The Book of Comfort
by J. R. Miller, 1912
In That Which Is Least
One of the secrets of a full and rich life, is in being
always watchful of the little things. We could accomplish marvels in
the quarter-hours we are wasting. We hear of men who have learned a foreign
language at their dressing-bureaus; or have read volumes in the minutes they
have had to wait in reception rooms of friends they were calling upon.
Notable achievements in the way of study and research have been made by men
with only minutes of leisure, little interstices of time between their
absorbing occupation in great tasks. There have been men with feeble health,
who could work only in little quarter hours, who have achieved amazing
results in a short lifetime, or men with poor eyes, who could read only a
few minutes at a time—but who have amassed great stores of knowledge and
attained distinction, even eminence, in years of masterful diligence.
The way we use the fragments of our time, what we
do with the moments, determine largely what we will make ourselves in
the end. Hurry is a dreadful waste of time. A great surgeon said to
his assistants when he was beginning a serious operation, "Do not be in a
hurry, gentlemen; we have no time to lose." We never can do our work with
celerity, and we never can do it well, if we hurry. We must have full
possession of all our powers if we would do our best. "He who believes,"
wrote the great prophet, "shall not be in haste."
Most people employ but a fragment of the capacity
of their life, and then allow great measures of capacity to lie undeveloped,
and in the end to atrophy. A volume could be filled with a description of a
human hand, its wonderful structure, and the things it can be trained to do.
Yet how many hands ever reach the limit of their possible achievements?
Think of the powers folded up in a human brain and of the little of all
these powers most of us ever bring out in life. Now and then a man starts in
ignorance and poverty and reaches a greatness in ability and in achievement
which amazes the world. Doubtless thousands and thousands who never attain
anything beyond mediocrity have just as great natural capacity—but
the splendid powers of their life are allowed to run to waste. They are
lacking in energy and do only a little of what they might do.
In Christian life and character, the same is true. Jesus
came to give his disciples not life merely—but abundant life. We know
what he did with his first disciples, what wonderful men he made of them and
what they did with their lives. Is there any reason to think that these men
were capable of greater things, than the men whom the Master is calling in
these days? They were not beings of a different order from the mass of men;
the difference was in the way they used their gifts. Not a particle of power
in them was allowed to waste.
There is capacity enough in every little company of
Christian people, to transform the community in which they live, into a
garden of the Lord. It is to such consecration that we are called. We are
letting our powers and abilities run to waste, instead of training them and
using them to bless the world. We are not making the most of ourselves.
There is a great waste of power also, in our failure to
appreciate our opportunities. "If I only had the gifts that this man has I
would do the large and beautiful things that he does. But I never have the
chance of doing such things. Nothing ever comes to my hand, but
opportunities for little commonplace things." Now, the truth is--that
nothing is commonplace. The giving of a cup of cold water is one of the
smallest kindnesses any one can show to another—yet Jesus said that God
takes notice of this act amid all the events of the whole world, any busy
day, and rewards it. It may not be cabled half way around the world and
announced with great headlines in the newspapers—but it is noticed in
We do not begin to understand what great waste we are
allowing, when we fail to put the true value on little opportunities of
serving others. Somehow we get the feeling that any cross-bearing worth
while, must be a costly sacrifice, something that puts nails through
our hands, something that hurts until we bleed. If we had an
opportunity to do something heroic, we say we would do it. But when it is
only a chance to be kind to a neighbor, to call at his house when he is in
trouble, to sit up with him at night when he is sick, or to do something for
a child--we never think for a moment that such little things are the
Christlike deeds, which God wants us to do, and so we pass them by, and
there is a great blank in our lives where holy service ought to be.
When the great miracle of the loaves had been
wrought, Jesus sent his disciples to gather up the broken pieces, "that
nothing be lost." The Master is continually giving us the same command.
Every hour's talk we have with a friend, leaves fragments that we ought to
gather up and keep to feed our heart's hunger or the hunger of others'
hearts, as we go on. When we hear good words spoken, or read a good book, we
should gather up the fragments of knowledge, the suggestions of helpful
thoughts, the broken pieces, and fix them in our hearts for use in our
lives. We allow large volumes of the good things we hear or read, to turn to
waste continually, because we are poor listeners or do not try to keep what
we hear. We let the broken pieces be lost and thereby are great losers. If
only we would gather up and keep all the good things that come to us through
conversations and through reading, we would soon have great treasures of
knowledge and wisdom.
Portions for Those Who Lack
After eating the fat and drinking the sweet of the feast
in their own homes, the returned captives were bidden by Nehemiah to send
portions to those for whom nothing had been prepared. "For this day is
holy," was added to the exhortation. Part of the holiness of worship, is
loving service. We are never to eat our bread alone; we are to share it.
In Job's self-justification, when his friends had spoken bitterly against
him, he says among other things: "If I have withheld the poor from their
desires, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail, or have eaten my
morsel alone, and the fatherless has not eaten thereof, then let my shoulder
fall from the shoulder-blade, and my arm be broken from the bone." We may
never eat our morsel alone, while others are hungry. This lesson was taught
thus emphatically in the Old Testament and still more earnestly in the New.
In the Lord's Prayer, we are bidden to pray not for our
own bread alone—but for bread for others as well. "Give us this day
our daily bread." While we are feasting at our own table, we must
remember those who are hungry outside, and send portions to them. The days
are holy—all the days are holy, and no day set apart for God must be stained
by selfishness. The direction that the people, after eating the fat and
drinking the sweet of their feast, should send portions to those for whom
nothing had been prepared, is in keeping with the teaching of the Bible
throughout. The poor were always to be remembered. The stranger
was never to be forgotten. He who let the needy go hungry when he had
plenty on his own table, was severely condemned.
In the New Testament, the lesson was taught with marked
emphasis. Generosity is a quality of all true Christian character. To
think only of ourselves and give no thought to others, is contrary to the
Spirit of Christ, who teaches us to share our plenty with those who lack.
Stinginess is always condemned. Generosity is
always praised. It is a large word. It has a root which means excellence,
goodness. It is a word of rank. Its first definition in the
dictionary is "nobility." The word was applied only to the good, the brave,
the noble. Christ was generous. He had largeness of heart, magnanimity. He
taught his followers to be generous. The lack of generosity in one who calls
himself a Christian, is a blot on his name. It marks him as unworthy. It
dishonors him, as cowardice dishonors the name of him who calls himself a
man. The brightest deeds that shine in the story of humanity, are the deeds
Generosity does not merely return good for good, does not
merely measure its giving by what it has received. Like Christly love, it
blesses the hand that has smitten, it repays cruelty with
gentleness, it serves most unselfishly, those who have done the sorest
Generosity is the perfect flower of love. It does not
think who it is, who is in need—but gives and serves the unworthiest.
It thinks only of the fact that there is one for whom nothing has been
prepared, and sends a portion to him that he may share love's fat and sweet.
Love is very sweet when it pours out its gifts for those who love us; but it
reaches its sweetest and divinest--when it brings its blessing to those who
do not love us, perhaps, who will never thank us, nor remember what we have
done, nor return gratitude for our kindness. Let us cultivate the spirit of
generosity, thinking ever, in our enjoyment of God's goodness, of those who
lack the blessings we enjoy, and sending to them love's portion. Thus shall
we continue the work which our Lord began in this world. Thus shall we
enlarge our own hearts and the ministry of love we have been sent here to
perform. Thus shall we come nearer and nearer to those who need us and more
and more able to be a blessing to them. This is a lesson we cannot learn too
well, nor fix too deeply in our hearts.
We sometimes forget that nothing is given to us--for
ourselves alone. When abundance of blessing or prosperity in any form
comes to us, we may not shut ourselves in with it, and use it only for
ourselves. We are to think of those outside who have no such blessing or
favor as we are enjoying, and are to send portions to them.
Slow and Steady Advance is the
Many young men are impatient of slow success. In
their enthusiasm, they expect to advance rapidly and without hindrance in
their chosen career. The young physician is eager to find at once a large
and remunerative practice. The young aspirant for literary honors is
disappointed if immediately his work is not accepted and his name written
high in the list of popular writers. The young business man expects to have
success from the day he begins. The artist thinks that the excellence of his
work should win fame for him the day his pictures are shown to the public.
The same is true in all professions and callings. The fact is, however,
that, with very few exceptions, beginners in every occupation must be
satisfied for a time with but meager recognition and slow results. Many
young men who know that this is true in general, have the feeling that their
own case will be an exception. We like to think ourselves a little different
from other people. We may as well make up our minds, however, to the fact
that there are few exceptions to this rule. The only genius that
counts is the capacity for hard work. The men who have achieved the greatest
success in the various callings, have had to struggle for it most intensely.
There are reasons why it is better that young men should
not get on too rapidly or too easily at the beginning. No matter how gifted
they may be or how well prepared, they are not ready at once for full
responsibility. At the best, their preparation is theoretical, not
practical. They need to learn by experience, and it is better that they
should do so leisurely, without too great pressure. A young physician who
should have the responsibilities of a large practice thrust upon him at
once, could only fail. A young business man who, immediately after leaving
college, should take sole charge of a large establishment, would find
himself unable for its management. It is better that every young man should
begin in a quiet way and grow up with his growing practice or business. It
is also better for a young man's personal development, that his progress
should not be too rapid. Easy success is the bane of many a life. It
is struggle with difficulty and hardship, which brings out the best that is
in a man. Those who rise quickly, without much effort, too often fail to
grow into noble character meanwhile.
The object of living in this world is not to make a
brilliant career—but to build up a worthy manhood. To have large worldly
success, and not to grow into strength of character, is a great misfortune.
In putting up tall buildings, a great deal of work is done on the
foundations. The workmen dig down deep until they find rock or solid
ground. They will spend weeks in work below the surface of the ground, and
all this is covered up and hid out of sight. It is necessary to have a
strong and secure foundation, if an imposing and durable superstructure is
to be reared upon it.
In the building of character, it is the same. The
foundations must be strong and secure. There may be a mushroom success,
without any really worthy character—but the end can be only failure. A
one-storied man may be built on a cheap and flimsy foundation. But a
twenty-story man, who is to face the storms and stand foursquare to all the
winds that blow--must have strength of character, principles from which
nothing ever can swerve him, and almost infinite power of endurance; and
these qualities can be gotten only in life's common experiences. While a
young man is struggling to get a foothold in his profession or occupation,
he is meanwhile building up in himself the qualities of a noble manhood,
which will endure the severest tests.
What to Do with Our Unequal Chance
Some people feel that they do not have a fair chance in
life. They look at others who seem to have more advantages and fewer
hindrances, and they conclude that the allotments of providence are not just
and equal. Some young people let their minds run in this unwholesome
channel. They have to work hard and live in the plainest way, without
luxury, not enjoying opportunities for pleasure and for education that they
long for. They see other young people in easy circumstances, lacking
nothing, with no hardships to endure, called to no self-denial, living in
ease, with every opportunity for study, travel, and recreation. It is not
easy for them to avoid a feeling of envy in such circumstances. Nor
is it easy to accept the limitations of condition complacently, without any
feeling of being unfairly treated. Yet the problem to be worked out by those
who appear not to have an equal chance, is to accept their place with its
disadvantages and its inequalities, and to live just as sweetly and
cheerfully as if they were in the most luxurious circumstances.
The danger always is that we may be hurt by life in some
way. Yet nothing can really hurt us, so long as we keep love and peace in
our hearts. No hardship of any kind can do us actual harm, if we meet it
victoriously. But when we allow ourselves to chafe and fret because things
are hard, or to complain because things seem unfair, or to grow bitter
because we do not have a fair chance, that moment life is hurting us. The
worst mistake anyone can make in such a case, is to brood over what seems to
be unfairness in his lot in life, indulging the feeling that he has not been
justly dealt with. The result is that his heart grows bitter and hard, that
he begins to pity himself and to look upon others, more highly favored, with
envy, which soon grows into hatred. Nothing but harm can come out of such a
feeling. It does not reduce the inequalities in any degree. It does not make
it easier to get on. On the other hand, it spoils the life, turning its
sweetness to bitterness. It also lessens the heart's enthusiasm and
diminishes its power to live nobly.
The only worthy way to meet such a condition, is with
courage and purpose to master disadvantages. One who does this, disarms life
of all its power to do him harm, and makes even the hardships and
disadvantages, elements in his success. A hindrance conquered makes
When one accepts his place in life and makes it a school,
he is going to get out of it lessons which will fit him for worthy and noble
living. Handicaps become uplifts, and occasions for fine
attainment and achievement, when they are faced with courage and
determination. There is a good philosophy here for him who is wise enough to
carry it out in his life.
It is well known that the men who have risen to the
loftiest heights of excellence and have done the most for their race, have
not come as a rule from the ranks of those who have been reared in
luxury—but from among those who began in lowly ways, with few advantages and
many hindrances. The very struggles they had to make to overcome the
obstacles, lifted their feet higher on the stair. The efforts it cost them
to get an education, made men of them. Thus they easily found compensation
for the hard things in their lot in their early days.
The least worthy thing that any young fellow can do with
an unequal chance--is to allow himself to be disheartened by it and give up.
Nothing really noble or valuable is ever got easily. One does not find gold
lying about on the streets. We have to dig our way through rocks to get to
earth's treasure-houses. We always have to work hard, to achieve anything
worth achieving. An unequal chance, as it seems to human eyes,
ofttimes proves to be the very pearl of chances. It wakes up in men's souls
sleeping possibilities of energy, which never would have been awakened in
the experiences of ease.
We are not put in this world merely to have a good time,
to enjoy ourselves, to eat and drink and dress well, and move about in paths
of pleasantness. We are here to grow into the nobleness and strength of the
best manhood we can attain. He who misses this, though he lives in luxury
all his days, has missed all that is really worth while in life! Young
people should always remember, too, that in their school of life they
must do their own toiling; nobody can do it for them. There are some who
like to dream of fortunate surprises by which they shall find themselves
lifted to positions of ease and prosperity, without struggle or effort of
their own. It is not often that such surprises come, nor is it always really
"fortunate" when they do come.
A few years ago, a young man, struggling with peculiarly
hard conditions, became suddenly the possessor of a large sum of money.
Instead, however, of being good thing for him, the money proved the end of
whatever hope there was of the young man's making anything of his life. He
dropped the work which was to train him into manliness and usefulness, and
entered upon a course of ease and extravagance, which in a brief time left
him penniless and with all the high ideals of his early days of struggle
The best thing one can do with hard conditions is to take
up his own burdens courageously and bear them. Then in carrying them he will
grow into noble manhood.
If Two of You Shall Agree
Why two? Would it not be the same for one? Is not the
gate of prayer open to everyone? May not a lonely soul anywhere call upon
God and be sure of answer? Why then does the Master say two—"If two of you
shall agree--the prayer will be granted?" Certainly he did not mean that God
does not hear one who prays alone. Jesus ofttimes prayed by himself. He went
apart from his disciples up the mountain, into the depths of the Garden. Yet
there is a special promise when two agree.
For one thing, when two pray together, each is drawn out
of self to think of something besides his own needs. We are naturally
selfish. We easily form the habit of thinking only of our own things, of
seeking only our own good, of looking only after our own interests. One of
the tendencies of praying alone, is to ask for only things we need or desire
for ourselves. "Forgive my sins, prosper my affairs, heal
my sickness, bless my daily bread, make me holy, give
me joy," our prayer is apt to run. To pray only thus, is to allow
ourselves to narrow our life into sheerest selfishness.
We may pray alone and yet train ourselves to think of
others, to reach out to the needs and experiences of others. Only thus will
we make our secret prayers spiritually wholesome.
When we pray together the selfish tendency is
corrected. We think of the other and his condition. We are trained to
sympathize with him in his trouble, to reach out our hand to strengthen him
when he is weak. We forget our own danger--in thinking of his. His needs
seem so much greater and more pressing than ours--that we plead for his
deliverance and altogether forget our own. We beseech God to lift away his
crushing burden--and cease to think at all of our own lesser load. Our own
sorrow, which, if there were no other one suffering by our side, would seem
immeasurably great--seems now, too small even to mention in the presence of
our friend's overpowering grief; so we pray for his comforting and only
thank God that our affliction is so light.
Another good that comes from two praying together, is in
the influence of life upon life. We need the impact of others. We cannot
reach our best alone. It is a happy thing for one child in a home when
another child comes to be its companion. A child living alone is in danger
of growing into selfishness and all undiscipline. It never learns to share
its possessions, its happiness. When two children are brought up together
they are trained to think of each other, each to give up for the other, to
seek to make the other happy. One of the blessings of marriage, is that the
two learn to live for each other. Then they inspire each other. The woman
who thinks only of what she can get from her marriage, has not begun to
learn the real secret of love. Wedded love reaches true splendor, only when
it thinks of can do for the other. When we pray together, the one quickens
the other and both become better Christians. When two love God and then talk
about him, the love of both grows warmer. One stimulates the other.
We need companionship in our Christian life. It is not
good for us to be alone. Jesus had a wise purpose in sending out his
disciples two by two. They would have been lonely if they had gone
out singly, and would not have done their best work. Thus the one
supplemented the other. Two together, did more than two apart.
They had their limitations of capacity, and one supplied the other's lack.
But perhaps the chief advantage in going out two and two, was that each
kindled and inspired the other. We do not know how much we owe to each
other. Our unconscious influence on the life and actions of those close to
us is immeasurable.
Peter's rugged force acted on John's sensitive nature at
the empty tomb. John hesitated to enter until Peter came up and went in
boldly. "Then the other disciples entered in also." We do not know
how often or in how many ways the older disciples quickened the younger.
Soldiers say that the hardest of all experiences in battle is to stand or
fight alone. Two together make each other brave. We do better work and live
our life better in every way, two by two, than we would do
Again, when two pray together they will be more likely to
widen their intercessions. We may not appreciate the value of prayer for
others. Jesus lived with his Father in unbroken communion—but we are sure
that the burden of his prayer was for others, for his disciples, for the
need and suffering ever about him. The best work we can do for those we
love, usually is prayer. Of course there are things love should do—acts
of kindness, ministries of good; we must never withhold help that is needed.
But ofttimes we cannot tell what really is kindness to another. Perhaps the
effort we make to help only harms. The taking away of a friend's burden may
only interfere with the plan of God for making the friend strong. Much of
our helping is over-helping. It would be better, to let our friends struggle
through themselves without relieving them. When we see people with their
loads, their cares, their difficulties, their hard tasks, we really do not
know what we ought to do for them, or whether we ought to do anything but
encouragement them. But we may always pray for them, and perhaps this
in most cases, prayer is all we can wisely do. At least prayer is always a
safe way of helping. We need never be afraid that it will do them
harm, for we only ask God to give the help that is wise, and that will make
them better, nobler, stronger and truer. We may not ask God to make all hard
things easy for them—we may ask only that he will watch that the burden is
never too heavy for them, the temptation too sore, the sorrow too great, and
that they never faint or fail. Always, prayer is love's great duty! Pray for
whom you love! Not to pray, is to sin against one's friend and against God.
People always need our prayers. Those need them most, who seem to have least
need. We pray readily for those in trouble—but those in no apparent trouble
are in greatest peril.
When We Are Laid Aside
We do well when we let God shape our lives. God "writes
straight on crooked lines." He has a plan for every life, and his plan goes
on without interruption,, through all the ambitions, the mistakes, the
failures, of our aims and strivings. The problem of faith is to accept God's
will--when it breaks into our will, and believe that always it is right, and
that there can be no mistake and no failure when it is his way we take. It
is here too often, that our faith fails.
A Christian man was telling how hard it is for him to
maintain the peace and joy of his life, in the experiences through which he
is passing. For long years he had been in Christian work of great
importance. He had devoted his best energies to the development of this
work, and seemed about to see all his hopes realized. Then his health gave
way, months he has been compelled to lie on his bed unable to do anything.
It is by no means certain that he can ever again resume his work and carry
to completion, the plans and schemes upon which he has been so long engaged.
He was speaking to a friend of his condition. "It is very hard," he said,
"to remain quiet and be at peace in all this uncertainty. It is hard to be
still and do nothing, while there is so much yet to be done. It is hard,
after having wrought so long in the work, to lie still in a sick-room,
inactive, not taking any part in the work to which he has given his strength
all his years, letting others carry it on."
In varying forms, this is a problem of faith which very
many people are going through. We are in the midst of pressing activities
which fill our hands and require our best energies every hour. What we are
doing seems essential. If our hands should willingly slack, there would be a
blank in the work we are doing, and this would be disloyalty to God.
Besides, it requires the full wages of all the days, to provide for our
family. Then suddenly one morning we cannot leave our bed to go to our work.
The doctor says it will be weeks before we can leave our bed. We are in
We were happy in our trust before this
interruption. All things were going well. We thanked God every day that he
was providing for us so abundantly. But how shall we meet this new problem?
The first thing to remember is--that this is our Father's world, and that
all its events are in his hand. He is not dependent, in his care of us, upon
what we can do for ourselves. He indeed needs us; and, while we are able to
do our part, his providing for us depends on our doing our part. If we fail
to do our part, and, growing indolent, drop our tasks while we have strength
to do them, we are proving unfaithful, marring God's plan of providence, and
must suffer. But if we are stricken down and can no longer go on with our
task, God is not at the end of his power to care for us. We may trust his
love to provide for us--when we cannot do it.
The sick man thinks he is losing time when he must stay
on his bed and do nothing, day after day, for weeks. But really he is not
losing. He is no longer essential. Nothing will suffer because his hands are
not doing his accustomed tasks. Work in stone or wood--is not all that the
builder is in the world for. There is building to go on in his own life
and character, which is far more important than what he does in
the house on which he is working. Sometime he will know that his days of
illness--were his best building days. As to his family, God has a way to
provide for them while the natural bread-winner is not able to do it. While
he was busiest in material things, accomplishing most in earthly labors he
was leaving untouched the work in his own life and character, which was
absolutely essential to the spiritual completeness of his life according to
One of the busiest men of our generation, busiest too in
the best things, who has devoted his life to others with self-forgetful
ability, said the other day to a friend--that he was discovering he had left
a whole section of his life-work undone. While he was caring so diligently
for the comfort, the good and the spiritual culture of others, he had not
been giving due attention to his own inner life. When he was shut in
and the work for others could not be done as heretofore, he found quite
enough to do in the things that were waiting for his hands. The months when
he was laid aside from active duty, he had found serious work to do in
getting right within--in the cultivation of the graces of humility,
and love, and patience, and unselfishness. If he had
come to the end of his life when he had finished his active tasks, he would
have stood before God most incomplete in spiritual maturity. He needed the
period when his hands must be still and he must suffer, in order to make his
life complete. This was not lost time.
The principle thus stated, applies in all relations of
life, whatever the circumstances may be. While we are able to work, we way
never slacken our diligence. Our own hands must earn our daily bread. But
when we cannot longer work, work is not our duty; God does not require it of
us. It is some other one's duty then, not ours. If you are a teacher, you
cannot evade the responsibility of meeting your class regularly, if you are
well enough to do so. But if you are really ill and cannot be in your place,
you have no duty there, and no responsibility. If you are a minister and for
years have never missed a service, and then are sick and unable to get to
your pulpit, your Master does not expect you to be there; he has no message
for you to deliver to the people that day, and nothing will go wrong with
your work because you are not there.
A pastor who had wrought long and had hardly ever been
absent from his church, was broken down and for months could not come to his
accustomed place. During his long absence he wrote to his people words like
these: "I understand that when I am physically unable to do the work I would
be doing gladly if I could--it is not my work at all. It would have
been mine if I were well—but now my only duty is to be quiet and still. Duty
is not all activity; sometimes it is to wait patiently. Nothing is going
wrong in my life because I am not in what would be my place, if I were well.
My ministry is not broken or even interrupted by this experience. My work
for my Master has not been stopped—its form only has been changed." No doubt
this pastor was doing as much for his people those quiet days away from
them--as he had ever done in his active days in their midst.
We dare not take comfort from this teaching--if we are
not called from our duty in some providential way. Some of us are too easily
taken away from our work. Small excuses are allowed to draw us away.
Obstacles are not always meant to interrupt our efforts—ofttimes
they are meant to be overcome, making us more earnest and persistent. There
is altogether too much resignation in some Christians. Their
resignation may be indolence. We must be sure the Good Shepherd
calls us to "lie down in green pastures" before we stop in our service. But
if lying down is our duty, then we must do it as joyfully as ever we
listened to a call to move strenuously forward.
This lesson is not easily learned. For many it is very
hard to accept interruptions in happy activities, without chafing and
fretting. It is hard for a man to break down in the midst of some great
task, and be as trustful and songful in his disappointment, as if he had
been allowed to go on in his busy way. Some people find it very hard to grow
old, to let go the work of years, and see others do it. The lesson is, that
our faith shall not fail when interruptions of any kind break in—but shall
keep our hearts brave and sweet and strong in all human weakness and
disappointment. We must take care that our religion does not fail in these
testings. We say that Christ will suffice us in every experience; we
must show that he does. If he does not--the trouble is with us.
There is marvelous power in a witnessing life. A
young Christian woman wrote to a teacher who through years had taught her to
love Christ and trust him, and who was now broken in health and a
sufferer—but joyous as ever: "I want to thank you for teaching me this
beautiful lesson of all your life, this peaceful and joyous acceptance of
all trouble. You are living out now, all that you have taught me. I am
glad you let Christ speak so plainly through you." Suppose this teacher,
having taught the lesson of faith and trust and peace for years, had then in
pain and loss and trouble--chafed, complained and fretted--how
different would the effect have been upon the pupil!
We may be laid aside from our active work--but God
never lays us aside for himself. So we need never lay aside our
joyous witnessing for him, his love, and his keeping power. If that witness
has counted for much when we were active, it can count for more in our
inactivity. If we wasted the days of our activity by failure to witness for
him, we may yet, in Christ's strength, start today, in our new helplessness,
upon a showing forth of God's presence in a life that shall gladden him and
change his world.
Face to Face with One's Own Life
A writer in one of the magazines said recently, that if
he were a preacher he would raise his voice in behalf of the individual
life. He thinks the individual is lost sight of by too many preachers, in
considering the needs of Society in general. The personal human soul is
starving--while men are discussing the problems of mankind. "If I were a
preacher," he says, "I would talk usually just to one person." Everyone who
has received any good thing, ought straightway to begin giving it out that
others may have it too. But one must receive--before one can give.
So the personal life must come first. You must feed your
own soul--or you cannot feed another's soul. This is universally true. There
is the duty of helping others—the strong are bidden to help the
weak—but one must have in himself the ability and the resources of
helpfulness, before he can do for others what they need. If you are to teach
others, you must be taught yourself. Before you can lead men, you must know
the paths yourself. No one about to climb mountains, would accept a guide
who had never acquired skill in mountain-climbing in experiences of his own.
You must face life's problems yourself and master them.
No one can do it for you. "Each man shall bear his own burden," says the
Scripture. Another Scripture says, "Bear one another's burdens." There is no
conflict in these teachings, which seem contradictory. It is everyone's
duty, always, to put his shoulder under his brother's load—but always it is
true, that everyone must bear his own burden, and that no one can bear it
Each man must build his own house. The work is
continually going on. Every life we touch, leaves something of itself
in us. Every book we read, puts some mark on our character. Every
temptation either makes us stronger--if we resist it; or weaker--if we
yield to it. Every sorrow which befalls us--either makes us
better--or spoils our beauty. The effect of all these experiences upon us,
is not accidental, but depends upon the way in which we receive them.
God's purpose in all our life, is our spiritual maturity.
This up-building is not all wrought out in church services. Christ is
building men all the while--in love filled homes, in places of labor, in
daily companionships and associations, as well as at church meetings.
We say that the business of a carpenter, is to make the
things which a carpenter usually makes. But God's purpose for the carpenter,
is the making of a man. The work of a farmer, we say, is to till the
soil and reap harvests. But the thought of God in the farmer's work, what He
looks for as the real outcome, is a beautiful life. If this result is
not reached--the farmer's life is not successful, however prosperous he may
be as a farmer. We say that a man's circumstances make him; but at the
center of all the circumstances the real, determining factor, is the man
himself. Whether the hard knocks you experience through the years makes a
man of you, or wrecks your life--depends upon the way you meet them! It
is you, not your circumstances, which will determine the outcome in your
There is need, therefore, for personal preaching at this
point. It will not do to tell men merely that their lives are plans of God,
that God thought about them before he made them, and then made them to fill
a certain place and to do a certain work. This is not the whole truth. The
other part of the truth, is that we have now to fulfill this divine purpose
and live out this divine plan. We can spoil God's beautiful plan for our
life—every man does who lives in sin, rejecting the will of God for him and
taking his own way instead. We can fall far below God's perfect plan for
us--by living indolently, self-indulgently. Every man is required to do his
best, if he would measure up to the divine plan.
An English writer says the three words, "That will
do," have done more harm than any other three words in the language. Men
get easily into the habit of looking at something they have made or done,
and, though knowing it is not what they ought to be, or what they could make
it—yet indolently let it pass, saying, "That will do." Thus they
allow their work to deteriorate in quality, and fall far below God's plan,
which requires the best. It is said that the great violin maker,
Stradivarius, would never allow any violin to leave his hands which was not
as nearly perfect as he could make it.
We rob God, when we do any of our work less well, than we
could do it. God will help us to do our best—but we must work with him. He
will not do our work without us. He will not do our best for us--if we work
indolently. "He could not make Antonio Stradivarius' violins, without
Antonio." Thus at every point we need this lesson of individual
responsibility. We must meet life as individuals. We are responsible in a
certain way for the good of all men. We owe a duty to "the other man" which
we dare not fail to pay. But we must not forget, that our first duty is to
let God have his full way with ourselves. Keeping other people's vineyards
will not be enough, if meanwhile we have neglected our own. Doing a great
work for others is not enough, if we have not let God care for our own life.