By J.R. Miller
All God's dealings with us
Be silent before the Lord." Psalm 37:7
We are not to speak back to God, when He speaks to us. We are not to reason with Him or dispute with Him; but are to bow in silent and loving acquiescence before Him. "Be still, and know that I am God." It is in those providences which cut sorely into our lives, and require sacrifice and loss on our part--that we are especially called to this duty.
There is a moving illustration of silence to God, in the case of Aaron when his sons had offered strange fire, and had died for their disobedience and sacrilege. The record says, "And Aaron held his peace." He made no natural human outcry of grief. He accepted the terrible penalty as unquestionably just--and bowed in the acquiescence of faith.
This silence to God, should be our attitude in all times of trial, when God's ways with us are bitter and painful. Why should we complain at anything that our Father may do? We have no right to utter a word of murmuring, for He is our sovereign Lord; and our simple duty is instant, unquestioning submission. We have no reason to complain --for we know that all God's dealings with us are in loving wisdom. His will is always best for us--whatever sacrifice or suffering it may cost.
"I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for You are the one who has done this!" Psalm 39:9
Life is hard for most people
"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." Ephesians 4:2
We should train ourselves to such regard, to such respect for others, that we shall never hurt the heart of one of God's creatures, even by a disdainful look! Our love ought also to be patient. Our neighbor may have his faults--but we are taught to bear with one another's infirmities. If we knew the story of men's lives, the hidden loads and burdens which they are often carrying, the unhealed sore in their heart--we would have most gentle patience with them. Life is hard for most people; certainly hard enough without our adding to its burdens by our censoriousness, our unkindness, our jeering and contempt.
"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." Colossians 3:12
He who holds the pruning-knife
"Every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, so that it will be even more fruitful." John 15:2
Every sorrow has a mission. It comes to us, as God's messenger--with a message!
Of lessons to be learned in sorrow, the first always is submission.
A strong, abiding confidence that all the trials, sorrows, and losses of our lives are parts of our Father's husbandry--ought to silence every question, quiet every fear, and give peace and restful assurance to our hearts in all their pain. We cannot know the reason for the painful strokes--but we know that He who holds the pruning-knife is our Father! That ought always to be enough for us to know.
"Every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, so that it will be even more fruitful." John 15:2
"I have refined you in the furnace of affliction." Isaiah 48:10
We were stones in the quarry. When Christ saved us--we were cut from the great mass of rock. But we were yet rough and unshapely; not fit for heaven. Before we can be ready for our place in the heavenly temple--we must be hewn and shaped. The hammer must do its work--breaking off the roughnesses. The chisel must be used--carving and polishing our lives into beauty. This work is done in the many processes of life. Every sinful thing, every fault in our character --is a rough place in the stone, which must be chiseled off. All the crooked lines must be straightened. Our lives must be cut and hewn--until they conform to the perfect standard of divine truth.
Quarry-work is not always pleasant. If stones had hearts and sensibilities--they would cry out in sore pain as they feel the hammer strokes and the deep cutting of the chisel. Yet the workman must not heed their cries, and withdraw his hand, else they would at last be thrown aside as worthless blocks, never to be built into the beautiful temple.
We are not stones; we have hearts and sensibilities, and we do cry out ofttimes, as the hammer smites away the roughnesses in our character! But we must yield to the painful work and let it go on, or we shall never have our place as living stones in Christ's beautiful temple. We must not wince under the sharp chiseling of sorrow and affliction.
"I have refined you in the furnace of affliction." Isaiah 48:10
All life's tangles
"And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28
Our affairs are forever getting tangled, like threads in a child's hands--and we cannot straighten out the tangles ourselves! We cannot see how anything beautiful or good can come out of our poor living, or our feeble striving.
Our days are full of disappointments, and our night's rest is broken by anxieties. Yet it is the Christian's privilege to commit all life's tangles into the hands of Jesus Christ. He can take our broken things--and build them up into beauty.
One of the finest windows in a great cathedral is said to have been made out of the fragments of broken glass which the workmen had thrown away as worthless. A skillful hand gathered them up-- and wrought them into lovely form.
Just so, Jesus Christ can take . . . our failures, our mistakes, our follies, our broken fragments of life, even our sins, and make them into beautiful life and character!
"Commit your way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass." Psalm 37:5
The moment after our friends say we are dead
No earthly language is adequate to describe the blessedness, the joy, the happiness of heaven! Perhaps no human word gathers and holds in itself so much of the truest meaning of heaven--as the word "home". Home is a place of love. It is a place of confidence. We have nothing to hide or conceal from each other, inside home's doors. We know we are loved. Our faults may be seen and known--but we are dear in spite of them. We find there sympathy with our sufferings, and patience with our infirmities and shortcomings. Heaven is our home! Into it, all God's children will be gathered. It is a place of glory, of beauty, of splendor, a holy place--but, best of all, it is a place of perfect love.
As we read the wonderful description of the heavenly life in the book of Revelation, we find that all heaven's glory comes from Christ! "Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne!" Revelation 5:6
Whatever else heaven may mean to us, it will, first of all, mean being with Christ! Here we see Him only by faith, ofttimes dimly. We long to see Him as He is. Our hearts hunger for Him. "We would see Jesus!" is our cry all our days.
But when the veil which hides heaven from our sight is torn for us--and the glory is suddenly revealed--we shall see, first of all, before we look upon any of the splendors of the place--Him we have loved--our Savior and our Friend, Jesus Christ! And He will wipe away every tear from our eyes!
Being with Him--we shall need nothing else to make our blessedness complete. Seeing Him--we shall be satisfied. Seeing Him--we shall be like Him, changed fully into His image! Seeing Him --we shall then be with Him forever!
This dull bud will open--and a glorious rose will unfold in all its splendor! From this poor, feeble, struggling earthly life--will emerge a child of God, in glorious beauty! If only we could have a glimpse of ourselves--what we will be the moment after our friends say we are dead, could we go on living as if we were made only for the earth! Let us not grovel any longer! Let us who have this glorious future--not creep in the slime and dust! Let us live worthy of our exalted honor. When we see Christ, we shall be made like Him! "We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him as He is!" 1 John 3:2
This hope of heaven should strengthen us to overcome all earthly discouragements. No matter how hard the way is--the end is glorious! No matter how great . . . the fierceness of the battle, the weariness of the struggle, the bitterness of the sorrow, the keenness of the suffering, glory is the final outcome!
"And so we will be with the Lord forever! Therefore comfort and encourage each other with these words!" 1 Thess. 4:17-18
The divine philosophy for peaceful living
Is anything too hard for the Lord?" Genesis 18:14
"I know that You can do all things; no plan of Yours can be thwarted!" Job 42:2
Everything which threatens to give us anxiety--is to be taken at once to God. Nothing is too great to carry to Him. Does not He bear up all worlds? Does not He rule over all the affairs of the universe? Is there any matter in our life, however great it may seem to us--too hard for Him to manage? Is any perplexity too difficult for Him to resolve? Is any human despair too dark for Him to illumine with hope? Is there any tangle or confusion out of which He cannot extricate us?
Nothing is too small to carry to Him. Is He not our Father, and is He not sincerely interested in whatever concerns us? There is not one of the countless things which fly like specks of dust all through our daily life, tending to vex and fret us--that we may not take to God.
The Scriptures prescribe a cure for anxious care. The divine philosophy for peaceful living says: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus!" Philippians 4:6-7
Refer every disturbing thing to Him--that He may bear the burden of it. "Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will support you!" Psalms 55:22. "Casting all your care upon Him; for He cares for you!" 1 Peter 5:7
A living, loving, personal Savior
We are in the habit of saying that Christ saved us by dying for us on the Cross. In an important sense, this is true. We never could have been saved, if He had not died for us.
But we are actually saved by our relation to a living, loving, personal Savior--into whose hands we commit all the interests of our lives; and who becomes our friend, our helper, our keeper, our burden bearer--our all in all.
Christian faith is not merely laying our sins on the Lamb of God and trusting to His one great sacrifice; it is the laying of ourselves on the living, loving heart of one whose friendship becomes thenceforward the sweetest joy of our lives!
"The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me!" Galatians 2:20
A little nook in the very heart of God
God's plan for every marriage is happiness.
Marriage is meant to be a miniature of heaven--a fragment of the celestial blessedness, let down into this world.
Marriage is meant to be a little sanctuary, into which husband and wife may flee from earth's storms and dangers, where in love's shelter, their hearts fed with affection's daily bread--they may dwell in quiet peace.
Marriage is meant to be a shelter in which, covered from the frosts of the world and shielded from its cold and tempests--two lives may grow together into richest beauty, realizing their sweetest dreams of happiness, blending in whatever things are true, whatever things are pure, and attaining the finest possibilities of godly character.
Marriage is meant to be a holy ark, floating on the wild floods of human life--like Noah's ark on the deluge, bearing to heaven's gates, to the harbor of glory--the lives which God has shut within its doors.
A godly marriage is a little nook in the very heart of God, where faithful souls are held close to the Father's heart, and carried safely, amid dangers and sorrows, to the home above!
Put all sorrow's wounds into His hand
He restores my soul." Psalm 23:3
In several ways does the shepherd restore his sheep. If one wanders away, he goes out after it, and seeks it until he finds it, restoring it to the shelter of the fold. If one faints and grows sick by the way, in the hard journey or the burning heat--the shepherd does not leave it to die, but takes it up in his arms, and carries it home, restoring it to the fold. If a sheep is hurt, torn by a wild beast or injured by accident--the shepherd tends its wounds until they are healed.
All this suggests how our Good Shepherd restores our souls. Sometimes we wander away. It is very easy to drift off from Christ. The drifting is often unconscious --we do not realize that we are losing our first love-- and little by little, we are far off from Christ. Perhaps it is a cherished sin which eats out our heart-life. Or perhaps it is a worldly companionship which draws us away, loosening the bonds which bound us to Christ. Sometimes it is an absorbing business which leaves no room for God. Or it may be the cares of this world which choke the Word and quench the Spirit. We often need to have our soul restored, quickened, revived--or we would never get safely home, through this evil world.
Then, what soul is not sometimes hurt, wounded, torn--by the wild beasts of temptation? Sin is a fearful thing. It wounds the soul--and no hand but Christ's can restore it. But if we put our hurt life into His hand, He will give healing. What millions of sin's woundings--has our Good Shepherd cured!
Then, when sorrow has left the heart broken, it is only the Good Shepherd who can restore it. He is a most skillful physician. We may put all sorrow's wounds into His hand. He is most gentle, and His hand is infinitely skillful. He is a wonderful comforter. No human hand can heal a heart that is bruised--but the hand of Jesus has infinite delicacy and skill.
"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3
As we pass through its foul streets
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this--to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27
Holiness means separation unto God. The life which belongs to Christ--must be kept from sin. The hands which are held up in prayer--must not touch any unclean thing. The lips which speak to God, and sing His praise--must not be stained by any sinful or bitter words. The heart which is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit--must not open to any thought or affection which would defile God's temple. The feet which Christ's pierced hands have washed--must not walk in any of sin's unhallowed paths. A Christian's life must be holy.
Unholiness is very subtle. It creeps in when we are not aware. It begins in the heart. At first it is but a thought, a moment's imagination, a passing emotion, or a desire. Hence the heart should be kept with unremitting diligence. Only pure and holy thoughts should be entertained.
It is in the thoughts, that all acts begin. All acts are first thoughts. Our thoughts build up our character, as the coral insects build up the great reefs. "As a man thinks in his heart--so is he." If we are to keep ourselves unspotted from the world, as we pass through its foul streets--we must see to it that no unholy thing is for a moment tolerated in our heart! A crime stains one's name before the world; a sinful thought or desire stains the soul in God's sight, and grieves the divine Spirit within us! "Above all else, guard your heart, for out of it are the issues of life." Proverbs 4:23
In the furnace of affliction
Sooner or later, affliction and sorrow come to every Christian. We ought, therefore, to have true views about pain, about the divine reasons for sending it, and about the mission on which it comes. We ought to know, also, how to endure suffering so as to get from it the blessing, which its hot hand brings to us.
While they do not solve all the mystery of human suffering, the Scriptures show, at least, that suffering is no accident in God's world--but is one of His messengers; and that it comes not as an enemy--but as a friend on an errand of blessing. The design of God, in all the afflictions which He sends upon His people--is to make them more holy, to advance their purification of character.
It is very clearly taught in the Word of God, that suffering is necessary in preparing sinful souls in this world, for heavenly glory. "We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." There is no easy way to glory. There is so much evil in us, even after we are born again, that nothing less than the discipline of pain, can cleanse our nature.
Tribulation is God's threshing, not to harm us or to destroy us--but to separate what is heavenly and spiritual in us--from what is earthly and fleshly. Nothing less than blows of pain will do this. Evil clings strongly, even to the godly. The golden wheat of godliness is so wrapped up in the strong chaff of the flesh--that only the heavy flail of suffering can produce the separation. Godly character can never be attained, but through suffering. Holiness cannot be reached, without cost. Those who would gain the lofty heights--must climb the cold, rough steeps which lead to them.
It is God's design, in all the pain which He sends--to make us more Christlike. His puts us in the fire of purification, until His own image shines reflected in the gold! His prunings mean greater fruitfulness. In whatever form the suffering comes--the purpose of the pain is merciful. In all our life in this world, God is purifying us--and suffering is one of the chief agents which He employs.
"We also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope." Romans 5:3-4. Suffering develops in us, qualities of Christian character, which cannot be developed in any other way.
But not all afflictions make people better. They do not always produce endurance. Chastening does not always yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness. We all have seen people suffering--who became only more impatient, irritable, ill-tempered, and selfish--as they suffered. Many a life in the furnace of affliction, loses all the beauty it ever had. It is not by any means universally true--that we are made more holy and Christlike, by pain.
Afflictions must be received as God's messengers. They often come in very somber garb, and it is only when we receive them in faith, that they disclose to us their merciful aspect and mission.
We should therefore receive afflictions reverently, as sent from God. We may be assured that there is always some blessing for us, in pain's hot hand. There is some golden fruit, wrapped up in the rough husk. God designs to burn off some sins from us, in every fire through which He calls us to pass. No one who murmurs under God's chastening hand, is ever made better by it.
The true aim of suffering is to get from it--
more purity of soul,
greater revelations of God's face,
more love to Christ,
deeper joy in the heart,
holier living, and
fresh strength for obedience and all duty.
These are to reappear in us!
Whoever claims to live in Him--must walk as Jesus did." 1 John 2:6
Many have written 'lives of Jesus', setting forth the beauty, the grace, the wisdom, the gentleness, and the power of Him who was the chief among ten thousand, the altogether lovely one. But Paul tells us that in every Christian's life--the life of Jesus is to be written, "That the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh." 2 Corinthians 4:9. And it is these lives of Christ, written in men's daily lives--which are needed in the world.
How is the life of Jesus to be manifested in His followers? It is not enough to merely talk about Him. There are those who, with silver tongue, can speak of Jesus eloquently and winsomely, in whom it cannot be said that His life is manifested in them. In this sense--it is not more preaching which is needed today--it is more gospels in the lives of Christians. It is only what we manifest of Christ in our own life--which is really witnessing for Him. We preach just as much of the gospel--as we get into disposition, character, deeds, life.
What was secret of the life of Christ? You have read your New Testament and have been charmed by the matchless beauty of that life which is portrayed in the gospels. His great central feature was love--love full of compassion; love serving even to the humblest needs and at the greatest cost; love which was patient, forgiving, thoughtful, gentle; love unto the uttermost--which went to a cross to save sinners!
Every page reveals some new beauty in the character of Jesus, and uncovers some new depth of His love. And the qualities of that blessed life--are to shine in our life! His disposition, His spirit, His compassion, His patience, His meekness, His peace, His joy, His humility--these are to reappear in us!
It is not enough--let us again and again remind ourselves--to preach about these gracious things in Jesus, to talk about them in our conferences, to extol them in our hymns--they must be manifested in our life! We must repeat in our own dispositions and lives--the story of Jesus!
Leaving you an example, so that you should follow in His steps." 1 Peter 2:21
What is the secret, grandmamma?
Each one of us must please his neighbor for his good, in order to build him up." Romans 15:2
The Duchess of Kent was universally beloved. Once the Princess Alice, herself simple, sweet and unspoiled, asked her: "What makes everyone love to be with you? I am always so sorry to have to leave you--and so are all the others who come here. What is the secret, grandmamma?"
It was not easy for the noble woman to answer such a personal question. But it was important that it should be answered for the sake of her who had asked it, and who was indeed hungry to know the secret. So the noble lady gave this memorable answer:
"I was early instructed, that the way to please others--was to be sincerely interested in the things which interested them, namely their own affairs; and that this could be accomplished only by burying one's own troubles, interests, or joys completely out of sight. Forgetfulness of one's own concerns, a smiling face, a sincere word of sympathy, or unselfish help, where it is possible to give it--will always please others--and the giver equally so."
I try to please everyone in everything I do. I don't just do what I like or what is best for me, but what is best for them--so they may be saved." 1 Corinthians 10:33
How can we learn contentment?
I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am." Philippians 4:11
How can we learn contentment?
One step toward contentment, is patient submission to unavoidable ills and hardships. No earthly lot is perfect. No mortal ever yet in this world, has found a set of circumstances without some drawback. There are . . .
trials which we cannot change into blessings,
burdens which we cannot lay down,
crosses which we must continue to carry,
thorns in the flesh which must remain with their rankling pain.
When we have such trials, why should we not sweetly accept them as part of God's best way with us?
Discontent never made . . .
a rough path smoother,
a heavy burden lighter,
a bitter cup less bitter,
a dark way brighter,
a sore sorrow less sore.
It only makes matters worse! One who accepts with patience, that which he cannot change--has learned one secret of victorious living.
Another part of the lesson, is that we can learn to moderate our desires. "Having food and clothing," says Paul again, "let us be content with these." Very much of our discontent arises from envy of those who seem to be more favored than ourselves. Many people lose most of the comfort out of their own lot--in coveting the finer, more luxurious things which some neighbor has. Yet if they knew the whole story of the life they envy for its greater prosperity, they probably would not exchange for it their own lowlier life, with its more humble circumstances. Or if they could make the exchange, it is not likely they would find half so much real happiness in the other position, as they would have enjoyed in their own.
Contentment does not dwell so often in palaces--as in the homes of the humble. The tall peaks rise higher, and are more conspicuous--but the winds smite them more fiercely than they do the quiet valleys. And surely, the lot in life which God makes for us--is always the best which could be made for us for the time. He knows better than we do--what our true needs are.
The real cause of our discontent is not in our circumstances; if it were, a change of circumstances might cure it. It is in ourselves, and wherever we go--we shall carry our discontent heart with us. The only cure which will affect anything--must be the curing of the fever of discontent in us.
A fine secret of contentment, lies in finding and extracting all the pleasure we can get from the things we have--the common, everyday things; while we enter upon no mad, vain chase after impossible dreams. In whatever state we are in--we may find therein enough for our need.
No earthly misfortune can touch the wealth which a Christian holds in the divine promises and hopes. Just in the measure, therefore, in which we learn to live for spiritual and unseen eternal realities--do we find contentment amid earth's trials and losses. If we would live to please God, to build up Christlike character in ourselves, and to lay up treasure in heaven--we shall not depend for happiness, on the way things go with us here on earth, nor on the measure of temporal goods we have. The earthly desires are crowded out by the higher and spiritual desires. We can do without childhood's toys--when we have manhood's better possessions. We desire the toys of this world less--as we get more of God and heaven into our hearts.
Paul knew this secret. He cheerfully gave up all that this world had for him. Money had no power over him. He knew how to live in plenty; but he did not fret when poverty came instead. He was content in any trial, because earth meant so little--and Christ meant so much to him. He did not need the things he did not have. He was not made poor by the things he lost. He was not vexed by the sufferings he had to endure, because the sources of his life were in heaven--and could not be touched by earthly experiences of pain or loss.