Streams in The Desert

There We Saw the Giants

There we saw the giants ~ Num 13:33

Yes, they saw the giants, but Caleb and Joshua saw God! Those who doubt say, “We be not able to go up.” Those who believe say, “Let us go up at once and possess it, for we are well able.”

Giants stand for great difficulties; and giants are stalking everywhere. They are in our families, in our churches, in our social life, in our own hearts; and we must overcome them or they will eat us up, as these men of old said of the giants of Canaan.

The men of faith said, “They are bread for us; we will eat them up.” In other words, “We will be stronger by overcoming them than if there had been no giants to overcome.”

Now the fact is, unless we have the overcoming faith we shall be eaten up, consumed by the giants in our path. Let us have the spirit of faith that these men of faith had, and see God, and He will take care of the difficulties.

~ Selected

It is when we are in the way of duty that we find giants. It was when Israel was going forward that the giants appeared. When they turned back into the wilderness they found none.

There is a prevalent idea that the power of God in a human life should lift us above all trials and conflicts. The fact is, the power of God always brings a conflict and a struggle. One would have thought that on his great missionary journey to Rome, Paul would have been carried by some mighty providence above the power of storms and tempests and enemies. But, on the contrary, it was one long, hard fight with persecuting Jews, with wild tempests, with venomous vipers and all the powers of earth and hell, and at last he was saved, as it seemed, by the narrowest margin, and had to swim ashore at Malta on a piece of wreckage and barely escape a watery grave.

Was that like a God of infinite power? Yes, just like Him. And so Paul tells us that when he took the Lord Jesus Christ as the life of his body, a severe conflict immediately came; indeed, a conflict that never ended, a pressure that was persistent, but out of which he always emerged victorious through the strength of Jesus Christ.

The language in which he describes this is most graphic. “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed, always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be manifested in our body.”

What a ceaseless, strenuous struggle! It is impossible to express in English the forcible language of the original. There are five pictures in succession. In the first, the idea is crowding enemies pressing in from every side, and yet not crushing him because the police of heaven cleared the way just wide enough for him to get through. The literal translation would be, “We are crowded on every side, but not crushed.”

The second picture is that of one whose way seems utterly closed and yet he has pressed through; there is light enough to show him the next step. The Revised Version translates it, “Perplexed but not unto despair.” Rotherham still more literally renders it, “Without a way, but not without a by-way.”

The third figure is that of an enemy in hot pursuit while the divine Defender still stands by, and he is not left alone. Again we adopt the fine rendering of Rotherham, “Pursued but not abandoned.”

The fourth figure is still more vivid and dramatic. The enemy has overtaken him, has struck him, has knocked him down. But it is not a fatal blow; he is able to rise again. It might be translated, “Overthrown but not overcome.”

Once more the figure advances, and now it seems to be even death itself, “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus.” But he does not die, for “the life also of Jesus” now comes to his aid and he lives in the life of another until his life work is done.

The reason so many fail in this experience of divine healing is because they expect to have it all without a struggle, and when the conflict comes and the battle wages long, they become discouraged and surrender. God has nothing worth having that is easy. There are no cheap goods in the heavenly market. Our redemption cost all that God had to give, and everything worth having is expensive. Hard places are the very school of faith and character, and if we are to rise over mere human strength and prove the power of life divine in these mortal bodies, it must be through a process of conflict that may well be called the birth travail of a new life. It is the old figure of the bush that burned, but was not consumed, or of the Vision in the house of the Interpreter of the flame that would not expire, notwithstanding the fact that the demon ceaselessly poured water on it, because in the background stood an angel ever pouring oil and keeping the flame aglow.

No, dear suffering child of God, you cannot fail if only you dare to believe, to stand fast and refuse to be overcome.

~ Tract

Streams in The Desert

Limp Hands and Feeble Knees

Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.

~  Heb 12:12-13

This is God’s word of encouragement to us to lift up the hands of faith, and confirm the knees of prayer. Often our faith grows tired, languid, and relaxed, and our prayers lose their force and effectiveness.

The figure used here is a very striking one. The idea seems to be that we become discouraged and so timid that a little obstacle depresses and frightens us, and we are tempted to walk around it, and not face it: to take the easier way.

Perhaps it is some physical trouble that God is ready to heal, but the exertion is hard, or it is easier to secure some human help, or walk around in some other way.

There are many ways of walking around emergencies instead of going straight through them. How often we come up against something that appalls us, and we want to evade the issue with the excuse:

“I am not quite ready for that now.” Some sacrifice is to be made, some obedience demanded, some Jericho to be taken, some soul that we have not the courage to claim and carry through, some prayer that is hanging fire, or perhaps some physical trouble that is half healed and we are walking around it.

God says, “Lift up the hands that hang down.” March straight through the flood, and lo, the waters will divide, the Red Sea will open, the Jordan will part, and the Lord will lead you through to victory.

Don’t let your feet “be turned out of the way,” but let your body “be healed,” your faith strengthened. Go right ahead and leave no Jericho behind you unconquered and no place where Satan can say that he was too much for you. This is a profitable lesson and an intensely practical one. How often have we been in that place. Perhaps you are there today. 

~ A. B. Simpson

Pay as little attention to discouragement as possible. Plough ahead as a steamer does, rough or smooth—rain or shine. To carry your cargo and make your port is the point. 

~ Maltbie D. Babcock

Streams in The Desert

The Eagle That Soars

Feed on his faithfulness

~ Ps 37:3

I once met a poor colored woman, who earned a precarious living by hard daily labor; but who was a joyous triumphant Christian. “Ah, Nancy,” said a gloomy Christian lady to her one day, “it is well enough to be happy now; but I should think the thoughts of your future would sober you.

“Only suppose, for instance, you should have a spell of sickness, and be unable to work; or suppose your present employers should move away, and no one else should give you anything to do; or suppose.”

“Stop!” cried Nancy, “I never supposes. De Lord is my Shepherd, and I knows I shall not want. And, Honey,” she added, to her gloomy friend, “it’s all dem supposes as is makin’ you so mis’able. You’d better give dem all up, and just trust de Lord.”

There is one text that will take all the “supposes” out of a believer’s life, if it be received and acted on in childlike faith; it is Hebrews 13:5, 6: “Be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”

~ H. W. S.

“There’s a stream of trouble across my path;  
It is black and deep and wide.  
Bitter the hour the future hath  
When I cross its swelling tide.  
But I smile and sing and say:  
’I will hope and trust alway;  
I’ll bear the sorrow that comes tomorrow,  
But I’ll borrow none today.’  

“Tomorrow’s bridge is a dangerous thing;  
I dare not cross it now.  
I can see its timbers sway and swing,  
And its arches reel and bow.  
O heart, you must hope alway;  
You must sing and trust and say:  
’I’ll bear the sorrow that comes tomorrow,  
But I’ll borrow none today.”’  

The eagle that soars in the upper air does not worry itself as to how it is to cross rivers.

~ Selected

Streams in The Desert

Pressing Forward

I was crushed…so much so that I despaired even of life, but that was to make me rely not on myself, but on the God who raises the dead 

~ 2 Cor 1:8-9

“Pressed out of measure and pressed to all length;  
Pressed so intensely it seems, beyond strength;  
Pressed in the body and pressed in the soul,  
Pressed in the mind till the dark surges roll.  
Pressure by foes, and a pressure from friends.  
Pressure on pressure, till life nearly ends.  

“Pressed into knowing no helper but God;  
Pressed into loving the staff and the rod.  
Pressed into liberty where nothing clings;  
Pressed into faith for impossible things.  
Pressed into living a life in the Lord,  
Pressed into living a Christ-life outpoured.”  

The pressure of hard places makes us value life. Every time our life is given back to us from such a trial, it is like a new beginning, and we learn better how much it is worth, and make more of it for God and man. The pressure helps us to understand the trials of others, and fits us to help and sympathize with them.

There is a shallow, superficial nature, that gets hold of a theory or a promise lightly, and talks very glibly about the distrust of those who shrink from every trial; but the man or woman who has suffered much never does this, but is very tender and gentle, and knows what suffering really means. This is what Paul meant when he said, “Death worketh in you.”

Trials and hard places are needed to press us forward, even as the furnace fires in the hold of that mighty ship give force that moves the piston, drives the engine, and propels that great vessel across the sea in the face of the winds and waves. —A. B. Simpson

“Out of the presses of pain,  
Cometh the soul’s best wine;  
And the eyes that have shed no rain,  
Can shed but little shine.”

Streams in The Desert

Waiting For Resurrection

And there was Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre

~ Matt 27:61

How strangely stupid is grief. It neither learns nor knows nor wishes to learn or know. When the sorrowing sisters sat over against the door of God’s sepulchre, did they see the two thousand years that have passed triumphing away? Did they see anything but this: “Our Christ is gone!”

Your Christ and my Christ came from their loss; Myriad mourning hearts have had resurrection in the midst of their grief; and yet the sorrowing watchers looked at the seed-form of this result, and saw nothing. What they regarded as the end of life was the very preparation for coronation; for Christ was silent that He might live again in tenfold power.

They saw it not. They mourned, they wept, and went away, and came again, driven by their hearts to the sepulchre. Still it was a sepulchre, unprophetic, voiceless, lusterless.

So with us. Every man sits over against the sepulchre in his garden, in the first instance, and says, “This woe is irremediable. I see no benefit in it. I will take no comfort in it.” And yet, right in our deepest and worst mishaps, often, our Christ is lying, waiting for resurrection.

Where our death seems to be, there our Saviour is. Where the end of hope is, there is the brightest beginning of fruition. Where the darkness is thickest, there the bright beaming light that never is set is about to emerge. When the whole experience is consummated, then we find that a garden is not disfigured by a sepulchre. Our joys are made better if there be sorrow in the midst of them. And our sorrows are made bright by the joys that God has planted around about them. The flowers may not be pleasing to us, they may not be such as we are fond of plucking, but they are heart-flowers, love, hope, faith, joy, peace—these are flowers which are planted around about every grave that is sunk in the Christian heart.

“’Twas by a path of sorrows drear  
Christ entered into rest;  
And shall I look for roses here,  
Or think that earth is blessed?  
Heaven’s whitest lilies blow  
From earth’s sharp crown of woe.  
Who here his cross can meekly bear,  
Shall wear the kingly purple there.”

Streams in The Desert

By Thy Spirit

Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith Jehovah of hosts

~  Zech 4:6

My way led up a hill, and right at the foot I saw a boy on a bicycle. He was pedalling up hill against the wind, and evidently found it a tremendously hard work. Just as he was working most strenuously and doing his best painfully, there came a trolley car going in the same direction up the hill.

It was not going too fast for the boy to get behind it, and with one hand to lay hold of the bar at the back. Then you know what happened. He went up that hill like a bird. Then it flashed upon me:

“Why, I am like that boy on the bicycle in my weariness and weakness. I am pedalling up hill against all kinds of opposition, and am almost worn out with the task. But here at hand is a great available power, the strength of the Lord Jesus.

“I have only to get in touch with Him and to maintain communication with Him, though it may be only one little finger of faith, and that will be enough to make His power mine for the doing of this bit of service that just now seems too much for me.” And I was helped to dismiss my weariness and to realize this truth.

~ The Life of Fuller Purpose

ABANDONED

Utterly abandoned to the Holy Ghost!  
Seeking all His fulness at whatever cost;  
Cutting all the shore-lines, launching in the deep  
Of His mighty power strong to save and keep.  

Utterly abandoned to the Holy Ghost!  
Oh! the sinking, sinking, until self is lost!  
Until the emptied vessel lies broken at His feet;  
Waiting till His filling shall make the work complete.  

Utterly abandoned to the will of God;  
Seeking for no other path than my Master trod;  
Leaving ease and pleasure, making Him my choice,  
Waiting for His guidance, listening for His voice.  

Utterly abandoned! no will of my own;  
For time and for eternity, His, and His alone;  
All my plans and purposes lost in His sweet will,  
Having nothing, yet in Him all things possessing still.  

Utterly abandoned! ’tis so sweet to be  
Captive in His bonds of love, yet so wondrous free;  
Free from sin’s entanglements, free from doubt and fear,  
Free from every worry, burden, grief or care.  

Utterly abandoned! oh, the rest is sweet,  
As I tarry, waiting, at His blessed feet;  
Waiting for the coming of the Guest divine,  
Who my inmost being shall perfectly refine.  

Lo! He comes and fills me, Holy Spirit sweet!  
I, in Him, am satisfied! I, in Him, complete!  
And the light within my soul shall nevermore grow dim  
While I keep my covenant abandoned unto Him!  
~ Author Unknown

Streams in The Desert

Rest on the Word of God

I trust in thy word 

~ Ps 119:42

Just in proportion in which we believe that God will do just what He has said, is our faith strong or weak. Faith has nothing to do with feelings, or with impressions, with improbabilities, or with outward appearances. If we desire to couple them with faith, then we are no longer resting on the Word of God because faith needs nothing of the kind. Faith rests on the naked Word of God. When we take Him at His Word, the heart is at peace.

God delights to exercise faith, first for blessing in our own souls, then for blessing in the Church at large, and also for those without. But this exercise we shrink from instead of welcoming. When trials come, we should say: “My Heavenly Father puts this cup of trial into my hands, that I may have something sweet afterwards.”

Trials are the food of faith. Oh, let us leave ourselves in the hands of our Heavenly Father! It is the joy of His heart to do good to all His children.

But trials and difficulties are not the only means by which faith is exercised and thereby increased. There is the reading of the Scriptures, that we may by them acquaint ourselves with God as He has revealed Himself in His Word.

Are you able to say, from the acquaintance you have made with God, that He is a lovely Being? If not, let me affectionately entreat you to ask God to bring you to this, that you may admire His gentleness and kindness, that you may be able to say how good He is, and what a delight it is to the heart of God to do good to His children.

Now the nearer we come to this in our inmost souls, the more ready we are to leave ourselves in His hands, satisfied with all His dealings with us. And when trial comes, we shall say:

“I will wait and see what good God will do to me by it, assured He will do it.” Thus we shall bear an honorable testimony before the world, and thus we shall strengthen the hands of others.

~ George Mueller

Streams in The Desert

He answered nothing 

~ Mark 15:3,5

There is no spectacle in all the Bible so sublime as the silent Savior answering not a word to the men who were maligning Him, and whom He could have laid prostrate at His feet by one look of Divine power, or one word of fiery rebuke. But He let them say and do their worst, and He stood in THE POWER OF STILLNESS—God’s holy silent Lamb.

There is a stillness that lets God work for us, and holds our peace; the stillness that ceases from its contriving and its self-vindication, and its expedients of wisdom and forethought, and lets God provide and answer the cruel blow, in His own unfailing, faithful love.

How often we lose God’s interposition by taking up our own cause, and striking for our defense. God give to us this silent power, this conquered spirit! And after the heat and strife of earth are over, men will remember us as we remember the morning dew, the gentle light and sunshine, the evening breeze, the Lamb of Calvary, and the gentle, holy heavenly Dove.

~ A. B. Simpson

The day when Jesus stood alone  
And felt the hearts of men like stone,  
And knew He came but to atone  
That day “He held His peace.”  

They witnessed falsely to His word,  
They bound Him with a cruel cord,  
And mockingly proclaimed Him Lord;  
“But Jesus held His peace.”  

They spat upon Him in the face,  
They dragged Him on from place to place,  
They heaped upon Him all disgrace;  
“But Jesus held His peace.”  

My friend, have you for far much less,  
With rage, which you called righteousness,  
Resented slights with great distress?  
Your Saviour “held His peace.”  

~ L. S. P.

I remember once hearing Bishop Whipple, of Minnesota, so well known as “The Apostle of the Indians,” utter these beautiful words: “For thirty years I have tried to see the face of Christ in those with whom I differed.” When this spirit actuates us we shall be preserved at once from a narrow bigotry and an easy-going tolerance, from passionate vindictiveness and everything that would mar or injure our testimony for Him who came not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. 

~ W. H. Griffith Thomas

Streams in The Desert

Meet Him in The Morning

Be ready in the morning, and come up …present thyself there to me in the top of the mount. And no man shall come up with thee

~ Exod 34:2-3

The morning watch is essential. You must not face the day until you have faced God, nor look into the face of others until you have looked into His.

You cannot expect to be victorious, if the day begins only in your own strength. Face the work of every day with the influence of a few thoughtful, quiet moments with your heart and God. Do not meet other people, even those of your own home, until you have first met the great Guest and honored Companion of your life—Jesus Christ.

Meet Him alone. Meet Him regularly. Meet Him with His open Book of counsel before you; and face the regular and the irregular duties of each day with the influence of His personality definitely controlling your every act.

Begin the day with God!

He is thy Sun and Day!

His is the radiance of thy dawn;

To Him address thy lay.

Sing a new song at morn!

Join the glad woods and hills;

Join the fresh winds and seas and plains,

Join the bright flowers and rills.

Sing thy first song to God!

Not to thy fellow men;

Not to the creatures of His hand,

But to the glorious One.

Take thy first walk with God!

Let Him go forth with thee;

By stream, or sea, or mountain path,

Seek still His company.

Thy first transaction be

With God Himself above;

So shall thy business prosper well,

And all the day be love.

~ Horatius Bonar

The men who have done the most for God in this world have been early upon their knees.

Matthew Henry used to be in his study at four, and remain there till eight; then, after breakfast and family prayer, he used to be there again till noon; after dinner, he resumed his book or pen till four, and spent the rest of the day in visiting his friends.

Doddridge himself alludes to his “Family Expositor” as an example of the difference of rising between five and seven, which, in forty years, is nearly equivalent to ten years more of life.

Dr. Adam Clark’s “Commentary” was chiefly prepared very early in the morning.

Barnes’ popular and useful “Commentary” has been also the fruit of “early morning hours.”