Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Living "Before the Lord" and "Unto the Lord"

A Way of Growth: Chapter 1 - Living "Before the Lord" and "Unto the Lord"

      First published in "A Witness and A Testimony" magazines, 1948-1949

      "But Samuel ministered before the Lord, being a child... And the child Samuel grew on, and increased in favour both with the Lord, and also with men. And the child Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli... And (Eli) said, What is the thing that the Lord hath spoken unto thee? I pray thee, hide it not from me... And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord. And the Lord appeared again in Shiloh; for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the Lord" (1 Sam. 2:18,26; 3:1,17,19-21).

      Those fragments serve to indicate the growth of Samuel, and bring us to the matter of spiritual increase, enlargement, growth. The marks are quite simple and yet quite fundamental.

      "Before the Lord"

      "Samuel ministered before the Lord, being a child." "Before the Lord." Like Another even greater, he grew up before the Lord, and it is of far greater importance than might be suggested by the little fragment of three words. That is the first thing that must be true of us - that our whole life is not lived before men but primarily before the Lord; that there is always that about us which speaks of an inner life before the Lord. When we are alone, shut in our room with the Lord, then everything is very pure. We know quite well that there before Him there is no deception, there is no feigning and pretending, there is no unreality. We know quite well when we come into personal aloneness with the Lord that everything artificial is stripped off. There we know that we are seen through, we are thoroughly well known; we can put on no camouflage, no disguises, in the Lord's presence. There we are what we are, and we know it, and we make no pretence about it. And this is something which has got to be brought out in our lives when we come from the secret place with the Lord - that everything is to be as it is there before Him, as transparent, as clear, as true, as unfeigned as it is in His presence; no pretence, no makeup, no unreality, no false ways. We cannot be on stilts or on a pedestal in the Lord's presence. When we are with people we may put on a lot of things to cover up, to make believe; we may become very artificial. 

Even when we are praying in the presence of other people, we can be anything but natural. We are so conscious of them, and begin to preach to them in our prayer. We do not do that when we are alone with the Lord, we do not make up anything then. We are right down on the very bedrock of what we are, a certain kind of naturalness; we cannot be other than perfectly natural there. What we are as before the Lord we have to be when we are with people in public life. It is important, it is essential. You see, anything put on amongst people, anything artificial, is not our measure at all; it is a false measure, and it may be holding us up in true spiritual life and growth.

      "Samuel ministered before the Lord." We might well take that for every sphere and every hour of life. "Whatsoever ye do, work heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men" (Col. 3:23). God said to Abram, "...walk before me..." That may be very simple in its terms, but it is something which has to do with a ground work for spiritual growth. People who are like that will go on, will grow.

      The rest of the statement about Samuel is only fresh emphasis upon what that means "being a child." The Lord Jesus Himself put His finger upon that on one occasion. His disciples, grown men, were talking about big things, and high place; He took a little child and set him in the midst and said, "Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18:3). 'This is the way to enlargement. You are thinking about place, position, influence; you are thinking big thoughts; you have big ideas; but this is the way to true greatness - a little child: no assumptions, no pretensions.' "Samuel ministered before the Lord, being a child"; and then, of course, you are not surprised that he "grew on."

"Unto the Lord"

      Then the next thing - "Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli." If we could put ourselves in Samuel's place, we should find that it was not easy for him in those days. Remember, Hophni and Phineas, Eli's two sons, were there. A most corrupt, base, iniquitous thing was happening, for which eventually they were slain in the judgment of God - a state of things utterly deplorable. Samuel might well have become a cynic, he might have become bitter and sour and critical. It is very easy when things are like that to be cynical, to be disgusted, and to have no interest in what we are doing, even though we ourselves are in no way compromising with the evil. If we must be in it, we simply do it because it is our job. Others involved in it are wrong and corrupt; but the work has got to be done, so without any interest at all, we just do it. But it seems that Samuel closed his eyes to a very great deal, and just kept them on the Lord, and his attitude was: 'All around me is very evil, very corrupt, but I am here for the Lord; I am not doing this for the sake of these people, nor just for the sake of keeping this thing going; I am here, in the midst of it all, for the Lord.' Thus was his spirit kept free from sourness and bitterness and cynicism. "Unto the Lord." He ministered not to Eli, and not to Hophni and Phineas, and not to a mere procedure, to keep it going, but to the Lord.

      Remember, that is a secret of growth. We may all have reason to say: 'There is a good deal around me that I do not agree with and which I am sure is contrary to what the Lord would have; and a lot of people who are wrong and difficult around me, even of those who are the Lord's. If I were to take account of them I should give up and leave; but I am here to live unto the Lord, I am only doing it for Him, and so I intend to stay where I am.' That is a way of growth. Eli was the embodiment of the religious order of his time, he was in the place of authority and for the time being had to be recognised as such, and Samuel was submissive. He was not trying to oust Eli, nor to condemn him; he was not all the time saying, 'This whole thing is wrong, I have no place for Eli' - going about gossiping and spreading reports about Eli. It is so easy to do that; because you find something wrong at headquarters, you can easily become disaffected and critical. Samuel was submissive. 

Later, even when he did not agree with the people's desire for a king, Samuel received commandment from the Lord to go and anoint Saul, and he obeyed, and afterward did all that he could to make it easy for Saul to do the right thing and to fulfil his mission. Samuel did not accept Saul, but he did not get in his way; he did not spread evil reports about him. He gave him a good chance. The attitude of Samuel to Saul is wonderful. He has not accepted Saul, nevertheless he is submissive for the time being to what has to be; and here before Eli, in a like spirit, he takes the submissive and subject position and ministers to the Lord. No wonder he grew.

      You will not grow if you are observing the faults and flaws and errors around you, especially in people who are holding superior positions, and if you are talking and spreading reports about them. The Lord will say, "If... thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness" (Matt. 6:22,23). Beware of getting an evil eye on someone - it will stop your own growth. Samuel did not eye Eli thus; he left Eli with the Lord and himself went on with the Lord. 

Lay such lessons to heart. Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli, in subjection and in patience, waiting until the Lord took steps to deal with that very difficult situation which must have been eating into Samuel's soul every day. It is our spirit that matters - purity, simplicity, earnestness, reality. That is what it means to grow, and to grow on.

In keeping with T. Austin-Sparks' wishes that what was freely received should be freely given, his writings are not copyrighted. Therefore, we ask if you choose to share them with others, please respect his wishes and offer them freely - free of changes, free of charge and free of copyright.


By Bible Names of God

Psal 3:3 But thou, O LORD, [art] a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. {for: or, about}

In the midst of the danger which confronted him when he fled from Absalom, his son, and sought protecction, David poured forth his soul in this expression of confidence in God. He could rejoice in the assurance of God's shielding Power and could call Him "My Glory! The soul that has found refuge under the wings of our wonderful Saviour can also testify "Thou art my Glory, now and forever!"

"Our blessed, unchanging Lord, we rejoice that we can say, "Thou art our Glory!" Amen

All Things Work Together

By Robert Haldane

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Rom. 8:28).

That all things work together for the good of them that love God, is a truth affording the highest consolation. These words teach believers that whatever may be the number and overwhelming character of adverse circumstances, they are all contributing to conduct them into the possession of the inheritance provided for them in heaven. That they are thus working for the good of the children of God, is manifest from the consideration that God governs the world. 

The first cause of all is God; second causes are all His creatures, whether angels, good or bad men, animals, or the inanimate creation. Second causes move only under His direction; and when God withdraws His hand, they cannot move at all, as it is written, 'In Him we live, and move, and have our .' 

As God, then, the first cause, moves all second causes against His enemies, so, when He is favourable to us, He employs all to move and work for our good, as it is said, 'In that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground; and will break the bow, and the sword, and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely' (Hos. 2:18). And as of men it is said, 'When a man's ways please the Lord, He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him,' (Prov. 16:7).

If all things work together for good, there is nothing within the compass of being that is not, in one way or other, advantageous to the children of God. All the attributes of God, all the offices of Christ, all the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, are combined for their good. The creation of the world, the fall and the redemption of man, all the dispensations of Providence, whether prosperous or adverse, all occurrences and events-all things, whatsoever they be-work for their good. 

They work together in their efficacy, in their unity, and in their connection. They do not work thus of themselves: it is God that turns all things to the good of His children. The afflictions of believers, in a peculiar manner, contribute to this end.

Dread of Ridicule

By Sabine Baring-Gould

24th Sunday after Trinity.

S. Matt. ix. 24. "And they laughed Him to scorn."

INTRODUCTION.--"All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Tim. iii. 12.) This is what S. Paul says. This is what everyone of you must make up your mind to, if you intend to live godly lives, and, moreover, to live in Christ. 

 Do you know what that meant to the early Christians? It meant that if they were going to be firm in their faith, live up to their profession, and eschew evil, they should be dragged before governors, and hung on what was called the "little horse," and their flesh torn with redhot pincers. It meant that they should be scourged to death, or that they should be roasted alive over slow fires, or that they should be gored in the amphitheatre by a bull, or torn to pieces by a lion, or that they should have their skin taken off, or that their heads should be struck off, or that they should be crucified. So when they were baptized and professed the Creed, and were signed with the cross, they knew that they were enlisted to suffer persecution if they acted up to their profession, and were worthy of the cross on their brows.

But this is not the sort of persecution you will be subjected to. The time of such cruel torture is over. The world has become Christian in name, but in heart it is pagan still.

"All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." S. Paul does not limit this to his day. It is not only all in the first century, but all in the nineteenth century as well. Only this is altered--the mode of persecution.

SUBJECT.--The persecution you will be subjected to, if you live godly in Jesus Christ is--Ridicule. No one will make you suffer in the body. No pincers and knives will be brought against you,--only Tongues.

I. Noah was ordered by God to build an ark on dry ground. Imagine the ridicule he met with! How the people would flock out of an evening, to see how he was getting on. What jibes! How he was tormented with questions, When was the great boat to be launched? How was he to bring the sea up to it? Was he with his three sons to put their shoulders to it, and push it down to the seashore? But Noah did not heed them, he went on with his building. It was very unpleasant to bear. It made him very red with shame and annoyance sometimes. But he did not give up. If he had done so, he would have been drowned. And one day the flood came. The fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven opened, and then the water overflowed the land. Then!--how was it with those men and women who had made fun of Noah? On whose side was the laugh now?

The Israelites were ordered by God to camp against Jericho. They were to march round the city once a day, with the priests going before, blowing their trumpets; this was to be done six days in succession, but on the seventh day they were to march seven times round the city, with the priests leading the way, blowing the rams' horns. The first day the inhabitants of Jericho rushed to their walls, and watched, and wondered. The second day they saw the same procession go round the town. It had ended in nothing on Sunday, so they laughed and pointed at them. What a ludicrous sight! All those men armed with swords and spears, who do not use them, those priests blowing the horns as to encourage the Israelites to battle, and not one rushing forward to scale the walls. The third day all the women and children were on the walls, marching round and mimicking them, blowing toy trumpets. What jokes! What jeers shouted from the walls! So on to the Friday. On the Sabbath the people got rather tired of this same scene. It was growing monotonous; so they did not come in such numbers. However, after the Israelites had marched round once, they began to march round a second time. Here was something new! Something still more nonsensical; and the people of Jericho came out on their walls again to flout them, and pass their jokes. When the Israelites had been round twice, they started to go round a third time, then a fourth, then a fifth, then a sixth. The mocking grew more excessive, the ridicule more keen. But, when the circuit of the city was made the seventh time, then, the walls of the city fell down, and the Israelites rushed in over the ruins, and killed all they came across. On whose side was the laugh then?

II. As I told you at the beginning of my sermon, if you will live godly in Christ Jesus, you must expect persecution, and the only sort of persecution you will get is Ridicule.
Therefore, if you will live godly in Christ Jesus, you must be prepared to be taunted, and made fun of, and teased. The tongues will wag and say all sort of hard things about you; You are a hypocrite, or you are going too far, or you are a fine person to set up to be a saint! but be of good cheer, do not mind the laughter, it is only for a while, and then the tables will be turned, and the laugh will be on your side.

It is very unpleasant to be made a butt for ridicule. Of course it is, but it is not so unpleasant as to have your flesh torn off with redhot pincers. The early Christians who would live godly in Christ Jesus had to expect that.

It is very galling to have bitter things said of you, often unjust and untrue, only because you have begun to serve God, and lead a better life. Of course it is, but it is not so bitter to bear as a cruel death, and that is what the early Christians had to expect if they would live godly in Christ Jesus.

Then again. As the Master was used, so the servant must expect to be treated. Jesus Christ had not only to endure the cruelty of wicked men, but their ridicule as well, "They laughed Him to scorn."

CONCLUSION.--Pluck up a little courage, my brethren, and do not be such cowards. If you lack courage, ask of God, and He will give it you. The Spirit of Fortitude is one of the gifts of the Holy Ghost. He gave it to the martyrs to strengthen them under torment, and they were able to endure and not forsake their Lord. Then surely He will give to you that measure of fortitude which will enable you to stand up against Ridicule.

The Privilege of Choice

By A.W. Tozer

It is inherent in the nature of man that his will must be free. Made in the image of God who is completely free, man must enjoy a measure of freedom. This enables him to select his companions for this world and the next; it enables him to yield his soul to whom he will, to give allegiance to God or the devil, to remain a sinner or become a saint. And God respects this freedom. 

God once saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good. To find fault with the smallest thing God has made is to find fault with its Maker. It is a false humility that would lament that God wrought but imperfectly when He made man in His own image. Sin excepted, there is nothing in human nature to apologize for. This was confirmed forever when the Eternal Son became permanently incarnated in human flesh.

 So highly does God regard His handiwork that He will not for any reason violate it. For God to override man's freedom and force him to act contrary to his own will would be to make a mockery of the image of God in man. This God will never do.

The Two Closets

By David Smithers

If we neglect prayer, we neglect Christ. Prayerlessness is a sin against the heart of Jesus, which longs to be intimate with His Bride. (1 Samuel 12:23). Prayerlessness is not only a sin in itself, it is the nursemaid of countless other sins. When we neglect prayer we nurture secret-sin and self-deception. As one abandons the prayer closet he unknowingly constructs another kind of closet. It too is a secret place of solitude, yet it is not reserved for intimate union with Jesus. This closet is a place of darkness and shadows where evil motives, bitterness and uncleanness hide. Many Christians who claim to understand the necessity of a holy life still neglect daily prayer and as a result make provision for the flesh. Not only is the prayerless Christian more vulnerable to sin, he is also less likely to recognize sin in his own life. Remember, to be absent from Christ's shining presence in prayer is to be surrounded by darkness and void of true discernment.

The prayer closet is a spiritual greenhouse where holiness and charity can blossom in the light of Christ. As a Christian truly tarries in prayer every impurity is revealed and exposed. In times of true prayer, one beholds Jesus in all His holiness and love, and therefore truly sees himself. The prophet Isaiah clearly saw himself in the refining presence of Jesus. "In the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts." (Isaiah 6:1-5).

To shun prayer is to embrace spiritual blindness! Is your closet a holy place or is it sin's hiding place? There are two closets; which one are you investing in?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Relapse Of Concentration

By Oswald Chambers

      'But the high places were not taken away out of Israel; nevertheless the heart of Asa was perfect all his days.'
      2 Chronicles 15:17

      Asa was incomplete in his external obedience, he was right in the main but not entirely right. Beware of the thing of which you say - "Oh, that does not matter much." The fact that it does not matter much to you may mean that it matters a very great deal to God. Nothing is a light matter with a child of God. How much longer are some of us going to keep God trying to teach us one thing? He never loses patience. You say - "I know I am right with God"; but still the "high places" remain, there is something over which you have not obeyed. Are you protesting that your heart is right with God, and yet is there something in your life about which He has caused you to doubt? Whenever there is doubt, quit immediately, no matter what it is. Nothing is a mere detail.

      Are there some things in connection with your bodily life, your intellectual life, upon which you are not concentrating at all? You are all right in the main but you are slipshod; there is a relapse on the line of concentration. You no more need a holiday from spiritual concentration than your heart needs a holiday from beating. You cannot have a moral holiday and remain moral, nor can you have a spiritual holiday and remain spiritual. God wants you to be entirely His, and this means that you have to watch to keep yourself fit. It takes a tremendous amount of time. Some of us expect to "clear the numberless ascensions" in about two minutes.