By J.R. Miller
Ugly corners made beautiful
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely . . ." Philippians 4:8
Beauty is another quality of true manliness. It is not enough for a man to be true, to live honorably, to be just, to be pure and clean--he must also have in his life, whatever is lovely.
All God's works are beautiful. He never made anything that was not beautiful. It is sin which spoils everything!
There are many lives that are not lovely in every feature. You see things in others which you cannot admire--things which are not beautiful.
Fretting is not beautiful.
Bad temper is unlovely.
Discontent, jealousy, irritability, unkindness, selfishness are unattractive.
It is the work of God's grace--to make lives beautiful. All that grace does in us--is toward the fashioning of beautiful Christian character in us.
On a florist's signboard are the words, "Ugly corners made beautiful". The florist had reference to what he could do to beautify an ugly spot or a piece of landscape. He would trim out the weeds, plant flowers and shrubs, and transform a wilderness into a garden.
That is what grace can do in our lives. Some men seem to think that the fine and graceful things are only for women, not for men. But Christ was a man--a perfect, complete man--and there was not a single unlovely thing in His life.
He was strong--but also gentle.
He was just--but kindly.
He was firm--but patient.
He was righteous, and his indignation burned like fire against all hypocrisy and injustice--but his tenderness never failed.
Fine manliness is beautiful, like Christ. "Yes, He is altogether lovely! This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend!" Song of Songs 5:16
Their photograph flatters them!
One of the most important questions we can ask ourselves, is what God thinks of us.
One has pointed out that in every man, there are four different men:
the man whom the neighbors see,
the man whom one's family sees,
the man whom the person himself sees,
and the man whom God sees.
The community knows us only in a general way, superficially. What people think of us, we sometimes call 'reputation'--what we are reputed to be. It is a composite made up of all that people know about us, gathered from our conduct, our acts, our dispositions, our words, the impressions of ourselves we give to others.
The knowledge the community has of a man, is only superficial. It is evident that the world's opinion about people is not infallible, is not complete, is not final.
A person may be better than his reputation; his external manner may do him injustice. Some men, by reason of their shyness, their awkwardness, or some limitation in power of expression, fail to appear at their true value. The world knows only a man's outward life, and there may be good things in him which it does not know.
Then some people, on the other hand, are worse than their reputation. Their photograph flatters them! What they pretend to be--exceeds the reality. They practice tricks which give a glamor to their lives, so that they pass in public for more than they are. They wear veils, which hide defects and faults in them, and thus they seem better than they are.
Hence we cannot accept the judgment of the community, regarding anyone--as absolutely true, fair, and final.
But there is another man in us--the man GOD sees. And this is most important of all. We do not even know all the secret things of our own hearts. There is an Eye that sees deeper than ours! It is pleasant to have people commend us, when we have tried to do our duty. It gives us great joy to have the approval of our own hearts. But if we do not have the commendation of the Master, human praise and self-approval amount to nothing! "What does God think of me?" is always the final question.
Men are cruel. They judge often harshly. They know only part of the truth concerning us. They are not patient with our infirmities. But we are safe in the hands of God. He knows the worst in us--but He also knows the best. We may trust our lives, therefore, to God's judgment, even if they are full of defects and flaws. He knows all, and will bring to light all the hidden things.
Worship the Lord in the beauty of His holiness; tremble before Him, all the earth!" Psalm 96:9
Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us." Psalm 90:17
Paul enjoins that, "whatsoever things are lovely" shall be in the vision of life, into which we aim to fashion our character.
We are to follow in the footsteps of our Master. Jesus Himself was, "Altogether lovely!" Song of Songs 5:16
Humanity was made to be beautiful. God's ideal for man was spotless loveliness--man was made at first, in God's image. But sin has left its foul trail everywhere! We see something of its debasement, wherever we go. What ruins sin has wrought!
All of Christ's work of grace--is towards the restoration of beauty of the Lord in His people.
Spiritual beauty is holiness. Nothing unclean is lovely. Character is Christ-like, only when it is beautiful.
All the precepts of the Bible are towards the fashioning of beauty in every redeemed life. We are to put away . . .
all that is sinful,
every blot and blemish,
every unholy desire, feeling and affection,
everything that would defile--
and put on whatsoever is lovely and Christ-like.
The one great work of Christ in Christian lives--is the fashioning of holiness in them. We are to grow away from . . .
our poor dwarfed stunted life
--into spiritual beauty!
The mark set before us is the likeness of Christ, which, at last, we shall attain! "We know that when He appears--we will be like Him, because we will see Him as He is! And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself--just as He is pure." 1 John 3:2-3
Motes and beams
There is a duty of fault-finding. The Master Himself teaches it. In the Sermon on the Mount, He makes it very plain. We must note carefully, however, where the duty begins. We are to look first after our own faults. "Why do you look at the mote that is in your brother's eye--but do not consider the beam that is in your own eye?"
We must consider the beam that is in our own eye!
The form of this question suggest that we are naturally inclined to pay more attention to flaws and blemishes in others--than in ourselves; and also that a very small fault--a mere mote of fault in another person--may seem larger to us than a blemish many times greater in ourselves!
Of course, it is far easier to see other people's faults--than our own. Our eyes are set in our head in such a way--that we can look at our neighbor, better than at ourselves. Yet we all have faults of our own. Most of us have quite enough of them to occupy our thought, to the exclusion of our neighbor's faults--if only we would give them our attention.
Really, too, our own faults ought to interest us, more than our neighbor's, because they are our own; and being our own, we are responsible for them. We do not have to answer for any other one's sins--but we must answer for our own sins, "Each one must give an account of himself."
Also, the responsibility for getting rid of them, is ours. No faithful friend, no wise teacher, can cure our faults for us. If ever they are taken out of our life--it must be by our own faith, our own firm, persistent effort.
It is a fact, that the faults which we usually see and criticize in others--are the very faults which are the most marked in us! In our judgment of others--we show a miniature of ourselves. If this is true, we should be careful in judging others, for in doing so--we are only revealing our own faults! This should lead us also to close scrutiny of our own life, to get rid of the things in us which are not beautiful.
The man who never laughs
The disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit." Acts 13:52
The fruit of the Spirit is joy" Galatians 5:22
The Wise Man says that there is "a time to laugh." That is, there is a time when laughter is right, when it is a duty--and when it would be wrong not to laugh. Perhaps we have not been accustomed to think of laughter in this way. We regard it as an agreeable exercise--but are not apt to class it among duties, like honesty or kindness.
It would be a sad thing, however, if laughter should be altogether crowded out of life. Think of a world of human beings with no laughter--men and women always wearing grave, serious, solemn faces. Think of the laughter of childhood, departing from the world--how dull and dreary life would be! Nothing on earth is more beautiful, than the merry laugh of childhood.
Laughter has its place in every wholesome, healthy, holy life. The man who never smiles--is morbid! He has lost the joy chords out of his life. He has trained himself to think only of unpleasant things, to look only and always at the dark side. He has accustomed himself so long to sadness--that the muscles of his face have become set in hard, fixed lines--and cannot relax themselves. His thoughts of life are gloomy--and the gloom has entered his soul and darkened his eyes!
Where there is no laughter--all evils nest. Demons do not laugh!
The man who never laughs, must not blame his fellows if they think there is something wrong with his life, something dark within.
If the streams which flow out are only bitter--the fountain cannot be sweet!
The Wise Man says:
A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit." Proverbs 15:13
"A cheerful heart has a continual feast." Proverbs 15:15
A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones." Proverbs 17:22
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace" Romans 15:13
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" Philippians 4:4
We fritter away days, weeks, months!
Redeeming the time, because the days are evil." Ephesians 5:16
Gather up the fragments that are left over. Let nothing be wasted!" John 6:12
Time is short!" 1 Corinthians 7:29
Time is made up of golden minutes--not one of which we should allow to be wasted! The Master said that for every idle word that men speak--they must give account. This can be no less true of idle minutes or hours.
Most of us live as if we had a thousand years to stay here in this world! We loiter away the golden hours of our little days--as if the days were never to end! We do not see how swiftly the sun is whirling toward his setting, while our work is but half done, our task perhaps scarcely begun!
We fritter away days, weeks, months--not noticing how our one little opportunity of living in this world is being worn off, as the sea eats away a crumbling bank until its last shred is gone! We set slight value on time, forgetting that we have only a hand-breadth of it--and then comes eternity!
Many of us fail to appreciate the value of 'single days'. "A day is too short a space," we say, "that it cannot make much difference if one, just one, is wasted--or idled away in pleasure!" Yet the days are links in a chain, and if one link is broken--the chain is broken. In God's plan for our life--each little day has its own load of duty.
How these lost days shame us--as they turn their reproachful eyes upon us, out of the irrevocable past!
Many people are wasteful of time. They fail to realize its value. They appear to have it in such abundance--that they dream it can never end. They do not know that a day lost--may mean misfortune or failure for them sometime in the future. They do not know that squandered hours, minutes spent in idleness--may cost them the true success of their life, bringing failure or disaster!
They should not make the mistake of imagining they have so much time--that they can afford to let days or hours or even minutes be wasted. They cannot afford to lose one golden minute of any day. We do not know what momentous issues, affecting all our future--are involved in any quietest hour of any common-place day. There is 'a time for everything'--but the time is short, and when it is gone, and the thing is not done--it never can be done!
What you make of your life--you must make in a few years at the most; for the human span is short--and any day may be your last one! Every day that passes--leaves life's margin a little less for each of us. Our allotment of time is ever shortening!
There are a great many things it is not worth our while to do. Some of us spend our days in poor trivialities which bless no one, and which will add no lustre to our crown.
Therefore, waste no opportunity! Squander no moment! There is just time enough for you to live your life well--if you spend every moment of it in earnest, faithful duty. One hour lost--will leave a flaw. A life thus lived in unbroken diligence and faithfulness, will have no regrets when the end comes.
It is the student who must learn the lesson!
Work out your salvation with fear and trembling" Philippians 2:12-13
People sometimes think that salvation imparts . . .
fine qualities of Christian character,
lovely traits of disposition, and
elements of spiritual beauty--
without any cost or effort to the believer himself!
Christ's followers are transformed--old things pass away, and all things become new. Those who believe in Him--are fashioned into His image. But these blessings do not come easily. The heavenly graces are not put into our life--as one might hang up lovely pictures on the walls to adorn a home! They must be wrought into our life in a sense, by our own hands. We must work out our own salvation, although it is God who works in us, both to will and to work.
For example, patience is not put into anyone's life--as one brings in a piece of new furniture. You cannot merely receive patience as a gift from God. Patience is a lesson to be learned--through long and watchful self-discipline. Christ is the teacher--but you are the student, and it is the student who must learn the lesson! Not even Christ will learn it for you--to spare you the effort. Nor can it be made an easy lesson for you. It costs to grow patient, and you must pay the price yourself!
The same is true of all the elements of a godly and worthy character.
We are always at school in this world. God is teaching us the things we need to learn. The lessons are not easy--sometimes they are very hard! But the hardest lessons are the best--for they bring out in us the finest qualities, if only we learn them well.
Those, therefore, who find themselves in what may seem adverse conditions, compelled to face hardship, endure opposition, and pass through struggle--should quietly accept the responsibility; and, trusting in Christ for guidance and strength, go firmly and courageously forward, conscious that they have now an opportunity to grow strong, and develop in themselves the qualities of worthy and noble character!
If our lives were as good as our prayers
If we only tried seriously to live up to our praying--it would have a powerful effect upon our character and conduct!
There is no prayer that most Christians make oftener--than that they may be made like Christ. It is a most fitting prayer, and one that we should never cease to make. But if we very earnestly wish to be transformed into Christ's likeness--we will find the desire growing into great intensity in our daily lives, and transforming them. It will affect every phase of our behavior and conduct. It will hold before us continually, the image of our Lord, and will keep ever in our vision--a new standard . . .
It will keep us asking all the while, such questions as these, "How would Jesus feel about this--if He were personally in my circumstances? What would Jesus do--if He were here today where I am?"
There is always danger of mockeries and insincerities in our praying for spiritual blessings. The desires are to be commended. God approves of them and will gladly bestow upon us the more grace we ask for:
the increase in love,
the greater faith,
the purer heart,
the new advance in holiness.
But these are attainments which are not bestowed upon us directly, as gifts from heaven. We have much to do in securing them. When we ask for spiritual blessings or favors, the Master asks, "Are you able to pay the price, to make the self-denial, to give up the things you love--in order to reach these attainments in holiness, in grace, in spiritual beauty?"
If our lives were as good as our prayers, we would be saint-like in character.
If we find that our prayers are beyond our living, our duty is not to lower them to suit the tenor of our living--but to bring our lives up to the higher standard of our praying!