The Factor of Prayer in Relation to the Lord's Purpose (continued)
In Colosse, in Laodicea, and for many others who have not seen the face in the flesh, all those churches, their being knit together in love unto all the riches of the full assurance of understanding that they may know the mystery of God, be presented every man complete in Christ, that hangs upon this man's conflict and the conflict of Epaphras and others. How much of this are we doing? It is so easy to criticize one another's spiritual life, and the spiritual life of other people. It is so easy to take account of small measure, little growth, the arrest and limitation. It is so easy just to be lookers-on. Yes, in our hearts we are troubled, we are perplexed. In a way, we ask the Lord continually to do something, we are not detached altogether, but are we quite sure that we are where Paul was? "How greatly I strive for you." How I get down to this, how I identify myself with this situation, this need! - this that has come in which is just the opposite of what God intended, this that has interfered with the continuation of progress and development in a life that God produced, this which undoubtedly is of the Lord but locked up, fallen under something in the way of a blight, a lack, an arrest, a hold up.
There is sovereignty of God, of course, in this, the sovereignty of God which works over the enemy in order to draw out some people. As we said at the beginning, our on enlargement is bound up with our vocation; or, to put it in another way, we shall not make much progress spiritually until we take spiritual responsibility. It is vital to our growth that we have concern for souls, our own spiritual growth. I do not believe people do grow, however much information they accumulate along spiritual lines, if they are all the time turned in on themselves. Responsibility is a tremendous thing for enlargement, and here is a man who took responsibility to the full. But he turns to these Philippians and he says, "To you it hath been granted in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer n His behalf," and these sufferings are very often along this line, soul suffering for the saints. "I ... fill up ... that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ ... for His Body's sake, which is the Church" (Colossians 1:24). The sufferings of Christ; it is given to you to suffer with Him. The sufferings of Christ for His Body's sake which is the Church - I fill up that which remains of that.
It might be that the edge of a great deal of the enemy's assault upon us would be blunted if we were a little more of the assailing kind. I think we feel the keenness of it because we wait for it. I think there is something that really does save us when we are turned out in the aggressive. There are values, great values, to our own spiritual life, safety and growth, by a positive and an aggressive spirit in the interests of the Lord; for undoubtedly a positive state is a protection. To be fervent in spirit is a great protection.
(continued with # 5)