Word of God

Faithfulness

And the king said to him, ‘Well done, good slave! Because you have been faithful in a very small matter, you will have authority over ten cities.’

[Luke 19:17 NET]

It is remarkable how much the Word of God makes of faithfulness — simple faithfulness. It is not great things that God requires of us unless our mission is to do great things; He asks only that we be faithful in the duties that come to our hand in our commonplace days. That means that we do all our work as well as we can; that we serve well in the varied relationships of life in which from time to time we find ourselves; that we stand heroically in our lot, resisting temptation and continuing true and loyal to God; and that we fulfil our mission in all ways according to the grace given unto us, using every gift and talent for the glory of God and the good of the world. The world crowns “success;” God crowns “faithfulness.”

Jesus tells us that faithfulness in this life lifts us to places of authority hereafter. So, then, life here is only a trial to see what we are capable of doing. It is after all a real probation to find out who may be set over large trusts. And the real life is to be begun in the other world. Those who prove faithful here will have places of responsibility in the kingdom of glory.

This ought to give a new and mighty motive to our living in this world. Our eternal honour and employment will depend upon the degree of our faithfulness here. good men and women often say at the close of their lives, “If I could only begin now, with all my experience, I could live my life much better.” Well, if they have been faithful, that is the very thing they will be permitted to do in the next world. A mother who had brought up a large family said: “I have just learned now how to train children. I could do it well if I could begin it again.” If she has learned this, that is just what Christ wanted her to learn. Now she is ready for full service in His kingdom.

Word of God

Go Forward

Now when the days drew near for him to be taken up, Jesus set out resolutely to go to Jerusalem.

[Luke 9:51 NET]

We do not know what lies before us in life. Some great sorrow or anguish may be awaiting us on the morrow, but it casts no gloom over our spirits today, because we are ignorant of it. This is a merciful provision in our lives. If some of us knew all that we must pass through in the future, it would make our lives very bitter, even while our joys are unbroken. It is a great deal better that we should not know until God leads us to the edge of the experience.

But there was no such kindly veiling of the future from Christ’s eyes. He saw every step of the sorrowful way to the close of His life. Yet this makes the scene before us all the more grand. Knowing all, see how eager He is to press on in His path. He could not be held back. He steadfastly set His face to go, and bent His steps with intense haste to His journey, which He knew would lead Him to Gethsemane, Gabbatha, and Golgotha. In this, as in all things, He left us an example: That we should follow His steps. It is thus that we should ever go forward in the path of duty, no matter what the dangers, the sufferings, the sacrifices, that lie in our path. We are too apt to hesitate and count the cost, when hard tasks are assigned to us, instead of eagerly pressing on in duty’s path.

That walk to Jerusalem, every step a step toward the cross always in plain view, is one of the finest heroisms of all history. Let us not forget why the walk was taken. That cross meant salvation and eternal blessedness for millions of lost souls. Love was the heart of that heroism. Jesus pressed on with intense earnestness, because the accomplishment of His mission would be life for the world and glory for the Father. We ought to bare our heads in reverence as we see Jesus thus hastening to His cross; it was for our sakes He set His face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem.

Word of God

Duty After Privilege

So Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you want, I will make three shelters – one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

[Matt 17:4 NET]

We should know that it was Peter who said this, even if his name were not given; it is just like Peter. He wanted to hold the heavenly vision on the mountain top, and not go back any more to the cold, struggling life of earth. It seemed such a heavenly place that he did not want to leave it. It certainly was good to be there; but they could not stay there long and yet be faithful to their duty and their mission. There was work waiting in the sad world below which they must hasten to do. There was a poor demoniac at the foot of the mountain whom the disciples could not cure; the Master was sorely needed there. Then farther off were Gethsemane, Gabbatha, and Golgotha for Jesus; He must make an atonement for the world. Then for Peter there was Pentecost, with many years of earnest service, and martyrdom in the end.

Devotion is good. It is very sweet to commune with God in the Closet, in the church, at the sacramental table; but we must not spend all our time in these holy exercises. While the raptures thrill our souls we must not forget that outside there are human wants crying for help and sympathy; and we must tear ourselves away from our warmest devotions and most exalted experiences to go down to answer these cries. Religion is not for enjoyment only; God gives us spiritual enjoyment that we may be strong for all loving service.

Hark, hark! a voice amid the quiet intense!

It is thy duty waiting thee without.

Open thy door straightway, and get thee hence;

Go forth into the tumult and the shout;

Work, love, with workers, lovers all about;

Then, weary, go thou back with failing breath,

And in thy chamber make thy prayer and moan.

One day upon his bosom, all thine own,

Thou shalt lie still, embraced in holy death.

Word of God

Not Dead, but Sleeping

When he entered he said to them, “Why are you distressed and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.”

[Mark 5:39 NET]

The Christian should not sorrow as others do. Christ has brought the truth of immortality out into clear light. We ought to familiarize our minds with the Christian conception of death. Christ wrote no whiter lines anywhere than He wrote over the gateway of the believer’s grave. We ought to learn to look at death in the light of Christ’s teachings. Too many Christians, however, never seem to have entered into the blessedness of the Saviour’s victory over the grave. Here, in the account of this miracle of the raising of the ruler’s daughter, we have a beautiful illustration of the way our Lord would have us look at death.

When we lament over our dead he says, “They are not dead, but sleeping. Why do you make all this bitter lamentation?” Our Christian friends who have died have only passed away out of our sight. They have not ceased to be. Even their bodies only sleep. And as a mother in the morning calls her children and awakes them, so Christ will some day call up from their graves all who sleep in him.

Sleep is not a terrible experience; it renews and strengthens the weary body. So the sleep and death is a time of rest and renewal. The calling of this child back from death, and her restoration to her friends, represented what Christ will do for all his people at the end. He will restore friend to friend, and bind up again the broken fragments of households.

There is one point, however, in which the raising of this young girl does not illustrate the final resurrection of believers. She was brought back to resume the old life of toil, struggle, temptation, and sorrow, and to die again. But in the final resurrection believers shall rise to a new, glorious, and immortal life, without sorrow or sin, in the fullness of life, joy, and blessedness.

Word of God

What are the Thorns

Other seed fell among the thorns, and they grew up and choked it, and it did not produce grain.

[Mark 4:7 NET]

The thorns had been chopped off, but their roots were still in the ground. Then as the seed began to grow, so did the thorns; and growing faster and more rankly than the wheat, they soon choked it out, so that it came to nothing in the end. What are these thorns? Our Lord says they are “the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches.” “Cares” are anxieties, distractions, worries. Martha was in danger of having the good seed in her heart choked out by her distracting thoughts about her household affairs. Many a promising Christian life has been dwarfed and stunted from the same cause. “The deceitfulness of riches:” thousands of spiritual lives have been starved into ghostly leanness by the desire for riches. “The lust of other things entering in, choke the word.” We have all seen people who began well; but as cares multiplied or riches increased, their zeal waned. We need, however, to look to our own hearts, and we shall probably have enough to do if we keep out all the thorns and weeds in the one little garden committed to us.

Jesus did not say these people are not Christians, but that they “bring no fruit to perfection.” The distractions of this life, the deceitfulness of riches, the lusts of others things, entering in, choke the spiritual life, stunting its graces. They lose the sweet comforts of a healthy faith. The fruits of the Spirit in them are shrivelled. They may go on working in the church, preaching, teaching, praying; but the life is wanting. What is the lesson? This: we need to watch without ceasing these hearts of ours, and let no weed or brier grown there for a day. Sometimes God himself does the weeding. He lifts out of the bosom the earthly object that is absorbing all the heart’s love. The process is sore, but the results are full of blessing.

Word of God

Heart Hardening

And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them.

[Matt 13:4 NET]

How are human hearts beaten into a highway? A child’s heart is sensitive to every impression. But as it grows older, the thousand influences, feelings, emotions, imaginations, treading over it continuously, trample it into hardness. Every time he feels that he ought to do a certain thing and does not do it, allowing the good impulse to pass, he is left a little less sensitive to good impressions afterward.

The same effect is produced by the common experiences of life. The wheels and carts of business go lumbering over the heart. We ought to have our hearts fenced in, and allow none of these heavy wagons to pass over them. A business man ought to keep his heart soft and warm in the midst of all his business, tender as a little child’s, humble, teachable, loving, trusting. He ought to have a sanctuary in his inner life into which no unhallowed foot, none but the priestly feet of heavenly guests, should ever pass. But too many make their hearts an open common, till they are beaten into a callousness that nothing can impress.

Another way is by the feet of sinful habits. There was an old legend of a goblin horseman that galloped over men’s fields at night; and wherever his foot struck, the soil was so blasted that nothing would ever grow on it again. So is it with the heart over which the beastly feet of lust, of sensuality, of greed, or selfishness, of passion, are allowed to tread. There is an impression that it does young people no harm to indulge in sin for a time, if they afterward repent. No more fatal falsehood was ever whispered by the tempter into any ear. The heart that is trodden over by vile lusts or indulgences of any kind is never the same again.

Word of God

Right Enthusiasm

When his family heard this they went out to restrain him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

[Mark 3:21 NET]

Even our Lord’s relatives did not understand Him. His life was so unworldly that it could not be measured by the ordinary standards. Here they could account for his unconquerable zeal only by concluding that He was insane. We hear much of the same kind of talk in modern days when some devoted follower of Christ utterly forgets self in love for his Master. People say, “He must be insane!” They think every man is crazy whose religion kindles into and sort of unusual fervour, or who grows more earnest than the average Christian in work for the Master. Some of Paul’s friends thought he was crazy when he went sweeping over land and sea to carry the gospel to every city. But his answer was, “No, I am not crazy; the love of Christ constraineth me.”

That is a good sort of insanity. It is a sad pity that it is so rare. If there were more of it there would not be so many unsaved souls dying under the very shadow of our churches; it would not be so hard to get missionaries and money to send the gospel to the dark continents; there would not be so many empty pews in our churches, so many long pauses in our prayer-meeting, so few to teach in our Sabbath schools. It would be a glorious thing if all Christians were beside themselves as the Master was, or as Paul was.

It is a far worse insanity which in this world never gives a thought to any other world; which, moving continually among lost men, never pities them, nor thinks of their lost condition, nor puts forth any effort to save them. It is easier to keep a cool head and a colder heart, and to give ourselves no concern about perishing souls; but we are our brothers’ keepers, and no malfeasance in duty can be worse than that which pays no heed to their eternal salvation.