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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Words of Wisdom and Revelation # 7

Words of Wisdom and Revelation # 7

The Hiddenness of God's Workings

We are so often found looking for, praying for, expecting, some mighty, shattering intervention of God in our situation, something that is evidence and proof that God is with us, something we can lay hold of, to which we can point and on which we can report, and such does not happen. Again and again when we have passed most critical points in our history and turned most serious corners, we have had to say, "How did we do it, how did it come to pass?" Well, it just happened. It undoubtedly involved very great power on the part of God, and there is no doubt that, if God had not done it, that there would have been disaster; yet it is done. But how? We thought the Lord must come this way and that, and we were telling Him what He must do, but He never came by our way, never did it like that at all. It, so to speak, just happened. We are going on like that. It may be from time to time the Lord will show His hand. He is the God of the sudden leap as much as He is the God of the long process, but normally the way of faith is this way. Silently, almost imperceptibly, without any power to detect that He is doing it, the needed thing is being done.

Qualification for Serving the Lord's Purposes

The Lord does really need men and women to serve His ends. His need may be very great, and yet He may not be able now to open the way for you to come in to serve Him in meeting it. The Lord is waiting until your heart is broken over this whole situation, and it is such a heart-matter that you come to the place where you say, "Lord, the only justification of my life is that your interests are served." It must be a matter of heart-love for the Lord and for what is His,k and not for the work, the ministry; not for anything but for your Lord and what is His. When you get there, and you are found upon your face before the Lord breaking your heart because you see He is not getting what He ought to have, when this becomes the travail of your soul, you will find the Lord will begin to do something. This is the necessary basis for the Lord to bring out His servants.

The Cost of Special Service to God

A thing which is to serve the Lord in a specially vital way is not born easily, and is not brought into being without some unusual suffering and travail. There is much bitterness of soul to be gone through, and many tears.

For a time, a drawn-out time, it appears that there will be nothing. The barrenness, with its attendant heartache and sorrow, seems long to remain. And yet there can be no philosophical acceptance or fatalistic capitulation. The Lord is a factor in this situation, and there is a "hoping against hope," a wistful look toward the "God Who quickeneth the dead and calleth the things that are not as though they were" (Rom. 4:17).

So it is, when the Lord determines to secure for Himself that vessel of peculiar purpose, and cuts off all the many activities, works,and occupations which, while being in the same household of faith and in some relation to Himself, are largely by the energies of nature and the ability of man. When and where there are not those usual accompaniments and out workings, those issues and results, the evidences and proofs; then there is criticism, taunting, pointing of the finger, and grievous imputations. The very acts of Divine sovereignty are given a twist to mean just the opposite of God's thought. So one system of things taunts the other. Well, well, so be it. It ever was; it ever will be.

When the Lord wants something for an hour of peculiar need, the methods have to be out of the ordinary. To those concerned He has to say, "Others can; you cannot."

We are entering more and more deeply into such an hour at this time. The general thing is not meeting the situation. The Lord must bring through something which will "come to the kingdom for such a time as this" (Esther 4:14).

The Surprising Ways of God With Us

If we do really walk with the Holy Spirit, we find that He is leading us into things that we never thought of, never intended - but as He does it we have to say, This is not something that has just arisen, this is something that was intended of God. I am just coming into a program; the Lord has not shown me the whole program, but this is like item after item on the program.

As we look more deeply into God's ways with us and know God's principles, we see a wonderful logic in it all.

Possessing Our Inheritance

How many Christians are enjoying the inheritance, are possessing their inheritance, are even progressing toward the possession of their inheritance? Many are not, yet they are children of God, legally heirs. Between being a legal heir and becoming a spiritual inheritor, something may happen so that you miss the inheritance. The New Testament is all the time telling us that we have a great inheritance - then do not miss it! we have great rights - then do not let them go; we are called into something from eternity - but be sure you "make your calling and your election sure." It is the difference between our legal status and our spiritual state.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 8)

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Words of Wisdom and Revelation # 6

Words of Wisdom and Revelation # 6

Characteristics of Service to God

We may not be Jeremiahs, Isaiahs, or Pauls, but we are called to serve the Lord's interests, and there may be very much more sovereignty behind our lives than we are aware of. It may be only as we go on that we shall become conscious that the Lord evidently brought us into being for something - that there is something stirring in us that gravitates in a certain direction which is prophetic of how we are to serve the Lord. We find things taking shape in a certain way, with a corresponding deep exercise of our hearts about that. We come up against our own lack of qualification, our own unsuitability, and we are thrown right back upon the God of resurrection. We find that the very fact of our being thrown upon the Lord for everything is a sovereign act, with a view to safeguarding everything for the Lord. It is the safest thing, and perhaps one of the greatest evidences that things are of the Lord, when we feel, on the one hand, that we must, out of an inward compulsion,serve the Lord, and yet, on the other hand, that if there is to be anything at all for the Lord, it must be all of His doing. But let us note well that there is the vital turning point. Whatever we may have sensed before, until that day comes when the self-element gets right out of the way, until all the sense that we can do it and want to do it is thoroughly smitten and we are in the place where we really know that if there is going to be anything at all, it must be of the Lord, nothing can really arise. But when that day comes, then all that purpose which has been waiting stored up will begin to break out and take charge of our lives in a new way, we shall know that we are girded by God for something - not perhaps what we would have chosen. It may perhaps be for the most difficult thing ever given to anyone to do...once the Lord has set His hand to do a work, He will sovereignly carry the vessel of that service to full accomplishment so long as the vessel remains suitably yielded in His hand.

Standing Alone

There are people who can move in crowds, and who will act when they have others supporting and encouraging them, but many fade out when it is a case of facing this tremendous thing alone. Superior greatness is shown by taking personal responsibility whether others do so or not.

Superior greatness is willingness to stand for what God has revealed as His will, though we have to stand alone. It may be one against many, there may be a considerable amount of aloneness, but that is where the test of our spiritual measure comes in, in initiative and responsibility that does not wait for an organization to come into being to deal with the situation, but makes it a personal matter - and a thorough going one, too.

Reaching a Place of Strategic Value

Job's was a tremendous climb out of a miry condition, up and out into that place of vindication where the Lord could point to him in a new way and say to others, "This man is the key to the answer to your prayers and you will not get any answer to prayer unless he stands in the breach: your spiritual interests and destiny hang upon him." That is tremendous: that a man should have reached some specific point where the destiny of many others hangs upon him, and God has determined it and said it in so many words - "Your spiritual good is bound up with this man; I have had to bring him to this position for your sake."

Standing for God's Full Thought

God has set His heart upon having His whole counsel represented. God must have that whole counsel found in representation or He is defeated, and so He sets to work to bring those who will come, who will pay the price, into this position which, in the first place, satisfies Him, and in the second place, serves Him in that purpose; and a basic essential is a passion in our hearts for God's fullest thought. If He is going to lead us into it, He must have that response in us for His own satisfaction.

God's Wise Providences

The operations of the Holy Spirit, and the providential way of God - strange, mysterious Providences - these are all designed to keep us on the stretch. Any life that is really under the government of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, will never be allowed to settle down, will always be kept on the move - oh, yes, by strange means. The Lord knows how to deal with you and me. He knows the tendencies of our makeup, our constitution, our natures. He knows us exactly, every one of us, and (oh, that we could believe it, really believe it always!) the way in which we are going is the way that the infinite, inscrutable wisdom of God knows to be the only way by which we shall come to a greater measure of the Lord. He vetoes much in order to economize, to ensure that we shall not be spreading ourselves too widely but be directed into the essential channels.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 7)

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Words of Wisdom and Revelation # 5

Words of Wisdom and Revelation # 5

The Cost of Enlightenment

We know that the book of Joshua is the book of the inheritance. The people are going in to possess, to occupy, to exploit, in inherit. But what was the very first move, when Israel had come to the borders of the land, forty years previously? The setting up of Intelligence. Spies were sent to spy out the land. Joshua sent over intelligence officers, his intelligence Corps. Intelligence was a tremendously important thing here. We might say that Joshua and Caleb were themselves the very embodiment of the principle of intelligence. It was they who brought the report which, in the long run, resulted in a people going in and possessing. But note at this point an interesting and impressive and significant thing. The people thought to stone them! You see, the enemy is not only over there in the land - he is entrenched in the very hearts of the people themselves, he has got a footing there. How true that is to principle and to history! Let any of the people of God begin to get some new light, and, as the Lord's instrument, they will become the object of satan's hatred: he will stir up forces to stone that instrument. He hates instruments of spiritual enlightenment.

The Word Of The Lord For Now

The food question among the Lord's people today is a very acute one, and a more or less good ministry is not going to meet the need. There is a growing concern to know, as distinct from the generalization of truth and service, what is the Lord's word for now, where we are, and what in the Divine purpose belongs to this present hour.

The Work of the Lord

What is the work of the Lord? What is Christian service from God's standpoint? It is contributing to the fullness of Christ. It is in the measure of each several part ministering to that end, that all things shall be summed up in Christ, and that He shall be the fullness of all things. That great Divine goal has many ways and many means of attainment, and it is not a matter of whether you or I are serving the Lord in the same way as someone else. That is not the point at all. We standardize and departmentalize Christian work, and we think of the activities of ministers and missionaries and suchlike functions, and we call that work of the Lord; we think of that when we speak of going into Christian service. The work of the Lord is, and can be, no more than contributing to the fullness of Christ and ministering of that fullness to Him and from Him. How you do it is a matter of Divine appointment, but that is the work of the Lord. You might aspire to be an apostle Paul - probably if you understood a little more you would not! But you see, whether Paul is doing it along his Divinely appointed line, in his Divinely appointed way - or Peter - or John - or this one or that one - the object comes first, the way afterward.

The beginning of all service in relation to God is the servant himself. What makes a servant of God? We think of a servant of God being made by academic training, Bible teaching,by this or that form of equipment,and we think when we have all that, when we have been through the course and have in our minds all that can be imparted of that kind, we are the Lord's servants. But that is not the way the Lord looks at it at all. The Lord is going to require that He shall be able to say, "Behold, my servant", and the servant to whom He will call attention will be the servant who is the impression of Christ. Yes, Christ registered, Christ presenced, Christ apparent, in the servant. God is far more concerned with having His servants in a right state than He is with having them furnished with all kinds of academic qualifications and titles.

You can use the Scripture and it may have no effect at all, or you can use it, and it may have a mighty effect. A great deal depends  upon who uses the Scripture. It is the man of God who can use it in that way and be attested as the true servant of the Lord.

It is with you and with me that the Lord is concerned; it is with what we are, it is with our personal knowledge of Himself. It is that we may have within us the secrets of the Lord, that it may be true of us as it was of the Lord Jesus and of others that the key to the situation spiritually is in our hands.

The Need to Press On

There is a vast amount in the Kingdom that we have never suspected - do believe that. There is more for all of us to know than anybody on this earth knows - for more than the very greatest saints, the most advanced Christians, know of the purpose of God. Paul intimates that. In his Philippian letter he makes it clear that even at the end of his life, he has yet to apprehend, he needs still to know. "That I may know..." (Phil. 3:10). There is far more to know. Are you going to allow your life simply to be boxed up within the measure that you know, or within the measure of other people? No - it is the measure of Christ that is God's end..."till we all attain unto the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full-grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13). No movement, no society, no evangelical organization, no church on this earth has come to that yet, but that is the objective in view.

The Testimony Before the Work

The Lord is more concerned for a testimony than for a work. We need to get clear on that. A good deal of confusion comes in when you begin to think of things in the light of a work. When you get a lot of people leaving their employment to go into "the work", all kinds of complications arise; and really the Lord is not, in the first place, after the work. I am not saying you are not to work for the Lord, but in the first place it is not the work the Lord is after, it is a testimony, it is a light, a living flame.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 6)

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Words of Wisdom and Revelation # 4

Words of Wisdom and Revelation # 4

The Road to Conformity To Christ

As the Man (Christ) is the full embodiment of the perfection of God's thoughts concerning man that is ultimately to be, man that is eventually to occupy God's realm, and as Son of man He is installed, enthroned, established as the perfect model of how things are going to be; and God is taking the straight course in the power of the Spirit to that end - to have things according to the Man in the glory. And that Man in the glory is not just officially, but morally and spiritually, governing everything to that end. You and I are not brought to God's end simply by those sovereign acts of the Lord in heaven which save us from all kinds of difficulties. Something has to be done in us, and therefore it must be spiritual and moral government that operates to conform us to the image of God's Son; so that, although there may seem to be hinderances and obstructions and difficulties - and there are - nevertheless, His spiritual government is producing spiritual ends in us which mean approximation to His own likeness. So it is a spiritual government, for it means that everything is spiritual. Ascendancy and triumph and arrival are going to be spiritual, not just natural - we shall not simply be brought there apart from anything that is accomplished in us. We are moving toward God's end by spiritual government within our lives, not merely by a sovereign hand upon us.

The Deeper Meaning of Pentecost

Pentecost in its outworking - or the presence of the Holy Spirit here - will mean that those in whom the Spirit operates and has His own way will never be able to rest short of God's full thought for themselves or for others. They will be deeply exercised and burdened and will be drawn into the travail of Christ, to fill up that which is lacking of His sufferings for His Body's sake which is the Church. This man in Christ is a marked man, he is marked from heaven as one whose whole heart is taken up with this great concern that what is there should be found here that what is true of Christ, the Man in the glory, should be more fully expressed here in this new man, the Church, the Body. That is an operation of the Holy Spirit; and if you tell me that the Holy Spirit is having His way, and yet there is complacency with things that are not according to Christ, I say that is a contradiction; it cannot be. If you are perfectly satisfied with things as they are in yourself or in other believers, and have no real concern that there should be a full conformity to the image of Christ and that the whole Body should be brought to the measure of the stature of a man in Christ, the Spirit of God is not doing the work in you. Pentecost in its deeper meaning will produce that. The very fact that so soon after His advent the Church moved out as by Divine urge to seek the members of the Body and then to bring them into full conformity is proof positive that the Spirit of God is seeking to perfect a Body, a manhood, according to that Man Who has been revealed as in the glory.

The Lord is very greatly concerned about spiritual measure, although His people are not so concerned; and Christ, the Man in fullness, is coming down to be like a measuring rod beside His Church, and to say, This is where you are not true, and you must adjust; this is where you have excesses, and they must go; this is where you have deficiencies, and they must be made good. It is the Spirit of God at work all the time to see to it that in all details we are according to Christ, the Spirit of God working in relation to that perfect measure that is in heaven, the measure for this Body, for this collective man, in all its parts.

The Man in the glory, being at God's right hand exalted, established, settled, is the assured realization of God's end. The Spirit of sonship has come, not to try and do something, not with a hope that it may be; He has come in all the sovereignty of that One there, and it is going to be.

There is a Man in the glory; the Spirit of God has come and has entered into us with just one object - to make all things abound toward the reproducing of that Man in us,in measure individually, and in the collective measure of the individuals in one glorified Body, Christ corporate.

The God Who Raises the Dead

Death is the thing which pronounces an end. Whenever you and I say, This is the end, we are finished! - we have succumbed to death. That is the verdict of death, for death always says that. The Church should never believe in ends - that is to capitulate to death. Although a thousand times in ourselves we might feel the end has come, in the very experience which brings us to that place God has invested a new realization that in Him that finality is cancelled out. We should never expect an end until God says, That is the end! God is trying to bring us to the place where we stop expecting what the devil is constantly offering through circumstances - death, an end, limitation. God is all the time thinking of increase, enlargement. God allows very deep and hard and painful things - things which bring us in ourselves really to the point of giving up, where we pass the verdict of death upon ourselves. He allows them with this object, that - however much we may have known and proved the truth in our earlier experience - He may bring us yet a stage further into the power and good of it, that God raiseth the dead. If He does that, then there is hope for anybody and for anything.

Again and again in the course of our history, we shall be at the place where there is no hope but in "God Who raiseth the dead" (2 Cor. 1:9) if there is to be any future at all. We shall come there in our own soul life - that we are at an end of our resources, mind, heart, and will. We may come ofttimes in our very physical life to the place where, if God does not do something, it is an end. We shall come there in the work of God - where everything seems to declare that this is the finish of the work, there is nothing more possible; but now is the occasion for the God Who raises the dead, the God of promise, the God of Isaac, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 5)

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Words of Wisdom and Revelation # 3

Words of Wisdom and Revelation # 3

Spiritual Gifts vs. Spiritual Persons

There is a difference between spiritual gifts and spiritual persons. The gifts - what are they? The result of the Spirit coming upon a person. The spiritual person - what is he? He is spiritual as the results of the Spirit forming within. There is a lot of difference between inward formation and merely outward action.

Accredited Ministry

Truly accredited ministry is through suffering. Accredited ministry represents a tremendous victory, set in a background of great conflict.

A determined effort is made through the age to discredit spiritual ministry, and to do so through the one engaged in that ministry.

One who counts for the Lord, is a joint of supply, who can be of value in any way to the Lord's people, and stand in His testimony, will know the enemy's effort to render those spiritual values nil by discrediting.

All ministry that is to be accredited will be bound up with suffering; a decision we have to make is as to the object of our ministry. A good many things can be taken into consideration, but there comes a point where all other things have to be ranged on one side, and one thing on the other side - the real spiritual value, without alloy: that which is wholly of God and not at all of man. In the measure in which that is true there will be suffering. To stand utterly for what is spiritual is a costly thing.

There must be a willingness to be dealt with by the Lord, in such a way as to keep the ministry living and pure. All ministry which issues from such suffering is going to count. It may not be welcomed or desired by the mass, but where there is need and a call for that which we have gained through suffering, there will be response.

But the treasure is in vessels of fragile clay; the vessel is being broken day by day.

Holding the Ground

We do not know why we are in the place that we are in. Everything seems so difficult, so contrary, and then we see things begin to break up. It looks like calamity, and in the end there is something secured for God. But it necessitates our being there pronouncedly the Lord's to secure it. This does not just happen.

He may hold us in a place and not let us go until that testimony is there established, and then perhaps He will give the situation, or those there, into our hands.

Enlargement Through Perplexity

The facts are that there is often a large service through a certain curtailment, a fuller life through a deeper death, a richer gain by a keener loss, and we have to look for the impact of the operation of God in us in a realm where the eye of man cannot trace...Supposing the deepest purposes of God can only be realized by His hiding from our flesh all that that flesh craves for its life, and - more - supposing His work in us, whereby triumphant faith and obedience reach their highest form, necessitates His concealing Himself and accepting the risk of being considered to have been unfaithful? There is no doubt that most of those who have been called into some of the most vital expressions of the eternal purpose have been trained in the school of apparent Divine contradiction, delay, withdrawal, and darkness.

The Faith That Challenges Mountains

Here is a situation full of difficulties, full of threatenings, full of adversities; why, it is almost an appalling prospect, yet nevertheless give me a chance there! You see the challenge. Do difficulties appall you or do they at once present a great opportunity for the Lord? How are we facing the big difficulties? and there are difficulties! there are problems! and these mountains seem to pile up upon one another as we go on. Sometimes it seems an impossible outlook and prospect, a hopeless situation. Perhaps for our own lives individually for some reason withing ourselves or outside of ourselves, or for that work to which we are called, the ministry, the testimony that is laid upon us, it seems so utterly hopeless, the mountain is impossible. Well, what about it? Is it - Give me this mountain! Nothing but a real faith in God can take things on like that, and say - All right, it is difficult, there is no doubt about it, it is an appalling prospect naturally, a hopeless outlook; nevertheless let us take it on in the Name of the Lord; it may be that the Lord ... THE LORD - looking at the mountain through the Lord, and not at the Lord through the mountain.

I think that is the kind of faith that we need, that brings into rest. A mountain - yes, it is a mountain right enough, a physical mountain, a circumstantial mountain, a mountain of outlook in the work Naturally we would do the right thing, the wise, commonsense thing if we said, No, we are not going to touch that! But faith says, I am not going to try and skirt that mountain, I am not going to turn my back on it and run away; give me this mountain!

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 4)

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Words of Wisdom and Revelation # 2

Words of Wisdom and Revelation # 2

Leaving Room for God

On the day of Pentecost there was "a sound as of a mighty rushing wind." Have you ever been in a really mighty rushing wind? The thing about a real wind storm is that it takes the government out of all other hands and proceeds to do as it chooses without reference or deference to conventions, traditions, common acceptances, inclinations, or fixed ideas. While it lasts,k it is sovereign. That is how it was then; but there were those who were offended, shocked, scandalized, and who said in effect that such a way could never be of God... So we see that for all enlargement and increase, we must leave room for God to do 'new' things, strange things, things that we cannot understand for the moment. We only put ourselves outside of His intention to enlarge spiritually if we bind Him to our own fixed judgments.

Reaching Divine Fullness

Divine fullness is only going to be reached by a progressive and ever-increasing revelation of Christ and His significance. Such a revelation - unless we misunderstand the record of God's ways from of old - comes firstly to an apprehended instrument which is taken into the deeps with God; then it is given forth as His truth for His people; and then it becomes the inwrought experience and knowledge of such as really mean business with God - not as to their blessing, but as to His purpose and inheritance in them.

The Present Need

Men (and women) of stature - (Isaiah 65:14; Ephesians 4:13).
In whom the Cross has done a deep work as to self-interest.
Who are not so concerned to preach, or to try and influence others to a doctrine or theory, but whose main influence will be one of LIFE.
Who have come to know the Lord in a way of proving.
Whose reaction to every situation, circumstance, and proposition is: Does it glorify God? and whose touchstone by which all things are tested and determined is: Can it work out to an increase of Christ?
For such there is a pressing need, in the Church, in the Lord's work, and in all the nations.
Inquire in the Secret Place.
Basis of considerations: (Romans chapter 6).

Christ Only and Fully

Whenever and wherever, by a new revealing of Himself, His purpose and method, the Lord has secured those who have moved out on to the ground of Christ only and in fullness, they have always had to meet a great and painful cost. Usually it has been their own brethren in Christ who have exacted it ...The truth is that - in many cases - they have only taken the ground which everybody knows is the ground of spiritual fullness, where questions of "church connection" and orders, etc., are never raised; where such things or practice are never mentioned, but "Christ is all and in all"; and the one concern has been that He should have what is His ground and way of continuous increase.


The Way of Fruitfulness

If you are going to be an overcomer... if you are going with the Lord wholly and utterly, to persecute in a thoroughgoing way God's will end, to pursue it...and pay the price...there is undoubtedly going to be tremendous enrichment of others, and the fact is, and it is a settled law, that the enrichment of others can only come in this way. Those who will not pay the price forfeit the fruitfulness. The real values of Christ have come all the way through the centuries through men after this sort, men of this mind... Your greatness and your value and your fruitfulness will be according to the utterness of your abandonment to God's full thought. He will see to the rest, and many will thank God that you paid the price, that you suffered for an utter way for the Lord, that you counted not the cost too great.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 3)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Words Of Wisdom and Revelation # 1

Words Of Wisdom and Revelation # 1


Very shortly after his departure in 1971, the Norfolk Christian Gathering of Norfolk, Virginia, issued a statement of "MEMORIES AND THANKSGIVING FOR THE DIVINE CALLING, LIFE, AND MINISTRY OF GOD'S SERVANT - T. AUSTIN-SPARKS." That statement said, in part:

"We thank the Lord that...
the distinctive emphasis and message of the Word revealed to Brother Sparks reached us in America years ago through "A Witness and a Testimony," its associated literature, and his personal visits for conferences...

"We thank the Lord that...
in his person and his messages, the Lord enabled Brother Sparks to bring fresh spiritual values out of living experience - messages wrought in him - evidencing the illumination of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ and of the Father's eternal purpose in His Son. All of our brother's spoken and written ministry came to us as bearing the unction and imprimatur of the Holy Spirit.

"We thank the Lord that...
He gave our brother that much-needed ministry for the remnant in this current end-time period. By it we were greatly encouraged in faith to 'go on' into God's full purpose in spite of misunderstandings. 
"In his spoken and written ministry the Lord has bequeathed to us a great legacy of truth - a trust so vital that it imposes on us a serious challenge and responsibility..."

Because we brothers have been spiritually enriched in such great measure over a forty year span by Mr. Sparks' ministry, we are deeply concerned to make some little part of that wealth available to others. So for the following pages we have culled a number of choice passages from Mr. Sparks' writings - though mostly from "A Witness and a Testimony" magazine covering the years 1941 through 1971 - and have loosely arranged the selections under three headings:

1. Individual Christian Life and Service
2. Christianity and the Church - the New Testament Model vs. the Contemporary Scene.
3. The Lord's Coming and its Challenge to Christians.

Our desire and hope for these pages - reflecting in a small way Mr. Sparks' own heavy burden through many, many years of service and suffering - are that they may contribute to the building up of others to more mature spiritual stature, and as a consequence further their preparation for the Lord's return. May He do it in all of us!

Individual Christian Life and Service

God's Mysterious Dealings

If God were dealing with us as sinners, that is, if He were dealing with us because of certain personal sins and personal faults, we could quite clearly understand that; but when He is dealing with us in relation to Divine purpose, as His servants, His dealings with us go far beyond our understanding. We are taken out into a realm where we do not understand what the Lord is doing with us, and why the Lord takes certain courses with us. We are out of our depth; we are altogether baffled; and we are compelled - that is, if we are going on with God - to move with Him according to whatever light we may have, and believe that these dealings with us, so far beyond our understanding are somehow related to that purpose with which we are called, and that the explanation waits some distance ahead, and we will find it when we get there. God does not explain Himself when He takes a step with us.

The Holy Spirit's Objective

...the Holy Spirit has one object in view, and all His activities are toward that one object, namely, the establishment of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. That is what He is after, and if you want the Holy Spirit to operate, to work in your life and through you, remember it is to that He will work, and it is not always the Holy Spirit's way to give us lovely sensations and beautiful experiences which would bring us into prominence, and make something of us. The Holy Spirit may take us into deep depths in order to get the Lordship of Jesus Christ established, and He will do it in the way which will reach His end best. He will dethrone, He will break down all our strength, our glory, and our kingdom. His end is the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit prayer is, "Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever."

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2)

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Five Principles Of Interpreting the Bible # 2

Five Principles Of Interpreting the Bible # 2

Our measure of understanding of the Bible will be just in accordance with the measure of our spiritual life. This is why the Lord takes us through experiences in order to bring us to understanding. The measure of our death to the natural mind will be the measure of our understanding of the things of the Spirit. Please remember that in these days which are before us. Something has got to happen in us before we understand the Scripture. We cannot understand the Word of God by just deciding that we are going to have a training course, that we are going to have some classes for Bible teaching. No, that is not the way in which we come to understanding of the Word of God. We shall only understand according to the measure of our spiritual life. That is a principle of Biblical interpretation. Now we come to the fourth.

(4) The Final Mention

The final mention of any particular matter in the Bible is usually a key to all its meaning. That is something that we must think about. We find certain things mentioned again and again in the Bible; but when we come to the final occasion where that thing is mentioned, we usually find the key to all that has been said before. If you take a particular matter, where it is mentioned for the last time, and then note the setting and the context and the relationship, you will get the full meaning of all that has been said about that before.

Now that is a statement that I have made, and you will need to think and to work on that, but I will help you by taking just one illustration. In the last chapter of the Bible, Revelation twenty-two and verse two, we have the last reference to "the tree of life." Now when we go right back to the beginning of the Bible, we have "the tree of life" mentioned, but we are told nothing about it - it is just referred to as something that exists. We have no explanation, we are not told what that tree is, or what it means; it is just referred to as "the tree of life." We have to go to the end of the Bible for the explanation, and when we come to this last chapter of the Bible, by the context and relationship, we have a very large explanation.

Let us look at the passage. Revelation twenty-two: "And He showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb," - note the context, "the throne of God and of the Lamb." You have got to read the whole book of Revelation to understand that. There is a tremendous amount in the early chapters of this book about "the throne of God and of the Lamb." And you need to understand what the throne of God is and what is the significance of the throne of the Lamb, - "For the Lamb is in the midst of the throne."

Now in relation to "the throne of God and of the Lamb," there is "a river of water of life... in the midst of the street thereof. And on either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve manner (kinds) of  fruit, yielding its fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no curse any more; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be therein: and His bondservants shall serve Him." There is "the tree of life." It bears immortal fruit. There is no place for death here. Its fruit is born every month: this is fruit immortal, or fruit without death. The leaves of this tree are for the health of the nations. I am sorry that in most versions the word "healing" is wrongly translated. I do not know what the word is in your translation, but the original is not for "the healing of the nations," but for "the health of the nations." You may ask, 'What is the difference?' Well, one is the removal of disease, and the other is the prevention of disease.

In Revelation twenty-two, we have come to the time when the spiritual diseases of the nations have been healed, but the health of the nations needs to be preserved. It is a state that is to be maintained. Thus, the leaves are not for healing, they are for preservation. And so it says: "And there shall be no curse any more."

You see, you have got the whole history of the Bible in those words. You have got all that came on the nations through Adam's sin. You have corruption and death - natural disease - the result of a curse. All that is now cleared up, and "the tree of life" represents Victory of Life over all that, Life Triumphant, and Life Abundant. Here the full meaning of "the tree of life" is revealed. And it is like that will all other matters. When you come to the last mention, you have the key to the whole subject. That is a principle of the interpretation of the Bible.

(5.) The Only Real Value Is The Spiritual

Now I come to the last principle for the present, number five: the only real value is the spiritual. We must remember this when we are reading and studying the Bible, and we must keep this in mind in these times  in which we are together. We must not come here just with a thirst for more information or a craving for more knowledge. There are people who just want to get more and more knowledge and education. Now that constitutes a danger. That is exactly how Adam was caught. You see, satan said: "If you take of this tree, you will know"; it was "the tree of knowledge." And there is always a danger of eating of that tree. It might just lead us into death and not into life. So, I repeat this principle of Biblical interpretation: the only read value is the spiritual. And spiritual value is just how something affects our life with God. I do wish that Adam had recognized that. When satan tempted him to take of "the tree of knowledge," if only Adam had said, 'How will this affect my life with God?' He, and we, should have been saved all the trouble.

So, let me say this again, spiritual value is just how something affects our life with God. Shall I put that in another way - spiritual value is just how much something increases the measure of Christ. If Christ is the interpretation of the Bible, then the spiritual knowledge of the Bible results in an increase of Christ. If our days together do not result in an increase of the measure of Christ, we have missed the Way. If we do not go away more Christ-like men and women, with a larger measure of the Lord Jesus, this training course has failed. So I beg of you to pray all the way through that this time together may mean spiritual increase, spiritual knowledge, and not intellectual enlargement.

Everything has got to be judged by how much it contributes  to the Ultimate Purpose of God! We have to ask, "Where does this lead us? Is it Is it leading us somewhere? What is it leading us to? All spiritual knowledge leads to an increase of Christ; it contributes to the ultimate purpose of God. The question always is "How much of life is there in it?" It is not a matter of interest; it is not a matter of fascination with Bible truth; it is not a matter of making us more important people by the enlarging of our natural stature, but it is just a matter of the measure of Christ. This is the real spiritual value!

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(The End)

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Five Principles of Interpreting the Bible # 1

Five Principles of Interpreting the Bible # 1

God's Full Intention Governs Everything That He Does

I want to speak now about some principles of Biblical interpretation. It is very important for us to be able to know how the Bible is to be interpreted, and this will be especially seen in what we have to consider later on. Unless we do understand the principles of the interpretation of the Bible, the Bible is not an open book: we may know what is in the Book as a book, but we do not understand it until we have the principles of interpretation. So I ask you to try and remember what I am going to say now and bring it over into our later study. We will consider five important principles of interpreting the Bible:

1. The Eternity of God.
2. The Comprehensiveness of Christ.
3. The interpreter of the Bible is the Holy Spirit.
4. The Final Mention.
5. The Only Real Value is the Spiritual.

(1.) The Eternity of God

The first principle of the interpretation of the Bible is the eternity of God. We must always remember that all time is present time with God. There is no past and future with God: all that is past and future with us has been present with God always. At any moment in what is time to us, eternity is present with God.

The architect always has the completed plan before him. If he is the designer of a ship, he has a model made of that ship before anything is done. He sees in the model the completed object, that is, exactly how the thing will appear when it is finished. If it is a great building, or even a city, it is the same. The architect draws what we call a scale model, and he sees in that model exactly how the building, or the city, will be when it is finished. The builder works day by day according to that completed plan. Those who only see the parts cannot understand, and must not take the parts as being the whole. Sometimes when you look at the parts of a building, you cannot for the life of you understand what it is going to be. It is only as the completed thing is seen that you can understand the parts.

Now the Bible is just full of parts, but they are all the parts of something that God sees in completion. God is the Great Architect, He has the completed and perfect plan before Him before He begins any work. God's eternity is in every part. So we must realize that God has His full Mind behind everything that He does! You must realize that God's Mind never grows, - God Himself is incapable of development.

The temporary form of anything contains the eternal and full thought of God. You must realize that there are always two meanings in anything that is in the Bible. There is the present meaning, that is, how that applies to the present situation; but there is also the future meaning. Everything in the Bible, while it has a present application, has a fuller meaning in the future. That is the first law of interpretation: it is the eternity of God.

(2.) The Comprehensiveness of Christ

The second law of interpretation is the comprehensiveness of Christ. Christ is the interpretation of all the Bible, to know Christ is to understand the Bible. Men like Peter and Paul knew the Bible, but they did not understand it until they knew the Lord Jesus. We first know the Lord Jesus, and then we take Him back into the Bible, and He is the interpretation of the Bible. Therefore, we cannot really understand the Bible until we know the Lord Jesus. That results in this - that the Bible is really a Person, and not a book. The Bible is a Living Person, and not a dead letter. Because this Person is inexhaustible, He makes the Bible inexhaustible.

Now that is a more important principle than perhaps you realize. It is possible to exhaust the Bible as a book. We have known great Bible teachers who went through the Bible teaching it again and again, but at the end of their lives they were having difficulty in finding something fresh; and they were only repeating again and again things that they had said in past years. The reason for this is that they dealt with the Bible as a book. That will never happen if  you know the Lord Jesus and see the Bible in Him, and Him in the Bible. I repeat that the Lord Jesus can never be exhausted. As the Holy Spirit reveals the Lord Jesus to us, the Bible is always more alive. So, we have our first two principles of interpretation: (1) The Eternity of God and (2) The Comprehensiveness of Christ.

(3.) The Interpreter of the Bible Is the Holy Spirit

Now we come to number three: the interpreter of the Bible is the Holy Spirit. I have said that Jesus is the interpretation of the Bible. I am saying now that the Holy Spirit is the interpreter of the Bible. We are familiar with the words in the Letter to the Corinthians, but let us just look at them again now. The first Letter to the Corinthians, chapter two and verse thirteen: "Which things also we speak, not in the words which men's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual."

Now I do not know if you have marginal references in your Bible, but the more correct translation of those words is this: 'interpreting spiritual things to spiritual men.' Let us read the whole passage again in that way:

"Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth; interpreting spiritual things to spiritual men."

That scripture is a very important statement,and it definitely affirms the principle that we are now setting forth - the interpreter of the Bible is the Holy Spirit. First of all, then, the Bible is the Holy Spirit's Book. The Bible is not firstly man's Book, it is not our Book, we have not got the Book. We have got certain writings which are called Scripture, but in truth we do not possess the Book.

You remember the case in Acts of the Ethiopian eunuch. When Philip came near to his chariot, he heard the Ethiopian reading. He was reading the Book at Isaiah fifty-three. Philip said to him, "Understandest thou what thou readest?" And he said, "How can I, except some one shall guide me?" Here is a man who had the Book in a certain sense, but in a real and profitable sense he did not possess the Book. We can have the Book as a volume, and yet we may not possess the Book, because the Bible is the Holy Spirit's Book first. The mind of men and the Mind of the Spirit are  two altogether different things!

Do you know that there are many, many Christians who do not recognize that. There are many Bible teachers who do not recognize that. And this is the cause of very much confusion, and the reason for very much spiritual smallness and weakness. I think this may lie at the bottom of most of the controversy. The Bible is a closed Book to all but spiritual men. This is the principle that the Lord Jesus set before Nicodemus: You must be born from above before you can see what is above.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2)

Saturday, October 21, 2017

His Great Love # 23

His Great Love # 23

The Mastery of Love

And then the mastery of love. "When thou wast young thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither Thou wouldest not." When thou was young - in other words - you did as you liked; when you get old, you are going to do what you would not have done then. And love is going to make you do a lot of things you would not have done before. It is something more than "like"; it is love. You are going to be mastered by another master than yourself and your own likes and preferences. You are going to do quite a lot out of love, because you are love-mastered, that you would never do otherwise. When love is the master, you are going ways you would never go otherwise.

Is not this something that discriminates between spiritual infancy and spiritual maturity? In effect, the Lord is saying here, 'In spiritual infancy and immaturity, people always do as they like, as they want to do, as they choose. But when you get to spiritual maturity it is no longer what you want or the way you would go, it is the way the other Master says, the Master Who is love.' The day comes when you say:

"My Master, lead me to Thy door;
Pierce this now willing ear once more;
At length my will is all Thine own,
Glad vassal of a Saviour's throne."

That is a new kind of mastery. There has been service to the Lord, but this is something new, this is maturity. You notice that Paul said the very same thing in another way in 1 Corinthians 13, "A more excellent way show I unto you. If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal," and on he goes with what might be, yet without love, and of it all being nothing, and then He goes on to the positive unfolding of the nature of true love. "Love suffereth long, and is kind;love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own..." and then, without a break, it is not another chapter on another subject, he says, "When I was a child I spake as a child, I felt as a child, I  thought as a child: now that I am become a man, I have put away childish things." Oh, love, mature love, true love, this love is not childish in its thoughts and ideas and ways,seeking its own. But mature grown-up love, the love now of the man as against the child,is a different thing altogether from that. This is the love of the mature man that Paul is talking about, and it is his way, his lovely way, I was going to say - his clever way of just letting the Corinthians see that it was all childishness, this that was going on in Corinth. "I am of Paul;and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas" (1 Cor. 1:12). It is childishness and it is NOT love, and when you come to mature love, when you grow up, all that sort of thing will go. You will not be selecting your favorites, you will not be doing any of those things the Corinthians were doing.

When thou shalt become a man, thou shalt be under another mastery,and, although you will not like it, your flesh will shrink from it, you will even go to the cross. No man chooses that for his own fleshly comfort, he would shun it; but you will go to the cross. "Now this he spake, signifying by what manner of death he should glorify God." He would be so mastered that he would stretch forth his hands - Peter according to tradition was crucified - he would stretch forth his hands, he would be carried not the way he would like, but another way because of another master, the mastery of love, mature love, grown-up love.

Now this brings me to this point. The Lord does really need men and women to serve His ends. In many ways there is a need for more young men to come on in the ministry of feeding and tending. A lot of people have interpreted that "Feed My lambs" as Sunday School work. I do not believe the Lord meant that at all. The lambs in this case are not little children, although that may be your ministry and it may be included. You know, one of the most difficult things is to tend and minister to the immature, the spiritually delayed in their growth. But whatever it is, the Lord does need those who will serve Him in ministering to His own. Young men, He does! He needs you to preach the Gospel. He needs you to teach His people, to feed His people. There is a great need. Perhaps you have thought about it and perhaps you have desired it. Perhaps that is your will or your hope. But listen - the need is very great in all phases and directions of the Lord's work, He needs you; but the fact that the Lord needs you does not mean that you can do it, or that He can come now and call you into it and open the way for you. His need may be very great, and yet He may not be able now to open the way for you to come in to serve Him in meeting it. Why? It might be that you would come in on some other ground - to be a minister, to be a teacher, to be something; to study up the Bible and then pass on the fruits of your study. All sorts of things you might begin to do, and the Lord is waiting until your heart is broken over this whole situation, and it is such a heart-matter that you come to the place where you say, 'Lord, the only justification of my life is that Your interests are served.' It must be a matter of heart-love for the Lord and for what is His, and not for the work, the ministry; not for anything but for your Lord what is His. When you get there, and you are found upon your face before the Lord breaking your heart because you see He is not getting what He ought to have, when this becomes the travel of your soul, you will find the Lord will begin to do something. This is the necessary basis for the Lord to bring out His servants. That is what is here. You may come in the way to the place where you find it painful and not likeable at all, but that basic grip of the master-love will keep you going when everything would make you run away. When I see young men with ambition to be ministers, I quietly say inside, 'The Lord have mercy upon them.' This is something to be guarded against unless the Lord puts you in and holds you in. Do not have natural ambitions in the Christian realm, but ask the Lord for this love that will hold you in when you would give anything to run away.

You say, 'It is terrible to talk about Christian work like that!' But, in a true spiritual realm, you meet forces that you would never have imagined existed. You meet hell when you are seeking to build the heavenly kingdom. Well, here again the Lord does need you. The need is there, He wants you. There is work for you to do and plenty of it. Oh, His people are hungry, His sheep need tending and feeding; they need guiding, counseling, instructing, and to be provided for, and the Lord wants you to be His under-shepherds. I am so glad Peter wrote his letter about the great Shepherd and the under-shepherd. Yes, He wants you, He needs you. Do not be mistaken about that. And if He is keeping you waiting, do not think it is because He does not want you, because there is no need. It is all there, clamant, pressing, but He must have you on this basis, nothing else will do - your own personal heart-love for Him that will not choose your own way or go anywhere because you like it. You will go against yourself altogether under the constraint of His mighty love.

The Concentration of Love

If I were to add another word, it would be this - connected with Peter's seemingly superficial reaction to this terrific thing. Suddenly seeing John following on he turned around. The Lord has said, "Follow Me," and he immediately turns around, sees John and says, "Lord, and this man, what?" What I am going to say about it is not all it contains, but it is this, that you are going to be called, appointed, to your particular ministry. Others will be called to theirs and theirs may be different from yours, theirs may be in another realm altogether from yours. The Lord's servants are often characterized by a specific ministry. They have to recognize what that is and keep to it.

Effectiveness depends upon concentration and avoidance of either distraction, diversion, or divided interest. There is something in the nature of rebuke in the Lord's rejoinder to Peter - "What is that to thee?" The whole statement seems clearly to mean that the Lord has sovereign rights to dispose of His servants as He wills, and they must not allow themselves to be diverted from what He appoints for them severally.

Love for Him must work out in giving oneself wholly to the thing to which they have been called. Superficially turning therefrom to what is not their calling is itself contrary to love, it is fickleness.

Well, Peter learned this lesson, did his job, and glorified his Lord. He became a true shepherd. No one can read his letters without feeling his love for his Lord above all dividedness of heart. Love works out in faithfulness to the particular function, and faithfulness thereto unto the end - the long last proves the love.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(The End)

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Sanctifying Power of the Cross! (and other devotionals)

The sanctifying power of the cross!

(John L. Dagg, "Manual of Theology")

"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world!" Galatians 6:14
It may be profitable to yet linger a little while at the cross--that we may again survey its glory, and feel its soul-subduing power.

In the cross of Christ--all the divine perfections are gloriously and harmoniously displayed. Infinite love, inviolable truth, and inflexible justice are all seen, in their brightest and most beautifully mingled colors. The heavens declare the glory of God--but the glory of the cross outshines the wonders of the skies!God's moral perfections are here displayed, which are the highest glory of His character.

The cross of Christ is our only hope of everlasting life. On Him who hangs there, our iniquities were laid--and from His wounds, flows the blood that cleanses from all sin. Our faith views the bleeding victim, and securely relies on the great atoning sacrifice. It views mercy and grace streaming from the cross--and to the cross it comes to obtain every needed blessing.

In the cross, the believer finds the strongest motive to holiness. As we stand before it, and view the exhibition of the Savior's love--we resolve to live unto Him who died for us.

The world ceases to charm. We become crucified to the world--and the world crucified to us.

Sin appears infinitely hateful. We regard it as the accursed thing which caused the death of our beloved Lord--and we grow strong in the purpose to wage an exterminating war against it. By all the Savior's agonies, we vow to have no peace with sin for ever.

The cross is the place for penitential tears. We look on Him whom we have pierced, and mourn. Contemplating Jesus' sin-atoning sacrifice, is the highest motive to holiness. Our hearts bleed at the sight of the bleeding sufferer, murdered by our sins--and we resolve that the murderers shall die! 

The cross is a holy place, where we learn . . .
  to be like Christ,
  to hate sin as He hated it, and
  to delight in the law of God which was in His heart.

In the presence of the cross, we feel that omnipotent grace has taken hold of our heart--and we surrender to dying love.
The doctrine of the cross needs no other demonstration of its divine origin--than its power to sanctify the heart, and bring it into willing and joyful subjection to Christ.

Nothing is more helpful and practical in Christian living!(J.R. Miller)

"Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful." Joshua 1:8
The habit of treasuring up a text of Scripture in the morning, to be meditated upon while engaged in the business of the world through the day--is both profitable and delightful. It is as a refreshing spring to a weary traveler!

Nothing is more helpful and practical in Christian living, than the habit of getting a verse of Scripture into the mind and heart in the morning. Its influence stays through the day, weaving itself into all the day's thoughts and words and experiences.

Every verse in the Bible is meant to help us to live--and a good devotional book opens up the precious teachings which are folded up in its words.

A devotional book, which takes a Scripture text, and so opens it for us in the morning--that all day long it helps us to live, becoming a true lamp to our feet, and a staff to lean upon when the way is rough--is the very best devotional help we can possibly have. What we need in a devotional book which will bless our lives--is the application of the great teachings of Scripture--to common, daily, practical life!
"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night!" Psalm 1:1-2

The one unfailing source of help and comfort!

(Francis Bourdillon, "Come unto Me!")

"Come unto Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!" Matthew 11:28

Jesus invites all who labor and are heavy laden, to come unto Him. Not sufferers of one kind only--butall sufferers. Not those alone who feel the weight of this particular burden or that--but all the heavy laden.

The poor and needy,
the weak and sickly,
the toiling father,
the anxious mother,
he who feels the weight of his sins,
he whose conscience testifies against him,
he who finds no comfort in this world, and yet fears that he is not prepared for the next
--all are invited to come to Jesus!

Their cases are widely different, the burdens that press upon them are by no means alike--yet all are invited to one Helper and Comforter, "Come unto Me!" He does not bid one sufferer go for comfort to this source--and another to that. He invites all to Himself--as the one unfailing source of help and comfort! 

"Come unto Me!" We do not deserve to be thus invited. Many are suffering the consequences of their own sins--and all of us are sinners. If we met with only what we deserve--then He might justly say to us, "Go away from Me!" Instead of this, Jesus bids us come to Him. Whatever we may have been--however thoughtless, however ungrateful, however wicked--yet if we are now in need or trouble, that is enough. He bids us come to Him.

We are not to stop and think about our own unworthiness. He says nothing here about that. He only says, "Come unto Me." That is what He invites us to do--that is what we are to do, and we are to do it at once!

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Chisel of Affliction! and Other Devotions

The chisel of affliction!(Charles Naylor)

[Editor's note: Naylor is peculiarly qualified to write on affliction by his training in the school of suffering. As a young evangelist, Naylor was severely injured in an accident. For forty-one years as an invalid, he lay day and night on a bed of pain as a constant sufferer.]

"God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it!" Hebrews 12:10-11One thing very difficult for many Christians to learn, is that the chastening rod of God is applied in love, not in anger. We are told that God "scourges every son whom He receives," and that that scourging is the proof of our sonship. So often people are inclined to take God's chastisement as an evidence that they are no longer His sons. They look upon it as a mark of God's disapproval--or even of His anger. But Scripture tells us that His chastening is for our profit. He does it not for His own pleasure--but that we may be made holier by it. It is a mark of His love. He says, "As many as I love--I rebuke and chasten!" Revelation 3:19

Note carefully God's attitude in His chastening in Hebrews 12. We are all ready to admit the truth of the eleventh verse, "No chastening for the present seems to be joyous--but grievous." None of us like to be chastened--but yet it is necessary; out of chastening come the fruits of righteousness. When the Lord chastens us, therefore, let us bear it with meekness. Let us profit by it. Let us neither be grieved nor discouraged. 

Gold is purified in the furnace. It is not destroyed--it is made the better by the flames. 

In the same way, every believer must pass through the furnace. The purpose of the furnace is . . .
  that we may be purged from our dross,
  that our graces may be refined,
  that we may be rid of worldliness,
  that we may be made more holy.

If you and I have to pass through the furnace of affliction or sorrow, of losses or failures--then let us submit ourselves to the hand of God. Let us not question either His mercy or His goodness.

We must often endure the chisel of affliction, as God carves us into His image. We desire to be in His image. We desire to be godlike in character. Remember that God only afflicts for our good. Like the surgeon, God does not hurt willingly--but only of necessity.

In our times of trouble, He would have us run into His arms and tell Him all our troubles, our questionings, our heartaches! 

This unravels the mystery!

(Octavius Winslow, "Christ, the Counselor")

The path of providence is often paved with difficulties and beset with perplexities with which we can hardly cope.
Our way to Heaven is through an intricate wilderness, and across a circuitous desert.
To many even of the Lord's people, this is literally the case. Visit their abodes, and ponder the struggle passing within. All is . . .
  poverty and discomfort,
  penury of bread,
  scantiness of clothing,
  pining sickness,
  loathsome disease,
  excruciating suffering,
with no human friends, no soothing alleviation, no earthly comforts.
And yet this dark picture is not entirely unrelieved.
Christ dwells in that obscure abode! God's eye is watching over it! There is . . .
  gnawing poverty--and yet boundless wealth;
  deep need--and yet a rich supply;
  acute suffering--and yet exquisite pleasure;
  keen sorrow--and yet unspeakable joy!
And why these paradoxes? How are we to understand these strange contradictions?
The apostle gives us a clue in a page of his own history.
"As unknown--and yet well known;
 as dying--and behold, we live;
 as chastened--and not killed;
 as sorrowful--yet always rejoicing;
 as poor--yet making many rich;
 as having nothing--yet possessing all things!"
This unravels the mystery!
The possession of Christ explains it! He who has Christ in him, and Christ with him, and the hope of being forever with Christ in glory--is not a poor, nor a sorrowful, nor a suffering, nor a lonely man. He can say, "I am not alone, for my Father is with me! I am not poor, for all things are mine! My body is diseased--but my soul is in health! I have all and abound!"
Can we for a moment doubt His perfect power . . .
  to undertake all the cares,
  to cope with all the difficulties,
  to solve all the doubts, and
  to disentangle all the perplexities brought to Him by His saints in all places and at all times!
"Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name--you are Mine! When you go through deep waters and great trouble--I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty--you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression--you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!" Isaiah 43:1-3