By T. Austin-Sparks
For our lives and for our service - our ministry, our heavenly vocation - there are, in union with Christ, resources at our disposal which are heavenly, inexhaustible, and incorruptible. This is the great secret of strength.
It is a grand thing and a source of tremendous strength to come to the same position as that of Christ as Man, where we know that boundless heavenly resources are available. I think we only come there progressively, and not all at once. We only come there by the way of discipline - discipline which takes the form of bringing us to an utter dependence but which is yet not an emptying and a breaking down as an end in itself, but one which is accompanied by that grace of God - that graciousness of God - which, when we are empty, makes His fullness to abound.
There is a positive as well as a negative side. God is no believer in negatives as being the ultimate goal; but when He breaks and when He empties, He does something on the positive side which ever causes us to marvel, and we have to say every time: Well, that was the Lord, not ourselves. We come progressively by that way of discipline to know that there are heavenly resources which far outstrip all human possibilities, and these resources are operative.
This is what constitutes spirituality - this is what makes a life or service spiritual: it is the drawing upon heavenly resources, living the life as out from heaven. That is spirituality. That constitutes a spiritual life and a spiritual walk. The resources are not drawn from self or from the world; they are all drawn from above. The government is not that here of men or of the world, but that which is from above. Everything is so utterly from above - and so utterly not from man - that the life or work becomes spiritual as a consequence.
Some people seem to think that spirituality is a kind of mystical or mythical "something" - that spirituality is something remote from reality, a kind of frame of mind. Well, spirituality is certainly not a frame of mind in the first place. We speak of a calm and heavenly frame... and there may be something of this kind as a fruit of it... but spirituality is not a nebulous, mythical, or abstract thing. Spirituality is the most practical thing.
When men or women are called by God into some piece of Divine ministry and, in the face of the demand, are conscious to the last degree that they have no ability, no resource, no power to fulfil that ministry, that in themselves the thing is utterly impossible, that for them to essay to do it would be the utmost folly and absurdity - when in such circumstances they recognize that they have a living Christ in whom are resources more than enough to meet that demand... and by faith lay hold of Him and go forward into the ministry with that consciousness... that is spirituality; and that is practical, tremendously practical. The issues prove that it is practical. It is in that way heavenly things are done.
Christ's spirituality was not that He was remote from what was practical in everyday life. It was that He was bringing heavenly forces and resources to bear upon the practical matters of everyday life. You can wash doors, or clothes, or floors - or do any of these ordinary domestic things - in spirituality. People seem to think that spiritual work and ordinary work - household work, for example - are two different things. They talk about the spiritual work and the other work. Now, you can bring heavenly resources in to do anything that is legitimate, and the doing of those things may be a testimony.
The majority of people have no occasion to draw upon heavenly resources for a platform ministry. For the most part their work is of some regular, daily kind; and very often they feel utterly unable for it, and they are tempted to think that if they had some spiritual ministry to fulfill - if they had to go and take a meeting or speak to some souls about spiritual matters - they could make a claim upon the Lord for help and He would carry them through. For the trivial round and common task such a thought is all too often wholly absent from the mind. Now, exactly the same resources have to come into the ordinary work as into what we call spiritual work. It has all to be done on a spiritual basis and therefore to be a testimony. To get through an ordinary day's work often requires something more than ordinary human resources. Spirituality consists in our doing everything as out from heaven. Let us be careful how we draw a line, lest we make a distinction between the spiritual and "the rest."
There is a great deal of strength to be drawn from the realization that things are not incidental, not general, but specific with regard to our being here on this earth - that we are related to an eternal purpose - that we are called according to His purpose. Wherever we are... provided we are there after having subjected our lives utterly to the Lord and definitely sought to be in His will... we are not to mark time - not to stand and wait - but to recollect that we are there in relation to a purpose.
A great many of the Lord's people are standing about waiting - marking time. They think that they are in a kind of hiatus - in some place where the real thing has no bearing upon their lives. Now let us leave such thoughts behind us. There is a treachery about that mentality. It may be true that we have not yet come into our ultimate calling, but we are in it relatively now, and we shall never come into that unless we are making good all the possibilities that are present where we are.
This is preparatory. If the Lord were to come to us and say: Now look here, this present time which seems to be unmarked by anything very special in the character of the work is nevertheless intended by Me to fit you for a large work that I have in store, which will develop in a certain given year; and on the first day of that year you will move out into a tremendous piece of work! we should begin at once to use the time between for preparation. But God does not do that, and yet it may all the time be true that at a given point in the Divine ordering of our lives there should be a moving into something very important. But He would not have us to be exercised toward Himself simply because of a piece of work that lies ahead; He would have us to be exercised toward Himself for His own sake.
It is so easy to get people to be very earnest when you give them definite work to do; but so often, apart from that, there is no personal spiritual initiative in them which takes this attitude: Well, it may be that God has something on hand! I do not know, but I am going to use this time for Him so that I shall be ready if He should call. If we were but to take that attitude - to recognize that in any case we are bound up with the purpose of God - and if only we applied ourselves with all our hearts, we should find that that purpose was already present! There is something relative to our present position which is tremendously related to God's purpose; and were we to take that line - that attitude - we should derive strength from that definiteness of objective.
Where there is no vision, the people go to pieces. That is but another way of saying that if we lose - or fail to have - a sense of purpose we lose strength.
Nothing destroys strength more than the loss of a sense of purpose. Nothing demoralizes more than the loss of a sense of definiteness of purpose. If the enemy can come in and make us feel that, after all, we have been mistaken in our calling, in our lives, in our work; that when we thought that God had something for us it was not really the case - it is all a mistake and He has no such thoughts - then the enemy has destroyed us. We are weak; we are impotent; we are demoralized; we are unable to stand up to anything. That is a thing which we have to avoid. We are called according to His purpose.
Let us watch against that pernicious habit of postponing to a "tomorrow" which never comes. Oh, it is coming! - but it does not come; and our minds are ever fixed upon a calling that is future: Perhaps next week! Perhaps a month ahead! Perhaps two months! Perhaps next year! We must be careful. The Devil wastes our lives. Today is the day in which to know the Lord as much as we can, and today's increase in our knowledge of the Lord in its measure is our equipment for a larger ministry tomorrow.
The Lord Jesus moved day by day with such definiteness because He was aware that there was a great purpose bound up with His life, and no day was wasted. "I must work the works of him that sent me while it is day.... " "I work today and tomorrow, and the third day I am perfected." His law of life was day by day to its measure... and every day as a day bound up with the great purpose of God. There is strength in such an attitude.
With regard to our union with Christ risen, we have much to assure us of a purpose... and that we are bound up with it. Oh, if the Lord would bring us to the place where we realize that we are not here just to live our life in a general sense as Christians and then go to be with the Lord in glory, but that there is tremendous purpose bound up with it. There is a mystery in the purpose. We cannot always understand how the Lord achieves His purpose, but somehow He does so in these lives of ours. That is the fact of purpose.
God's resource is according to the purpose to which He has called us. We shall not receive more than that. If we stretch ourselves beyond our measure, the vital force will not come through. If we try to step into something for which God has never chosen us, we shall lack in resource. If we try to take on something more than the apportioned gift that is particularly ours, it will be disastrous. It is God who has appointed, adjusted, and arranged the Body. We can never take it upon ourselves to say what work we shall do for the Lord.
It is a most disastrous thing when people decide for themselves how they are going to work for the Lord and what kind of work they will do. It is a terrible thing for a man to try to fulfil a teaching ministry when God has appointed him to be an evangelist; it is a disastrous thing (We use that by way of illustration). God has sovereignly decided what our work shall be - what our gift is to the Church - and we have to function in that position and keep there... and not stretch ourselves beyond our measure. If we do, the power will not follow. Many take up more than the Lord intended them to, and they break down.
To express it in the other way: If the Lord has called us to a work, then His resources are available right up to the fullness of that calling. The supply is there according to the gift - the grace according to the gift - the vital force according to the vital function. It is all there. Blessed be God, that is true. If the Lord calls, then His resources are available for that calling... right up to the hilt. But we must be careful that we do not of ourselves manufacture the calling or the appointing.
That is where our union with the risen Lord is of such account. We are to be governed by Life through union with the risen Lord. Our point is that these resources - these heavenly resources - are related to a Divine purpose. The resources will be forthcoming as we enter into the purpose, keep within our measure, and draw upon them. They are there for the purpose of God. There is strength to be derived from the resources for the purpose, and there is strength to be derived from the fact of the purpose itself.