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Saturday, December 16, 2017

A Job Experience # 6

A Job Experience # 6

My Servant Job , continued -

AND THE BATTLE HAD BEGUN!

So, as we look into this heavenly scene, we find that the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and satan also came among them. The context of these scriptures indicate that the "sons of God" are angels, the ministering spirits of God; and they have taken their station before Lord to give account, and to receive their instructions. It seems that Job's prayers not only stirred satan into action but the angelic hosts as well.

Brethren, as we search into these scriptures about the unseen realm, there are many things that are difficult to understand. We can understand the angels of God coming before Him, but what is satan doing there? - satan whose very name means: the adversary of God and of God's Purpose in Christ! - the opposer of God and of God's Purpose in Christ! - the withstander of God and of God's Purpose in Christ! What is satan, the source of evil, doing there?

Now we know that satan does not have free access into the Sovereign Presence of God, because satan is not, nor ever shall be, covered with the Blood of the Lamb. Job had access into God's Presence (Rom. 5:2; Eph. 2:18; 3:12); Job could come boldly to the Throne of Grace because the Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:18-20). All who have been redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb have free access unto God; they can come boldly unto the Throne of Grace (Heb. 4:16); and Job lived in the good of the Blood of the Lamb, and he could pray and cry and say with assurance: "I know that my Redeemer liveth..." (Job 19:25). Oh, beloved, because of the Blood of the Lamb, we have access! We have access! We can come boldly to the Throne of Grace!

But satan did not, nor ever will have, free access into the Presence of God. No! satan did not dare, nor will he ever dare, to come boldly into the Sovereign Presence of God. In God's Plan, the Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world, before anything was created, before there ever was a satan; therefore, from the beginning, satan has been a defeated foe because of the Blood of the Lamb.

So what does the Word of God mean when it says that the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and satan also came among them? There can be only one answer - satan is there because he has been Sovereignly summoned by the Almighty God, and satan must, however unwillingly, subject himself and give account of himself to God.

The Lord's Own Words point this out when He says: "Whence comest thou?" Our All-Knowing God knew where and what satan had been doing; but now satan must give an account of himself before God. The fact that satan cannot tempt or test or touch Job, or his family, without permission declares satan's absolute subjection unto God!

We must always remember that God is never the source of evil; and if the Lord allows evil to afflict us, He will also cause it to ultimately bring forth that which He purposed in Christ - God will cause it to bring forth that which is a measure of the Fullness of Christ; and every time there is an increase of the Fullness of Christ, satan again suffers a resounding defeat.

The Battle Begins!

So the battle begins, and the Lord takes the offensive and puts satan on the defensive by asking him two questions which he must answer; and these two questions are designed by God to reveal the evil depths, intents, and character of the satanic being. Remember, God knows that in His appointed timing this great spiritual conflict will be recorded in His Word; and the Lord is allowing this unseen realm to be revealed so that His people may be prepared and equipped and instructed for the unseen, spiritual warfare which takes place throughout the ages, until all things are consummated in Christ.

Therefore, when the Lord said to satan, "Whence comest thou?" He was commanding satan to give an account of himself and of his evil doings. And because satan had no choice, he answered: "From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it" (Job 1:7).

In 1 Peter 5:8, we find a graphic explanation of what it means when satan, the adversary, is going to and fro... walking up and down...in the earth. Listen to Peter, who well knew what it meant to be a target of satan, listen as he issues a solemn warning: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking  whom he may devour [seeking someone to seize upon and devour]. And what is satan's evil intent, what is satan, the adversary, the devil seeking to devour? - he is out to devour that which God purposed in the life of His people! satan is out to stop an increase of Christ's Fullness!

The Lord knows satan's evil intent; hence, He asks him: "Hast thou considered My servant Job?..." (Job 1:8). The Hebrew Interlinear gives us the most accurate account of this scripture: "And Jehovah said to satan, 'Have you set your heart on My servant Job?...' " And in the next few verses satan makes it clear that he has set his iniquitous heart upon Job; consequently, we see what motivates satan's evil heart,for the adversary of God is always seeking out those whose life is an expression of the Fullness of Christ - satan is always considering ways, setting his evil heart upon ways, of devouring the faithful in Christ. Job is one of the first upon whom satan "set his heart"; and throughout the ages, satan, the devourer has continued his furious assault against God's own until, in the Book of Revelation, we find him turning all his devouring rage against the Church, which is the Body of Christ.

In Revelation, five times the Holy Spirit warns the churches, of every age, of this evil adversary. Five times satan is singled out as the one who would stop the churches from becoming the Fullness of Christ -

1. the synagogue of satan (2:9)
2. where satan's seat (throne) is (2:13)
3. where satan dwelleth (2:13)
4. the depths of satan (2:24)
5. the synagogue of satan (3:9)

And before we go on, we must always remember that Revelation 12:9-12 tells us that the old serpent, called the devil and satan, is overcome because of the Blood of the Lamb. And in this group of scriptures, we are again shown God's Absolute Sovereignty over satan because Revelation 12:12 declares that satan knows he only has a short time; and this means satan only has a short time because God has sovereignly placed a limit upon the time that satan can do his evil.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 7)

Saturday, December 9, 2017

A Job Experience # 5

A Job Experience # 5

My Servant Job

The Book of Job, as well as every other book and letter in the Bible, has its own unique purpose in the Full Purpose of God in Christ. And right from the beginning, the Holy Spirit makes it clear that Job's sufferings are not taking place because of something he had done or had not done. Job is not suffering because he had displeased God or because he had sinned. In fact, quite the opposite is true, for the Word of God makes it clear that Job's sufferings are allowed by God Himself. And for this reason, we need to keep in mind, as we are searching into that which Job endured, that God is Omniscient: He is All-Knowing - He knows all the past! He knows all the present, and future is all "now" to God. And when God allowed the enemy to attack Job, God knew that Job would endure! God knew that satan would be defeated through Job's experience! God knew that Job's sufferings would bring forth eternal results in His Purpose! And God knew that the Book of Job's experiences would sustain and comfort all suffering Christians throughout the ages!

So in the very first verses of the Book of Job, the Holy Spirit tells us that Job "was blameless and upright, and one who (reverently) feared God and abstained from and shunned evil [because it was wrong]" (Job 1:1). We also have God Himself speaking of Job in the most intimate of terms, as He calls him: "My servant Job" (Job 1:8). In this portion of Scripture, God uses the most personal and possessive of pronouns, He uses the word "My"; and in using the pronoun "My", God is stating unequivocally that Job is His possession. God is saying, "Job is Mine! Job belongs to Me! Job is My possession !" And God not only says this of Job at the beginning, before Job's afflictions began, but He also makes this same statement four times in the last chapter of Job as Job's sufferings are reaching God's End.

So, right from the beginning, God proclaims that Job is "My servant." Job is My bondslave; and a bondslave of God is one whose will has been swallowed up in the Will of God. And we shall find that it is very significant that the first time God makes this proclamation of Job, He is making it to satan himself. Now Job is an ordinary person just like us, so how could this statement ever be made of him or us? Well, there is only one answer. God has Another Whom He calls "My Servant" (Zech. 3:8), and this One is His Perfect Bondslave, the One Who "took upon Him the form of a servant (bondslave)," Jesus Christ our Lord (Phil. 2:7). And it is because we are in Him, and of Him, that we, or any other child of God, such as Job, can be called "My servant."

We have said that God first made this statement about Job to satan himself, so let us return to the scene of the intense warfare that is taking place between God and His archenemy,satan - an unseen warfare in which Job's spirit, soul, and body is the battleground! In the Book of Job, the Holy Spirit grants us an extraordinary look into the realm that cannot be truly comprehended nor perceived by the human nature, intellect, or senses. Remember, this invisible realm can only be accurately revealed by the Holy Spirit, and the interpretation of this unseen realm can only be interpreted by the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit interprets all things by and in and through the inspired, written Word of God - the Holy Bible. In the Scripture, we know that most of the time we are called on to view this unseen realm by faith; but in the Book of Job, God has chosen to reveal something of this unseen realm. Therefore, it is essential that we grasp, by the Spirit, what He wants us to know and to experience.

The Lord always has a very significant reason for granting us such a revelation into the unseen realm; and, and in this instance, we believe He has done so in order to prepare us for more effective intercession. Therefore, when this warfare begins between God and satan, it is of great consequence that the Holy Spirit records that Job is praying and offering burnt offerings unto the Lord on behalf of his family. In the Word of God the burnt offering, which is a type of Christ's Perfection, was offered wholly to please God. It was a sweet-smelling sacrifice, a type of the perfections of Christ. This sacrifice was always wholly for God's satisfaction and pleasure, and it was always offered in a state of worship, consecration, and prayer. Also in Job, chapters 41 and 42, as this warfare is reaching God's climactic End, let us take note that Job is praying, for the Holy Spirit records that Job is called upon by God to pray on behalf of his friends.

So when this warfare begins, Job is praying. And furthermore, it is quite possible that this warfare is the result of Job's praying. The Book of Daniel, and many other instances in the Word of God, makes it clear that nothing stirs the enemy of God into action more than prayer. Thus, in Job 1:5 we read:

"And it came about, when the days of feasting had completed their cycle, that Job would send and consecrate them, rising up early in the morning and offering burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, "Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts". Thus Job did continually."

And the very next words that the Holy Spirit solemnly puts on record are these: "Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and satan also came among them." If we lift out a few statements from these scriptures, we shall see that the battle lines had been drawn:

"Thus Job did continually..."
(Job continually prayed on behalf of)
"Now" (at that time, at that season)\
"there was a day when...The Lord...and satan..."
"The Lord...and satan...two irreconcilable foes"
AND THE BATTLE HAD BEGUN!

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 6)

Saturday, December 2, 2017

A Job Experience # 4

A Job Experience # 4

Spiritual Warfare Must Be Fought In Every Age, continued 

Beloved, Christ said as He faced the Cross, "My Kingdom is not of this world"; which means, if His Kingdom were of this world, there would be no Cross. But the Cross is a settled fact, so His Kingdom is not of this world; His Kingdom is a New Creation in which Christ is All, and in All.

Thus, Christ is the Consolation (the Comfort) of Israel because the Consolation, the Comfort, is a Person. And when we are in a place of being pressed out of measure, it is only as we come to know Christ more intimately and more fully that we can experience Him as the Comfort, "The Consolation of God" -

In tribulation, He is our Peace! In despair, He is our Joy! In weakness, He is our Sufficiency! In death, He is our Life! He is our all in all - He is the Comfort of God!

In the Church, there are many who are teaching of our rewards, of our blessings, and of the place and position of God's Kingdom that we will come into at the "end-time"; and we are not saying it is wrong to learn of this. But, beloved, in this life, and in the life to come, the Highest Calling, the Fullest Blessing, the Greatest Reward, is to intimately and thoroughly know our Christ.

"That I may know Him - that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding [the wonders of His Person] more strongly and more clearly. And that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His Resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His Sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His Likeness even] to His Death..." (Phil. 3:10).

"That I may know Him..." - this is our comfort, this is our great consolation, from the Father of Mercies and the God of all comfort. And, dear ones, in the measure that we know Him, that is the measure that we will endure until God has His End through His Way.

The Effectual Work of the Holy Spirit

Now, we have seen that God the Father is the God (The Source) of all comfort and that Christ Himself is "The Comfort"; and in the Gospel of John, we will find that the Holy Spirit is "The Comforter" (John 14:16-26 and 16:7-15) tells us that the Holy Spirit is "The Comforter". He is the One Who makes all that Christ is a reality in our lives. As the Comforter, He is our Counselor, our Helper, our Intercessor, our Advocate, our Strengthener, our Standby. "The Comforter." The Holy Spirit, was sent by the Father in the Name of Christ that He may abide with us forever (He lives with us and in us) - He is the Spirit of Truth and He shall teach us the all things of Christ, and He shall bring the all things of Christ to our remembrance and He will guide us into all Truth. "The Comforter" will honor and glorify Christ, because He will take of (receive, draw upon) what is Christ's and He will reveal, declare, disclose, and transmit it to us. So, here again, we learn more of the Fullness of the Three in One - the Fullness of God, the Fullness of Christ, the Fullness of the Godhead: -

God the Father: The Father of Mercies and the God of ALL Comfort -
God the Son: The Comfort -
God the Holy Spirit: The Comforter.

In 2 Corinthians the word "comfort" is used many times and in various ways, and we shall see that it has much to do with that which the Holy Spirit works (energeo) in and through the lives of the Lord's people, especially when they are in the midst of trial. We also said we believe that in 2 Corinthians Paul and those with him were experiencing that which Job experienced, they were being brought to the place where they "abhor" themselves - they were being brought to the place where they "should not trust in (themselves), but in God Which raiseth from the dead". - Remember Job's cry: "I know that my Redeemer liveth." 

At this point, we again need to remember the original goal of our study, which is, how we can become more effective as intercessors - how we can become intercessors who have one intent, one purpose and one motive, and that is, that God have His End through His Way - and that way is always the Way of the Cross. We also stated
 that this kind of intercession becomes a progressive reality and power in our lives in the measure that we yield to the chastenings and the purgings of the Lord, and we said that Job's experience was one of the greatest examples of the Lord's dealing with His people in such a way. And, as we proceed, we are going to see that Job's experience and Paul's experience were very similar as the Holy Spirit worked His eternal results in and through their lives.


We have said that Job's story is probably one of the oldest stories in the whole Bible, in fact, his story probably took place before any of the Word of God had been written, for it is almost universally understood that Job lived in the age of the patriarchs (a time which took place before the time of Moses). Job was going through the worst of times, and he could not understand why he was suffering in such a way. No one really seemed to understand why Job was suffering: not Job, not his wife, not his closest friends. They did not realize that a great warfare was taking place in the unseen realm between God and His archenemy, satan - a warfare in which Job's spirit, soul, and body were the battleground - a warfare that would result in God's End and in satan's defeat. And this warfare had eternal results, for over 2,000 years later, we find James writing these inspired words of comfort to suffering Christians of that age,and of the ages to come: "You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord's dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful."

And before we look further into Job's experiences, let us see that the object of the great warfare which was taking place in the unseen realm was that God gain His End in Job's life! God accomplished many things in Job's life that had eternal results, but one of the most precious and encouraging things is that Job came into a fuller and more intimate knowledge of his Lord and God.

So, what knowledge did Job gain? Did he learn of the great warfare that was taking place in the unseen realm, and did he learn that satan was defeated? We do not know if Job even knew of this unseen battle, probably he did not! Did he learn of God's greatness and majesty? Well, if we read some of the statements that Job made, and of the thoughts he had about God, we will realize that he already had a vast experiential knowledge and wisdom of God's Greatness and Majesty. No, the outcome of the Lord's dealings with Job was much more intimate and precious than that; for after all that Job had suffered - he suffered the loss of his children, he suffered the lose of his health, he suffered the loss of his houses and lands, he suffered seeing his wife break under their troubles, and when he desperately needed comfort from his friends, he suffered the loss of their respect and esteem, and he suffered their sincere but cruel accusations of his character - No, after all that he suffered, the most precious result was this, - Job came into the full reality that his Lord and his God was, and ever shall be, "full compassion and is merciful."

The enemy wanted Job to become bitter and to blame God because of his problems. But Job endured, and he came to know, in the most intimate way possible, his Lord as "the Comfort."

And, beloved, all through the ages, when the faithful have faced the un-endurance of Job; and they are comforted by the fact that they too can endure until God has His End through His Way - they too are comforted, for as they are progressing towards God's End, they are coming to know that, "the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful."

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 5 - "My Servant Job"

Saturday, November 25, 2017

A Job Experience # 3

A Job Experience # 3

The Work of the Holy Spirit In the Life and Experience of Job, continued -

Now, Paul and the others with him were not having suicidal thoughts anymore than Job was when he wished he had never been born (Job 3); or when Elijah requested for himself that he might die (1 Kings 19). Suicidal thoughts are always the work of the devil, they are never the work of the Holy Spirit. No! These people were in trouble and they were very, very discouraged; and all that they, themselves, had ever wanted to accomplish for the Lord seemed doomed to failure. They were "pressed out beyond all their natural ability, their natural strength, their natural sufficiencies. They found themselves in a place where anything that they could do would not change the situation. They had come to a place where the sufferings were so great, the afflictions so fierce, the trouble and pressures so weighed them down, that they wanted to give up; it seemed that they could not go any further. They were weak and insufficient and, to them, it seemed like the end. And it was the end! It was God's End! for God's End is that we be "pressed out of measure," and His Wise Reason for this is found in 2 Corinthians 1:9: "But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God Which raiseth the dead..."

So we see that Paul and the others were having a hard time: - they despaired of life; they were so anxious about Titus that they left an open door for the Gospel; Paul had fightings without and fears within, he also writes that he had asked the Lord three times to remove that which was "a thorn in the flesh"; etc., etc. However, a few years later we find this same Paul, who had been so pressed out of measure that he even despaired of life, writing to the Philippians these precious words as he faced certain death (he just did not know when):

"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Phil. 1:21).

He says, "I do not know which to choose; I desire with all my heart to depart and be with Christ. And yet, to remain on in the flesh is more needful for you." What a dwelling place in Christ, what a reality in Christ, Paul had come into! He could now say with with full assurance and joy in the Lord:

"...for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am,
therewith to be content.
I know both how to be abased,
and I know how to abound:
every where and in all things I am instructed
both to be full and to be hungry,
both to abound and to suffer need.
I have strength for all things in Christ
Who empowers me -
I am ready for anything and equal to anything
through Him Who infuses inner strength into me,
[that is, I am self-sufficient in Christ's sufficiency].
(Phil. 4:11 - 13).

Paul says, "I have learned how to be content in whatever state I am." And where and when did Paul learn this? He learned much of this through the experiences which he wrote about in 2 Corinthians; and if Paul and those with him could learn these things, so can we. We can, if we yield to the effectual work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, learn in "whatsoever state" we are in "therewith to be content," for the Holy Spirit will work into our lives the true reality of contentment in Christ - contentment which can say, no matter how difficult our situation may be, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."

Spiritual Warfare Must Be Fought In Each and Every Age

It was about 27 years after the resurrection of Christ when the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write 2 Corinthians. Rome rules the known world, and the Roman Emperor Nero had been in power for about three years, and, as yet, there was not much indication of the great havoc he would cause against the people of God. However, in the unseen realm, a great spiritual battle was taking place and building to a world-shaking, age-convulsing climax. Two forces - one, Spiritual and Holy; and the other, religious and evil - were battling for the hearts of God's people. This same kind of unseen battle had taken place in Job's time, and in Noah's time, and in Daniel's time. And we know that this spiritual warfare must be fought in each age and generation; and this is because, even though satan knows he was completely triumphed over by Christ's death and resurrection, he is still doing his evil-all to stop the Church from becoming the Fullness of the One Who defeated him - the archenemy of God furiously rages against the Church because he knows he has no place, and never will have a place, in the realm in which Christ is All, and in All!

Therefore, as Paul was writing his letter to the Corinthians, the Church was about to face its greatest persecution thus far. The malignant hatred of satan against Christ was about to be unleashed upon them. And God was preparing them (and all Christians to come after them) for this great struggle; and through their sufferings, tribulations, and great pressures, they would come to know Him as "the Father of Mercies, and the God of all Comfort."

Beloved, when we are in the midst of great distress, we all need comfort; but we also need to realize that the comfort that proceeds from the natural man will not suffice when we are in the midst of the battle of the ages. Comfort that comes from the natural man, even if it comes from our closest and sincerest Christian friends, will not help us endure - the comfort that springs from the natural man will not produce a people who will endure until God has His End through His Way. And so it is important to know that the true comfort that has its source in God will always bring us into a fuller, and more intimate knowledge of our Christ.

In Luke 2:25, we are told that Christ, the Messiah, is The Consolation (the Comfort) of Israel. Now what does this mean? Israel had long hoped for their Messiah, the Christ of God: all of the Old Testament points to this. Israel was waiting for the Messiah to come and make their lives a better one in this world. They believed He would be King over the world and that they would be the privileged ones who would rule the world with Him.And they believed all things would then be wonderful and happy, and whatever it was that made them unhappy, weak, insufficient, sorrowful, afflicted or persecuted, etc., would be ended. And, if we are honest, most of us hope for similar things, particularly when we are in a very hard place, a place which presses us beyond measure. When we are in a place where there is nothing that can be done to remedy the situation, oh, how we desire to be out from under the pressure.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 4)

Saturday, November 18, 2017

A Job Experience # 2

A Job Experience # 2

In these glorious words, we are told that Christ is Head over "all things to the Church," and we are told that the Church, which is Christ's Body is the Fullness of Him Who fills all in all.

Beloved, on the one side, the Church (all the redeemed) reaches its Fullness - its Complete and full Development - in and through Christ, and, on the other side, Christ Himself finds His Fullness in the sum total of all that He brings into Living Union with Himself.

All these scriptures concerning fullness make it clear that the Fullness of Christ has always been God's End. Since the beginning of all things, all that God has done, and is doing, and will do, in and through the lives of His people is moving toward His End! Therefore, the main purpose in all of God's dealings with His own, as it was with Noah, Daniel, and Job, is to bring forth a greater measure of the Fullness of Christ. God did a full work in the lives of "these three men," but, of the three, perhaps Job is the greatest example of how God is working in a person's life in order to bring about His End. - "Ye have heard of the patience (the endurance) of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord (the outcome of the Lord's dealings), that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful" (James 5:11).

It is through the workings of the Holy Spirit that all that Christ is, and all that Christ accomplished, is made solid, real, substantial, complete, and entire in and through the lives and experiences of the people of God - people like Noah, Daniel, and Job, and people like us!

Now, in order for us to understand the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and in the lives of others, we need to have an ever-increasing comprehension of the Holy Spirit's greatest all-encompassing work. The Holy Spirit Who is all the accumulative energy, force, inherent strength, and might of the Omnipotent God, did His greatest work when He raised Christ from the dead. And in Ephesians 1:20, we are told of the exceeding greatness of this work which was "wrought in Christ," when Christ was raised from the dead.

"...which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right-hand in the heavenly places."

The word "wrought" (energeo in the Greek) speaks of that which was made alive, of that which was made operative, of that which was made active, of that which was energized, of that which was worked in Christ, when Christ was raised from the dead by the Holy Spirit of God. All that God had purposed in Christ was "wrought" in Christ when the Holy Spirit raised Him from the dead. - And let us remember when Christ was raised from the dead, all the redeemed were raised together with Him (Eph. 2:5, 6).

"So then death worketh (energeo) in us, but life in you."
death and life= Resurrection Life

The work of the Holy Spirit is an eternal work, and that which He works into, and through, the lives of God's people will always have eternal results.

So,as we consider the work of the Holy Spirit in the life and experience of Job, we are going to find that Job is not the only one to have such an experience. We will find that all who remain faithful unto God, all who endure until God has His End through His Way, will have Job's experience. We do not mean that those who remain faithful will have the exact same things happen to them that happened to Job, but we do mean that all who remain faithful will have the same deep spiritual experience of coming to the end of themselves! The faithful will come to the same place as Job in their life and experience, they will bow to the workings of God in their lives, and they will cry: "Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in duct and ashes"; then Job "prayed for his friends" (Job 42:6-10): - "So then death worketh (energeo) in us, but life in you."

Brethren, as we were praying and studying through the Book of Job, the Lord led us over and over again to the Book of 2 Corinthians and in 2 Corinthians we found the deep effectual working of the Holy Spirit in the life of Paul, and in the lives of those who are with him. In that book, they were having what we may call a Job experience, they were being brought to the end of themselves. It is important to realize that the work which the Holy Spirit does in the lives of God's people is an eternal work which produces eternal results in God's purpose. Also, we need to see that this work is a corporate work, it is never only an individual work in an individual person. The effectual working of the Holy Spirit is always a corporate work: it is a corporate work, whether it be in an individual or in a local body, or in a group such as Paul, Timothy, Titus, etc.; or whether it be in "these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job" - three men who are eternally linked together, even though they lived at different times and in different periods of history. The work that the Holy Spirit does in the lives of God's people is a corporate work, because all that the Holy Spirit "worketh" has one goal, one aim, one end, and that is that Christ be all, and in all.

Thus, the work that the Holy Spirit did in Noah, Daniel, and Job, and that effectual work He did in Paul and Timothy and Titus, etc., etc., cannot be complete without the effectual work He is doing in us, and in those who come after us. Only then will Christ be all, and in all.

Consequently, in 2 Corinthians, we see that Paul and the others with him are in the throes of what we may call a Job experience; and in such an experience, the Holy Spirit is at work bringing them to the end of themselves, so that the fullness of Christ becomes a living reality in their lives. Thus we find Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writing to the Corinthians, and to us, of this experience; for Paul knows that if the Corinthians, and all Christians who come after them, are to remain faithful unto the Lord until God has His End through His Way, that they must also experience the reality of their being brought to the end of themselves. Paul writes: "For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia,that we were pressed out of measure, above strength (beyond our strength) insomuch that we despaired even of life."

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 3)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Job Experience # 1

A Job Experience # 1

The Work of the Holy Spirit in the Life and Experience of Job, i.e. - In the Lives of God's People

In this book, we are going to consider the work of the Holy Spirit in the life and experience of Job; and we must consider this in the light of God's Eternal Purpose in Christ. This will lead us right into the great spiritual conflict that is taking place in the heavenlies. In the Body of Christ, those who are on the front lines of this intense spiritual conflict are those who are committed to intercessory prayer: they are committed to intercession that has one intent, one purpose, and one motive, and that is that God have His End through His Way - and that Way is always the Way of the Cross, and its principles of self-denial.

This kind of intercession becomes a progressive reality and power in and through our lives in the measure that we yield ourselves to the chastening of the Lord. Therefore, the measure in which we yield to the chastening and the discipline and the training and the correction and the purging of the Lord is the measure that we are being filled with, and controlled by, the Holy Spirit; consequently, true intercession - effectual prayer that results in God's End - can only be realized in our lives as we submit to the chastening of the Lord! God laid down this basis principle of chastening and intercession right from the beginning of the Recorded Word, in what is probably one of the oldest books in the Bible, Job. Here we find one of the greatest examples of God's principle of chastening, which results in intercession, and we find it in the life and experience of Job.

In His Word, God places great value upon Job as an intercessor, for in Ezekiel 14:14 we find him in the company of two other effectual prayer warriors, Noah and Daniel! When all else was against them, these three men - Noah, Daniel, and Job - stood at all cost for God's End: they endured, they remained faithful, and they submitted to God's dealings in their lives until God had His End through His Way. And in doing so, "these three men" participated in the great unseen battle that was taking place in the heavenlies - they participated in the battle which would consummate "all things in Christ" and at the same time destroy the works of the enemy.

In the fiercest of times "these three men" interceded and prevailed on the behalf of others, and on the behalf of God. Noah stood in faith and travailed for the saving of his family and for the continuance of the human race and, most important of all, for the preserving of "The Seed", which is Christ. Daniel interceded for the nation of Israel and for the "remnant" (The remnant" from each and every age) which would build and restore the temple - the spiritual house of God. And Job, who went through some of the fiercest trials that man can face, prayed for his friends - he interceded for those who, when he needed them most, had been unkind, judgmental, and needlessly cruel to him - perhaps this is one of the greatest tests of all - and when Job, the one who God called "My servant," prayed for his friends, the Lord turned Job's captivity and abundantly blessed him. And we shall see as we go on that Job's blessings had much more than an earthly or natural significance, for God had prepared Job to be a vessel of eternal intercession, a vessel through whom the God of all comfort could freely flow.

Therefore, in Ezekiel 14:14-20, in order to emphasize this kind of intercession ... intercession that produces that which God intends... the Holy Spirit three times refers to "these three men." And three is the number of Divine fullness, and Divine fullness will be the central theme as we consider the life and experience of Job in the light of God's full purpose in Christ. We shall see that the number three, as it is used in connection with "these three men", indicates that God brought forth His fullness in and through the lives of Noah, Daniel, and Job. Let us examine why.

In the Scripture, the word "fullness" is used three times to describe the Divine Fullness:

The Fullness of God (Eph. 3:19)
The Fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:13)
The Fullness of the Godhead (Col. 2:9).

Now each time the word "fullness" is used in the above scriptures, it is used in connection with the work that God is doing in the lives of His people, in order that they may become the fullness of Christ - 

...that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:19).

...till we all come...unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:13)

For in Him (in Christ) the whole fullness of Deity (the fullness of the Godhead) dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete (made full and have come to fullness of life) (Col. 2:9-10).

This great work of God - to bring about the fullness of Christ in the lives of His people - is summed up in Ephesians 1:22 and 23 where the word "fullness" is used to describe Christ and His body:

And He (God) put all things in subjection under His (Christ's) feet, and gave Him as Head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him Who fills all in all.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2)

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Christ In Heaven And Christ Within # 4

Christ In Heaven And Christ Within # 4

The Subjective Side

That does not cover all the ground, but it must be enough on that side for the moment. We turn just for a moment to the other side - Christ in us, or the subjective work of Christ. What does Christ in us mean? We know from the Word that it means conformity to the image of Christ. Paul uses the phrase: "Until Christ be (fully) formed in you" (Gal. 4:19). In salvation we have everything as to our own perfection in Him. When we receive Christ we receive within us potentially all that is in Him as to His present character - not only His position but His character, mark you. It is not where He is but WHAT He is. It is not now what He possesses but what He is. He possesses our salvation,but we know what He is, and "when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is." (1 John 3:2). So that all that He has given to us potentially when we believed is there to be developed; and, as Paul says, Christ is to be fully formed in us, and we are to be conformed to the image of God's Son. That is a very wonderful thing. It is: "Christ in you, the hope of glory." Christ in us means that eventually we shall be like Him to the full. But this is not the fact of our being saved, this is the object of our being saved. This is not salvation in its fundamental and initial meaning: this is salvation in its out-working to its full meaning, the image of Christ, God's Son.

Identification With Christ

How do we accept that? We accept that by recognizing the second side of Calvary's work. The one side - the objective - is what Christ has done for us, apart from us, in His own Person. We accept this other side of conformity to His image - the subjective - by accepting that Christ not only did that for us but as us, that is, representatively. We come to Romans 6 and recognize that when Christ died we died, when Christ was buried we were buried. That is His representative work. Now we accept all that in simple faith at the beginning; but, mark you, that does not become operative in any full measure until the objective side has been settled. There must be a settlement, definitely, positively, finally, that our salvation in Christ is perfect and complete, before there can be any full measure of the out-working of Christ in our hearts. The Lord must have that basis upon which to work.

This is where the danger comes in with a great blessing. Oh! it is a great revelation, a wonderful unveiling, that God has chosen to make us like Christ - not only to save us with a perfect salvation so that the question of sin and condemnation is answered finally and for ever, but to conform us to the image of His Son; what a revelation, what a blessing! Yes, but God cannot do that second thing until the first thing is settled, because it is in that realm that there is unspeakable peril. What is the peril? It is this:

The Peril Of The Subjective Apprehension

If the Lord were to get to work to empty us of ourselves in order to make room for the Lord Jesus; to show us ourselves in order to show us the Lord Jesus; to make us to know what we are in ourselves in order to make us know what Christ is in us; to make us know our weakness in order to make Christ's strength perfect in it; to make us know our foolishness in order to make Christ as our wisdom, perfect in us; if He were to start to do that and the question of our salvation were not settled, the devil would jump in at once and use God's very work against us, and when the Lord was dealing with us to make room for His Son, the devil would begin to say: 'You are under condemnation, God is against you, these very dealings of God with you are proofs that your salvation is not certain.' And so it is with a great many in whom the Lord begins to work out things. They allow the enemy to jump in and take hold of the very work of God and turn it against God, by bringing up doubts in their hearts as to their salvation.

Do you see that? So often that is done, and the peril is there, running right alongside of the greatest blessing all the time. It is thus that the enemy tries to use God's truth against God.

Now the subjective side of God's work demands for its effective outworking that we are settled once and for all as to our salvation; that comes first! If you have only the one side, the objective, and all your emphasis is upon that, you may be shallow and you may not grow spiritually. If you dwell only on the subjective, you become introspective and begin to doubt your salvation; your eyes are always turned in upon yourself, and the result is that you begin to look for something in yourself that an commend itself to God; and therein lies a denial of the perfect work of salvation accomplished by the Lord Jesus. You see it is an undermining and undercutting of the whole of the work of Calvary. These two things must go together. On the one hand - fully and finally in Christ we are as perfect in the hour when we believe as ever we shall be. On the other hand - all that is in Christ is going to be made, not theoretically true, but actually true in us by the Holy Spirit. But the second demands the first, and we must keep the balance. We must rejoice always in the fact that our names are written in heaven, that we are saved with a perfect salvation; but, on the other hand, we must remember that there is something that the Lord wants to do - not to make salvation true, but to make the image of Christ an inward thing. That is the outworking of salvation.

So this balance is necessary, and we must give equal emphasis. If we over-emphasize the subjective we take something from the glory of Christ. If we over-emphasize the objective we take something from God's purpose. It is a matter of the work of God in Christ, and the purpose of God in Christ: and these two things must both have their place.

May the Lord give us understanding, so that we come into a place of rest and are delivered from the perils which lurk in the vicinity of every Divine blessing.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(The End)

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Christ In Heaven and Christ Within # 3

Christ In Heaven and Christ Within # 3

The Peril Of Contradiction

There is a further peril into which some fall who have apprehended in a very true and blessed way the greatness of the salvation which Christ has accomplished as theirs. Because they know that the question of salvation is eternally settled, and there is no room whatever for any doubts or fears, and nothing can ever alter the fact; and that their salvation does not rest for a moment upon anything that they are or do, but upon what He is and has done, - all of which is undeniably true; nevertheless, because they are perfectly sure and have no doubts whatever, there is found a lack of sympathy and they become hard, cold, and legal. Sometimes they become cruel, and too often inconsistencies arise in the life; that is, their attitude says in effect, "I am saved, it does not matter what I do. I shall never be lost." They would never dream of saying that in so many words and yet very often it works out that way, that their very certainty of salvation opens the door for inconsistencies and contradictions in their lives which never reach their conscience, simply because they say they have no more conscience of sin, that the conscience has been once purged, and so one should never be troubled with conscience again; salvation is absolute, nothing can touch it. Subtly, imperceptibly, without their reasoning or thinking, that attitude does creep in and you find with some that if you bring home to them certain things in their lives which you see to be glaring inconsistencies they will hardly believe them, they will possibly repudiate them, or simply say, 'well, nothing alters the fact of my salvation.' Life is thus thrown into an unbalanced state, and the peril comes right in with the very fact of the fullness and finality of salvation.  

4. The Peril Of Truth Taking The Place of Life

There is another peril; it is that of making progress a matter of truth rather than of life. Progress, of course, is recognized as necessary. No true believer would sit down and say, 'Well, now there is no more progress to be made.' But for many who have so strongly taken up the position upon the objective work of the Lord Jesus in its perfection, the matter of progress is not a matter of life, it is rather a matter of truth; that is, to know more rather than to become more. Thus you find that a very great many who are in that position have advanced tremendously in their knowledge of truth, but they know a great deal more than they are, and somehow or other their own spiritual growth in Christlikeness has not kept pace by any means or in any proper proportion to their progress in the knowledge of things about Christ. That is a danger which comes in with this very thing of which we are speaking.

5. The Peril of Missing The Prize

Then this further peril - that of giving less importance to the prize than should be given to it. Salvation is not the prize. Salvation never was a prize. You can win or earn salvation; it is a free gift. But to settle down with salvation for a great many a failure to recognize that there is a prize - that of which the Apostle Paul spoke when he said: "I press on towards the goal unto the prize of the upward calling..." (Phil. 3:14). There is something more than salvation,something related to the Lord's full purpose in glory, something related to the ultimate full manifestation of the Lord in His people; and that is not simply that they are saved people, but that they have attained (and Paul uses that word) unto something. Paul was never in fear of losing his salvation. When he said: "Lest ... after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected" (1 Cor. 9:27), he was not thinking of losing his salvation, but he was aware that there was something that he could miss; he could fall short of something, that which he called "the prize"; and he related to its attainment a growth in his spiritual life: "Not that I... am already made perfect." If we settle down in the attitude that says, "My salvation is perfect, complete, and final in Christ. Nothing can be added to it and I rejoice in that" - this may well mean that we give less importance to the prize than we ought to give.

So you see there are perils which come in with what is perhaps the greatest of the blessings.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 4 - The Subjective Side)





Saturday, October 21, 2017

Christ In Heaven and Christ Within # 2

Christ In Heaven and Christ Within # 2

The Objective Side, continued -

You see, it implies the work that He has done by His Cross, in overthrowing all His and our enemies, meeting all the demand of human need in the matter of salvation, perfecting our salvation. And so He is received up, and is at the right hand of God; and the right hand is always in Scripture the place of strength and honor. He is at the right hand of God because the work which He came to do was finished. That is, our salvation has been perfected by and in the Lord Jesus. There is nothing whatever for Him to add to it. That is the most elementary thing to say, and yet it is so foundational. So many of the Lord's people have not yet entered into the joyful appreciation of that - that the Lord Jesus really has given the last stroke and the last touch to our salvation; that when heaven received Him, heaven set its seal to the perfected work of His Cross; and that He is there in possession of a salvation which has not still to be accomplished but which is final, full, complete, utter.

Perfect Salvation When We Believe

Our salvation rests upon our faith acceptance of that, not of anything subsequent to that. In the day in which we believe in the Lord Jesus on the ground of the perfection of the work of His Cross, we receive perfection of salvation, and enter into all that salvation to its very last degree. We shall never - though we were to live for centuries on this earth, - we shall never in Christ be one little bit more perfect than we are in Him in the very moment that we believe. All that is made good to us in the day that we believe. There are no questions, no hazards, no risks, the thing is settled, it is ours, full and complete in Christ. The Blood of the Lord Jesus has dealt with the whole sin question, root and branch, once and for all, for us. The question of condemnation has been for ever settled. You cannot have anything more utter than this - no condemnation! "There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." It does not say: 'There is no condemnation to those who have faithfully been going on with the Lord for years.' It says: "to them that are in Christ Jesus." And when are you in Christ? You are in Christ the moment that you believe in relation to His work on the Cross for your salvation, and in that very moment you enter into the place of  no condemnation, and freedom from condemnation cannot be more complete than that.

The tremendously important thing is for us to have that settled in our own hearts. We are saved, we are forgiven, we are delivered from condemnation. In Christ we are perfect. He is our perfection, and that perfection of His is ours through faith. The people who have the purest, clearest, fullest heart-grasp of that are the happiest people, the people who know joy. The people who have not grasped that are disturbed people, they have not the fullness of joy, they are always afraid, anxious, worrying about their salvation, doubting; and the enemy plays many tricks with people who have not settled that once and for all.

Now that is the blessed truth of what is objective in salvation for the believer as in Christ. I am so glad that He is in heaven "far above all" with this matter. If He were here in this world I might think that anything could happen: but He is not, nor is He in any realm where anything can happen; He is beyond all happenings in the matter of salvation. That salvation of ours in its perfection has been put beyond the reach of anything that can throw a doubt upon it, or raise a question about it - beyond the touch of anything that can bring it into uncertainty.

The Perils Of The Objective Apprehension

But there are perils associated even with that blessed truth, because it is only one side of the truth. It is the first side; it is the thing which must come first, but it is only one side, and therefore it is just possible to make salvation one-sided by putting all the emphasis upon that and not giving due place to the other side.

1. The Peril of Shallowness

What are some of the perils? Well, we begin with the simplest, the peril of superficiality, of shallowness. What Christ has done for us may be a matter of very great joy and rejoicing and satisfaction; but contentment in that realm and with that side alone may just prevent that deep work which is necessary, which comes by the complementary side of the truth of Christ's work, the subjective. Thus it is found that many people, who are rejoicing to the full in the finality of their salvation in Christ, are living very much upon the surface, and not learning a very great deal about the deeper realities and fuller meaning of Christ. That is in the first and perhaps the simplest form of peril.

2. The Peril of Delayed Maturity

Closely related to this is the peril of making the Christian life static, settled, where it has reached the point of accepting all the objective truth by faith and staying there, and not going on beyond that in spiritual experience. The truth is there, but it is objective, external, although there is great joy, and assurance in the heart; but the Christian life has stopped with that, it has settled down. That is a very real peril, and you find it marking a great many of the Lord's people. Their attitude is, "I am saved, nothing has to be added or can be added to my salvation; I need have no more doubt of my salvation, I am accepted in Christ, and I am perfect in Him; what more do I need? I just rest upon that and enjoy that day by day." Well, that is very good, but you see it can bring a check, so that you live on one side of things, and the whole of the Christian life stops there.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 3)

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Adrian Rogers (and other devotionals)

BIBLE MEDITATION:
 “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” Romans 13:14

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:
One of my favorite stories is about a father who leaves his son at home one Saturday afternoon because his son isn’t feeling well. He tells his son, “Don’t go swimming with your buddies.”

The son says, “Yes sir!”

The dad returns by way of the swimming hole and notices his son frolicking with the other boys. He stops the car, calls his son over and says, “I told you not to go swimming.”

“But I didn’t intend to go swimming. I just came down to watch, and I fell in,” the boy said.

The dad began feeling sorry for his son until he noticed he had his bathing suit on! The son explained, “I brought that along…in case I was tempted.”

ACTION POINT:
Friend, don’t make any provision for the flesh.
~Adrian Rogers~
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Consider carefully how you listen!(J.C. Ryle)"Consider carefully how you listen!" Luke 8:18 
We learn from this verse, the great importance of right hearing. The words of our Lord Jesus Christ ought to impress that lesson deeply on our hearts. He says, "Consider carefully how you listen!"
The degree of benefit which men receive from all the means of grace--depends entirely on the way in which they use them. 
Private PRAYER lies at the very foundation of religion--yet the mere formal repetition of a set of words, when "the heart is far away"--does good to no man's soul. 
Reading the BIBLE is essential to the attainment of sound Christian knowledge--yet the mere formal reading of so many chapters as a task and duty, with out a humble desire to be taught of God, is little better than a waste of time. 
Just as it is with praying and Bible reading--so it is with LISTENING. It is not enough that we go to Church and hear sermons. We may do so for fifty years, and be nothing bettered, but rather worse! "Consider carefully," says our Lord, "how you listen!"
Would anyone know how to listen aright? Then let him lay to heart three simple rules: 
For one thing, we must listen with FAITH, believing implicitly that every Word of God is true, and shall stand. The Word in old time did not profit the Jews, "not being mixed with faith in those who heard it." Hebrews 4:2 
For another thing, we must listen with REVERENCE--remembering constantly that the Bible is the book of God. This was the habit of the Thessalonians. They received Paul's message, "not as the word of men--but the Word of God." 1 Thessalonians 2:13 
Above all, we must listen with PRAYER--praying for God's blessing before the sermon is preached, and praying for God's blessing again when the sermon is over. Here lies the grand defect of the hearing of many. They ask no blessing--and so they receive none. The sermon passes through their minds like water through a leaky vessel, and leaves nothing behind.
Let us bear these rules in mind every Sunday morning, before we go to hear the Word of God preached. Let as not rush into God's presence careless, reckless, and unprepared--as if it did not matter how we listened. Let us carry with us faith, reverence, and prayer. If these three are our companions--then we shall listen with profit, and return with praise!
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Never let us read any portion of God's Word without looking up for divine teaching!

(James Smith, "The Evening Sacrifice; Or, A Help to Devotion")

"Open my eyes--that I may behold wondrous things out of Your law." Psalm 119:18

God's Book is a book of wonders! It is a wonderful record . . .
  of God's power in creation,
  of His wisdom in providence,
  and of His grace in redemption.

It has the stamp of infinity upon it. We cannot penetrate its heights, fathom its depths, or traverse its lengths and breadths--but as we are taught of God. The Holy Spirit, who composed it and inspired holy men to write it, must unfold and reveal it to our minds--or we shall never . . .
  see its glory,
  be impressed with its majesty,
  or rejoice in its divine truths.

Never let us read any portion of God's Word without looking up for divine teaching. Never let us imagine that we know all that is contained in any one verse of God's blessed Book--for there is afullness in the holy Scriptures not to be found anywhere else.

Oh, ever blessed Spirit of God, who has given us Your holy Word to . . .
   instruct our intellects,
   sanctify our hearts, and
   regulate our lives--we beseech You to . . .
enlighten our minds to understand it,
open our hearts to receive it,
give us faith to believe it, and
enable us to reduce it to practice in our every-day life!

O may we be given grace . . .
  understand the sublime doctrines,
  believe the precious promises, and 
  practice the holy precepts of Your blessed Word!
Lord, unveil to us the types, unfold to us the prophecies--and apply to our hearts, the consolatory portions of the sacred Scriptures. May we hide the Word in our hearts, that we may not sin against You. O to catch the meaning, taste the sweetness, and feel the power--of Your holy truth! O Lord, open our eyes, and unfold the truth to us this night! O Lord, soften our hearts, and bring home Your Word with power!

"Then He opened their understanding--that they might understand the Scriptures." Luke 24:45

"Behold, God is exalted in His power! Who is a teacher like Him?" Job 36:22
  

Monday, October 9, 2017

Contentment

Contentment

Charles Naylor

Contentment is one of life's greatest blessings. But contentment is not something that can be sent down, nicely wrapped up like a Christmas gift from Heaven. It is a state of mind and heart. It is not dependent upon our situation or our circumstances. Many people are contented and happy in circumstances — where others would be thoroughly discontented. Some people are discontented under the most favorable circumstances. Contentment is a structure we build ourselves. It is a state of mind we develop. It is an attitude toward things which comes to us through careful cultivation. It is something which lives inside us — not something that circumstances and conditions create.
If happiness has not its seat and center in the heart — we may be wise, or rich or great — but never can be blessed.
Contentment is sometimes spoken of as a lazy virtue. Perhaps that is because some people are content with things with which they ought not to be content. We should never be satisfied to permit things to exist, which ought not to exist. We should never be satisfied to be less than our best. There are wrongs which need righting. There are conditions which need improving. There is progress which needs to be made. A sort of contentment that can view these things with indifference, ignore responsibility, evade duty — should be called by an entirely different name. When we have done our duty, met our responsibility, corrected those things that need correction so far as is possible for us — then we may have real contentment. Contentment does not mean surrender to conditions. It does mean being satisfied in the circumstances and conditions which exist, for which we are not responsible.
Contentment is a lesson to be learned. Paul said, "I have learned in whatever state I am therewith to be content." (Philippians 4:11). He goes on to tell some of the things he has learned. "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." (verses 12, 13).
Paul had learned a great secret. It was the secret of adapting himself to conditions, and being at rest in those conditions. He could enjoy to the full, the things that afforded him enjoyment. He could suffer patiently, the things that came upon him to suffer. But whether rejoicing or suffering — he had that inner contentment of spirit — the calmness and peace of which enriched his soul and made quite tolerable a life that otherwise would have been intolerable.
We, too, need to learn the lesson of contentment. The command to Christians is, "Be content with such things as you have" (Hebrews 13:5). Speaking further upon this subject Paul says, "Godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into this world and it is certain we can carry nothing out. Having food and clothing, let us be therewith content."
A godly life is productive of contentment — but there are many Christians who at least in some respects are discontented. This discontent produces a constant urge to rebel against things.
It is a singular fact that many of the most contented people are those who live in poverty. In fact, the working people are the most contented of all people. Those who live on the common levels of life, are the truly happy — provided they have the attitude of contentment.
There are many things people desire which can never give them contentment. One man says, "If I had a million dollars — I would be contented." Another thinks if he had political preferment — that would satisfy his ambition and he would be content. Another has another thing to attain to make him content. These things when attained — do not bring contentment.
As already pointed out contentment is a lesson learned, a state of the heart, an attitude toward things.
Riches do not bring contentment. Andrew Carnegie, known to all for his wealth and a man who should have known what he was talking about, said, "Beyond a competence for old age, and that may be very small — wealth lessens rather than increases human happiness. Millionaires who laugh are rare!" Many of us would do well to pause here and carefully study this saying of a wise and prudent Scotchman.
Jesus told his disciples not to be anxious about food and clothing and such things and added, "After all these things, the Gentiles seek" (Matthew 6:32). Possession of worldly things, is a goal set before them by the unsaved. The question asked about a man often is, "How much money does he have?" His supposed happiness is usually rated by the size of his bank account. No greater error in the choice of a standard for measurement of happiness, could be made. The command of the Scriptures is, "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness." We should put first things first. If we do this — then our needs will be few, and our desires not much greater.
The basis of contentment is simplicity of desire. One of the things that is ruining more happiness than anything else, is the desire to excel others. "We must keep up with the Jones," is an attitude of mind fatal to contentment. It has caused more heartaches, destroyed more happiness, ruined more homes, produced more divorces, perhaps than any other one thing! This strife to excel, often leads people into sin.
The wife would outstrip her neighbors, so she makes large demands upon her husband for money. Thus pressed, he sometimes adopts business methods that are highly improper. In many cases it has led to shame and disgrace. In any event, it leads to unhappiness for both husband and wife and for the whole family. Through envy, jealousy of others, and coveting what they don't have — many people have been brought to bitterness of soul and utterly to hate life. Better contentment in a cottage — than discontent in a mansion!
Very often prosperity in temporal things destroys the happiness which has already existed in a less prosperous condition.
Years ago in one of our northern States, a man engaged in the lumbering business in a small way, built a cozy cottage on the shore of a bay into which he brought his bride. They both worked, he in his sawmill, and she in her cottage — and were both happy. The years passed. He prospered in business and became rich. Then he built a fine mansion in the city and moved into it. After living there for some time and mingling with the society into which his riches gave them entrance — in speaking to a friend one day he said, "We are not as happy as we were in our little cottage on the bay."
A few months ago I heard Charles M. Schwab make an address over the radio. In that address he told of his big house in New York City and of another great house which he owned in the country. He said, "I don't own them. They own me. The only satisfaction I have in them, is that I have enough money in the bank to pay the taxes on them." He has to look to other sources rather than to his possessions, for contentment and happiness.
Contentment is not built of gold or of precious gems. It is not constructed of honors or fame or the applause of the multitude. It does not come from out shining others. These may bring a sort of satisfaction — but not contentment. Contentment belongs to the meek and lowly in spirit. Pride is destructive to it. Arrogance annihilates it. Covetousness curses it. Hatred poisons it. Malice thrusts a sword through it. Contentment can thrive only with the Christian virtues. Faith, hope, and charity abide with it. Peace broods over its domicile. Blessed forevermore is he who has a contented spirit.
So many nourish discontent. They are all the time looking at the things they do not possess — and coveting them. They are always reaching out, stretching themselves to gain something which they cannot attain. They find fault with the things they possess — instead of enjoying them. They minimize the simple good in things. They see all the faults and failures. They often feel that their rights are being trespassed upon. There is a frown in their hearts — and a frown upon their faces.
Who is to blame for all this? The individual himself! He has adopted a wrong attitude of mind and heart. He is facing the wrong way. He has the wrong standard. He cannot be happy. He needs to turn about, face the other way, adopt a different attitude, look at things from a different angle, and set different standards for himself. He needs to learn the secret of the simple life — simple desires, temperate aspirations, bridled ambitions.
In the valley of contentment — is calmness, sweetness of spirit, and rest of soul. Through it flow the peaceable waters of quietness. In this valley, the song-birds joyfully sing. The heart mounts up to God in praise. In it lies the spring of joy which bubbles up in gladsome song.
The valley of contentment is not a place of inactivity. When we have learned to be content with such things as we have, and in our situation in life and in our circumstances — that does not mean that we lose all aspirations or that all effort ceases. By no means. To be content with today, does not mean to be content with the same thing tomorrow. The right sort of contentment demands continual progress in the lines in which progress is possible. In fact, we cannot be contented not to make proper progress. In the valley of contentment, we are not to sit down idly dreaming away our days. On the contrary — there is a path which runs through this valley, and we are to walk in this path, ever forward, ever upward.

If we would be truly happy, if we would sing the songs of the joyous life — then we must learn the lesson of contentment. We must learn what desires to gratify — and what desires to repress. We must learn what things can bring contentment — and what things destroy it. We must avoid the latter, while we seek the former. We must cultivate our hearts. We must trust in God. Then and only then, shall we have that source of contentment and happiness within, which inspires us to sing the song of glad rejoicing!