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Choice Excerpts: Part 7

By J.R. Miller

      A secret of victorious living

      There is a secret of victorious living which, if people knew it, would make all of life easier for them. It may be stated thus: that as we take up any duty and go forward with it, we shall receive the strength we need to do it. There are several Divine promises that give this assurance.

      One reads, "As your days--so shall your strength be." Deuteronomy 33:25. This seems to mean that the help which God gives, varies according to the necessity of the particular day. God fits His blessing--to our days.
      When we are faint--He increases strength.
      When we are sorrowful--He gives comfort.
      When we are in danger--He grants protection.
      When we are weary--He gives rest.
      "As your days--so shall your strength be."

      Another of Christ's promises reads, "My grace is sufficient for you." Every word of this assurance shines with radiant light.

      "My grace is sufficient for you." It is Christ's grace that is sufficient. We know that He has all Divine fullness, and therefore we are sure that no human need can ever exhaust His power to give help!

      "My grace is sufficient for you." It is Christ's grace that is sufficient. If it were anything else but grace, it might not give us such comfort. Grace is undeserved favor, goodness shown to the unworthy. We deserve nothing, for we are sinners. But it is Christ's grace which is sufficient, and so we can claim it.

      "My grace is sufficient for you." It is present tense--IS sufficient. Christ is always speaking personally to the one who is in any need, and saying, "My grace IS sufficient for you."

      "My grace is sufficient for you." The word "sufficient" is one whose meaning expands and amplifies with the measure of the need. No necessity is so small as not to be included; and none is so great as to go beyond the capacity of the blessing that is promised.

      "My grace is sufficient for you." The grace is sufficient for each of His redeemed children--"for you" the promise runs.

      Life lies before us, with . . .
      its burdens,
      its duties,
      its responsibilities,
      its struggles,
      its perplexities.
      It does not come to us all in one piece. God breaks our years--into months and weeks and days, and never gives us more than just a little at a time--never more than we can bear or do for the day.

      If we take up the present duty or burden--we shall always have strength to do it. If we do not have strength of our own sufficient for the work or struggle, we need not falter--but should go on, just as if we had omnipotence in our arm; for as we obey God, though the task is impossible to our ability--He will sustain us by giving us all the help we need.

      Is Jesus like anybody we know?

      The one who says he abides in Him--ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked." 1 John 2:6

      A little child, after reading in the New Testament one day, asked her mother, "Is Jesus like anybody we know?" The child was eager to discover just what were the elements of the character of Christ, His disposition, His spirit, the mind that was in Him.

      The mother ought to have been able to answer, "Yes, I am trying to be like Jesus; if you will look at my life, and study my character--you will see a little of what Jesus is like."

      Every follower of Christ should be able to say the same to all who know him. The likeness is imperfect, for in many things we come short; but, if we are true Christians, we must be trying to live as He would--if He were in our place.

      Leaving you an example--so that you should follow in His steps." 1 Peter 2:21

      There are some things that money cannot buy!

      There are things that can be bought with money--but there are some things that money cannot buy!

      With money--we may build a house, and adorn and furnish it. But money cannot buy home happiness, and the sweetness, comfort, and refinement which make true home life!

      With money--we may purchase food and clothing, coal for the fire, and luxuries for physical enjoyment. But money cannot buy . . .
      fine character,
      moral beauty,
      a gentle spirit,
      peace in the heart, or
      any of the elements which make up a noble personality!

      My Shepherd!

      The LORD is my shepherd; I have everything I need!" Psalm 23:1

      The shepherd is a favorite Scriptural picture of the divine love and care. In the Old Testament, the twenty-third Psalm gathers the whole wonderful truth in exquisite lines, which are dear to young and old wherever the Bible is known. Then in the New Testament, when our Lord would give His friends the sweetest revealings of His heart toward them, and tell them what they are to Him, and what He would be to them--He says, "I am the Good Shepherd."

      The Hebrew shepherd lives with his sheep. If they are out in the storm--he is with them. If they are exposed to danger--so is he. Just so, Christ lives with His people. He enters into closest relations with them.

      The shepherd knows his sheep. He has a name for each one and calls them all by their names. Just so, Christ knows each one of His friends, has intimate personal knowledge of each one. He knows the best in us--and also the worst--our faults, our sins, our wanderings. Yet, knowing us as we are--He loves us still and never wearies of us!

      The shepherd is most gentle with his sheep. He does not drive them--but goes before them and leads them. When they need rest on the way--he makes them lie down, and chooses for their resting-place, not the dusty road--but green pastures. He is especially kind to the lambs, gathers them in his arms and carries them in his bosom. All this is an exquisite picture of the gentleness of our Good Shepherd in His care of His sheep. He is thoughtful toward the weak. He loves the lambs and makes room for them on His bosom. Whatever the need is, there is something in the heart of Christ which meets its craving and supplies its lack!

      The shepherd defends his flock in all danger. Often he had to risk his own safety, even his life, in protecting his sheep. Just so, the Good Shepherd gives His life--for His sheep!

      Christ's sheep are absolutely safe in His keeping. "I give unto them eternal life," He said; "and they will never perish--ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand!" Then at last, He will bring His own all safely home, "and they shall become one flock--with one Shepherd!"

      The burning of these old Ephesian books!

      Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A number of them who had been practicing magic brought their books and burned them at a public bonfire. The value of the books was several million dollars!" Acts 19:18-19

      One proof of the power of Christianity, was in the way these new believers at Ephesus renounced their evil ways and gave up their profitable sins. They saw the emptiness and folly of the things in which they had been trusting, and openly confessed the sinful deeds they had been doing. Many of them who had been engaged in the practice of magic arts, brought their books together and made a bonfire of them in the public square.

      Always, those who follow Christ should be ready to part with whatever is sinful in their life and work, that Christ may be honored above all. Sins kept in the heart--poison the life, hide God's face, and shut out blessing. No matter what it may cost, our sins must be sacrificed, or they will destroy us!

      The burning of these old Ephesian books suggests that we should have bonfires of our evil books. There are many books which ought to be burned! They carry in them Satan's poison! To read them is to debauch our own souls. To put them into the hands of others--is to ruin them.

      In India, a man took down a book from the shelf--and a viper came out of the book and stung him to death! Just so, there are many books in which deadly vipers lie hidden! We should be most careful in choosing the books we read. A good book is a great blessing--but a bad book is a curse!

      If we are in any of these prisons

      "Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake
      that the foundations of the prison were shaken.
      At once all the prison doors flew open, and
      everybody's chains fell off!" Acts 16:26

      There is no prison too strong for God to break open;
      there are no chains too heavy for Him to snap asunder,
      there are no walls too thick for Him to shatter.

      There are other kinds of prisons besides those built
      with stone--prisons of trial, of temptation, of trouble,
      of circumstances. If we are in any of these prisons,
      God is just as able to bring us out of them!

      Teach me how to pray, mother!

      Lord, teach us to pray!" Luke 11:1

      A little child missed her mother at a certain time every day. The mother's habit was to slip away upstairs alone, and to be gone for some time. The child noticed that the mother was always gentler, quieter and sweeter after she came back. Her face had lost its weary look--and was shining! Her voice was gladder, more cheerful.

      "Where do you go, mother," the child said thoughtfully, "when you leave us every day?"

      "I go upstairs to my room," said the mother.

      "Why do you go to your room?" continued the little questioner. "You always come back with your face shining. What makes it shine so?"

      "I go to pray," replied the mother reverently.

      The child was silent for a little while, and then she said softly: "Teach me how to pray, mother!"

      When you pray, say: Our Father . . ." Luke 11:2

      That one word is the key to the whole mystery of prayer. When Jesus taught his disciples to speak to God, calling Him by that blessed name--He gave them the greatest of all lessons in prayer. When we can look into God's face and honestly say 'Father,' it is easy to pray. God loves to be called 'Father'. It opens His heart to hear all that we say--and to grant all that we ask.

      Such power has the word 'father' spoken by a child, to open a human heart. Such power too, has the name 'Father' to find and open the heart of God! If we can sincerely say 'Father' when we come to the 'gate of prayer', we shall be sure to find entrance. If God is really our Father, we will no longer have any question as to whether we may pray to Him, or as to how to pray.

      Some of us find life hard. It is full of cares and questions, of tasks and duties, of temptations and dangers. There are thorns and briers, among its roses. There are pitfalls in its sunniest paths. If we do not know how to pray--we can never get through the days. The privilege of prayer is always ours. The 'gate of prayer' is always open! Any moment we can look up and say 'Father', lay our need before the throne of mercy--and God will answer us as He desires!

      A poor shoemaker in his dreary little shop

      Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day." 2 Corinthians 4:16

      For our perishable earthly bodies must be transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die!" 1 Corinthians 15:53

      The lesson of the imperishable life, has a special application to those who suffer from sickness or from any bodily affliction. It will help us to endure physical sufferings quietly and unmurmuringly, if we will remember that it is only the outward man that can be touched and affected by these experiences, and that the inward man may not only be kept unharmed, but may be growing all the while in beauty and strength, being spiritually renewed through pain and suffering.

      A poor shoemaker in his dreary little shop in a great city, one day noticed that there was one little place in his dark room, from which he could get a view of green fields, blue skies and faraway hills. He wisely set up his bench at that point, so that at any moment he could lift his eyes from his dull work--and have a glimpse of the great, beautiful world outside.

      Just so, from the darkest sick-room, and from the midst of the keenest sufferings, there is always a point from which we can see the face of Christ and have a glimpse of the glory of heaven. If only we will find this place and get this vision--it will make it easy to endure even the greatest suffering.

      For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down--when we die and leave these bodies--we will have a home in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God Himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long for the day when we will put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing." 2 Corinthians 5:1-2

      Sickness is discouraging and is hard to bear. But we should remember that the doing of the will of God is always the noblest, holiest thing we can do any hour--however hard it may be for us. If we are called to suffer--let us suffer patiently and sweetly. Under all our sharp trials--let us keep the peace of God in our hearts. The outward man may indeed decay--but the inward man will be renewed day by day.

      Our conception of Christian life

      Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus!" Philippians 2:5

      Paul tells us that we ought to have the same spirit as Jesus, the same temper and disposition as Jesus, and the same principles as Jesus.

      The life of Christ--must be the pattern of our lives.

      We can learn what were the qualities of Christ's life, by a study of the Gospels. These precious books not only tell us about Christ, of the facts of His life, the works He did, the words He spoke--they also show us His sympathy, His kindness, His helpfulness, how He lived, how He interacted with people, how He bore enmity, unkindness and persecution.

      Perhaps we do not think enough of Christ's beauty of character and disposition--in forming our conception of Christian life. It is one thing to profess to be a Christian; and another thing to grow into the loveliness of Christ. One may be altogether sincere in confessing Christ--and yet be full of faults, only a beginner, having everything of Christian duty yet to learn; and all the beautiful qualities of Christian character yet to acquire.

      Whoever claims to live in Him--must walk as Jesus did." 1 John 2:6

      He had to 'learn the lesson' just as we do!

      I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in need." Philippians 4:11-12

      Life is a 'school'. All its experiences are 'lessons'.

      We are all in 'Christ's school'--and He is always 'educating' us.

      Disciples are 'learners' and all true Christians are disciples. We enter the lowest grade when we begin to be Christians. We have everything to learn. Each new experience, is a new lesson set for us by the great Teacher.

      The business of noble Christian living--is learning. We know nothing when we begin. Learning is not confined to what we get from reading books. All of life is a school. 'Christ's books' are ever being put into our hands, and 'lessons' are set for us continually.

      Paul tells us of one of the lessons he had learned in the 'school of experience'. "I have learned," he said, "the secret of being content in any and every situation." We are glad to know that Paul had to learn to be contented. We are apt to think that such a man as he was--did not have to learn to live as we common people do; that he always knew, for instance, how to be contented. Here, however, we have the confession that he had to 'learn the lesson' just as we do. He did not always know 'the secret of contentment'. He was well on in years when he said this, from which we conclude that it took him a long time to learn the lesson--and that it was not easy for him to do it. Christ's school is not easy.

      Sorrow is a choice lesson in Christ's school. Sorrow is not an accident breaking into our life, without meaning or purpose. God could prevent the coming of the sorrow--if He so desired. He has all power, and nothing can touch the life of any of His children--unless He is willing. Since we know that God loves us and yet permits us to suffer--we may be quite sure that there is a blessing, something good, in whatever it is that brings us pain or sorrow.

      We shrink from pain. We would run away from afflictions. We would refuse to accept sorrow. But there are things worth suffering for, things dearer than ease and pleasure. We learn lessons in pain, which repay a thousand times--the cost of our tears!

      The Bible tells us that God preserves the tears of His children, putting them in His tear-bottle. Tears are sacred to God, because of the blessings that come through them, to His children. In heaven, we will look back on our lives of pain and sorrow on the earth--and will find that our best lessons have come through our tears!

      All the 'Christian graces' have to be learned in 'Christ's school'. There Paul had learned contentment. He never would have learned it, however, if he had had only pleasure and ease all his life. Contentment comes from learning to do without things, which we once supposed to be essential to our comfort. Paul had learned contentment through finding such fullness of blessing in Christ--that he did not need the 'secondary things' any more.

      Perhaps we would succeed better in learning this same grace--if we had fewer of life's comforts--if sometimes we had experience of need. The continuity of blessings that flow like a river into our lives--gives us no opportunity to learn contentment.

      When sufferings come into our life . . .
      disagreeable things--instead of pleasant things;
      hunger and poverty--instead of plenty;
      rough ways--instead of flower-strewn paths;
      God is teaching us the 'lesson of contentment', so that we can say at length, that we have learned the secret of being content!

      Then the worm became a splendid butterfly

      Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your hearts on things above! Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things!" Colossians 3:1-2

      Paul reminds us that those who believe on Christ--should live a risen life.

      We live on the earth at present. We walk on earth's streets. We live in material houses, built of stones, bricks, or wood. We eat earth's fruits, gathering our food from earth's fields, orchards and gardens. We wear clothes woven of earthly fabrics. We adorn our homes with works of art that human hands make. We engage in the business of earth. We find our happiness in the things of this life.

      But there will be a life after this! We call it heaven. We cannot see it. There is never a rift in the sky, through which we can get even a glimpse of it. We have in the Scriptures hints of its beauty, its happiness, its blessedness. We know it is a world without sorrow, without sin, without death. Paul's teaching is that the Christian, while living on the earth--ought to begin to live this heavenly life.

      One day a friend sent me a splendid butterfly, artistically mounted, known as the Lima Moth. This little creature is said to be the most beautiful of North American insects. Its color is light green with variegated spots. In its caterpillar state, it was only a worm. It died and entered its other or higher state, as we would say--and then the worm became a splendid butterfly.

      This illustrates the two stages of a Christian's life. Here we are in our earthly state. After this will come the heavenly condition. "The things that are above" belong to this higher, spiritual life. But the Christian is exhorted to seek these higher things--while living in this lower world. We belong to heaven, although we are not yet living in heaven.

      Paul presents the same truth in another form, when he says, "Our citizenship is in heaven." Though we are in this earthly world--but we do not belong here. We are only strangers and pilgrims.

      Tangles which our fingers cannot unravel

      Show me the way I should walk, for I have come to you in prayer." Psalm 143:8

      We cannot know the way ourselves. The path across one little day seems very short, but none of us can find it ourselves. Each day is a hidden world to our eyes, as we enter it in the morning. We cannot see one step before us, as we go forth. An impenetrable veil covers the brightest day, as with night's black robes. It may have joys and prosperities for us--or it may bring to us sorrows and adversities. Our path may lead us into a garden--or the garden may be a Gethsemane. We have our plans as we go out in the morning--but we are not sure that they will be realized. The day will bring duties, responsibilities, temptations, perils, tangles which our fingers cannot unravel, intricate or obscure paths in which we cannot find the way.

      What could be more fitting in the morning than the prayer, "Show me the way I should walk!" God knows all that is in the day for us. His eye sees to its close--and He can be our guide.

      There is no promise given more repeatedly in the Bible, than that of divine guidance. We have it in the shepherd psalm, "He leads me in the paths of righteousness." Paths of righteousness are right paths. All God's paths are clean and holy. They are the ways of His commandments. But there is another sense in which they are right paths. They are the right ways--the best ways for us. Ofttimes they are not the ways which we would have chosen. They do not seem to be good ways. But nevertheless they are right--and lead to blessing and honor. We are always safe, therefore, in praying this prayer on the morning of any day, "Show me the way I should walk!"

Back to J.R. Miller index.

See Also:
   Part 1
   Part 2
   Part 3
   Part 4
   Part 5
   Part 6
   Part 7
   Part 8
   Part 9
   Part 10
   Part 11
   Part 12
   Part 13
   Part 14
   Part 15
   Part 16
   Part 17


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