Recovery of Lost Testimony
"For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be made sorry, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you" (2 Corinthians 2:4).
The first thing that we see is the value of triumphant love. That is a constituent of effective testimony, of clear shining. This clearly had its two sides in the Apostle. If ever a man might have found his love exhausted, the Apostle might well have been that man, as far as these Corinthians were concerned; for he did say: "If I love you more abundantly, am I loved the less?" 12:15). Surely that is enough to put any man off - to find that all his outpouring and outgoing and giving in love only means that love is being withdrawn; that less and less love comes back. What a situation he had to meet! yet his love triumphed. But it seems to have had an effect in them too: something of what he had written in his First Letter, chapter 13, seems to have come about. Yes, the triumph of 1 Corinthians 13 can be traced in this Second Letter to some very real degree - the love that "suffereth long, and is kind," and so on - the quality of triumphant love.
That, we might very well say, is the first and primary factor in effective testimony. The Lord Jesus said that: "By this shall all men know --- if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35). This is the testimony; this is how it will be known - if we have love one for another. It matter very much whether the world is affected by what it sees. We cannot close the doors on ourselves, and say: 'Oh, well, the world in any case is inimical, it is always hostile, it is always unsympathetic; why take any account of it? Let us shut ourselves in and get on with our job.' You cannot do that; you cannot ignore the world. We are here to affect the world - that is one of the chief reasons why the Lord leaves us here. We are not just to live here, cloistered and closed in, indifferent to the world, coldly detached from it.
Moreover, the world is going to find out, sooner or later, what is happening inside the church - what is happening in your local assembly! Make no mistake about it. The world will know the condition of the church: you cannot close doors and windows on that, and keep it in! All around will know; it will become known. And I repeat - it is a most important thing that the world should be affected, not by what it hears us say, but by what it sees in us. And the only thing it can really see, that will affect it, will be the mutual love which we have one for another. "By this shall all men know ... if ye have love one to another." One of the most effective ways of testimony is - not preaching, but - loving! If that is there it will do far more than our preaching. But it will at least give a great backing to our preaching. All our preaching must be supported by this one thing - a strong triumphant love in the midst of the Lord's people.
The Value of Suffering With Christ
The second thing in testimony is the value of suffering with Christ. There is much about this in the Second Letter to the Corinthians. For instance: "The Father of mercies and God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our affliction, that we may be able to comfort them that are in any affliction, through the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound unto us, even so our comfort also aboundeth through Christ" (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
First of all, suffering with Christ brings a wonderful return in or discovery of the consolations of Christ.
It is a very important thing, in a world like this, that we should have some comfort to give. Both in the Church and outside of the Church, there is a great need of a ministry of comfort. You come back to Isaiah: "Comfort ye, comfort ye My people," saith your God (Isaiah 40:1). But you cannot fulfill a ministry of comfort in mere platitudes; by coming into difficult and troubled situations and just saying nice things. If people are in real trouble, in real distress, and you begin to talk to them, the first thing they have a right to say to you is: 'Well, what do you know about it? Have you ever been in my position, my condition? Have you ever had any deep, deep suffering? What do you know about it?'
Perhaps, therefore, it is one of those sovereign, providential ways of God, that He allows His people to know much suffering, so that they may derive this wonderful value of the consolations of Christ, in order that they may have that with which to comfort or encourage others - the tried, the suffering, the sorrowing. And what have we to give? Well, the word is: "that we may be able to comfort ... through the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." And if there is anyone reading these lines, who is having a painful, suffering time, going through a 'dark patch,' as we say, might I try to transfigure it for you, in this way. Just look at it like this. Say to yourself: 'This gives me an opportunity to make a discovery of the Lord which will be stock-in-trade for future service. In my distress and trouble I can find comfort and help from the Lord, which may be of tremendous value to some others in the future.'
(continued with # 1 - "Ministry Made Through Experience of Resurrection")