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Reflections on a Wandering Life.....
Friday, January 01, 2021
The land whither ye go to possess it is a land of hills and valleys and drinketh water of the rain of heaven: a land which the Lord thy God careth for: the eyes of the Lord are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year. - Deuteronomy 11:11-12
Today dear friends, we stand upon the verge of the unknown. There lies before us the new year and we are going forth to possess it. Who can tell what we shall find? What new experiences, what changes shall come, what new needs shall arise? But here is the cheering, comforting, gladdening message from our Heavenly Father, "The Lord thy God careth for it." "His eyes are upon it away to the ending of the year."
All our supply is to come from the Lord. Here are springs that shall never dry; here are fountains and streams that shall never be cut off. Here, anxious one, is the gracious pledge of the Heavenly Father. If He be the Source of our mercies they can never fail us. No heat, no drought can parch that river, "the streams whereof make glad the city of God."
The land is a land of hills and valleys. It is not all smooth nor all down hill. If life were all one dead level the dull sameness would oppress us; we want the hills and the valleys. The hills collect the rain for a hundred fruitful valleys. Ah, so it is with us! It is the hill difficulty that drives us to the throne of grace and brings down the shower of blessing; the hills, the bleak hills of life that we wonder at and perhaps grumble at, bring down the showers. How many have perished in the wilderness, buried under its golden sands, who would have lived and thriven in the hill-country; how many would have been killed by the frost, blighted with winds, swept desolate of tree and fruit but for the hill-stern, hard, rugged, so steep to climb. God's hills are a gracious protection for His people against their foes!
We cannot tell what loss and sorrow and trial are doing. Trust only. The Father comes near to take our hand and lead us on our way today. It shall be a good, a blessed new year!
He leads us on by paths we did not know;
Upward He leads us, though our steps be slow,
Though oft we faint and falter on the way,
Though storms and darkness oft obscure the day;
Yet when the clouds are gone,
We know He leads us on.
He leads us on through all the unquiet years;
Past all our dreamland hopes, and doubts and fears,
He guides our steps, through all the tangled maze
Of losses, sorrows, and o'erclouded days;
We know His will is done;
And still He leads us on.
And there was an enlarging, and a winding about still upward to the side chambers: for the. winding about of the house went still upward round about the house: therefore the breadth of the house was still upward and so increased from the lowest chamber to the highest by the midst. - Ezekiel 41:7
"Still upward be thine onward course:
For this I pray today;
Still upward as the years go by,
And seasons pass away.
"Still upward in this coming year,
Thy path is all untried;
Still upward may'st thou journey on,
Close by thy Savior's side.
"Still upward e'en though sorrow come,
And trials crush thine heart;
Still upward may they draw thy soul,
With Christ to walk apart.
"Still upward till the day shall break,
And shadows all have flown;
Still upward till in Heaven you wake,
And stand before the throne."
We ought not to rest content in the mists of the valley when the summit of Tabor awaits us. How pure are the dews of the hills, how fresh is the mountain air, how rich the fare of the dwellers aloft, whose windows look into the New Jerusalem!
Many saints are content to live like men in coal mines, who see not the sun. Tears mar their faces when they might anoint them with celestial oil. Satisfied I am that many a believer pines in a dungeon when he might walk on the palace roof, and view the goodly land and Lebanon. Rouse thee, O believer, from thy low condition! Cast away thy sloth, thy lethargy, thy coldness, or whatever interferes with thy chaste and pure love to Christ. Make Him the source, the center, and the circumference of all thy soul's range of delight. Rest no longer satisfied with thy dwarfish attainments. Aspire to a higher, a nobler, a fuller life. Upward to heaven! Nearer to God! —Spurgeon
"I want to scale the utmost height,
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I'll pray, till heaven I've found,
Lord, lead me on to higher ground!"
Not many of us are living at our best. We linger in the lowlands because we are afraid to climb the mountains. The steepness and ruggedness dismay us, and so we stay in the misty valleys and do not learn the mystery of the hills. We do not know what we lose in our self-indulgence, what glory awaits us if only we had courage for the mountain climb, what blessing we should find if only we would move to the uplands of God. —J. R. M.
"Too low they build who build beneath the stars."
I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goeth before me and the children be able to endure. - Genesis 33:14
What a beautiful picture of Jacob's thoughtfulness for the cattle and the children! He would not allow them to be overdriven even for one day. He would not lead on according to what a strong man like Esau could do and expected them to do, but only according to what they were able to endure. He knew exactly how far they could go in a day; and he made that his only consideration in arranging the marches. He had gone the same wilderness journey years before, and knew all about its roughness and heat and length, by personal experience. And so he said, "I will lead on softly." "For ye have not passed this way heretofore" (Josh.3:4.).
We have not passed this way heretofore, but the Lord Jesus has. It is all untrodden and unknown ground to us, but He knows it all by personal experience. The steep bits that take away our breath, the stony bits that make our feet ache so, the hot shadeless stretches that make us feel so exhausted, the rushing rivers that we have to pass through--Jesus has gone through it all before us. "He was wearied with his journey." Not some, but all the many waters went over Him, and yet did not quench His love. He was made a perfect Leader by the things which He suffered. "He knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust." Think of that when you are tempted to question the gentleness of His leading. He is remembering all the time; and not one step will He make you take beyond what your foot is able to endure. Never mind if you think it will not be able for the step that seems to come next; either He will so strengthen it that it shall be able, or He will call a sudden halt, and you shall not have to take it at all. —Frances Ridley Havergal
In "pastures green"? Not always; sometimes He
Who knowest best, in kindness leadeth me
In weary ways, where heavy shadows be.
So, whether on the hill-tops high and fair
I dwell, or in the sunless valleys, where
The shadows lie, what matter? He is there. —Barry
Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way. - John 4:50
When ye pray, believe. - Mark 11:24
When there is a matter that requires definite prayer, pray till you believe God, until with unfeigned lips you can thank Him for the answer. If the answer still tarries outwardly, do not pray for it in such a way that it is evident that you are not definitely believing for it. Such a prayer in place of being a help will be a hindrance; and when you are finished praying, you will find that your faith has weakened or has entirely gone. The urgency that you felt to offer this kind of prayer is clearly from self and Satan. It may not be wrong to mention the matter in question to the Lord again, if He is keeping you waiting, but be sure you do so in such a way that it implies faith. Do not pray yourself out of faith. You may tell Him that you are waiting and that you are still believing Him and therefore praise Him for the answer. There is nothing that so fully clinches faith as to be so sure of the answer that you can thank God for it. Prayers that pray us out of faith deny both God's promise in His Word and also His whisper "Yes," that He gave us in our hearts. Such prayers are but the expression of the unrest of one's heart, and unrest implies unbelief in reference to the answer to prayer. "For we which have believed do enter into rest" (Heb. 4:3). This prayer that prays ourselves out of faith frequently arises from centering our thoughts on the difficulty rather than on God's promise. Abraham "considered not his own body," "he staggered not at the promise of God" (Rom. 4:19, 20). May we watch and pray that we enter not into temptation of praying ourselves out of faith. —C. H. P.
Faith is not a sense, nor sight, nor reason, but a taking God at His Word. —Evans
The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety. —George Muller
You will never learn faith in comfortable surroundings. God gives us the promises in a quiet hour; God seals our covenants with great and gracious words, then He steps back and waits to see how much we believe; then He lets the tempter come, and the test seems to contradict all that He has spoken. It is then that faith wins its crown. That is the time to look up through the storm, and among the trembling, frightened seamen cry, "I believe God that it shall be even as it was told me."
"Believe and trust; through stars and suns,
Through life and death, through soul and sense,
His wise, paternal purpose runs;
The darkness of His Providence
Is starlit with Divine intents."
None to Help But God
Remind God of His entire responsibility. "There is none beside thee to help." The odds against Asa were enormous. There was a million of men in arms against him, besides three hundred chariots. It seemed impossible to hold his own against that vast multitude. There were no allies who would come to his help; his only hope, therefore, was in God. It may be that your difficulties have been allowed to come to so alarming a pitch that you may be compelled to renounce all creature aid, to which in lesser trials you have had recourse, and cast yourself back on your Almighty Friend.
Put God between yourself and the foe. To Asa's faith, Jehovah seemed to stand between the might of Zerah and himself, as one who had no strength. Nor was he mistaken. We are told that the Ethiopians were destroyed before the Lord and before His host, as though celestial combatants flung themselves against the foe in Israel's behalf, and put the large host to rout, so that Israel had only to follow up and gather the spoil. Our God is Jehovah of hosts, who can summon unexpected reinforcements at any moment to aid His people. Believe that He is there between you and your difficulty, and what baffles you will flee before Him, as clouds before the gale. —F. B. Meyer
"When nothing whereon to lean remains,
When strongholds crumble to dust;
When nothing is sure but that God still reigns,
That is just the time to trust.
"'Tis better to walk by faith than sight,
In this path of yours and mine;
And the pitch-black night, when there's no outer light
Is the time for faith to shine."
Abraham believed God, and said to sight, "Stand back!" and to the laws of nature, "Hold your peace!" and to a misgiving heart, "Silence, thou lying tempter!" He believed God. —Joseph Parker
When thou passest through the waters...they shall not overflow thee. - Isaiah 43:2
God does not open paths for us in advance of our coming. He does not promise help before help is needed. He does not remove obstacles out of our way before we reach them. Yet when we are on the edge of our need, God's hand is stretched out.
Many people forget this, and are forever worrying about difficulties which they foresee in the future. They expect that God is going to make the way plain and open before them, miles and miles ahead; whereas He has promised to do it only step by step as they may need. You must get to the waters and into their floods before you can claim the promise. Many people dread death, and lament that they have not "dying grace." Of course, they will not have dying grace when they are in good health, in the midst of life's duties, with death far in advance. Why should they have it then? Grace for duty is what they need then, living grace; then dying grace when they come to die —J. R. M.
"When thou passest through the waters"
Deep the waves may be and cold,
But Jehovah is our refuge,
And His promise is our hold;
For the Lord Himself hath said it,
He, the faithful God and true:
"When thou comest to the waters
Thou shalt not go down, BUT THROUGH."
Seas of sorrow, seas of trial,
Bitterest anguish, fiercest pain,
Rolling surges of temptation
Sweeping over heart and brain
They shall never overflow us
For we know His word is true;
All His waves and all His billows
He will lead us safely through.
Threatening breakers of destruction,
Doubt's insidious undertow,
Shall not sink us, shall not drag us
Out to ocean depths of woe;
For His promise shall sustain us,
Praise the Lord, whose Word is true!
We shall not go down, or under,
For He saith, "Thou passest THROUGH." —Annie Johnson Flint
I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. - Philippians 4:11
Paul, denied of every comfort, wrote the above words in his dungeon. A story is told of a king who went into his garden one morning, and found everything withered and dying. He asked the oak that stood near the gate what the trouble was. He found it was sick of life and determined to die because it was not tall and beautiful like the pine. The pine was all out of heart because it could not bear grapes, like the vine. The vine was going to throw its life away because it could not stand erect and have as fine fruit as the peach tree. The geranium was fretting because it was not tall and fragrant like the lilac; and so on all through the garden. Coming to a heart's-ease, he found its bright face lifted as cheery as ever. "Well, heart's-ease, I'm glad, amidst all this discouragement, to find one brave little flower. You do not seem to be the least disheartened." "No, I am not of much account, but I thought that if you wanted an oak, or a pine, or a peach tree, or a lilac, you would have planted one; but as I knew you wanted a heart's-ease, I am determined to be the best little heart's-ease that I can."
"Others may do a greater work,
But you have your part to do;
And no one in all God's heritage
Can do it so well as you."
They who are God's without reserve, are in every state content; for they will only what He wills, and desire to do for Him whatever He desires them to do; they strip themselves of everything, and in this nakedness find all things restored an hundredfold.
Showers and Sunshine
I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing. - Ezekiel 34:26
What is thy season this morning? Is it a season of drought? Then that is the season for showers. Is it a season of great heaviness and black clouds? Then that is the season for showers. "As thy day so shall thy strength be." "I will give thee showers of blessing." The word is in the plural. All kinds of blessings God will send. All God's blessings go together, like links in a golden chain. If He gives converting grace, He will also give comforting grace. He will send "showers of blessings." Look up today, O parched plant, and open thy leaves and flowers for a heavenly watering. --Spurgeon
"Let but thy heart become a valley low,
And God will rain on it till it will overflow."
Thou, O Lord, canst transform my thorn into a flower. And I want my thorn transformed into a flower. Job got the sunshine after the rain, but has the rain been all waste? Job wants to know, I want to know, if the shower had nothing to do with the shining. And Thou canst tell me Thy Cross can tell me. Thou hast crowned Thy sorrow. Be this my crown, O Lord. I only triumph in Thee when I have learned the radiance of the rain. —George Matheson
The fruitful life seeks showers as well as sunshine.
"The landscape, brown and sere beneath the sun,
Needs but the cloud to lift it into life;
The dews may damp the leaves of tree and flower,
But it requires the cloud-distilled shower
To bring rich verdure to the lifeless life.
"Ah, how like this, the landscape of a life:
Dews of trial fall like incense, rich and sweet;
But bearing little in the crystal tray
Like nymphs of night, dews lift at break of day
And transient impress leave, like lips that meet.
"But clouds of trials, bearing burdens rare,
Leave in the soul, a moisture settled deep:
Life kindles by the magic law of God;
And where before the thirsty camel trod,
There richest beauties to life's landscape leap.
"Then read thou in each cloud that comes to thee
The words of Paul, in letters large and clear:
So shall those clouds thy soul with blessing feed,
And with a constant trust as thou dost read,
All things together work for good. Fret not, nor fear!"
Made Perfect Through Suffering
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. - Romans 8:18
I kept for nearly a year the flask-shaped cocoon of an emperor moth. It is very peculiar in its construction. A narrow opening is left in the neck of the flask, through which the perfect insect forces its way, so that a forsaken cocoon is as entire as one still tenanted, no rupture of the interlacing fibers having taken place. The great disproportion between the means of egress and the size of the imprisoned insect makes one wonder how the exit is ever accomplished at all--and it never is without great labor and difficulty. It is supposed that the pressure to which the moth's body is subjected in passing through such a narrow opening is a provision of nature for forcing the juices into the vessels of the wings, these being less developed at the period of emerging from the chrysalis than they are in other insects.
I happened to witness the first efforts of my prisoned moth to escape from its long confinement. During a whole forenoon, from time to time, I watched it patiently striving and struggling to get out. It never seemed able to get beyond a certain point, and at last my patience was exhausted. Very probably the confining fibers were drier and less elastic than if the cocoon had been left all winter on its native heather, as nature meant it to be. At all events I thought I was wiser and more compassionate than its Maker, and I resolved to give it a helping hand. With the point of my scissors I snipped the confining threads to make the exit just a very little easier, and lo! immediately, and with perfect ease, out crawled my moth dragging a huge swollen body and little shriveled wings. In vain I watched to see that marvelous process of expansion in which these silently and swiftly develop before one's eyes; and as I traced the exquisite spots and markings of divers colors which were all there in miniature, I longed to see these assume their due proportions and the creature to appear in all its perfect beauty, as it is, in truth, one of the loveliest of its kind. But I looked in vain. My false tenderness had proved its ruin. It never was anything but a stunted abortion, crawling painfully through that brief life which it should have spent flying through the air on rainbow wings.
I have thought of it often, often, when watching with pitiful eyes those who were struggling with sorrow, suffering, and distress; and I would fain cut short the discipline and give deliverance. Short-sighted man! How know I that one of these pangs or groans could be spared? The far-sighted, perfect love that seeks the perfection of its object does not weakly shrink from present, transient suffering. Our Father's love is too true to be weak. Because He loves His children, He chastises them that they may be partakers of His holiness. With this glorious end in view, He spares not for their crying. Made perfect through sufferings, as the Elder Brother was, the sons of God are trained up to obedience and brought to glory through much tribulation. —Tract.
They were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the Word in Asia. - Acts 16:6
It is interesting to study the methods of His guidance as it was extended towards these early heralds of the Cross. It consisted largely in prohibitions, when they attempted to take another course than the right. When they would turn to the left, to Asia, He stayed them. When they sought to turn to the right, to Bithynia, again He stayed them. In after years Paul would do some of the greatest work of his life in that very region; but just now the door was closed against him by the Holy Spirit. The time was not yet ripe for the attack on these apparently impregnable bastions of the kingdom of Satan. Apollos must come there for pioneer work. Paul and Barnabas are needed yet more urgently elsewhere, and must receive further training before undertaking this responsible task.
Beloved, whenever you are doubtful as to your course, submit your judgment absolutely to the Spirit of God, and ask Him to shut against you every door but the right one. Say,
"Blessed Spirit, I cast on Thee the entire responsibility of closing against my steps any and every course which is not of God. Let me hear Thy voice behind me whenever I turn to the right hand or the left."
In the meanwhile, continue along the path which you have been already treading. Abide in the calling in which you are called, unless you are clearly told to do something else. The Spirit of Jesus waits to be to you, O pilgrim, what He was to Paul. Only be careful to obey His least prohibition; and where, after believing prayer, there are no apparent hindrances, go forward with enlarged heart. Do not be surprised if the answer comes in closed doors. But when doors are shut right and left, an open road is sure to lead to Troas. There Luke awaits, and visions will point the way, where vast opportunities stand open, and faithful friends are waiting. —Paul, by Meyer
Is there some problem in your life to solve,
Some passage seeming full of mystery?
God knows, who brings the hidden things to light.
He keeps the key.
Is there some door closed by the Father's hand
Which widely opened you had hoped to see?
Trust God and wait--for when He shuts the door
He keeps the key.
Is there some earnest prayer unanswered yet,
Or answered NOT as you had thought 'twould be?
God will make clear His purpose by-and-by.
He keeps the key.
Have patience with your God, your patient God,
All wise, all knowing, no long tarrier He,
And of the door of all thy future life
He keeps the key.
Unfailing comfort, sweet and blessed rest,
To know of EVERY door He keeps the key.
That He at last when just HE sees 'tis best,
Will give it THEE. —Anonymous
Trained to Comfort
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. - Isaiah 40:1
Store up comfort. This was the prophet's mission. The world is full of comfortless hearts, and ere thou art sufficient for this lofty ministry, thou must be trained. And thy training is costly in the extreme; for, to render it perfect, thou too must pass through the same afflictions as are wringing countless hearts of tears and blood. Thus thy own life becomes the hospital ward where thou art taught the Divine art of comfort. Thou art wounded, that in the binding up of thy wounds by the Great Physician, thou mayest learn how to render first aid to the wounded everywhere. Dost thou wonder why thou art passing through some special sorrow? Wait till ten years are passed, and thou wilt find many others afflicted as thou art. Thou wilt tell them how thou hast suffered and hast been comforted; then as the tale is unfolded, and the anodynes applied which once thy God wrapped around thee, in the eager look and the gleam of hope that shall chase the shadow of despair across the soul, thou shalt know why thou wast afflicted, and bless God for the discipline that stored thy life with such a fund of experience and helpfulness. --Selected
God does not comfort us to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters. —Dr. Jowett
"They tell me I must bruise
The rose's leaf,
Ere I can keep and use
Its fragrance brief.
"They tell me I must break
The skylark's heart,
Ere her cage song will make
The silence start.
"They tell me love must bleed,
And friendship weep,
Ere in my deepest need
I touch that deep.
"Must it be always so
With precious things?
Must they be bruised and go
With beaten wings?
"Ah, yes! by crushing days,
By caging nights, by scar
Of thorn and stony ways,
These blessings are!"
God hedges in His own that He may preserve them, but oftentimes they only see the wrong side of the hedge, and so misunderstand His dealings. It was so with Job (Job 3:23). Ah, but Satan knew the value of that hedge! See his testimony in chapter 1:10. Through the leaves of every trial there are chinks of light to shine through. Thorns do not prick you unless you lean against them, and not one touches without His knowledge. The words that hurt you, the letter which gave you pain, the cruel wound of your dearest friend, shortness of money--are all known to Him, who sympathizes as none else can and watches to see, if, through all, you will dare to trust Him wholly.
"The hawthorn hedge that keeps us from intruding,
Looks very fierce and bare
When stripped by winter, every branch protruding
Its thorns that would wound and tear.
"But spring-time comes; and like the rod that budded,
Each twig breaks out in green;
And cushions soft of tender leaves are studded,
Where spines alone were seen,
"The sorrows, that to us seem so perplexing,
Are mercies kindly sent
To guard our wayward souls from sadder vexing,
And greater ills prevent.
"To save us from the pit, no screen of roses
Would serve for our defense,
The hindrance that completely interposes
Stings back like thorny fence.
"At first when smarting from the shock, complaining
Of wounds that freely bleed,
God's hedges of severity us paining,
May seem severe indeed.
"But afterwards, God's blessed spring-time cometh,
And bitter murmurs cease;
The sharp severity that pierced us bloometh,
And yields the fruits of peace.
"Then let us sing, our guarded way thus wending
Life's hidden snares among,
Of mercy and of judgment sweetly blending;
Earth's sad, but lovely song."
Hardship Makes Character
In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. - Romans 8:37
This is more than victory. This is a triumph so complete that we have not only escaped defeat and destruction, but we have destroyed our enemies and won a spoil so rich and valuable that we can thank God that the battle ever came. How can we be "more than conquerors"? We can get out of the conflict a spiritual discipline that will greatly strengthen our faith and establish our spiritual character. Temptation is necessary to settle and confirm us in the spiritual life. It is like the fire which burns in the colors of mineral painting, or like winds that cause the mighty cedars of the mountain to strike more deeply into the soil. Our spiritual conflicts are among our choicest blessings, and our great adversary is used to train us for his ultimate defeat. The ancient Phrygians had a legend that every time they conquered an enemy the victor absorbed the physical strength of his victim and added so much more to his own strength and valor. So temptation victoriously met doubles our spiritual strength and equipment. It is possible thus not only to defeat our enemy, but to capture him and make him fight in our ranks. The prophet Isaiah speaks of flying on the shoulders of the Philistines (Isa. 11:14). These Philistines were their deadly foes, but the figure suggested that they would be enabled not only to conquer the Philistines, but to use them to carry the victors on their shoulders for further triumphs. Just as the wise sailor can use a head wind to carry him forward by tacking and taking advantage of its impelling force; so it is possible for us in our spiritual life through the victorious grace of God to turn to account the things that seem most unfriendly and unfavorable, and to be able to say continually, "The things that were against me have happened to the furtherance of the Gospel." —Life More Abundantly
A noted scientist observing that "early voyagers fancied that the coral-building animals instinctively built up the great circles of the Atoll Islands to afford themselves protection in the inner parts," has disproved this fancy by showing that the insect builders can only live and thrive fronting the open ocean, and in the highly aerated foam of its resistless billows. So it has been commonly thought that protected ease is the most favorable condition of life, whereas all the noblest and strongest lives prove on the contrary that the endurance of hardship is the making of the men, and the factor that distinguishes between existence and vigorous vitality. Hardship makes character. —Selected
"Now thanks be unto God Who always leads us forth to triumph with the Anointed One, and Who diffuses by us the fragrance of the knowledge of Him in every place" (2 Cor. 2:14, literal translation).
He putteth forth his own sheep. - John 10:4
Oh, this is bitter work for Him and us—bitter for us to go, but equally bitter for Him to cause us pain; yet it must be done. It would not be conducive to our true welfare to stay always in one happy and comfortable lot. He therefore puts us forth. The fold is deserted, that the sheep may wander over the bracing mountain slope. The laborers must be thrust out into the harvest, else the golden grain would spoil.
Take heart! it could not be better to stay when He determines otherwise; and if the loving hand of our Lord puts us forth, it must be well. On, in His name, to green pastures and still waters and mountain heights! He goeth before thee. Whatever awaits us is encountered first by Him. Faith's eye can always discern His majestic presence in front; and when that cannot be seen, it is dangerous to move forward. Bind this comfort to your heart, that the Savior has tried for Himself all the experiences through which He asks you to pass; and He would not ask you to pass through them unless He was sure that they were not too difficult for your feet, or too trying for your strength.
This is the Blessed Life—not anxious to see far in front, nor careful about the next step, not eager to choose the path, nor weighted with the heavy responsibilities of the future, but quietly following behind the Shepherd, one step at a time.
Dark is the sky! and veiled the unknown morrowl
Dark is life's way, for night is not yet o'er;
The longed-for glimpse I may not meanwhile borrow;
But, this I know, HE GOETH ON BEFORE.
Dangers are nigh! and fears my mind are shaking;
Heart seems to dread what life may hold in store;
But I am His--He knows the way I'm taking,
More blessed still--HE GOETH ON BEFORE.
Doubts cast their weird, unwelcome shadows o'er me,
Doubts that life's best--life's choicest things are o'er;
What but His Word can strengthen, can restore me,
And this blest fact; that still HE GOES BEFORE.
HE GOES BEFORE! Be this my consolation!
He goes before! On this my heart would dwell!
He goes before! This guarantees salvation!
HE GOES BEFORE! And therefore all is well. —J. D. Smith
The Oriental shepherd was always ahead of his sheep. He was down in front. Any attack upon them had to take him into account. Now God is down in front. He is in the tomorrows. It is tomorrow that fills men with dread. God is there already. All the tomorrows of our life have to pass Him before they can get to us. —F. B. M.
"God is in every tomorrow,
Therefore I live for today,
Certain of finding at sunrise,
Guidance and strength for the way;
Power for each moment of weakness,
Hope for each moment of pain,
Comfort for every sorrow,
Sunshine and joy after rain."
And the LORD appeared unto Isaac the same night. - Genesis 26:24
"Appeared the same night," the night on which he went to Beer-sheba. Do you think this revelation was an accident? Do you think the time of it was an accident? Do you think it could have happened on any other night as well as this? If so, you are grievously mistaken. Why did it come to Isaac in the night on which he reached Beer-sheba? Because that was the night on which he reached rest. In his old locality, he had been tormented. There had been a whole series of petty quarrels about the possession of paltry wells. There are no worries like little worries, particularly if there is an accumulation of them. Isaac felt this. Even after the strife was past, the place retained a disagreeable association. He determined to leave. He sought change of scene. He pitched his tent away from the place of former strife. That very night the revelation came. God spoke when there was no inward storm. He could not speak when the mind was fretted; His voice demands the silence of the soul. Only in the hush of the spirit could Isaac hear the garments of his God sweep by. His still night was his starry night.
My soul, hast thou pondered these words, "Be still, and know"? In the hour of perturbation, thou canst not hear the answer to thy prayers. How often has the answer seemed to come long after the heart got no response in the moment of its crying—in its thunder, its earthquake, and its fire. But when the crying ceased, when the stillness fell, when thy hand desisted from knocking on the iron gate, when the interest of other lives broke the tragedy of thine own, then appeared the long-delayed reply. Thou must rest, O soul, if thou wouldst have thy heart's desire. Still the beating of thy pulse of personal care. Hide thy tempest of individual trouble behind the altar of a common tribulation and, that same night, the Lord shall appear to thee. The rainbow shall span the place of the subsiding flood, and in thy stillness thou shalt hear the everlasting music. —George Matheson
Tread in solitude thy pathway,
Quiet heart and undismayed.
Thou shalt know things strange, mysterious,
Which to thee no voice has said.
While the crowd of petty hustlers
Grasps at vain and paltry things,
Thou wilt see a great world rising
Where soft mystic music rings.
Leave the dusty road to others,
Spotless keep thy soul and bright,
As the radiant ocean's surface
When the sun is taking flight. —(From the German of V. Schoffel) H. F.
The Breaking of the Storm
And there arose a great storm. - Mark 4:37
Some of the storms of life come suddenly: a great sorrow, a bitter disappointment, a crushing defeat. Some come slowly. They appear upon the ragged edges of the horizon no larger than a man's hand, but, trouble that seems so insignificant spreads until it covers the sky and overwhelms us.
Yet it is in the storm that God equips us for service. When God wants an oak He plants it on the moor where the storms will shake it and the rains will beat down upon it, and it is in the midnight battle with elements that the oak wins its rugged fibre and becomes the king of the forest.
When God wants to make a man He puts him into some storm. The history of manhood is always rough and rugged. No man is made until he has been out into the surge of the storm and found the sublime fulfillment of the prayer: "O God, take me, break me, make me."
A Frenchman has painted a picture of universal genius. There stand orators, philosophers and martyrs, all who have achieved pre-eminence in any phase of life; the remarkable fact about the picture is this: Every man who is pre-eminent for his ability was first pre-eminent for suffering. In the foreground stands that figure of the man who was denied the promised land, Moses. Beside him is another, feeling his way--blind Homer. Milton is there, blind and heart-broken. Now comes the form of one who towers above them all. What is His characteristic? His Face is marred more than any man's. The artist might have written under that great picture, "The Storm."
The beauties of nature come after the storm. The rugged beauty of the mountain is born in a storm, and the heroes of life are the storm-swept and the battle-scarred.
You have been in the storms and swept by the blasts. Have they left you broken, weary, beaten in the valley, or have they lifted you to the sunlit summits of a richer, deeper, more abiding manhood and womanhood? Have they left you with more sympathy with the storm-swept and the battle-scarred? —Selected
The wind that blows can never kill
The tree God plants;
It bloweth east, it bloweth west,
The tender leaves have little rest,
But any wind that blows is best.
The tree that God plants
Strikes deeper root, grows higher still,
Spreads greater boughs, for God's good will
Meets all its wants.
There is no storm hath power to blast
The tree God knows;
No thunderbolt, nor beating rain,
Nor lightning flash, nor hurricane;
When they are spent, it doth remain,
The tree God knows,
Through every tempest standeth fast,
And from its first day to its last
Still fairer grows. —Selected
The Living God
O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee? - Daniel 6:20
How many times we find this expression in the Scriptures, and yet it is just this very thing that we are so prone to lose sight of. We know it is written "the living God"; but in our daily life there is scarcely anything we practically so much lose sight of as the fact that God is the living God; that He is now whatever He was three or four thousand years since; that He has the same sovereign power, the same saving love towards those who love and serve Him as ever He had and that He will do for them now what He did for others two, three, four thousand years ago, simply because He is the living God, the unchanging One. Oh, how therefore we should confide in Him, and in our darkest moments never lose sight of the fact that He is still and ever will be the living God!
Be assured, if you walk with Him and look to Him and expect help from Him, He will never fail you. An older brother who has known the Lord for forty-four years, who writes this, says to you for your encouragement that He has never failed him. In the greatest difficulties, in the heaviest trials, in the deepest poverty and necessities, He has never failed me; but because I was enabled by His grace to trust Him He has always appeared for my help. I delight in speaking well of His name. —George Mueller
Luther was once found at a moment of peril and fear, when he had need to grasp unseen strength, sitting in an abstracted mood tracing on the table with his finger the words, "Vivit! vivit!" ("He lives! He lives!"). It is our hope for ourselves, and for His truth, and for mankind. Men come and go; leaders, teachers, thinkers speak and work for a season, and then fall silent and impotent. He abides. They die, but He lives. They are lights kindled, and, therefore, sooner or later quenched; but He is the true light from which they draw all their brightness, and He shines for evermore. —Alexander Maclaren
"One day I came to know Dr. John Douglas Adam," writes C. G. Trumbull. "I learned from him that what he counted his greatest spiritual asset was his unvarying consciousness of the actual presence of Jesus. Nothing bore him up so, he said, as the realization that Jesus was always with him in actual presence; and that this was so independent of his own feelings, independent of his deserts, and independent of his own notions as to how Jesus would manifest His presence.
"Moreover, he said that Christ was the home of his thoughts. Whenever his mind was free from other matters it would turn to Christ; and he would talk aloud to Christ when he was alone—on the street, anywhere—as easily and naturally as to a human friend. So real to him was Jesus' actual presence."
The Fiery Furnace
Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ. - 2nd Corinthians 2:14
God gets His greatest victories out of apparent defeats. Very often the enemy seems to triumph for a little, and God lets it be so; but then He comes in and upsets all the work of the enemy, overthrows the apparent victory, and as the Bible says, "turns the way of the wicked upside down." Thus He gives a great deal larger victory than we would have known if He had not allowed the enemy, seemingly, to triumph in the first place.
The story of the three Hebrew children being cast into the fiery furnace is a familiar one. Here was an apparent victory for the enemy. It looked as if the servants of the living God were going to have a terrible defeat. We have all been in places where it seemed as though we were defeated, and the enemy rejoiced. We can imagine what a complete defeat this looked to be. They fell down into the flames, and their enemies watched them to see them burn up in that awful fire, but were greatly astonished to see them walking around in the fire enjoying themselves. Nebuchadnezzar told them to "come forth out of the midst of the fire." Not even a hair was singed, nor was the smell of fire on their garments, "because there is no other god that can deliver after this sort."
This apparent defeat resulted in a marvelous victory.
Suppose that these three men had lost their faith and courage, and had complained, saying, "Why did not God keep us out of the furnace!" They would have been burned, and God would not have been glorified. If there is a great trial in your life today, do not own it as a defeat, but continue, by faith, to claim the victory through Him who is able to make you more than conqueror, and a glorious victory will soon be apparent. Let us learn that in all the hard places God brings us into, He is making opportunities for us to exercise such faith in Him as will bring about blessed results and greatly glorify His name. —Life of Praise
"Defeat may serve as well as victory
To shake the soul and let the glory out.
When the great oak is straining in the wind,
The boughs drink in new beauty, and the trunk
Sends down a deeper root on the windward side.
Only the soul that knows the mighty grief
Can know the mighty rapture. Sorrows come
To stretch out spaces in the heart for joy."
Men ought always to pray and not to faint. - Luke18:1
"Go to the ant." Tammerlane used to relate to his friends an anecdote of his early life. "I once" he said, "was forced to take shelter from my enemies in a ruined building, where I sat alone many hours. Desiring to divert my mind from my hopeless condition, I fixed my eyes on an ant that was carrying a grain of corn larger than itself up a high wall. I numbered the efforts it made to accomplish this object. The grain fell sixty-nine times to the ground; but the insect persevered, and the seventieth time it reached the top. This sight gave me courage at the moment, and I never forgot the lesson." —The King's Business
Prayer which takes the fact that past prayers have not been answered as a reason for languor, has already ceased to be the prayer of faith. To the prayer of faith the fact that prayers remain unanswered is only evidence that the moment of the answer is so much nearer. From first to last, the lessons and examples of our Lord all tell us that prayer which cannot persevere and urge its plea importunately, and renew, and renew itself again, and gather strength from every past petition, is not the prayer that will prevail. —William Arthur
Rubenstein, the great musician, once said, "If I omit practice one day, I notice it; if two days, my friends notice it; if three days, the public notice it." It is the old doctrine, "Practice makes perfect." We must continue believing, continue praying, continue doing His will. Suppose along any line of art, one should cease practicing, we know what the result would be. If we would only use the same quality of common sense in our religion that we use in our everyday life, we should go on to perfection.
The motto of David Livingstone was in these words, "I determined never to stop until I had come to the end and achieved my purpose." By unfaltering persistence and faith in God he conquered.
Sorrow, God's Plowshare
Sorrow is better than laughter; for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better - Ecclesiastes 7:3
When sorrow comes under the power of Divine grace, it works out a manifold ministry in our lives. Sorrow reveals unknown depths in the soul, and unknown capabilities of experience and service. Gay, trifling people are always shallow, and never suspect the little meannesses in their nature. Sorrow is God's plowshare that turns up and subsoils the depths of the soul, that it may yield richer harvests. If we had never fallen, or were in a glorified state, then the strong torrents of Divine joy would be the normal force to open up all our souls' capacities; but in a fallen world, sorrow, with despair taken out of it, is the chosen power to reveal ourselves to ourselves. Hence it is sorrow that makes us think deeply, long, and soberly.
Sorrow makes us go slower and more considerately, and introspect our motives and dispositions. It is sorrow that opens up within us the capacities of the heavenly life, and it is sorrow that makes us willing to launch our capacities on a boundless sea of service for God and our fellows.
We may suppose a class of indolent people living at the base of a great mountain range, who had never ventured to explore the valleys and canyons back in the mountains; and some day, when a great thunderstorm goes careening through the mountains, it turns the hidden glens into echoing trumpets, and reveals the inner recesses of the valley, like the convolutions of a monster shell, and then the dwellers at the foot of the hills are astonished at the labyrinths and unexplored recesses of a region so near by, and yet so little known. So it is with many souls who indolently live on the outer edge of their own natures until great thunderstorms of sorrow reveal hidden depths within that were never hitherto suspected.
God never uses anybody to a large degree, until after He breaks that one all to pieces. Joseph had more sorrow than all the other sons of Jacob, and it led him out into a ministry of bread for all nations. For this reason, the Holy Spirit said of him, "Joseph is a fruitful bough...by a well, whose branches run over the wall" (Gen. 49:22). It takes sorrow to widen the soul. —The Heavenly Life
The dark brown mould's upturned
By the sharp-pointed plow;
And I've a lesson learned.
My life is but a field,
Stretched out beneath God's sky,
Some harvest rich to yield.
Where grows the golden grain?
Where faith? Where sympathy?
In a furrow cut by pain. —Maltbie D. Babcock
Every person and every nation must take lessons in God's school of adversity. "We can say, 'Blessed is night, for it reveals to us the stars.' In the same way we can say, 'Blessed is sorrow, for it reveals God's comfort.' The floods washed away home and mill, all the poor man had in the world. But as he stood on the scene of his loss, after the water had subsided, broken-hearted and discouraged, he saw something shining in the bank which the waters had washed bare. 'It looks like gold,' he said. It was gold. The flood which had beggared him made him rich. So it is ofttimes in life." —H. C. Trumbull
He Has Overcome the World
None of these things move me. - Acts 20:24
We read in the book of Samuel that the moment that David was crowned at Hebron, "All the Philistines came up to seek David." And the moment we get anything from the Lord worth contending for, then the devil comes to seek us.
When the enemy meets us at the threshold of any great work for God, let us accept it as "a token of salvation," and claim double blessing, victory, and power. Power is developed by resistance. The cannon carries twice as far because the exploding power has to find its way through resistance. The way electricity is produced in the powerhouse yonder is by the sharp friction of the revolving wheels. And so we shall find some day that even Satan has been one of God's agencies of blessing. —Days of Heaven upon Earth
A hero is not fed on sweets,
Daily his own heart he eats;
Chambers of the great are jails,
And head winds right for royal sails. —Emerson
Tribulation is the way to triumph. The valley-way opens into the highway. Tribulation's imprint is on all great things. Crowns are cast in crucibles. Chains of character that wind about the feet of God are forged in earthly flames. No man is greatest victor till he has trodden the winepress of woe. With seams of anguish deep in His brow, the "Man of Sorrows" said, "In the world ye shall have tribulation"—but after this sob comes the psalm of promise, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." The footprints are traceable everywhere. Bloodmarks stain the steps that lead to thrones. Scars are the price of scepters. Our crowns will be wrested from the giants we conquer. Grief has always been the lot of greatness. It is an open secret.
"The mark of rank in nature.
Is capacity for pain;
And the anguish of the singer
Makes the sweetest of the strain."
Tribulation has always marked the trail of the true reformer. It is the story of Paul, Luther, Savonarola, Knox, Wesley, and all the rest of the mighty army. They came through great tribulation to their place of power.
Every great book has been written with the author's blood. "These are they that have come out of great tribulation." Who was the peerless poet of the Greeks? Homer. But that illustrious singer was blind. Who wrote the fadeless dream of "Pilgrim's Progress"? A prince in royal purple upon a couch of ease? Nay! The trailing splendor of that vision gilded the dingy walls of old Bedford jail while John Bunyan, a princely prisoner, a glorious genius, made a faithful transcript of the scene.
Great is the facile conqueror;
Yet haply, he, who, wounded sore,
Breathless, all covered o'er with blood and sweat,
Sinks fainting, but fighting evermore
Is greater yet.
Music and the Rest
Into a desert place apart. - Matthew 14:13
"There is no music in a rest, but there is the making of music in it." In our whole life-melody the music is broken off here and there by "rests," and we foolishly think we have come to the end of the tune. God sends a time of forced leisure, sickness, disappointed plans, frustrated efforts, and makes a sudden pause in the choral hymn of our lives; and we lament that our voices must be silent, and our part missing in the music which ever goes up to the ear of the Creator. How does the musician read the "rest"? See him beat the time with unvarying count, and catch up the next note true and steady, as if no breaking place had come between.
Not without design does God write the music of our lives. Be it ours to learn the tune, and not be dismayed at the "rests." They are not to be slurred over, not to be omitted, not to destroy the melody, not to change the keynote. If we look up, God Himself will beat the time for us. With the eye on Him, we shall strike the next note full and clear. If we sadly say to ourselves, "There is no music in a 'rest,'" let us not forget "there is the making of music in it." The making of music is often a slow and painful process in this life. How patiently God works to teach us! How long He waits for us to learn the lesson! —Ruskin
From the glad working of thy busy life,
From the world's ceaseless stir of care and strife,
Into the shade and stillness by thy Heavenly Guide
For a brief space thou hast been called aside.
Perhaps into a desert garden dim;
And yet not alone, when thou hast been with Him,
And heard His voice in sweetest accents say:
'Child, wilt thou not with Me this still hour stay?'
In hidden paths with Christ thy Lord to tread,
Deeper to drink at the sweet Fountainhead,
Closer in fellowship with Him to roam,
Nearer, perchance, to feel thy Heavenly Home.
Oh, knowledge deeper grows with Him alone;
In secret of His deeper love is shown,
And learnt in many an hour of dark distress
Some rare, sweet lesson of His tenderness.
We thank thee for the stillness and the shade;
We thank Thee for the hidden paths Thy love hath made,
And, so that we have wept and watched with Thee,
We thank Thee for our dark Gethsemane.
Oh, restful thought--He doeth all things well;
Oh, blessed sense, with Christ alone to dwell;
So in the shadow of Thy cross to hide,
We thank Thee, Lord, to have been called aside."
A Very Present Help
Why standest thou afar off, O Lord? - Psalm 10:1
God is "a very present help in trouble." But He permits trouble to pursue us, as though He were indifferent to its overwhelming pressure, that we may be brought to the end of ourselves, and led to discover the treasure of darkness, the unmeasurable gains of tribulation. We may be sure that He who permits the suffering is with us in it. It may be that we shall see Him only when the trial is passing; but we must dare to believe that He never leaves the crucible. Our eyes are holden; and we cannot behold Him whom our soul loveth. It is dark--the bandages blind us so that we cannot see the form of our High Priest; but He is there, deeply touched. Let us not rely on feeling, but on faith in His unswerving fidelity; and though we see Him not, let us talk to Him. Directly we begin to speak to Jesus, as being literally present, though His presence is veiled, there comes an answering voice which shows that He is in the shadow, keeping watch upon His own. Your Father is as near when you journey through the dark tunnel as when under the open heaven! —Daily Devotional Commentary
"What though the path be all unknown?
What though the way be drear?
Its shades I traverse not alone
When steps of Thine are near."
Evidence of His Love
But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him...And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf. - Genesis 8:9-11
God knows just when to withhold from us any visible sign of encouragement, and when to grant us such a sign. How good it is that we may trust Him anyway! When all visible evidences that He is remembering us are withheld, that is best; He wants us to realize that His Word, His promise of remembrance, is more substantial and dependable than any evidence of our senses. When He sends the visible evidence, that is well also; we appreciate it all the more after we have trusted Him without it. Those who are readiest to trust God without other evidence than His Word always receive the greatest number of visible evidences of His love. —C. G. Trumbull
"Believing Him; if storm-clouds gather darkly 'round,
And even if the heaven seem brass, without a sound?
He hears each prayer and even notes the sparrow's fall.
"And praising Him; when sorrow, grief, and pain are near,
And even when we lose the thing that seems most dear?
Our loss is gain. Praise Him; in Him we have our All.
"Our hand in His; e'en though the path seems long and drear
We scarcely see a step ahead, and almost fear?
He guides aright. He has it thus to keep us near.
"And satisfied; when every path is blocked and bare,
And worldly things are gone and dead which were so fair?
Believe and rest and trust in Him, He comes to stay."
Delays are not refusals; many a prayer is registered, and underneath it the words: "My time is not yet come." God has a set time as well as a set purpose, and He who orders the bounds of our habitation orders also the time of our deliverance. —Selected
Thy Rod and Thy Staff
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. - Psalm 23:4
At my father's house in the country there is a little closet in the chimney corner where are kept the canes and walking-sticks of several generations of our family. In my visits to the old house, when my father and I are going out for a walk, we often go to the cane closet, and pick out our sticks to suit the fancy of the occasion. In this I have frequently been reminded that the Word of God is a staff.
During the war, when the season of discouragement and impending danger was upon us, the verse, "He shall not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord," was a staff to walk with many dark days.
When death took away our child and left us almost heartbroken, I found another staff in the promise that "weeping may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning."
When in impaired health, I was exiled for a year, not knowing whether I should be permitted to return to my home and work again, I took with me this staff which never failed, "He knoweth the thoughts that he thinketh toward me, thoughts of peace and not of evil."
In times of special danger or doubt, when human judgment has seemed to be set at naught, I have found it easy to go forward with this staff, "In quietness and confidence shall be your strength." And in emergencies, when there has seemed to be no adequate time for deliberation or for action, I have never found that this staff has failed me, "He that believeth shall not make haste." —Benjamin Vaughan Abbott, in The Outlook
"I had never known," said Martin Luther's wife, "what such and such things meant, in such and such psalms, such complaints and workings of spirit; I had never understood the practice of Christian duties, had not God brought me under some affliction." It is very true that God's rod is as the schoolmaster's pointer to the child, pointing out the letter, that he may the better take notice of it; thus He pointeth out to us many good lessons which we should never otherwise have learned. —Selected
"God always sends His staff with His rod."
"Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be" (Deut.33:25).
Each of us may be sure that if God sends us on stony paths He will provide us with strong shoes, and He will not send us out on any journey for which He does not equip us well. —Maclaren
Waiting and Over-Waiting
I have begun to give;...begin to possess. - Deuteronomy 2:31
A great deal is said in the Bible about waiting for God. The lesson cannot be too strongly enforced. We easily grow impatient of God's delays. Much of our trouble in life comes out of our restless, sometimes reckless, haste. We cannot wait for the fruit to ripen, but insist on plucking it while it is green. We cannot wait for the answers to our prayers, although the things we ask for may require long years in their preparation for us. We are exhorted to walk with God; but ofttimes God walks very slowly. But there is another phase of the lesson. God often waits for us.
We fail many times to receive the blessing He has ready for us, because we do not go forward with Him. While we miss much good through not waiting for God, we also miss much through over-waiting. There are times when our strength is to sit still, but there are also times when we are to go forward with a firm step.
There are many Divine promises which are conditioned upon the beginning of some action on our part. When we begin to obey, God will begin to bless us. Great things were promised to Abraham, but not one of them could have been obtained by waiting in Chaldea. He must leave home, friends, and country, and go out into unknown paths and press on in unfaltering obedience in order to receive the promises. The ten lepers were told to show themselves to the priest, and "as they went they were cleansed." If they had waited to see the cleansing come in their flesh before they would start, they would never have seen it. God was waiting to cleanse them; and the moment their faith began to work, the blessing came.
When the Israelites were shut in by a pursuing army at the Red Sea, they were commanded to "Go forward." Their duty was no longer one of waiting, but of rising up from bended knees and going forward in the way of heroic faith. They were commanded to show their faith at another time by beginning their march over the Jordan while the river ran to its widest banks. The key to unlock the gate into the Land of Promise they held in their own hands, and the gate would not turn on its hinges until they had approached it and unlocked it. That key was faith. We are set to fight certain battles. We say we can never be victorious; that we never can conquer these enemies; but, as we enter the conflict, One comes and fights by our side, and through Him we are more than conquerors. If we had waited, trembling and fearing, for our Helper to come before we would join the battle, we should have waited in vain. This would have been the over-waiting of unbelief. God is waiting to pour richest blessings upon you. Press forward with bold confidence and take what is yours. "I have begun to give, begin to possess." —J. R. Miller
Steady in Our Walk
Stablish, strengthen, settle you. - 1st Peter 5:10
In taking Christ in any new relationship, we must first have sufficient intellectual light to satisfy our mind that we are entitled to stand in this relationship. The shadow of a question here will wreck our confidence. Then, having seen this, we must make the venture, the committal, the choice, and take the place just as definitely as the tree is planted in the soil, or the bride gives herself away at the marriage altar. It must be once for all, without reserve, without recall.
Then there is a season of establishing, settling and testing, during which we must "stay put" until the new relationship gets so fixed as to become a permanent habit. It is just the same as when the surgeon sets the broken arm. He puts it in splints to keep it from vibration. So God has His spiritual splints that He wants to put upon His children and keep them quiet and unmoved until they pass the first stage of faith. It is not always easy work for us, "but the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Jesus Christ, after that ye have suffered awhile, stablish, strengthen, settle you." —A. B. Simpson
There is a natural law in sin and sickness; and if we just let ourselves go and sink into the trend of circumstances, we shall go down and sink under the power of the tempter. But there is another law of spiritual life and of physical life in Christ Jesus to which we can rise, and through which we can counterpoise and overcome the other law that bears us down.
But to do this requires real spiritual energy and fixed purpose and a settled posture and habit of faith. It is just the same as when we use the power in our factory. We must turn on the belt and keep it on. The power is there, but we must keep the connection; and while we do so, the higher power will work and all the machinery will be in operation.
There is a spiritual law of choosing, believing, abiding, and holding steady in our walk with God, which is essential to the working of the Holy Ghost either in our sanctification or healing. —Days of Heaven upon Earth
How an old harper dotes on his harp! How he fondles and caresses it, as a child resting on his bosom! His life is bound up in it. But, see him tuning it. He grasps it firmly, strikes a chord with a sharp, quick blow; and while it quivers as if in pain, he leans over intently to catch the first note that rises. The note, as he feared, is false and harsh. He strains the chord with the torturing thumb-screw; and though it seems ready to snap with the tension, he strikes it again, bending down to listen softly as before, till at length you see a smile on his face as the first true tone trembles upward.
So it may be that God is dealing with you. Loving you better than any harper loves his harp, He finds you a mass of jarring discords. He wrings your heartstrings with some torturing anguish; He bends over you tenderly, striking and listening; and, hearing only a harsh murmur, strikes you again, while His heart bleeds for you, anxiously waiting for that strain—"Not my will, but thine be done"—which is melody sweet to His ear as angels' songs. Nor will He cease to strike until your chastened soul shall blend with all the pure and infinite harmonies of His own being. —Selected.
"Oh, the sweetness that dwells in a harp of many strings,
While each, all vocal with love in a tuneful harmony rings!
But, oh, the wail and the discord, when one and another is rent,
Tensionless, broken and lost, from the cherished instrument.
"For rapture of love is linked with the pain or fear of loss,
And the hand that takes the crown, must ache with many a cross;
Yet he who hath never a conflict, hath never a victor's palm,
And only the toilers know the sweetness of rest and calm.
"Only between the storms can the Alpine traveller know
Transcendent glory of clearness, marvels of gleam and glow;
Had he the brightness unbroken of cloudless summer days,
This had been dimmed by the dust and the veil of a brooding haze.
"Who would dare the choice, neither or both to know,
The finest quiver of joy or the agony thrill of woe!
Never the exquisite pain, then never the exquisite bliss,
For the heart that is dull to that can never be strung to this."
Unshaken in Christ
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. - Psalm 46:5
"Shall not be moved"—what an inspiring declaration! Can it be possible that we, who are so easily moved by the things of earth, can arrive at a place where nothing can upset us or disturb our calm? Yes, it is possible; and the Apostle Paul knew it. When he was on his way to Jerusalem where he foresaw that "bonds and afflictions" awaited him, he could say triumphantly, "But none of these things move me." Everything in Paul's life and experience that could be shaken had been shaken, and he no longer counted his life, or any of life's possessions, dear to him. And we, if we will but let God have His way with us, may come to the same place, so that neither the fret and tear of little things of life, nor the great and heavy trials, can have power to move us from the peace that passeth understanding, which is declared to be the portion of those who have learned to rest only on God.
"Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God; and he shall go no more out." To be as immovable as a pillar in the house of our God, is an end for which one would gladly endure all the shakings that may be necessary to bring us there! —Hannah Whitall Smith
When God is in the midst of a kingdom or city He makes it as firm as Mount Zion, that cannot be removed. When He is in the midst of a soul, though calamities throng about it on all hands, and roar like the billows of the sea, yet there is a constant calm within, such a peace as the world can neither give nor take away. What is it but want of lodging God in the soul, and that in His stead the world is in men's hearts, that makes them shake like leaves at every blast of danger? —Archbishop Leighton
"They that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth forever." There is a quaint old Scottish version that puts iron into our blood:
"Who sticketh to God in stable trust
As Zion's mount he stands full just,
Which moveth no whit, nor yet doth reel,
But standeth forever as stiff as steel!"
I will be as the dew unto Israel. - Hosea 14:5
The dew is a source of freshness. It is nature's provision for renewing the face of the earth. It falls at night, and without it the vegetation would die. It is this great value of the dew which is so often recognized in the Scriptures. It is used as the symbol of spiritual refreshing. Just as nature is bathed in dew, so the Lord renews His people. In Titus 3:5 the same thought of spiritual refreshing is connected with the ministry of the Holy Ghost—"renewing of the Holy Ghost."
Many Christian workers do not recognize the importance of the heavenly dew in their lives, and as a result they lack freshness and vigor. Their spirits are drooping for lack of dew.
Beloved fellow-worker, you recognize the folly of a laboring man attempting to do his day's work without eating. Do you recognize the folly of a servant of God attempting to minister without eating of the heavenly manna? Nor will it suffice to have spiritual nourishment occasionally. Every day you must receive the renewing of the Holy Ghost. You know when your whole being is pulsating with the vigor and freshness of Divine life and when you feel jaded and worn. Quietness and absorption bring the dew. At night when the leaf and blade are still, the vegetable pores are open to receive the refreshing and invigorating bath; so spiritual dew comes from quiet lingering in the Master's presence. Get still before Him. Haste will prevent your receiving the dew. Wait before God until you feel saturated with His presence; then go forth to your next duty with the conscious freshness and vigor of Christ. —Dr. Pardington
Dew will never gather while there is either heat or wind. The temperature must fall, and the wind cease, and the air come to a point of coolness and rest—absolute rest, so to speak—before it can yield up its invisible particles of moisture to bedew either herb or flower. So the grace of God does not come forth to rest the soul of man until the still point is fairly and fully reached.
"Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease:
Take from our souls the strain and stress;
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.
"Breathe through the pulses of desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, its beats expire:
Speak through the earthquake, wind and fire,
O still small voice of calm!" —John Greenleaf Whittier
He giveth quietness. - Job 34:29
Quietness amid the dash of the storm. We sail the lake with Him still; and as we reach its middle waters, far from land, under midnight skies, suddenly a great storm sweeps down. Earth and hell seem arrayed against us, and each billow threatens to overwhelm. Then He arises from His sleep, and rebukes the winds and the waves; His hand waves benediction and repose over the rage of the tempestuous elements. His voice is heard above the scream of the wind in the cordage and the conflict of the billows, "Peace, be still!" Can you not hear it? And there is instantly a great calm. "He giveth quietness." Quietness amid the loss of inward consolations. He sometimes withdraws these, because we make too much of them. We are tempted to look at our joy, our ecstasies, our transports, or our visions, with too great complacency. Then love for love's sake, withdraws them. But, by His grace, He leads us to distinguish between them and Himself. He draws nigh, and whispers the assurance of His presence. Thus an infinite calm comes to keep our heart and mind. "He giveth quietness."
"He giveth quietness." O Elder Brother,
Whose homeless feet have pressed our path of pain,
Whose hands have borne the burden of our sorrow,
That in our losses we might find our gain.
"Of all Thy gifts and infinite consolings,
I ask but this: in every troubled hour
To hear Thy voice through all the tumults stealing,
And rest serene beneath its tranquil power.
"Cares cannot fret me if my soul be dwelling
In the still air of faith's untroubled day;
Grief cannot shake me if I walk beside thee,
My hand in Thine along the darkening way.
"Content to know there comes a radiant morning
When from all shadows I shall find release,
Serene to wait the rapture of its dawning—
Who can make trouble when Thou sendest peace?"