Christs Reserve in Teaching
J. R. Miller
"Who is it he is trying to teach? To whom is he explaining his message? To children weaned from their milk, to those just taken from the breast? For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little " Isaiah 28:9-10
"I have much more to say to you—more than you can now bear." John 16:12
Christ never teaches us more rapidly—than we can receive His lessons. It was in the midst of His most confidential talk with His disciples, that He said He had much more to say to them, more than they could now bear. All wise teaching must be from the simplest rudiments, up to the more complex knowledge. The mind is not capable of comprehending the higher elements until it has been developed and trained. Then truth itself is progressive, and the pupil is not prepared to receive the advanced lessons—until he has mastered the rudiments.
In like manner, spiritual truths can be received—only as we come to experiences for which they are adapted. There are many of the divine promises which we can never claim, and whose blessedness we cannot realize—until we come to the points in life for which they were specially given.
For example: "In the time of trouble—He shall hide me in His pavilion" (Psalm 27:5). This word can mean nothing to the child playing with his toys, or to the young man or woman walking in sunny paths, without a care or a trial. It can be understood only by one who is in trouble.
Or, take this word: "My grace is sufficient for you" (2 Corinthians 12:9). It was given as an answer to a prayer for the removal of an unrelenting trial. It meant divine strength to offset human weakness, and it cannot be received until there is a sense of need.
Christ stands beside a happy young Christian and says: "I have a precious word to give you, one that shines with the beauty of divine love—but you cannot bear it yet." The disciple moves on along life's sunny path, and by and by comes into the shadows of sorrow or trouble. Again Jesus stands beside him and says: "Now I can give you the word I withheld before: "My grace is sufficient for you!" Then the promise glows with light and love.
There is a very large part of the Bible which can be received by us only when we come into the places for which the words were given. There are promises for weakness—which we can never get while we are strong. There are words for times of danger—which we can never know while we need no protection, There are consolations for sickness—whose comfort we can never get, while we are in robust health. There are promises for times of loneliness when men walk in solitary ways—which never can come with real meaning to us, while loving companions are by our side. There are words for old age—which we never can appropriate for ourselves along the years of youth, when the arm is strong, the blood warm, and the heart brave.
God cannot show us the stars—while the sun shines in the heavens; and He cannot make known to us the precious things of love that He has prepared for our nights—while it is yet day about us. Christ says to us then, "I have much more to say to you—more than you can now bear." We could not understand them now. But by and by, when we come into places of need, of sorrow, of weakness, of human failure, of loneliness, of sickness, of old age—then He will tell us these other things—and they will be full of joy for our hearts. When night comes, He will show us the stars!
Older Christians understand this. There are many things in the Bible which had little meaning for them in life's earlier days—but which one by one have shone bright and beautiful along the years—as stars come out in the evening sky when the sun fades from the heavens. Even in childhood, the words were said over and over—but they were repeated thoughtlessly, because there had been no experience to prepare the heart to receive them. Then one day there crept a dark shadow over the life, and in the shadow—the long familiar words began for the first time, to have a meaning. Other experiences of care, trial, and loss followed—and the precious words became more and more real. Now, in old age, as the sacred texts are repeated, they are the very rod and staff to the trembling, trusting spirit.
Thus as life goes on, the meaning of Christ's words comes out clearer and clearer, until the child's heedless repetition of them—becomes the utterance of the faithful and trust of the strong man's very soul.
We cannot bear now, the revealing of our own future. Christ knows it all. When a young Christian comes to His feet and says, "I will follow You, wherever You lead me" (Matt. 8:19), the Master knows what that promise means. But He does not reveal the knowledge to His happy disciple. People sometimes say they wish they could look on into the future years and see all that will come to them. But would this be a blessing? Would it make them happier? Could they shape their course better—if they knew all that shall befall them—the struggles, the victories, the defeats, the joys and sorrows, the failures of bright hopes, just how long they will live?
Surely it is better we should not know our future. So the word of the Master is continually: "I have much more to say to you—more than you can now bear." Only as we go on, step by step—does He disclose to us His will and plan for our lives. Thus the joys of life do not dazzle us—for our hearts have been chastened to receive them. The sorrows do not overwhelm us—because each one brings its own special comfort with it. But if we had known in advance of the coming joys and prosperities, the exultation might have made us heedless of duty and overly self-confident, thus missing the blessing that comes only to simple, trusting faith. If we had known of the struggles and trials before us, we might have been disheartened, thus failing in courage to endure. In either case, we could not have borne the revelation, and it was in tenderness and kindness to us—that the Master withheld it.
We could not bear the many things Christ has to tell us about heaven—and therefore He does not tell them to us. The blessedness, if disclosed now—would dazzle and blind our eyes! The light must be let in upon us, little by little, so as not to harm us. Then if heaven were within our sight, as we toil and struggle and suffer here—the bliss would so excite us, that we would be unfit for duty!
A traveler tells of returning to France after a long voyage to India. As soon as the sailors saw the shores of their own land, they became incapable of attending to their duties on the ship. When they came into port and saw their friends on the dock, the excitement was so intense that another crew had to take their place. Would it not be so with us—if heaven were visible from earth? Its blessedness would win us away from our duties! The sight of its splendors would so charm and entrance us—that we would weary of earth's painful life. If we could see our loved ones on heaven's shore, we would not be content to stay here to finish our work! Surely it is better that more has not been revealed. The veiled glory does not dazzle us, and yet faith realizes it, and is sustained by the precious hope in its struggles through the night of earthly life—until at last, the morning breaks.
This is the great law of divine revealing. We learn Christ's teaching—as fast as we are able to bear it. So we may wait in patient faith when mysteries confront us, or when dark shadows lie on our path, confident that He who knows all, has in gentle love, withheld from us for the time, the revelation we crave—because we could not yet endure the knowledge!