Category: Suffering

The Fire

Oh dear saints, dear, dear saints and brothers. Have our hearts so fully and uncompromisingly been given to the interests of the Lord in this hour, in this time of such utter abandonment and declension? He has tolerated so much these many centuries since He left us in the body, hasn’t He? So many ideas, concepts, expressions, ambitions – so much that is of men, and not from Him at all. So patient has He been, so long-suffering, as everything associated with His name has become so recklessly degraded, earthly, limited.

Consider the gap between the Old and New Testaments, from the time of Ezra to John the Baptist, and how this reminds us of what we have seen since the beloved apostle John left this earth.
Synagogues and sects and divisions; merchants as veritable fixtures in the temple. A religion borne of human scholarship, so very well documented yet barely breathed in the lives of men. Division, declension, fleshly and false religion.
So that when He arrived in the very flesh, they knew Him not. Simeon and Anna did, yes, for they were not part of the many and their religion. They were given wholly to the Lord’s interests. They did not follow men and creeds and groups and isms or  ‘ologies. They were not this or that; they were merely all in for the Lord.
Oh how patient is our Lord and Judge. But there comes a time when the fire comes, and when it does, all that is of men, and all that is of the soul will be purged away. This is what the letters to the churches speak to us. “I know your works….” He declares. He sees with piercing eyes, and all that is not truly of Him and from Him and for Him will not stand.
Please be pierced by this word from Bro Sparks –

(From Brother Sparks)

The fire will test the quality of each person’s work. (1 Corinthians 3:13 NIV)

I have no doubt that you love the Lord. I am not raising any question about that. But, I do say again, we are involved in a great system which is a very complicated thing, and a great deal of it is not of the Lord. It is something that man has brought in. Man has put his hand upon the things of the Lord, and man has made things according to his own mind, and therefore a great deal has come in which is of man and not of the Lord. And when we say that, we are not only thinking of Christianity in general, we are thinking of ourselves. This is true of ourselves. We have all come into something called Christianity, and we have all taken on something of Christianity, and there may be a great deal that we have to get rid of, and come back to the simple fundamental reality. And the fundamental reality of all realities is the presence of the Lord. We have got to know that the Lord is with us, and that the Lord is with us in all that we do, that this did not originate in our mind. It did not originate in our will, it did not originate in our emotion. It did not come from our soul, this thing has come from the Lord in every detail, like the tabernacle. Just like Jesus Christ, in every detail it has to come to us from God.

That ought to send us back to our knees – to go through all our work. It may be necessary for us, from time to time, to stand back and ask the Lord about all that we are doing. ‘Is this out from God, or is it something out from ourselves? Is this way of doing things the mind of God, or is it our mind? Is the Lord in this, or have we come into it?’ You see, that is a great deciding matter. Make no mistake about it! Everything that is only of man is going to perish. Sooner or later it will be shaken. Every man’s work shall be tried in the fire, says the Word of God.

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Psalm 88 – W.E. Smith

O Lord, God of my salvation;

I cry out day and night before you.

Let my prayer come before you;

incline your ear to my cry!

For my soul is full of troubles,

and my life draws near to Sheol.

I am counted among those who go down to the pit;

I am a man who has no strength,

like one set loose among the dead,

like the slain that lie in the grave,

like those whom you remember no more,

for they are cut off from your hand.

You have put me in the depths of the pit,

in the regions dark and deep.

Your wrath lies heavy upon me,

and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah

You have caused my companions to shun me;

you have made me a horror[b] to them.

I am shut in so that I cannot escape;

my eye grows dim through sorrow.

Every day I call upon you, O Lord;

I spread out my hands to you.

Do you work wonders for the dead?

Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah

Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,

or your faithfulness in Abaddon?

Are your wonders known in the darkness,

or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?

But I, O Lord, cry to you;

in the morning my prayer comes before you.

O Lord, why do you cast my soul away?

Why do you hide your face from me?

Afflicted and close to death from my youth up,

I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.

Your wrath has swept over me;

your dreadful assaults destroy me.

They surround me like a flood all day long;

they close in on me together.

You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me;

my companions have become darkness.[d]

Dear saints, the following is a psalm of instruction, a maskil, designed to teach us something important of the ways of God, something very deep. It is not for those newly born, or with untried and untested legs in the faith.

And so what does it teach exactly? What is it trying to convey? What happy evangelical truth is it presenting?

Oh beloved – how we have been misled by the very source and purveyor of all mixture and corruption.

Where is this man in the psalm? Where is his heart, where is his relationship with God? Is he walking happily along? Is he sitting comfortably at the feet of Jesus with a wide grin on his face and a melody in his heart?

Or is the stench of death all over him? Is he grappling with all his strength with the very One who He loves and knows and seeks?

Where is His God in fact? Out in full view? Or hidden? Silent? Does he feel forsaken by the very One he knows can save him?

Is he surrounded by good Christian brothers to cheer him up? A men’s group perhaps? Or maybe he has just returned invigorated from a recent conference or retreat?

Is he full of answers or dark questions?

Is he a backslidden saint – has he turned his back and his heart away from His God?

So what is this trying to teach us? What cheerful truth is it trying to convey? What saintly conclusions does it draw?

I will leave it to you to answer such questions, but be careful, be honest in the spirit.

You see every trial, every test has at its core a fundamental reality, and it is this – the cross as it is applied us personally will cut to the very heart and core of our relationship with the only One who can deliver us from the grave of death. In fact, it is not so much the outward afflictions at all that represent the deepest pain through it all, but the sense that He has indeed hidden Himself, that He is silent, that He has put His right arm back into His cloak. “Father, Father – why have you forsaken me?”. All my friends asleep, the dark cloud of death closing in, and yet the only One who can act on my behalf is hidden away. He is not responding. Note the section which reads – “What good can come when I am dead?” he is saying. What can You teach me when I am in Abaddon? “Oh Lord if only You had come sooner”, said Lazarus’s sister. “If only you had not delayed”

So why do I trouble you so with this psalm? Why do I presume so much to take it upon myself to interrupt your comfortable christian life with such discomforting things? Should I not rather be encouraging you with “You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you” or resounding a chorus of Onward Christian Soldiers?

Because dear ones, darkness is coming, nay it is already here. And everything we believe, everything we have been taught will be tested in these fires. Everything will be shaken, and men will be forsaken by the very ones they least believed would do so. And everyone of us will be left alone on that dread hill of Gethsemane, alone and crying out to our God through the storm and the silence. Deep and dark questions will flood our soul and spirit, and the very foundations of what we believe will be shaken and tested.

Are you therefore bold enough for this? Are you tough enough? Are you deep enough with the Lord to endure this?

When He not only rocks your little world but also your little faith – will you stand? When Leviathan is unleashed, will you trip and stumble and let Him go?

Dear friends – as I beheld that meteoroid flash across the sky and explode yesterday, then shake the very foundations and windows all around, I thought of only one thing, and it was this –

Satan is coming!

Are you ready? Am I?

Oh Lord, make it so.

Crucified to the Religious World – T. A. Sparks

“But far be it from me to glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world”.

It is interesting to notice the particular way in which the apostle speaks of the world here. That term is a very comprehensive term, and includes a very great deal. Here Paul gets right down to the spirit of the thing. You notice the context. It is well for us to take account of it. “For not even they who receive circumcision do themselves keep the law; but they desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh” (verse 13).

What does the apostle mean? They want to say, See how many proselytes we are making! See how many followers and disciples we are getting! See how successful our movement is! See what a power we are becoming in the world! See all the marks of divine blessing resting upon us! The apostle says, That is worldliness in principle and spirit; that is the world. He sets over against this his own clear spiritual position. Do I seek glory of men? Do I seek to be well-pleasing to men? No! The world is crucified to me and I to the world. All that sort of thing does not weigh with me. What weighs with me is not whether my movement is successful, whether I am getting a lot of followers, whether there are all the manifestations outwardly of success; what weighs with me is the measure of Christ in those with whom I have to do. It is wonderful how this at the end of the letter comes right back upon these Galatians, and the whole object of the letter. We recall the words in which that object is summed up. “My little children, for whom I am again in travail, until Christ be formed in you”.

Christ formed in you, that is my concern, he says, that is what weighs with me, not extensiveness, not bigness, not popularity, not keeping in with the world so that it is said that this is a successful ministry, and a successful movement. That is worldliness. I am dead to all that. I am crucified with Christ to all that. The thing that matters is Christ, the measure of Christ in you.

You see how the world can creep in, and how worldly we can become almost imperceptibly by taking account of things outwardly; of how men will think and talk, what they will say, the attitude they will take, of the measure of our popularity, the talk of our success. That is all the world, says the apostle, the spirit of the world, that is how the world talks. Those are values in the eyes of the world, but not in the eyes of the risen Christ. In the new creation, on the resurrection side of the cross, one thing alone determines value, and that is, the measure of Christ in everything. Nothing else is of value at all, however big the thing may be, however popular it may be, however men may talk favourably of it; on the resurrection side that does not count a little bit. What counts is how much of Christ there is.

You and I in the cross of the Lord Jesus must come to the place where we are crucified to all those other elements. Ah, you may be unpopular, and the work be very small; there may be no applause, and the world may despise, but in it all there may be something which is of Christ, and that is the thing upon which our hearts must be set. The Lord give us grace for that crucifixion. There are few things more difficult to bear than being despised; but He was despised and rejected of men. What a thing is in God’s sight must be our standard. That is a resurrection standard. Now that is the victory of the cross. “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…”

First published in “A Witness and A Testimony” magazine from “Spiritual Maturity – Chapter 8”, May-Jun 1939, Vol. 17-3

T.A. Sparks Byline

“When You Were Young…” – W.E. Smith

Dear ones, few saints of recent generations have seen what T. A. Sparks was allowed to see. The place, the principle, the way of the cross of Christ, in bringing forth divine life into a flesh and blood and soul-driven man. Please read the following very slowly in the Spirit, if you will –

When you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted. (John 21:18 ESV)

The “eyes which are as a flame of fire” are looking for reality. They pierce through many things. In the first place, they pierce through traditional and formal religion or “Christianity.” Their interrogation is – Is your religion a matter of attachment or adherence to a system, a historical tradition, a family inheritance; and so on? Or is it born – is it a birth in you; is it something that has happened to you; is it your very life, your very being? Secondly – and I concentrate more especially upon this for the moment – they pierce through temperament and disposition. They demand to know whether the reason why you are where you are, are concerned for what you are concerned for, are connected with what you are connected with, and are disposed as you are, is because your particular temperament leans that way. You are artistic and mystical in your tastes and constitution: therefore you choose or ma ke your religion after your own image. Your temperament is melancholic, and so the more abstract, profound, serious, intense, introspective, and speculative, appeals to you and finds a natural response in you. You make God, Christianity, Christ, the Bible, after your image.

Or again, you are of the practical temperament. To you everything is only of value as it is “practical.” You have no patience with these contemplative people. You are irritated by the “Marys,” for “many dishes” are your concern. To you, how the end is reached is of much less importance than the end itself. You are not bothered much with imagination, and you would put all the value on things done – how much there is actually to show for your day. Your God and your Christianity are entirely, or almost entirely, of the practical kind, after your own image. And so we could go on with all the other temperaments. But this will not do, for Christ is not any one of these; He is different. He may combine the good in all, but that does not wholly mean Divine nature. He is different. All this is the human soul, but the essential nature of Christ and true Christianity is of the Divine Spirit – it is heavenly! If new birth means anything, it means this, that another nature and disposition is born into the believer, so that he or she is “carried whither they (naturally) would not.”

Oh saints of God, Oh the divine constraint that is so foreign, so alien to us modern believers. “When you were young…”

Yoke

But now your very life has been secured in My yoke, and you will only go where I go, when I go, at the speed I go. Here is, must we say, the bound and tethered existence of a bond slave, with no rights, no claims, no interest in himself. He is a bought man. There is no longer any self – no longer “I will go, I will do this, or that, I will….”

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Cor 6:19-20)

Personality, disposition, predilection, proclivity – these are all the virtues and prerogatives of a free man. But we are no longer free in that sense. No longer our own. No longer living out of ourselves, for ourselves, to gratify ourselvesJames, also reminded us –

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. (James 4:13 -)

Is this exceptional? A fair question. Is this the life of a John the Baptist, a prophet, a Paul only?

No, no, beloved, this is in fact the normative, intended path for all – for He is the Way for all of us, not just for a few.

And here is the exquisite mystery that makes even the angels to shutter – in this ever-increasing constraint, in this heaven-imposed straightness, in this narrowness, there – if only we have eyes to see, and a faith and love to endure through it all – is freedom, there are wings, there is air to be breathed, and deep paths to follow, and heavenly heights to be attained. Oh yes, at first we groan, we feel hemmed in, so useless, so impaired – but then we begin to settle in, we let go, we acquiesce, we surrender, we submit.

Then here, here in this blood-streaked, tear-drenched shadow of the cross, here in that hellish twilight of confusion in the very presence of all the demons (the very ones who tried to destroy us forever) – we are reborn, we begin to breathe and grow, and walk, and to ultimately delight in Him as our all in all. Here, at the colossal end of ourselves, we begin to live, to breathe, to walk, then run, then leap over a hedge (as David). Here is where we finally realize what Paul meant when he said –

“TO LIVE IS CHRIST”

And –

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Here, there is peace and rest and a settling in to what He has ordained for us. Here, and only here (for no mere religious experience will accomplish this) is where we become sons in His household, disciples in His school, and friends in His heart. The burden becomes light for it is His to bear, and the fetters, whatever they are, become our greatest blessing – for they make way for Him to find glory in a man, glory out of dust, glory out of flesh and blood and bone.

Oh Lord, You will make all things beautiful in its time. You will make it good Lord, you will speak life out of death, and this life will be the very Light of the World! Make it so oh Lord, In Your Precious Name, we pray. amen

T.A. Sparks Byline

The Fellowship of His Sufferings – T.A. Sparks

Reading: Job 1:6-11; 2:9,10; 42:7,8,10

Job’s Spiritual History

Job is introduced to us as a man in great fullness: fullness of possessions and of wealth, fullness of good works and of personalt_austin_sparks righteousness, and standing before God in acceptance. Then there begins a course in his experience, the meaning and the secret occasion of which is altogether hidden from him. He knows not the why nor the wherefore, but he finds himself suddenly in the course of being stripped of everything. One thing after another is stripped from him – all his possessions, all his relations, all his friends and all his righteousness which is of works – and with it all come the investing, the encompassing, the onrushing of those hostile forces with their suggestions of accusation, condemnation, judgment. There is an encompassing of spiritual antagonism and of a spirit of death, with God hidden, withdrawn behind the clouds, and Job is left stark, bare, apparently alone, a stripped and afflicted man, oppressed in spirit, bewildered in soul and in anguish of body. The circle of all his relationships narrows to the closest, the nearest – his own wife – who bids him renounce God and, in so doing, surrender his life, for that is what is meant. The man has come right down from a great height and a great fullness to a very deep depth of utter emptiness, weakness, helplessness, and is as good as dead.

In the course of that history a transition takes place. You can hardly perceive it, but it does take place. It is a transition from a righteousness which is of works to the righteousness which is of faith. Whereas earlier he pleads his own cause on the basis of his own righteousness and his own works, you find him being stripped of all that and at the end of it all he is saying, “Wherefore I abhor myself” (Job 42:6) And yet he is still holding on to God, but this is a righteousness which has no foundation in his own goodness and works now. It is a righteousness which is by faith in the mercy of God. With that transition, that change from one basis to another, something else has happened. Satan has gradually been edged out of court. At the beginning Satan is there in full power – or almost so – with a great deal of liberty, doing pretty much as he likes. Then there is an almost imperceptible point at which Satan has stepped out of the scene and Job is left alone with God. Satan has had all his ground taken away, he has had to withdraw and give up the fight, he is completely worsted. Then comes resurrection from the dead into a place of new spiritual power, opening the door for God to come in in a new way, investing Job with a new fullness which is not now the fullness of his own works, but the fullness of Divine grace; not the fruit of his own labours, but the gift of God; not what he himself has brought about, but what God has given him. That is Job’s spiritual history in a few words.

Christ’s Humiliation and Exaltation

In saying that, we are able to look further and discern Another, a greater than Job, standing in His own fullness and in all His own rights, accepted with God, of whom God could say ‘There is not another – not only in the earth, but in the universe – like Him’. And then, because there is something in the universe that is evil, something that has to be undone, to be robbed of its power and put out of court, that One in all His fullness is steadily stripped and laid bare in the vortex of this terrific controversy. Picturesque words are used to describe these forces of evil: “They compassed me about like bees” (Psa. 118:12). The whole scene is set in a spiritual realm where the forces of evil are rampant, accusing, condemning, judging, appraising. It is an atmosphere of terrible antagonism and terrible spiritual death. He is brought right down, “crucified through weakness” (2 Cor. 13:4), stripped stark naked, emptied, with God’s face hidden behind the cloud. “Thou hast forsaken Me!” You can almost hear that in Job from time to time, “Thou hast forsaken me!” How much more real was that in the case of this greater One. “Having put off from Himself the principalities and the powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Col. 2:15). They are ruled out of court, the great spiritual opposition has been brought low. And up from the grave He arose, back to a place of new power, opening the door for God to come in in a new way and make Him a minister to His own brethren with a new significance, investing Him with all the heavenly fullness. It is in PRINCIPLE the same as Job’s experience.

Paul’s Stripping and Filling

The principle is repeated in limited, much more limited, ways. Read that little Letter to the Philippians and hear the Apostle speaking about the fullness which was his, the righteousness of works. He could speak about being full, about the time when he had all things, things which were gain to him. And then this man was stripped of it all. There is no man in the New Testament who speaks more of his own unrighteousness and unworthiness and of the worthlessness of the righteousness by works than does Paul. He was stripped of it all, everything in this life, everything natural, his own ability to accomplish anything, to achieve anything. And yet, with all the suffering and all the terrific assaults of evil powers upon that man, we see him living in the power of a resurrection, of an ascension union with Christ which says, “I have all” (Phil. 4:18); “All things are yours” (1 Cor. 3:21). All things are ours. You see, this is the same principle.

Through Suffering to Glory

In saying that, you have got to the heart of this whole matter of what is power with God, what is the ground upon which God comes in. It is just contained in that phrase, through suffering to glory. Job suffered for the rights of God, that is the point. He did not know it, but that is what it meant.

What was all this about in heaven? Satan had come to God and God had indicated His servant Job. “Hast thou considered My servant Job?” ‘Oh, yes, I have considered him all right, I know all about Job!’ – You can see the sneer, the leer – ‘Yes, I know Job. There is not another like him in all the earth! Him! DOES Job serve God for nought? I have so spoiled all your work, God, that even the best among men have an ulterior motive. Even the best of men, as you would call them, on the earth are time-servers. You think that Job serves you because he is devoted to you? He is only serving you for what he gets out of you! You have not a man after all, even Job, who is so disinterested and selfless as to trust you and serve you without the idea of reward. I have spoiled that whole lot for you and your best are like that!’ This is what is implied, this is the sneer of the devil, that he has spoiled God’s work to the very last man, even to the best. ‘All right,’ says God, ‘you claim that there is nothing whatever in the whole creation that will satisfy Me, that will provide Me with ground for My pleasure? I accept your challenge. I take away the hedge that you talk about. You go and touch him. Touch all that he has first of all.’ You know the story. One thing rushes upon another. Read that first chapter again and see the repetition, “While he was yet speaking, there came also another…” Someone else came with another terrible tale of woe, one thing on another. Before one thing is through, there is another. All that he has is taken – sons, daughters, cattle, camels, sheep, everything – yet, in all this, Job sinned not with his lips.

Satan has to come back again. ‘Well, what about it?’ says the Lord. ‘What about Job?’ ‘Oh, yes, but you put forth your hand and touch his body!’ ‘Very well, go and touch his body, but touch not his life.’ Yes, it is becoming very deep and terrible. You know what happens – the terrible physical affliction and then his wife saying, “Dost thou still hold fast thine integrity? Renounce God, and die,” ‘Put an end to it all.’ Oh, Satan is behind all this so subtly. Satan has been forbidden to touch Job’s life, but he has come round in such a way as to try to get him to take his own life. It is the same thing. Satan cannot take it, but he thinks he can get Job to take it. Satan is after his life, but he does not get it, and Job goes through this terrible experience, this devastating time. We do not know how long it lasted, but it must have been a long time and been very drastic, but in the end Satan has not proved his case. Through the very work of Satan, through the very discipline, God has only changed the ground from one which could not ultimately stand up to Him – that of righteousness which is of works – to a ground which does stand up to God. It is a marvelous thing to see that the very ground that makes it possible for God to be glorified and justified and vindicated – the ground of righteousness which is according to faith – was the ground on to which Satan forced Job. There is the sovereign hand of God. The Lord is – may I use the word? – very clever. Satan thinks he is clever; the Lord can outwit him.

What we must get at is this point. We see the spiritual history in the transition from the objective to the subjective, from the outward to the inward, from the hearing of the ear to the seeing of the eye – “I had heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth Thee” – from the righteousness which is of works, to the righteousness which is according to faith. We see that transition as an essential thing to give God His ground.

God Served Through Suffering

Now the point is that there is a service to God which lies in an altogether different realm from the realm of things earthly and temporal. “My servant Job.” He is God’s servant, but the real service of Job’s life was fulfilled in a spiritual realm, out of sight. It was fulfilled through temporal things, it is true, but there is a background to all this. These were not just happenings in his life, the ordinary misfortunes which could overtake any man. Something is happening in the unseen, in another realm where, through all this, God is being served in a peculiar way. What is the object? What is the end in view? It is just this: God must eventually be vindicated in creation by having glorified humanity. When God undertook to create man, He undertook all the responsibility and all the liability of creating man, and it was a tremendous liability. You get down into the depths with Job and sometimes you will ask ultimate questions, ‘You created me, I am your responsibility, I lay the responsibility at your door.’ God says, ‘I accept that, and when I undertook responsibility for creating man, I did so with the unalterable determination to have man glorified at the last; a glorified humanity is the only thing that will vindicate Me.’ Satan has done everything in his power to defeat God in that intention of a glorified humanity. The whole battle in the unseen has to do with that, and the very work of Satan is being sovereignly used by God toward that end. Job’s last state is only, of course, a figure, a suggestion, of man raised from the dead and exalted to a very high position and filled with Divine fullness – all through grace, all through the mercy of God acting sovereignly. That is the end in view.

Now, in the unseen something is going on in relation to that, and God is being served through the sufferings of His own people in this way, that He is being vindicated. What do we mean? We are the Lord’s people and we have not only been saved in order to be saved, but, in that old, very hackneyed phrase, we have been “saved to serve”. God knows that means a great deal more than most people think when they talk about serving the Lord. Read the Book of Job and see what serving the Lord is. The very highest service that could be rendered to God was God’s own vindication, the rights of God in man, God’s vindication in creation. This was not a matter of running about, taking so many meetings, preaching all over the place and doing many things which are called service. Sometimes it means being stripped of everything and being put through a deep and terrible experience in which God can do something in us that makes possible the glorifying of humanity, investing man with glory so that, at the last, with a glorified humanity, God can say, ‘I am vindicated, I am justified in having created man. Does this not justify Me?’

While we, at the moment, cannot grasp all the eternal significance of it, we know this thing in principle. It is working out in principle in minute forms and ways with us. The Lord allows us to come into very deep and dark affliction and suffering where we are deprived and stripped of so much. We go down into the depths and Satan seems to be having it all his own way, just riding over us. The Lord seems to be so far away and so hidden and yet, in His faithfulness, He is doing something in us. We do not know what it means. Our constant cry is, Why? Why this? We go through it and then we come out of it. It is a phase and we come out with measure, with spiritual wealth, with a new knowledge of the Lord; we come out with our souls purified into a new place with the Lord and as we look back on it we say, “Well, it was pretty bad, but it was worth it; it was terrible, but I have something which justifies it; I know today as I could not have known by any other way and really I justify God; I go down before the Lord, saying that He is right, He has effected something that would not have been effected in any other way and it is worth having. What is more, I am now in a position, like Job, to stand before God on behalf of others.’ There are others in desperate need and they are not going to get through. Job’s friends could not get through with God and they would not have got through but for Job. He stood before God for them in a place of power and influence. God was right, after all, because of the outcome of that experience, the values that have come from it, the knowledge of the Lord, the spiritual strength, the ability to help others – that justifies God in His ways.

That is true of many of the Lord’s people in fragmentary ways, but it is also the whole history of Christ in union with His Church and of His Church in union with Him in a true spiritual position. It is the history of the Church – the Lord’s people going through a terrible grueling time at the hands of the devil, under the sovereignty of God, out of which the Church becomes “a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing” (Eph. 5:27); “when He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be marveled at in all them that believed” (2 Thess. 1:10). That is the Lord having all the glory out of all the suffering. Is that your experience in a small way? I think you can see something that touches you, but do you recognize the upshot of it? God is saying that this is what He requires in order to be able to move in. Job represents the ground that He needs. Job represents that which is power and influence with Him. What is that? It means being prepared to suffer with Him, prepared to suffer for God’s rights.

We have a great deal more light about this than Job had. Job did not know about that interview in heaven, he knew nothing about Satan appearing with the sons of God and all that took place there, the challenge and the permission given. All he knew was that these things were happening. His cry is the cry of a man in the dark without any explanation and that is very helpful to me. There is a difference drawn here between the bewildered, perplexed, confounded arguments, statements and words of a man under terrible pressure, and sin. Job says some pretty hard things, even to the Lord, and you wonder how God can support that, stand alongside of that. Yes, when we are down under the pressure, the enemy lying to us and God seeming to have hidden Himself and left us, we are bewildered, perplexed and confounded and the whole thing is so terrible that we begin to cry out and challenge God as to His faithfulness, as to His love, we begin to question God. Take heart, God does not call that sin. I do not mean that we can take liberties with God, but we may get to the place where, because of the intense difficulty of the way, the deep suffering and affliction, because God seems to be outside of His universe and Satan seems to be doing all he wants and we are involved and everything that is ours is involved, we cry out even against God and question His faithfulness. These are the cries, the groans – almost the screams – of a bewildered, perplexed, baffled soul passing through an experience which has a spiritual meaning beyond the understanding or knowledge or apprehension of that soul, and God does not call that sin. He understands our frame, our humanity. It would have been sin if Job had done what his wife told him to do, to renounce God. That is sin and Satan would try to drive a soul there. But God is sovereign here and that is not Satan’s right. We may go a long way towards that point, but God has the matter in His hands; He has not allowed it to come to pass. I think it is a wonderful thing, when you read all that Job has to say, to hear God saying that in all this Job sinned not with his lips. God is standing by Job.

This is, after all, a marvelous triumph of faith in God because, although Job does go down and does say some very hard things, it is not long before he is up again and saying other good things. His faith is having a terrible time, but he is constantly coming up again and his faith triumphs through it all! “And after my skin hath been thus destroyed, yet from my flesh shall I see God” (Job 19:26). That is faith in resurrection.

What is it that prevails with God? Power with God does necessitate our standing for God’s rights and serving Him in that intensely spiritual sense. There are all kinds of things here on this earth which may serve the Lord, but there is a service to the Lord which is deeper than things, deeper than our activities here. The greatest service we can render to God is His own vindication and that can only come by Him redeeming, transforming and glorifying humanity. That is what He is doing with us and He is doing it through suffering.

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