Recovery of Lost Testimony
Do you talk about 'the testimony?' Have you got a phraseology of 'testimony'? Do you talk about 'ministry?' Have you got ideas about 'ministry?' My dear friend, the Holy Spirit would say, both to you and to me, that testimony and ministry are only real when they come from broken men and women. Let us make no mistake about it. I know it is the hard way, but it is the only way. You and I have no right to minister, no right to talk about 'the testimony' or about 'the Church' or about 'the vessel' or any such things, unless we know something of this brokenness, this weakness.
You see how true this is to what we read in Isaiah. The Lord says: "Mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all peoples" (Isaiah 56:7); but - "Thus saith the high and lofty One That inhabiteth eternity, Whose name is Holy; 'I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit'" (Isaiah 57:15). You find Him at humbled Corinth, chastened Corinth. There is something new in this second letter - something that was missing from the first. You feel the unction of the Lord is here now, because they are broken. That unction of the Lord is only found with men and women who have really had a weakening, a breaking, an emptying, who have lost all 'confidence in the flesh," whose own self-strength has all gone. That is the way of the shining; that is the way of recovered testimony.
Love the Way of Enlargement
There is one more passage to which I would lie to refer you.
"Our mouth is open unto you, O Corinthians, our heart is enlarged. Ye are not straightened in us, but ye are straightened in your own affections. Now for a recompense in like king (I speak as unto my children), be ye also enlarged" (2 Corinthians 6:11-13).
What was the cause of the lost, broken-down testimony in Corinth? They were too small; they were too little. Paul said that he had to treat them like babes - they were peevish! Children can be like that, can they not? Trifles have far too much importance. Paul says: 'Be enlarged, be enlarged! Be bigger people - be too big to come down to all these mean things. Have big thoughts, have big feelings - of course without self-importance or self-inflation; have a large heart - a heart of love!'
What does love do? Love "rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth with the truth." Love "believeth all things:: it takes a large heart to do that, does it not? It is never ready to believe an unfavorable report, but always ready to believe that there may be something that can be set off against it - that there may be another explanation. Love rejoices not when one who has committed a wrong suffers for it - that is paltry. This is where David is such a rebuke to us. Just consider him: what a life Saul gave him during those years! He hunted him, he said, like a flea, like a partridge (1 Samuel 24:14; 26:20); chased and pursued him from rock to rock, from cave to cave, in the wilderness, if only he might get him and destroy him; gave him no peace day or night. He was determined, implacably determined, that David should die. And the day came when, in one of these pursuits, Saul, with his 3,000 chosen men - an army to catch a man! - arrived in a certain place at night, and lay down to sleep. And, unknown to him, David was very near, right on the spot (I don't think he would have slept if he had known!); and David came with his men, and looked on him; and David's men said: 'Now is your chance - the Lord has given him into your hands!' (1 Samuel 24:4).
You know, if only we can imagine we have got Divine support for something, that is all we want. We only want someone to say, 'It is the Lord's will,' and if it is something that serves our own interests, something that we would naturally very much like, how we will go for it! It is a very strong temptation, is it not, when it appears to be supported by the Lord?
But here, David - as on another such occasion, when his companion said: 'God has delivered your enemy into your hands this day; now is your chance! Let me smite him, and I won't have to smite him twice! One blow, and I will finish the whole thing for you!' (1 Samuel 26;8) - David replied: 'No, no; God forbid that I should touch the Lord's anointed!' Ah, that is bigness; that is real greatness. He forbore, to his own hurt. He knew not how many more years of suffering he would have, but he accepted them. He could have ended all that at one blow, but he said: 'No, I must not touch the Lord's anointed. I may be in the right, and the Lord's anointed may be altogether in the wrong: nevertheless, it is not for me to touch him. I leave him with the Lord; I must not lift my hand against him. God forbid that I should touch the Lord's anointed.' I repeat: that is bigness, that is spiritual greatness! And so Paul appeals to the Corinthians: "Now for a recompense in like kind ... be ye also enlarged." The Lord make us big people, in this spiritual sense.
The Constituents of Recovered Testimony
Let us now try to summarize the constituents of recovered testimony, whether that testimony be local or to the world.
It must be born, firstly, as we have seen, out of what we know of Divine comfort in suffering.
Second, it must be born out of what we have known of resurrection (whether individual, or collective and local), when all has seemed to be hopeless.
Thirdly, it must be born from what we have learned of Divine love through our own failure. I am sure that this was a great factor in Corinth. How deeply they recognized their failure! They went down, right down in the dust, under the sense of what a miserable failure they had been as a local company. And then, smitten with this realization of their own failure, they discovered that there was love pouring to them, through this Apostle, from the heart of God; and that discovery constituted their new testimony.
Fourthly, it must be born from the brokenness and enlargement of heart that comes through the consciousness of weakness. I suppose, if any people ought to have been conscious of their own weakness, it was those people at Corinth. There are, in fact, indications in this Second Letter that they came almost to the point of despair about themselves. I think this realization of their own fallibility and untrustworthiness just overwhelmed them, overflowed them. But through it they came to this enlargement of heart. If you and I are groaning under the consciousness of our own failure, we are not going to be petty and mean toward the failures of other people; we are going to be very much more patient, very much more understanding - altogether larger of heart. We are going to say: 'Well, I have had to walk very carefully myself, just there. But for the grace of God, there goes myself!' That is largeness of heart, true brokenness.
Fifthly, and finally, what utterness for the Lord should result from a sense of responsibility for His honor in the locality and in the world. I think that is what arises here. If that is not present, then all the other means nothing. It must have been brought home to the Corinthians that they were letting the Lord down in the locality. Their condition, the situation among them, was just bringing dishonor to Him. And that provoked a sense of responsibility: 'Oh, we cannot afford to let the Lord down! For the Lord's sake, for the sake of the Name of the Lord, we must put things right among ourselves, whatever it costs.' There is much in Isaiah's later chapter about the Name of the Lord in Zion, when recovered. And so, in the church at Corinth, this sense of responsibility for His Name and for His honor, in that vicinity and in that city and in the world, produced a new utterness for the Lord.
We come back to our question: "To whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" Well, to those, such as we have seen, who accept the implications of the Cross. This is all the outcome, the outworking of the Cross. This all comes out of Isaiah 53. Recovered testimony of this kind can only be as the result of the Cross. The Cross is the basis of everything in all testimony.
(continued with # 1 - "The Cross and the Holy Spirit")