By T. Austin-Sparks
Take the matter of service - ministry - the work of the Lord unto which we are called. Anyone who is really in spiritual ministry - really in spiritual work for the Lord - knows how difficult it is, how hard... intensely hard... growingly hard it is. It is fraught with difficulties of almost every kind; and one thing so real in this is the activity of the enemy apart from, and beyond, what men do themselves of themselves (if ever men do any thing of themselves; I am not quite sure that they do).
Apart from what you might call the ordinary difficulties of life and of the work of the Lord, there are these extra difficulties where the enemy seems to have so much hold; and this whole situation of service would seem so often to say that the enemy is so strong that the Lord has great difficulty in getting His work done. Do you believe that the Lord has great difficulty, because of the enemy, in getting His work done? This is something to face.
There it is: the devil has a lot of liberty and seems to have a lot of power, and he makes great difficulties which constitute for the Lord's servants a very hard and strenuous time. That is true, isn't it? It seems that the Lord is up against something that He can hardly cope with - that the Lord is face to face with a situation that is full of almost insuperable difficulties.
That is NOT the argument at all. Why has the Lord left the enemy here and given him such liberty - such a degree of power? Why does He allow our steps all the time to be met by these difficulties? Why is it that in the way of the Lord's will you meet something which brings you to a standstill? Why - if God is God on the throne... and the Holy Ghost is infinitely strong and mighty? This is the problem for so many people.
The explanation is this - not on the side of the enemy at all, and not on the side of the Lord; the explanation is in us. The Lord is seeking a conformity to the image of His Son, and every difficulty and trial and obstruction and activity of the devil is to draw us out to God and develop the features of the Lord Jesus in us. Spiritual ascendancy, faith - the mighty faith of the Son of God: the features of Jesus Christ, the love of the Spirit. All these features of Christ have got to be fully developed in us. So the Lord thinks it worthwhile to let the enemy carry on and to allow us to have difficulties, sorrows, and sufferings even while we are living in an absolutely sovereign, mighty Lord.
It is to bring out the features of Christ; and until you have that, you do not have the power to go through. If you begin to say the Lord is not with us - not able to meet this - or the power of God is not manifested, you have a lesser object... and you begin to circle round yourself, not Christ in the glory to whom the Holy Spirit is trying to bring you into conformity. It is necessary to get your objective and to see what the Lord is seeking to do with His children... and how He does it.
You cannot conform anyone literally to the image of another in any other way than by bringing him through experimentally. The thing is not done by teaching - doctrine - or by being preached at: you have to go through it, and the whole fabric of our being has got to be reconstructed according to Christ. There has to be a breaking down of all that is otherwise, in order that there might be a constituting of that which is of the Lord Jesus.
The Lord give us our Object - to see the Lord Jesus!