Category: Faith

Faith Made Certain

bibleNow faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval.

… And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

… All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. (Heb. 11:1-2, 6, 13-16; please read all of this chapter)

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.

…Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:7-12, 16-18; please read all of this chapter)

Dear saints, all those who have the Light of God shining in your hearts, and have beheld the glory of God shining in the face of His Son, Jesus Christ (2 Cor: 4), we thank our Heavenly Father for all of you in this momentous hour. And we exhort you all in love and in Christ to fix your eyes and hope squarely on the only Savior who has come into this world, and is able to preserve you until the time of His appearance. Hold on and hold fast my brethren, and grip ever tighter with all the strength and determination His grace provides, for the testing of our faith in this hour will either weaken it or make it stronger and more steadfast.

Now as we consider further the topic of faith, we propose that it is nothing more or less than fixing our eyes on the Faithful One – the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Faith is simply turning our attention to, or fixing our eyes on Jesus – the Way the Truth and the Life, the Author and Perfecter of Faith, the Beginning and the End of all the plans and purposes of the Most High God. We fix our attention on Him that we might, by the grace of the Father through the Holy Spirit, come to know Him and to follow Him wherever He goes. It is by faith alone that we enter most fully into His very life and experience as the All-holy and Almighty One who always pleases the Father in Heaven.

In this message, the Lord willing, I would like to examine this further, and consider why our faith might be so important to the Father. Please reflect on the passages listed above, if you have not done so already. I believe that it is essential in this hour that we truly comprehend these matters, as the days ahead may prove to be very unsettling to our place in this world; and our faith in our God and His Word, will largely determine our spiritual condition at His coming.

The first thing I would like to mention regarding faith is that it seems, by all indications, to be extremely important to our God. He takes it very personally, in other words, when we are willing to invest all that we are – past, present and future – in Him alone, and in all that He has communicated to us by His word. In Hebrews 11:7, we see that when a man steps out on God’s word in obedience and trust, it is accounted to him as nothing less than righteousness. It is pleasing and precious to God when we take Him solely on His word; when His word, standing on its own, is sufficient for us. For all that He is, and is doing, and will do, is bound up in the word that He has communicated to mankind through all of His various means and instruments. And by this word, we most definitely mean all that the Scriptures associate with it, including the Living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was the Word made flesh (see John 1).

Have we therefore settled on the fact the Lord our God cannot fail to do all that He has planned and communicated to us through His word? He alone is faithful, and the veracity of His word must never be challenged or questioned. The enemy is forever sowing seeds of doubt and confusion, but if the Lord has declared something, it is so. PERIOD! Although, in the course of our lives on this earth, we see many things with our eyes,  hear many things with our ears, and touch much with our hands, we are not to live by any of this, but by –
EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD. (Matt. 4:4)

Now when the Lord communicates His Word, either through His Son, the Scripture, His messengers, or directly through the still small voice of the Spirit, it is often in diametric opposition to everything that our eyes and experience know to be so. We are to have absolute assurance that everything He has promised will be, but that assurance will by no means come through empirical evidence or the “things which are seen.” It is within this conflict between what the Lord says will be and what appears to be where our faith is tested and refined over time as we wait for His promises to be fulfilled. For not only does the Lord give us His word, but embodied in that is His expectation that we will be willing to wait for Him to perform it in entirety, precisely as He has declared. His Word is given, therefore, not just to communicate His plans and purposes, but to bind to Himself all those who will receive it by faith.

Notice how Austin-Sparks addresses the whole business of faith and experience in terms of times of trial and testing –

Now you see what happens. In the hour of temptation, God’s goodness is always impugned, and God’s truth is always brought into question, and all other tokens of His love, His veracity, are always obscured. The obvious answer to anybody alive and awake was, Oh no! look, look everywhere; everywhere there are evidences and tokens of God’s love: I have plenty of proof of the love of God if I like to contemplate it, if I like to sit down and think about it and weigh things up. But how many of you have ever done that in the hour of trial, and found your escape that way? Is it not true that, in the hour of trial, of temptation, of stress, of assault, all the blessings that have ever been are obscured? Somehow or other, a mist is spread over them, a fog bank, a smoke screen, and you only see your present adversity and the difficulty of the moment. You are obsessed with a question about God and His love and His faithfulness, His truth. I believe that this is why Jesus, in the final revelation, is called “Faithful and True” (Rev. 19:11). It is the great title of triumph in man; the triumph in man over all this work of Satan which raises for ever and aye the question as to God’s love and God’s truth. (from, The Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus)

Brethren, as we all know, it is a relatively simple thing to confess that you believe in God; It is quite another matter altogether to believe God, especially in the midst of trial and confusion; when His word seems to be at odds with reality. And most certainly, He must know that we will believe Him, and trust Him, not only in the isolated or high moments of our lives, but beyond that such that we will be willing to entrust Him with all that we are, and forsake all things in this world. We then will be prepared to wait however long it takes for Him to restore all things and to fulfill all things in His Beloved Son.

ASSURANCE! CONVICTION! HOPE! Did you notice these running through the passages above? Clearly, all of these are rooted solely in His word and all that He has determined for our future. Our faith must bring us to the place where we know that He is more than just God, but to the point where we trust Him to fulfill everything that He has said He will do. That He is faithful and true (Rev. 19:11). That He is a God who always and forever keeps His word. That His word cannot fail; that it will endure forever. That His word is sure and certain, and perfect in every way, flowing out of the very attributes of God that are the foundation of all we believe. That the same Word that breathed life into the physical universe, and created (from nothing) the very planet we are living on, and the environment that sustains us, will also bring forth every other promise that He has uttered.

Folks, I am sitting here now looking out the window on a clear morning, at trees, and grass and birds, and cars driving by. This is very real to me, as my eyes convey them to my experience. And because my eyes see these things, I have an assurance that they are real; that they are so. No one in fact needs to convince me otherwise because I trust what I see. In other words, I require no other witness to prove the veracity of what I see with my own eyes.

In similar fashion, the Bible speaks of a reality made available to us by faith; and it is a faith based on a word. But not just any word from any source. This is why we must believe that “He is” and that “He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Such faith in Him joins us to Him in a very personal and poignant way. It is our personal pledge to the Father who gave that which He loved the most so that we could even begin this life of faith. And I do believe He smiles down on us whenever we simply trust Him with child-like faith, and when He knows that we are ready and willing to live by His every word. In fact, He attributes this to us as righteousness, as something pleasing to Him. This is the point, dear Christian, where our faith moves beyond mere doctrine or religion. Here is where it becomes quite intimate and personal, and we make that vital connection with the Personality that created and sustains all life. For we have determined deep in our hearts (in the inner man) to trust Him unequivocally, to abide in His promises, to endure however long it takes for all of His promises to be fulfilled.

Indeed, the Lord of All Life must know that we will not equivocate, that our love for Him and our faith in Him is certain! He must test and refine this faith throughout our lives, day-by-day, moment-by-moment, as a means for us to come to know Him and revere Him, and abide in Him! He must know that our faith is resilient and steadfast; that though our experiences will often seem to contradict His Word and leave us perplexed and distressed, we will in fact hold fast to Him; that we will not leave Him nor forsake Him.

He must know that we have come to the place where all that we are is fully invested in eternity (for this is in fact our ultimate habitation); that we place little relative value on things which pass away, and have no real life in them. He must know that we are willing to endure hardship, confusion, perplexity, pain, loss, suffering, whatever it takes – and that such testing will not loose the bond of faith and love that binds us to Him.

He must know that we agree with Him in all things, and actively seek a reward that is out ahead, established under better promises, a “better country” offering an “eternal weight of glory” far beyond anything we could ever compare or imagine.

Now as easy as this is to write, I know that in our daily walk it is hard; so very hard it seems. And I don’t ever want to suggest it to be otherwise. I know that many of you are, at this very moment, being afflicted, perplexed, struck down and persecuted, and in many ways being brought to the end of yourselves; that your faith is undergoing tremendous trial and testing. I also have a prophetic sense that as the “birth pangs” (see Matthew 24; Romans 8:22) marking the end of this present age increase and become ever more numerous and convulsive, we will be tested even more.

Yet I also know that His grace is more than sufficient for us, and that from these broken vessels of clay, the power and majesty of the Living God can come forth as a testimony of His grace, glory and power to all with eyes to see.

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:16-18)

It is nothing short of His grace and our faith in Him that keeps us from giving way to despair, abandonment, and ultimate destruction amidst such intense trials and the seeming contradiction of our circumstances with His promises. We must learn to look out farther than the moment, or our own lives even, for His plans and purposes encompass all the world, and the reconciliation of all things in Christ. It is a perfect plan from a perfect God and it cannot fail! He has declared it and invited us by His grace to share in its execution, fulfillment and enjoyment!

But we must be ready! Yes, we must be made ready! We must prove ourselves faithful and steadfast to Him! Our bond to Him cannot be broken! This is why, I believe, our faith is so important to our God. This is why He takes our faith in Him very personally! This is why all of the champions of faith in Hebrews 11 are preserved there forever in honor. They were all willing to leave all and lose all in the present life, such that they might enter into His promise of something better; out there ahead beyond the horizon. And it is so comforting to know that they were mere human beings – jars of clay – like you and I.

Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:8)

Notice in this passage how faith in, and love for God are brought together. Clearly, we cannot go all the way with God in faith, regardless of what we are made to endure, unless we know Him, and love Him, and live by every word that He has breathed into this world. Note how James also suggests (in James 1:2-3) that the testing of our faith produces endurance, and that this endurance is considered blessed (see James 5:11 below) by God. Brethren, I am starting to see that the reason endurance is so highly esteemed by our Lord, is that it is the ultimate testament of our love for Him; that it reinforces over time the choice we have made to believe Him. And our willingness to endure with Him, and to be bruised and broken by Him (as He deems necessary), conveys to Him so much more than mere words or anything else that religion esteems. It affirms most genuinely that we truly do love Him and have joined with Him in all of His eternal plans and purposes.

Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door. As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We count those blessed who endured. 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. (Jam. 5:7-11)

I may be mistaken here, but it appears to me that our Lord most definitely returns or reciprocates our faith in Him with His grace and mercy. As surely as He has imposed the hardship and trial, He will also supply the appropriate measure of grace, peace, wisdom and encouragement (whatever He knows we need really in order to endure and learn what must be learned). I must say that in my own personal experience recently, I am starting to see how wonderful this is, and I praise God for His kindness. I also know on another level that all things, including our faith, begins with His choice to claim us as His own. He will indeed complete all that which He has begun in our lives with Him, and we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us! Amen and Praise God for that.

But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’” (Matt. 4:4)

Dear brethren, the Holy Spirit seems to be emphasizing this need for a more fuller, life-sustaining faith for all of us in this hour – this sense that to go further and deeper into the life of the Lord requires so much more than anything we can naturally supply, or even anything that the Spirit has previously given. Clearly, the faith that is sufficient to come under the covering of blood, is not sufficient to withstand the rigors of the wilderness and entrance into the land. We can think of this as the faith that follows, after what Caleb said to Joshua at the end of his life –

I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought word back to him as it was in my heart. “Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt with fear; but I followed the LORD my God fully. (Josh. 14:7-8)

The many melted with fear, but Caleb followed His God fully! I have been asking the Lord what makes a Caleb and a Joshua; what is this faith that follows? Consider the many times the Lord Himself enjoined the people to “follow me”. What did Caleb and Joshua see that all the others did not? Why did they alone see the challenges before them within the scope and shadow of their God when all others shrunk back, and did not trust their God to advance before them?

I have determined that, as yet, I am no Caleb – that much of my spiritual walk is still carried out in the soul, based on what I see and know from my experience. To live, to actually and fully live by every word of God, to receive it and be changed by it through this advancing and possessing faith, this is what I need. For – “… whatever is not from faith is sin.” (Rom. 14:23).

Why? For all of the reasons we have mentioned and so much more. Because without this faith, the Word of God and the life of God cannot advance. His purpose is stifled, and the fullness of Christ is limited. Life comes forth from His Word; this is the first thing we see in Genesis and the Gospels – that His Word came into the world, that the Word was made flesh to fulfill His living and dynamic purpose. For us creatures, when we speak, our word is an expression of many things – our personality, our mood at the moment, our opinion perhaps. Yet for God, the Creator, His Word is an expression of His active power and volition – it is a thing that brings forth something so much more than His thoughts. It is an agent of life and change in demonstration of who He is as the Creator! His Word is life and we enter into this life through faith, by believing everything He says, and living by every word breathed into the world by God. Experience means nothing! Though every indication in this world is that He is false, it is a lie. If He has said it, it is so! Nothing else matters to those who will follow their God fully in faith!

Israel of old believed just enough to cover their doors with the blood of the Lamb and to remain inside their homes until the morning. Yet this must lead onward to a faith that follows outside and beyond, across the sea, through the wilderness, and into a land inhabited by giants. Faith, not will power or human courage or tenacity! Faith believes and follows, and allows reality to be defined by the Word of God and not what we see and know. It is faith made certain. It is the life and power and will of God made manifest in the actual by all those who trust Him and believe Him and place all of their confidence in Him. Our faith doesn’t change God, as some suggest, but rather it acknowledges all that He is already. It opens the door to a new reality where He alone presides over all things in His creation.

Oh Lord, we ask humbly for this faith; this faith that follows; this faith made certain; the faith required in this dark hour to trust You alone; to wait for You to fulfill all that You have spoken by Your Word. In Jesus name, we pray. Amen.

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A Place – W.E. Smith

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:1-5 NASB)

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:1-7 ESV)

A place beloved saints – do you not long for such a place? Does not this cold and hollow world make you yearn, make you weary for such a place? And not just any place, a place with the Father; a place in Him. Oh for such a place, for was not this reason we were created. And this Son, He is the very life of the world, which is the light of men! He is the way to this place, to the Father’s heart, to that celestial garden where all things are made new. Oh dear ones, again, do you not yearn deep in your spirit for such a place? Can you even see it in your spirit’s eye? Has this living reality penetrated deep into your life? And is this Son, the Christ, is He in fact the life of your world? Is He the path you are on? Is He your living way back into the very house of the Father?

“I am the life of the world” – this then is the Kingdom is it not! For in the Kingdom of God only the life of God must animate all things; it must define and determine all things! And this life is the Lord Jesus Christ! He alone is the living principle of the New Creation, of which you and I are the first fruits. It is not more religion or theology we need at this time, but that this living truth might be the very principle and energy upon which we live every moment of our lives here in this dark and fallen world! Everything out of Christ! Everything generated from Him! No more “my life” – but “He is my life”!

Let your hearts not be troubled, just believe in Me – oh if this were just so easy. Yet it is isn’t it? It is we who are so broken, so fallen, so miserable within ourselves that we have made this so complicated, so religious, so devoid of real living power. Oh the judgment to come on all those who have made the Living Christ merely a religious thing, a symbol, an empty teaching for 2,000 years!

Is He alone our light then – the Light with which we now view all things, that all things come into focus as they really are? He is not only the way but it is His life that lights the way. It is therefore a self-reflecting and self-illuminating light. Oh the glory of this light, this life, that it reveals itself, that it illuminates itself, and that this light is the very light that leads us home into the Father’s eternal heart. Hallelujah!

“Many rooms” and “a place for you” – and that somehow this place is “to myself” – So He is in this place? A personal place but a place where He abides, a place where we dwell personally with Him, with the Father and Son in a room in His house. Oh dear children of God, does this not send a rush of spiritual adrenaline through your very being?

The end of all things is at hand! The nations are rushing towards inevitable judgment and destruction! The testimony of Christ, the lampstands have long since gone out! The testimony of Christ held intimately within a small remnant, very much hidden and obscure! The day of His visitation draws near and yet, tragically as before, the many fail to recognize it (Luke 19:41-44). The many who name His Name seem incapable of discerning the signs of the times that are all around them (Matt. 16:1-3). The pride and complacency of life in this world keeps them from taking up their cross to follow the One Who was slain, as true disciples, up and out of this grave and into life eternal and abundant, in His Spirit, upon resurrection ground. Rich and in need of nothing, settled and secure and rooted in this world and its spirit and life, refusing to let it go, to even contemplate that there is so much more. And so, as before, the time of teaching and instruction must give way to the time of the prophet, the ones who come in the Name of the Lord, voicing and living as a parable of His sore displeasure.

Oh Gracious and Wise and Long-suffering Lord, help us!

“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life!”

Is He all of this for you, or for me?

Oh Lord may it be so!

May Your mercy and grace make it so in our hearts this day Oh Lord!

Please be the life for all of your people today! Amen.

Inspiration from Zacharias and Elizabeth – by Tom Finley

Please allow me to share some encouragement with you from the story of Zacharias and Elizabeth in Luke Chapter One. These are just some simple spiritual insights into God’s ways that came to me as I meditated on this portion of His word.

Both Zacharias and Elizabeth were from priestly lines, and Zacharias was actively serving among the temple priesthood.  This surely signifies that they had a heart to serve the Lord.  I believe that according to the light they had they were very sincere in wanting to make their lives count for God and His purposes.

In God’s magnificent sovereignty and wisdom, He prevented them from having a child.   Think about this.   Although Scripture tells us that Elizabeth was grateful to God for taking away the disgrace of being childless, I cannot help but think that she wanted more than just being a mother.  This couple was serious about pleasing God, and God’s interests were surely deeply held within their hearts.  “They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord” (Lk. 1:6). This godly couple surely wanted a child, yet we can certainly imagine that they wanted a special child, one dedicated to carry on their tradition of devoted service to God and His house.

Yet, this deep aspiration of theirs was blocked.   “But they had no child, because Elizabeth as barren, and they were both advanced in years” (Lk. 1:7).   Their yearning to give more to God, to be of more usefulness to Him by bearing a godly son in the priestly line seemed unfulfilled.  Yet, they prayed.  It was after all hope seemed to be gone; it was only after all their natural strength to produce something for God was over, that God came with the answer to their prayer.  When the angel appeared to Zacharias in the Holy Place, he said:  “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John” (Lk. 1:13)

Is this not how God works?  It is after we give up on our strength, like Abraham and Sarah, that God can work and bring forth something.  And, it is surely in answer to prayer.  

Dear brothers and sisters, we tend to give up on prayer for usefulness to God when we have tried to serve in our own strength and have only seen failure. Or, we may lose heart because we labor year after year with seemingly meager results.  Also, we are often fearful of our motives for desiring usefulness once we have seen how dark the natural heart is, wanting to be used by God for self-glory.  Yet, there remains something in us of God, and we must not deny this aspiration He has given us!  Something within us urges us gently to dare to pray, to dare to ask God to make us more useful in the building up of His house!  Let us pray with a pure heart, under His blood, and by His grace, seeking for His purposes and His glory alone.

Then, we must learn to wait on His answer, and His timing.  We see from the lives of this godly couple that while they awaited God’s answer, they never ceased carrying out His will day by day:  “They were righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord” (Lk. 1:6).  They were scrupulous in keeping God’s righteous ways for their lives. This is surely a reason why God would answer their prayers.  Do not think that God will grant you or me a useful role in building up the body of Christ if we are not seeking His righteousness in all that we do.  This is a vital key to any usefulness for God.  We must seek His righteousness in every daily task, in all of the little things of daily life, not just in “spiritual matters.”

The biography of Hudson Taylor contains a wonderful account of a lady who greatly desired to be used of God on the mission field.  In her twenties, as I recall, she gave herself to go to the mission field in China.  She was ready to go then, but her parents were not well.  They needed her help.  This dear sister realized that she must honor her parents and care for their needs, so she set aside her ambition to be a missionary at that time and wholly gave herself to do what she knew God wanted her to do – serve her parents in their need.  This service continued for three decades!  Many times she thought of her desire to be used of the Lord in China.  But, her way was “blocked” by God’s sovereign hand.  Finally, after about 30 years, much longer than anyone could have anticipated, both parents passed away. Within three weeks after burying her last parent, she wrote to the China Inland Mission and offered herself as a living sacrifice for the great field in China.  She was, of course, accepted and she went.  By then, she was greatly prepared by the Lord as a wonderful vessel for His use.  After all the time of waiting, she had learned the lesson of self-denial and humble service to God in the little things.   She had no self-confidence, I am sure, and was a person fully dependent upon the Lord, knowing how to wait upon Him and how to serve in His strength alone.

It may seem that your aspiration to do something more for God’s building is blocked. Oh, yes, you may be doing a little here and there, but deep within you desire to be so much more effective and useful to God.  Some of God’s real seekers today feel that their opportunities for service are blocked because the great majority of God’s people, the ones to be served, are trapped in religious systems plagued by man-made traditions compromising God’s ways.  These seekers simply cannot serve in a system that abandons God’s ways and utilizes the world’s ways and the energy of the religious “flesh.”  To serve there would compromise the desire of seeker to serve God in purity.  Maybe you are one of these seekers.  Do not be discouraged.  God has a plan for you to serve Him where it will truly count. Wait upon Him and keep following His ways faithfully.  He will make a way.

God’s answer to this couple’s prayer came in a most particular, unexpected and unusual way.  “According to the custom of the priestly office, he [Zacharias] was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense” (Lk. 1:9).  Although there were a great number of temple priests (at least 20,000) there were probably only about 50 priests on duty for the early morning tasks.   The most holy assignment on any ordinary day was that of burning the incense, and the selection of this priest was determined through a series of three casts of the lot.  So, such a distinction was likely to fall to a temple priest only once in a lifetime.[i]  This was an extraordinary event involving Zacharias, obviously orchestrated by the God who is over all!  When Zacharias was performing his appointed task, an angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John” (Lk. 1:13).

God hears our Spirit-inspired prayers, but we must learn to wait patiently and obediently, and in faith, for His answer in His perfect timing.  Once the answer comes, especially for more usefulness to God, be prepared that it may be somewhat different than you or others imagined.  When John was born, the neighbors and friends of Elizabeth could not understand why he would be called John.  That was certainly not normal.  In fact, “they were going to call him Zacharias, after his father. But his mother answered and said, ‘No, indeed; but he shall be called John.’” (Lk. 1:60-61).  The neighbors and friends protested because this name was not a name from the priestly families of Zacharias and Elizabeth. We, or others, may anticipate a certain role of usefulness to God, but we must learn to bow before God and accept His assignment.  The man named John never served as a typical priest.

This godly couple’s son was described by Jesus as the greatest among those born of women (in the natural kingdom of men).  He fulfilled a huge prophetic role in Jesus’ first coming to earth. (Matt. 11:7-14).  But, for our learning, it is not the “greatness” in terms of significance or size of the work that we should seek. We should not be those desiring to do a “great work” for God in terms of notoriety.   The “greatness” here is seen in the fact that the birth of this son was altogether something of God.  It was His plan, His timing and His unique way of bringing it to pass that made it great.  This answer to their deepest heart prayer to God was altogether great because it had the divine imprint upon it in every way.   It was not of man; it was wholly of a sovereign and Almighty God.   We should not be those who do any work “for God” that is tainted by the hand of man, derived from man’s choice, using man’s natural abilities, man’s wisdom or man’s ways.  “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good workswhich God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).

The great mission of John the Baptist was defined by the angel who appeared before Zacharias:  “It is he who will go as a forerunner before Himin the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Lk. 1:17).   To get people ready for the Messiah at His first coming was the supreme task.  For us, to help people be spiritually prepared for His second coming is also of supreme importance.  And this outcome of our labor in the Lord can be andshould be our deep aspiration in this late hour of the present age.   Any child of God can help prepare others for the coming of the Lord, regardless of his or her spiritual gift.  Every spiritual gift is used “for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12).

If we have true spiritual sight, then we can see how close we must be to the return of Christ.  Not only are the outward signs flashing this signal, but within the heart of God’s seekers is the sense that His coming is drawing very near.  So, let us be those who desire this above all: to work the works of God while we can, praying that God will use us even more in the days ahead to help men be ready to meet the Lord.  “For He is coming to judge the earth; He will judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with equity” (Ps. 98:9).

“Dear Father, I humble myself before You.   My heart’s desire is to be more useful to You in the days ahead. Grant me grace to be faithful to You each day, living in righteousness and preparing myself as a vessel set apart for Your use.  Grant that this would not be for my glory, but for Your glory, even for the true building up of the body of Christ.  I wait upon You to serve You according to Your plans and Your ways and Your sovereign arrangement.  I want to walk only in those good works which You have prepared for me beforehand.  Lord, I have faith that You will answer my prayer and use Me, according to Your plans.  I am willing to do whatever You ask, be it great or small in size, that You may gain a people prepared for the coming again of Your Son.  I desire so much to hear from Christ in that coming day:  ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’  I pray all of this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus.”  

Rest, Release and Resurrection – W.E. Smith

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. (John 11:25, NLT)

“For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” (Matt. 12:8, NASB)

Good morning my dear brethren – grace and peace to you, and love in the Lord Jesus and our Beloved Father in Heaven. You are all in my heart and in my prayers unceasingly these days, as all the world plunges speedily into greater darkness, delusion, despair and lawlessness.

May each of us offer ourselves up this new day unto He who holds all things in His mighty power and provision. May we release ourselves unto Him completely, and rest in His abiding faithfulness and love. He is the Word made flesh who has come into the world, yet it is into us that He must come now my dear brethren, supplanting all that we are, and uprooting us from this world and its ways. He must become our all, the very root and branch and vitality flowing in and through us! There must be no place remaining for the old man, for the self-life, for our labor and high thoughts and best intentions – these are after all nothing, and they lead only to emptiness.

Brother Sparks below speaks of “fresh releases” in our spiritual life, and this is what we need each new morning to be sure. There must be release from all that we are in and of ourselves. All that we are in Adam, all that genetics and personality and environment and history has made us. All our self-flowing thoughts and wisdom. All instinct and opinion. All must be stripped away until all that remains is the Lord Jesus Christ. And all that is not of Him, not of love, not of His Spirit in us – it must be let go, purged, burned away like dross. Oh but indeed, the price of attaining to His fullness in us is so very dear, my brothers. I dare say I have lost everything in these last so many months, and I am sitting here alone in this empty house, wondering where it all went, how I am to survive, to live, to cope, to carry on.

My brothers/sisters, how I love you all and pray that you will cling to Him with all He gives you! With faith and steadfastness, with longing for His soon return and kingdom! One day soon, we will each of us stand before Him, throw ourselves at His feet and weep showers of joy! Everything will melt away; all pain, all bitterness, all confusion. All will give way to unspeakable joy! All longing will be instantly and perfectly satisfied!

Our hope and glory is the resurrection (see 1 Corinthians 15) unto eternal life and enlargement. We must not be tempted or seduced into fixating on death and burial, but on that which lies ahead. We must not weep for Lazarus lying in his grave-clothes, but we must hold fast to our faith that the Lord is on His way. He will come soon, speak the word, and even death will give way to His mighty power! Hallelujah! Praise God who has the victory over even death! My brethren, rejoice, for very soon we will all be RAISED IN GLORY, RAISED IN POWER, AND RAISED A SPIRITUAL BODY! Death and suffering does have its place for a season, but it too will give way to the overflowing and heavenly life!

What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”e; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.

I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”g “Where, O death, is your victory?Where, O death, is your sting?”The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15)

FLESH AND BLOOD CANNOT INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD!

And so it must be dealt with finally in each of us. It must go the way of death, burial and life unto enlargement and glory. This is not just for prophets, apostles or super-saints – but for all of His redeemed ones, for all the elect, those called from the foundation of the world to fulfill His eternal purposes in Christ.

“Let nothing move you” – Not loss, not despair, not loneliness, not rejection, not the treachery of those who once loved you, not estrangement from blood family ties, not persecution, not the day-to-day weariness of being strangers and sojourners in this sick and godless world.

Oh Lord, let this be so – let absolutely nothing move us from Your heart, from faithfulness, from clinging to Thee with all that love and faith provide. Let not what the enemy intends for our harm and death prosper. Turn it into good Oh Lord, into greater dependence and abandonment to the Comforter and Advocate within us. Enlarge us unto life Oh Lord! Release us unto Christ Jesus, that we may say with Paul, that He alone is our life! To live is Christ and to die to ourselves and this world is only gain!

Oh Lord we pray for transcendent rest and release! We enter into the One who is the fulfillment and embodiment of the Sabbath day; that peaceful day that pictures the end of all fleshly and soulish labor and occupation. No more of our own toil and effort! No more self-discipline, determination, diligence or dogmatism! For all is now Christ! All is the Vine! All is spiritual life and vitality! All lives and breathes and moves in Him and out of Him!

Oh Lord, let it be so for all reading these words this day! Especially for all my dear brethren who have blessed your servant so richly during these days of loss and confusion.

From T. Austin-Sparks –

Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame. (Hebrews 12:2)

The passion of the Cross is the way of our release, and if you consider your own spiritual experience, those of you who have any experience of a walk with God, you know quite well that it has been through times of deep and acute suffering that you have found fresh releases; fresh releases in your spiritual life. Is it not true? Yes, we pass into a time of excruciating spiritual and soul suffering. We do not know what the Lord is doing, what He means by this, what He is after, but we know the features of our experience and know what it is that we are suffering, and it goes on. We, of course, ask the Lord to stop it, to bring it to a quick end, to deliver us from it. He takes no notice of us, and it is only those people who get out the other end who say, ‘Thank God, He did not take any notice.’ In the meantime, we think He is anything but kind and good and doing the right thing, but as we get on under His hand, we begin to see and to sense that He is dealing with something. Maybe He is dealing with our pride, our independence, or our irresponsibility, for example. That is the issue that comes up, and we are faced all the time with something about ourselves that is almost devastating. We would not have believed that that was so strong in us.

Oh, of course we were always ready to believe that that is in mankind and in us as a part of mankind in a general way. Yes, we would never have resented being told that there was pride or something like that about us, but we would never have believed how deeply rooted and terribly strong that thing is until it was put to a fiery test and everything was held up, and we saw that everything in our life and work for God was held up on that point…. And we know quite well that what the Lord was after was not the pulverising of us, as we thought, the winding up of us, but to bring about enlargement, to bring about release, and release always lies along the line of the Cross, the passion. Enlargement always lies in that direction.

By T. Austin-Sparks from: The Cross and the Way of Life – Chapter 1

Please pray for one another dear saints, and hold each other in the Lord! For, like in the beginning, a great, world-changing separation is taking place in the realm of the spirit, and all professors and pretenders are being removed from the presence of the Lord. One cannot serve two masters or live for two opposing worlds – we are either in the Lord Jesus Christ and serve Him wholeheartedly in the spirit, or we are in the world and subject to its impending judgment! The time for choosing is upon each and every one of us! There is truly only life and death, light and darkness – and the choice for the disciple of Christ is clear –

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?

Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said,
“I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM;
AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.

“Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord.
“AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN;
And I will welcome you.

“And I will be a father to you,
And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,”
Says the Lord Almighty. (2 Cor. 6: 14-18)

As a Hen Gathers Her Chicks – W.E. Smith

A Word from and to the Lord –

Oh blessed Lord, help us in this parched and thirsty place to feed on Your faithfulness, to merely allow your abiding love to wash over us. We are helpless Oh Lord, and our hands fall feebly at our sides, for You have, in Your great love and wisdom, brought us to this straight place. Like Jacob, with Esau out ahead and his uncle behind him. Like Israel, with Pharaoh’s horsemen behind and the sea out ahead. Like Elijah running for his very life, desperate and alone. Like our Lord Himself, denied and abandoned by His friends, betrayed by the ones He loved, and rejected by His very people. You Lord, are our ever-present help in times of trouble; there is a stream that flows through this desert; there is life abiding here. Though it is faith that reveals this to us. It is not our strength Lord that brings us through the fire, not our love for You, not even what we know to be true. It is Your Faithfulness alone. Your Unfailing Love! You are worthy of Your tithe Lord, Your portion, Your remnant – may You claim what is only Yours!

You have claimed us and written our names in Your book. We are counted as Your very own Lord, and Your Word and Your Love cannot fail! Oh Lord it just cannot fail or fall short. Let Your love wash over us Lord, Let it lift us up above the tide, above the storm, above the pain and confusion. Bring us to a broad place Oh Lord, to Your verdant and over-flowing garden where life abounds, the very life of our God! How great is Your Love for us! How wonderful is Your grace! How beautiful are Your hands that hold us Lord, and how precious is Your shining face! Touch us Dear Lord, move our hardened hearts towards Thee, not away from Thee in this time of testing! Oh how You chasten us in Your great Love – how You scourge Your little ones! How pressing is Your sore discipline….

Yet in Thee alone we find our home, our place, our purpose, our way, our life, our all and everything.

Oh Lord, tear away the scales from our eyes and our hearts, tear them all away Lord, that as little children we may come to Thee and rest our weary souls on Your bosom. It is only in Your love that we are home, that we will find our way, that joy and song to fill our empty hearts. We praise Thee Oh Lord, we lift up our hands to Thee and lay down our lives for Thee. For in your hands is Your bottle, and therein fall all the tears of your precious little ones – oh such a great sea of tears Lord, such a great sea of tears. You know Lord, You know.

We surrender our brokenness, our lost-ness, our utter helplessness. We give to Thee this soul-deep hunger and thirst, that You might satisfy us oh Lord, with the Lord Jesus, the very Righteousness of God! Though all seems lost, though the night is black and even the stars have faded – this blessed hope remains! Come Lord Jesus Come! Come back for us! Not because we are worthy – but because You alone are worthy and deserve the full reward of Your suffering! Fulfill the Father’s Joy Oh Lord! Satisfy the eternal desire of His heart, that all things would be summed up in Thee! All things, nothing remaining! Even ourselves, our lives, our hopes and dreams, all that we are and all that we love – let it be summed up in Thee and Thy Kingdom, Lord Jesus!

No more Oh Lord, no more. No more striving, no more Jacob, no more of our own weakness, our own futility, always leading to failure. Change us Oh Lord, Turn us inside out and upside down! Oh Lord we know, we know there are idols hidden away in our hearts, just as Rachel had hidden them in her tent. We know we are holding so much back, just as Ananias and his wife – we said we would give everything, our very lives, yet we hold so much back from Thee Lord. Oh but Lord, You alone must be our first and last, our beginning and our end, the very reason we breathe and live and walk in this life! In Thee we live and move and have our being! breathe anew on us that we might truly live in You and as You and for You Lord!

Lord, take my son – take Him Oh Lord! Oh Lord I am so terribly sorry, I have loved Him too much, too deeply. Take him from off the throne of my heart Lord, for that is Your place alone. Take my life Lord. I am so sorry for holding so much back from Thee! Everything in me is so imperfect, so stained, so broken. Yet Your Love, Oh Lord, how great is this love! I reach out my hands and my heart to Thee Lord, to receive, to simply and merely receive. I lay down all my bible knowledge, all the words, all the concepts, all the religion, all these high things – and just pray You would love me Lord, and that I would know once and for all in my wretched life that I am LOVED, that despite all that I am and have done – You LOVE ME! Sanctify us in Your love Lord, Sanctify everything, every lesser thing that we exalt in Your place.

Oh Lord, I lift up all your little ones reading these words, all the pain, all the impossible things, all the blood, the sweat and tears – and I just ask Lord that You would do a mighty thing in all of them! IN THE NAME OF JESUS! Save us in Your great love and faithfulness Lord. Gather us together as a hen gathers her chicks. All fear, all hopelessness, all anguish, all misery, all the chains, all the chains! Let them fall Lord, In Your Name! Let them come crashing down in Your great mercy and kindness! Oh how we need You, Oh how we love You Lord! We love You merely because you have first loved us! Faith, hope and love – yet the greatest of these is LOVE! Faith will falter. Hope will fade – but Your love never will Oh Lord! Your Love never will.

Amen

Faith in Relation to Life – T. Austin-Sparks

Livingwalk Note: This post is taken from as a chapter in Austin-Sparks book “Faith Unto Enlargement Through Adversity” found in entirety here –

http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/faith_unto_enlargement_through_adversity.html

We are being led to see the relationship of faith to three things.

Firstly, faith in relationship to enlargement. We have taken note that God’s thought revealed for His people is enlargement unto His own fulness. “All the fulness of God” is the word which indicates God’s thought concerning His people. But every fresh movement toward enlargement, or every stage in enlargement, comes about by a fresh challenge to faith–faith being tested in a new way as not hitherto – and by faith’s triumph there is further enlargement. The Scriptures show, from beginning to end, that there is no enlargement, no increase of God, in any other way.

Secondly, we see faith in relationship to establishment. We have seen the thought of God to have things in a state of stability, endurance, steadfastness, trustworthiness; something substantial, something deeply rooted and grounded and immovable. God works along that line, seeking to eliminate all those elements in us which are weak, unreliable, unable to carry a weight and take responsibility; to bring us to the place where we are established in Christ. But every bit of this work of confirming, establishing, rooting and grounding is connected with some further testing or proving of faith. Every fresh storm sends our roots deeper down, to take a firmer hold. It is along the line of faith’s proving that we become established. Where there is no testing or trying, no adversity, we are weak and unreliable. So we see that, right through the Scriptures, God is moving towards having things settled and fixed, after His own nature: eternal, abiding, enduring for ever. The whole Bible shows that this is brought about by faith.

In the third place, we see faith in relation to life. That is to be our occupation at this present time, with just a closing word on faith itself.

Faith In Relation To Life

I need hardly take you through the Scriptures to see how these two things go together. Much will come to mind as we proceed. I just remind you of the familiar fact that this matter of life bounds the whole Scripture. The Bible opens with the tree of life, and it closes with the tree of life, and that is the great issue from beginning to end. From one angle, as we were saying earlier, the Bible is all about this issue of life as over against death. We find, therefore, as in the case of the other two things – enlargement and establishment – that God has left us in no doubt whatever as to His mind on the matter. He has made it perfectly clear that His thought is life, and life in fulness. So much so that the Lord Jesus, in His coming into this world, reaching with one hand right back to the beginning, and with the other hand right on to the ages of the ages yet to be, declares that He is in that position on one ground and with one purpose: “I am come that they may have life, and may have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

Enlargement Depends Upon Life

Now these two things of which we have spoken – enlargement and establishment – are inseparably bound up with this matter of life.

All God’s enlargements are by life. We see a parable of this in the work of creation. At the very beginning we find God filling the void, the waste, the emptiness which was the primal state of this world – we find God filling it in every realm in terms of life. His increasing fulness was along the line of life. That is a parable of God’s way. Increase and fulness in the Christian life, in the people of God, is always in terms of life. When God adds, it is always additional life. All God’s work has the issue that there is more life present than ever there was before. And so progressively, by crises and stages, God is moving with His people – where they will let Him, where they will not waver through unbelief – in the direction of His ultimate fulness on the basis of constantly increasing life.

Establishment Depends Upon Life

The same is true in relation to establishment – the work of confirming, making things stable, solid, deep. This again is always in relation to life: confirming in life, making strong in life. The essential element in this life is its eternity. An increase of life is always an indication of something deeper having been done in the heart, the emergence from some state of uncertainty, some difficulty, some dark experience, in a crisis, through the victory of faith. The emergence just adds more life – that is all. It is like that every time: we find that we are experiencing and enjoying more life. Life is the basis of our becoming more settled.

There are many people who think that there are other things which lead to consolidation and establishment, to certainty and assurance. But it is not that way at all. You do not get established by more teaching, or by additional information, even about Divine things. You do not even become spiritually established by knowing your Bible better. That is not to say that you should not seek to know it better, but the real establishment is that which comes through life known in ourselves. “And the witness is this, that God gave unto us eternal life” (1 John 5:11). The testimony is not a form of teaching, an interpretation of truth, a system of doctrine, or a way of doing things. “And the witness is this, that God gave unto us eternal life”, and to be established means to be knowing this life in constant increase.

The ‘Evidence Of God’ Is Life

We will now take a look at what we will call some of the ‘evidences of God’. Let us say at once that the inclusive evidence of God is just life. The evidence of God – the proof, the testimony to God, and the testimony to what is of God–if life. Let us go back to that original criterion in the symbolism of the beginning: the tree of life. It is perfectly clear that that tree of life, and what it represented and symbolized, held the whole issue of whether God was going to continue with man or not, whether man was going to continue with God or not, whether their relationship was going to remain intact. The ‘evidence’ of God was centered there.

Now that tree evidently represented another and different life from what man already possessed. God had brought in the living things. The waters swarmed with living creatures; the air swarmed with the living fowl; the earth was full of living creatures and living vegetation. Then man had been created, into his nostrils there had been breathed the “breath of life” (Gen. 2:7), and he had become an animate being. He had what we all have by nature – this natural life. It was after the imparting of that kind of life, and man becoming a living soul, that God pointed to the tree of life, and made that the issue of life and death. It was not the life that was in man that was the issue of life and death, because man did not forfeit that life which was in him when he disobeyed. The tree evidently represented and symbolized another life than that which God had already breathed into him – a different life altogether.

Divine Life Forfeited

Death, therefore, came to mean two things. In the first place, it came to mean a change in man as he was. Although he would continue as an animate being over a tenure of years, a change took place in him. We will not stay to analyze that change, but by disobedience he became different even in his own natural being. Secondly, he forfeited his right to this other and extra and really true life, as represented by the tree. He never inherited that, he never possessed that. It throws a little light upon John’s words about the Lord Jesus, that “to as many as received Him, to them gave He the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on His name” (John 1:12). You see the whole question of faith coming in relation to the right. It is the right, in other words, to this other, Divine, life, which is through being begotten of God. The right to that life was forfeited by Adam through disobedience, or unfaith. The right to that life is restored through faith in the Lord Jesus.

Now Satan said, ‘Hath God said, Thou shalt surely die? Thou shalt not surely die!’ What a categorical statement! Now note: Adam, apart from his known rupture in fellowship with God through his disobedience because of unbelief, probably was not conscious of what had happened. True, a frown and a shadow came over the face of God; there was no longer the light and the clearness of fellowship; but man went on living. He did not there and then fall dead and perish. He went on living quite a long time, went on growing, developing, enlarging. When you see the tremendous enlargement after its kind that came from that man – his children, family, tribe, race – it looks very much as though the Devil was right. ‘Thou shalt not surely die’. God was wrong, the Devil was right.

The Delusion Of A False Life

But what has happened? There has entered into man a deep and terrible delusion – the illusion of a false life, in which there is a lie right at the very core. And that has surely worked itself out, and is still working itself out. There is increase of days, unto many years, it may be; there is development and enlargement, of its kind, in the matter of this world; but right at the core of it all there is bitterness and disappointment. At last, at most, emptiness, disillusionment. What has it all been for? What is it all about?

And the most dissatisfied people are always those who have the most. That is true, is it not? The people who have the most and have not the Lord are the most dissatisfied people in this world. The evidences of it are patent. As I was saying on a previous occasion, a year of two ago I was in a part of the world where the last whim and fancy is satiated to the full. Everything that the soul of man could crave or ask for seems to be available. In Southern California, you see acres and acres and miles and miles of the most wonderful fruit. I picked sackfuls of the most beautiful grapefruit and oranges that you ever saw. But my friend, on whose fruit-farm I was staying, said, ‘Do you know, it is so prodigal that, in order to keep any market at all for it, tons and tons of this beautiful fruit are put into a ditch, and acid is poured over it, so that no one will get hold of it to try to make a business out of it.’ Poor people who might make a little out of this surplus are deprived of it in order to keep some sort of market.

And it is like that, not only in natural products, but in pleasure. The word ‘Hollywood’ has come to connote the very ultimate in the gratification of human desire. You can see it all there is display. But oh! The feverish, the restless, the uncertainty, the anxiety! The biggest hospital in the world is there in Los Angeles, and four thousand cases are treated every day, in a country like that where every possible aid to health is available. What is it all about? It is the strain of coping with life. Out in a very beautiful suburb, I saw, as I went along, house after house up for sale, or to let; and I asked my friend, ‘What is the meaning of this?’; ‘Oh, everybody within miles of this city is living as if they were on the edge of a volcano, over this atomic bomb business. They are all moving out, as far out as they can get, because they think that any day the atomic bomb may be dropped on Los Angeles.’ With everything conceivable to fill life, people are living in strain and tension and fear. I have not exaggerated the picture, because I could not.

I have cited this as an illustration of the truth that the more men have, the more dissatisfied they are. The more you give to this life, the more it will take – and can take – and the more it will demand, and the more unsatisfied it is. It wears out in no time. The whole thing fails to last – it just does not last; and that is the life that the Devil has given in place of this other life. You and I may have very little in this world – nothing at all comparable to a Californian set-up – and yet have the Lord Jesus in our hearts and be perfectly satisfied. The difference is a very practical thing. The Devil said, “Thou shalt not surely die”, and man just swallowed it: he thought that God was wrong, and the Devil was right; and this is what it has led to – a false life, hollow at the core, never, never answering to man’s real need; a mockery in the end, the fruit looking beautiful but falling from the trees before it is ripe.

But in that other life, represented by the tree of life, it is all the other way. This life has nothing to do with things at all: it has to do with a Person. This life does not wear out: it wears infinitely – it survives. It is not, like the other, kept going by artificial respiration and stimulants – and how artificial they are! This life is maintained from a living source.

That is very searching. It is very, very important to be quite sure that this thing has taken place with every new convert: that there is no illusion or delusion about this, but that they have really become, definitely and surely, the recipients of this other life – this life that will not require a constant succession of stimulants from without, but which, when all outward things cease, will still go on. That is going to be the test.

Now this illusion can get into religion, and that is the place where the Devil likes to have it more than anywhere else. The Lord had something to say on that very matter to the church at Sardis: “Thou hast a name” – a reputation – “That thou livest, and thou art dead” (Rev. 3:1). A reputation for life – and yet dead. The eyes of flame see through the false situation – the false reputation, the false name. It would not be difficult to imagine or portray what a church like that would be. We need not stay with it. There are many things that have a semblance of life, that look like life – what people call life – but they are not life. They require external ‘stimulants’ to be applied all the time to keep the thing going. What the Lord calls life is another thing altogether.

Marks Of Divine Life

(a) Freshness

One of the thoughts associated with this Divine life is newness, or freshness. “That… we… might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). That word ‘new’ in our English versions has two Greek words behind it. One means something that never was before; the other carries the thought of that which is young and fresh. This Divine life is, of course, something that no one has ever possessed before, outside of Christ, but its mark, its characteristic, is its freshness – its freedom from the ‘earth touch’. This earth is an accursed earth; it is in death, it is under judgment, and all that belongs to it is under judgment: if this earth touches anything, it touches it with death. This life of which we are speaking is completely free from the earth touch, and free from the touch of man as he is by nature. It is fresh, therefore, and for its freshness it demands that it shall be kept free from this earth and kept free from man’s touch.

That has been the issue all the way along. The life of God comes in, and is regnant and wonderfully fresh and beautiful; and then what? Man must needs take hold of it in some way, put it into his mould, run it according to his ideas, organize it and set up machinery for it, and it is not long before the freshness has gone. It is touched with something that takes the bloom off it; in the course of time it has become old; and – perhaps I may be permitted to say this, as one who is no longer young! – God has no interest in anything that is old. God is only interested in that life in us which is of Himself, and His interest is to keep it fresh. “Even to old age… and even to hoar hairs”, there is still freshness if the life of God is the principle upon which we are living.

Yes, but we must keep out hands off, and we must keep the earth touch away. Oh, man’s terrible habit of wanting to take hold of, and run, the life of God. It has killed more works of God than anything else, brought an end to wonderful movements of the Spirit. Man has taken hold, brought things into his framework, under the control and direction of his committee. Very well; the Lord withdraws, and the freshness of His life is no longer found. Freshness, newness, is the mark of God’s life.

The Church is His new creation. The Church is His new cruse, to refer to Elisha and the falling fruit of the trees of Jericho because of the lack of this vital element in the water. “Bring me a new cruse”, he said, “and put salt therein” (2 Kings 2:20). The waters were healed. And Pentecost is the counterpart of that. The Church is the new cruse with the life in it, to counteract all the death in this world: there is newness of life, and newness of vessel. The Lord Jesus put His finger upon this very principle when He said: “No man” (He might have added, ‘much less God’) “putteth new wine into old wine-skins” (Mark 2:22). It is folly. ‘If you do that, you will lose everything’, He said. “No man seweth a piece of undressed cloth on an old garment” (vs. 21); neither does God do that kind of thing. He must have everything new and fresh. We are citizens of the new Jerusalem (Rev. 3:12; 21:2); and so we could go on. If you look up the words ‘new’ and ‘newness’, you will be surprised how much they cover in the New Testament. Everything is new where this life is.

(b) Productivity

The second feature of this life is its productiveness, or productivity. That is God’s method of increase. There is all the difference between putting on, adding to, accretion, from the outside, and increase from the inside. That is God’s principle, the organic principle of increase and multiplication by life from within, and it really does happen that way. Life produces life, and life produces organisms after its own kind: the seed has the life in itself to reproduce, to multiply a hundredfold.

That is a testimony, but it is also a test and a challenge. If there is no increase, then there is something wrong in the matter of the life. If you and I are not bearing fruit, if we are not really in the way of increase, then we need to look to this matter of our life. For it is inevitable, it is spontaneous. If there is to be productivity, there must be life: and if there is life, then there is reproduction – unless, of course, we thwart the life or get across the life. If somehow or other we block up the wells, then our fruitfulness ceases.

(c) Inexhaustibility

Further, this life is characterized by its inexhaustibility. There is no end to it, no exhausting it; it just goes on. As we have already said, it does not get old. We may get old, but that life in us does not get old at all. It goes right on; it is inexhaustible.

(d) Incorruptibility

And then, because it is God’s life, it is incorruptible. Life is symbolized by salt in the Bible. The symbolism of the new cruse and the salt is just that of the vessel of God with the life of God in it. The presence of that life is the counter to the presence of corruption, wherever it is.

This, of course, is quite clearly seen in the first chapters of the Book of the Revelation, containing the challenge and message to the churches. It was clearly a time of spiritual decay: but we would go further, and say ‘of spiritual corruption’. Strong language, but justifiable. “Thou sufferest the woman Jezebel” (2:20); “Thou hast… some that hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel” (2:14). Here is corruption, and the challenge to that state of corruption in the first place is indicated by the announcement of the Lord Himself. “I am… the Living one; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore” (1:17-18). It is as though He were saying, ‘I am measuring you by the standard of this incorruptible life, on the principle of this incorruptible, deathless, death-conquering life: I am challenging you in your corruption.’ The import of the message is this: ‘These conditions of corruption are due to something having arrested the life. If you had the life vibrant and regnant and triumphant, there would be none of these conditions at all.’

The issue, then, for the overcoming, the setting aside, of all corruption, is that of life. The corrective for false teaching – for heterodoxy – is not orthodoxy. Let us say, changing the words: the corrective for error is life. That is what the Scriptures show. It was so with the seven churches. John, who wrote the Revelation, at about the same time also wrote his letters, and these likewise deal with falsehood, error, decline, decay, corruption, Antichrist, and all the rest – a bad state coming amongst believers; and John’s great word in his letters and in the Revelation, as well as in his Gospel, is life. That emerges from the most elementary study of his writings.

John begins his Gospel: “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men” (1:4), and that is the keynote to the Gospel all through. His letters are on that note all the time. “The witness (testimony) is this, that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath the life; He that hath not the Son of God hath not the life” (1 John 5:11-12). At the beginning of the Revelation you find: “I am… the Living one” (1:17-18); you pass on to the “four living ones” (4:6), and their testimony and influence; and you close the Revelation with the “tree of life” and the “river of water of life” (22:1-2). It is all about life. But that is all presented in a day of corruption. The answer to corruption is not argument, but Divine life.

(e) Intelligence: Life Recognizes Life

This life is something which is only appreciated and understood by those who have it. Those who do not possess it can see its effect or its fruit, but they do not understand it at all. They may say, ‘Well, those people have got something that I do not know anything about: I do not understand it at all, I do not know what it is. They seem to be happy about it, but I am certainly a stranger to all that.’ Or it may not affect them at all. They may come in where there is abundant life and go away unaffected. They just do not understand it or appreciate it. But those of us who have this life both appreciate and understand it. We cannot explain it to anyone else, any more than we can explain what natural life is. No one can explain what life is. But if we are spiritually alive, really spiritually alive, and we go in amongst other children of God, we sense something. It may be we feel death, a lack of life, something here that is not alive; there is some check to life here. On the other hand, we may sense the presence of life. Now, that capacity to appreciate and to understand is the guide of the Lord’s people. It is a very intelligent faculty – it is, indeed, our ‘intelligence’, in more senses than one. Why do we say, ‘Something is wrong here’, because we do not sense the life; there is something that is not alive. We are ‘alive’ to the fact that something is wrong!

I believe that is exactly what Paul knew when he found those disciples at Ephesus. They were having some wonderful Bible teaching from Apollos, who was a man mighty in the Scriptures; but Paul had to say when he came down to them: ‘You have a lot of Bible teaching here, and you are professing disciples of the Lord – but what is the matter with you? There is something amiss here. Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ (Acts 19:2). The Holy Spirit in Paul, as the Spirit of life, registered here the absence of life: there was no witness of life, even with all the Bible teaching and the profession. The Spirit enabled Paul to put his finger upon the situation, and to clear it up.

Life Through Faith

Now, all the Lord’s progress with us, as we have said, the Lord’s enlarging, the Lord’s establishing, is along this line of life. But this life is all governed by faith. We are thinking much of Abraham, and we have something to say about him yet. With him, every fresh movement toward enlargement and consolidation and increase of life was by way of fresh testing of faith. Everything rests upon this matter of tried and proved faith.

If you and I pass, then, into a time when our faith is being sorely tried, really being put through it, let us ask the Lord to help us to adjust ourselves to this: for this is not unto death, but unto life. This is not permitted by the Lord in order to bring an end in death. This is meant by Him to bring us into larger life yet. If only we could rest in that assurance, it would rob the dark times and the difficult times of their deathliness, and make them the very ground upon which we might come into newness of life through fresh victories of faith. Faith is the way to life through trial, testing, suffering, adversity.

“…which you did not know” – W.E. Smith

“He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.”

Dear saints – we often focus on the last part of this passage, the one quoted by our Lord, about not living by bread alone, but by every word breathed by God. Yet here I would like to draw attention to the fact that the Lord fed them with something they did not know, something strange, something new.

Is the Lord doing something new or strange in your life? Are things entering your life that you have never known before? Quite likely they are, for this is the Master’s way with us.

Yet we don’t seem to like things we know nothing about do we? It was this way with Israel, and it is this way with us. We want the Lord to save us, to secure us, to help us in ways we are familiar with; in short with the ways of Egypt (the world). Oh dear saints, those who have walked this narrow wilderness way for any length of time, know that He will never do things this way, for He must turn our hearts and our trust to Him completely. Although we would like Him to do things according to our way, He simply doesn’t operate that way. He will sustain us with “manna” for this very reason.

If you find yourself presently in need of help, in need of provision, in need of saving – then consider this, for He will do a new thing, with things we know nothing about, beyond our previous experience.

Be blessed dear saints.