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Friday, October 31, 2014

Into the Mind of God # 7

He Wrought His Work On the Wheels

Jeremiah 18:1-3

We are seeing that God Himself has taken the place of a potter and is at work forming a vessel for Himself. His work has a very special and definite purpose in view, for the vessel which He is making is a "chosen" vessel, that is, it is governed absolutely by His sovereign will and purpose. He "will" have this vessel, and nothing, and no one, can deny Him. The supreme idea connected with this vessel is that it is designed to serve a special purpose throughout eternity. There is an eternal thought in the Mind of God which He is going to realize and express in this vessel, and all believers are called according to this purpose. So what we are concerned with at this time is to be led into that divine thought.

There are two vessels presented to us in the Bible, and yet these two are one in divine purpose. There is Israel, which was called to be an earthly expression of the divine Mind, and was chosen from among the nations for this particular purpose: to set forth the Mind of God on this earth in history. On the other hand, there is the Church, spoken of in the New Testament as "the elect" (1 Peter 1:1). But the Church was chosen from eternity for a "heavenly" purpose, not only an earthly one. Israel was for an earthly and "time" purpose, while the Church is for a heavenly and "timeless", or eternal purpose.

Now we, of course, are called in relation to this eternal purpose. In this present dispensation God is mainly concerned with this Church. It is being gathered out of all the nations for a great purpose in the ages to come. At present it is in the process of being formed, but at the end of this dispensation it will be completed and will begin its eternal purpose.

The Lord is continually rebuking us in relation to one thing: that is, that we make everything of this life and of time. We think that this life is everything, and therefore we have quarrels with the Lord because we cannot understand Him. For instance, the Lord does a deep, deep work in some life and brings that one into a very real knowledge of Himself. We draw  our conclusions from that and say: 'The Lord is going to do something very wonderful in this world through that life.' All our hopes and expectations are bound up with that one - and just at that point, when we think they are ready to do some wonderful thing for the Lord, He takes them away; and  we get into trouble with the Lord over that. We cannot understand why He does that kind of thing, but He has done it very many times. The Lord is working, not for time, but for eternity; not for earth, but for heaven. All that the Lord does with us here in time is related to the purpose of the ages to come.

We had better settle this matter very quickly. Nothing in any one of our lives will be completed in time. We shall never reach the end in this life, and only eternity and heaven will make our life perfect. Just when we think that we might be useful to the Lord, He takes us away.

This is the supreme idea of the Church, and we must recognize that it is in course of formation. Nothing is going to reach an end in our lifetime. I think we had better settle that, because it touches the heart of many of our problems.

In our summary of all the references to the potter in the Bible, we said that the driving force of the Potter's wheels is the Holy Spirit, and it is very important that we should all be perfectly clear and certain as to why the Holy Spirit has come into this world. There are many aspects to His work, but what we must guard against is regarding any one aspect as the whole. It is possible to draw a circle round the Holy Spirit and over that particular circle write the word "MUST." "It must be like this. If it is not this, then it is not the Holy Spirit." So we put the Holy Spirit into a box of doctrine. The New Testament makes it very clear that we must leave the Holy Spirit out of boxes and in the open.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 8)

It Is the Lord


"It is the Lord: let him do what seemeth him good" (1 Sam. 3:18)

See God in everything, and God will calm and color all that thou dost see!" It may be that the circumstances of our sorrows will not be removed, their condition will remain unchanged; but if Christ, as Lord and Master of our life, is brought into our grief and gloom, "HE will compass us about with songs of deliverance." To see HIM, and to be sure that His wisdom cannot err, His power cannot fail, His love can never change; to know that even His direst dealings with us are for our deepest spiritual gain, is to be able to say, in the midst of bereavement, sorrow, pain, and loss, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath, taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."

Nothing else but seeing God in everything will make us loving and patient with those who annoy and trouble us. They will be to us then only instruments for accomplishing His tender and wise purposes toward us, and we shall even find ourselves at last inwardly thanking them for the blessings they bring us. Nothing else will completely put an end to all murmuring or rebelling thoughts.
--H. W. Smith

"Give me a new idea," I said,
While musing on a sleepless bed;
"A new idea that'll bring to earth
A balm for souls of priceless worth;
That'll give men thoughts of things above,
And teach them how to serve and love,
That'll banish every selfish thought,
And rid men of the sins they've fought."
The new thought came, just how, I'll tell:
'Twas when on bended knee I fell,
And sought from HIM who knows full well
The way our sorrow to expel.
SEE GOD IN ALL THINGS, great and small,
And give HIM praise whate'er befall,
In life or death, in pain or woe,
See God, and overcome thy foe.
I saw HIM in the morning light,
HE made the day shine clear and bright;
I saw HIM in the noontide hour,
And gained from HIM refreshing shower.
At eventide, when worn and sad,
HE gave me help, and made me glad.
At midnight, when on tossing bed
My weary soul to sleep HE led.
I saw HIM when great losses came,
And found HE loved me just the same.
When heavy loads I had to bear,
I found HE lightened every care.
By sickness, sorrow, sore distress,
HE calmed my mind and gave me rest.
HE'S filled my heart with gladsome praise
Since I gave HIM the upward gaze.
'Twas new to me, yet old to some,
This thought that to me has become
A revelation of the way
We all should live throughout the day;
For as each day unfolds its light,
We'll walk by faith and not by sight.
Life will, indeed, a blessing bring,
If we SEE GOD IN EVERYTHING."

~L. B. Cowman~

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Into the Mind of God # 6

[very interesting and enlightening!]

Called According to His Purpose (continued)

Well, that has to do with God as the Potter. Whether we understand it or not, God acts in sovereignty when He calls us to Himself.

I believe most strongly that this is the point where the mistake has been made. Election has been made a matter of salvation when it ought to have been made a matter of purpose. We are not predestined to be saved, but are predestined, through salvation, to come to God's purpose. Election has more to do with purpose than with salvation - salvation is only on the way to purpose.

Israel was God's chosen nation, elect among the nations, and was brought out of Egypt by the virtue of precious blood. When Israel failed of the purpose of God in their existence, they defeated all that had gone before. It was the purpose of their redemption that justified their continuation as God's vessel, and when they lost their purpose they lost their place.

Dear friends, we are "called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).

Now much of what I have said is perhaps difficult for you to understand, but it is very important, and it leads to the other things which are not quite so difficult.

Let us walk back to the potter's house with Jeremiah, when the Lord says to him, and to Israel: 'Am I not able to do as I will with My people?'

The first thing that arises, then, is God's ability to do what He decides to do. Supposing we now put ourselves in the place of the clay and are told that God has called us into a great eternal purpose: We are to become an expression of the very mind of God. What is your reaction to that? I think the best thing we could say would be: 'Well, I don't want to disbelieve God, but I don't think He will be able to do that with me. Forgive me, Lord, if I seem to be without faith in You, but I don't think You will be able to make a success of me.' The Lord answers: 'Am I not able to do what I decide to do? Do you mean that My power is so limited that I cannot do what I make up My mind to do?' God's choosing carries with it God's power to do that for which He chooses. 'Yes, but Lord, I don't doubt Your power to do what You want to do, but how are You going to do it? I just do not see, Lord, "how" You can do it with me!' Or it may be: 'Lord, I just don't see how You are going to be able to do it with "that" person. He is a perfectly hopeless man, and she is a perfectly hopeless woman.' And the Lord answers: 'Do you mean that I have not got the wisdom to do what I have decided to do?' God's power and wisdom accompany His choice .. 'Very well, Lord, I don't see how You can do it, but go on.'

Then the Lord begins to work, and He comes on some difficulty in the clay. There is something that is just not yielding to Him, that is not suitable to His purpose, and a crisis arises. It seems as though things come to a standstill, and then we say to the Lord: 'I told You so, Lord! You have got the wrong man. You see, You have got hold of the wrong piece of clay. I tried to tell You that You had made a mistake.' And that does not happen only once - it happens again and again through our lives.

But look at the potter in the potter's house! Look at his patience with the clay, and his persistence, and then look at the people to whom he was speaking. Think of Israel! Apart from ourselves, Israel is the greatest example and demonstration of the patience of God through history. I know what you are thinking! When the vessel that the potter was making was marred, he made another vessel. But I will ask you a question: Was his new vessel made with new clay or was it made with the old clay? The answer to that is given to us in Paul's Letter to the Romans, chapters nine, ten and eleven. There Paul says: 'Yes, it is true that the original Israel was marred in the hands of the Potter, but out of the original clay He takes a remnant' - and this is the impressive thing - 'and that remnant is according to the election' (Romans 11:5).

God's work is not all in vain, for in the remnant He sees His full thought realized and expressed. There may be a lot about us that tries the patience of God, but He will never give us up - until we say that we absolutely refuse to go on with Him. But who shall ever say that God's patience is exhausted?

No, dear friends. If God has really called us, He knows what He has called. He knows all that has to be done. His wisdom and His power are very great; His patience and His persistence are just wonderful, and the potter's house tells us that God is triumphant at last.

I think I had better leave it there for the moment. There is very much more to come later on, and there are some things of very great importance in this connection. If you are really the Lord's you can settle this question that you have been chosen. Has God drawn our hearts out to Himself? That settles the whole question of election. Have you really some desire toward the Lord? Where did that desire come from? The one thing that we sometimes have to fall back on is this: 'Lord, I did not create my desire for You. With all my weaknesses and all my failures, You have done something in me so that I cannot do without You.'

Let us just settle, therefore, that God has chosen us according to His purpose and that sense of divine purpose must really govern our lives. Let us have faith in God that He has the power and the wisdom and the patience to realize what He has chosen us for.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 7 - (He Wrought His Work on the Wheels)

The Riches of God's Grace



Do you think of yourself as rich? No matter how much money you have, if you're a believer in Jesus, you're extremely wealthy because God has lavished the riches of His grace upon you. At the moment of salvation, He deposited into your account "every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (v. 3). Why, then, do so many believers live in spiritual poverty?

1. Ignorance. Some Christians don't know about this unlimited spiritual "bank account," and, therefore, they never draw upon it.

2. Confusion. Too many believers just don't know how to access the treasures of God's grace. As a result, they worry and complain about their needs and problems or in desperation come to the Lord begging and pleading for help, never realizing His abundant supply has already been deposited into their account.

3. Competing Interests. Distraction by things of this world may be the most common reason. Christians in this category focus on possessions, pressing responsibilities, and advancement but lack interest in God's spiritual blessings.

The riches of God's grace supersede any earthly wealth. They give the peace and contentment that money can never buy, and their benefits reach all the way into eternity.

The only way to access God's spiritual riches is by faith. We don't have to beg or persuade the Lord to give what He has already made available to us. Instead, we simply choose to believe that we are who He says we are and can do what He has called us to accomplish.

~Dr. Charles F. Stanley~

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Into the Mind of God # 5

Called According to His Purpose (continued)

Now we are not given any option in this matter, for it is just a matter of life or death. If we have life we have purpose, and if we have no life we have no purpose. That is because of the divine sovereignty in this matter, and it is all bound up with this matter of election, because God has chosen us for a purpose. The vessels which this Potter makes are not just for ornaments. They are not intended to be put on a shelf for people to notice, or not to notice. God makes His vessels with an object.

You cannot explain the divine sovereignty in this matter, so you had better give up trying! When God says: "I have chosen thee," He does not invite us to explore the reasons why, nor does He invest the elect with omniscience. Indeed, He does not allow us to investigate His reasons for what He does. As a matter of fact, He makes it more difficult for the elect to understand His acts than anyone else. The clay is not allowed to ask the potter: 'Why did you choose me, and why did you make me like this?' The vessel is not permitted to say to the potter: "why did you choose me for this purpose?' God just does it, and He does not allow us to ask any questions as to why.

Hard and fast systems of doctrine in this matter often lead to spiritual death, because they put the unsearchable, infinite wisdom of God into a little man-made box. It is very true to experience that hard-and-fast doctrines about election and predestination often lead to death. Those countries where a rigid doctrine of predestination rules are usually the most spiritually dead. You can have Protestantism without life, and you can have "reformed theology" without life. The reason is that men have put this infinite, unsearchable wisdom of God into a box of fixed doctrine.

The chosen vessel becomes the instrument of a divine wisdom which surpasses the vessel itself. Sooner or later that chosen vessel is full of one question: 'Why did God choose me? Why did He call me to this work? He ought to have chosen anyone but me! I am the most unsuited for this kind of life and this kind of work.' That was true of Moses. When God would send him to Egypt, he said: 'Oh, if you can send by anybody, do so, but not by me.' When God chose Jeremiah, the latter said: "I cannot speak: for I am a child" (Jeremiah 1:6). A Prophet, whose one business it was to speak, felt that it was the one thing he could not do. Divine choice is a very extraordinary thing, and it is not always the thing that we would like or would choose that God calls us to. When we are young we have perhaps a great idea of being in the Lord's work, and we leap to it very eagerly as though we can do it, but when we get older e feel more acutely our dependence. It is then that we discover that naturally we are not fit for it, and many of God's chosen vessels have had to be kept in the work by the very power of God itself.

You see, it is God's own sovereignty in His choice, and the point is this: It is not the vessel, but the purpose for which the vessel has been chosen.

What is it that unites us as Christians? Now listen to this: It is not salvation, nor redemption, but it is God's power in salvation and redemption that unites us. It is the common consciousness of all believers that they exist for a purpose and that God has saved them with a great purpose in view. This is a very important thing to remember. We may all be saved, and yet we may all be divided. We may all be redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus and yet remain just individual units. But see what a uniting power there is in everybody feeling that they are called to a purpose! They are united by one common vision. There were plenty of things to divide the people in the days of Nehemiah, for they all had their natural and personal interests, and the enemy was doing everything he could to divide them, but they were all mastered by one purpose - the building of that wall - and that common vision and purpose defeated the enemy at every turn.

To return to the words of Peter: We do not have to be always together in one place to be united. Peter said: "To the elect who are scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia." It is one elect in many places, united because of one consciousness of divine purpose in life.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 6)

Sweet Odors of the Heart


Blow upon my garden that the spices may flow out (S. of Sol. 4:16).

Some of the spices mentioned in this chapter are quite suggestive. The aloe was a bitter spice, and it tells of the sweetness of bitter things, the bitter-sweet, which has its own fine application that only those can understand who have felt it. The myrrh was used to embalm the dead, and it tells of death to something. It is the sweetness which comes to the heart after it has died to its self-will and pride and sin.

Oh, the inexpressible charm that hovers about some Christians simply because they bear upon the chastened countenance and mellow spirit the impress of the cross, the holy evidence of having died to something that was once proud and strong, but is now forever at the feet of Jesus. It is the heavenly charm of a broken spirit and a contrite heart, the music that springs from the minor key, the sweetness that comes from the touch of the frost upon the ripened fruit.

And then the frankincense was a fragrance that came from the touch of the fire. It was the burning powder that rose in clouds of sweetness from the bosom of the flames. It tells of the heart whose sweetness has been called forth, perhaps by the flames of affliction, until the holy place of the soul is filled with clouds of praise and prayer.

Beloved, are we giving out the spices, the perfumes, the sweet odors of the heart?
--The Love-Life of Our Lord

"A Persian fable says: One day
A wanderer found a lump of clay
So redolent of sweet perfume
Its odors scented all the room.
'What are thou? was his quick demand,
'Art thou some gem from Samarcand,
Or spikenard in this rude disguise,
Or other costly merchandise?'
'Nay: I am but a lump of clay.'
"'Then whence this wondrous perfume--say!'
'Friend, if the secret I disclose,
I have been dwelling with the rose.'
Sweet parable! and will not those
'Who love to dwell with Sharon's rose,
Distil sweet odors all around,
Though low and mean themselves are found?
Dear Lord, abide with us that we
May draw our perfume fresh from Thee." 

~L. B. Cowman~

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Into the Mind of God # 4

A Vessel ... Meet for the Master's Use (continued)

We have only one remaining reference: that in the Book of the Revelation. "And he that overcometh ... to him will I give authority over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to shivers." I do not pretend to understand what that means, but it does seem to say this: That there will be a people who will be like a rod of iron, by which the rebellious nations shall be broken to pieces like a potter's vessel. I say that we cannot understand that, but there it is in the Bible, and what it says is just this: That in the end the nations which have continued to reject God, who have resisted all the patience and love of God, who have known of Him and have refused to have Him as their God, will be broken to pieces like a potter's vessel, and the instrument that God will use will be those who are here called "the overcomers."

That is a very broad survey of something of what the Bible says about the potter, the clay and the vessels. It is only a beginning, the laying down of a foundation, but do not allow your anticipation of what is yet to come to rob you of the value of what has been said. You have a lot of empty pages in your notebooks yet, but do not be so anxious to get them filled up that you do not go over what you already have. We are not giving just Bible teaching, but are working our way into the mind of God. There is a lot of instruction in what has been said, a lot of comfort and encouragement, and a lot of strength to be taken from it, but there is also much warning. We are not only occupied with teaching in the Bible. We are in the presence of the revealed mind of God and to come into that is a great responsibility.

Called According to His Purpose

Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 18:5, 6

Our governing thought is that the vessel made by the potter is an expression of the mind of the potter. It is not just something in itself, but it expresses a thought. So we resume with God represented as a Potter.

God took this conception Himself: it is not an idea given to Him by man. It is God Who has the clay in His hands and Who is working it according to His own mind. He is therefore occupied with  a definite purpose: He is working to have a vessel for Himself, and the vessel is something which He chose before ever He put His hand to the work. The principle which the Apostle Paul embodied is a principle which governs all the work of God. The Lord said to Ananias (of Paul): "He is a chosen vessel unto Me" (Acts 9:15), and Paul himself said later: "It was the good pleasure of God, Who separated me, even from my mother's womb" (Galatians 1:15). And that Apostle makes it clear to us that all who are called in Christ Jesus are foreknown and chosen by God. It is the Apostle Peter who says that he is writing to "the elect ... according to the foreknowledge of God the Father" (1 Peter 1:1), and that elect was scattered abroad throughout "Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia."

Now this subject of "election" is a very difficult one, so let us say something that will have the object of getting rid of some of the difficulty.

Every truly saved soul ought to have at their salvation a sense of divine destiny. A consciousness of vocation comes with the consciousness of life, and everyone at new birth ought to feel: 'Now there is something to live for! Now I feel that there is a purpose in life' Everyone who professes to be a child of God but does not have that consciousness is not a truly born again child of God.

This is true of every part of the creation naturally when it is right. How busy are all the living creatures on this earth! They have a sense that there is something they have got to do with their life. Look at the little ants on the ground! They are very busy! It is as though their very life depended upon their getting something done. And when life is right it is always like that. If you like to go outside of this building today you will meet a number of wasps and you will prove that what I have said is true. They are going to get something done and are not going to be easily discouraged.

Purpose is a characteristic of life, and if that is true in the natural creation, it is much more true in the spiritual. It is possible to be dead while we live; and that simply means that we have lost the sense of a purpose in living. Have you noticed that when faith declines the consciousness of purpose also fades? Faith and purpose always go together. Little faith means little purpose and large faith means large purpose.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 5)

Living With Passion


I want to focus your attention today on two passages.  The first is Ecclesiastes 9:10,

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.
The second passage is Colossians 3:23,

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.

Do you see the common theme?  God desires us to live our lives full out, with passion.  Whether you are a preacher, a writer, a teacher, or a singer, whatever you do, you are to do it with passion.  You are to throw yourself into it.

People are attracted to passion.  They want to see someone who is burning with a fiery zeal for whatever they do!

In my opinion, the greatest example of a passionate person is Jesus.  Remember the story when Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple?  That was a passionate act.  In fact, the end of that passage says, "Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up."

Zeal is just another word for passion.  "Passion for Your house has eaten Me up!"  Have you ever tried to imagine Jesus doing that?  I have a very clear image of what that must have been like.

He is whipping these guys and they are running, covering their heads.  He is throwing over these big tables and the disciples are watching with their mouths wide open, when they remember the verse, "Zeal (passion) for Your house has eaten Me up."

Let me ask you a question:  When is the last time you were eaten up with zeal for anything?  When is the last time you were utterly passionate about anything?
Don't just sleepwalk through life.  You need to decide you are going to live!

~Bayless Conley~

Monday, October 27, 2014

into the Mind of God # 3

"A Vessel ... Meet For the Master's Use" (continued)

When I have said that I have just given you the whole of the prophecies of Jeremiah, you may not like this book and if you had your choice you would perhaps select Isaiah before Jeremiah, but if you will read the Book of Jeremiah with this one thought in mind it will be a great inspiration. Over the book is written: 'Cannot I do as I will? saith the Lord.' No one can argue with God. No one can challenge God's right or question the will of God. God says: 'I am the Lord. I will do as I want to do.' That will be a very good thing for all those who are on God's side, but it will be a very bad thing for those who are in opposition to Him.

Well, that is the Book of Jeremiah in a word.

You pass through the sovereignty of God in Matthew 27 - the sovereignty of fulfilled prophecy in the potter's field - and you come to the ninth chapter of the Book of Acts. There the Lord is saying to Ananias about Saul of Tarsus: "He is a chosen vessel unto Me." Here, then, we have the principle that God does choose certain people for certain special purposes. Such vessels may have to go through many sufferings and afflictions, but if ever the sovereignty of God was seen in the life of a single man, it was in the life of the Apostle Paul. We said that God's choosing means God's authority, and sooner or later our attitude toward chosen vessels will prove to have been our attitude toward God.

We pass from Paul as a chosen individual vessel, and we come on to more common ground which brings us all in. We would not put ourselves in the same category as the Apostle Paul, and would hesitate to think that we are chosen vessels to fulfill some special purpose in history. Of course, that may be true of some of you - the end will tell whether it is true - but whether it is true or not, when you come to the Second Letter to the Corinthians, you are on right ground. Remember: it is to Corinthians that the Apostle is writing. Thank God, then, for the message to Corinthians! To all the Corinthians, and to all like them, the Apostle says: "We have this treasure in earthen vessels" (2 Corinthians 4:7) - and what earthen vessels we are! We are very poor clay indeed, but the Word is" 'In this poor clay, these earthen vessels, we have a treasure, and the excellency is not our excellency - it is the excellency of God.'

"We have the treasure" - as one version puts it - "in vessels of fragile clay." I wonder what was in Paul's mind when he wrote that! You may get some idea of what he was thinking about if you look at the context. He gives a list of all the things that the vessel has to endure, the many persecutions and the trials that the vessel has to go through, but although it is a vessel of fragile clay and has to go through everything that would be calculated to destroy it, it is not destroyed. It just goes on burning because of that treasure within it.

You know, Paul only had the Old Testament as his Bible. Has your memory lighted upon what may have been in his mind? There are a lot of references to the Old Testament in this letter to the Corinthians, but in this case I think perhaps he was thinking about Moses and the bush which never burned. Any small match put to it might have consumed it and if you had passed by the next day you would have seen nothing but ashes. But this fire went on and on and on and the bush was never consumed. The earthen vessel had a treasure in it: IT WAS THE LORD. Come what may, if the Lord is in the vessel, it will not be destroyed. The testimony will go on. So Paul says: "We are ... pursued, yet not forsaken."

We pass from that to Paul's letter to Timothy, and there he says: "In a great house there are ... vessels ... some unto honor, and some unto dishonor" ... 'If a man will separate himself from those vessels unto dishonor, he shall be a vessel unto honor' (Timothy 2:20, 21).

Here, then, the Apostle introduces the great law of separation from everything that God cannot accept, and says: 'If you do that, you shall be a "vessel ... meet for the master's use, prepared unto every good work." '

Therefore we are called to be vessels suitable for the use of the Lord, and our suitability depends upon our separation from all that which is not honorable to the Lord.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 4)

Come Up in the Morning


Come up in the morning . . . and present thyself unto me in the top of the mount (Exod. 34:2).

The morning is the time fixed for my meeting the Lord. The very word morning is as a cluster of rich grapes. Let us crush them, and drink the sacred wine. In the morning! Then God means me to be at my best in strength and hope. I have not to climb in my weakness. In the night I have buried yesterday's fatigue, and in the morning take a new lease of energy. Blessed is the day whose morning is sanctified! Successful is the day whose first victory was won in prayer! Holy is the day whose dawn finds thee on the top of the mount!

My Father, I am coming. Nothing on the mean plain shall keep me away from the holy heights. At Thy bidding I come, so Thou wilt meet me. Morning on the mount! It will make me strong and glad all the rest of the day so well begun.
--Joseph Parker

Still, still with Thee, when purple morning breaketh,
When the bird waketh, and the shadows flee;
Fairer than morning, lovelier than daylight,
Dawns the sweet consciousness, I am with Thee.
Alone with Thee, amid the mystic shadows,
The solemn hush of nature newly born;
Alone with Thee in breathless adoration,
In the calm dew and freshness of the morn.
As in the dawning o'er the waveless ocean,
The image of the morning-star doth rest,
So in this stillness, Thou beholdest only
Thine image in the waters of my breast.
When sinks the soul, subdued by toil, to slumber,
Its closing eyes look up to Thee in prayer;
Sweet the repose, beneath Thy wings o'er shadowing,
But sweeter still to wake and find Thee there.

--Harriet Beecher Stowe

My mother's habit was every day, immediately after breakfast, to withdraw for an hour to her own room, and to spend that hour in reading the Bible, in meditation and prayer. From that hour, as from a pure fountain, she drew the strength and sweetness which enabled her to fulfill all her duties, and to remain unruffled by the worries and pettinesses which are so often the trial of narrow neighborhoods.
As I think of her life, and all it had to bear, I see the absolute triumph of Christian grace in the lovely ideal of a Christian lady. I never saw her temper disturbed; I never heard her speak one word of anger, of calumny, or of idle gossip; I never observed in her any sign of a single sentiment unbecoming to a soul which had drunk of the river of the water of life, and which had fed upon manna in the barren wilderness.
--Farrar

Give God the blossom of the day. Do not put Him off with faded leaves. 

~L. B. Cowman~

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Into The Mind of God # 2

"A Vessel ... Meet For The Master's Use" (continued)

We read a verse in 2 Chronicles 4 which referred to the potter's field, in which there was the potter's house. The potters lived there, in that field and in that house, for one thing only - to make pottery for the king. The kings - David and Solomon - evidently kept a large band of potters, and the many vessels used in the king's house which were of clay were made in that field. It was to that field and to that house that the Lord sent Jeremiah. David and Solomon had gone long ago, but the potter was still busy in his house in the same field. There were evidently very many potters in the days of David and Solomon, but when we come to Jeremiah it seems that there was only one potter at work.

That potter's field had a very tragic history. Our passage in the Gospel of Matthew tells us a very sad story. The potter's field was still there, but the potter's house and the potters were gone. Judas betrayed his Master for thirty pieces of silver, and when he discovered what he had done, he went back and threw the silver at the feet of the rulers, who said: "This is the price of blood. We cannot give it any place in the sanctuary." Then they had a meeting to consider what they should do with the money ..."and they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field." That same potter's field, which had come right down through history and had had a glorious day, was now bought with the price of the Blood of Jesus Christ. That had been prophesied by the Prophet Zechariah. The price of a servant, of a bond-slave, was thirty pieces of silver, and that was the price that they put upon the Son of God. What a tragic end to the potter's field.

When we come to the prophecies of Isaiah there are quite a number of references to the potter and the clay, and we read the final one. Israel is saying: "Thou art the Potter and we are the clay." I expect you know what is the message of the prophecies of Isaiah - the message of Divine sovereignty over Israel and the nations. Those prophecies began with the great vision in chapter six, when Isaiah said: "In the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up." Uzziah was one of the great kings of Israel after David and Solomon, and when this greatness was dead the prophet saw another greatness - "the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up." When all earthly government fails, the government remains in the hands of the Lord. When the sovereignties of this world die, there is sovereignty that never dies. The Lord still remains sovereign over all things.

When you go on to Jeremiah that sovereignty is concentrated upon this chosen people, Israel. Here it is a matter of God's rights in this particular people ... "O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter?" The Lord has absolute right to do as He wills with His own people. When the Lord says: 'I have chosen you,' that is not only His initiative, but His absolute authority. When the Lord chooses a vessel, that choice carries with it His absolute authority. That sovereign authority will work for the vessel, or will work against it. It depends upon whether the clay will yield to the sovereignty of the Potter. If we yield to the mind of God, His sovereignty will work for us, but if we resist, that sovereignty will break us. We cannot get away from the sovereignty of God. That can be a very wonderful and blessed thing, but it can also be a very terrible thing.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 3)

Trouble Brings Blessings


My Father is the husbandman (John 15:1).

It is comforting to think of trouble, in whatever form it may come to, us, as a heavenly messenger, bringing us something from God. In its earthly aspect it may seem hurtful, even destructive; but in its spiritual out-working it yields blessing. Many of the richest blessings which have come down to us from the past are the fruit of sorrow or pain. We should never forget that redemption, the world's greatest blessing, is the fruit of the world's greatest sorrow. In every time of sharp pruning, when the knife is deep and the pain is sore, it is an unspeakable comfort to read, "My Father is the husbandman."

Doctor Vincent tells of being in a great hothouse where luscious clusters of grapes were hanging on every side. The owner said, "When my new gardener came, he said he would have nothing to do with these vines unless he could cut them clean down to the stalk; and he did, and we had no grapes for two years, but this is the result."

There is rich suggestiveness in this interpretation of the pruning process, as we apply it to the Christian life. Pruning seems to be destroying the vine, the gardener appears to be cutting it all away; but he looks on into the future and knows that the final outcome will be the enrichment of its life and greater abundance of fruit.

There are blessings we can never have unless we are ready to pay the price of pain. There is no way to reach them save through suffering.
--Dr. Miller

"I walked a mile with Pleasure,
She chattered all the way;
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.
"I walked a mile with Sorrow,
And ne'er a word said she;
But, oh, the things I learned from her
When sorrow walked with me."

~L. B. Cowman~

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Into the Mind of God

"A Vessel ... Meet for the Master's Use"

1 Chronicles 4:23; Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 18:1-6; Jeremiah 19:11; Matthew 27:7; Matthew 27:10; Acts 9:15; Romans 9:21; Revelation 2:26

This is a small selection of the Scriptures which bear upon this one matter of the potter and his vessel, and the one thing which arises from them is that every vessel made by the potter is an expression of His mind. When you look at any vessel made by an intelligent potter you look through the vessel and see the mind of the one who made it. There is a thought in the form of that vessel, and that, of course, is especially true of God.

You may know that the pottery has a very large history, and we are now in possession of pottery that was made six thousand years ago. Men were making pottery before Abraham was born, and, as we have seen, it has a very large place in the Bible. I had a long list of other passages of Scriptures on this subject, but would not trouble you to look at them.

Let us first look at some of the general features of the passages which we have read.

Firstly, God is represented as a potter.

Secondly, humanity is represented as the clay.

Thirdly, Israel is represented as a vessel chosen by God for a purpose on the earth.

Fourthly, the Church is represented as a vessel chosen by God from eternity for a heavenly purpose.

Fifthly, individuals are spoken of as vessels. Some individuals, like the Apostle Paul, are chosen for a special purpose.

Sixthly, the pattern of God's vessel is His Son, Jesus Christ. The Scripture says that the Church is "foreordained to be conformed to the image of His Son" (Romans 8:29), so that His Son is the pattern to which God is working.

Seventhly, the intelligent worker on the wheels of the potter i the Holy Spirit. He is the driving power of God's purpose.

Eighthly, the wheels themselves are the wheels of circumstance and experience.

Well, those are some general things coming out of these Scriptures, but, as we are laying the foundation for our consideration, we will now come close to the Bible.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2)

Leaning Upon Her Beloved


Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?" (Song. of Solomon. 8:5).

Some one gained a good lesson from a Southern prayer meeting. A brother asked the Lord for various blessings--as you and I do, and thanked the Lord for many already received--as you and I do; but he closed with this unusual petition: "And, O Lord, support us! Yes support us Lord on every leanin' side!"

Have you any leaning sides? This humble man's prayer pictures them in a new way and shows the Great Supporter in a new light also. He is always walking by the Christian, ready to extend His mighty arm and steady the weak one on "every leanin' side."

"Child of My love, lean hard,
And let Me feel the pressure of thy care;
I know thy burden, child. I shaped it;
Poised it in Mine Own hand; made no proportion
In its weight to thine unaided strength,
For even as I laid it on, I said,
'I shall be near, and while she leans on Me,
This burden shall be Mine, not hers;
So shall I keep My child within the circling arms
Of My Own love.'
Here lay it down, nor fear
To impose it on a shoulder which upholds the government of worlds.
Yet closer come: Thou art not near enough.
I would embrace thy care;
So I might feel My child reposing on My breast.
Thou lovest Me? I knew it.
Doubt not then;
But Loving Me, lean hard."

~L. B. Cowman~

Friday, October 24, 2014

Discipline Unto Prayer # 51

(c.) A New Conception of God (continued)

When he used to pray he treated God as though he were more or less equal, telling Him what He had done and what He ought to do. Now he can only bow in utter worship and wonder. That is a kind of man who can pray. H knows how omnipotent God is. "I know," he says at the end, "that Thou canst do all things". In a sense, he is answering all his own questions. It seems to me as though God deliberately baffled Job. You see, if you know everything that God is doing, somehow it has a bad effect on you. So God took hold of His choicest servant and took him through experiences that so baffled and perplexed him that in the end he did not know anything. "Oh that I knew ..." (23:3). His friends, of course, knew it all - or thought they did. Poor Job says: 'I do not know, oh, that I did know!' And God has done that on purpose because Job, by all this, comes to realize the supreme power and wisdom of God.

If we knew all about Him, He would not be any greater than ourselves. But we see just the hem of His garment, the fringes of His ways, and the vast realms of His Divine counsels and His sovereign power we only glimpse here and there, and we say: 'How wonderful the Lord is! I do not know what He is doing, but I know He can do everything; I do not know why He is doing it this way, but I am sure He knows.' That is the man who can pray, the man with a new sense of God in all His greatness, His transcendence, His power, and, above all, His grace.

(d.) A New Understanding of the Grace of God

I suppose we are apt to think of Job as reinstated, for he has everything back and more than he ever had, and feeling rather good and magnanimous, so he says to his friends: 'Do not say anything more about it.' Nothing of the sort! Job had nothing at this stage. This was the turning point. He was still as stripped, as poor, as low as ever he had been. What had he got, then, that made him pray, and able to pray like this? He had a new understanding of the grace of God, and that is the richest thing you can have. He knew how gracious God is. He could not have prayed for his friends properly if he had not known. He knew how gracious God  is in terms of personal experience. God was gracious to him, and God had been merciful to him. Oh, the things that he had said and thought about God, and all the time love was planning and grace was being poured out upon him, so out of a new heart-overflowing sense of the wonderful grace of God, he could pray.

All this is surely for us, too, for if, as a people, we feel we have one thing more than another which is our essential ministry, surely it is prayer. The Lord calls us to prayer again and again. Perhaps the Lord is dealing with us so that we can pray. That is what He did with Job - and see what happened when Job prayed! His friends were delivered from their danger and their need, and the prayer was answered. But the whole point of the verse is, not that the prayer was answered, but that Job came into new fullness because he prayed. "The Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends." So often we feel that if we could come out and be strong and prosperous, w could pray. But the Lord says: 'If you  will pray, I will bring you out.' If is not, of course, a sort of catch arrangement that we make with the Lord - 'I will not pray for myself. I will pray for others and then You will help me.' It was not that. Job, I am sure, was not thinking of himself, but, out of this new sense of God, and of sin, and of the command to pray for these poor needy men who had been so hard on him, but who, he now realized, were in such a parlous state themselves, he prayed for them. We must be content to pray for the Lord's will far beyond our own interests and our own borders. We must make our supreme prayer for the needy among the Lord's people and among mankind everywhere. Let Him fit us in where He will to the meeting of that need, but our first thing is to pray for the need.

That is just what Job did. He did not say: 'Make me a great man again so that I can serve You.' He said: 'Lord, have mercy upon these men, who ought to be Thy servants, but who are in need and have been revealed in all the nakedness of their spurious profession of spirituality. have mercy upon them!' When Job began to pray for them like that the Lord gave him double.

Some of us may be seeking fullness and not finding it because we are critical of the Lord's people, because we are watching, because we have summed them up, because, like Job's friends, we can tell them where they are wrong. Perhaps we do not dare to, but we could if we had the chance. We are finding our emptiness, our leanness along that line, and we shall! Job found his fullness when, out of a deep sense of the grace of God, he prayed for his friends.

May the Lord make us those who have such an experience with Him that we are constituted able intercessors! Then we shall find our fullness; the Lord will give us double.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(The End)

To Believe is to Live


Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins." - John8:24


The Pharisees were always trying to catch Jesus off guard. Regardless of what Jesus was teaching, they would test Him. The Pharisees were the religious leaders and teachers of the day. They knew the Scriptures better than anyone and were always ready to tell others how to live by them. They were superior in their righteousness, or so they thought. They enjoyed their status, their power and the honor given to them by man. Jesus however, created problems for them in His teachings. The people wanted to hear more of what Jesus had to say. The Pharisees were threatened as they saw their power diminishing, as more and more people followed Jesus. How sad to realize that the very One whom they had been waiting for their whole lives was in their midst and they did not recognize Him!

The people who denied Jesus would die in their sins because they refused to believe that He is the Son of God. When all is said and done, the verse above sums up the truth. If we do not believe in Jesus, we will die in our sins. Sadly, there are still Pharisees in our world today who think that by knowledge and good works they have the answers. There are those who can recite Scripture to justify any argument or prove any point and are always instructing others on how to live godly lives. Then, there are those who truly try hard to do what is right. They volunteer for ministry services, give freely to others in need and are kind-hearted to everyone. On the outside, both types look very godly and religious. But what about on the inside?

Jesus is not impressed with our "good" works. Our best intentions mean nothing in the kingdom of God. We are born of sin, live sinful lives and will die in our sins, unless we do one thing—believe in Jesus. It is not the kind of belief that acknowledges His existence or His role. James 2:18 tells us that, “even the demons believe and tremble.” The word “believe” means to adhere to, rely on, trust in, and depend upon. Do you believe in Jesus Christ according to His definition of the word? Do you absolutely depend upon Him for yoursalvation? Do you know that there is nothing you can add to your salvation and that there is no good work that you can do for eternal security? The only requirement is faith. The only One who can cleanse us from our sins is Jesus Christ, and the only way we can be cleansed is by believing in Him alone. Today, you can know Him. Dear Lord, I want to know Your Son Jesus. I know that I am a sinner who cannot do enough good works to earn my salvation. I am lost without You. I want You to be my Lord and Savior forever more. 

~Daily Disciples Devotional~

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Discipline Unto Prayer # 50

(b)  A New Understanding of Suffering

Job now knows, and we need to know, what God means by suffering. "My servant, Job." How these men must have opened their mouths  and been surprised! The Lord says - and you notice how often He says it - "My servant, Job." If He had said: 'The man who used to be My servant,' they could have understood, but He says: 'He is My servant.' But what has he been doing?He has been suffering. Is that all? Yes, suffering. He suffered under the hand of God, suffered in the will of God, and in that way he has been serving God. He was God's servant before. God said to satan: "Hast thou considered My servant Job?" But there is a sense, it seems to me, in which the end of this book just concentrates on the fact that God says: 'This is the man that is serving. Not these preachers who are going around telling people what is right and what is wrong, what they ought to do, and all the theories of God's dealings with men, but the man who has been through the fire. He has been serving Me.' Everybody despised him. 'He used to be a servant of God, but look at him now, stripped of everything! He has nothing at all.' The children mock him, and everybody despises him. God says: "My servant," and the very people that mocked him and despised him had cause to thank God from the bottom of their hearts that Job was God's servant, for it would have been a bad day for them if he had not been.

Then Job found much more about suffering: how suffering brings you close to the Lord if it is taken in the right spirit. How much nearer to God Job was, and how much nearer to Job God was at the end of the book! And all he had done was to suffer. Suffering under God's hand brought that nearness, and it made Job a different man. That was one of the things Elihu said: "Who is a teacher like unto Him?" God had been teaching Job, and it is out of such a background that he could pray.

(c.) A New Conception of God

But I think that most of all it was out of a new conception of God that Job prayed like this. That was the value of his experience. He had known God before, and he had prayed before, but now he had a new conception of God altogether. He had been apt to treat God on equal terms. That comes out more than once, and he is charged with it - with considering God as though He were a man instead of realizing the utter transcendence of the Lord. "Behold, I will answer thee, in this thou art not just; for God is greater than man". You would not think that a man like Job needed to be told that, but he did. The Lord took him and said: 'Now, Job, you have got on wrong terms with Me. I want intimacy, yes, but not familiarity.' And that is the danger with us all. We mistake familiarity for intimacy. So the Lord suddenly turns on Job and says: "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?". That is a question. But Job had been treating God as if he had been there. That is one of the dangers. I know prayer has its realms - realms of executive prayer, realms of fellowship with God, but they are dangerous realms unless we realize, and have brought home to us in ever fresh power, how transcendent God is. This is the man who prayed: the man who sees how great God is.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 51)

A Divine Mystery In Suffering

The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me (Ps. 138:8).
 
There is a Divine mystery in suffering, a strange and supernatural power in it, which has never been fathomed by the human reason. There never has been known great saintliness of soul which did not pass through great suffering. When the suffering soul reaches a calm sweet carelessness, when it can inwardly smile at its own suffering, and does not even ask God to deliver it from suffering, then it has wrought its blessed ministry; then patience has its perfect work; then the crucifixion begins to weave itself into a crown.
 
It is in this state of the perfection of suffering that the Holy Spirit works many marvelous things in our souls. In such a condition, our whole being lies perfectly still under the hand of God; every faculty of the mind and will and heart are at last subdued; a quietness of eternity settles down into the whole being; the tongue grows still, and has but few words to say; it stops asking God questions; it stops crying, "Why hast thou forsaken me ?"
 
The imagination stops building air castles, or running off on foolish lines; the reason is tame and gentle; the choices are annihilated; it has no choice in anything but the purpose of God. The affections are weaned from all creatures and all things; it is so dead that nothing can hurt it, nothing can offend it, nothing can hinder it, nothing can get in its way; for, let the circumstances be what they may, it seeks only for God and His will, and it feels assured that God is making everything in the universe, good or bad, past or present, work together for its good.
 
Oh, the blessedness of being absolutely conquered! of losing our own strength, and wisdom, and plans, and desires, and being where every atom of our nature is like placid Galilee under the omnipotent feet of our Jesus.
–Soul Food
 
The great thing is to suffer without being. discouraged.
--Fenelon
 
"The heart that serves, and loves, and clings,
Hears everywhere the rush of angel wings."

~L. B. Cowman~

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Discipline Unto Prayer # 49

Discipline Unto Prayer (continued)

New Power In Prayer

As we have said, he already, before these experiences, served in a priestly capacity. You read about it in the first chapter. He interceded for his family. Job could pray, and he did pray, but this is a new Job, and there is new power in his prayer. What is there that is new about it?

a. A New Sense of Sin

First of all, strangely enough, there is a new sense of sin. You would not think that that would make you pray better, but that is just what is needed. According to God, Job had said the things that were right; but Job, according to Elihu (and he seems to have spoken for God) was the man who justified himself instead of God. Job was the man who said: "My righteousness I hold fast" (Job 27:6). He was self-righteous, and it was to disclose that fact that the devil was allowed to do what he did to him. Self-righteousness is a great hindrance to prayer. So the Lord brought Job to the place where every shred of self-opinion was utterly forsaken and repudiated. He had a new sense of sin.

You know how the Letter to the Romans makes the discrimination between sins and sin, and it was something like that that was born home upon Job's heart. His friends were all the time saying: 'You must have committed sins;' and Job said: 'I have not!' But they said: 'You must have done,' and he maintained: 'I have not.' When he saw God he did not remember, after all, certain sins that he had committed. Something much deeper came upon him - a conviction that, though he could face his fellow men and hold fast his integrity, when he came into the presence of the Lord it was not so much that he had committed sins, but he was a sinner; his very being was unclean before God.

If Job's friends had prayed for him instead of talking to him, they might have helped a little bit, but I expect they would have prayed very much as they talked: 'Now, Job must have done this. Show him he has done it.' If Job had been on that level - and he might have been! - when the Lord said, 'Pray for your friends,' he would have fallen into exactly the same trap. 'Lord, so-and-so said this, and Bildad said that, and someone else something else.' But he came into a realm where he was not looking at particular faults of people, but was overwhelmed with the sense o the holiness of God, and the deep, deep unholiness of man. "I abhor myself."

'Well,' you say, 'the man that is down in the dust abhorring himself will not be much good  for prayer.' He is the man! We are no much good for prayer because we are not down. This sense of personal unworthiness and sin that humbles us before God, if it does its work in us, brings us to a place where we are able to pray as we never could when we were strong and self-confident. You notice that Job did not offer himself to pray for them. God said to Job: 'Now, you are the man to pray.' 'What me, Lord? But I am horrible! I lay my hand on my mouth, I am unclean, I am a sinner, I abhor myself.' The Lord said: 'You are the one to pray, for you are the only one that can pray the kind of prayer that I mean.'

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 50 - (b. A New Understanding of Suffering)

Shallow!


"Not much earth" (Matt. 13:5).

Shallow! It would seem from the teaching of this parable that we have something to do with the soil. The fruitful seed fell into "good and honest hearts." I suppose the shallow people are the soil without much earth--those who have no real purpose, are moved by a tender appeal, a good sermon, a pathetic melody, and at first it looks as if they would amount to something; but not much earth--no depth, no deep, honest purpose, no earnest desire to know duty in order to do it. Let us look after the soil of our hearts.

When a Roman soldier was told by his guide that if he insisted on taking a certain journey it would probably be fatal, he answered, "It is necessary for me to go; it is not necessary for me to live."

This was depth. When we are convicted something like that we shall come to something. The shallow nature lives in its impulses, its impressions, its intuitions, its instincts, and very largely its surroundings. The profound character looks beyond all these, and moves steadily on, sailing past all storms and clouds into the clear sunshine which is always on the other side, and waiting for the afterwards which always brings the reversion of sorrow, seeming defeat and failure.

When God has deepened us, then He can give us His deeper truths, His profoundest secrets, and His mightier trusts. Lord, lead me into the depths of Thy life and save me from a shallow experience!

On to broader fields of holy vision;
On to loftier heights of faith and love;
Onward, upward, apprehending wholly,
All for which He calls thee from above.

--A. B. Simpson 

~L. B. Cowman~

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Discipline Unto Prayer # 48

Discipline Unto Prayer (continued)

What Job went through! This verse seems to me a kind of peak and climax of his experience, as well as a turning point for him personally. He prayed for his friends. What a prayer! What a need! And what a man to pray it! We must not regard prayer as one of those lessor activities of life. It seems with Job that this is the culmination of all his life. Now he can pray! You may say: 'Now he is rich.' That is true. 'Now he is prosperous.' That is true. But I would say, when we have got through to chapter 42: Now he can pray. Not that he had not prayed before, but something had been done in the man himself which gave a quality to his prayer. We remember that in the case of our Lord Jesus the fruit of His conflict with satan, the culmination of all His experience, is this very thing - that now he lives to intercede. This is not just the fact that we can pray, and the wonder that God answers prayer, or that "more things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of," or that sort of thing; but something far deeper. "He ever liveth to make intercession" (Hebrews 7:25). How much we owe to His praying! But how much His prayers owe to what He is! The quality of the prayer comes from Him, of course, as the Son of God, the perfect One; but also, as Hebrews tells us, it comes out of a deep experience of discipline and suffering which have made Him an able intercessor.

"The Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends." It is very easy to pray for your friends when they are friends, but I think it is not straining this story to say that when Job prayed, he was praying for his enemies. I fail to see anything more that they could have done to make life impossible for him than what they did. The only thing they could have done was to leave him alone, and he begged them to, but they would not. It was not out of affection - that sort of feeling we have for our friends that makes us want to pray for them. It was the men who had caused him so much pin and grief, but who so needed prayer. I wonder if we can see that! Here are men: they know all about God. Some of the precious things that were said about God in the Book of Job are said, not by Job, but by his friends. Job's friends said some of the passages you love. They were right, they knew all about Him, and yet they were utterly different from Him - hard, censorious, ungracious. That is a challenge to us. You may know all about God, but be very unlike Him.

It is very interesting that Job's experiences were taken by the Lord to bring to the surface and disclose, not only his own state and need, but the state and need of his friends. How much may circle round your experience, and mine, for other people as well as for us! It was all coming to the surface; not only what Job was, but what they were, and it was how harsh and critical and unkind they were to him personally. I may be wrong, but I always feel that when Job began to curse his day, that was really caused by his friends. When all the sufferings came, he blessed the Lord and was patient. But these men came to commiserate with him, and for seven days they sat there and did not say anything; but seven days of a critical atmosphere, seven days of eyes upon you, and you know what they were thinking. It was too much for Job, and it is often too much for us. And then they began to open their mouths, and the second phase of their so-called friendliness came in. What a painful experience it was for Job to have the barbed arrows of their unjust interpretation of his experience, their wrong judgments, all thrust into his quivering, suffering flesh. They were the people that needed prayer.

You do not thing of them like that. You think they need something else, but they need prayer. When God revealed Himself, not only was Job abashed, but these men were stricken. It is a new light upon the harsh, hard, critical people that make life more painful than it is. It is true that when Hob saw everything in the light of God's presence, he saw himself, but he also saw the need of those poor men. They needed prayer. Well, they were new men in that sense; but what a new man Job was when he prayed for them!

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 49 - (New Power In Prayer)