By J.R. Miller
The supreme thing in Christian life!
To obey is better than sacrifice." 1 Samuel 15:22
Many people set a great deal more stress on religious rituals, than upon practical obedience. They will be faithful in attendance upon church services, devout and reverent in worship--and yet in their daily life, they will disregard the plain commandments of God! They fill the week with selfishness, pride, bitterness, and evil-speaking, and then go to church on Sunday, with great show of devotion, to engage in the worship of God!
But what God desires before our worship can be acceptable, is that we obey what He commands us. He bids us to love one another, to be unselfish, patient, kind, honest, pure, true; and unless we obey these commands, our religious rituals, no matter how conspicuous, how costly, how seemingly devout and reverent, are not acceptable to God!
There are many other phases of the truth. It is exact obedience which God desires, and not something else of our own substituted. When He tells a mother to care for her child, He is not satisfied if she neglects that duty to attend church. When God wants a man to help a poor family in some obscure street, He is not satisfied if instead of that lowly service, the man does some brilliant thing that seems to bring ten times as much honor to the Lord.
The supreme thing in Christian life--is to obey God; without obedience nothing else counts. The obedience must also be exact, just what God commands, not something else.
If you love Me--you will keep My commandments." John 14:15
We ought not to spend our life in picking up rubbish!
Do not work for food that perishes--but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you!" John 6:27
We need to be continually reminded of the unsatisfying nature of the things of this world--and exhorted to seek eternal realities. We live in a material age, when the quest of people is for money, for power, for things of the earth.
John Bunyan gives a picture of 'a man with a muck-rake', working hard, scraping up the rubbish at his feet--and not seeing the crown which hung above his head. It is a picture of the great majority of the people in this world. They are wearing out their life in scraping up worldly rubbish--not thinking of the heavenly treasures, the divine and imperishable gifts, which they might have--with half the toil and care!
We ought not to spend our life in picking up rubbish which we cannot carry beyond the grave! If we are wise, we will seek rather to gather lasting treasures and riches, which we can take with us into eternity!
Whatever we build into our character, we shall possess forever!
Money which we spend in doing good in Christ's name--we lay up as safe and secure treasure in heaven.
All true service for Christ--stores up rewards for us in the future.
What we keep--we lose!
What we give in love
we keep forever!
"Whoever is faithful in very little--is also faithful in much; and whoever is unrighteous in very little--is also unrighteous in much." Luke 16:10
We are apt to under-estimate little failures in duty.
It seems to us, a small matter:
that we do not keep an engagement,
that we lose our temper,
that we say an impatient or angry word,
that we show an unkind or harsh spirit,
that we speak uncharitably of another,
that we treat someone with discourtesy, or
fail in some other way which appears trivial.
We think that so long as we are honest, faithful, and loving in the larger things--that it of small importance, that we make 'little slips'.
But we never can tell what may be the consequences of our failure, in even the most minute duty.
A little slip hurts our own life! It leaves us a little weaker in our character, a little less able to resist the next temptation that comes at the same point. It breaks our habit of faithfulness, and makes it easier for us to break it a second time. We sin against ourselves, when we relax our diligence or our faithfulness, in even the least thing!
Then, we do not know what the consequences to others will be--when we fail in their presence. An outburst of temper in a Christian, may hinder many others in their Christian life. The failure of a Christian minister to pay a little debt, may destroy the minister's influence over many in his church.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me! But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you--for My power is made perfect in your weakness!' " 2 Corinthians 12:8-9
Many prayers which seem to be unanswered--are really answered. The blessing comes--but in a form we do not recognize. Instead of the very thing we sought--something better is given!
The burden is not lifted away--but we are sustained beneath it.
We are not spared the suffering--but in the suffering we are brought nearer to God, and receive more of His grace.
The sorrow is not taken away--but is changed to joy.
Our ignorant prayers are taken into the hands of the great Intercessor, and are answered in ways far wiser than our thought!
Instead of earthly trifles--heavenly riches!
Instead of things which our poor wisdom sought--things God's infinite wisdom chose for us!
Instead of pleasure for a day--gain for eternity!
A device for saving people from toil, struggle and responsibility
But we prayed to our God--AND posted a guard day and night to meet this threat!" Nehemiah 4:9
We are in danger of making prayer a substitute for duty; or of trying to roll over on God, the burden of caring for us and doing things for us--while we sit still and do nothing! When we pray to be delivered from temptation--we must keep out of the way of temptation, unless duty clearly calls us there. We must also guard against temptation, resist the Devil, and stand firm in obedience and faith. When we ask God for our daily bread, pleading the promise that we shall not lack--we must also labor to earn God's bread, and thus make it ours honestly.
A lazy man came once and asked for money, saying that he could not find bread for his family. "Neither can I!" replied the industrious mechanic to whom he had applied. "I am obliged to work for it!"
While we pray for health--we must use the means to obtain it.
While we ask for wisdom--we must use our brains and think, searching for wisdom as for hidden treasure.
While we ask God to help us break off a bad habit--we must also strive to overcome the habit.
Prayer is not merely a device for saving people from toil, struggle and responsibility. When there is no human power adequate to the need--we may ask God to work without us, and in some way He will help us. But ordinarily WE must do our part, asking God to work in and through us, and to bless us through faithful obedience.
I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me!" Colossians 1:29
"Mordecai gave Hathach a copy of the decree issued in Susa that called for the death of all Jews, and he asked Hathach to show it to Esther. He also asked Hathach to explain it to her and to urge her to go to the king to beg for mercy and plead for her people. So Hathach returned to Esther with Mordecai's message.
Then Esther told Hathach to go back and relay this message to Mordecai . . ." Esther 4:8-10
We are apt to overlook the minor actors in Scripture stories--in our absorbed interest in the prominent ones. Yet ofttimes these lesser people are just as important in their own place, and their service is just as essential to the final success of the whole--as the greater ones.
The little girl in the story of Naaman the leper, is scarcely seen among the splendors of the Syrian court; but without her part, we would never have had the story at all.
The young lad with the basket, is hardly thought of when we read the account of the miracle; but they were his loaves with which the Master fed all those hungry thousands that day on the green grass.
The smallest links in a chain--are ofttimes quite as important as the greatest links.
Hathach was one of these obscure characters. But his part was by no means unimportant. Without his being a trustworthy messenger, Mordecai's communication with Esther would have been impossible--and the whole nation would have perished!
If we cannot do brave things like Esther, nor give wise counsels like Mordecai--we may at least be useful, as Hathach was, in faithful service. And perhaps our lowly part may some day prove to have been as essential--as the great deeds which all men praise. We may at least help some others in doing the great things that they are set to do in this world.
The rose taught me a lesson
Turn my eyes from looking at what is worthless." Psalm 119:37
We must be always turning--if we would keep our life true and according to God's commandments.
There are some flowers which always turn toward the sun. There was a little potted rose-bush in a sick-room which I visited. It sat by the window. One day I noticed that the one rose on the bush was looking toward the light. I referred to it; and the sick woman said that her daughter had turned the rose around several times toward the darkness of the room--but that each time the little flower had twisted itself back, until again its face was toward the light. It would not look into the darkness.
The rose taught me a lesson--never to allow myself to look toward any evil--but instantly to turn from it. Not a moment should we permit our eyes to be inclined toward anything sinful. To yield to one moment's sinful act--is to defile the soul. One of the main messages of the Bible is, "Turn from the wrong, the base, the crude, the unworthy--to the right, the pure, the noble, the godlike!" We should not allow even an unholy thought to stay a moment in our mind--but should turn from its very first suggestion, with face fully toward Christ, the Holy One.
I will set before my eyes no vile thing!" Psalm 101:3
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things!" Philippians 4:8
He saw that they were in serious trouble!
"Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side. After leaving them, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray.
He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. About three o'clock in the morning He came to them, walking on the water." Mark 6:45, 46, 48
Jesus did not come immediately; indeed, it was almost morning when He came, and the disciples had been struggling all night in the storm. Yet He had not been indifferent to them meanwhile. From the mountainside where He was praying--He kept His eye upon them. "He saw that they were in serious trouble." All that dark night, He kept a watch upon that little boat that bore His disciples in the midst of the waves.
There is something very suggestive in the narrative. This 'boat in the storm', is a picture of 'Christ's friends in this world, in the storms of life'. Sometimes we think we are forgotten--but from His place in glory, Christ's eye is always on us! He sees us struggling, battling with the waves, beaten, and distressed. He has full sympathy with us in all our struggles. It ought to be a great strength and comfort to us in trial, to know this. Jesus intercedes for us in our distresses!
It may not be best always to deliver us immediately--but His prayer continually ascends, that our faith may not fail in the struggle. This also should encourage us.
Then, He always comes in time. He may delay long--but it is never too long. If we call upon Him in trouble--we may be sure that He hears and sees us, and knows just how hard it is for us to endure; that He prays for us that we may not fail, and that He will come at the right time for our deliverance!
We must hew our Agags to pieces!
Since he had no sword, he ran over and pulled Goliath's sword from its sheath. David used it to kill the giant and cut off his head!" 1 Samuel 17:50-51
If he had not cut off the giant's head--the old Philistine champion would have gotten up by and by, and walked away; for he was only stunned, not killed, by the stone. David made sure work of his victory!
A great many of our attacks upon sin in our own hearts, and in the world--only stun, and do not kill the evil. We walk away, thinking we have done a fine thing. But shortly, we meet the 'old giant' again, stalking abroad as before! He soon recovers from our blow, and we have to fight the battle over; and perhaps we fight it again in the same half-hearted way--and thus on and on, to the end of our life!
Most of us have had just such experience as this, with our own evil lusts and passions. We overcome them very often, and think each time that we are through with them--but soon again they are as active as ever.
We need to learn a lesson from David--and finish our victories by cutting off the head of every giant we strike down!
There is no other way of killing sins!
The life is in the head--and the head must be struck off--or the enemy will be facing us again in a day or two, with but a scar on his forehead!
The only way to get a real victory over vices--is to decapitate them! Bruises and wounds are not enough. There must be thorough work done, in the name of the Lord. Half-way measures will not avail.
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry." Colossians 3:5
"Samuel hewed Agag to pieces before the Lord." 1 Samuel 15:33. Like Samuel, we must hew our Agags to pieces!
When I grumble about the weather
The Lord has heard all your grumblings against Him!" Exodus 16:8
Does God really hear every discontented word which I ever speak?
Does He hear when I grumble about the weather . . .
about the hard winter,
about the late spring,
about the dry summer,
about the wet harvest?
Does He hear when I grumble . . .
about the frosts,
about the drought,
about the high winds,
about the storms?
Does He hear when I grumble . . .
about my circumstances,
about the hardness of my lot,
about my losses and disappointments?
If we could get into our heart, and keep there continually, the consciousness that God hears every word we speak--would we murmur and complain so much as we now do?
We are careful never to speak words which would give pain to the hearts of those we love. Are we as careful not to say anything that will grieve our heavenly Father?
I tell you this--that you must give an account on judgment day of every idle word you speak!" Matthew 12:36
"He who complains of the weather--complains of the God who ordains the weather!" William Law