Word of God

Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them.

~ Matt 18:2

The child preached the sermon. It said to those ambitious disciples, “Shame on all you quarrelling about prominence and high places. Look at me. I am much higher up in the kingdom of heaven than you. You must get clear of all your proud thoughts and become lowly and simple-minded and childlike, or in the new kingdom you will have no place at all, much less a high place.” Little children are all preaching sermons to us, if only we have ears to hear. Children, in their innocence, their simplicity, their naturalness, their sweetness of soul, wherever they go exert an influence upon other lives which no words can describe. They are at once the greatest preachers and themselves the most eloquent sermons.

This picture of Jesus with the little one in His arms is very beautiful. In all the Bible there is scarcely another which so well represents the attitude both of the soul and of the Saviour in salvation and in all Christian life. Jesus takes the child in His arms: there is love, tenderness, protection. The bosom is the place of warmth, of affection, of intimacy, of confidence. The encircling arms imply safety, support, shelter. He lifted up the child and held it in His arms; so He carries His people through this world: He does not merely tell them how to go, but He takes them on His shoulders, carrying not their burdens only, but themselves. Thus He bears them on through life and through death.

Then look at the picture the other way — the child in the Saviour’s arms. Its attitude speaks of trust, confidence, repose, peace, love, joy, — just the feelings which belong to the true Christian. What a place the bosom of Christ is in danger, in storm, in sorrow, in death! Shall we not learn just to nestle in our Saviour’s arms in all our experiences?

Daily Word

Failures

I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him

~ Matt 17:16

There are a great many teachers in our Sunday schools who have had similar experiences. Children have been brought to them possessed by evil spirits, and they have failed to cast out the demons. They have tried every device, gentle and severe; they have prayed and laboured, they have talked and wept; but the evil spirits in their scholars have defied all efforts to dislodge them. Teachers of such incorrigible scholars may learn some lessons here.

It may be a little encouragement, first of all, to know that even Christ’s apostles met at least one case that they could not do anything with; no wonder if common people like us fail now and then. It is failures like this in the apostles that bring them down to our level. When we see them victorious and successful at every point, we are discouraged. But when we find them baffled and defeated, we see that they were human, just like us, and could do nothing by themselves. We get far more real help from St. Paul’s experience with his “thorn” than we get from his “third heaven” exaltation. In this latter he is so far beyond us that we cannot follow him; in the former we are on familiar ground.

It may be instructive also to study the reasons of the apostles’ failure. For one, the Master was absent; the disciple cannot do anything without His Lord. This is a lesson we should deeply impress on our own minds. Unless we have Christ with us, all our Christian work will utterly fail. Of ourselves we can never change a heart. Another reason was want of faith in the disciples; unbelief makes any one weak. Though absent, Christ’s power would have been theirs, had not their faith failed. Still another reason was the hardness of the case: all cases are not alike difficult, some requiring more faith and spiritual power than others.

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.