the everlasting arms. We cannot sink below them. If we lie down in sickness, the everlasting arms are underneath us. If human friendships are stripped off, and we stand alone in our bereavement, still we are not alone. Underneath are the everlasting arms. God remains—and God suffices.
Then, when death comes, and every earthly thing is gone from beneath us, and every hand unclasps from ours, and every face of love fades from our eyes, and we sink away into what seems darkness—it will be only into the everlasting arms! To every true Christian, death is only departing from earth’s weariness and pain—to forever nest in the bosom of Christ!
If we realized that the eternal God is our refuge, and that the everlasting arms are truly underneath us—our joy would not fluctuate as it does, nor our zeal be so fitful. We need a deeper repose in Christ, a more trustful settling down upon Him and upon His atoning work. Then nothing could disturb our confidence, nothing could chill our ardor, nothing could hinder our consecration. Then in sorrow we would rejoice, in temptation we would be victorious, and in all of life we would be Christ-like and strong!
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His life is the text book
“Leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.” 1 Peter 2:21
Jesus took His first disciples into His school and for three years taught and trained them. He made known to them the great truths of Christianity, which He had come to reveal. Then He taught them how to live.
Bible knowledge alone, does not alone make one a godly Christian. One might know all the great facts and doctrines of the Word of God, might be a profound Bible scholar and a wise theologian—and yet not be an advanced or even a growing Christian! We are to learn to live Christ as well as to knowthe truths about Christ. Jesus in His teachings makes a great deal of obedience. We are His friends—if we do whatever He commands us. We are to learn to be patient, meek, gentle, long suffering, compassionate. We are to learn to be humble, kindly affectioned, unselfish, truthful, sincere.
We enter Christ’s school, to be trained in all the qualities which make up the true Christian life. Jesus is not only the teacher—His life is the text book which we are to study. Part of His mission to this world, was to show us in Himself—a pattern of a godly life. We are to look to His life to learn just how to live, the kind of character we are to seek to have, the meaning of the lessons which His words set for us. We are in the school of Christ—to be trained in all Christian life and duty.
The lessons the Bible sets for us—we are to learn to live out in common life. Every word of Christ sets a copy for us, as it were—and we are to learn to write it in fair and beautiful lines. For example, it is not enough to learn from the Beatitudes, that certain qualities are praised by the great Teacher; we are to get the Beatitudes into our own life as quickly and as perfectly as we can. Just so of all the teachings of Christ—they are not for knowing merely, as one learns the fine sayings of favorite literary writers; they are for living! They are to become lamps to our feet and lights to our path—and they are to be wrought into the web of our character.
In the school of Christ, we are not to expect perfection—but we have a right to expect an increasing knowledge of spiritual things, and also spiritual growth in all the qualities which belong to Christian character. We should become . . .
more faithful in all duty,
more like Christ!
The ideal Christian life—is a growing likeness to Christ. Christ is the pattern after which we are to strive to fashion our life. As we study Christ in the Gospels, there rises up before us, the vision of His matchless beauty. We go over the chapters, and we find one fragment of His loveliness here, and another there. And as we read the story through to the end—beauty after beauty appears, until at length we see a full vision of our blessed Redeemer. This is the pattern we are to follow in fashioning our lives. This is the vision we are to seek to carve into reality in our own character. All our acts we are to bring to the example of Christ, testing each one by that infallible standard.
The Gospels should be studied by the Christian, as a builder studies the architect’s drawings—that every minutest detail may be exactly reproduced; so far as in a faulty and sinful human life, the character and conduct of the faultless and sinless Jesus can be reproduced. The perfect pattern is ever to be held before us for imitation, and as we look at it glowing in all its marvelous beauty—yet far above us and beyond our present reach—we are to comfort ourselves and stir our hearts to the noblest efforts and highest attainments by the thought, “That is what I shall one day be!” However slow may be our progress toward that perfect ideal; however sore the struggles with weakness and sin; however often we fail—we are never to lose sight of the distant goal, nor cease to strive and press toward the mark. Some day, if we are faithful to the end and faint not—we shall emerge out of all failure and struggle, and, seeing Jesus as He is—we shall be fully transformed into His blessed image!
Such is the aim of the Christian life. “We shall be like Him!”—that is the final destiny of every redeemed life. This should be inspiration enough, to arouse in the dullest Christian, every sluggish hope and every slumbering energy—and to impel to the highest effort and the most heroic struggle.
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His life is the textbook
Bible knowledge alone, does not make one a godly Christian. One might know all the great facts and doctrines of the Word of God, might be a profound Bible scholar and a wise theologian—and yet not be an advanced, or even a growing Christian! We are to learn to ‘live Christ’—as well as to know the truths about Christ.
Jesus in His teachings, makes a great deal of obedience. “You are My friends—if you do what I command you.” John 15:14. We are to learn to be patient, meek, gentle, compassionate. We are to learn to be humble, kind, unselfish, truthful, sincere. We enter Christ’s school to be trained in all the qualities which make up the true Christian life. Jesus is not only the teacher—His life is the textbook which we are to study!
We are to look to His life—to learn just how to live, the kind of character we are to seek to have, and the meaning of the lessons which His words set for us. We are in the school of Christto be trained in all Christian life and duty. The lessons which the Bible sets for us—we are to live out in common life.
For example, it is not enough to learn from the Beatitudes, that certain qualities are praised by the great Teacher; we are to get the Beatitudes into our own life as quickly and as perfectly as we can. Just so of all the teachings of Christ—they are not for merely knowing—as one learns the fine sayings of favorite literary writers; they are for living! They are to become lamps to our feet and lights to our path, and to be wrought into the web of our character.
We are not to expect perfection in the school of Christ—but we have a right to expect an increasing knowledge of spiritual things, and also spiritual growth in all the qualities which belong to Christian character. We should become more patient, more loving, more unselfish—more like Christ!
His treasured possession!
“I am the Good Shepherd; I know My sheep.” John 10:14
When we think of the millions who are in Christ’s flock, it seems strange to us that He knows and calls each one by name. Yet the truth is made very clear in Scripture.
Every mother knows her own children by name, and it is as easy for the Good Shepherd to know each of His millions by name—as for any human mother to know each of her little children.
There is comfort in this teaching. We are not lost in the crowd. Each one of God’s children, is the special object of His love and thought and care!
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are Mine!” Isaiah 43:1
“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the
peoples on the face of the earth to be His people, His treasured possession!” Deuteronomy 7:6
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How can we learn contentment?
“I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” Philippians 4:11
How can we learn contentment?
One step toward contentment, is patient submission to unavoidable ills and hardships. No earthly lot is perfect. No mortal ever yet in this world, has found a set of circumstances without some drawback. There are . . .
trials which we cannot change into blessings,
burdens which we cannot lay down,
crosses which we must continue to carry,
thorns in the flesh which must remain with their rankling pain.
When we have such trials, why should we not sweetly accept them as part of God’s best way with us?
Discontent never made . . .
a rough path smoother,
a heavy burden lighter,
a bitter cup less bitter,
a dark way brighter,
a sore sorrow less sore.
It only makes matters worse! One who accepts with patience, that which he cannot change—has learned one secret of victorious living.
Another part of the lesson, is that we can learn to moderate our desires. “Having food and clothing,” says Paul again, “let us be content with these.” Very much of our discontent arises from envy of those who seem to be more favored than ourselves. Many people lose most of the comfort out of their own lot—in coveting the finer, more luxurious things which some neighbor has. Yet if they knew the whole story of the life they envy for its greater prosperity, they probably would not exchange for it their own lowlier life, with its more humble circumstances. Or if they could make the exchange, it is not likely they would find half so much real happiness in the other position, as they would have enjoyed in their own.
Contentment does not dwell so often in palaces—as in the homes of the humble. The tall peaks rise higher, and are more conspicuous—but the winds smite them more fiercely than they do the quiet valleys. And surely, the lot in life which God makes for us—is always the best which could be made for us for the time. He knows better than we do—what our true needs are.
The real cause of our discontent is not in our circumstances; if it were, a change of circumstances might cure it. It is in ourselves, and wherever we go—we shall carry our discontent heart with us. The only cure which will affect anything—must be the curing of the fever of discontent in us.
A fine secret of contentment, lies in finding and extracting all the pleasure we can get from the things we have—the common, everyday things; while we enter upon no mad, vain chase after impossible dreams. In whatever state we are in—we may find therein enough for our need.
No earthly misfortune can touch the wealth which a Christian holds in the divine promises and hopes. Just in the measure, therefore, in which we learn to live for spiritual and unseen eternal realities—do we find contentment amid earth’s trials and losses. If we would live to please God, to build up Christlike character in ourselves, and to lay up treasure in heaven—we shall not depend for happiness, on the way things go with us here on earth, nor on the measure of temporal goods we have. The earthly desires are crowded out by the higher and spiritual desires. We can do without childhood’s toys—when we have manhood’s better possessions. We desire the toys of this world less—as we get more of God and heaven into our hearts.
Paul knew this secret. He cheerfully gave up all that this world had for him. Money had no power over him. He knew how to live in plenty; but he did not fret when poverty came instead. He was content in any trial, because earth meant so little—and Christ meant so much to him. He did not need the things he did not have. He was not made poor by the things he lost. He was not vexed by the sufferings he had to endure, because the sources of his life were in heaven—and could not be touched by earthly experiences of pain or loss.
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How good I am! What fine things I have done!
“They will be like dew sent by the Lord.” Micah 5:7
The lives of godly people are sometimes compared to the dew. One point of likeness, is the quiet way in which the dew performs its ministry. It falls silently and imperceptibly. It makes no noise. No one hears it dropping. It chooses its time in the night when men are sleeping, when none can see its beautiful work. It covers the leaves with clusters of pearls. It steals into the bosoms of the flowers, and leaves new cupfuls of sweetness there. It pours itself down among the roots of the grasses and tender herbs and plants. It loses itself altogether, and yet it is not lost. For in the morning there is fresh life everywhere, and new beauty. The fields are greener, the gardens are more fragrant, and all nature is clothed in fresh luxuriance!
Is there not in this simile, a suggestion as to the way we should seek to do good in this world? Should we not wish to have our influence felt—while no one thinks of us; rather than that we should be seen and heard and praised? Should we not be willing to lose ourselves in the service of self-forgetful love, as the dew loses itself in the bosom of the rose—caring only that other lives shall be sweeter, happier, and holier—and not that honor shall come to us? We are too anxious, some of us, that our names shall be written in large letters on the things we do, even on what we do for our Master; and are not willing to sink ourselves out of sight—and let Him alone have the praise.
Our Lord’s teaching on the subject is very plain. He says: “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” That is, they have that which they seek—the applause of men.
“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” The meaning would seem to be, that we are not to wish people to know of our good deeds, our charities, our self-denials; that we should not seek publicity, when we give money or do good works; indeed, that we are not even to tell ourselves what we have done; that we are not to think about our own good deeds so as to become conscious of them; not to put them down in our diaries and go about complimenting ourselves, throwing bouquets at ourselves, and whispering: “How good I am! What fine things I have done!”
This is an insightful test of our lives. Are we willing to be as the dew—to steal abroad in the darkness, carrying blessings to men’s doors, blessings that shall enrich the lives of others and do them good—and then steal away again before those we have helped or blessed awaken, to know what hand it was that brought the gift? Are we willing to work for others . . .
without human praise,
Are we content to have our lives poured out like the dew—to bless the world and make it more fruitful—and yet remain hidden away ourselves? Is it enough for us to see the fruits of our toil and sacrifice—in others’ spiritual growth, and deeper happiness; yet never hear our names spoken in praise or honor—perhaps even hearing others praised for things we have done?
If you go about doing good in simple ways, in gentle kindnesses, not thinking of reward, not dreaming of praise, not hoping for any return—you are enshrining your name where it will have immortal honor! Our lesson teaches us that this is the way we are to live—if we are followers of Christ!
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How much did he leave?
“Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.” Proverbs 23:5
People are badly cheated in this world. They imagine that the things they can see are the real things—that the gold, lands, and stocks are the true treasures. So they toil for those things and gather them into their possession, piling up what they suppose to be wealth. Thus they live in pomp, with their fine houses, and all their brilliant show. But one day their supposed riches sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle. Or they may keep their wealth, perchance, and die at last in the midst of it, and have a great funeral; but they find that they cannot carry a penny of it with them. “How much did he leave?” was asked about a rich man who had died. “All of it!” was the answer.
If only people knew that there are things which will never fly away—they would no longer live for fleeting worldly wealth. They would pass by the glittering unrealities, to lay hold of the true riches. He who is rich toward God—is the truly wealthy man.
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If our lives were as good as our prayers
If we only tried seriously to live up to our praying—it would have a powerful effect upon our character and conduct!
There is no prayer that most Christians make oftener—than that they may be made like Christ. It is a most fitting prayer, and one that we should never cease to make. But if we very earnestly wish to be transformed into Christ’s likeness—we will find the desire growing into great intensity in our daily lives, and transforming them. It will affect every phase of our behavior and conduct. It will hold before us continually, the image of our Lord, and will keep ever in our vision—a new standard . . .
It will keep us asking all the while, such questions as these, “How would Jesus feel about this—if He were personally in my circumstances? What would Jesus do—if He were here today where I am?”
There is always danger of mockeries and insincerities in our praying for spiritual blessings. The desires are to be commended. God approves of them and will gladly bestow upon us the more grace we ask for:
the increase in love,
the greater faith,
the purer heart,
the new advance in holiness.
But these are attainments which are not bestowed upon us directly, as gifts from heaven. We have much to do in securing them. When we ask for spiritual blessings or favors, the Master asks, “Are you able to pay the price, to make the self-denial, to give up the things you love—in order to reach these attainments in holiness, in grace, in spiritual beauty?”
If our lives were as good as our prayers, we would be saint-like in character.
If we find that our prayers are beyond our living, our duty is not to lower them to suit the tenor of our living—but to bring our lives up to the higher standard of our praying!
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If we are in any of these prisons
“Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken.
At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains fell off!” Acts 16:26
There is no prison too strong for God to break open; there are no chains too heavy for Him to snap asunder, there are no walls too thick for Him to shatter.
There are other kinds of prisons besides those built with stone—prisons of trial, of temptation, of trouble, of circumstances. If we are in any of these prisons, God is just as able to bring us out of them!
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If we were directing the affairs of our own lives
We often think we could do better—if we were directing the affairs of our own lives. We think we could get more happiness and greater good out of life—if things were in our hands. We would at once eliminate all that is painful and unpleasant in our lot. We would have only prosperities, with no adversities; only joys, with no sorrows. We would exclude all pain and trouble from our life. Our days would all be sunny, with blue skies—and no clouds or storms. Our paths would all be soft and easy, and strewn with flowers—without thorns or any rough places. Would we not be happier—if we could direct our own affairs, and leave out the painful, the bitter, the adverse, and the sorrowful?
So most of us would probably say at first, before we have thought of the question deeply and looked on to the end. But really the greatest misfortune that could come to us in this world—would be to have the direction of the affairs, and the shaping of the experiences of our lives, put into our own hands!
We have no wisdom to know what is best for ourselves. Today is not all of life—there is a long future, perhaps many years in this world, and then immortality hereafter. What would give us greatest pleasure today—might work us harm in days to come. Present gratification might cost us untold loss and hurt in the future.
We wantpleasure, plenty, and prosperity—but perhaps we need pain, self-denial, and the giving up of things that we greatly prize.
We shrink from suffering, from sacrifice, from struggle—but perhaps these are the very experiences which will do the most good for us, which will best mature our Christian graces, which will fit us for the largest service to God and man.
We should always remember that the object of living here, is not merely to have present comfort, to get along with the least trouble, to gather the most we can of the world’s treasures, to win the brightest fame. We are here to grow into the beauty of Christ, and to do the portion of God’s will that belongs to us!
There is something wonderfully inspiring in the thought, that God has a plan and a purpose for our lives, for each life. We do not come drifting into this world—and do not drift through it like waves on the ocean. We are sent from God, each one of us with a divine plan for his life—something God wants us to do, some place He wants us to fill. All through our lives we are in the hands of God, who chooses our place and orders our circumstances, and makes all things work together for our good—and His glory.
It is the highest honor that could be conferred upon us, to occupy such a place in the thought of God. We cannot doubt that His way for us is better than ours, since He is infinitely wiser than we are, and loves us so. It may be painful and hard—but in the pain and the hardness, there is blessing.
Of course we may not know all the reasons there are in the divine mind, for the pains and sufferings that come into our lives, or what God’s design for us in these trials is. Yet without discovering any reasons at all, however, we may still trust God, who loves us with an infinite love—and whose wisdom also is infinite!
When we get to heaven, we shall know that God has made no mistake in anything He has done for us, however He may have broken into our plans—and spoiled our pleasant dreams!
It should be reason for measureless gratitude, that our lives are not in our own poor feeble hands—but in the hands of our infinitely wise and loving Father!
“My times are in Your hands!” Psalm 31:15
If we would be like our Master
“Whoever claims to live in Him—must walk as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:6
Every true Christian should desire to be Christlike in character. It is not enough to be honest, and upright, and true, and just. Christ had these strong qualities—but He was also gentle, and kind, and loving, and patient. If we would be like our Master—we must have these traits of character also in us. When we pray that the beauty of the Lord may be upon us, we must ask for these finer features of His beauty—as well as for the more rugged ones. We need His strength and truth and faithfulness and justice—but we need His love and tenderness as well. “Leaving you an example, so that you should follow in His steps.” 1 Peter 2:21m
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If you were to meet yourself on the street some morning
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way!” Psalm 139:23-24
It will be worth our while—to think seriously of the things in us—that only God can see. There are sins which are hidden from ourselves, of which our conscience is not aware—our unknown errors. The evil in us which lies too deep to be discovered. There is a SELF in us, which even we ourselves do not see! There are depths of our being—into which our own eyes cannot pierce. You may say that you know of no sins, errors, or faults in yourself, and you may be sincere; still this is not evidence that you are sinless.
Our conscience is not the final court. It is not enough to have the approval of our own heart. There are errors and evils in the holiest life on earth—which only God’s eye can detect. We must ask God to search us, if we would be made clean.
We cannot see our own faults—even as our neighbors can see them. There is wisdom in the wish that we might see ourselves, as others see us—for it would free us from many a blunder and foolish notion.
We are prejudiced in our own favor. We are disposed to be charitable toward our own shortcomings. We make all sorts of allowances for our own faults. We are wonderfully patient with our own weaknesses. We are blind to our own blemishes. We look at our good qualities through magnifying glasses; and at our faults and errors with the lenses reversed—making them appear very small. We see only the best of ourselves.
If you were to meet yourself on the street some morning—that is, the person God sees you to be—you would probably not recognize yourself!
We remember the little story that the prophet Nathan told King David, about a rich man’s injustice toward a poor man, and how David’s anger flamed up. “This man must die!” cried the king. He did not recognize himself—in the man he so despised, until Nathan quietly said, “You are the man!”
We are all too much like David.
If the true chronicle of your life were written in a book, in the form of a story, and you were to read the chapters over—you probably would not identify the story as your own!
We do not know our real self. We do not imagine there is so much about us that is morally ugly and foul, that is positively wicked. But God searches and knows the innermost and hidden things of our heart!
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way!”
In the furnace of affliction
Sooner or later, affliction and sorrow come to every Christian. We ought, therefore, to have true views about pain, about the divine reasons for sending it, and about the mission on which it comes. We ought to know, also, how to endure suffering so as to get from it the blessing, which its hot hand brings to us.
While they do not solve all the mystery of human suffering, the Scriptures show, at least, that suffering is no accident in God’s world—but is one of His messengers; and that it comes not as an enemy—but as a friend on an errand of blessing. The design of God, in all the afflictions which He sends upon His people—is to make them more holy, to advance their purification of character.
It is very clearly taught in the Word of God, that suffering is necessary in preparing sinful souls in this world, for heavenly glory. “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” There is no easy way to glory. There is so much evil in us, even after we are born again, that nothing less than the discipline of pain, can cleanse our nature.
Tribulation is God’s threshing, not to harm us or to destroy us—but to separate what is heavenly and spiritual in us—from what is earthly and fleshly. Nothing less than blows of pain will do this. Evil clings strongly, even to the godly. The golden wheat of godliness is so wrapped up in the strong chaff of the flesh—that only the heavy flail of suffering can produce the separation. Godly character can never be attained, but through suffering. Holiness cannot be reached, without cost. Those who would gain the lofty heights—must climb the cold, rough steeps which lead to them.
It is God’s design, in all the pain which He sends—to make us more Christlike. His puts us in the fire of purification, until His own image shines reflected in the gold! His prunings mean greater fruitfulness. In whatever form the suffering comes—the purpose of the pain is merciful. In all our life in this world, God is purifying us—and suffering is one of the chief agents which He employs.
“We also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope.” Romans 5:3-4. Suffering develops in us, qualities of Christian character, which cannot be developed in any other way.
But not all afflictions make people better. They do not always produce endurance. Chastening does not always yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness. We all have seen people suffering—who became only more impatient, irritable, ill-tempered, and selfish—as they suffered. Many a life in the furnace of affliction, loses all the beauty it ever had. It is not by any means universally true—that we are made more holy and Christlike, by pain.
Afflictions must be received as God’s messengers. They often come in very somber garb, and it is only when we receive them in faith, that they disclose to us their merciful aspect and mission.
We should therefore receive afflictions reverently, as sent from God. We may be assured that there is always some blessing for us, in pain’s hot hand. There is some golden fruit, wrapped up in the rough husk. God designs to burn off some sins from us, in every fire through which He calls us to pass. No one who murmurs under God’s chastening hand, is ever made better by it.
The true aim of suffering is to get from it—
more purity of soul,
greater revelations of God’s face,
more love to Christ,
deeper joy in the heart,
holier living, and
fresh strength for obedience and all duty.
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In the midst of all the wild scene—Stephen fell asleep!
“When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him! But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look!” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” When he had said this, he fell asleep.” Acts 7:54-60
To Stephen, dying was only breathing out his soul into the hands of Jesus Christ! He knew it was not death—but life, which was before him. His body was being mangled and broken—but his spirit, his real self, could not be harmed. Beyond the strange mystery of death—Jesus waits to receive the departing spirit. Death is only a gateway through which the soul passes—and then life and glory burst upon the vision of the emancipated spirit!
Very beautiful is the picture of death which is given here: “He fell asleep.” Sleep is death’s new, sweet name! What a picture of peace the word suggests, right here in the heart and fury of the mob! In the midst of all the wild scene—Stephen fell asleep!
We think of a tired child creeping into the mother’s bosom and falling asleep. Sleep is not a terrible experience; it is nothing to be dreaded. We sleep when we are weary—and we awake refreshed. Sleep is not the cessation of life. We expect to awake, after we have slept. As we part for the night, we do not say, “Farewell,” but “Goodnight,” for we expect to meet again in the morning.
This beautiful Scriptural designation of death tells us, therefore, of life beyond, of resurrection, of immortality. We shall awake from this sleep of death—and our life shall go on again. We shall awake refreshed, lying down weary—and rising strong; lying down sick, or old, or deformed, or worn-out—and rising well, young and radiant in heavenly beauty!
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In the presence of God
“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead . . . I charge you!” 2 Timothy 4:1
Life is very serious!
We are always standing before God who is our Judge.
Our commonest days—are judgment days.
We should learn to do everything “in the presence of God“. This makes every word and act serious.
If only we were more conscious of God and of eternity—we would live better!
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Is Jesus like anybody we know?
“The one who says he abides in Him—ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked.” 1 John 2:6
A little child, after reading in the New Testament one day, asked her mother, “Is Jesus like anybody we know?” The child was eager to discover just what were the elements of the character of Christ, His disposition, His spirit, the mind that was in Him.
The mother ought to have been able to answer, “Yes, I am trying to be like Jesus; if you will look at my life, and study my character—you will see a little of what Jesus is like.”
Every follower of Christ should be able to say the same to all who know him. The likeness is imperfect, for in many things we come short; but, if we are true Christians, we must be trying to live as He would—if He were in our place.
“Leaving you an example—so that you should follow in His steps.” 1 Peter 2:21
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Is that all we need to do?
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” Luke 10:36
That was the Master’s question. The lawyer could not help answering, “The one who showed mercy to him.”
Then came the application, “Go—and DO likewise.” Luke 10:37
It is not enough to hear good lessons, or look on good examples. When we have heard and seen—we must go out and DO the good things which are so beautiful, which our judgment commends.
It is not enough for the artist to have lovely visions in his mind—he must get his visions on the canvas, where they will be blessings to the world.
It is a precious privilege to look at noble lives and to read heavenly counsels. But we must reproduce in disposition, in act, in character, in our own lives—the excellent things we read.
Now we have read and understand the story of the Good Samaritan. Is that all we need to do? No! We must, “Go—and DO likewise!”
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It is never safe to make pets of tigers!
“Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.” Genesis 4:5
“Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him!” Genesis 4:8
See here, the fearful growth of the evil feeling in Cain’s heart. It was only a thought at first—but it was admitted into the heart and cherished there. Then it grew until it caused a terrible crime! We learn here, the danger of cherishing even the smallest beginning of bitterness; we do not know to what it will grow!
Some people think lightly of bad temper, laughing at it as a mere harmless weakness; but it is a perilous mood to indulge, and we do not know to what it may lead.
“Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you!” In His reproof of Cain, the Lord likens his sin to a wild beast lying in hiding by his door, ready to leap on him and devour him. This is true of all sin which is cherished in the heart. It may long lie quiet and seem harmless—but it is only a wild beast sleeping!
There is a story of a man who took a young tiger and resolved to make a pet of it. It moved about his house like a kitten and grew up fond and gentle. For a long time its savage, blood-thirsty nature seemed changed into gentleness, and the creature was quiet and harmless.
But one day the man was playing with his ‘pet’, when by accident his hand was scratched and the beast tasted blood. That one taste, aroused all the fierce tiger nature, and the ferocious animal flew on his master and tore him to pieces!
So it is, with the passions and lusts of the old nature, which are only petted and tamed and allowed to reside in the heart. They will crouch at the door in treacherous lurking, and in some unguarded hour—they will rise up in all their old ferocity!
It is never safe to make pets of tigers!
It is never safe to make pets of little sins!
We never know what sin may grow into—if we let it abide in our heart!
“Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him!” That is what came of the passion of envy in Cain’s heart! It was left unrebuked, unrepented of, uncrushed—and in time it grew to fearful strength. Then in an evil moment, its tiger nature asserted itself!
We never know to what dreadful stature—a little sin may grow!
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It is not easy for us to learn this lesson
“If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” Luke 9:23-24
Only as we learn to die to self—do we become like Christ.
Human nature seeks all for self—and none for Christ. Becoming a Christian is the taking of Christ into the life—in the place of self. Then all is changed. Life has a new center, a new aim. Christ comes first. His plan for our lives is accepted, instead of our own. It is no more what we would like to do—but “What does the Master want us to do?” It is no longer the pressing of our own will—but “May Your will, not mine, be done.”
This is the foundation of all Christian living—the dying of self—and the growing of Christ in the heart. So long as there remains any self-will, any unsubmission, any spirit of disobedience, any unconquered self, asserting its authority against the will of Christ—just so long, is our consecration incomplete.
This law of the dying of SELF, and the magnifying of Christ—is the only way to true usefulness. Not until self has been renounced, is anyone ready for true Christian service. While we are thinking how this or that will affect us, whether it will pay us to make this sacrifice or that self-denial; while we are consulting our own ease, our own comfort, our own interest or advantage in any form—we have not yet learned fully what the love of Christ means.
This law of the dying of SELF, and the magnifying of Christ—is the secret of Christian peace. When Christ is small, and SELF is large—life cannot be deeply restful. Everything annoys us. We grow impatient of whatever breaks our comfort. We grieve over little trials. We find causes for discontent in merest trifles. We resent whatever would hinder or oppose us. There is no blue sky in the ‘picture’, of which SELF is the center!
But when SELF decreases, and Christ increases—then the life of friction and worry is changed into quietness and peace. When the glory of Christ streams over this little, cramped, fretted, broken life of ours—peace comes, and the love of Christ brightens every spot and sweetens all bitterness. Trials are easy to bear, when self is small—and Christ is large.
This lesson has its very practical bearing on all our common, every-day life. Naturally, we want to have our own way. We like to carry out our own plans and ambitions. We are apt to feel, too, that we have failed in life, when we cannot realize these hopes. But this is the world’s standard! The successful worldling is the one who is able to master all life’s circumstances, and make them serve him.
But the greatest thing possible in any life—is to have the divine plan for it fulfilled—even though it thwarts every human hope and dashes away every earthly dream. It is not easy for us to learn this lesson—that God’s ways are always better for us than our own!
We make our little plans and begin to carry them out. We think we have all things arranged for our greatest happiness and our best good. Then God’s plan breaks in upon ours—and we look down through our tears upon the shattered fragments of our fine plans! All seems wreck, loss, and disaster! But no—it is only God’s larger, wiser, better plan—displacing our little, imperfect, shortsighted one!
It is true, that God really thinks about our lives—and has a purpose of His own for them, a place He would have us fill, a work He would have us do. It seems when we think of it, that this is scarcely possible—that each one of the lives of His countless children—should be personally and individually thought about by the Father. Yet we know that this is true of the least and lowliest of believers. Surely if God cares enough for us to make a plan for our life, a heavenly plan—it must be better than any plan of ours could be! It is a high honor, therefore, for His plan to take the place of ours, whatever the cost and the pain may be to us!
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It is only a heathen lodging-place!
Parents are the custodians of their children’s lives. If they would meet their responsibility and be able to look God and their children in the face at the judgment, they must make their homes as nearly ‘gardens of Eden’ as possible.
The way to save your children from the temptations of the streets—is to make your home so bright, so sweet, so beautiful, so happy, so full of love, joy and prayer—that the streets will have no attractiveness for them—no power to win them away. “Do not be overcome by evil—but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21
The place of the home-life among the influences which mold and shape character, is supreme in its importance. Our children are given to us in tender infancy—to teach them and train them for holy, worthy, beautiful living.
It is not enough to have an opulent house to live in! It is not enough to have fine foods, and luxurious furniture, and expensive entertainments! Most of the world’s worthiest men and women, those who have blessed the world the most—were brought up in plain homes, without any luxury!
It is the tone of the home-life, that is important. We should make it pure, elevating, refining, inspiring. The books we bring in, the papers and magazines, the guests we have at our tables and admit to our firesides, the home conversation, the pictures we hang on our walls—all these are educational. As in everything, LOVE is the great master-secret of home happiness.
The religious influences are also vitally important. In that first ‘garden home’, the Lord came and went as a familiar friend. Christ must be our guest—if our home is to be a fit place either for our children or for ourselves. If there is no sincere prayer in it, it is not a true home at all—it is only a heathen lodging-place!
How can we make ‘new Edens’ of our homes? What are some of the secrets of home happiness? I might gather them all into one word and say—CHRIST! If we have Christ as our guest—our home will be happy! He must be welcomed into all our life. He must be in each heart. He must sit at our tables and mingle with us in all our family interaction. Christ can bless our home, only through the lives of those who make the home circle.
Make your home so sweet, so heavenly, with love and prayer and song and holy living—that all through it, there shall be the fragrance of the heart of Christ!
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It is the student who must learn the lesson!
“Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” Philippians 2:12-13
People sometimes think that salvation imparts . . .
fine qualities of Christian character,
lovely traits of disposition, and
elements of spiritual beauty—
without any cost or effort to the believer himself!
Christ’s followers are transformed—old things pass away, and all things become new. Those who believe in Him—are fashioned into His image. But these blessings do not come easily.The heavenly graces are not put into our life—as one might hang up lovely pictures on the walls to adorn a home! They must be wrought into our life in a sense, by our own hands. We must work out our own salvation, although it is God who works in us, both to will and to work.
For example, patience is not put into anyone’s life—as one brings in a piece of new furniture. You cannot merely receive patience as a gift from God. Patience is a lesson to be learned—through long and watchful self-discipline. Christ is the teacher—but you are the student, and it is the student who must learn the lesson! Not even Christ will learn it for you—to spare you the effort. Nor can it be made an easy lesson for you. It costs to grow patient, and you must pay the price yourself!
The same is true of all the elements of a godly and worthy character.
We are always at school in this world. God is teaching us the things we need to learn. The lessons are not easy—sometimes they are very hard! But the hardest lessons are the best—for they bring out in us the finest qualities, if only we learn them well.
Those, therefore, who find themselves in what may seem adverse conditions, compelled to face hardship, endure opposition, and pass through struggle—should quietly accept the responsibility; and, trusting in Christ for guidance and strength, go firmly and courageously forward, conscious that they have now an opportunity to grow strong, and develop in themselves the qualities of worthy and noble character!
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It took the baby out of the young mother’s arms the other night!
He came to Simon Peter, who asked Him, “Lord, are You going to wash my feet?”
Jesus answered him, “What I am doing—you do not understand now; but afterward you will understand.” John 13:7
We are assured that God has a plan for each individual life of His redeemed children. Jesus had a purpose in washing the feet of his disciples that night. It was not an idle thing that He was doing. He meant to teach these men a great lesson.
He has a purpose in every smallest thing, in each event in our lives. His plans run on through all the years, and are woven of the threads of the common events of our lives. We do not know the meaning of the small things in our everyday experiences—but the least of them is in some way connected with the great divine plan.
God’s plan for each life includes the smallest affairs of that life. The things that come into our experience are not mere chance. ‘Chance’ is not a good word; at least we may not use it to mean something that broke into our life independently of God. Nothing ever comes into our experience by chance, in the sense that it is outside of God’s purpose for our life, and beyond God’s control.
Suppose someone wrongs you, treats you unkindly, even cruelly. If you are God’s child, your Father takes the evil into His hands, and it becomes thenceforth, a secret of blessing; it will be overruled so as to be among the “all things” that work together for your good.
The purpose of God for His children—is always good, always love. It could not be otherwise, for God is love. This does not mean that His plan for us never involves suffering. Ofttimes it does. It brings death to a mother—and pain and grief to her family. It took the baby out of the young mother’s arms the other night! It leaves the young widow broken-hearted, with little children to provide for. It permits loss of property to come, leaving a family to suffer pinching poverty and hard struggle. It allows a man to lose his work in the time of financial depression, and to endure experience of sore need. It brings sickness with its pain and cost. It lets us have bitter days of suffering. Godly people ofttimes have to endure bitter things, which are hard and most trying. Nevertheless, the plan of God for our lives is good. It is a plan of love. “What I am doing”—it is the Master who says this, and what He does must be good.
Is affliction good? Can it be good to endure bereavement, to suffer injustice, to bear pain? Some day we shall know that many of the best things in life—are the fruit of these very bitter experiences. Our redemption—comes from the sorrow and suffering of Jesus Christ. Just so, the best blessings and the holiest beauties of God’s saints—are the harvest of pain.
We must not forget that the things which are painful, are also parts of Christ’s chosen way for us, and that they are always good. In all our life Christ is making us—making godly people of us, fashioning Christian character, transforming us into His beautiful image.
Let not life’s pains and trials dismay you. Submit to God, accept the providences that come as part of His discipline, and take the lessons, the enrichings which He sends. Some day you will know that you have learned many of your sweetest songs—in the darkness.
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It will help us greatly in our Christian life
“The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to Him all that they had done and taught.” Mark 6:30
It will help us greatly in our Christian life, if we will train ourselves to the habit of reporting to Christ continually, all that we do and say. We may come every evening to His feet—and tell Him all about the work and the life of our day.
Each day is a miniature life. Each morning we are sent out by our Master, commissioned by Him to do certain tasks, to touch certain lives, to leave certain blessings in the world, to endure certain temptations, to suffer or rejoice—as the case my be. At the close of the day—we come back to make report, in our evening prayer, of all that we have done, not only the good and beautiful things—the obedience, the kindnesses, the victories over temptation, the things which have been helpful to others; but also the foolish things—the disobediences, the defeats, the neglects of duty.
If we remember as we go through the day—that everything we do or say, and everything we fail to do or say—must be reported to our Master—it would make us more careful as the moments pass—of what we do and what we fail to do. We would not do the things which would shame us to look into Christ’s face, and tell Him what we did. We would learn to do only what would give us pleasure to report to Him.
This would do much to make us always charitable and kind to others, for we shall not care to tell the Master that we said unkindly words of our neighbors. If we constrain ourselves to report in our evenings prayers—all our criticisms of others, all our uncharitable words, and all our blaming and fault finding—we shall soon be cured of the habit of censoriousness, and we shall learn to do and say only things which we shall be glad to tell our Lord.
There is no better way to keep our days holy and beautiful—than to tell Jesus every night—all that we have said and done through the day!
Yet, we need never dread to tell Christ of our failures for the day. There always will be failures. Our moods will not always be gentle. Sometimes we will speak rashly and harshly. We will not always be patient and thoughtful. Unchristian tempers will break out in spite of our determination always to keep sweet. We will fail many a time to be loving. But the Master will beinfinitely gracious and gentle in dealing with our faults and failures. He is more kindly than any mother. No words in the Bible are sweeter to a faithful Christian, than those in one of the Psalms, “He knows our frame—He remembers that we are dust.”
If we are living faithfully and are striving to do our best, and to do better each day—we need never dread to tell our Master all that we have done—even the worst! He wants us to be very frank and very honest with Him. Of course He knows all that we have done—but He wants us to tell Him all, keeping nothing back. We may come with the whole story, even if it is a confession of weakness, foolishness, or sin. He is never severe with us, as some human friends are—for He wants us never to be afraid to come to Him.
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Let nothing be wasted!
“Gather the fragments that are left over. Let nothing be wasted!” John 6:12
It seems remarkable, that He who so easily could multiply the five loaves into an abundant meal for thousands, should be so particular about ‘saving the fragments’. But Jesus would teach us economy. No matter how great our abundance, we should take care of the ‘fragments’. After we have eaten at our tables, there are hungry people who would be glad for the pieces that are left over.
This applies also to the fragments of time. Many busy people waste whole years of time in their life—in the minutes which they lose every day! If at the end of a year they could gather up all these ‘fragments’, they would have many basketfuls of golden time in which they might do much good!
Likewise, we should not waste our strength. Many people waste their bodily energy, using it in play, or useless amusements, when it belongs to God—and ought to be employed to its last particle for His glory!
Likewise, we should not waste our affections by allowing them to be given to unworthy objects or people.
There is no limit to the application of this principle. We must give account of everything we have, even the minutes of time, the little fractions of strength, and the smallest bits of bread on our tables!
“Gather the fragments that are left over. Let nothing be wasted!” John 6:12
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Life’s highest and best lesson
We read that Joseph bore himself so congenially, and did his work so well, and was so capable, so true, so trustworthy—that Potiphar “left all that he owned under Joseph’s care; he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.” Genesis 39:6. Joseph would never have won such a success—if he had given up to discouragement, if he had brooded over his wrongs, if he had sulked and complained, if he had spent his time in vain regrets or in vindictive feelings. We should learn the lesson, and it is worth learning—for it is life’s highest and best lesson.
The problem of life, is
to keep the heart warm and kindly—amid all injustice and wrong;
to keep the spirit brave and cheerful—in the midst of all that is hard in life’s circumstances and conditions;
to be true, and right, and strong—in all moral purpose and deed, however others may act toward us.
Our inner life should not be affected by our external experiences. Right is right, no matter what others around us may do.
We must be true—no matter if all the world is false—even false to us.
We must be unselfish and loving—though even our nearest friends prove selfish and cruel to us.
We must keep our spirit strong, cheerful and hopeful—though adversities and misfortunes seem to leave us nothing of the fruit of all our labors.
In a word, we are to live victoriously, truly, nobly, sweetly, cheerfully, joyfully—in spite of whatever may be uncongenial in our condition!
This is the lesson of all Christian life. We should not let the outside darkness into our soul. We should seek to be delivered from all morbidness and all unwholesomeness. We should not allow anything to crush us.
Remember, your task in living—is to keep sweet, to keep your heart gentle, brave, strong, loving, full of hope—under the worst that the years can bring you of injustice, hardship, suffering, and trial.
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Life is hard for most people
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2
We should train ourselves to such regard, to such respect for others, that we shall never hurt the heart
of one of God’s creatures, even by a disdainful look! Our love ought also to be patient. Our neighbor may have his faults—but we are taught to bear with one another’s infirmities. If we knew the story of men’s lives, the hidden loads and burdens which they are often carrying, the unhealed sore in their heart—we would have most gentle patience with them. Life is hard for most people; certainly hard enough without our adding to its burdens by our censoriousness, our unkindness, our jeering and contempt.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12
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Life is too short; Love is too sacred
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
The ideal Christian life, is one of unbroken kindliness. It is dominated by love—the love whose portrait is drawn for us in the immortal thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians. We have but to turn to the gospel pages, to find the story of a Life in which all this was realized. Jesus never lost his temper. He lived among people who tried Him at every point—some by their dullness, others by their bitter enmity and persecution, but He never failed in sweetness of disposition, in long-suffering patience, in self-denying love. Like the flowers which give out their perfume only when crushed, like the odoriferous wood which bathes with fragrance the ax which hews it—the life of Christ yielded only the tenderer, sweeter love to the rough impact of men’s rudeness and wrong. That is the pattern on which we should strive to fashion our life and our character. Every outbreak of violent temper, every shade of ugliness in disposition, mars the radiant loveliness of the picture we are seeking to have fashioned in our lives.
The perfect beauty of Christ, should ever be envisioned in our hearts, as that which we would attain for ourselves. The honor of our Master’s name, should impel us to strive ever toward Christlikeness in spirit and in disposition.
We represent Christ in this world; people cannot see Him, and they must look at us to see a little of what He is like. Whatever great work we may do for Christ, if we fail to live out His life of patience and kindness, we fail in an essential part of our duty as Christians. “The servant of the Lord must be gentle.” Only as our own lives shine in the brightness of holy affectionateness, and our hearts and lips distill the sweetness of patience and gentleness, can we fulfill our mission in this world as Christ’s true messengers to men.
Life is too short to spend even one day of it in bickering and strife. Love is too sacred to be forever lacerated and torn by the ugly briers of sharp temper. Surely we ought to learn to be patient with others, since God has to show every day such infinite patience toward us. Can we not, then, train our life to sweeter gentleness? Can we not learn to be touched even a little roughly, without resenting it? Can we not bear little injuries and apparent injustices, without flying into an unseemly rage? Can we not have in us something of the mind of Christ which will enable us, like Him—to endure all wrong and injury and give back no word or look of bitterness?
There is no temper so obdurately bad—that it cannot be trained into sweetness. The grace of God can take the most unlovely life—and transform it into the image of Christ!
“Whoever is faithful in very little—is also faithful in much; and
whoever is unrighteous in very little—is also unrighteous in much.”
We are apt to under-estimate little failures in duty.
It seems to us, a small matter:
that we do not keep an engagement,
that we lose our temper,
that we say an impatient or angry word,
that we show an unkind or harsh spirit,
that we speak uncharitably of another,
that we treat someone with discourtesy, or
fail in some other way which appears trivial.
We think that so long as we are honest, faithful, and loving in the larger things—that it of small importance, that we make ‘little slips‘.
But we never can tell what may be the consequences of our failure, in even the most minute duty.
A little slip hurts our own life! It leaves us a little weaker in our character, a little less able to resist the next temptation that comes at the same point. It breaks our habit of faithfulness, and makes it easier for us to break it a second time. We sin against ourselves, when we relax our diligence or our faithfulness, in even the least thing!
Then, we do not know what the consequences to others will be—when we fail in their presence. An outburst of temper in a Christian, may hinder many others in their Christian life. The failure of a Christian minister to pay a little debt, may destroy the minister’s influence over many in his church.
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Living out the lessons in daily life!
“If you know these things—happy are you if you do them.” John 13:17
A great many people know plenty of Scripture truth—but do not live it out. Yet the real test of knowing Scripture—is obedience. We really know only so much truth—as we get into our experience and conduct. The only part of the Bible we have really learned—is what we have learned to live. It is a beautiful thing when a person has been well-taught; it is still more beautiful when he abides in the things which he has been taught, living out the lessons in daily life.
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“I will lift up my eyes unto the hills, from whence comes my help. My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-2
It is good always to look up. Thousands of people dwarf their lives, and hinder the possibilities of growth in their souls—by looking downward. They keep their eyes ever entangled in mere earthly sights, and miss the glories of the hills that pierce the clouds, and of the heavens that bend over them!
A story is told of a boy who one day found a gold coin on the street. Ever after this—he kept his eyes on the ground as he walked, watching for coins. During a long lifetime, he found a good number of coins—but meanwhile he never saw the flowers and the trees which grew in such wondrous beauty everywhere; he never saw the hills, the mountains, the sweet valleys, the picturesque landscapes; he never saw the blue sky. To him, this lovely world meant only a dusty road, dreary and unbeautiful, merely a place in which to look for coins.
This really is the story of the life of most people. They never lift their eyes off the earth! They live only to gather money, to add field to field, to scheme for power or to find pleasure. Or, if their quest is a little higher, it is still only for earthly things. They never lift up their eyesto God! There is no blue sky in their picture. They cherish no heavenly visions. They are without God in the world.
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”Colossians 3:1-2
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Lord, teach me to number my days!
“Teach us to number our days aright—that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12
We so number our days aright, when we give to each one as it passes, its own measure of faithfulness. Our days come to us ‘one by one’. God breaks up His great years, into ‘little sections’ for us—that we may be able to get along with our work, our burdens, and our struggles. Take the ‘single days’ as they come to you. He who has learned this secret—has gained a heart of wisdom.
Take the ‘one little day’, and . . .
do all its duties faithfully;
seize its opportunities;
endure its trials;
meet its temptations victoriously;
bear its burdens;
receive its blessings;
miss not its privileges;
do all the kindness you can;
make it a beautiful day.
Anyone can live ‘one single day’ sweetly and victoriously. Make today beautiful. Then do the same with tomorrow, and with the next day—and so on, to the end of your life! Thus you will ‘number your days’ in a way that will make each one profitable. Thus you will write on each day’s page—a record of which you will not be ashamed, when it is spread before you on the judgment day.
Our morning prayer each day should be, “Lord, teach me to number my days!“
“As your days—so shall your strength be.” Deuteronomy 33:25
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Manifest the life of Christ in our daily living
True religion will manifest itself in every phase of life. We sit down in the quiet and read our Bible—and get our lesson. We know it now—but we have not as yet got it into our life—which is the thing we must really do.
Knowing that we should love our enemies, is not the ultimate thing—actually loving our enemies is.
Knowing that we should be patient, is not all—we are to practice the lesson of patience, until it has become a habit in our life.
Many know the cardinal duties of Christian life—who yet have not learned to live them. It is living them, however, that is true religion.
It must always be our aim, to live our religion—to get Christ’s love of our heart, wrought out in a blessed ministry of kindness to others. Christ lives in us; and it is ours to manifest the life of Christ in our daily living.
We worship God on Sunday—in order to gather strength and grace to live for God in the six days that follow. It is evident therefore, that it is in the experiences of weekday life, far more than in the quiet of the Sunday worship and the closet, that the real tests of religion come.
It is easy to assent with our mind to the commandments, when we sit in the church, enjoying the services. But the assent of the life itself can be obtained, only when we are out in the midst of temptation and duty, in contact with others. There it is, alone, that we can get the commandments wrought into ways of obedience, and lines of character. This is the final object of all Christian teaching and worship—the transforming of our life into the beauty of Christ!
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Most punctilious in their religious rituals!
“To avoid ceremonial uncleanness—the Jews did not enter the palace.” John 18:28
The religious rulers carried their pious scruples even to the palace of Pilate. Amazingly, they had no scruples about their wicked treatment of an innocent man—but they were scrupulously conscientious about matters of mere ceremonial requirement! They would not set their feet on the Gentile’s floor—for that would have defiled them! Yet meanwhile their hearts were full of evil and murderous thoughts and resolves!
There will always be people who are most punctilious in their religious rituals—but who in practical life, are little better than heathen!
We should learn well, that God is grieved more by our bitter feelings, our lack of love, our hate and envy—than He is with little omissions in religious ceremonies and formalities.
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Motes and beams
There is a duty of fault-finding. The Master Himself teaches it. In the Sermon on the Mount, He makes it very plain. We must note carefully, however, where the duty begins. We are to look first after our own faults. “Why do you look at the mote that is in your brother’s eye—but do not consider the beam that is in your own eye?”
We must consider the beam that is in our own eye!
The form of this question suggest that we are naturally inclined to pay more attention to flaws and blemishes in others—than in ourselves; and also that a very small fault—a mere mote of fault in another person—may seem larger to us than a blemish many times greater in ourselves!
Of course, it is far easier to see other people’s faults—than our own. Our eyes are set in our head in such a way—that we can look at our neighbor, better than at ourselves. Yet we all have faults of our own. Most of us have quite enough of them to occupy our thought, to the exclusion of our neighbor’s faults—if only we would give them our attention.
Really, too, our own faults ought to interest us, more than our neighbor’s, because they are our own; and being our own, we are responsible for them. We do not have to answer for any other one’s sins—but we must answer for our own sins, “Each one must give an account of himself.”
Also, the responsibility for getting rid of them, is ours. No faithful friend, no wise teacher, can cure our faults for us. If ever they are taken out of our life—it must be by our own faith, our own firm, persistent effort.
It is a fact, that the faults which we usually see and criticize in others—are the very faults which are the most marked in us! In our judgment of others—we show a miniature of ourselves. If this is true, we should be careful in judging others, for in doing so—we are only revealing our own faults! This should lead us also to close scrutiny of our own life, to get rid of the things in us which are not beautiful.
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“The LORD is my shepherd; I have everything I need!” Psalm 23:1
The shepherd is a favorite Scriptural picture of the divine love and care. In the Old Testament, the twenty-third Psalm gathers the whole wonderful truth in exquisite lines, which are dear to young and old wherever the Bible is known. Then in the New Testament, when our Lord would give His friends the sweetest revealings of His heart toward them, and tell them what they are to Him, and what He would be to them—He says, “I am the Good Shepherd.”
The Hebrew shepherd lives with his sheep. If they are out in the storm—he is with them. If they are exposed to danger—so is he. Just so, Christ lives with His people. He enters into closest relations with them.
The shepherd knows his sheep. He has a name for each one and calls them all by their names. Just so, Christ knows each one of His friends, has intimate personal knowledge of each one. He knows the best in us—and also the worst—our faults, our sins, our wanderings. Yet, knowing us as we are—He loves us still and never wearies of us!
The shepherd is most gentle with his sheep. He does not drive them—but goes before them and leads them. When they need rest on the way—he makes them lie down, and chooses for their resting-place, not the dusty road—but green pastures. He is especially kind to the lambs, gathers them in his arms and carries them in his bosom. All this is an exquisite picture of the gentleness of our Good Shepherd in His care of His sheep. He is thoughtful toward the weak. He loves the lambs and makes room for them on His bosom. Whatever the need is, there is something in the heart of Christ which meets its craving and supplies its lack!
The shepherd defends his flock in all danger. Often he had to risk his own safety, even his life, in protecting his sheep. Just so, the Good Shepherd gives His life—for His sheep!
Christ’s sheep are absolutely safe in His keeping. “I give unto them eternal life,” He said; “and they will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand!” Then at last, He will bring His own all safely home, “and they shall become one flock—with one Shepherd!”
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No vague sentiment
We are too apt to imagine that holiness consists in mere good feeling toward God. It does not! It consists in obedience in heart and life to the divine requirements. To be holy is to be set apart for God and devoted to God’s service, “The Lord has set apart him who is godly for himself.” But if we are set apart for God in this sense, it necessarily follows that we must live for God. We belong wholly to him, and any use of our life in any other service is sacrilege, as if one would rob the very altar of its smoking sacrifice, to gratify one’s common hunger.
Our hands are God’s—and can fitly be used only in doing his work. Our feet are God’s—and may be employed only in walking in his ways and running his errands. Our lips are God’s—and should speak only words which honor him and bless others. Our hearts are God’s—and must not be profaned by thoughts and affections which are not pure.
Biblical holiness is no vague sentiment—it is intensely practical. It is nothing less than the bringing of every thought and feeling and act—into obedience to Christ.
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None of us would want to have our hearts photographed!
“Having loved His own who were in the world—He loved them unto the end!” John 13:1
A friend is one who loves—and does not cease to love. Christ having loved His people—loves them unto the end.
One quality of true friendship, is trust. What could be more sacred than this comfort of feeling safe with a person, absolutely safe? That is the kind of friend Jesus is. You may always feel safe with Him. You may confess all your sins to Him. You may tell Him all your faults and your failures—how you denied Him the other night, how you failed to be true to Him, and all the evil thoughts of your heart; and He will be just as tender and gracious—as if you never had sinned! He loves unto the end!
None of us would want to have our hearts photographed, and the picture held up before the eyes of our neighbors! We would not want even our best friends to see a full transcript of our secret life—what goes on within us:
the bitter feelings,
the impure thoughts,
the doubts and fears!
Yet Christ sees all this unworthy inner life—He knows the worst that is in us—and loves us still! We do not need to hide our weaknesses from Him. He never withdraws His love. We may trust Him absolutely and forever!
“Having loved His own who were in the world—He loved them unto the end!” John 13:1
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Not one of us would ever be saved!
“He always lives to intercede for them.” Hebrews 7:25
Some speak as if all Christ’s work in saving us, had been done on the cross nineteen hundred years ago, in His giving up of Himself to die for us. But His actual work in saving us—is continued with us— in teaching us life’s lessons, giving us grace to overcome in temptation, lifting us up when we have fallen, going after us and bringing us back when we have wandered away, and keeping us from the world’s deadly evils.
Were it not for this patient, never-failing, watchful love of Christ—not one of us would ever be saved!
“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish —ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand!”
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Nothing less than a LIVING Christ will do for us!
“He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” 1 Corinthians 15:4
If your faith stops at the cross—it misses the blessing of the fullest revealing of Christ!
You need a Savior who not merely two thousand years ago went to death to redeem you—but one who also is alive to walk by your side in loving companionship.
You need a Savior who can hear your prayers, to whose feet you can creep in penitence when you have sinned, to whom you can call for help when the battle is going against you.
You need a Savior who is interested in all the affairs of your common life, and who can assist you in every time of need.
You need a Christ who can be a real friend—loving you, keeping close beside you, able to sympathize with your weaknesses.
You need a Savior who will come into your life, and will save you, not by one great act of centuries past—but by a life warm and throbbing with love today, and living again in you.
A DYING Christ alone, will not satisfy our heart. We must have the living One for our friend! Nothing less than a LIVING Christ will do for us! And that is the Christ the gospel brings to us: one who was dead—and is now alive for ever and ever!
“My soul thirsts for God, for the living God!” cried the psalmist, and cries every redeemed soul. It is only as we realize the truth of a living Christ—that our hearts are satisfied. We crave love—a bosom to lean upon, a hand to touch ours, a heart whose beatings we can feel, a personal friendship that will come into our life with its sympathy, its inspiration, its companionship, its shelter, its life, its comfort. All this, the living Christ is to us!
“I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!” Revelation 1:18
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“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your Master’s happiness!” Matthew 25:21
No higher praise can be given to any life—than to say it has been faithful. No one could ask for a nobler epitaph than the simple words, “He was faithful.” This will be the commendation given in the great account, to those who have made the most of their talents: “You have been faithful with a few things!” Faithfulness should therefore be the aim in all our living.
It is not great things that God expects or requires of us—unless He has given us great gifts and opportunities. All that He requires of us, is faithfulness. He gives us certain talents, puts us in certain relations, assigns to us certain duties—and then asks us to be faithful—nothing more. The man with the plain gifts and the small opportunities, is not expected to do the great things which are required of the man with the brilliant talents and the large opportunities. We should get this truth fixed deeply in our mind—that God asks of nothing more—than simple faithfulness.
Faithfulness is not the same in any two people. In the man who has five talents, there must be a great deal more outcome to measure up to the standard of faithfulness, than in the man who has but two talents.
Faithfulness is simply being true to God—and making the most of one’s life. Of those who have received little—only little is required; where much has been received—much is required. Never does God expect anything impossible or unreasonable from anyone. If we are simply faithful—we shall please God.
Jesus said of Mary, after her act of love, when men murmured at her, “She has done what she could!” Mark 14:7. What had she done? Very little, we would say. She loved Jesus truly and deeply. Then she brought a flask of precious ointment and broke the flask, pouring the sacred nard upon her Lord’s tired feet—those feet which soon were to be nailed to the cross.
What good did it do? We know it wonderfully comforted the Savior’s sorrowful heart. Amid almost universal hatred, and maddening enmity—here was one who sincerely loved Him. While other hands were weaving a crown of thorns for His brow, and others still were forging cruel nails to drive through His feet—Mary’s hands were pouring ointment on His head, and bathing His feet with the nard. Who will say that Mary’s act did no good? It seemed a little thing—but we cannot fathom how her sweet, pure, loyal love—blessed our suffering Savior in His bitter anguish.
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Nothing which is done for Christ is lost!
Every truly consecrated life, with all its faculties, has been given over to Christ. Faith implies full surrender. “You are not your own.” “You are Christ’s.” Christ owns us first by right of creation, then by right of purchase. We acknowledge His ownership and all that it includes, when we receive Him as our Savior and Lord. The first question, therefore, of the new believer is, “What will you have me to do, Lord?” We want to begin to work for our new Master. A heart of love for Christ, makes the sweeping of a room, the plowing of a field, the sawing of a board, the making of a garment, the selling of a piece of goods, the minding of a baby—as acceptable to God, as the ministry of angels!
One way of working for Christ, therefore, is to be diligent in the doing of life’s common daily tasks. The true giving of ourselves to God, exalts all of life into divine honor and sacredness. Nothing is trivial or indifferent, which it is our duty to do. We are never to neglect any work, however secular it may seem—in order to do something else which appears to be more religious. There are some people who would be better Christians, if they paid more heed to their own daily business, attended fewer church meetings and did less religious gossiping.
We need a religion which puts itself into everything we do! The old shoemaker was right, when he said that when he stands before the great white throne, God will ask, “What kind of shoes did you make down on the earth?” We must do all our work for the judgment day—our common everyday tasks—as well as our religious duties. The carpenter must get his religion into the houses he builds; the plumber must get his religion into his plumbing; the tailor must get his religion into his seams; the merchant must get his religion into his sales. All our work—we must do for God’s eye!
It is the little things which all of us can do in Christ’s name, which in the end leave the largest aggregate of blessing in the world. We need not wait to do great and conspicuous things. A life that every day gives its blessing to another, and adds to the happiness of some fellow being, by only a word of kindness, a thoughtful act, a cheering look, or a hearty hand grasp—does more for the world than he who but once in a lifetime does some great thing which fills a land with his praise. Nothing which is done for Christ is lost! The smallest acts, the quietest words, the gentlest inspirations which touch human souls, leave their impress for eternity! “If you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of My followers, you will surely be rewarded.” Matthew 10:42
A young girl was asked what it meant for her to be a Christian. She replied, “I suppose it is to do what Jesus would do—and behave as Jesus would behave—if He were a young girl and lived at our house.” No better answer could have been given! The greatest duty of a Christian, is to do what Jesus would do—and to behave as He would behave—if He were precisely in our place, and our circumstances.
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Nursing a viper!
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.” Colossians 3:5-7
A new life in Christ calls for the utter destruction of these evils. It is a shameful list which Paul names. It makes us ashamed to think that such qualities may belong to us—or may nest in our heart! Who would have thought that any these vile things could exist in anyone who wears the human form! Yet many of these ugly things are found in each of us! Our hearts are naturally cages of unclean birds!
What does Paul tell us we should do with these unholy things? He says we are to put them to death. When we find any evil thing in ourselves, we must kill it, for it is not right for it to live. An uncompromising war should be waged against all evil. He who cherishes any impurity in himself—is nursing a viper which will sting him to death by and by!
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One cannot have an omelet—without breaking eggs!
The goal of noble living, is to gather new virtue and grace—from all life’s struggles, cares and sorrows.
A mark of a all noble character—is its desire to do hard things!
The man who seeks only easy things—will never make much of his life.
One who is afraid of hard work—will never achieve anything worth while.
In an art gallery, before a lovely masterpiece, a young artist said to Ruskin, “Ah! If only I could put such a dream on canvas!” “Dream on canvas!” growled the old master. “It will take ten thousand touches of the brush on the canvas—to put your dream there!” No doubt, many beautiful dreams die in the brains and hearts of people—for lack of effort to make them realities.
In all departments of life—this indolent, easy-going way of getting on in life—is working its mischief. People do only what is easy—and never grapple with anything that is hard.
Indolence is the bane of countless lives! They do not rise—because they have not the courage and persistence to climb!
There are too many people who try to shirk the hard things. They want to get along as easily as possible. They have ambition of a certain sort—but it is ambition to have the ‘victory’without the battle; to ‘get the gold’ without digging for it. They would like to be learned and wise—but they do not care to toil in study, and “burn the midnight oil,” as they must do—if they would realize their desire. They may have a certain longing to be noble and Christlike, with a character that will command respect and confidence—but they have not the spirit of self-denial and of earnest moral purpose, which alone can produce such a character.
They may want to be godly and to grow into worthy manhood—but lack that passionate earnestness which alone will yield vigorous piety, and manly virtue, and the heroic qualities of true Christlikeness. Mere “holy dreaming” will yield nothing better than spiritual effeminacy! No religion is worthy—which does not seek to attain the best things; and the best can be won only by the bravest struggle and the most persistent striving!
We should not forget, that no one ever did anything of great value in this world—without cost. A quaint old proverb says, “One cannot have an omelet—without breaking eggs!” If we would do anything really worth while, that will be a blessing in the world—we must put into it, not merely . . .
conventional good wishes, and
courtesies that cost nothing!
We must put into it . . .
There is a legend of an artist who had found the secret of a wonderful ‘red’ which no other artist could imitate. The secret of his ‘color‘ died with him. But after his death an old wound was discovered over his heart. This revealed the source of the matchless hue in his pictures. The lesson of the legend is . . .
no great achievement can be made,
no lofty attainment can be reached,
nothing of much value to the world can be done
—except at the cost of heart’s blood!
“I labor—struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me!” Colossians 1:29
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One of the secrets of happy and beautiful life
“As your days—so shall your strength be!” Deuteronomy 33:25
One of the secrets of happy and beautiful life, is to live one day at a time. Really, we never have anything to do any day—but the bit of God’s will for that day. If we do that well—we have absolutely nothing else to do.
Time is given to us in days. It was so from the beginning. This breaking up of time into little daily portions means a great deal more than we are accustomed to think. For one thing, it illustrates the gentleness and goodness of God. It would have made life intolerably burdensome if a year, instead of a day—had been the unit of division. It would have been hard to carry a heavy load, to endure a great sorrow, or to keep on at a hard duty—for such a long stretch of time. How dreary our common task-work would be—if there were no breaks in it, if we had to keep our hand to the plough for a whole year! We never could go on with our struggles, our battles, our suffering—if night did not mercifully settle down with its darkness, and bid us rest and renew our strength.
We do not understand how great a mercy there is for us in the briefness of our short days. If they were even twice as long as they are—life would be intolerable! Many a time when the sun goes down—we feel that we could scarcely have gone another step. We would have fainted in defeat—if the summons to rest had not come just when it did.
We see the graciousness of the divine thoughtfulness in giving us time in periods of little days, which we can easily get through with—and not in great years, in which we would faint and fall by the way. It makes it possible for us to go on through all the long years and not to be overwrought, for we never have given to us at any one time—more than we can do between the morning and the evening.
If we learn well the lesson of living just one day at a time, without anxiety for either yesterday or tomorrow, we shall have found one of the great secrets of Christian peace. That is the way God teaches us to live. That is the lesson both of the Bible and of nature. If we learn it, it will cure us of all anxiety; it will save us from all feverish haste; it will enable us to live sweetly in any experience.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34
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Only a ‘kiss’
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends—if you do what I command. . . . I have called you friends.” John 15:13-15
The central fact in every true Christian life, is a personal friendship with Jesus. Men were called to follow Him, to leave all and cleave to Him, to believe on Him, to trust Him, to love Him, to obey Him; and the result was the transformation of their lives into His own beauty! That which alone makes one a Christian, is being a friend of Jesus.
Friendship transforms—we become like those with whom we live in close, intimate relations. Life flows into life, heart and heart are knit together, spirits blend, and the two friends become one.
We have but little to give to Christ; yet it is a comfort to know that our friendship really is precious to Him, and gives Him joy—poor and meager though its best may be. But He has infinite blessings to give to us. The friendship of Jesus includes all other blessings for time and for eternity! If Christ is our friend, all of life is made rich and beautiful to us.
“I have called you friends.” No other gift He gives to us—can equal in value, the love and friendship of His heart.
When King Cyrus gave Artabazus, one of his courtiers, a ‘gold cup’; he gave Chrysanthus, his favorite, only a ‘kiss’. And Artabazus said to Cyrus, “The gold cup you gave me, was not so precious as the kiss you gave Chrysanthus.”
No good man’s money is ever worth as much as his love. Certainly the greatest honor of this earth, greater than rank or station or wealth—is the friendship of Jesus Christ.
The stories of the friendships of Jesus when He was on the earth, need cause no one to sigh, “I wish that I had lived in those days, when Jesus lived among men—that I might have been His friend too—feeling the warmth of His love, my life enriched by contact with His, and my spirit quickened by His love and grace!” The friendships of Jesus, whose stories we read in the New Testament, are only patterns of friendships into which we may now enter—if we are ready to consecrate our life to Him in faithfulness and love.
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Only slightly evil
“Avoid every kind of evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5:22
Some professors are accustomed to think of some things as ‘only slightly evil‘, while other things are considered as most vile in their eyes.
They appear to think, that if they keep themselves from the worse kind of sins—then they need not be so watchful against the minor forms of evil. They will not lie, nor steal, nor swear, nor do other things which would brand them as ‘wicked’ in the eyes of the community. But meanwhile they are satisfied to be ungentle, unkind, selfish, bad-tempered, and worldly!
But Paul’s exhortation is, “Avoid every kind of evil.” We are not to pick out certain things and condemn these alone as evil, abstaining from them; meanwhile indulging in pet vices and sinful habits of our own. Whatever is sinful in even the slightest way—is to be avoided!
Some people come to birthdays regretfully. They do not like to think that they are growing older. But there is no reason for regret, if only we are living our years as we should live them, as we may live them.
Empty years—are a dishonor. Years filled with sin—are blots in the calendar. We should be ashamed to come to a birthday at the close of a year of idleness, indolence, neglect, or unfaithfulness. Jesus said we must give account for every idle word we speak. It will be an unhappy reckoning that we must make, after an idle year, or for idle hours and days in a year.
But there need never be a shadow of regret in coming to a birthday, when we have lived our best through all the days. If we go through a year walking with God—we shall come to its close with enlarged life, with nobler character, with richer virtues—in every way a more godly man or woman.
Growth is a law of life. When growth ceases, death is beginning. God counts our age, not by our birthdays—but by the advances which His eye sees in our inner life. Growth, too, is not marked by height or weight or by accumulations of money or property or earthly honor—but by an increase in godly character.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7
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Parents! You are fashioning the destinies of immortal souls!
What we want to do with our children, is not merely to control them and keep them in order—but to implant true principles deep in their hearts which shall rule their whole lives; to shape their character from within into Christlike beauty, and to make of them noble men and women, strong for battle of life. They are to be trained rather than governed. Growth of character, not merely good behavior—is the object of all home governing and teaching. Therefore the home influence is far more important than the home laws; and the parents’ lives are of more significance than their teachings. Whatever may be done in the way of governing, teaching or training—theories are not half as important as the parents’ lives. They may teach the most beautiful things—but if the child does not see these things modeled in the life of the parent—he will not consider them important enough to be adopted in his own life.
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Our conception of Christian life
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus!” Philippians 2:5
Paul tells us that we ought to have the same spirit as Jesus, the same temper and disposition as Jesus, and the same principles as Jesus.
The life of Christ—must be the pattern of our lives.
We can learn what were the qualities of Christ’s life, by a study of the Gospels. These precious books not only tell us about Christ, of the facts of His life, the works He did, the words He spoke—they also show us His sympathy, His kindness, His helpfulness, how He lived, how He interacted with people, how He bore enmity, unkindness and persecution.
Perhaps we do not think enough of Christ’s beauty of character and disposition—in forming our conception of Christian life. It is one thing to profess to be a Christian; and another thing to grow into the loveliness of Christ. One may be altogether sincere in confessing Christ—and yet be full of faults, only a beginner, having everything of Christian duty yet to learn; and all the beautiful qualities of Christian character yet to acquire.
“Whoever claims to live in Him—must walk as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:6
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Our conception of Christian living
True religion is intensely practical. Only so far as it dominates one’s life—is it real. We must get the commandments out of God’s Word—and give them a place in the hard, dusty paths of our earthly toil and struggle. We must get them off the tables of stone—and have them written on the walls of our own hearts! We must bring the Golden Rule—into our daily, actual life.
We are too apt to imagine, that holiness consists in mere good feeling toward God. It does not! It consists in obedience in heart and life to the divine requirements. To be holy is, first, to be set apart for God and devoted to God’s service, and it necessarily follows that we must live for God.
Our hands are God’s—and can fitly be used only in doing His work; our feet are God’s—and may be employed only in walking in His ways and running His errands; our lips are God’s—and should speak words only that honor Him and bless others; our hearts are God’s—and must not be profaned by thoughts and affections that are not pure.
True holiness is no vague sentiment—it is intensely practical. It is nothing less than the bringing of every thought and feeling and act—into obedience to Christ! We are quite in danger of leaving out the element of obedience, in our conception of Christian living. If we do this, our religion loses its strength and grandeur—and becomes weak, nerveless and forceless.
Our religion must touch every part of our life—and transform it all into the beauty of holiness.
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Our Father is taking care of us!
“Cast all your cares upon Him, because He cares about you!” 1 Peter 5:7
If this world were governed by chance—no amount either of philosophy or of common sense could keep us from worrying; but we know that our Father is taking care of us! No little child in the best and most caring home, was ever carried so carefully or so safely in the love and thought and care of earthly parents—as is the least of God’s little ones in the heavenly Father’s heart! “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them!” Matthew 6:31-32. The things we cannot help or change are in His hand, and belong to the “all things” which, we are assured, “work together for good, to those who love God.”
In the midst of all the great rush of events and circumstances, in which we can see no order and no design—we well know that each believer in Christ, is as safe as any little child in the arms of the most loving mother!
Amid all life’s trials and disappointments—our faith rests upon the character and the infinite goodness of God! We should have the faith of a little child—in a Father whose name is “Love” and whose power extends to every part of His universe! Here we find solid rock upon which to stand, and good reason for our lesson that we should never worry. Our Father is taking care of us!
In a world like ours, there are many things which incline us to worry. There are disappointments which leave the hands empty after days and years of hope and toil. There are resistless thwartings of fondly cherished plans and purposes. There are bereavements which seem to sweep away every earthly joy. There are perplexities through which no human wisdom can lead the feet. There are experiences in every life—whose natural effect is to disquiet the spirit and produce deep and painful anxiety.
If we are never to worry, what are we to do with these things which naturally tend to cause us worry? The answer is easy—we are to put all these disturbing and distracting things—into the hands of our Father!
“Cast all your cares upon Him, because He cares about you!” 1 Peter 5:7. God is taking care of you—not overlooking the smallest thing, and you have but to cast all your cares and anxiety upon Him—and then be at peace. It is trying to carry our own cares, which produces worry! Our duty is to cast them all upon Christ! This is the secret of heart-peace in the time of distress, from whatever cause.
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Our invisible building
“This fellow began to build—and was not able to finish!” Luke 14:30
We are all builders. We may not erect any house or temple on a city street for human eyes to see—but every one of us builds an edifice which God sees!
Life is a building. It rises slowly, day by day, through the years. Every new lesson we learn, lays another block on the edifice which is rising silently within us.
every touch of another life on ours,
every influence that impresses us,
every book we read,
every conversation we have,
every act in our commonest days—
adds something to our invisible building.
All of life furnishes the materials which add to our life-wall.
Many people build noble character structures in this world. But there are also many who build only base, shabby huts, without beauty—which will be swept away in the testing fires of judgment!
There are many, too, whose life-work presents the sorry spectacle of an unfinished building. There was a beautiful plan to begin with, and the work was promising for a little time—but after a while it was abandoned and left standing, with walls halfway up—a useless fragment, open and exposed, an incomplete inglorious ruin—telling no story of past splendor—as do the ruins of some old castle or coliseum—a monument only of folly and failure!
Sin in some form draws many a builder away from his work—to leave it unfinished.
It may be the world’s fascinations, which lure him from Christ’s side.
It may be evil companions, which tempt him from loyal friendship to the Savior.
It may be riches, which enter his heart and blind his eyes to the attractions of heaven.
It may be some secret debasing lust, which gains power over him and paralyzes his spiritual life.
Many are those now amid the world’s throngs—who once sat at the Lord’s Table and were among God’s people! Their lives are unfinished buildings, towers begun with great enthusiasm—and then left to tell their sad story of failure to all who pass by. They began to build—and were not able to finish.
It is sad to think how much of this unfinished work, God sees as He looks down upon our earth. Think of the good beginnings which never came to anything in the end. Think of the excellent resolutions which are never carried out. Think of the noble life-plans entered upon by so many young people with ardent enthusiasm—but soon given up. Think of the beautiful visions and high hopes which might have been splendid realities—but which have faded out, with not even one earnest attempt to work them into life!
In all aspects of life—we see these abandoned buildings. Many homes present the spectacle of abandoned dreams of love. For a time, the beautiful vision shone—and two hearts tried to make it come true—but they gave their dream up in despair, either enduring in misery—or going their own sad and separate ways.
So life everywhere is full of beginnings, which are never carried on to completion.
There is . . .
not a soul-wreck on the streets,
not a prisoner serving out a sentence behind prison bars,
not a debased, fallen person anywhere—
in whose soul, there were not once visions of beauty, high hopes, holy thoughts and purposes, and high resolves of an ideal of something lovely and noble. But alas! the visions, the hopes, the purposes, the resolves—never grew into more than beginnings. God bends down and sees a great wilderness of unfinished buildings, bright possibilities unfulfilled, noble might-have-beens abandoned; ghastly ruins now, sad memorials only of failure!
The lesson from all this, is that we should . . .
finish our work,
allow nothing to draw us away from our duty,
never become weary in following Christ,
persevere from the beginning of our ideals—steadfast unto the end.
We should not falter under any burden, in the face of any danger, before any demand of cost or sacrifice.
no worldly attraction,
should weaken for one moment our determination to be faithful unto death! No one who has begun to build for Christ—should leave an unfinished, abandoned life-work, to his own eternal grief!
“This fellow began to build—and was not able to finish!” Luke 14:30
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Our thoughts build our character
“When, on my bed, I think of You, I meditate on You during the night watches.” Psalm 63:6
It is a law of life—that our thoughts build our character.
If we meditate on the purity, the holiness, the goodness, the love, the righteousness, of Christ—these qualities will print themselves upon our own hearts.
Paul has given us an infallible direction for the best spiritual culture.
“Whatever is true,
whatever is noble,
whatever is right,
whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely,
whatever is admirable—
if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things!” Philippians 4:8
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Our words and deeds are irrevocable
“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken!” Matthew 12:36
We cannot recall any word we have spoken. It may be a false word or an unkind word—a word which will blast and burn! Instantly after it has been spoken—we may wish it back and may rush after it and try to stop it—but there is no power in the world that can unsay the hurtful word—or blot it out of our life!
It is just so with our acts. A moment after we have done a wicked thing, we may bitterly repent it. We may be willing to give all we have in the world to undo it, to make it as though it never had been. But in vain. A deed done takes its place in the universe as a fact—and never can be recalled.
We should be sure before we speaka word or doan act—that it is right, that we shall never desire to have it recalled—for when once we have opened our lips, or lifted our hand—there will be no unsaying or undoing possible.
Our words and deeds are irrevocable. We cannot recall anything we have done, neither can we change it. But by other words and deeds, we may in some measure modify the effect of that which we cannot blot out. Paul could not undo his persecutions of Christians—but by a life to devotion to Christ’s cause—he could in a sense make reparation for the terrible harm he had done.
Just so, we cannot undo the wrong things we have done—but we should strive to set in motion other influences which may at least compensate in some sense for the harm they have wrought. We cannot unsay the sharp word which wounds our friend’s heart—but we can by kindness and loyal devotion—yet bring good and blessing to his life.
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“You are absolutely beautiful, my Beloved; there is no flaw in You!” Song of Songs 4:7
Plato expressed a desire that the moral law might become a living personage, that men seeing it thus incarnate, might be charmed by its beauty. Plato’s wish was fulfilled in Jesus Christ! The holiness and the beauty of the divine law were revealed in Him. The Beatitudes contain an outline of the ideal life—but the Beatitudes are only a transcript of the life of Christ Himself! What He taught about love—was but His own love stated in a course of living lessons for His friends to learn. When He said that we should be patient, gentle, thoughtful, forgiving, and kind—He was only saying, “Follow Me!”
If we could gather from the most godly people who ever have lived, the little fragments of lovely character which have blossomed out in each, and bring all these fragments into one personality—we would have the beauty of Jesus Christ! In one person you find gentleness, in another meekness, in another purity of heart, in another humility, in another kindness, in another patience. But in the holiest of men, there are only two or three qualities of ideal beauty—along with much that is stained and blemished, mingled with these qualities. In Christ, however, all that is excellent is found, with no flaw!
“You are absolutely beautiful, my Beloved; there is no flaw in You!” Song of Songs 4:7
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Do not keep the alabaster boxes of your affection sealed and laid away—until your friends are dead. Fill their present days with tenderness. Speak your words of commendation, while their ears can hear them! The things you mean to say when they are dead and gone—say before they go! The flowers you mean to send for their coffins—send beforehand to brighten and sweeten their homes, before they leave them forever!
I have often said—and I know I speak for thousands of other weary, plodding toilers—that if my friends have vases laid away, filled with the perfumes of sympathy and affection, which they intend to break over my dead body—I would far rather they would bring them out now along my toilsome days and open them—when I can enjoy them and be refreshed by them!
Post-mortem kindnesses do not cheer the burdened spirit. Tears falling on the icy brow of death, make poor and too tardy atonement for coldness, neglect, and cruel selfishness in life’s long, struggling years. Appreciation, after the heart is stilled in death—has no inspiration for the departed one; it comes too late, when it is pronounced only in funeral eulogies. Flowers piled on the coffin—cast no fragrance backward over weary days.
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Put all sorrow’s wounds into His hand
“He restores my soul.” Psalm 23:3
In several ways does the shepherd restore his sheep. If one wanders away, he goes out after it, and seeks it until he finds it, restoring it to the shelter of the fold. If one faints and grows sick by the way, in the hard journey or the burning heat—the shepherd does not leave it to die, but takes it up in his arms, and carries it home, restoring it to the fold. If a sheep is hurt, torn by a wild beast or injured by accident—the shepherd tends its wounds until they are healed.
All this suggests how our Good Shepherd restores our souls. Sometimes we wanderaway. It is very easy to drift off from Christ. The drifting is often unconscious—we do not realize that we are losing our first love—and little by little, we are far off from Christ. Perhaps it is a cherished sin which eats out our heart-life. Or perhaps it is a worldly companionship which draws us away, loosening the bonds which bound us to Christ. Sometimes it is an absorbing business which leaves no room for God. Or it may be the cares of this world which choke the Word and quench the Spirit. We often
need to have our soul restored, quickened, revived—or we would never get safely home, through this evil world.
Then, what soul is not sometimes hurt, wounded, torn—by the wild beasts of temptation? Sin is a
fearful thing. It wounds the soul—and no hand but Christ’s can restore it. But if we put our hurt life
into His hand, He will give healing. What millions of sin’s woundings—has our Good Shepherd cured!
Then, when sorrowhas left the heart broken, it is only the Good Shepherd who can restore it. He is
a most skillful physician. We may put all sorrow’s wounds into His hand. He is most gentle, and His hand is infinitely skillful. He is a wonderful comforter. No human hand can heal a heart that is bruised—but the hand of Jesus has infinite delicacy and skill.
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3
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Sermons without words
When you are tempted to chafe and repine at the narrowness of your circumstances, and the limitations of your sphere—remember that for thirty years, Jesus found room in a humble peasant home for worthy living and for service, not unfitted to His exalted character.
If you can do nothing but live a true Christian life—patient, gentle, kindly, pure—in your home, in society, at your daily duty—you will perform a service of great value, and leave many blessings in the world. Such a life is a little gospel, telling in sermons without words—the wonderful story
of the cross of Christ.
“Let your light shine before men—that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
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“I have refined you in the furnace of affliction.”
We were stones in the quarry. When Christ saved us—we were cut from the great mass of rock. But
we were yet rough and unshapely; not fit for heaven. Before we can be ready for our place in the heavenly temple—we must be hewn and shaped. The hammer must do its work—breaking off the roughnesses. The chisel must be used—carving and polishing our lives into beauty. This work is done in the many processes of life. Every sinful thing, every fault in our character—is a rough place in the stone, which must be chiseled off. All the crooked lines must be straightened. Our lives must be cut and hewn—until they conform to the perfect standard of divine truth.
Quarry-work is not always pleasant. If stones had hearts and sensibilities—they would cry out in sore
pain as they feel the hammer strokes and the deep cutting of the chisel. Yet the workman must not
heed their cries, and withdraw his hand, else they would at last be thrown aside as worthless blocks,
never to be built into the beautiful temple.
We are not stones; we have hearts and sensibilities, and we do cry out ofttimes, as the hammer smites
away the roughnesses in our character! But we must yield to the painful work and let it go on, or
we shall never have our place as living stones in Christ’s beautiful temple. We must not wince under
the sharp chiseling of sorrow and affliction.
“I have refined you in the furnace of affliction.” Isaiah 48:10
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“But now you must also put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language.” Colossians 3:8
All the precepts of the Bible are aimed towards the fashioning of spiritual beauty in every redeemed life. We are to put away . . .
all that is sinful,
all that is marring,
every blot and blemish,
every unholy desire, feeling, and affection,
everything that would defile.
And we are to put on whatever is lovely and Christlike.
The one great work of Christ in Christian lives—is the fashioning of holiness in them. We are to grow away from our deformities, our faults and infirmities, our poor dwarfed, stunted life—and into spiritual beauty! The mark set before us is the likeness of Christ, which, at last, we shall attain! “We shall be like Him, because we will see Him as He really is!” 1 John 3:2
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“Worship the Lord in the beauty of His holiness; tremble before Him, all the earth!” Psalm 96:9
“Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us.” Psalm 90:17
Paul enjoins that, “whatsoever things are lovely” shall be in the vision of life, into which we aim to fashion our character.
We are to follow in the footsteps of our Master. Jesus Himself was, “Altogether lovely!” Song of Songs 5:16
Humanity was made to be beautiful. God’s ideal for man was spotless loveliness—man was made at first, in God’s image. But sin has left its foul trail everywhere! We see something of its debasement, wherever we go. What ruins sin has wrought!
All of Christ’s work of grace—is towards the restoration of beauty of the Lord in His people.
Spiritual beauty is holiness. Nothing unclean is lovely. Character is Christ-like, only when it is beautiful.
All the precepts of the Bible are towards the fashioning of beauty in every redeemed life. We are to put away . . .
all that is sinful,
every blot and blemish,
every unholy desire, feeling and affection,
everything that would defile—
and put on whatsoever is lovely and Christ-like.
The one great work of Christ in Christian lives—is the fashioning of holiness in them. We are to grow away from . . .
our poor dwarfed stunted life
—into spiritual beauty!
The mark set before us is the likeness of Christ, which, at last, we shall attain! “We know that when He appears—we will be like Him, because we will see Him as He is! And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself—just as He is pure.” 1 John 3:2-3
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Stay away from the church service!
Serving Christ is something very practical. Some people seem to think it is something aside from their common life, something that belongs only to Sundays, something that can be done only in certain holy moments. But serving Christ is really one’s very life—or it is nothing. It does not consist merely in acts of worship. There are times when one’s first and most sacred duty—is tostay away from the church service!
A young mother was regretting that she had been able to attend church so rarely during the six months since her baby came. But if the baby really needed a mother’s care all those months, she would have been unfaithful to her Master—if she had neglected it even to attend church services.
A pleasant story tells of a dying mother, who left her young daughter in charge of her little sick sister. All her days and nights were filled with this care of love. She could not attend church services nor take any part in Christ’s work outside of her little home. It grieved her, for she loved Christ and longed to be of use in His service.
One night she dreamed that the Master had come, and she stood before Him, painfully explaining why she had not been able to do any work for Him, because all her time and strength were required in caring for her suffering sister. “That child is Mine!” said the Master. She could not have served Him better—than in tending this little one of His that needed her care and was her special charge. If she had failed in this duty, even in order to attend church services, if she had neglected this sick child in order to help others outside her home—the Master would have been grieved!
Our duty in serving Christ lies always near to our hand. It is never some impossible thing that He wants us to do.
There was an artist who wished to leave behind him some noble work that would live through all time. He sought for material fine enough for his dream. He traveled to distant lands and journeyed far and near in vain quest for what he sought. He came home an aged man, weary and disappointed, and found that from the common clay beside his own door—his old apprentice had made marvels of loveliness which were praised by all who saw them, and had won him fame.
Just so, many people longing to do noble things for Christ, look far off for the opportunities, missing meanwhile services which wait for them close by their doors. Nothing is grander for us any day, than . . .
the quiet doing of God’s will,
simple faithfulness in common duty,
making the best of what lies close to our hand!
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Surely, the canary is wiser than the starling!
“A cheerful heart has a continual feast.” Proverbs 15:15
“A cheerful heart is good medicine; but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22
One of the divinest secrets of a happy life—is the art of extracting comfort and sweetness from every circumstance. We must develop the habit of looking on the bright side. This is a magic-wand whose power exceeds that of any fabled magician’s to change all things into blessings. Those who take cheerful views, find happiness everywhere; and yet how rare is the habit! The multitude prefer to walk on the dark side of the paths of life.
There are those who take to gloom—as a bat to darkness, or as a vulture to carrion! They would rather nurse a misery—than nourish a joy. They always find the dark side of everything, if there is a dark side to be found. They appear to be conscientious grumblers, as if it were their duty to extract some essence of misery from every circumstance! The weather is either too cold or too hot; too wet or too dry. They never find anything to their taste. Nothing escapes their criticism. They find fault with the food on the table, with the bed in which they lie, with the railroad-train or steamboat on which they travel, with the government and its officials, with merchant and workman—in a word, with the world at large and in detail.
They are chronic grumblers! Instead of being content in the state in which they are—they have learned to be discontented, no matter how happy their lot! If they had been placed in the Garden of Eden—they would have discovered something with which to find fault! Their wretched habit empties life of all possible joy—and turns every cup to gall.
On the other hand, there are rare people who always take cheerful views of life. They look at the bright side. They find some joy and beauty everywhere. If the sky is covered with clouds—they will point out to you the splendor of some great cloud-bank piled up like mountains of glory. When the storm rages, instead of fears and complaints—they find an exquisite pleasure in contemplating its grandeur and majesty. In the most faulty picture—they see some bit of beauty which charms them. In the most disagreeable person—they discover some kindly trait or some bud of promise. In the most disheartening circumstances, they find something for which to be thankful, some gleam of cheer breaking in through the thick gloom!
When a ray of sunlight streamed through a crack in the shutter, and made a bright patch on the floor in the darkened room—the little dog rose from his dark corner, and went and lay down in the one sunny spot; and these cheerful people live in the same way. If there is one beam of cheer or hope anywhere in their lot—they will find it! They have a genius for happiness. They always make the best out of circumstances. Their good nature never fails. They take a cheerful view of every perplexity. Such people have a wondrous ministry in this world. They are like apple trees when covered with blossoms, pouring a sweet fragrance all around them.
It may be worth while to linger a little, on the philosophy of living which produces such results.
Some people are born with sunny dispositions, with large hopefulness and joyfulness, and with eyes for the bright side of life. Others are naturally disposed to gloom. Yet, it is still largely a matter of culture and habit, for which we are individually responsible. Like the apostle Paul, we can train ourselves to take cheerful views of life, and to extract contentment and enjoyment from any circumstances.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again—Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4. This is clearly a most important part of Christian culture.
Joyfulness is everywhere commended as a Christian duty.
Discontent is a most detestable fault.
Morbidness is a sin.
Fretfulness grieves God. It tells of unbelief. It destroys the soul’s peace. It disfigures the beauty of Christian character. It not only makes us soured and unhappy in our own hearts—but its influence on others is bad.
We have no right to project the gloom of our discontent—over any other life. Our attitude is to be ever towards joy. There is nothing so depressing in its effect upon others, as morbidness!
True contentment does not chafe under disappointments and losses—but accepts them, becomes reconciled to them, and at once looks about to find something good in them.
This is the secret of happy living!
And when we come to think of it—how senseless it is to struggle against the inevitable! Discontent helps nothing. It never removes a hardship, or makes a burden any lighter, or brings back a vanished pleasure. One never feels better, for complaining. It only makes him wretched!
A starling in a cage struggles against its fate, flies against the wire walls, and beats upon them in efforts to be free—until its wings are all bruised and bleeding!
A canary is shut in another cage, accepts the restraint, perches itself upon its bar and sings.
Surely, the canary is wiser than the starling!
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Tangles which our fingers cannot unravel
“Show me the way I should walk, for I have come to you in prayer.“ Psalm 143:8
We cannot know the way ourselves. The path across one little day seems very short, but none of us can find it ourselves. Each day is a hidden world to our eyes, as we enter it in the morning. We cannot see one step before us, as we go forth. An impenetrable veil covers the brightest day, as with night’s black robes. It may have joys and prosperities for us—or it may bring to us sorrows and adversities. Our path may lead us into a garden—or the garden may be a Gethsemane. We have our plans as we go out in the morning—but we are not sure that they will be realized. The day will bring duties, responsibilities, temptations, perils, tangles which our fingers cannot unravel, intricate or obscure paths in which we cannot find the way.
What could be more fitting in the morning than the prayer, “Show me the way I should walk!” God knows all that is in the day for us. His eye sees to its close—and He can be our guide.
There is no promise given more repeatedly in the Bible, than that of divine guidance. We have it in the shepherd psalm, “He leads me in the paths of righteousness.” Paths of righteousness are right paths. All God’s paths are clean and holy. They are the ways of His commandments. But there is another sense in which they are right paths. They are the right ways—the bestways for us. Ofttimes they are not the ways which we would have chosen. They do not seem to be good ways. But nevertheless they are right—and lead to blessing and honor. We are always safe, therefore, in praying this prayer on the morning of any day, “Show me the way I should walk!”
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Teach me how to pray, mother!
“Lord, teach us to pray!” Luke 11:1
A little child missed her mother at a certain time every day. The mother’s habit was to slip away upstairs alone, and to be gone for some time. The child noticed that the mother was always gentler, quieter and sweeter after she came back. Her face had lost its weary look—and was shining! Her voice was gladder, more cheerful.
“Where do you go, mother,” the child said thoughtfully, “when you leave us every day?”
“I go upstairs to my room,” said the mother.
“Why do you go to your room?” continued the little questioner. “You always come back with your face shining. What makes it shine so?”
“I go to pray,” replied the mother reverently.
The child was silent for a little while, and then she said softly: “Teach me how to pray, mother!“
“When you pray, say: Our Father . . .” Luke 11:2
That one word is the key to the whole mystery of prayer. When Jesus taught his disciples to speak to God, calling Him by that blessed name—He gave them the greatest of all lessons in prayer. When we can look into God’s face and honestly say ‘Father,’ it is easy to pray. God loves to be called ‘Father’. It opens His heart to hear all that we say—and to grant all that we ask.
Such power has the word ‘father’ spoken by a child, to open a human heart. Such power too, has the name ‘Father’ to find and open the heart of God! If we can sincerely say ‘Father’ when we come to the ‘gate of prayer’, we shall be sure to find entrance. If God is really our Father, we will no longer have any question as to whether we may pray to Him, or as to how to pray.
Some of us find life hard. It is full of cares and questions, of tasks and duties, of temptations and dangers. There are thorns and briers, among its roses. There are pitfalls in its sunniest paths. If we do not know how to pray—we can never get through the days. The privilege of prayer is always ours. The ‘gate of prayer’ is always open! Any moment we can look up and say ‘Father’, lay our need before the throne of mercy—and God will answer us as He desires!
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“So he called ten of his servants—and gave them ten pounds. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.'” Luke 19:13
We are doing business in this world for Christ. Each one of us has something of His—a pound which He has entrusted to us—to trade with as His agent. Our life itself, with all its powers, its endowments, its opportunities, its privileges, its blessings, its possibilities—is ‘our pound’.
Our life is not our own. We are not in this world merely to have a good time for a few years. Life is a trust. We are not done with it either, when we have lived it through to its last day. We must render an account of it to Him who gave it to us. Our business is to gather gains, through our trading with our Lord’s money. We are required to make the most that is possible of our life!
“The first came forward and said—Master, your pound has earned ten more pounds!” Luke 19:16
We always find a few of these ten-pound Christians among the followers of Christ. They are those Christians who, from the very beginning, through divine grace—strive to reach the best things attainable in life. They are not content with being merely saved from sin’s guilt, with being mere members of the church. They make their consecration to Christ complete, keeping nothing back. They set their ideal of obedience to their Lord—at the mark of perfectness, and are not slack in their striving, until they reach the mark in heaven. They seek to follow Christ entirely, fully, with their whole heart. They accept every duty—without regard to its cost. They seek to be like Christ, imitating Him in all the elements of His character. They give their whole energy to the work and service of Christ. They lie, like John, on the Master’s bosom, and their souls are struck through, as it were, with the Master’s loving spirit.
These ten-pound Christians grow at last—into a Christ-likeness, a spiritual beauty, and a power of usefulness and influence, by which they are set apart among Christians, shining with brighter luster than other stars, in the galaxy of the church. Their one pound has made ten more pounds! Their high spiritual attainment has been won by their diligent and wise use of the one pound with which they began!
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The art of living a Christian life
“Whoever claims to live in Him—must walk as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:6
We have only successfully acquired the art of living a Christian life—when we have learned to apply the principles of true religion, and enjoy its help and comfort in our daily life.
It is easy to join in devotional exercises, to quote Bible promises, to extol the beauty of the Scriptures. But there are many who do these things—whose religion utterly fails them in the very places and at the very times—when it ought to prove their staff and stay!
All of us must go out from the sweet services of the Sunday—into a week of very real and very commonplace life. We must mingle with people who are not angels! We must pass through experiences, that will naturally worry and vex us. Those about us, either wittingly or unwittingly, annoy and try us! We will meet many troubles and worries in ordinary week-day life. There are continual irritations and annoyances!
The problem is to live a beautiful Christian life—in the face of all these hindrances! How can we get through the tangled briers which grow along our path—without having our hands and feet torn by them? How can we live sweetly—amid the vexing and irritating things, and the multitude of little worries and frets which infest our way, and which we cannot evade?
It is not enough merely to ‘get along in any sort of way’, to drag to the close of each long, wearisome day—happy when night comes to end the strife. Life should be a joy—and not a burden. We should live victoriously, ever master of our experiences, and not tossed by them like a leaf on the dashing waves. Every earnest Christian wants to live a truly beautiful life, whatever the circumstances may be.
A little child, when asked ‘what it was to be a Christian,’ replied, “For me, to be a Christian is to live as Jesus would live—and behave as Jesus would behave—if He were a little girl and lived at our house.”
No better definition of the Christian life could be given. Each one of us is to live just as Jesus would—if He were living out our little life in the midst of its actual environment, mingling with the same people with whom we must mingle, and exposed to the very annoyances, trials and provocations to which we are exposed. We want to live a life that will please God, and that will bear witness to the genuineness of our piety.
“Leaving you an example—so that you should follow in His steps.” 1 Peter 2:21
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The best that most of us can do in this world
“Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27
“Christ lives in me.” Galatians 2:20
Christ within us will be made manifest. If we have this divine indwelling, we will also have an ever-increasing measure in all of our life—of the gentle and loving spirit of the Master. We should not claim to have Christ in us—if, in our conduct and speech, in our disposition and temper, and in our relations with our fellow-men, there is none of the mind and temper of Christ. If Christ truly is in us, He cannot long be hidden in our hearts, without manifestation. There will be a gradual transformation of our outer life—into Christ-likeness.
As He lived—so we will live;
as He ministered to others—so we will minister;
as He was holy—so we will be holy;
as He was patient, thoughtful, unselfish, gentle, and kind—so will we be.
Christ came to our world to pour divine kindness on weary, needy, perishing human lives. Christ truly in our hearts—would send us out on the same mission. The world today needs nothing more than true Christ-likeness, in those who bear Christ’s name, and represent Him.
If we truly have Christ in our hearts—it will work out in transformed life and in Christly ministry; it will lead to the brightening of one little spot, at least, on this big earth.
There are a few people whom God calls to do great things for Him. The best that most of us can do in this world—is just to live out a real, simple, consecrated, Christian life in our allotted place. Thus, in our little measure, we shall repeat the life of Christ Himself, showing others some feeble reflection of His sweet and loving face, and doing in our poor way—a few of the beautiful things He would do, if He were here Himself.
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The bliss of heaven
“They will see His face!” Revelation 22:4
John says that in heaven, “we shall be like Christ—for we shall see Him as He is.” 1 John 3:2. While we look upon the brightness of our Master’s face—its beauty is imprinted upon us! Looking upon Christ—makes us like Him!
Paul teaches the same remarkable truth: “We all, with unveiled faces, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory!” 2 Corinthians 3:18. This transformation is not a heavenly matter alone—it will be completed there, when, all veils removed—we shall look directly into the face of Christ; but it is something for our earthly life too. It begins here, and it goes on, the likeness coming out ever more and more fully and clearly—as we know more and more about Christ.
Companionship with Him, communion with Him, looking into His face—prints upon us His likeness! Every day, if we live as we should—some new line of His beauty comes out on our faces!
One day we shall slip away from these scenes of earth. Our eyes shall be closed on all familiar things. Next moment—O rapture! they will be opened on the unveiled face of Jesus Christ! That is what ‘death’ will be to you—if you are God’s child. You may now dread death—but it is only going to look at your Redeemer’s face!
The bliss of heaven will be largely—in being with Christ, in seeing His face, in enjoying His companionship. What bliss it will be in heaven—to look into Christ’s face of love—and to have His smile!
To see the face of Christ is also a token of high honor. Not many people are admitted to the presence of an earthly king. Only his favorites and those high in rank have this privilege. But in heaven, all of Christ’s servants shall see His face. That is, they shall be admitted to the closest fellowship and shall have all the privileges of intimate friends!
What a blessed moment it will be—when we are ushered into the presence of Christ! No wonder Paul says, “To depart and be with Christ—is very far better!”
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The BOOK you are writing
“You ought to live holy and godly lives.” 2 Peter 3:11
The only way to have a stainless and beautiful year at its close—is to keep the days, as they pass, all pure and sweet, with the loveliness of holy, useful living.
It is thus, in little days—that our years come to us. We have but the one small fragment to fill and beautify at a time.
The year is a book, and for each day—one fair white page is opened before us.
And we are artists, whose duty it is to put something beautiful on the page.
Or we are poets, and are to write some lovely thought, some radiant sentence, on each leaf as it lies open before us.
“That we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” 1 Timothy 2:2
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The burning of these old Ephesian books!
“Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A number of them who had been practicing magic brought their books and burned them at a public bonfire. The value of the books was several million dollars!” Acts 19:18-19
One proof of the power of Christianity, was in the way these new believers at Ephesus renounced their evil ways and gave up their profitable sins. They saw the emptiness and folly of the things in which they had been trusting, and openly confessed the sinful deeds they had been doing. Many of them who had been engaged in the practice of magic arts, brought their books together and made a bonfire of them in the public square.
Always, those who follow Christ should be ready to part with whatever is sinful in their life and work, that Christ may be honored above all. Sins kept in the heart—poison the life, hide God’s face, and shut out blessing. No matter what it may cost, our sins must be sacrificed, or they will destroy us!
The burning of these old Ephesian books suggests that we should have bonfires of our evil books. There are many books which ought to be burned! They carry in them Satan’s poison! To read them is to debauch our own souls. To put them into the hands of others—is to ruin them.
In India, a man took down a book from the shelf—and a viper came out of the book and stung him to death! Just so, there are many books in which deadly vipers lie hidden! We should be most careful in choosing the books we read. A good book is a great blessing—but a bad book is a curse!
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The divine philosophy for peaceful living
“Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Genesis 18:14
“I know that You can do all things; no plan of Yours can be thwarted!” Job 42:2
Everything which threatens to give us anxiety—is to be taken at once to God. Nothing is too greatto carry to Him. Does not He bear up all worlds? Does not He rule over all the affairs of the universe? Is there any matter in our life, however great it may seem to us—too hard for Him to manage? Is any perplexity too difficult for Him to resolve? Is any human despair too dark for Him to illumine with hope? Is there any tangle or confusion out of which He cannot extricate us?
Nothing is too smallto carry to Him. Is He not our Father, and is He not sincerely interested in whatever concerns us? There is not one of the countless things which fly like specks of dust all through our daily life, tending to vex and fret us—that we may not take to God.
The Scriptures prescribe a cure for anxious care. The divine philosophy for peaceful living says: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus!” Philippians 4:6-7
Refer every disturbing thing to Him—that He may bear the burden of it. “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will support you!” Psalms 55:22.
“Casting all your care upon Him; for He cares for you!” 1 Peter 5:7
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The everlasting arms
So frail is human strength, though behind it is tenderest, truest love. All that love can do, all that money can do, all that skill can do—avail nothing. Human arms may clasp us very firmly, yet their clasp cannot keep us from the power of disease—or from the cold hand of death.
But the love and strength of God are everlasting. Nothing can ever separate us from Him! An Old Testament promise reads: “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Deuteronomy 33:27. If we are stayed upon the eternal God, nothing ever can disturb us—for nothing can disturb Him on whom we are reposing. If we are held in the clasp of His everlasting arms—we need not fear that we shall ever be separated from the enfolding.
The position of the everlasting arms in this picture is suggestive—”Underneath.” They are always underneath us. No matter how low we sink—in weakness, in faintness, in pain, in sorrow—we never can sink below these everlasting arms! We never can drop out of their clasp!
A father tried to save his child in the waves—frantically clasping his arms around the beloved child. But his arms, though nerved by most passionate love, were too weak, and the child slipped away from them, and sank down in the dark waters.
But evermore, in the deepest floods, the everlasting arms will be underneath the feeblest, most imperiled child of God. Sorrow is very deep—but in the greatest grief, these everlasting arms of love are underneath the sufferer. Then when death comes, and every earthly support is gone from beneath us, when every human arm unclasps, and every face of love 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 underneath us!
The word “are,” must not be overlooked—”Underneath are the everlasting arms.” This is one of the wonderful present tenses of the Bible. To every trusting believer, to you who today are reading these words and trying to learn the lesson, God says, “Underneath you are now, this moment, every moment, the everlasting arms!”
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The first Christians
“The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” Acts 11:26
The lives of the converts were so different from their unbelieving neighbors, that they were called Christians. It is supposed that the name was given them in mockery or contempt by the heathen people of Antioch. But the name stuck, and is now used universally to describe those who follow Christ. It may not be the very best of names.
Perhaps disciples is better—disciples means learners, followers. We should all be disciples of Christ and should ever be learning of Him, growing in grace and likeness of Him as we follow Him.
Perhaps believers is a better name. It carries in itself the thought that we are saved by believing on Christ. It is faith which works the victories in this world.
Perhaps followers would be better. To follow Christ is to receive Him as Master and to cling to Him in obedience and devotion wherever we may go.
But the word “Christian,” given at Antioch as a sneer—is now used everywhere. It is full of meaning. Those who are Christians should be like Christ—”little Christs”. They should represent Christ in the world. Those who see them—should see the image of Christ in them!
Matthew Henry says, “Hitherto the followers of Christ were called disciples, that is, learners, scholars; but from that time they were called Christians. The proper meaning of this name is, a follower of Christ; it denotes one who, from serious thought, embraces the religion of Christ, believes His promises, and makes it his chief care to shape his life by Christ’s precepts and example. Hence it is plain that multitudes take the name of Christian—to whom it does not rightly belong! But the name without the reality—will only add to our guilt. While the bare profession will bestow neither profit nor delight, the possession of it will give both the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”
The gentleness of Jesus
“Learn from Me—for I am gentle and humblein heart.” Matthew 11:29
Of the gentleness of Jesus it was said, “He will not break a bruised reed, and He will not put out a smoldering wick.” Isaiah 42:3. There is nothing that this sorrowing, sinning world needs—more than gentleness. Yet, there are some Christians who seem never to have learned love’s secret of gentleness.
We need to pray for the grace of gentleness, that we may walk softly among men, never hurting another life by harsh words or ungentle acts.
We can have something of the beauty of Christ in our life. As we can get into our hearts the grace of the Lord Jesus, and the mind that was in Jesus—the light of divine love will shine out from our dull nature, and transfigure it. This will make us sweet-tempered and gentle-spirited. It will make us honest in our dealings with our fellow-men. It will make us kind to all about us. It will make us godly people to live with at home. It will make us good neighbors and faithful friends. The unconscious ministry of such a life through long years—will leave untold blessings in this world.
Such a life of quiet, simple, humble, Christlike goodness—will pour out its unconscious influence into other lives—making them better, happier, holier, sweeter. Such a ministry of simple goodness is within the reach of every Christian. It requires no brilliant gifts, and no great wealth. It is a ministry which the plainest and lowliest may fulfill.
In these days of ‘fashionable worldliness’, the church needs just such simple goodness. It has eloquence in its pulpits, and activity in its pews—but it needs more godly people filled with the gentleness of Christ, repeating the life of Christ wherever they move.
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The God of all comfort
“The Father of compassion—and the God of all comfort.” 2 Corinthians 1:3
There is a blessing in true human sympathy. God sends our friends to us, to bring us little measures of His own love—little cupfuls of His grace. But He Himself is the only true comforter. His love alone—is great enough to fill our heart, and His hand alone—has skill to bind up our wounds.
However deep the sorrow may be—if we creep into God’s bosom, and nestle there like a tired child in the mother’s arms—God’s love will enfold and embrace us, and flow into our heart—and we shall be comforted, satisfied.
“As a mother comforts her child—so will I comfort you.” Isaiah 66:13
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The God of the broken-hearted
“The Lord is near the broken-hearted.” Psalm 34:18
The God of the Bible, is the God of the broken-hearted. The world cares little for the broken hearts. Indeed, people oftentimes break hearts by their cruelty, their falseness, their injustice, their coldness—and then move on as heedlessly as if they had trodden only on a worm! But God cares. Broken-heartedness attracts Him. The plaint of grief on earth—draws Him down from heaven.
Physicians in their rounds, do not stop at the homes of the well—but of the sick. So it is with God in His movements through this world. It is not to the whole and the well—but to the wounded and stricken, that He comes with sweetest tenderness! Jesus said of His mission: “He has sent Me to bind up the broken-hearted.” Isaiah 61:1
We look upon trouble as misfortune. We say that the life is being destroyed, which is passing through adversity. But the truth which we find in the Bible, does not so represent suffering. God is a repairer and restorer of the hurt and ruined life. He takes the bruised reed—and by His gentle skill makes it whole again, until it grows into fairest beauty. The love, pity, and grace of God, minister sweet blessing of comfort and healing—to restore the broken and wounded hearts of His people.
Much of the most beautiful life in this world, comes out of sorrow. As “fair flowers bloom upon rough stalks,” so many of the fairest flowers of human life, grow upon the rough stalks of suffering. We see that those who in heaven wear the whitest robes, and sing the loudest songs of victory—are those who have come out of great tribulation. Heaven’s highest places are filling, not from earth’s homes of glad festivity and tearless joy—but from its chambers of pain; its valleys of struggle where the battle is hard; and its scenes of sorrow, where pale cheeks are wet with tears, and where hearts are broken. The God of the Bible—is the God of the bowed down—whom He lifts up into His strength.
God is the God of those who fail. Not that He loves those who stumble and fall, better than those who walk erect without stumbling; but He helps them more. The weak believers get more of His grace—than those who are strong believers. There is a special divine promise, which says, “My divine power is made perfect in weakness.” When we are conscious of our own insufficiency, then we are ready to receive of the divine sufficiency. Thus our very weakness is an element of strength. Our weakness is an empty cup—which God fills with His own strength.
You may think that your weakness unfits you for noble, strong, beautiful living—or for sweet, gentle, helpful serving. You wish you could get clear of it. It seems to burden you—an ugly spiritual deformity. But really it is something which—if you give it to Christ—He can transform into a blessing, a source of His power. The friend by your side, whom you envy because he seems so much stronger than you are—does not get so much of Christ’s strength as you do. You are weaker than him—but your weakness draws to you divine power, and makes you strong.
“He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3
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The happiest homes in the world
Nothing is lovelier in life, than the spirit of contentment. Fretting mars the beauty of many a face. Discontent spoils all one’s world. Out of whatever window he looks—the discontented person sees something that is not pleasing.
But a contented person sees only good everywhere. The happiest homes in the world are not those in which are the finest carpets, the costliest pictures, the most luxurious furniture—but those in which contented, joyful hearts dwell. A mind at peace, beautifies the plainest surroundings and even the hardest conditions.
“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13
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The hidden life
“Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart!” 1 Samuel 16:7
Those who are striving to live near the heart of Christ, must realize that it is the hidden life
which makes the character.
What we are in the depths of our being, where no human eye can penetrate—that we are actually, as God sees us. This inner life will ultimately work its way through to the surface—transforming the
character into its own quality.
Nothing can be more important, therefore, than that the hidden life be true, pure, beautiful, and
“Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart!” 1 Samuel 16:7
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The highest attainment in Christian life
“Do this in remembrance of Me.” 1 Corinthians 11:25
The secret of all the noble heroisms of the Church, has been passionate love for Jesus!
The Lord’s Supper was intended to keep Christ always vividly in remembrance. We are to think of Him, when we have the sacred memorials of His love in our hands, reminding us of what He did to redeem us. But we are to think of Him just as devoutly, when we are away from the sacred table—in the midst of worldly tasks and circumstances.
If we always remember Christ, it will keep us faithful in our loyalty—as true to Him out on the streets, and when we are tempted and tried—as when we are at His feet in prayer.
Remembering Christ, will transform us into His likeness. Our thoughts are the builders, which rear the temple of our character. If we think of unclean things—our lives will become unclean. If we think of earthly things—we will grow earthly. If we think of Christ, if thoughts of Him are in our mind and heart continually, we will be changed, moment by moment, into His beauty!
The highest attainment in Christian life—is to always remember Christ, never to forget Him, to keep His blessed face ever before us. Then we shall never lose His peace out of our hearts. Then we shall never fail Him in any duty or struggle. Then we shall never be lonely, for remembering Christ will keep us ever conscious of His gracious presence.
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“He prunes every branch that produces fruit—so that it will produce more fruit.” John 15:2
The gardener prunes the branches—but not without wise purpose. The Master’s words, referring to this process in spiritual husbandry, are rich in their comfort for those on whom the knife is doing its painful work.
For one thing, we are told that “My Father is the gardener” (verse 1). We know that our Father loves us and would never do anything unloving or hurtful to His children. We know that He is infinitely wise, that He looks far on in our life, planning the largest and the best good for us, not for today only—but for all the future; and that what He does, is certainly the best which could be devised. In every time of sharp pruning, when the knife cuts deep and the pain is sore—it is an unspeakable comfort to read, “My Father is the gardener!”
Another inspiring thought in all such afflictions—is that it is the fruitful branch which the Father prunes. Sometimes godly people say when they are led through great trials, “Surely God does not love me—or He would not afflict me so sorely!” But it takes away all distressing thoughts about our trouble, to read the Master’s words, “He prunes every branch that produces fruit.” It is not punishment to which we are subjected—but pruning; and it is because we are fruitful that we are pruned.
Still another comfort here is revealed—in the object of the pruning, “He prunes every branch that produces fruit—so that it will produce more fruit.” The one object of all God’s pruning, is fruitfulness. The figure of pruning helps us to understand this. When one who knows nothing of such processes sees a man cutting away branch after branch of a tree or vine, it would seem to him that the work is destructive. But those who understand the object of the pruning—know that what the gardener is doing, will add to the vine’s value and to its ultimate fruitfulness.
Pruning seems to be destroying the vine. The gardener appears to be cutting it all away. But he looks on into the future and knows that the final outcome will be the enrichment of its life, and greater abundance of fruit.
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The laws of nature
God’s will controls the smallest matters, and takes into account the smallest events in each life. A Spanish proverb says, “A leaf does not stir on the tree—without the will of God.” God’s hand is in every event. We talk of the the laws of nature—but what is nature? It is not something independent of God. The laws of nature are simply God’s laws. Nothing takes place that is contrary to the divine will. Nothing—no storm, no earthquake, no cyclone, no tidal wave—ever gets out of God’s
This world is not controlled by chance, nor by any blind fate—but by Him who loved us so much, that
He gave His son to die for us.
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The Lord Himself watches over you!
God Himself is the refuge of His people.
“My help comes from the Lord, who made the heavens and the earth! He will not let you stumble and fall; the One who watches over you will not sleep. Indeed, He who watches over Israel never tires and never sleeps. The Lord Himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not hurt you by day, nor the moon at night. The Lord keeps you from all evil and preserves your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go—both now and forever.” Psalm 121:1-8
The promise of heaven is very alluring to Christian hope. But how can we get there? Seen and unseen perils beset the way—and we have no strength to defend ourselves, or to keep our lives from hurt. To meet these dangers, however, we have the promise of a Guide who is able to guard us on from falling, even from stumbling—and to bring us at last unharmed, without blemish, to the door of our Father’s house. “For this God is our God for ever and ever; He will be our guide even unto death!” Psalm 48:14.
The Bible gives many assurances of protection to the children of God, as they pass through this world. They dwell in the secret place of the Most High, and abide under the shadow of the Almighty. They take refuge under the wings of God. We never can get out from under the shadow of the Almighty. Wherever we may have to go—we shall always have the love of God over us.
There are also promises of protection. We have the assurance that God will not let you stumble and fall. So the divine thought extends even to our feet and to our steps, one by one. There is not an inch in all our pathway through this world, which is unwatched, on which the eye of God does not rest. The most watchful human love must sometimes close its eyes in sleep. The most loving mother must sometimes steal from the bedside of her little sick child, for a minute’s rest. But the divine care never slumbers nor fails, even for a moment. Indeed, “the One who watches over you will not sleep.”
In this world of danger, we need never vex ourselves with fear or anxiety—for God is watching, and He never sleeps! There is not a moment by day or by night when we are unguarded. There can be no sudden surprise or danger, by which God can be taken unaware.
Christ surrounds His people with an invisible protection, which nothing can tear away. In all our perils, struggles, and sorrows—He has us in His heart. “Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20
A Christian woman, walking alone at night, was approached by a stranger. He said, “I see you are alone.” “No, sir, I am not alone; I have a friend with me.” “I do not see anyone,” he said, looking round. The woman quietly answered, “Jesus Christ is with me,” and the man turned and fled into the darkness.
So while heaven seems far off, and while the way is full of enemies and dangers—yet no believer, not even the weakest, need perish on the way, nor fail to get home. Christ the mighty One, has build a road through the world, a safe and secure road, on which all His friends may journey under His guidance and guardianship, without hurt until they enter the Father’s house. “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish—ever! No one can snatch them out of My hand!” John 10:28
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The man with the muck-rake
“Only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better.” Luke 10:42
Paul prayed that his friends “may be able to discern what is best.” Philippians 1:10.
We must be always making choices in this world. We cannot take up everything that lies in our path—and we ought to choose the best things. Even among ‘right things’ there is room for choice, for some right things are better than others.
There are many Christians, however, who do not habitually choose the best things—but second-rate things. They labor for the food that perishes—when they might labor for the food that endures unto everlasting life. Even in their prayers, they ask for temporal blessings, when they might ask for spiritual treasures!
They are like “the man with the muck-rake“, in Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’—who only looks ‘down’ and drags his rake among the weeds and worthless rubbish—while over his head are crowns which he might take into his hands! They are like Esau, who sold his valuable birthright, for some lentil stew. They toil for this world’s vain things—when they might have been laying up treasures in heaven!
We only have one life to live—and we ought therefore to do the best we possibly can with it. We pass through this world only once—and we ought to gather up and take with us the things that will truly enrich us—things we can keep forever!
It is not worth our while, to toil and moil, and strive and struggle—to do things that will leave no lasting results when our life is done—while there are things we can do which have eternal significance!
“Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things!” Colossians 3:1-2
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The man who never laughs
“The disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 13:52
“The fruit of the Spirit is joy” Galatians 5:22
The Wise Man says that there is “a time to laugh.” That is, there is a time when laughter is right, when it is a duty—and when it would be wrong not to laugh. Perhaps we have not been accustomed to think of laughter in this way. We regard it as an agreeable exercise—but are not apt to class it among duties, like honesty or kindness.
It would be a sad thing, however, if laughter should be altogether crowded out of life. Think of a world of human beings with no laughter—men and women always wearing grave, serious, solemn faces. Think of the laughter of childhood,departing from the world—how dull and dreary life would be! Nothing on earth is more beautiful, than the merry laugh of childhood.
Laughter has its place in every wholesome, healthy, holy life. The man who never smiles—is morbid! He has lost the joy chords out of his life. He has trained himself to think only of unpleasant things, to look only and always at the dark side. He has accustomed himself so long to sadness—that the muscles of his face have become set in hard, fixed lines—and cannot relax themselves. His thoughts of life are gloomy—and the gloom has entered his soul and darkened his eyes!
Where there is no laughter—all evils nest. Demons do not laugh!
The man who never laughs, must not blame his fellows if they think there is something wrong with his life, something dark within.
If the streams which flow out are only bitter—the fountain cannot be sweet!
The Wise Man says:
“A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.” Proverbs 15:13
“A cheerful heart has a continual feast.” Proverbs 15:15
“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace” Romans 15:13
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4
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The moment after our friends say we are dead
No earthly language is adequate to describe the blessedness, the joy, the happiness of heaven! Perhaps no human word gathers and holds in itself so much of the truest meaning of heaven—as the word “home“. Home is a place of love. It is a place of confidence. We have nothing to hide or conceal from each other, inside home’s doors. We know we are loved. Our faults may be seen and known—but we are dear in spite of them. We find there sympathy with our sufferings, and patience with our infirmities and shortcomings. Heaven is our home! Into it, all God’s children will be gathered. It is a place of glory, of beauty, of splendor, a holy place—but, best of all, it is a place of perfect love.
As we read the wonderful description of the heavenly life in the book of Revelation, we find that all heaven’s glory comes from Christ! “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne!” Revelation 5:6
Whatever else heaven may mean to us, it will, first of all, mean being with Christ! Here we see Him only by faith, ofttimes dimly. We long to see Him as He is. Our hearts hunger for Him. “We would see Jesus!” is our cry all our days.
But when the veil which hides heaven from our sight is torn for us—and the glory is suddenly revealed—we shall see, first of all, before we look upon any of the splendors of the place—Him we
have loved—our Savior and our Friend, Jesus Christ! And He will wipe away every tear from
Being with Him—we shall need nothing else to make our blessedness complete. Seeing Him—we
shall be satisfied. Seeing Him—we shall be like Him, changed fully into His image! Seeing Him
—we shall then be with Him forever!
This dull bud will open—and a glorious rose will unfold in all its splendor! From this poor, feeble,
struggling earthly life—will emerge a child of God, in glorious beauty! If only we could have
a glimpse of ourselves—what we will be the moment after our friends say we are dead,
could we go on living as if we were made only for the earth! Let us not grovel any longer! Let
us who have this glorious future—not creep in the slime and dust! Let us live worthy of our
exalted honor. When we see Christ, we shall be made like Him! “We know that when He
appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him as He is!” 1 John 3:2
This hope of heaven should strengthen us to overcome all earthly discouragements.
No matter how hard the way is—the end is glorious! No matter how great . . .
the fierceness of the battle,
the weariness of the struggle,
the bitterness of the sorrow,
the keenness of the suffering,
glory is the final outcome!
“And so we will be with the Lord forever!
Therefore comfort and encourage each
other with these words!” 1 Thess. 4:17-18
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The object in putting these verses in the Bible
The LORD Almighty says to the priests: “You have despised My name!”
But you ask, “How have we ever despised Your name?”
“You have despised My name by offering defiled sacrifices on My altar!”
Then you ask, “How have we defiled the sacrifices?”
“When you bring blind animals for sacrifice—is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals—is that not wrong?” says the LORD Almighty.
The Jewish law required that every sacrifice offered unto God, must be without blemish. No lame, blind, or diseased animal would be accepted. It was an insult to God to bring to His altar anything that was maimed, blemished or worthless. Yet the people had been taking the best of everything for themselves, and then bringing the refuse—the blind and lame animals—as offerings to God!
Well, how is it with ourselves? The object in putting these verses in the Bible—was not to get us to condemn the people who lived twenty-three hundred years ago! It was to make us think whether WE are doing this base thing ourselves!
Do we give God the best of all we have—our best love, our best gifts, our best service? Or do we take the best of all for ourselves—and then give God the blind and the lame?
How many people in the church, when the collection plate is being passed, pick out the smallest bit of money—to put in the plate! We give our strength to our own work or leisure, and then have only our weariness to bring to God. We save our best things for ourselves, and then have only worthless things to offer our wondrous King! What kind of service are we giving to our glorious Lord?
The Lord’s answer to the arrogant defense of the priests is startling: “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not at all pleased with you—and I will not accept your offerings!”
What do WE bring to God—when we go through the forms of prayer, when we sing the sacred words of our hymn, when we make our offerings, when we sit down at the Lord’s table? If there is only words, words, words in all our worship—no heart, no love, no real presenting of ourselves to God, no laying of our best on the altar—God has no pleasure in us and will not accept our offerings at our hand!
“Now these things occurred as examples to keep US from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.” 1 Corinthians 10:6
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The one true aim in living
What is success?
What is the true aim in life?
What should one, setting out to make his way through this world—take as the goal of all his living and striving?
‘Views of life’ differ widely. Many think they are in this world to make a career for themselves. They set out with some splendid vision of success in their mind—and they devote their life to the realizing of this vision. If they fail in this, they suppose they have failed in life. If they achieve their dream—they consider themselves, and are considered by others, as successful.
The world has no other standard of success:
it may be the amassing of wealth;
it may be the winning of power among men;
it may be the triumph of a certain skill;
or genius in art, in literature, in music, etc.
But whatever the definite object may be, it is purely an earthly ambition.
Applying this standardto life—but few men are really successful. Great men are as rare as lofty mountain peaks. Only a few win the high places; the mass remain in the low valleys. Only a few win honor, rise into fame, and achieve ‘distinction’; while the great multitude remain in obscurity—or go down in the dust of earthly defeat.
Is this the only standard of success in life? Do all men, except for the few who win earth’s prizes, really fail? Is there no other kind of success? The world’s answer gives no comfort to those who find themselves among ‘the unhonored’.
But there is another sphere—there is a life in which success is not material—but spiritual. One may utterly fail, so far as earthly results are concerned; and yet, in the invisible spiritual realm—be a splendid winner in the race!
The true test of life—is character. Everything else is extraneous, belonging only to the husk, which shall fall off in the day of ripening! Character is the kernel, the wheat—that which is true and enduring. Nothing else is worth while—except that which we can carry with us through death, and into eternity! “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
It is altogether possible that a man may fail of winning any earthly greatness, any distinction among men, anything that will immortalize him in this world’s calendars—and yet be richly and nobly successful in spiritual things, in character, in a ministry of usefulness, in things which shall abide—when mountains have crumbled into dust! It is possible for one to fall behind in the race for wealth and honor—and yet all the while to be building up in himself—an eternal fabric of beauty and strength!
What is the standard of success in the sphere of the unseen and the eternal? It is the doing of the will of God. He who does the will of God—makes his life radiant and beautiful, though in the world’s scale he is rated as having altogether failed in the battle. He who is true, just, humble, pure, pleasing God and living unselfishly—is the only man who really succeeds—while all others fail.
Really, there is no other final and infallible standard of living. One who writes his name highest in earth’s lists, and yet has not done God’s will—has failed, as God Himself looks at his career.
God had a purpose in our creation—and we only succeed, when our life carries out this purpose. The most radiant career, as it appears to men, means nothing—if it is not that for which God made us. We fail in life—if we do not realize God’s will for us.
We live worthily—only when we do what God sent us here to do. A splendid career in the sight of men—has no splendor in God’s sight!
Not the making of a fine worldly career, therefore—but the simple doing of God’s will—is the one true aim in living. Only thus can we achieve real success. If we do this, though we fail in the earthly race—we shall not fail in God’s sight. We may make no name among men, may raise for ourselves no monument of earthly glory—but if we please God by a life of obedience and humble service, and build up within us a character in which divine virtues shine, we shall have attained abiding success!
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The only refuge in sorrow
“Being in anguish—He prayed more fervently.” Luke 22:44
We see the Master at prayer in Gethsemane. It was here that He prepared for His Cross. We should notice that His refuge in His exceeding sorrow—was prayer; and that, as the sorrow deepened—the refuge still was prayer. Prayer is the only refuge in sorrow. The lesson from the garden prayer is that we should take all the hard things, the anguishes, the insufferable pains, the bitter griefs of our lives—to God in prayer. We may be sure, too, that God will answer. If He does not relieve us of the suffering, He will strengthen us so that we can keep it, and still go on trusting and singing.
“Do not worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
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The path of each day
“Show me the way I should go.” Psalm 143:8
We have a right to make this prayer. Our prayer will be answered, too. There will be a hand extended to guide us, to open the path for us, and to help us over the hard pinches of the road. God desires to lead us. His guidance includes not only our daily steps—but also the shaping of our circumstances and affairs. We cannot be thankful enough, that our lives are in God’s hands, for we never could care for them ourselves.
To us the path of each day is always new—we have not passed this way before, and we cannot tell what any hour may bring to us. But Jesus knows all the way—for He went over every inch of it. There is no human experience which Christ does not understand. No suffering can be ours—which He did not feel. No wrong can hurt us—but He was hurt far more sorely. Is the burden heavy? His burden was infinitely heavier, for He took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses, and bowed beneath the load of our sins! There is no phase of struggle, of suffering, of pain, of temptation—with which He is unfamiliar. And knowing thus the way, from having experienced it for Himself, He is able to guide us in it.
Do we really need God’s guidance? Are we not wise enough to decide what course it is best for us to take? Can we not find our own path in this world? There is a story of a tourist in the Alps who refused a guide. He said he could find the way himself. So he went out alone in the morning—but he never came back. Life in this world is far more perilous than mountain climbing.
There are times when every star seems to have gone out, and when clouds and darkness appear to have gathered about us, hiding every way-mark, so that we cannot see any way out of the gloom and perplexity. We need then to have God’s direction—or we shall perish. But while there are times when we need God’s guidance in an unusual way—there is no day in all our brightest year, when we do not need it, when we dare to go forward one step without it. The day we do not seek and obtain God’s leading, will be a day of disaster for us. The day we go forth without prayer for divine blessing, when we do not lay our hand in Christ’s as we go out into the great world—is a day of peril for us. Indeed, we often need the divine guidance the most—when we think we do not need it at all.
God’s way does not always lie in the sunshine; sometimes it runs into deep glooms. We are not always out of His way—when we find ourselves facing obstacles and difficulties. When we cannot see where we are going—we may be in the everlasting way, because God is guiding us. He leads us away many a time, away from the path which we would have taken.
The way on which God guides us—is a way of holiness. When we pray for guidance, we must surrender our will to God. If we ask Him to guide us—we must yield our own preference, and accept His. We are in this world—to grow into the likeness of Christ. If then, we have been growing a little more patient, gentle, thoughtful, humble—if the peace of our hearts has become a little deeper, quieter, sweeter—our “rough” path is God’s way for us.
God’s way is a way of holiness—a pure, clean way. It is the road to heaven.
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The path to comfort in our time of sorrow
“Being in an agony—He prayed,” is the record of our Savior’s Gethsemane experience. The lesson stands for all time. Like a bright lamp, the little sentence shines amid the olive trees of the garden. It shows us the path to comfort in our time of sorrow. Never before or since—was there such grief as the Redeemer’s, that night. But in His prayer, He found comfort. As we watch Him the hour through, we see the agony changing as He prayed, until at last its bitterness was all gone—and sweet, blessed peace took its place. The gate of prayer is always the gate to comfort. There is no other way to consolation.
We may learn also from our Lord’s Gethsemane, how to pray in our Gethsemanes. God will never blame us for asking to have the cup removed, nor for the intensity of our supplication; but we must always pray with submission. It is when we say, in our deepest sorrow and intensity, “Not my will—but may Your will be done,” that comfort comes, that peace comes.
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The ‘picture’ of the ideal Christian life!
Most of us are bad-tempered in various degrees. The dictionary has been well-near exhausted of adjectives, in giving the different shades of bad-temper: aggressive, angry, bickering, bitter, capricious, choleric, contentious, crotchety, despotic, domineering, easily offended, gloomy, grumpy, hasty, huffy, irritable, morose, obstinate, reproachful, peevish, sulky, surly, vindictive—these are some of the qualifying words!
We do not like to believe that the case is quite so serious—that many of us are unamiable in some offensive degree. It is easier to confess our neighbor’s faults and infirmities, than our own! So, therefore, quietly taking refuge for ourselves among the few good-tempered people—we are willing to admit that a great many of the people we know, have at times rather ungentle tempers. They are easily provoked; they fly into a passion on very slight occasion; they are haughty, domineering, peevish, fretful or vindictive!
What is even worse, most of them appear to make no effort to grow out of their infirmities of disposition! The sour fruit does not come to mellow ripeness in the passing years; the roughness is not polished off the diamond to reveal its lustrous hidden beauty. The same petulance, pride, vanity, selfishness and other disagreeable qualities are found in the life, year after year!
Where there is a struggle to overcome one’s faults and grow out of them, and where the progress toward better and more beautiful spiritual character is perceptible, though ever so slow—we should have sympathy. But where one appears unconscious of one’s blemishes, and manifests no desire to conquer one’s faults—there is little ground for encouragement!
Man-like it is—to fall into sin.
Fiend-like it is—to dwell therein.
Saint-like it is—for sin to grieve.
God-like it is—for sin to leave.
Bad temper is such a disfigurement of character, and, besides, works such harm to one’s self and to one’s neighbors, that no one should spare any pains or cost to have it cured!
The ideal Christian life—is one of unbroken kindliness. It is dominated by love—the love whose portrait is drawn for us in the immortal thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” That is the ‘picture’ of the ideal Christian life!
We have but to turn to the gospel pages—to find the story of a life in which all this was realized. Jesus never lost his temper. He lived among people who tried Him at every point—some by their dullness, others by their bitter enmity and persecution—but He never failed in sweetness of disposition, in patience, in self-denying love. Like the flowers which give out their perfume only when crushed; like the odoriferous wood which bathes the axe which hews it with fragrance; the life of Christ yielded only the tenderer, sweeter love—to the rough impact of men’s harshness and wrong. That is the pattern, on which we should strive to fashion our life and our character! Every outbreak of violent temper, every shade of ugliness in disposition—mars the radiant loveliness of the ‘picture’ we are seeking to have fashioned in our souls!
Bad-tempered people are continually hurting others, ofttimes their best and truest friends.
Some people are sulky—and one person’s sulkiness casts a chilling shadow over a whole household!
Others are so sensitive, ever watching for slights and offended by the merest trifles—that even their nearest friends have no freedom of fellowship with them!
Others are despotic, and will brook no kindly suggestion, nor listen to any expression of opinion!
Others are so quarrelsome that even the meekest and gentlest person cannot live peaceably with them!
It would be easy to extend this portrayal of the evils of bad temper—but it will be more profitable to inquire HOW a bad-tempered person may become good-tempered. There is no doubt that this happy change is possible in any case. There is no temper so obdurately bad—that it cannot be trained into sweetness. The grace of God can take the most unlovely life—and transform it into the image of Christ.
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The process was not easy!
“Jesus looked at him and said—You are Simon, son of John.
You will be called Cephas (which means ‘Rock’).” John 1:42
“You are Simon.” That was his name then.
“You will be called Cephas.” That was what he would become.
This did not mean that Simon’s character was changed instantly into the quality which the new name indicated. It meant that this would be his character by and by—when the work of grace in him was finished. The new name was a prophecy of what he was to become—the man that Jesus would make of him. Now he was only Simon—rash, impulsive, self-confident, vain—and therefore weak and unstable.
The process was not easy!
Simon had many hard lessons to learn!
Self-confidence had to be changed into humility.
Impetuosity had to be disciplined into quiet self-control.
Presumption had to be awed and softened into reverence.
Heedlessness had to grow into thoughtfulness.
Rashness had to be subdued into prudence.
Weakness had to be tempered into calm strength.
Thus lesson after lesson did Simon have to learn, each one leading to a deeper humility.
It took a great deal of severe discipline to make him into the strong, firm man of rock, that Jesus set out to produce in him. The price which he had to pay to attain this nobleness of character and this vastness of holy influence—was not too great.
But how about ourselves? It may be quite as hard for some of us to be made into the image of beauty and strength, which the Master has set for us. It may require that we shall pass through experiences of loss, trial, temptation and sorrow.
Life’s great lessons are very long, and cannot be learned in a day; nor can they be learned easily. But at whatever cost, they are worth while. It is worth while for the gold to pass through the fire—to be made pure and clean. It is worth while for the gem to endure the hard processes necessary to prepare it for shining in its dazzling splendor. It is worth while for a Christian to submit to whatever severe discipline may be required—to bring out in him the likeness of the Master, and to fit him for noble living and serving.
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The purpose of God for our life on earth
We should get it settled in our minds, that the purpose of God for our life on earth, is to have us grow into Christ’s image. We are not in this world merely to accomplish a certain amount of work—but to be fashioned into strength and beauty of character. If we would always remember this, we would not be perplexed so often by the mysteries of our lives.
If joy is ours—it is to make us better and a greater blessing to others.
If sorrow is ours—it is to purify us and bring out some line of Christ’s image in us more clearly.
If our hopes are disappointed—it is because God has some better things for us, than that which we so earnestly desired.
If we are called to endure pain—it is because the best in us can be called out only by pain.
If bereavement comes and we are left without the strong human arm we have leaned upon heretofore—it is because there are elements of strength in our life, which never could be developed unless the human supports were taken away.
If our burdens are heavy—it is because we grow best under burdens.
If we are wronged by others—it is to teach us better, the great lessons of patience and sweet temper.
If our circumstances are uncongenial and our condition hard—it is that we may be disciplined into self-control, and may learn to be content in whatever state we are in.
The Master is always teaching us new lessons, making us into the beauty of the pattern He has set for us, and preparing us for greater usefulness and better service.
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The quickest way to conquer an enemy
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.” Luke 6:27-29
We are too apt to resent insults and retaliate, when others say or do evil things to us. The Christian way is either not to speak at all, or to give the soft answer that turns away wrath. Not only is this the Christian way, it is also the way of wisdom.
The quickest way to conquer an enemy—is to treat him with kindness in return for his unkindness. Stopping to resent every insult—keeps one continually fretful; whereas ignoring slights and going on quietly with our own duty—is the way to get the better of them. The best answer to sneers and scoffs and abuse—is a sweet, quiet, beautiful life of patience and gentleness.
The lesson our Master teaches us, is . . .
to bear wrong patiently,
to forgive injury,
to return kindness for unkindness,
to return good for evil,
to return love for hate.
It is a fatal injury to his life—when one allows himself to grow bitter, to cherish resentment, to let envy or any hurt feeling rankle in his heart. At last love is utterly driven out, and dark and malignant passions take full possession.
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“I press ontoward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14
That Christian life which costs nothing—is worth nothing. There must be self-restraint, discipline, severe schooling. There must be struggle, and the agonizing effort. If you are to reach the goal and win the prize—you must put every energy of your life into the race. There must be a sacrifice of indolence and self-will and personal ease. Too much pampering, spoils many a promising Christian.
Every noble and godly life, is a struggle from beginning to end. Only those who toil and fight and overcome—are successful in life. This is true in every sphere—in business, in academics, and in spiritual life. Are we resisting sin, overcoming temptation, living victoriously in trial? If not—we are not living worthily. “To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me.” Colossians 1:29
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The rose taught me a lesson
“Turn my eyes from looking at what is worthless.” Psalm 119:37
We must be always turning—if we would keep our life true and according to God’s commandments.
There are some flowers which always turn toward the sun. There was a little potted rose-bush in a sick-room which I visited. It sat by the window. One day I noticed that the one rose on the bush was looking toward the light. I referred to it; and the sick woman said that her daughter had turned the rose around several times toward the darkness of the room—but that each time the little flower had twisted itself back, until again its face was toward the light. It would not look into the darkness.
The rose taught me a lesson—never to allow myself to look toward any evil—but instantly to turn from it. Not a moment should we permit our eyes to be inclined toward anything sinful. To yield to one moment’s sinful act—is to defile the soul. One of the main messages of the Bible is, “Turn from the wrong, the base, the crude, the unworthy—to the right, the pure, the noble, the godlike!” We should not allow even an unholy thought to stay a moment in our mind—but should turn from its very first suggestion, with face fully toward Christ, the Holy One.
“I will set before my eyes no vile thing!” Psalm 101:3
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things!” Philippians 4:8
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The ruined handkerchief
“We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
It is one of the wonders of divine love, that God will take even our blemishes and sins, when we truly repent of them and give them into His hands—and make them blessings to us in some way.
A friend once showed Ruskin a costly handkerchief, on which a blot of ink had been made. “Nothing can be done with that!” the friend said, thinking that the handkerchief was now ruined and worthless. Ruskin carried it away with him and after a time sent it back to his friend. In a most skillful and artistic way—he had made a fine design on the handkerchief, using the blot as its foundation. Instead of being ruined, the handkerchief was made far more beautiful and valuable.
Just so, God takes the flaws and blots and stains upon our lives, the disfiguring blemishes, when we commit them to Him, and by His marvelous grace—changes them into strength and beauty of character!
David’s grievous sin, was not only forgiven—but was made a transforming power in his life.
Peter’s pitiful fall, became a step upward through his Lord’s forgiveness and gentle dealing. Peter never would have become the man he afterward became—if he had not denied his Lord, and then repented and been restored.
There is one thing always to be remembered. Paul tells us that we become more than conquerors in all life’s trials, dangers, struggles, temptations, and sorrows—only “through Him who loved us.” Without Christ—we must be defeated. There is only one secret that can turn evil into good, pain into blessing—that is the love of Christ. There is only one Hand which can take the blotted life—and transform it into beauty.
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The school of pain!
Everyone has sorrow. Being a Christian does not exempt anyone from grief. But faith in Christ brings a transformation of sorrow. Not only are we taught to endure the sorrows that come to us patiently and submissively—but we are assured that there is a blessing in them for us, if we accept them with love and trust.
One of the deepest truths taught in the Bible—is that earthly sorrow has a mission in the sanctifying of life. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. God disciplines us for our good—that we may share in His holiness.” Hebrews 12:10-11
We dread pain! And yet the person who has not experienced pain—has not yet touched the deepest and most precious meanings of life. There are things we never can learn—except in the school of pain! There are heights of life we never can attain—except in the bitterness of sorrow. There are joys we never can have—until we have walked in the dark ways of sorrow. Not to have sorrow, in some form, is to miss one of life’s holiest opportunities. We get our best things—out of affliction! “I have refined you in the furnace of suffering!” Isaiah 48:10
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The school of suffering
“Before I was afflicted I went astray—but now I keep Your word.” Psalm 119:67
Most of us need the chastening of affliction. Pain is wonderful revealer. It teaches us many things we never could have known, if we had not been called to endure it. It opens windows through which we see, as we never saw before—the beautiful things of God’s love.
Many of the finest things in character, are the fruits of pain. Many a Christian enters trial—cold, worldly, unspiritual—and emerges from the experience a little later, with spirit softened, mellowed, and spiritually enriched.
Sanctified afflictions soften the harshness and sharpness of one’s character. They consume the dross of selfishness and worldliness. They humble pride. They temper carnal ambitions. They quell fierce passions. They show to us the evil of our own heart, revealing our weaknesses, faults, and blemishes—and making us aware of our spiritual danger. They discipline the wayward spirit.
Sorrow draws its sharp ploughshare through the heart, cutting deep and long furrows—and the
heavenly Sower follows with the seeds of godly virtues. Then by and by, fruits of righteousness
Sorrow has a tenderizing influence. It makes us gentle and kindly toward each other. In no other
school, do our hearts learn the lessons of patience, tolerance, and forbearance so quickly—as in the
school of suffering.
“It was good for me to be afflicted—so that I could learn Your statutes.” Psalm 119:71
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The sin of wasting life!
“So teach us to number our days aright—that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12
What is it to number our days?
One way is to keep a careful record of them. That is a mathematical numbering. Some people keep diaries and put down everything they do—where they go, what they see, whom they meet, the books they read. But mere adding of days is not the numbering that was in the thought of the Psalmist.
There are days in some lives—that add nothing to life’s treasures, and that leave nothing in the world which will make it better or richer. There are people who live year after year—and might as well never have lived at all! Simply adding days—is not living! If that is all you are going to do with the new year—you will only pile up an added burden of guilt.
Why do people not think of the sin of wasting life?
If you saw a man standing by the sea—and flinging diamonds into the water—you would say he was insane. Yet some of us are standing by the sea—and flinging the diamond days, one by one, into its dark floods! Mere eating and sleeping, and reading the papers, and going about the streets, and putting in the time—is not living!
Another way of numbering our days, is illustrated by the story of a prisoner who when he entered his cell, put a mark on the wall for each of the days he would be incarcerated. Then each evening he would rub off one of these marks—he had one day less to stay in prison.
Some people seem to live much in this way. Each evening—they have one day less to live. Another day is gone, with its opportunities, its privileges, its responsibilities and its tasks—gone beyond recall.
Now, if the day has been filled with duty and love and service—its page written all over with pure, white thoughts and records of gentle deeds—then it is well; its passing need not be mourned over. But merely to have to rub it off at the setting of the sun, leaving in it nothing but a story of idleness, uselessness, selfishness, and lost opportunities, is a sad numbering!
What is the true way of numbering our days? The prayer tells us, “So teach us to number our days aright—that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” That is, we are so to live—that we shall get some new wisdom out of each day to carry on with us.
Life’s lessons cannot all be learned from books. The lessons may be set down in books—but it is only in actual living—that we can really learn them.
For example, patience. You may learn all about patience from a sermon, from a teacher, or from a book, or even from the Bible. But that will not make you patient. You can get the patience—only by long practice of the lesson, in life’s experiences.
Or take gentleness. You can read in a few paragraphs what gentleness is, how it lives. But that will not make you gentle.
Take thoughtfulness. You can learn in a short lesson what it is and how beautiful it is. But you will not be thoughtful, the moment you have learned the definition. It will probably take you several years—to get the beautiful lesson learned.
“So teach us to number our days aright—that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
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The supreme thing in Christian life!
“To obey is better than sacrifice.” 1 Samuel 15:22
Many people set a great deal more stress on religious rituals, than upon practical obedience. They will be faithful in attendance upon church services, devout and reverent in worship—and yet in their daily life, they will disregard the plain commandments of God! They fill the week with selfishness, pride, bitterness, and evil-speaking, and then go to church on Sunday, with great show of devotion, to engage in the worship of God!
But what God desires before our worship can be acceptable, is that we obey what He commands us. He bids us to love one another, to be unselfish, patient, kind, honest, pure, true; and unless we obey these commands, our religious rituals, no matter how conspicuous, how costly, how seemingly devout and reverent, are not acceptable to God!
There are many other phases of the truth. It is exact obedience which God desires, and not something else of our own substituted. When He tells a mother to care for her child, He is not satisfied if she neglects that duty to attend church. When God wants a man to help a poor family in some obscure street, He is not satisfied if instead of that lowly service, the man does some brilliant thing that seems to bring ten times as much honor to the Lord.
The supreme thing in Christian life—is to obey God; without obedience nothing else counts. The obedience must also be exact, just what God commands, not something else.
“If you love Me—you will keep My commandments.” John 14:15
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The test of amusements
“Lovers of pleasure—rather than lovers of God” 2 Timothy 3:4
Is the love of pleasure growing upon you, gaining the power and the ascendency over you? Is it dulling the keenness of your zest for spiritual pleasures? Is it making Bible-study, prayer, communion with Christ, meditation upon holy themes—less sweet enjoyments than before? Is it making your hunger for righteousness, for God—less intense? Is it interfering with the comfort and blessing you used to find in worship services, or in Christian work?
If so, there is only one thing to do—hasten to return to God, cut off the pleasure which is imperiling the soul, and find in Christ the joy which the world cannot give, and which ever enhances the life. We must test all our pleasures and amusements by this rule—Are they helping us to grow into Christ-likeness and spiritual beauty?
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The true ministry of pain
There is a Christian art of enduring pain, which we should seek to learn. The real goal is not just to endure the suffering which falls into our life; to bear it bravely, without wincing; to pass through it patiently, even rejoicingly. Pain has a higher mission to us, than to teach us heroism. We should endure it in such a way as to get something of spiritual blessing out of it.
Pain brings to us some message from God, which we should not fail to hear. It lifts for us the veil which hides God’s face, and we should get some new glimpses of His beauty, every time we are called to suffer. Pain is furnace-fire, and we should always come out of this furnace, with the gold of our graces gleaming a little more brightly. Every experience of suffering ought in some way—to lift us nearer God, to make us more gentle and loving, and to leave the image of Christ shining a little clearer in our lives.
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The two birds
“Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty.” Job 5:17
He is not happy at the time, at least, in the world‘s way. No affliction for the present seems to be joyous—but grievous. No one enjoys having troubles, sufferings, trials, sorrows. Therefore this statement made by Eliphaz appears very strange to some people. They cannot understand it. It is contrary to all their thoughts of happiness.
Of course the word ‘happy’ is not used here in the world’s sense. The world’s happiness is the pleasure that comes from the things that happen. It depends on personal comfort, on prosperous circumstances, on kindly and congenial conditions. When these are taken away—the world’s happiness is destroyed.
But the word happy, here means blessed—and the statement is that blessing comes to him who receives God’s correction. To correct, is to set right—that which has been wrong. Surely if a man is going in the wrong way, and God turns his feet back and sets him in the right way—a blessing has come to the man!
Afflictions are ‘God’s corrections’. They come always with a purpose of love in them. God never afflicts one of His children, without meaning His child’s good in some way. So blessing is always intended by God. It is usually afterward that people begin to see and to understand the good that God sent them in their trial. “You do not understand what I am now doing” said Jesus, “but you shall understand hereafter.” “No chastening seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” So when we have troubles and afflictions, we may know that God wants to do us good in some way through them.
Since this is so, Job was exhorted by Eliphaz, “Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty.” God chastens us to bless us—to do us good. He chastens us because He loves us.
He is not a true parent, who sees his children doing wrong, and yet fails to correct them for fear he may hurt their feelings. He ought to think of their higher good, and chasten them now—to profit them afterward.
This is the way our heavenly Father works. He never loves us better—than when He is correcting us. Therefore we ought not to despise this chastening. We ought not to murmur or complain when God does not give us our own way—but checks us, lays His afflictive hand upon us, and sends trouble upon us! We ought to have such faith in God—that we shall submit quietly, confidently, and sweetly to his will—even when it brings a heavy cross into our life.
A great many people need to pause at this line—and learn it. They do not treat God’s chastening with reverence. Sometimes they are crushed by it, and refuse to look up into God’s face with submission and love. Sometimes they grow bitter against God and say hard things of Him! We ought to reverence God’s chastening; we ought to listen to the voice that speaks to us in our grief or pain.
The way in which God brings blessing through chastening, is emphasized: “For He wounds—but He also binds up; He strikes—but His hands also heal.” Job 5:18. God never smites with both hands at once! When one hand is laid upon us in affliction—the other hand is reached out to help, to uphold, to heal.
Sometimes there is a trouble in a man’s body which requires the surgeon’s knife. There must be amputation, or cutting away, or cutting into. In such a case the skillful surgeon does not hesitate. He thinks far more of his patient’s health for the future—than of his comfort at present. So he uses his knife—that he may cure disease, or save life. He wounds—to heal. He makes sore—that he may bind up. It is just so in all afflictions which God sends. He chastens—that He may deliver from the power of temptation. He hurts the body—that he may save the soul. He takes away earthly property—that He may give true, heavenly riches.
One writer tells of two birds and how they acted when caught and put into a cage. One, a ‘starling’, flew violently against the wire walls of its prison, in unavailing efforts to escape—only battering and bruising its own wings. The other bird, a ‘canary’, perched itself on the bar and began to pour forth bursts of sweet song, from its little throat. We know which bird was the wiser and happier.
Some people are like the starling—when they are in any trouble, they chafe and fret and complain and give way to wretchedness! The result is, they only hurt themselves, make themselves more miserable, and do not in any sense lessen their trouble. It is wiser always, as well as more pleasing to God, for us to bear our trials patiently, singing songs of faith and love—rather than crying out in rebellion and discontent.
Job wanted to get near to God in his great trouble; he cried, “Oh that I knew where I might find Him!” He felt sure that that would be the best and safest place for him to be. We ought not to lose this lesson. When trouble is upon us—the true thing for us to do, is to flee to God! Some people, in their affliction and sorrow—flee away from God. Thus they lose their joy and peace, missing the comfort which they would get if only they kept near to Him. The right way to respond, is to try to find the way to God’s very presence. He is the only safe refuge, when the storms of trouble break upon us. The first thing always, in any time of trouble—is to find God and hide away in His bosom, as a child runs to the mother in alarm, or as the little bird flies to its nest. To find God—is to be safe!
God is our truest and best friend! He is our Father—we need never fear to go to Him. He gives heed unto our cries. He loves us. All His omnipotence is on our side. No mother’s heart was ever so full of love for her child—as is the heart of God for us, His children!
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The value of choice devotional reading
“Your Word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” Psalm 119:105
Nothing is more helpful and practical in Christian living—than the habit of getting a verse or phrase of Scripture into the mind and heart in the morning. Its influence stays through the day, weaving itself into all the day’s thoughts and words and experiences.
Every verse in the Bible is meant to help us to live—and a good devotional book opens up the precious teachings which are folded up in Scripture.
A devotional book, which takes a Scripture text, and so opens it for us in the morning—that all day long it helps us to live, becoming a true lamp for our feet, and a staff to lean upon when the way is rough—is the very best help we can possibly have. What we need in a devotional book which will bless our lives—is the application of the great teachings of Scripture—to common, daily, practical life.
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The way to obtain the help of God
“I have had God’s help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike.” Acts 26:22
When Paul stood before Agrippa, it was twenty-five years after his conversion. They had been years of toilsome life, amid enemies and dangers; but the heroic old apostle had never given up, never faltered, never turned aside. It was a great record—but he takes no praise to himself. The help came from God—for all these years of faithful witnessing.
Many Christians fear that they will not be able to stand faithful and true to the end. Here is an encouraging word for all such: They shall obtain help from God for every duty, for every hour of danger, for every struggle. They need only to be faithful day by day, doing the day’s duty quietly, and trusting God. This help will come from Him, silently, secretly, just as it is needed, always sufficient grace—so that they shall be able to stand faithful year after year. God never puts a burden on us—without giving us the strength we need to carry it. The way to obtain the help of God—is to go faithfully and promptly forward in the way of duty, asking for the help, and sure of getting it. It will not come if we wait to get it before we set out to do His will.
“I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you—will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6
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Their photograph flatters them!
One of the most important questions we can ask ourselves, is what God thinks of us.
One has pointed out that in every man, there are four different men:
the man whom the neighbors see,
the man whom one’s family sees,
the man whom the person himself sees,
and the man whom God sees.
The community knows us only in a general way, superficially. What people think of us, we sometimes call ‘reputation’—what we are reputed to be. It is a composite made up of all that people know about us, gathered from our conduct, our acts, our dispositions, our words, the impressions of ourselves we give to others.
The knowledge the community has of a man, is only superficial. It is evident that the world’s opinion about people is not infallible, is not complete, is not final.
A person may be betterthan his reputation; his external manner may do him injustice. Some men, by reason of their shyness, their awkwardness, or some limitation in power of expression, fail to appear at their true value. The world knows only a man’s outward life, and there may be good things in him which it does not know.
Then some people, on the other hand, are worse than their reputation.Their photograph flatters them! What they pretend to be—exceeds the reality. They practice tricks which give a glamor to their lives, so that they pass in public for more than they are. They wear veils, which hide defects and faults in them, and thus they seem better than they are.
Hence we cannot accept the judgment of the community, regarding anyone—as absolutely true, fair, and final.
But there is another man in us—the man GOD sees. And this is most important of all. We do not even know all the secret things of our own hearts. There is an Eye that sees deeper than ours! It is pleasant to have people commend us, when we have tried to do our duty. It gives us great joy to have the approval of our own hearts. But if we do not have the commendation of the Master, human praise and self-approval amount to nothing! “What does God think of me?” is always the final question.
Men are cruel. They judge often harshly. They know only part of the truth concerning us. They are not patient with our infirmities. But we are safe in the hands of God. He knows the worst in us—but He also knows the best. We may trust our lives, therefore, to God’s judgment, even if they are full of defects and flaws. He knows all, and will bring to light all the hidden things.
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Their religion was all a pious farce!
“Go to Bethel and sin! Go to Gilgal and sin yet more! Bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three years. Burn leavened bread as a thank offering and brag about your freewill offerings—boast about them, you Israelites, for this is what you love to do!” declares the Sovereign LORD. Amos 4:5-6
“Go to Bethel and sin!” cried the prophet. Bethel was their place of worship—but every time they came there, they sinned because their worship was sin. Instead of bowing before the true God and adoring Him, they bowed before idols and gave them the honor which belonged to God alone. The more devout they were, therefore, the more they dishonored the Lord. Their great zeal, as shown in their sacrifices and tithes and free-will offerings, only multiplied their sin and heaped up sorer judgment against them!
Their religion was all a pious farce, and the more there was of it—the more of an abomination it was unto God. God cannot be pleased with mere forms of worship and with ceremonials. The more we multiply these, the more do we grieve Him—if our heart is not in them.
We may say that we have no idols now in our churches; but are we sure of this? Do we truly worship God in our church services? When we sing the hymns—are our hearts fixed upon God? When we pray—are we really talking to God? When we confess sins—is the confession sincere? When we sit in God’s house—are we truly in God’s presence, breathing out our heart’s love and worship to Him? If not, what or whom are we adoring, praising, worshiping? Empty religious forms—must have some idol at the heart of them!
The prophet told them very plainly what was in their hearts. “This is what you love to do!” You love this! You love to make a great display in your religion. This display of piety—is just to your taste. You like to cover up your sins—with forms of worship, appearing as saints before the world, though in secret cherishing and practicing all manner of wickedness!
This is God’s own picture of these ancient ‘worshipers’. We need to look honestly at it—to see if it is OUR picture. God looks at the heart! No external appearances are of any value—unless they are genuine expressions of what is in the heart! Pirate ships carry reputable flags—to cover their dishonorable character. Religious hypocrisy often puts at its masthead, the colors of devout saintliness. But God cannot be deceived.
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Then the worm became a splendid butterfly
“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your hearts on things above! Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things!” Colossians 3:1-2
Paul reminds us that those who believe on Christ—should live a risen life.
We live on the earth at present. We walk on earth’s streets. We live in material houses, built of stones, bricks, or wood. We eat earth’s fruits, gathering our food from earth’s fields, orchards and gardens. We wear clothes woven of earthly fabrics. We adorn our homes with works of art that human hands make. We engage in the business of earth. We find our happiness in the things of this life.
But there will be a life after this! We call it heaven. We cannot see it. There is never a rift in the sky, through which we can get even a glimpse of it. We have in the Scriptures hints of its beauty, its happiness, its blessedness. We know it is a world without sorrow, without sin, without death. Paul’s teaching is that the Christian, while living on the earth—ought to begin to live this heavenly life.
One day a friend sent me a splendid butterfly, artistically mounted, known as the Lima Moth. This little creature is said to be the most beautiful of North American insects. Its color is light green with variegated spots. In its caterpillar state, it was only a worm. It died and entered its other or higher state, as we would say—and then the worm became a splendid butterfly.
This illustrates the two stages of a Christian’s life. Here we are in our earthly state. After this will come the heavenly condition. “The things that are above” belong to this higher, spiritual life. But the Christian is exhorted to seek these higher things—while living in this lower world. We belong to heaven, although we are not yet living in heaven.
Paul presents the same truth in another form, when he says, “Our citizenship is in heaven.” Though we are in this earthly world—but we do not belong here. We are only strangers and pilgrims.
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There are ‘Jebusites’ in every Christian heart!
“The king and his men marched to Jerusalem, to fight against the Jebusites who inhabited the land.” 2 Samuel 5:6
The Jebusites still held a stronghold in the heart of the country, never having been dislodged. Just so, there are ‘Jebusites’ in every Christian heart!
In every heart, there are little ‘Jebusite strongholds’, which it seems impossible for us to conquer. Sometimes it is a secret sin which lives on, unconquered, amid the general holiness of a life. Sometimes it is a remnant of the old nature—such as pride, worldliness, selfishness, lust, or bitterness. There are many other such citadels of evil, which rear their proud towers and defy conquest.
“We all have our faults!” we say, and under this ‘cloak’ we manage to tuck away a large number of dear idols that we do not want to give up!
We ought to give attention to these unsubdued parts of our life—that every thought, feeling, and temper may be brought into subjection to Christ. It is perilous to leave even one such unconquered stronghold in our heart!
“We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ!” 2 Corinthians 10:5
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There are some things that money cannot buy!
There are things that can be bought with money—but there are some things that money cannot buy!
With money—we may build a house, and adorn and furnish it. But money cannot buy home happiness, and the sweetness, comfort, and refinement which make true home life!
With money—we may purchase food and clothing, coal for the fire, and luxuries for physical enjoyment. But money cannot buy . . .
a gentle spirit,
peace in the heart, or
any of the elements which make up a noble personality!
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There is an Eye that sees all things as they are!
“I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.” Matthew 11:11
These were the strong words which fell from the lips of the Master. It was a wonderful thing to have our Lord speak such praise. He knew what was in men, and He never spoke an insincere word.
Human estimates of greatness are ofttimes defective, sometimes false. Men see only the outward appearance.
Many people are not as great—as they seem to be. They practice tricks which deceive the world. They pass for great—while in reality, they are very small in character. Strip off their gaudy tinsel—and but little would be left.
Other people, however, are greater than they seem. They lack the popular qualities which attract attention and win applause. Yet they are great in their souls, great in spiritual graces, in heart-purity, in the elements of true manhood, in moral strength.
But there is an Eye that sees all things as they are! It pierces all thin disguises, and penetrates to the core of things! It discerns the poor shriveled soul—which is hidden beneath theexternal glitter. On the other hand, it sees in the humble life, which gets but little praise of men, whose outer form is homely and plain—the true worth, the qualities of holy character.
It is well that we sometimes stop to think—how we appear to God, what God thinks of us. One says, “There is some things in every man’s heart, which, if we could know—would make us hate him!” Perhaps this is true; but it is true also that there is something in every Christian, in even the most repulsive, which, if we could know, would make us love him.
As God sees us, we are both worse and better than we seem to any other eyes in all the world. He sees the hidden faults and the secret stains; but He also sees the feeble yearnings which at length will be splendid spiritual qualities. I love to think of this side of the lives of my fellows—not the poor stained fragments of being which my eyes now see—but what they will be when God’s work of grace in them is finished!
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There is but one standard of true Christian character
“Whoever claims to live in Him—must walk as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:6
Nothing is more striking to a close observer of human life, than the almost infinite variety of character which exists among those who profess to be Christians. No two are alike. Even those who are alike revered for their saintliness, who alike seem to wear the image of their Lord, whose lives are alike attractive in their beauty—show the widest diversity in individual traits, and in the cast and mold of their character. Yet all are sitting before the same model; all are striving after the same ideal; all are imitators of the same blessed life.
There is but one standard of true Christian character—likeness to Christ. It is into His image—that we are to be transformed; and it is toward His holy beauty—that we are always to strive. We are to live as He lived. We are to copy His features into our lives. Wherever, in all the world, true disciples of Christ are found—they are all trying to reproduce the likeness of their Master in themselves.
One reason for the diversity among Christians—is because even the best and holiest saints realize but a little of the image of Christ, have only one little fraction and fragment of His likeness in their souls. In one of His followers, there is some one feature of Christ’s blessed life which appears; in another, there is another feature; in a third, still a different feature. One seeks to copy Christ’s gentleness, another His patience, another His sympathy, another His meekness.
Therefore, a thousand believers may all, in a certain sense, be like Christ—and yet no two of them have, or consciously strive after, just the same features of Christ in their souls. The reason is, that the character of Christ is so great, so majestic, so glorious—that it is impossible to copy all of it into any one little human life; and again, each human character is so imperfect and limited—that it cannot reach out in all directions after the boundless and infinite character of Christ.
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There is no habit that we should more sedulously form
What place should prayer have in a Christian’s life? Should we pray little or much? Should we confine our praying to certain days—Sundays, for example; or to certain hours or moments of our days—mornings, for example? Should we pray only about certain things, certain affairs, certain portions of our life? Are there things we have no permission to take to God in prayer? Should we pray only in certain places—in our accustomed room at home, or in places ‘set apart for divine worship’? Is there any place, where we may not pray?
There is a verse of Paul’s which seems to answer all these questions. “Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17. That means, pray always and everywhere. There is nothing we may not take to God in prayer—asking for His help. There is no hour of the day when we may not turn to God—and find Him ready to hear and bless us. The gates of prayer are never shut!
To pray without ceasing—is to do everything with prayer. This does not mean that every piece of work we undertake, must be begun with a ‘formal act’ of prayer—stopping, kneeling down, and offering a spoken petition. To pray without ceasing is—to have the heart always in converse with God. It is to live so near to God—that we can talk with Him wherever we go—and seek His help, His wisdom, His guidance. God is our Father, with infinite love in His heart for us, ready and eager to help us and bless us in every way!
True prayer is not a matter of times and places. Wherever we go—we are with God. Whatever we are doing—our hearts may go out to Him. “Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath—the Christian’s native air!”
There is no habit that we should more sedulously form, than that of talking with God about everything we do. We are often told that we should begin every day with prayer. That is very needful and beautiful. The first face our eyes see in the morning—should be Christ’s! His too, should be the first voice we hear; and to Him, our first words should be spoken! Ten minutes in the morning, yes, two minutes, spent really with Christ, will change all our day for us.
It is often said that we should ‘count that day lost’ in which no kindness is done, no deed of love to anyone, no help given. But sadder far—is a day without prayer! It is a day without God, without heaven’s light shining into it—a day unblessed! That morning you forget to pray—is a sad morning for you!
We should form the habit of praying at every step, as we go along through the day. That was part of Paul’s meaning when he said, “Whatever you do, in word or in deed—do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” He would have us include every word we speak—as well as every deed we do. Think what it would mean to have every word that passes our lips winged and blessed with prayer—always to breathe a little prayer before we speak, and as we speak. This would put heavenly sweetness into all our speech! It would make all our words kindly, loving, inspiring words—words that would edify and minister grace to those who hear. We can scarcely think of one using bitter words, backbiting words, unholy words—if his heart is always full of prayer; if he has trained himself toalways pray before he speaks.
But we are to do all our deeds, also, in the name of the Lord Jesus. That means that we should do everything for Him, to please Him. If we could get this lesson learned, if we would really pray without ceasing—how beautiful our lives would be! How well we would do all our work!
Only think of a man in business doing all his day’s business in a spirit of prayer—breathing a little prayer as he makes a bargain, as he writes a business letter, as he talks with other men. Think of a woman amid her household cares—taking everything to God for His blessing, for His approval, for His direction. These are not by any means, impossible suppositions. Indeed, this is the way a Christian is to live, should always live—doing all in the name of the Lord Jesus!
“In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6
“Pray at all times and on every occasion.” Ephesians 6:18
It is well for us to learn this lesson—to take everything to God in prayer, to pray as we go from task to task. We may form the habit of putting up little ‘sentence prayers’ continually. When you feel an inclination to speak bitterly, or to answer sharply; when you have been stung by another’s speech or act; when you are tempted to refuse a request for help, to do some selfish thing, to pass by a human need, to speak an untruth—lift up your heart in the prayer, “Jesus, help me to do Your will.” Or if you meet a sudden temptation and are in danger of being swept away, look up and cry, “Jesus, save me!” We do not know what we miss—by leaving God out of so much of our life!
We often wonder . . .
why we fail,
why so little comes of our efforts,
why we do not get along better with people,
why we are not happy,
why joy is so lacking in our experience,
why we are so easily fretted and vexed,
why we are so discontented,
why we fall so easily into surliness and bad temper.
It is because we cease to pray!
It is impossible to tell of the blessing of such a spirit and habit of prayer. Those who have not learned to “pray without ceasing” have no conception of what they are missing. If we all had learned this lesson—what a company of overcoming Christians we would be! The world would have little power over us—we would tread it under our feet! We would be strong—where now we are so weak. We would be victorious over temptation, where now we fail so sadly. If you knew that Christ was always actually walking with you—how strong you would be! There is no lesson we need to take more to heart—than this lesson of unceasing prayer! All the best things of Christian living—are the fruit of silent meditation.
Life is not easy for any of us. We can live nobly, purely, Christly—only by being much with Christ! We will rob ourselves of Divine blessing, of beauty of character, of power in service—if we fail to make room in all our busy days—for quiet retreats from the noise and strife, where we may sit at Christ’s feet—to hear His words, and lie on His bosom that we may absorb His spirit, to prepare us for the toil of the day!
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These are to reappear in us!
“Whoever claims to live in Him—must walk as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:6
Many have written ‘lives of Jesus’, setting forth the beauty, the grace, the wisdom, the gentleness, and the power of Him who was the chief among ten thousand, the altogether lovely one. But Paul tells us that in every Christian’s life—the life of Jesus is to be written, “That the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” 2 Corinthians 4:9. And it is these lives of Christ, written in men’s daily lives—which are needed in the world.
How is the life of Jesus to be manifested in His followers? It is not enough to merely talk about Him. There are those who, with silver tongue, can speak of Jesus eloquently and winsomely, in whom it cannot be said that His life is manifested in them. In this sense—it is not more preaching which is needed today—it is more gospels in the lives of Christians. It is only what we manifest of Christ in our own life—which is really witnessing for Him. We preach just as much of the gospel—as we get into disposition, character, deeds, life.
What was secret of the life of Christ? You have read your New Testament and have been charmed by the matchless beauty of that life which is portrayed in the gospels. His great central feature was love—love full of compassion; love serving even to the humblest needs and at the greatest cost; love which was patient, forgiving, thoughtful, gentle; love unto the uttermost—which went to a cross to save sinners!
Every page reveals some new beauty in the character of Jesus, and uncovers some new depth of His love. And the qualities of that blessed life—are to shine in our life! His disposition, His spirit, His compassion, His patience, His meekness, His peace, His joy, His humility—these are to reappear in us!
It is not enough—let us again and again remind ourselves—to preach about these gracious things in Jesus, to talk about them in our conferences, to extol them in our hymns—they must be manifested in our life! We must repeat in our own dispositions and lives—the story of Jesus!
“Leaving you an example, so that you should follow in His steps.” 1 Peter 2:21
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These poor swine!
“A man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet Him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones!” Mark 5:2-5
In this demoniac, we have a sample of the work of Satan—when he gets full control in a man. He destroys every beautiful thing in the life, and leaves only ruin! No chains could bind this demoniac. When sin is on the throne, all other influences and constraints become like spiders’ threads in comparison! No chain is strong enough to bind the man—who has yielded himself to the sway of the Evil One! The love of a godly mother is a strong bond—but many a child tears off this holy chain and rushes into wayward and evil paths! Home ties are strong—but these too are broken asunder, by the victim of Satan’s ungodly rule.
We see that the demoniac cut and gashed himself with stones. This illustrates what in many ways, Satan’s captives do. They may not literally go about cutting their flesh with knives or bruising their bodies with stones; but they do gash and bruise their souls! Sin always wounds the life—and one of its fearful consequences is the self-destruction it works. Every sin one commits leaves an ugly scar! We grieve God by our wrongdoing, and we harm others when we sin against them; but we always injure ourselves—by every evil word we speak, by every wrong act we commit, even by the evil thoughts we think in our hearts. The self-hurt of sin is one of its saddest consequences!
Demons find their pleasure in working mischief, and in ruining lives. Godly men count that day lost—in which they have done no act of kindness to another. Demons count the day lost—in which they have stained no pure soul or led no one into sin!
We ought to tear off Satan’s mask and show him as he is! Evil comes to us pretending to be a friend. It holds flowers in its hands and whispers entrancing words, promising rich rewards: “Only do this—and it will bring you pleasure, honor, wealth and joy!” That is the way sin talks. But this is all false. Sin is never a friend to man. It never does good to anyone—but always harm. However plausibly Satan may present his temptations under the guise of pleasure—his secret aim is to destroy the soul he tempts. Nothing gives the Evil One so much pleasure—as to see a fair and beautiful life—stained and debauched!
It is most comforting to us, to find that Christ is able to dislodge even the most obdurate and persistent demon! No one could bind this demoniac, nor resist his superhuman strength. But at His word—the foul spirit was compelled to leave the man he had possessed for so long. No human hand can break the chains of sinful habits. No mere resolution can free one from Satan’s bondage. Only Christ can set the devil’s captives free! Those who have long been trying in vain to reform, to break away from evil practices—see in Christ, the Friend who alone can deliver them and save them. No demon-power can resist His command. Only Christ can free the poor slaves of Satan, and save them from his terrible sway!
“The evil spirits came out of the man and entered the swine. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned!” Mark 5:13
In the swine, under demoniac possession, rushing down the steep cliff and perishing in the lake—we have another illustration of the end of all Satan’s ruinous work. It is with men—as it was here with the swine. It never yet has been known that Satan impelled anyone upward to a better life or to anything noble and lofty; he always drives down sin’s steep ways—into choking floods. God’s ways leads upward—it is always uphill to Christ and to heaven. But the devil always drives downward. These poor swine, demon-possessed, rushed down the steep bank, into the lake—and perished. Just so do human souls, demon-possessed, rush down sin’s precipitous course and perish!
It would be well to keep this dreadful picture in our mind when we are tempted in any way by the devil; for if we follow him—this is the way it will surely end with us!
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They play with fire—and wonder why they are burned!
“Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.” Psalm 19:12, 13
Here the Psalmist prays to be kept from committing presumptuous sins. He knows the danger there is in such sins—and so pleads to be held back from them, that is, from willful, conscious, high-handed sins.
Mark the teaching, too, that these presumptuous sins spring out of the minute hidden faults. From hidden, obscure, undiscovered faults—come presumptuous sins.
A slight moral weakness—grows into an evil tendency;
and the evil tendency indulged—develops into a loathsome vice;
and the loathsome vice—ripens into a presumptuous sin!
We need to guard against carelessness concerning ‘little sins’. The hidden fault lurking in the nature—may grow into a presumptuous sin!
Sow a thought—and you will reap an act;
sow an act—and you will reap a habit;
sow a habit—and you will reap a character;
sow character—and you will reap a destiny!
The course of sin is terrible! The little beginnings of sin—grow into appalling consequences! Be afraid of little sins and temptations.
There are some people who are always courting danger. Sin seems to have a fascination for them. One of the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer is, “Lead us not into temptation.” To expose ourselves needlessly to temptation, is presumption! Yet there are many who do this. They play with fire—and wonder why they are burned! They dally with ‘little sins’, and end in shameful degradation at the last! They pay the penalty in moral and spiritual ruin.
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They put the nickels and the pennies in the collection plate!
“Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys!” 1 Samuel 15:3
“Saul and the troops spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, cattle, and fatlings, as well as the young rams and the best of everything else. But they did destroy all the worthless and unwanted things.” 1 Samuel 15:9
They utterly destroyed all the common spoil—but spared whatever was especially good. They kept all the fat, plump sheep and cattle—and destroyed the poor, lean and worthless ones. That is the way with a good many people. They are quite ready to devote to God the things they do not care much for—but the things that are desirable for their own use, they keep.
This spirit is shown in the way many give to the Lord’s service. The gold and silver and the banknotes they keep for themselves; while they put the nickels and the pennies in the collection plate!
It is shown, too, in the way they treat their own vices and lusts. Those that they do not particularly love—they crush out with amazing zeal. But their favorite vices and fat, rich sins—they spare for their own indulgence!
The evil things in us—are our Amalekites, and we are to destroy them! Yet how many of us, like Saul, cut away at the little Amalekites—and spare the big Agags? Do not some of us also see the story of our own disobediences and failures—in the way Saul treated God and His commandments?
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They want to keep just as near to Sodom as possible!
“Run for your lives! Do not stop anywhere in the plain. Do not look back! Escape to the mountain, or you will die!” Genesis 19:17
This is still the gospel message. We are in danger of God’s judgment—and must escape from it—if we would live. We must not stay anywhere in all the plain of sin—for there is no safe spot, no shelter anywhere, no place where the fires of judgment will not fall.
Some people would like to compromise; they are willing to flee from some sins—but not from others. There are some professed Christians who like to stay on the borders of their old life. They are continually asking whether they can do this or that, go here or there—and still be Christians. They want to keep just as near to Sodom as possible—so as not to be burnt up in Sodom’s destruction! The answer to all such questions is, “Run for your lives! Do not stop anywhere in the plain. Do not look back! Escape to the mountain, or you will die!” Even theborders are unsafe! The only safe place is the mountain, the mountain where Christ’s Cross stands!
Lot’s wife ‘looked back’. There had been a specific command, “Do not look back!” Why Lot’s wife looked back is not explained. Was it curiosity to see the nature of the terrible destruction that she heard roaring behind her? Or was it her dismay as she thought of her beautiful home, with all its wealth of furnishing and decoration, and all her jewels and garments and other possessions—which were now being consumed in the great conflagration?
It would seem to be, that she was appalled at the thought of leaving and losing all her beloved possessions, and paused in her flight and looked back, with the hope that possibly she might yet run back and snatch some of the ornaments or gems—something, at least, from the awful destruction. “But Lot’s wife looked back—and she became a pillar of salt!”
“Remember Lot’s wife!” Luke 17:32. We should not miss the ‘lesson’ which our Lord Himself teaches us from the tragic fate of this woman: we cannot have both worlds! Lot’s wife could have escaped with her husband and her daughters—but she could escape only by resolutely and determinedly leaving everything she had in Sodom. Her love for her possessions, cost her her life!
Just so, there are thousands today, to whom God’s message comes, “Run for your lives! Do not stop anywhere in the plain. Do not look back! Escape to the mountain, or you will die!” They somewhat desire to follow Christ—but their love for the world is so intense that they cannot give it up—they cannot renounce it. They must decide, however, which they will renounce—Christ or the world. They cannot keep both!
In Lot’s wife—we have an example of one who was almost saved—and yet lost! She was lost because she loved the world.
“Remember Lot’s wife!”
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This is not an easy lesson to learn!
Christ did not so much give rules for special cases—as principles to govern all conduct.
“I tell you who hear Me: Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you.” Luke 6:27
Loving enemies is not a natural affection.
This is not an easy lesson to learn!
It is never easy to be a Christian.
The easy way does not lead toward heaven!
The lesson of love continues, “Bless those who curse you; pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:28
These counsels are intensely practical. In answer to men’s cursings, revilings and insults—we are to return words of peace, kindness and love. Those who mistreat us—we are to pray for, instead of uttering threats against them, or imprecations upon them.
We remember how Jesus Himself lived out this law of love. There were many who cursed Him and reviled Him—but He never lost the sweetness of love out of His heart. He never on any occasion returned a word of cursing or anger or even of impatience—in response to the bitterest revilings of His enemies. “When He was reviled—He did not revile in return; when suffering—He did not threaten, but committed Himself to the One who judges justly.” 1 Peter 2:23
That is the example for us. We are to be silent when others speak evil of us or to us; or, if we speak, it is to be the soft answer that turns away wrath. We need not worry ourselves about the deserts of those who treat us unjustly, feeling that we should see to their punishment. We are to leave that to God—who judges righteously and who will take care also that no real harmshall come to us, from the wrongs which others inflict on us, provided we keep ourselves in His love and in an obedient spirit.
The lesson has its ideal exemplification in our Lord’s prayer on His cross for His murderers. His only answer to the driving of the nails through His hands and feet was, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do!” That is the way He wants us to answer the cruelties and injuries which others may inflict upon us!
We must be ready to endure not one—but many injuries from the others. We must be unresisting, like our Lord. No wrongs from others—should ever turn our love to hate. Christ’s own life was an illustration of this. He was treated wrongfully at every step—but His heart never lost its sweetness, its gentleness, its patience, its desire to bless others and do them good.
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This lesson makes life easy and simple!
It is life’s largeness which most discourages earnest and conscientious people. As they think deeply of life’s meaning and responsibility, they are apt to be overwhelmed by the thought of its vastness. Life has manifold, almost infinite, relations toward God and toward man. Each of these relations has its binding duties. Every life has a divine mission to fulfill—a plan of God to work out.
Every individual life must be lived amid countless antagonisms, and in the face of countless perils. Battles must be fought, trials encountered, and sorrows endured.
Also, the brief earthly course—is but the beginning of an endless existence, whose immortal destinies hinge upon fidelity in the present life.
Looked at in this way, as a whole, there is something almost appalling in the thought of our responsibility in living.
Many a person who thinks of life in this aspect, and sees it in its wholeness, has not the courage to hope for success and victory—but stands staggered, well-near paralyzed, on the threshold. Despair comes to many a heart when either duty or sorrow or danger is looked at—in the aggregate.
But this is not the way we should view life. It does not come to us all in one piece. We do not get it even in years—but only in days—day by day. We look on before us, and as we count up the long years with their duties, struggles, and trials—and the bulk is like a mountain which no mortal can carry. But really, we never have more than:
one day’s battles to fight, or
one day’s work to do, or
one day’s burdens to bear, or
one day’s sorrow to endure,
in any one day.
It is wonderful how the Bible gives emphasis to this way of viewing life. When for forty years God fed His chosen people with bread from heaven, He never gave them, except on the morning before the Sabbath, more than one day’s portion at a time. He positively forbade them gathering more than would suffice for the day; and if they should violate His command, what they gathered above the daily portion, would become corrupt. Thus early, God began to teach His people to live only by the day—and trust Him for tomorrow.
At the close of the forty years, the promise given to one of the tribes was, “As your days—so shall your strength be.” Deuteronomy 33:25. Strength was not promised in advance—enough for all of life, or even for a year, or for a month—but the promise was, that for each day, when it came with its own needs, duties, battles and griefs—enough strength would be given. As the burden increased—more strength would be imparted.
The important thought here is, that strength is not emptied into our hearts in bulk—a supply for years to come—but is kept in reserve, and given day by day, just as the day’s needs require.
When Christ came, He gave still further emphasis to the same method of living. He said, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today!” Matthew 6:34. He would have us fence off the days by themselves, and never look over the fence to think about tomorrow’s cares.
The thought is, that each day is, in a certain sense—a complete life by itself. It has . . .
its own duties,
its own trials,
its own burdens,
its own needs.
It has enough to fill our heart and hands for the one full day. The very best we can do for any day, for the perfecting of our life as a whole—is to live the one day well. We should put all our thought and energy and skill into the duty of each day, wasting no strength—either in grieving over yesterday’s failures, or in anxiety about tomorrow’s responsibilities.
Our Lord, also, in the form of prayer which He gave his disciples, taught this lesson of living only by the day. There He has told us to ask for bread—for one day only. “Give us this day our daily bread.” He again teaches us that we have to do only with the present day. We do not need tomorrow’s bread now. When we need it—it will be soon enough to ask God for it, and get it. It is the ‘manna lesson’ over again. God is caring for us, and we are to trust Him for the supply of all our needs—as they press upon us. We are to trust Him, content to have only enough in hand for the day.
If we can but learn to thus live by the day, without anxiety about the future—the burden will not be so crushing. We have nothing to do with life in the aggregate—that great bulk of duties, responsibilities, struggles, and trials—which belong to a course of years. We really have nothing to do even with the nearest of the days before us—tomorrow. Our sole business is with the one little day, now passing. Its burdens will not crush us—we can easily carry them until the sun goes down. We can always get along for one short day. It is the projection of life into the long future, which dismays and appalls us. This lesson makes life easy and simple!
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This strange, double picture of Jesus!
“Look! The LION of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed!
Then I saw a LAMB, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne!” Revelation 5:5-6
John was looking for a Lion—and he saw a Lamb. This strange, double picture of Jesus as He appears in heaven, is very suggestive.
He was a lion in His conflicts and victories, and as such overcame all His enemies and ours also. But He was a lamb in the gentleness of His character and disposition. The lamb is an emblem of meekness and of unresisting obedience and submission.
As we think about Christ, we soon see how true both of these pictures are.
Like a lion, He has power and majesty, and is dreadful to His enemies! As a lion He met and overcame Satan, and triumphed over death and the grave. As a lion He is able to defend us from all our enemies, and the feeblest believer is safe under His protection. He is the omnipotent God—and has all power in heaven and on earth.
At the same time, the other picture is just as true.
He is like a little lamb in His gentleness. The whole spirit of His life on earth shows this. Never was a mother so gentle to her children, as was Jesus to the weary, troubled and penitent ones who came to Him. He was lamb-like, too, in the way He endured wrongs and sufferings. Other animals fight in their own defense—but the lamb does not resist. When Christ was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten in return. “Like a lamb led to the slaughter and like a sheep silent before her shearers—He did not open His mouth.”
He is the same Jesus now in the midst of the throne—and it is this astonishing combination of strength and gentleness which makes Him such a wondrous Savior! In Him, we have the union of all the truest qualities of love that our hearts so hunger for: tenderness, affection, patience, sympathy. Then, when we have laid ourselves down to rest in all this blessed warmth of love, we look up and see that we are in the bosom of Omnipotence! Mere gentleness may be very weak—but while He is a lamb—He is also a lion!
“Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne. He had seven horns and seven eyes.” Revelation 5:6. Here we have three other thoughts about Christ.
1. Not only did He appear as a lamb—but as a lamb that had been slain. There were wound marks on Him, telling that once He had been dead. One suggestion of the emblem of the lamb, is sacrifice. Jesus was the Lamb of God who took away sin—by bearing it Himself! Thus even in glory, the fact of salvation by His sacrificial death, is set forth to the eyes of all. Thus we are always to be reminded of the cost of our redemption.
2. A second suggestion about Christ, is in the representation of the “seven horns.” The horn in the Bible is the symbol of strength, and seven is the symbol of completeness. Jesus appears there as the omnipotent One, having all power.
3. The third symbol in the picture is the “seven eyes“. An eye sees, and seven eyes represent the perfection of vision, seeing everywhere. The eyes of Christ are in all parts of the earth, and on all events. This thought of the omniscience of Christ is dreadful to the unrepentant sinner—but to the Christian at peace with God—it has great comfort! Christ is watching over us and is ready to fly to our help and rescue at any moment. His eye is fearsome only to the wicked; to those who are His friends and are saved by Him, it gives no terror to think of the unsleeping divine eye ever looking down upon them with love!
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Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me!
But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you—for My power is made perfect in your weakness!’ ” 2 Corinthians 12:8-9
Many prayers which seem to be unanswered—are really answered. The blessing comes—but in a form we do not recognize. Instead of the very thing we sought—something better is given!
The burden is not lifted away—but we are sustained beneath it.
We are not spared the suffering—but in the suffering we are brought nearer to God, and receive more of His grace.
The sorrow is not taken away—but is changed to joy.
Our ignorant prayers are taken into the hands of the great Intercessor, and are answered in ways far wiser than our thought!
Instead of earthly trifles—heavenly riches!
Instead of things which our poor wisdom sought—things God’s infinite wisdom chose for us!
Instead of pleasure for a day—gain for eternity!
To many people—life is very hard
For the Christian, all of life’s conditions and circumstances are transformed.
Take the matter of CARE. Every life has ‘cares’. There are cares in business. There are cares in home-life. There are cares of poverty—but no less has the rich man his cares. Childhood has its anxieties; young faces sometimes appear careworn. No one can escape care!
To many people—life is very hard. But Christian faith transfigures care, for those who are Christ’s and have learned how to live as He teaches us to live. He tells us not to worry about anything, because our Father is caring for us. He tells us that life is a school, and that all our cares are parts of lessons which He has set for us. That means that every care has hidden in it—a secret of blessing—a gift of love which our Father has sent to us. Every time you come to a hard point in your life—an obstacle, a difficulty, a perplexity—God is giving you a new opportunity to grow stronger, wiser, or richer-hearted.
We try to make life easy for our children—but God is wiser than we are. He wants His children to have struggles—that they may grow strong, holy and noble!
Thus it is that common care is transfigured by the grace of Christ! It enfolds blessings for us. It carries in its ‘dreary form’ secrets of blessing for us. Even our ‘drudgeries’ have blessings in their wearisome routine; we get many of our best lessons out of them.
All we need to learn is how to meet our worries, and they are transfigured for us! Paul tells us in a wonderful passage how to get this transformation of care: “Do not worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7. God’s peace will then shine through all life’s frets. Thus care is transfigured, by the love of Christ in the heart.
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Ugly corners made beautiful
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely . . .” Philippians 4:8
Beauty is another quality of true manliness. It is not enough for a man to be true, to live honorably, to be just, to be pure and clean—he must also have in his life, whatever is lovely.
All God’s works are beautiful. He never made anything that was not beautiful. It is sin which spoils everything!
There are many lives that are not lovely in every feature. You see things in others which you cannot admire—things which are not beautiful.
Fretting is not beautiful.
Bad temper is unlovely.
Discontent, jealousy, irritability, unkindness, selfishness are unattractive.
It is the work of God’s grace—to make lives beautiful. All that grace does in us—is toward the fashioning of beautiful Christian character in us.
On a florist’s signboard are the words,”Ugly corners made beautiful“. The florist had reference to what he could do to beautify an ugly spot or a piece of landscape. He would trim out the weeds, plant flowers and shrubs, and transform a wilderness into a garden.
That is what grace can do in our lives. Some men seem to think that the fine and graceful things are only for women, not for men. But Christ was a man—a perfect, complete man—and there was not a single unlovely thing in His life.
He was strong—but also gentle.
He was just—but kindly.
He was firm—but patient.
He was righteous, and his indignation burned like fire against all hypocrisy and injustice—but his tenderness never failed.
Fine manliness is beautiful, like Christ. “Yes, He is altogether lovely! This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend!” Song of Songs 5:16
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Unto the end!
“Having loved His own who were in the world
—He loved them to the end.” John 13:1
The most wonderful thing in the universe, is our Savior’s love for His own people. Christ bears with all our infirmities. He never tires of our inconsistencies and unfaithfulnesses. He goes on forever forgiving and forgetting. He follows us when we go astray. He does not forget us—when we forget Him. Through all our stumbling and sinning, through all our provocation and disobedience, through all
our waywardnesses and stubbornnesses, through all our doubting and unfaithfulness —He clings to us still, and never lets us go. “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand!” John 10:28
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We begin at the lowest grade
“Learn from Me—for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29
All of Christian life is a school. “Learn from Me,” said the Master. We are only beginners when we first become Christians, and enter Christ’s school. We begin at the lowest grade. We do not have to wait until we know a great deal before we begin to attend school. School is not for finished scholars—but for the most ignorant. We may come to Christ when we know almost nothing. He is the teacher—and all believers are learners.
“Learn from Me—for I am gentle.” Gentleness is a lesson which we are to learn. It will probably take us a good long while to learn this lesson—but we must learn it because it is in Christ’s curriculum for all His students.
Contentment is another lesson which we must learn. When he was well along in life, Paul said, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” It was a long and difficult lesson for him to learn.
Patience is a lesson that has to be learned. An impatient person is not a complete Christian.
Thoughtfulness is a necessary lesson. There are a great many thoughtless Christians. They are always blundering in their interactions with others. They say the wrong word, they do the wrong thing. They are always hurting other people’s feelings, giving pain to gentle hearts. Yet it is all from thoughtlessness. “I didn’t mean to offend him. I didn’t mean to be unkind. I just never thought!” There are few lessons in Christian life that more people need to learn, than this of thoughtfulness.
We have to learn to trust. Worry is a sin. It is probably as great a sin as dishonesty or profanity or bad temper. Yet a good many Christian people worry—and one of the most important lessons in Christ’s school, is to learn not to worry.
Kindness is a lesson we must learn. It takes many years to learn the one little lesson of kindness.
Joy is a lesson to be learned.
Peace is another.
Humility is another necessary lesson.
Praise is a great lesson.
All of life is a school, and it is in learning these lessons—that Jesus says we shall find rest for your souls. Christ Himself is our teacher, and with Him we should never fail to learn, though it be only slowly. Then as we learn our lessons, our lives will grow continually more and more into quietness, peace and Christlikeness.
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We begin to be like Christ
“I am among you as one who serves.” Luke 22:27
“He got up from supper, laid aside His robe, took a towel, and tied it around Himself. Next, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel tied around Him.” John 13:4-5
Serving is not an easy lesson to learn. But it is a lesson we must learn—if ever we would become like our Master. He did not come to be served—but to serve. He served to the uttermost, just as He loved to the uttermost. Anything that needed to be done for another, He did as naturally and as simply as He breathed. He loved people, and was interested in them, and was ready always to be helpful to them. It never mattered what the service was, whether it was the saving of a soul, the curing of a grievous sickness, or the giving of a cup of water—He did the least as graciously and as divinely, as the greatest.
The washing of feet was the lowliest service any man could do for another. It was the work of the lowliest slave. Yet Jesus without hesitation, did this service for His own disciples. Thus He taught them that nothing anyone may ever need to have done—is unfit for the whitest hands. We begin to be like Christ—only when we begin to love others enough to serve them.
There is no surer test of the genuineness of Christian life, than in this matter of serving others. When we see the Son of God washing His disciples’ feet—no service is too menial for us to do. A king may do the lowliest kindness to the poorest peasant in his realm, and his honor will only be enhanced by it.
“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet—you also should wash one another’s feet.” John 13:14
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We do not have to be crucified on pieces of wood!
“I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” Romans 12:1
The godly life is not one of ease, pleasure and self-indulgence.
We are taught to present our bodies, as a living sacrifice unto God. Ancient offerings were brought to the altar, and presented dead. But the Christian sacrifice, instead of being poured out in a bloody oblation, is to be a living sacrifice—of service, of love, of devotion.
The great sacrifice of Christ is both the model for all Christian life, and also its inspiration. We look at His six hours on the cross—as if that were its only act and expression. But the crosswas not endured by Christ merely during those six hours on Calvary; it was in all His life, in every day and hour of it. Everything He did was in love, and love is always a living sacrifice. He was always sacrificing Himself. On Calvary, He only wrote the word out in capital letters!
The cross stands not merely for the sufferings of Christ endured in redeeming sinners—but also for the law of love and of sacrifice in every department of Christian living. It is not enough to have the cross on our churches, as a symbol of redemption; or to wear crucifixes as ornaments; the cross and the crucifix must be in the heart—and manifested in the life!
We talk a great deal about the love of Christ—but we must strive to illustrate it and reproduce in our own lives, in our own measure—the sweetness, the charity, the kindness and the helpfulness of Jesus Christ. The cross is everywhere. The more of the ‘sacrificial’ quality we get into our life—the diviner and the lovelier our life will be.
We do not have to be crucified on pieces of wood—to bear a cross, and make a living sacrifice. The cross must be in the lives of those who follow Christ; not branded on their bodies—but wrought into their character, their disposition, their conduct, their spirit! We cannot live a Christian life for a day, without coming to points of sacrifice. The cross of Christ does not take our own cross from us—Christ does not bear our cross for us. His cross becomes the law of our life, and makes it all sacrificial. Every sacrificial thing we do, reveals the cross. The Beatitudes are all sacrificial. No one can live the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, and not crucify self continually.
All sacrifice at length blossoms into Christlike beauty, sweetness and joy.
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We fritter away days, weeks, months!
“Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:16
“Gather up the fragments that are left over. Let nothing be wasted!” John 6:12
“Time is short!” 1 Corinthians 7:29
Time is made up of golden minutes—not one of which we should allow to be wasted! The Master said that for every idle word that men speak—they must give account. This can be no less true of idle minutes or hours.
Most of us live as if we had a thousand years to stay here in this world! We loiter away the golden hours of our little days—as if the days were never to end! We do not see how swiftly the sun is whirling toward his setting, while our work is but half done, our task perhaps scarcely begun!
We fritter away days, weeks, months—not noticing how our one little opportunity of living in this world is being worn off, as the sea eats away a crumbling bank until its last shred is gone! We set slight value on time, forgetting that we have only a hand-breadth of it—and then comes eternity!
Many of us fail to appreciate the value of ‘single days’. “A day is too short a space,” we say, “that it cannot make much difference if one, just one, is wasted—or idled away in pleasure!” Yet the days are links in a chain, and if one link is broken—the chain is broken. In God’s plan for our life—each little day has its own load of duty.
How these lost days shame us—as they turn their reproachful eyes upon us, out of the irrevocable past!
Many people are wasteful of time. They fail to realize its value. They appear to have it in such abundance—that they dream it can never end. They do not know that a day lost—may mean misfortune or failure for them sometime in the future. They do not know that squandered hours, minutes spent in idleness—may cost them the true success of their life, bringing failure or disaster!
They should not make the mistake of imagining they have so much time—that they can afford to let days or hours or even minutes be wasted. They cannot afford to lose one golden minute of any day. We do not know what momentous issues, affecting all our future—are involved in any quietest hour of any common-place day. There is ‘a time for everything’—but the time is short, and when it is gone, and the thing is not done—it never can be done!
What you make of your life—you must make in a few years at the most; for the human span is short—and any day may be your last one! Every day that passes—leaves life’s margin a little less for each of us. Our allotment of time is ever shortening!
There are a great many things it is not worth our while to do. Some of us spend our days in poor trivialities which bless no one, and which will add no lustre to our crown.
Therefore, waste no opportunity! Squander no moment! There is just time enough for you to live your life well—if you spend every moment of it in earnest, faithful duty. One hour lost—will leave a flaw. A life thus lived in unbroken diligence and faithfulness, will have no regrets when the end comes.
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We must hew our Agags to pieces!
“Since he had no sword, he ran over and pulled Goliath’s sword from its sheath. David used it to kill the giant and cut off his head!” 1 Samuel 17:50-51
If he had not cut off the giant’s head—the old Philistine champion would have gotten up by and by, and walked away; for he was only stunned, not killed, by the stone. David made sure work of his victory!
A great many of our attacks upon sin in our own hearts, and in the world—only stun, and do not kill the evil. We walk away, thinking we have done a fine thing. But shortly, we meet the ‘old giant’ again, stalking abroad as before! He soon recovers from our blow, and we have to fight the battle over; and perhaps we fight it again in the same half–hearted way—and thus on and on, to the end of our life!
Most of us have had just such experience as this, with our own evil lusts and passions. We overcome them very often, and think each time that we are through with them—but soon again they are as active as ever.
We need to learn a lesson from David—and finish our victories by cutting off the head of every giant we strike down!
There is no other way of killing sins!
The life is in the head—and the head must be struck off—or the enemy will be facing us again in a day or two, with but a scar on his forehead!
The only way to get a real victory over vices—is to decapitate them! Bruises and wounds are not enough. There must be thorough work done, in the name of the Lord. Half-way measureswill not avail.
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” Colossians 3:5
“Samuel hewed Agag to pieces before the Lord.” 1 Samuel 15:33. Like Samuel, we must hew our Agags to pieces!
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We ought not to spend our life in picking up rubbish!
“Do not work for food that perishes—but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you!” John 6:27
We need to be continually reminded of the unsatisfying nature of the things of this world—and exhorted to seek eternal realities. We live in a material age, when the quest of people is for money, for power, for things of the earth.
John Bunyan gives a picture of ‘a man with a muck-rake‘, working hard, scraping up the rubbish at his feet—and not seeing the crown which hung above his head. It is a picture of the great majority of the people in this world. They are wearing out their life in scraping up worldly rubbish—not thinking of the heavenly treasures, the divine and imperishable gifts, which they might have—with half the toil and care!
We ought not to spend our life in picking up rubbish which we cannot carry beyond the grave! If we are wise, we will seek rather to gather lasting treasures and riches, which we can take with us into eternity!
Whatever we build into our character, we shall possess forever!
Money which we spend in doing good in Christ’s name—we lay up as safe and secure treasure in heaven.
All true service for Christ—stores up rewards for us in the future.
What we keep—we lose!
What we give in love—we keep forever!
What is the secret, grandmamma?
“Each one of us must please his neighbor for his good, in order to build him up.” Romans 15:2
The Duchess of Kent was universally beloved. Once the Princess Alice, herself simple, sweet and unspoiled, asked her: “What makes everyone love to be with you? I am always so sorry to have to leave you—and so are all the others who come here. What is the secret, grandmamma?“
It was not easy for the noble woman to answer such a personal question. But it was important that it should be answered for the sake of her who had asked it, and who was indeed hungry to know the secret. So the noble lady gave this memorable answer:
“I was early instructed, that the way to please others—was to be sincerely interested in the things which interested them, namely their own affairs; and that this could be accomplished only by burying one’s own troubles, interests, or joys completely out of sight. Forgetfulness of one’s own concerns, a smiling face, a sincere word of sympathy, or unselfish help, where it is possible to give it—will always please others—and the giver equally so.”
“I try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what I like or what is best for me, but what is best for them—so they may be saved.” 1 Corinthians 10:33
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When earth’s wine gives out!
“When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to Him: They have no more wine.” John 2:3
This incident is a very fitting illustration of the failure of all this world’s joys. The wine gave out at a wedding-feast. There was not enough of it to last through to the end of the feast. It is just so with all earth’s pleasures. It comes in cups—not in fountains; and the supply is limited and soon exhausted. It is especially so with sin’s pleasures. The prodigal soon ran out of money, and began to be in need. A poet compared the pleasures of sin to a snowflake on the river, “a moment white—then gone forever!”
But it is true in a sense also—of pure pleasures. Even the sweetness of human love is but a cupful which will not last forever. The joy which so fills us today, tomorrow is changed to sorrow. Amid the gladness of the marriage altar there is the knell of the end, in the words “until death do us part.” One of every two friends must hold the other’s hand in farewell at the edge of the valley of the shadow of death—and must stand by the other’s grave, and walk alone for part of the way.
The best wine of earthly life and of love—will fail. If there were nothing better in this world—how sad it would be! But it is here that we see the glory of Christ’s gospel. Jesus comes when earth’s wine fails—and gives heaven’s wine to supply the lack. How beautiful and how true is the picture here: the failing wine, and then Jesus coming with power and supplying the need! That is what He is doing continually. He takes lives which have drained their last drop of earthly gladness—and He satisfies them with spiritual good and blessing, so that they need nothing more.
When human joy fails—Jesus gives new joy, better than the world’s, and in unfailing abundance. How sad it is for those who have not taken Christ into their lives, and who have nothing but the empty cup—when earth’s wine gives out!
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When He discovers repulsive things in us
“Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end!” John 13:1
Jesus takes us as we are, and does not get weary of us—whatever faults and sins He discovers in us. There is infinite comfort in this for us. We are conscious of our faults, blemishes and infirmities; and the unworthiness and the unloveliness which is in our souls. Many of us have pages in our biography, which we would not dare to spread out before the eyes of anyone!
There are in our inner heart—feelings, desires, longings, cravings, jealousies, motives—which we would not feel secure in laying bare to our dearest, truest, and most patient and gentle friend. Yet Christ knows them all. Nothing is hidden from His eyes. To Him there is perfect revealing of the innermost springs of our being. Yet we need not be afraid that His friendship for us will change, or grow less, or withdraw itself—when He discovers repulsive things in us. Yet He loves us—loves unto the uttermost! Christ loves us not according to our worthiness—but according to the richness of His own gracious heart!
“May you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should—how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it!” Ephesians 3:18-19
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When I grumble about the weather
“The Lord has heard all your grumblings against Him!” Exodus 16:8
Does God really hear every discontented word which I ever speak?
Does He hear when I grumble about the weather . . .
about the hard winter,
about the late spring,
about the dry summer,
about the wet harvest?
Does He hear when I grumble . . .
about the frosts,
about the drought,
about the high winds,
about the storms?
Does He hear when I grumble . . .
about my circumstances,
about the hardness of my lot,
about my losses and disappointments?
If we could get into our heart, and keep there continually, the consciousness that God hears every word we speak—would we murmur and complain so much as we now do?
We are careful never to speak words which would give pain to the hearts of those we love. Are we as careful not to say anything that will grieve our heavenly Father?
“I tell you this—that you must give an account on judgment day of every idle word you speak!” Matthew 12:36
“He who complains of the weather—complains of the God who ordains the weather!” William Law
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Why, papa, you have mamma and me left!
“God Himself has said—Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
This truth ought to bring unspeakable comfort to God’s children, who are called to suffer earthly losses. If they have GOD left to them—no other loss is irreparable!
A wealthy man came home one evening with a heavy heart, and said that he had lost everything. Bankruptcy had overtaken him. “We are utterly beggared!” he said. “All is gone; there is nothing left! We must leave our home, and beg for tomorrow’s bread!” His little five year old daughter crept up on his knee, and, looking earnestly into his despairing face, said, “Why, papa, you have mamma and me left!“
Just so, what are temporal and worldly losses of the sorest kind—while God remains? Yes, what is the loss of money, houses, costly furniture, and other possessions, while God’s love remains? There is surely enough in Him—to compensate a thousand times for every earthly loss!
Our lives may be stripped bare—home, friends, riches, comforts—gone; every sweet voice of love, every note of joy—silenced; and we may be driven out from brightness, tenderness and shelter—into the cold ways of sorrow! Yet if we have God Himself left—ought not this to suffice? Is He not in Himself, infinitely more than all His gifts? If we have Him—can we really need anything else?
“The Lord is my Shepherd—I have everything I need!” Psalm 23:1
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If we have God—no other loss is irreparable! There is surely enough in God’s love, to compensate a
thousand times for every earthly deprivation! Our lives may be stripped bare—home, friends, riches,
comforts, every sweet voice of love, every note of joy—and we may be driven out from brightness and
music and tenderness and shelter—into the cold ways of sorrow. Yet if we have God Himself left—ought it not to suffice? Yes, is not He Himself infinitely more than all His gifts?
Often we do not learn the depth and riches of God’s love, and the sweetness of His presence—until earthly joys vanish out of our hands, and beloved ones fade away out of sight. The loss of temporal things empties our hearts—to receive spiritual and eternal things! The sweeping away of earthly hopes—reveals the glory of our heart’s refuge in God. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you go
through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the
flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!”
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Work for God’s eye
“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’
before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you
will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”
No grace shines more brightly in a Christian, than humility. Wherever SELF comes in—it mars the beauty of the work we are doing. Seek to do your work noiselessly. Do not try to draw attention to yourself—to make others know that you did some beautiful thing. Be content to pour your rich life into other wasted, weary lives—and see them blessed and made more holy—and then hide away and let Christ have the honor. Work for God’s eye—and even then, do not think much about reward. Seek to be a blessing—and never think of self-glory.
“Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:4
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Would you see what sin is?
“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Matthew 27:46
There is a picture which represents the after-scenes on that day of the crucifixion.
It is all over. The crowds have gone away. The evening sun is shining out again on Calvary. The body of the Savior has been borne to the sepulcher. The cross has been taken down, and lies on the ground. A company of little children, bright with the glow of childhood’s innocence, led to the place by accident or curiosity, are seen bending over the signs of the day’s terrible work. One of the children holds in his hand, a nail which a little time before, had pierced a hand or a foot of the patient Sufferer, and stands spellbound with horror as he gazes at it. His gentle heart is shocked at sin’s dreadful work! On all the children’s faces, the same expression of horror is depicted.
No one with pure and gentle heart, can ever look at the death of Christ on the cross—with any but feelings of amazement and horror at sin’s awfulness!
It was sin that nailed Jesus on the cross!
It was sin that wreathed the circlet of thorns for His brow!
We say the Jews crucified Christ; yes—but WE helped to do it!
Our sins drove the nails!
Would you see what sin is? Stand by the cross and ponder its terrible work, there in the death of the Redeemer. See what it cost the Lamb of God, to take away sin!
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You can never lose your mother!
Though all are born “dead in trespasses and sins;” in another sense, when a baby is born—its life is only a patch of soil in which, as yet, nothing is growing.
A mother’s hand is the first to plant seeds there—in the looks of tender love which her eyes dart into the child’s soul, in her smiles and caresses and croonings, and her thousand efforts to reach the child’s heart and shape its powers; and then in the lessons which she teaches.
All the members of the household soon become sowers also on this field; as the life begins to open, every one is dropping some seed into the mellow soil.
In a little while, hands outside the home begin to scatter seeds in the child’s mind and heart. The street, the playground, the school; later, books, papers, and pictures contribute their portion.
As the years advance, the experiences of life—the joys, temptations, tasks, trials, sorrows—all bring their influences. Somewhat in this way, the character of the mature man—is the growth of seeds sown by a thousand hands in the life from infancy.
All our thoughts, words, and acts—are seeds. They have in them a quality which makes them grow where they fall, reproducing themselves. This is true of the good we do.
The mother’s teachings enter the mind and heart of her child as mere seeds; but they reappear in the life of the son or daughter, in later years—in strength and beauty, in nobleness of character, and in usefulness of life. Not only is this strange power in the mother’s words; her acts, her habits, her tones of voice, the influences that go forth from her life—are also seeds, having in them a vital principle. Where they lodge—they grow.
You can never lose your mother! She may die, and her body may be buried out of your sight, and laid away in God’s acre. You will see her face and hear her voice no more; no more will her hand scatter the good seeds of truth and love, upon your life’s garden. But you have not lost her! Your mind and heart are full of the seeds which fell from her hand along the years. These you never can lose. No hand of death can root them out of your life. They have grown into the very fibers of your character. They reappear in your habits, your dispositions, your feelings and opinions, your modes of thought, your very phrases and forms of speech! You can never lose your mother; the threads of her life are woven inextricably into your life!
All the noble things that fall from your hands, as you travel along life’s paths, are seeds, and will not die. The good things we do, with the true words we speak, with the faithful examplewe show, with all the influences of our life that are Christlike, are living seeds which we sow in the lives of others. They will not fall into the ground and perish. They will stay where they drop, and you will find them again after many days. They will germinate and grow, and yield a harvest!
Go on doing the little things, no matter how small, only making sure that you breathe love into them. Let them fall where they may, no matter into what heart, no matter how silently, no matter how hopeless may seem the soil into which they drop, no matter how you yourself may appear to be forgotten or overlooked as you do your deeds of kindness, and speak your words of love. These words and deeds and influences of yours are living seeds, and not one of them shall perish!
The same is true, however, of the evil things we do. They, too, have in them the quality of life and reproductiveness. If only our good things were seeds, this truth would have unmingled encouragement for us. But it is startling to remember, that the same law applies to the evil things.
The man who writes a wicked book, or paints an unholy picture, or sings an impure song—sets in motion a procession of unholy influences which will live on forever! He, too, will find his evil words again in the hearts of men, long, long afterwards; or see his unclean picture reproduced on men’s lives, or hear his unholy song singing itself over again in the depths of men’s being!
The evil that men do—lives after them! “Bury my influence in my grave with me!” said a wicked man, dying with bitter remorse in his soul. But that is impossible. Sometimes men who have been sowing evil, wake up to the consciousness of the harm they have been giving to other lives, and go back over their paths, trying to gather up the seeds of sin which they have cast into human hearts. But the effort is unavailing, as no one can take out of men’s minds and hearts—the seeds of evil he has dropped there!
We are not done with life—when we die! We shall meet our acts and words and influences again! “Do not be deceived! God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows—he will also reap!” Galatians 6:7. He shall reap the same that he sows—and he himself shall be the reaper!
There is a law of divine justice, in which God requites to every man according to his deeds. We are not living under a reign of mere chance. But sometimes it seems as if the law of justice did not work universally—that some who do wrong, are not requited; and that some who do good, receive no reward. But this inequality of justice is only apparent. Life does not end at the grave! If it did, we might say that the Lord’s ways are not always equal. God’s dealings with men, are not closed in this earthly life! The story is continued through eternity!
In this present life—wrong often seems to go unpunished, and virtue unrewarded. But our present lives, are simply unfinished life-stories. There are other chapters which will be written in eternity. When all has been completed, there will be no inequality, no injustice. All virtue will have its full reward—and all sin will receive its due punishment.
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You say that you want to be like Christ
The art of photography is now so advanced, that a whole page of a newspaper can be taken in miniature so small—as to be carried on a little button, and yet every letter and point be perfect.
Just so, the whole life of Christ is photographed in this one little phrase, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28
He did not come to be served—if this had been His aim, He would never have left heaven’s glory, where He lacked nothing, where angels praised Him and ministered unto Him. He came to serve. He went about doing good. He altogether forgot Himself. He served all He met, who would receive His service. At last He gave His life in serving—He gave it to save others, to redeem lost souls.
You say that you want to be like Christ. You ask Him to print His own image on your heart. Here then, is the image: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
It is not a vague dream of human greatness which we are to think of, when we ask to be like our Master.
The old monks thought that they were becoming like Christ—when they went into the wilderness, away from men, to live in cold cells. But surely, such a dream of uselessness is not the thought which this picture suggests. “To serve—to give our life” that is the Christ-like thing! Instead of fleeing away from people—we are to live with others, to serve them, to live for them, to seek to bless them, to do them good, to give our lives for them—that is the meaning of the prayer for Christ-likeness.
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You will have many trials and sorrows
“You may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.” John 16:33
There is no life into which do not come many things calculated to cause anxiety and disturbance of mind:
there are great sorrows;
there are perplexities as to duty;
there are disappointments and losses;
there are annoyances and hindrances;
there are chafings and irritations in ordinary life;
there are countless petty cares and frets.
All of these tend to break the hearts’ peace and to disturb its quiet. Yet, there is no lesson which is urged more continuously or more earnestly in the Scriptures, than that a Christian should never worry, or let anxious care oppress his heart. He is to live without disturbance and with unbroken peace—even in the midst of the most trying experiences.
“The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” Colossians 3:15
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“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do—do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31
Amusements are proper, both as to kind and degree—just so far as they make us better Christians. Whenever they become hindrances to us in our Christian living or in our holy walk—they are harmful, however innocent they may be in themselves.
How do your amusements influence your spiritual life? They may be very pleasing to you. They may afford great gratification. But what is their effect on you, as a Christian? Are they hindering your love for Christ, and your growth in grace? We ought to be honest enough with ourselves, to answer these questions truthfully, and then act accordingly.
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