The Factor of Prayer in Relation to the Lord's Purpose
Take the present situation among the Lord's people. God has a purpose, but we are taking it for granted, are we waiting for something to happen, looking out all the time, observing, spectators, weighing it up, judging it? This is not happening and that is not happening, this is all we can see! I do not believe anything will happen until a people really get down to this; a people, mark you, who stand on resurrection ground, who have the anointing, and then get down to it to break the deadlock of death, to break the bonds which bind. It is real business. There has to be a striving over this matter. It is not going to happen, it is not just going to come to pass. All this that Paul says and all that is here in the Word is sheer nonsense if the mere fact of a thing being in the will of God ensures its happening, apart from any other consideration. What are you striving about, Paul? There is no need for all that agony, travail, striving of yours! The Lord purposes it, it is the will of God; you just believe and be quiet and it will come to pass, the Lord will do it! Well then, all this is unnecessary, and therefore it is nonsense. Is it? Does this not represent something, count for something? You see what I mean.
In Colosse, in Laodicea, and for many others who had not seen His face in the flesh, all those churches, their being knit together in love unto all the riches of the full assurance of understanding that they may know the mystery of God, be presented every man complete in Christ, that hangs upon this man's conflict and the conflict of Epaphras and others. How much of this are we doing? It is so easy to criticize one another's spiritual life, and the spiritual lie of other people. It is so easy to take account of small measure, little growth, the arrest and limitation. It is so easy just to be onlookers. Yes, in our hearts we are troubled, we are perplexed. In a way, we ask the Lord continually to do something, we are not detached altogether, but are we quite sure that we are where Paul was? "How greatly I strive for you." How I get down to this, how I identify myself with this situation, this need! this that has come in which is just the opposite of what God intended, this that has interfered with the continuation of progress and development in a life that God produced, this which undoubtedly is of the Lord but locked up, fallen under something in the way of a blight, a lack, an arrest, a hold up.
There is sovereignty of God, of course, in this, the sovereignty of God which works over the enemy in order to draw out some people. As we said at the beginning, our own enlargement is bound up with our vocation; or, to put it in another way, we shall not make much progress spiritually until we take spiritual responsibility. It is vital to our growth that we have concern for souls, our own spiritual growth. I do not believe people do grow, however much information they accumulate along spiritual lines, if they are all the time turned in on themselves. Responsibility is a tremendous thing for enlargement, and here is a man who took responsibility to the full. But he turns to these Philippians and he says, "To you it hath been granted in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also in His behalf," and these sufferings are very often along this line, soul suffering for the saints. "I ... fill up ... that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ ... for His body's sake, which is the church" (Col. 1:24). The sufferings of Christ; it is given to you to suffer with Him. The sufferings of Christ for His Body's sake which is the Church - I fill up that which remains of that.
It might be that the edge of a great deal of the enemy's assault upon us would be blunted if we were a little more of the assailing kind. I think we feel the keenness of it because we wait for it. I think there is something that really does save us when we are turned out in the aggressive. There are values, great values, to our own spiritual life, safety and growth, by a positive and an aggressive spirit in the interests of the Lord; for undoubtedly a positive state is a protection. To be fervent in spirit is a great protection.
I do not want to say a great deal more. I felt that the Lord wanted that emphasis. You are concerned and I am concerned in a way. We recognize a need, a great need, and in relation to that need perhaps we come to wonder why this and why that. Then we begin to try and interpret it and explain it, and we give this interpretation and that interpretation, and all too often it again becomes a turning in on ourselves or on ourselves collectively.
Well, let us face this to begin with, that the Lord's people never did in all their history come through to His end for them without terrific conflict, a great withstanding. It was always so, and they have never come through only as the Lord has had a vessel which has taken up that issue in a most positive way. it was like that with Israel in their getting through to the land. Joshua and Caleb took up that issue and fought it through, and by them a generation came in. Daniel took up that issue when the people were in captivity and fought it through in the heavenlies. The coming back of the remnant was undoubtedly to be laid instrumentally at Daniel's door. And here is Paul in the same thing on the higher spiritual level; satan out to withstand this coming of the Church to God's end in fullness. Among others, here is Paul taking it up, fighting it out. It always has been, it always will be. In every city Paul had to meet it and fight it through. He is there himself on resurrection ground under the mighty anointing, but look at Philippi and the jail and the stripes, look at Corinth. There was evidently very real need for the Lord to say to Paul about Corinth, "Fear not, I have much people in this city" (Acts 18:10). It was very necessary for the Lord again and again to come alongside and fortify His servant because of what he was meeting in the city. See what he met in Ephesus: the sentence of death, he despaired even of life. Right in the conflict in every city, but fighting it through. The Lord needs that kind of instrument.
Again I say, while there may be various subsidiary causes for arrest or limitation, here is the big issue, that the enemy is out to prevent our going through, to prevent the Lord's people from knowing what His thoughts are about them, being brought into touch or led into touch with that which will be for their enlargement. It is all a mighty campaign of the enemy, blinding, nullifying, neutralizing, hindering, putting up blankets, clouds, and smoke, everything and anything. It is all a part of this determination of his that the saints shall not be brought through to completeness in Christ.
Over against that, there have to be those who, together in the Lord, standing on the right and sufficient ground, take up this issue in the Name of the Lord and fight it out. "How greatly I strive" has to be true of a company of us.
The Lord give us grace for this and really work in us, and we shall see things breaking. No one will doubt, no one will dispute, that we are in a life or death issue. We are going to live and live triumphantly, or we are going to fade out. Perhaps in the Lord the issue rests with us along this line. The Lord add to the company of Epaphras!