Finding the Way
J. R. Miller, 1904
Finding the Way
Does God condescend to show people the way through this
world? He guides suns and planets in their orbits, so that they never wander
from their course. He directs them so carefully, so accurately, that in all
the vast universe, with its millions of worlds and systems of worlds, there
is absolute precision in all their movements, with not deviation, age after
age. No star is ever too fast or too slow. No planet ever leaves its orbit.
The sun is never late in rising. God has marked out paths for the worlds,
and He causes them to move in these paths.
But does He interest Himself in anything so small, as the
individual lives of men? Or, if he does give direction to the careers of
great men who carry important destinies in their hands and are sent on
missions of far reaching responsibility, does He give thought to the daily
paths of each one of the millions of His children? Does He show a little
child the road through the tangles? Does He guide a wandering one home?
There is no doubt about the teaching of the Bible on this subject. For
example, we are told that God is our Father. What are the qualities
of fatherhood? Is there anything in the lives of children so small—that
their father is not interested in it? Is God, then, less kind than human
Think, too, of the interest of Christ in us, as
proved by what He has done and suffered for us. He came to earth and
endured our mortal life, that He might learn the way by experience.
To us the path of each day is always new—we have not
passed this way before, and we cannot tell what any hour may bring to us.
But He knows all the way—for He went over every inch of it. There is no
human experience which Christ does not understand. No suffering can be
ours—which He did not feel. No wrong can hurt us—but He was hurt far more
sorely. Is the burden heavy? His burden was infinitely heavier, for He took
our infirmities and bore our sicknesses, and bowed beneath the load of our
sins. There is no phase of struggle, of suffering, of pain, of temptation,
or of joy—with which He is unfamiliar. And knowing thus the way, from having
experienced it for Himself, He is able to guide us in it.
We have a right, therefore, to make the prayer: "Show me
the way I should go." Psalm 143:8. Our prayer will be answered, too. There
will be a hand extended to guide us, to open the path for us, and to help us
over the hard pinches of the road. God's way is a way of holiness—a pure,
clean way. It is the road to heaven.
But do we really need God's guidance? Are we not wise
enough to decide what course it is best for us to take? Can we not find our
own path in this world? Some people think they can, and they disdain to turn
even to God for direction. They think they can get along without Him, so
they make no prayer for direction—but follow the light of their own wisdom.
No wonder they never find the way home. There is a story of a tourist in the
Alps who refused a guide. He said he could find the way himself. So he went
out alone in the morning—but he never came back. Life in this world is far
more perilous than mountain climbing.
There are particular times, also, when we need to make
the prayer for direction, with special earnestness. There are times when
every star seems to have gone out, and when clouds and darkness appear to
have gathered about us, hiding every way mark, so that we cannot see any way
out of the gloom and perplexity. We need then to have God's direction, or we
shall perish. In the darkest hour of Christ's life, when He could not see
even His Father's face, and cried out like one forsaken, He still kept His
faith in God firm and strong. It was still, "My God, my God!" But while
there are times when we need guidance in an unusual way, there is no day in
all our brightest year, when we do not need it, when we dare to go forward
one step without it. The day we do not seek and obtain God's leading, will
be a day of disaster for us. The day we go forth without prayer for divine
blessing, when we do not lay our hand in Christ's as we go out into the
great world—is a day of peril for us. Indeed, we often need the divine
guidance the most—when we think we do not need it at all.
On the other hand, it is often true that the experiences
we dread, in which we seem to be left without help, when the darkness
appears most dense about us and we cannot see the way, even a step, before
us—are really fullest of God. We cry out then for deliverance, not knowing
that it is God who is leading us into the shadows. It is when the
sun goes down—that we see the stars. Ofttimes it is when the
light of human love is quenched—that the face of Christ is first really
revealed, or revealed as never before. We cry, "Show me the way," thinking
that we have lost the way, and crying to be led back into it, when lo! The
clouds part and we see Christ close beside us, and know that He has been
beside us all the time.
God's way does not always lie in the sunshine;
sometimes it runs into deep glooms. We are not always out of His way--when
we find ourselves facing obstacles and difficulties. When we cannot see
where we are going--we may be in the everlasting way, because God is guiding
us. He leads us away many a time, away from the path which we would have
When we pray for guidance, we must surrender our will to
God. If we ask Him to guide us--we must yield our own preference, and accept
His. For example, we think we should always be active in some kind of
service for our Master. Then one day we are called into a sick room and have
to stay there for a month. We think the time is lost, because in it we have
done no work, helped no one, relieved no distress, spoken no word of cheer
or comfort. What is the compensation for this loss of time in doing good,
this missing of opportunities for serving others? We cannot tell—but we know
at least that God's will does not call us always to activity; sometimes they
serve best "who only stand and wait." We are in this world--to grow into the
likeness of Christ. If then, we have been growing a little more patient,
gentle, thoughtful, humble--if the peace of our hearts has become a little
deeper, quieter, sweeter—our "rough" path is God's way for us.
Always when we pray to be guided we must take God's way
wherever it may lead us; we must let God decide whether we shall work or
rest. One writes: "No time of seeming inactivity is laid upon you by God
without a just reason. It is God calling upon you to do His business by
ripening in quiet, all your powers for some high sphere of activity which is
about to be opened to you." We are doing God's work not only when we are
pressing forward in eager haste to accomplish some achievement for Him—but
quite as much when we are keeping still and allowing God to work in us,
enriching and beautifying our lives.
The way of God which He would make us know—is always the
way of His will. The one business of life is to learn to do that will. We
say it lightly in our prayers, "Your will be done on earth, as it is in
heaven." If our prayer is answered, our whole life will be drawn into the
divine way. What effect, for example, will God's way have on our grudges,
our unbrotherly feelings, our jealousies, our resentments, our selfishnesses?
They must all come into tune with the law of love. So in all life. The
way on which God guides us—is a way of holiness. It is an ever ascending
way, for its terminal is heaven. It is a prayer, therefore, that we must
make continually. We must always keep climbing upward. No matter how good
you are today, you should be somewhat better tomorrow.
All of us know the way—better than we follow
it. None of us are as good as our ideals. Knowing the way is not
enough—we must walk in it. "If you know these things," said the Master,
"Happy are you if you do them." We must remember, too, that the Divine
guidance is not merely for the spiritual part of our life—for Sundays, for
religious exercises—it is for the week-days as well, and for all the common
paths. Our prayer is that the will of God may be done on earth as it is in
heaven. We are to follow the laws of heaven in our earthly affairs, in our
business, in our social life, in our friendships, in all of our conduct.
We need never doubt that God's way leads always to the
best things, to the truest and to the most real good. Let no one ever think
that the way of the Lord is a mistake, however disappointing to our
hopes and schemes it may be. One day we shall know that every divine
leading, whatever it may have cost us to follow it—is both wise and good.
When we insist on our own way instead of God's, we are always making a
mistake, the end of which will be sorrow and hurt.
Learning God's Will
We talk much about being led. If we are not led by
one who knows the way—we can never get home, for we can never find the way
ourselves. How are we led? How can we know what the divine leading is? We
cannot hear God speaking to us, nor can we see Him going before us to show
us the way. How, then, can we learn what His will is for us? How can we have
Him show us the way?
For one thing, we are quite sure that God desires to lead
us. His guidance includes not only our daily steps—but also the shaping of
our circumstances and affairs. We cannot be thankful enough that our lives
are in God's hands, for we never could care for them ourselves.
There is no such thing as chance in this
world. Every drop of water in the wild waves, in the most terrific storm, is
controlled by God. In these days, with their wonderful advance in science,
some good people are asking if there is any use in praying, for example, for
the sick, for favorable weather, for safety of the ship that bears loved
ones of theirs on the sea, or for the staying of the epidemic. It seems to
them that all things are under fixed laws with which no prayer can
interfere. How, then, can God lead each one of his children in any ways,
except according to the fixed and unalterable laws of the universe? We need
not try to answer this question—but we may say that God would not be God if
He were in such bondage to the laws of His own world that He could not hear
the cry of a child for help, and answer it, or if He could not open a way
for you out of the greatest difficulties.
So we need not vex ourselves with the question, how
God can lead us and direct our paths. We may leave that to Him, for He
is infinitely greater than all things He has made. He is able to ward off
dangers, that none of them can touch us. This is God's world, and God is our
Father. His name is Love, which means that love is the essential quality of
His character. Do you think since God's power is so great, and His law so
unalterable, that His love has no liberty of action? Believe it not. God can
do what His heart longs to do for us. He can lead us in the way in which He
would have us go.
God's leading, however, does not remove the necessity for
thought and effort on our part. He does not lead us by compulsion, without
choice or exertion of our own. We have something to do with the working out
of the will of God for ourselves. God is never to be left out of anything;
He is always to be consulted. We pray, "Your will be done on earth as it is
in heaven," but it is we who must do this will—God will not coerce us into
doing it, nor will He do it for us. We are to take God's way instead of our
own—but His will must work through our wills. Our wills are not to be
crushed, broken, as sometimes we are told—they are to be merged in Christ's,
voluntarily brought into accord with His will, so that we shall do gladly
and heartily what He wills for us to do. "Our wills are ours—to make them
Yours." God never does anything for us, that we can do for ourselves. He has
given us brains, and He does not mean to think for us. He has given us
judgment, and we are to decide matters for ourselves. He does not carry us
along—He leads us through our own willingness, our obedience, our
aspirations, our choices, our ventures of faith.
God's leading includes divine providence. There are many
examples of this in the Bible—but the story of Joseph is one of the plainest
and most remarkable. In his youth, Joseph was cruelly sinned against. The
envy of his brothers tore him away from his home, and we see him carried off
as a slave to a strange land. Why did not God interfere and prevent this
crime? He could have done it, since he is God. Did He not love Joseph? Yes.
Why, then, did he permit such terrible wrong to be done to this gentle boy?
Just because He loved him.
But the writer of the story shows us what would have been
the consequences of Joseph's escaping that night. A number of years later,
when the famine came on, there would have been no storehouses filled with
food, and Egypt would have been destroyed. The Hebrews in Canaan would have
perished, there would have been no chosen family, the history of the ancient
world would have been changed, and civilization would have been set back
centuries. So we see it was in wise, far-seeing love—that God did not
interfere to save this Hebrew lad from the wickedness of his brothers. He
used the evil of men to lead Joseph through all his hard training and
discipline, to prepare him for the great work he was to do when he became a
If we would be led by God, we must submit to His
providences, when they clearly interpret His will. Not always, however, are
hindrances meant to hinder; often they are meant to be overcome, in order
that in the overcoming we may grow strong. But when there are obstacles
which cannot be removed, they are to be accepted as the waymarks of divine
guidance. Whatever in our lot is inevitable, we must regard as indicative of
God's will for us, showing us gates closed against us, and other gates
opening out upon ways in which we must walk.
How we may interpret Providence and decide in all
cases what the will of God for us is, are questions which many find it hard
to answer. Some people have a habit of opening the Bible at random when they
are trying to decide some important question of duty, and then taking the
first word they come upon as the answer to their question. But this is not a
sane or Scriptural way of getting divine guidance. Bible texts are not
meant to be used as dice in playing games of chance.
If we would learn what God's will for us in life's common
affairs is, we should always keep near to Christ, so near that we can speak
to Him any moment, ask Him any question, and let our hand rest in His. He
always finds some way of making His will known to those who thus trust Him
and look to Him for direction.
Then if we would have divine guidance, we must be willing
to accept it when it comes to us. We must be willing to be led, and must be
ready to go wherever our Lord would have us go. Ofttimes the reason we do
not get guidance, is because we are not willing to take God's way when we
know it. Elizabeth Fry, at the age of sixty five, said that from the time
her heart was touched by the divine Spirit, when she was seventeen, she had
never awakened from sleep, in sickness or in health—but that her first
waking thought was, how best she might serve her Lord. She sought always to
be led by Him in paths of service of His own choosing. The outcome of such
devotion to the divine will was a life full of beautiful ministry. The
prisons of all the civilized world felt the impress of her noble life. A
young girl who will thus seek the divine guidance, and promptly and
unquestioningly accept it, cannot know to what beauty of character and what
splendor of usefulness she will be led in the end.
We are to pray to be divinely led not only in large
matters—but in the smallest—every hour, every moment. "Order my steps," is a
prayer in one of the Psalms. How it would change all life for us if we would
continually pray thus! You will have some hard thing to do tomorrow, some
uncongenial and distasteful task. You will not want to do it. But it is
God's will, and that makes it a radiant deed, like the holiest service of
angels before God's throne. You will have to endure something hard or
humiliating thing tomorrow—some unjust treatment, some unkindness. Your
nature will revolt. "I cannot do that," you will say. But it is God's will
that you should endure it, and endure it sweetly, patiently, songfully, and
that changes it for you—it is a glorious thing to do God's will.
We will always find God's will for us—by always doing the
next thing. No matter how small it is, it will take us a step forward in
God's way. Doing His will in little things—will show us other steps to take,
and thus will lead us on until all the way has been passed over. The Word of
God is said to be a lamp unto our feet—not a great sun shining high in the
heavens, illumining a hemisphere—but a little lantern that we may carry in
our hand and hold so that its light shall fall on the bit of road on which
we are walking. It will not light a whole mile for us at a time—but it will
always make the next step clear, and as we take that, the next one, and so
on, until all the miles of our journey have been shown to us.
If only we will do the will of God, as it is made known
to us, little by little, moment by moment, we shall be led step by step, and
at last shall reach home.
One of the most remarkable incidents in the Gospels is
that in which, to a poor woman's cries for help, Jesus answered not a word.
He kept his face turned away, and seemed to treat the suppliant with cold
indifference. Yet he was not indifferent. In His heart was warm compassion
for her, and in the end He gave her far more than she had asked.
There are times when God seems to be silent to us. To our
earnest supplications he answers not a word. We are told to ask and we shall
receive, to seek and we shall find, to knock and it shall be opened unto us.
Yet there comes times when, though we ask most imploringly, we seem not to
receive; when, though we seek with intensest earnestness, we seem not to
find; when, though we knock until our hands are bruised and bleeding, there
seems to be no opening of the door. Sometimes the heavens appear to be brass
above us as we cry. Is there anywhere an ear to hear, or a heart
to feel sympathy with us in our need?
Nothing else is as solemn as the silence of God. It is a
pathetic prayer in which a psalm writer pleads, "Be not silent to me; lest I
become like those who go down into the pit." Anything from God—is better
than that He is silent to us. It would be a sad, dreary, lonely world if the
atheist's creed were true—that there is no God, that there is no ear to hear
prayer, that no voice of answering love or comfort or help ever comes out of
the heavens to us.
Do prayers of faith ever remain really unanswered? There
are prayers which are answered, although we do not know it, thinking them
still unanswered. The answer is not recognized when it comes; the blessing
comes and is not perceived. This is true especially of many spiritual
blessings which we seek. We ask for holiness, yet as the days pass it does
not seem to us that we are growing in holiness. Yet, perhaps, all the while
our spirit is imperceptibly, unconsciously imbibing more and more of the
mind of Christ, and we are being changed into His image. We expect the
answer in a certain way—in a manifestation which we cannot mistake, while it
comes to us silently, as the dew comes upon the drooping flowers and the
withering leaves. But, like the flowers and the leaves, our souls are
refreshed and our life is renewed.
We put our cares into God's hands, with a prayer that He
will free us from the load. But the cares do not seem to become any less. We
think there has been no answer to our prayer. Yet all the while an unseen
hand has been shaping, adjusting, disentangling the complex affairs of our
life, and preparing a blessing for us out of them all. We are not conscious
of it—but our prayer has been receiving continual answer. Like the tapestry
weavers, we have not seen the unfolding of the pattern as we have wrought
away in the darkness, and yet on the other side, where God's eye
sees, it has been coming out in beauty. Some day we shall know that many
prayers we now think unanswered, have really been most graciously answered.
There are prayers, however, which are not answered. For
example, we ask God to lift away our burden. He hears our pleading and His
heart is warm with love; yet, to do this would be to rob us of blessings
which can come to us only through the bearing of the burden. There are
mistaken notions current among good people about the way God helps. Some
think that whenever they have a little trouble, a bit of hard path to walk
over, a load to carry, a sorrow to meet, a trial of any kind—all they have
to do is to call upon God and He will take away that which is hard, or
prevent that which impedes, freeing them altogether from the trial. But this
is not God's usual way. His purpose concerning us is not to make things easy
for us—but rather to make something of us. So when we ask Him to save us
from our care, to take the struggle out of our life, to make the path mossy
for our feet, to lift off the heavy load—He simply does not do it. It really
would be most unkind and unloving in Him to do so. It would be giving us an
easier path today—instead of a mountain vision tomorrow. Therefore, prayers
of this kind go unanswered. We must carry the burden ourselves. We must
climb the steep path to stand on the radiant peak. God want us to learn
life's lessons, and to do this we must be left to work out the problems for
There are rich blessings that we can get only through
sorrow. It would be a short sighted love, therefore, which would heed
our cries for deliverance and spare us from sorrow because we desired it,
thus depriving us of blessings which God intends to send to us in the
sorrow, and which can come to us in no other way.
A child may indolently shrink from the study, the regular
hours, the routine, the tasks and drudgery and discipline of the school, and
beg the parent to let him stay at home and have an easy time. But what would
you think of the father who would weakly grant the child's request,
releasing him from the tasks which irk him so? And is God less wise and kind
than our human fathers? He will not answer prayers which ask that we may be
freed from duty, from work, from struggle, since it is by these very things
alone that we can grow. The only true answer to such prayers is the
withholding of what we ask.
A man and his wife were talking together, and this scrap
of their conversation was overheard: "I could make a good living," said the
man, "yes, more than a good living, by continuing to paint the sort of trash
I've been painting all summer."
"Yes," said the woman, looking at him proudly, "but I
want my husband to live up to his best. I would live in a garret, on a
crust, cheerfully, to help him do it."
That is the way God would have us live, so as to make the
best of our life. When we pray for help to live easily and not up to our
loftiest reaches of attainment and achievement, God will be silent to our
request. He would not be our wise and loving Father if He treated such
There are selfish prayers, too, which go
unanswered. "There are others." Human lives are tied up together in
relations. It is not enough that any of us shall think only of himself and
his own things. Thoughts of others must intertwine with thoughts for
ourselves. Something which might be good for us, if we were the only person,
it may not be wise to grant because it might not be for the comfort and good
of others. It might work them hurt, or at least add to their burdens. It is
possible to overlook this in our prayers, and to press our interests and
desires to the harming of our neighbor. God's eye takes in all His children,
and He plans for the truest and best good of each one of them, even the
least. Our selfish prayers, which if granted, would work to the injury of
others—He will not answer.
There is yet another class of prayer which appears to be
unanswered, but whose answers are only delayed for wise reasons.
Perhaps we are not able at the time to receive the things we ask for. A
child in one of the lower grades in the school may go to a teacher of higher
studies and ask to be taught this or that branch. The teacher may be willing
to impart to the pupil this knowledge of higher things—but the pupil cannot
receive it until he has gone through certain other studies to prepare
himself for it. The higher music cannot be taught until the rudiments have
been mastered. There are qualities for which we may pray—but which can be
received only after certain discipline. A ripened character cannot be
attained by a young Christian merely in answer to prayer—it can be reached
only through long experience.
These are suggestions of what appear to be unanswered
prayers. They may have been answered—but we did not recognize the things we
sought when they came. Or they may be, indeed, unanswered, because to answer
them would not have been kindness to us. Or the answers may have been
delayed until our hearts were ready to receive them. We may always trust
God with our prayers, even when the need seems to us most urgent. He is
wiser than we, and His love for us never makes a mistake. He will do for us
whatever is best, at the best time, and in the best way. Unanswered prayers
are not unheard prayers. Every whisper of a child, every sigh of a sufferer
in this world, goes up to God, and His heart is compassionate and loving,
and what is best for us He will do.
Letting God In
The teaching of Christianity, is that God lives in us. On
the day of Pentecost we are told that the Disciples of Christ were filled
with the Holy Spirit. Every Christian may be, should be, a Spirit filled
Christian. We say we are only dust—but we may receive the breath of God into
our dust, and then our lives are glorified.
We speak of someone coming into another's life, bringing
new impulse, new inspiration, new visions of beauty, and new ideals of
character. Many a life is transformed by a rich human friendship. It means
far more, however, to have God come into one's life, touching the springs of
being with divinity. Yes that is what it is to be a Christian of the New
Testament type—that is the privilege of everyone who believes in Christ. A
Christian is not merely a man who belongs to a church, who accepts the
doctrines of Christianity, and who lives a good life. He is a man in whom
The result of the Divine indwelling, is the renewal of
the nature. "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit." A life that has
been only earthly hitherto, grows into blessed sainthood when God enters
into it. Someone writes of a man who left flowers blooming about his home
which but for him would never have bloomed. The Spirit leaves heavenly
flowers blooming which but for His abiding in us would never have bloomed.
Paul tells us about these in a well known passage: "The fruit of the Spirit
is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
meekness, self control."
True religion is not a mere matter of emotion or devout
feeling—it is a matter of life. The influence of the indwelling Spirit is
not shown merely in holy raptures, in ecstatic experiences—but in most
practical ways in every-day living. Jesus said very emphatically that not
everyone who says, "Lord, Lord," is in the kingdom of heaven. Obedience, He
said, is the test. He alone is in the heavenly kingdom who does the will of
the Father. Nothing pleases our Master but obedience. He says very little
about emotion—but a great deal about obeying. His friends are known not by
their loud professions of love and ardor—but by their doing whatever He
commands them to do.
A very little love for our neighbor wrought out in a bit
of everyday kindness, is worth a great deal of talk about love which finds
no expression in act. To be kind and charitable, to give bread to the
hungry, to deny one's self a pleasure in order to help another over a hard
place, to go far out of one's way to be of use to another who is in need,
are better evidence of the indwelling of the Spirit than any amount of
effervescent talk about consecration in a prayer meeting. To be honest in
business on Monday, to be a good, tidy and hospitable housekeeper on
Tuesday, to pay one's debts on Wednesday, to be patient in enduring wrong on
Thursday, is better proof of the Spirit's indwelling than a whole hour's
rapturous experience on Sunday, which bears no fruit in the life. If God is
in us, the world will know it without being told of it—it will see it in
character, in disposition, in act, in service of love, in the diffusion of
grace and goodness.
It is not easy to let God into our lives. It is easier to
yield to the spirit of the world than to the Divine Spirit. Yet if we knew
what Christ could do with our poor lives, what beauty He could awaken in
them, what blessings they would become if filled with His Spirit, what
heavenly music they would give out if His hands struck their chords, we
would welcome Him and surrender ourselves altogether to Him.
"We are but organs mute, until the Master touches the
Harps are we, silent harps that have hung on willow trees
Dumb until our heartstrings swell and break with a pulse divine."
It is not easy in this unspiritual world—to keep the
heavenly Guest in our heart day after day, year after year, to the end of
life. Too many open to Him on the Lord's Day, and then on Monday let in
again the old worldly guests who drive out the Divine Spirit. We all know
how easy it is to lose out of our hearts the gentle thoughts and holy
desires and spiritual feelings which come to us in life's quiet, sacred
moments. You sit down with your Bible in the pure, sweet morning, and as you
read the Master's words it seems to you as if angels had come into your
heart. You hear words of love spoken out of heaven in your ear. Desires
kindled by the Spirit of God, desires for holy things, fill you. As you read
and pray and meditate, it is as if you were sitting in the gate of heaven
and hearing the songs of the holy beings gathered round God's throne.
But half an hour later, you must go out into the world,
where a thousand other voices will break upon your ears—voices of
temptation, voices pleasure, voices of care and fret, the calls of business
of friendship, of emotion—not all holy voices, many of them calling you away
from God. How will you carry with you all the day, through all these
distractions and all these allurements, the holy thoughts, feelings, and
desires of the moments of devotion in the morning?
It is not easy to maintain the Sabbath peace in the midst
of the strifes and competitions of the weekday life. It is not easy to take
the blissful raptures of the Holy Communion out into the chill air of the
streets, or to keep the glowing emotions of the hour of sacred prayer amid
the influences of the shop or the factory. The messengers of heaven are shy
and easily driven away, and we need to take most sedulous care lest they fly
away and leave us.
There are urgent warnings in the Scriptures against the
danger of losing the Divine abiding. We are exhorted not to grieve the Holy
Spirit. There are many ways of grieving a friend. We may do it by
unkindness, by indifference, by lack of hospitality. Jesus was a frequent
Guest in a home in Bethany, and found rest, comfort, and the refreshment of
love there. It must have been a home of gentleness and peace, or He would
not have entered its doors so often, nor found such gladness there. We
cannot think of it as being such a refuge and place of rest to Him if its
atmosphere had been one of bitterness and strife.
A little Welsh girl went into a worldly home as a
servant. All her life she had been used to, in her own home, of godly
ways—family prayers, grace at meals, reverence for God, love, kindness. In
this home where she was employed all this was lacking. There was no prayer,
no reverence, no love—instead there was profanity, bitterness, strife,
heaven-daring sin. After one night the little maid told her mistress that
she could not stay—she was afraid to stay where God was not a Guest. If we
would keep the heavenly Guest in our heart, we must make a home of love
there for Him, with an atmosphere kindly and congenial. In a prayerless,
loveless heart the heavenly Guest will not stay.
We are exhorted also not to quench the Spirit. The
figure is of a fire burning within us, which we are in danger of putting
out. There are many things which tend to quench the flame of Divine love in
a heart. Sin always does it. Anger, sensuality, pride, quench the holy
flame. Worldliness in feeling and desire produce an atmosphere in which the
Spirit of holiness cannot dwell. Fire must have air in which to burn, and
only an atmosphere of love and humility will nourish this sacred flame.
It will be a sad thing if the fire of heaven burning in
our hearts should be allowed to go out. A writer tells of a conservatory
which he saw one morning: "One bitter night the gardener neglected the fire,
and what havoc was wrought! The leaves were black, everything drooped, and
the rare blossoms would bloom no more. For a few hours the fire was
neglected, and the floral treasures were frostbitten beyond recovery." So
will it be in any human life, when the heavenly fire is quenched or allowed
to go out. All the beauty will be left in ruin.
We cannot guard our spiritual life too carefully. God is
infinitely patient. He is not easily driven away. He loves unto the
uttermost. But we can keep the Divine joy in our hearts—only by maintaining
there always an atmosphere of joy. The angel of peace will abide only where
he is welcomed by a son of peace within.
The Sympathy of Christ
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to
sympathize with our weaknesses." Hebrews 4:15
The gospel story of Christ, closes with the account of
His ascension. He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand
of God. Was that the end of His interest in this world? Does He think of us,
up there in His glory? Does He know anything of us down here in our
struggles, our toils, our cares, and our sorrows? Is He interested in our
lives in this world—in our joys and griefs, in our hopes and fears?
The answer to these questions is that in heaven He is
"touched with the feeling of our infirmities." He sympathizes with us in all
the experiences of our lives. The word sympathy means suffering with.
If two musical instruments, standing near each other, are tuned to the same
key, and a performer plays on one of them, the chords of the other respond
too, as if invisible fingers were playing the same music on the strings.
When two friends are side by side, and one of them is passing through an
experience of either joy or pain, the other shares the experience. So Christ
in heaven sympathizes with his friends on the earth in their experiences,
and is instantly touched with the feeling of their gladness and their grief.
We believe all this as a doctrine—but what meaning has it
for us in our own lives? What is Christ in heaven to us in a personal,
practical way? If the truth of the sympathy of Christ becomes real in
our experience, it will bring great strength and inspiration to us. We are
helped in times of weakness or suffering by the consciousness that human
friends are thinking of us and sharing our trouble. Immeasurably greater is
the help which it gives us to know that Christ in heaven is touched by our
pain and feels with us.
If we were really conscious that Christ cares, fees with
us, is actually interested in our large and small affairs, it would change
the meaning of all life for us.
We have hints of the same truth in the Old Testament. For
example, we read with reference to God's people: "In all their afflictions
He was afflicted." But the New Testament teaching means far more than this,
for Christ lived all the story of human life through to its close, for
Himself, and, therefore, knows it by experience. When we are weary—it
comforts us to remember that many times He was weary, too. When we are
treated unfairly, unkindly, or even with bitter wrong—it strengthens us to
know that He understands, because He suffered in the same way. In our
temptations—it helps us to endure to remember that He was "tempted in all
points like as we are." In any path in which we have to walk—we can always
find His footprints—He went over the same way before us, and, therefore,
understands and sympathizes with us.
There are many experiences in which the sympathy of
Christ, if it were realized, would give great comfort. There are people who
are misunderstood. Indeed, there is no one whom others always fully
understand. Even our truest friends ofttimes put wrong constructions upon
what we do what we say. Little things separate lives—which ought to be kept
close together. Very much sadness is caused by misunderstandings.
But Christ understands us perfectly. He knows all the
truth about us. He knows our faults, and is patient with them, and does not
chide us, nor cast us off because of them—but helps us to overcome them.
When we are blamed unjustly, He understands and sympathizes with us and
strengthens us to go on in patience. When we have done wrong, He knows—but
is pitiful toward our weakness, and merciful toward our sin, if only we are
striving ever to grow better. In every mood of our experience, He
sympathizes with us.
There are sorrows in every life—many of which are
inexplicable. There are those whose quietest days are full of struggles of
which their closest friends can know nothing. It is very hard for some
people to be godly, to resist temptation, to keep sweet under irritation and
insult, to maintain purity of heart amid all the enticements of temptation.
Nothing else gives such strength and help in hard experiences, as knowing of
the unfailing sympathy of Christ.
The superintendent of an inebriate asylum said that he
always had hope of even the worst alcoholic, if he knows that the man had
someone at home who loved him and was praying for him; but that he had
little hope of the permanent reform of any one for whom there was no
wrestling love at home. If there is such help in human love and interest and
prayer, how much more must there be in the confidence that Christ is
sympathizing and interceding?
The story is told of a distinguished woman, that when she
was a girl she was so homely that even her mother said to her one day: "My
poor child, you are so ugly that no one will ever love you." The cruel words
fell into the child's heart—but instead of making her bitter—they had just
the opposite effect. She determined that if her face was homely—that
she would make her life so beautiful that people would love her. She
began to be kind to everybody, to be loving, thoughtful, gentle, and
helpful. She never became handsome in features—but she did become the good
angel of the community in which she lived. It was love in her which that
transformed her life, and saved her from utter disheartenment.
There are those whose lives have been hurt in some way,
and who seem doomed to carry their marring or wounding through all their
days—but whom the love of Christ can yet restore to beauty and strength.
There is no ruin which He cannot build up again into fair loveliness. There
is no defeat which He cannot turn into victory. To know that He is touched,
the Christ on His throne of glory, with the feeling of our infirmities, puts
into the heart a new secret of joy which will transform the dreariest life
into heavenly gladness.
The Only Bond
Every life has its secret, that which accounts for its
trend, its choices, its toils, its achievements. When we see a mother with
her sick child, forgetting herself, losing her rest, bending day and near
over the bed where the little life is flickering, we know the secret of her
devoted watching. It is love, which is at the heart of it all.
There is a story of a ship captain who sails away over
the sea on long voyages. He is deeply interested in all his duties, and
performs them with utmost faithfulness. He spends long nights on deck,
studying the problems of the sea and guiding his ship through the perils. At
last he reaches his destination, and in due time sails back again with his
cargo from foreign lands, arriving through all the dangers of the long
voyage. And then—what then? He goes on shore and hurries to a quiet cottage
where a little child is living in a nurse's care, and gives into the child's
hands all that he has earned. That child is the secret of all his toil and
care, the inspiration of all his voyages. He has not talked of her, nor
seemed to be thinking of her—but in reality she has been at the center of
his heart all the while. If he had come back and found the cottage empty and
only a little grave to lavish his love upon, he would have cared nothing for
all the fruits of his success. Love is the secret.
It is worth our while to ask what the secret of our own
life is. Of course, there are human loves and there are secondary
motives—but what is the great central motive? Is there anything
stronger than home and loved ones and earthly ambitions, which impel us to
toil, to struggle, to sacrifice? Paul tells us the secret of his wonderful
life in one little word—"The love of Christ constrains us!"
"Under an eastern sky,
Amid a rabble cry,
A Man went forth to die–
"Thorn crowned His blessed head,
Blood-stained His every tread,
Cross laden, on He sped–
"The love of Christ constrains us." Commentators discuss
the question whether this means Christ's love for us—or ours
for Him. It must mean both. Christ's love for us comes first. What
the sun is to the trees and grasses and flowers in the springtime, the love
of Christ is to our love. If he did not love us, we never would love Him.
Our love would sleep on and never awake—but for His kiss. When we begin to
know that Christ loves us—we begin to love Him. "We love Him—because He
first loved us."
Christ's love transforms. It repeats itself in our
lives. A chaplain on a battlefield came to a man who was wounded, lying on
the ground. "Would you like me to read you something from this book—the
Bible?" he asked the soldier. "I'm so thirsty," replied the man; "I would
rather have a drink of water." Quickly as he could the chaplain brought the
water and held it to the parched lips. Then the soldier asked, "Could you
put something under my head?" The chaplain took off his own light overcoat,
rolled it, and put it gently under the soldier's head for a pillow. "Now,"
said the soldier, "if I had something over me! I am very cold." There was
only one thing the chaplain could do. He took off his own coat and spread it
over the soldier. The wounded man looked up into the face and said
gratefully, "Thank you." Then after a moment's pause he said: "If there is
anything in that book in your hand which makes a man do for another what you
have done for me, please read it to me." Men are ready to hear us read the
book which tells of the love of Christ for them—only when our lives
interpret what the book says.
Recently a story appeared in one of the papers, entitled,
"How a Man Coined His Heart." It was a poor artist. There had been in his
life a sad story of love, true and deep on his part, yet seemingly
unrequited, and even false, on the part of the other. The world had not
known anything of it—he had kept his secret very close. But there came a
call for a piece of work—a calendar—and the artist put his life's whole
story into it—the springtime, with its beauty; the summer, with its bloom;
the autumn, with its decaying hope; the winter, with its dreary desolation.
He coined his heart into his picture and sold it to get bread for his
hunger. Christ coined His heart into a great sacrifice of love, and
purchased redemption for the world. The cross is the love of Christ, pouring
out its gold. So we are to coin our hearts into lives of love and service,
into deeds of kindness and helpfulness.
Nothing but the love of Christ in us will enable us to do
this. A soldier may be without love for the commander or for the cause he
serves, and may march and fight merely for the paltry money he receives. But
the Christian must love his Master—or his life will count for nothing. There
is a legend of an artist who had a marvelous red tint in his pictures. No
other had learned the secret, and it died with him. After his death a red
wound was discovered near his heart and the secret of the wonderful color in
his paintings was revealed. It was his heart's blood that gave his work its
inimitable tint. The old legend tells a deep spiritual truth. Only
heart's blood will give value to what we do, will put the heavenly color
into our work. What we do without love fades out. When it is the love of
Christ that constrains us, our simplest, commonest acts have Divine beauty
and blessing in them.
The love of Christ is the only bond which can bind lives
together inseparably and forever. People talk of reunions in the other
world. "I cannot bring her back again," said one beside his dead, "but I can
go to her." Yet we need to remember that only those who are bound together
here by a common love for Christ—shall find each other and know each other
and be together in the other world.
Only those who have the love of Christ—have between them
a bond of union which death cannot sever. The only tie which never shall be
broken—is love for Christ. Those whom this sacred bond unites, never shall
be separated. If this love is not in us, there is nothing in our lives which
will endure; all else will perish.
The Master at Prayer
When General Gordon was with his army in Khartoum, it is
said that there was an hour every day when a white handkerchief lay over his
tent door. While that signal was there—no one, however high his rank, ever
approached the tent. The most urgent business waited outside. Everyone knew
that Gordon was at prayer that hour within the tent, and neither a man nor
an officer came near until the handkerchief was lifted away.
There is always sacredness about prayer. We
instantly withdraw if unawares we suddenly come upon one engaged in prayer.
We are awed into reverence when we see anyone, however humble, bowing in
prayer. But the sight of Christ at prayer touches us with still deeper awe.
We uncover our heads, and take off our shoes, and stand afar off in reverent
hush—while He bows before His Father and communes with Him. Yet no figure is
more familiar in the Gospels than the Master at prayer.
It brings Christ very near to us—to see Him in this holy
posture. We think of Him as the Son of God, as having in Himself all power,
all blessing, all comfort, and all Divine fullness, and as not needing to
ask His Father for anything. But when He became Man, He accepted all of our
life. He lived as we must live. He was dependent on God, as we are, for
help, for strength, for deliverance in temptation, for all blessing and
good. He prayed as we do, pleading earnestly as He taught us to do. When we
think how completely and fully Jesus entered into all our life of trust and
dependence, we get a vivid impression of His closeness to us. And if He, the
Son of man, who knew no sin, who was also Son of God, needed to pray so
continually; how can any of us, weak, sinful, needy, with imperiled lives,
with empty lives, get along without prayer?
In a sense, Jesus was always at prayer. His communion
with God was never interrupted for a moment. One of Paul's exhortations is,
"Pray without ceasing." Our Lord fulfilled this ideal. He was not always on
His knees. He passed most of His days in exhausting service. But in all His
ministry of love, He never ceased to pray.
He was not always asking favors of His Father.
That is the only kind of praying some people seem to know anything about.
They pray only when they are in trouble, and want to be helped out of it.
But that is a very small part of true prayer. We want to be with our friends
as much as we can. Though we have no request to make of them, we like to
talk with them of things in which they and we are mutually interested, or
even to sit in silence without speech.
Some friends wanted to know how the holy Bengel prayed,
and watched him at his devotions one night. He opened his New Testament and
read slowly and silently, often pausing in meditation, or as if listening to
the voice of gentle stillness. There was a glow in his features, and
frequently he would look up as if he saw a face which his watcher could not
see. Thus an hour passed. He had not once been on his knees, nor had he been
heard to utter a word. Then as the clock struck the hour for his retiring he
closed the book, saying only, "Dear Lord Jesus, we are on the same old
terms." And went to his bed. That was truest prayer. That is what it is to
pray without ceasing—to be always near enough to God to talk with Him,
always to be drinking in His love even in our busiest hours.
But while Jesus prayed thus without ceasing, there were
many occasions of special prayer in His life. Again and again He went
apart from men—to be alone with God. He spent whole nights in communion
beneath the silent stars.
"Cold mountains and the midnight air
Witnessed the fervor of Your prayer."
It will be interesting to notice some of the occasions on
which Jesus prayed. The first of these was the time of His baptism. Whatever
else His baptism meant; it was His consecration to the work of His
Messiahship. He knew what it involved. He saw the cross yonder—but He
voluntarily entered on His course of love and sacrifice. As He was being
baptized He prayed, and then heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit
descended in a bodily form, as a dove, upon Him. His praying that hour
showed His deep longing and desire for the Divine anointing to prepare Him
for His great work.
This example of Jesus teaches us to seek Divine blessing
as we begin our life work, also as we enter any new calling, as we accept
any new responsibility. People sometimes forget that they need Divine
anointing, for what they call secular work. They want God's Spirit to
help them in their religious duties—but they do not suppose that they need
heavenly anointing for a business life, or a professional life, or for the
task work of their common days. Yet there is nothing we have to do, however
unspiritual it may seem, in the doing of which we do not need the
help of the Holy Spirit.
Another of the occasions on which Jesus prayed was before
He chose His disciples. This choice was most important. These men were to be
with Him as His close, constant companions, His personal friends. He would
need their companionship, their sympathy, their love. Upon them would rest a
grave responsibility after He was gone. He was to train them, so that they
would be ready to carry on His work. They must be men capable of absolute
devotion to His will, men who could endure persecution, men whom the Holy
Spirit could use. It was of the greatest importance that no mistake should
be made. So, before choosing them, Jesus spent the whole night in prayer.
A great deal of folly is committed in the world, by
ignorance and foolish choices. It is so in choosing friends. We do not know
what any such choice may mean to us, whether it may bring us joy or sorrow,
whether it may put upon our life, touches of beauty—or of marring. If Jesus
prayed all night before choosing His friends, young people setting out in
life should very earnestly seek God's guidance before taking into their
lives any new companionship.
But the lesson applies to all choices and decisions. We
do not know what path to take in all the tangled network of ways. We do not
know to what any new road may lead us. We chafe and fret when we are not
allowed to have our own way. But really we have no wisdom to choose what is
best for us. We are safe only when we are Divinely led.
We behold the Master at prayer again, and this time
something very wonderful happens. One evening He climbed a high mountain to
get away from earth's noises and confusions. He was setting out on His last
journey to His cross, and sought strength for it. While He was praying, He
was transfigured. The inference for us is that earnest prayer
And there are so many people who need transfiguring!
Their faces are not bright. They lack joy. The peace of God is not revealed
in them. They bear the marks of care, of fret, of anxiety, of discontent.
They tell of defeat and disheartenment. Yet the love of Christ is meant to
transfigure our lives. Paul gives us the secret, when he tells us to be
anxious for nothing—but instead to take every troubling thing to God in
prayer; and then adds that if we do this, the peace of God shall guard our
hearts and our thoughts in Christ Jesus. The peace of God, then, makes
shining faces. There is no reason why our dull faces should not shine. "As
He was praying, the fashion of His countenance was altered, and His clothing
became white and dazzling."
We see the Master at prayer again, this time in
Gethsemane. It was here that He prepared for His cross. We should notice
that His refuge in His exceeding sorrow was prayer, and that, as the sorrow
deepened, the refuge still was prayer. "Being in an agony He prayed more
earnestly." Prayer is the only refuge in sorrow. The lesson from the garden
prayer, is that we should take all the hard things, the anguishes, the
insufferable pains, the bitter griefs of our lives—to God in prayer. We may
be sure, too, that God will answer. If He does not relieve us of the
suffering, He will strengthen us so that we can keep it, and still go on
trusting and singing.
No doubt, much of our Lord's Prayer was intercession.
We have one or two glimpses of this interceding. He said to Peter in great
sadness: "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan asked to have you—that he might sift
you as wheat; but I made supplication for you, that your faith fail not."
There is a wondrous revealing of our comfort in this for us, when we
remember that as our Great High Priest He ever lives to make intercession
for us. Another instance of intercession was on the cross, when He prayed,
"Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." Not His murderers
only—but all men, were included in that prayer of redemption, as the
sacrificial blood began to flow.
That last prayer of Jesus was, "Father, into Your hands I
commend My spirit." Thus His spirit went forth on the wings of prayer into
His Father's bosom. So it shall be with us, His friends, when we come to the
edge of the great mystery, and cannot see the way. Dying, for a
Christian, is but a flying away from earth's passing things—to be with God
The Master on the Beach
One of the most interesting of our Lord's appearances
after His resurrection, was the one which took place beside the sea. The
scene shows a fire burning on the beach, with fish broiling on the coals,
and bread; then beside the fire, the Master.
The scene meant a great deal to the disciples. First of
all, it had its cheer for them. We have lost much in our modern homes in
giving up the old fashioned fireplace with its blazing logs, and even in
losing the open grate. The fire on the hearth was a brightener of the home.
It is only in a poetical way, that we can talk now about our hearthstones.
The fire burning on the sand that spring morning made the
shore appear more attractive and hospitable to the tired fishermen. Then
there was more than a fire; there were provisions—fish broiling, and bread.
Had the Master Himself kindled the fire? At least it was His thought and
love which provided the breakfast. Indeed, it was the presence of the Master
Himself that gave to the scene its deepest meaning. Always it is the human
element, which is the charm in any scene. There is a story of a picture that
seemed to be almost perfect, and yet people did not stop to look at it long,
and were not moved to enthusiastic admiration as they stood before it. It
lacked something. The artist discovered what the lack was and taking his
brush he painted a bit of human life on the canvas—a woman and a child—and
now the picture had a resistless charm for everyone who saw it.
That lonely beach would have had a certain attraction for
those discouraged fishermen that morning, even if they had seen nothing but
the fire burning on it. But it was the human form standing beside the fire
that gave the scene its chief attraction. Then when we remember who the man
was, who stood in the dim gray of the morning and called to the fishermen,
we need seek no further for the reasons why that morning hour was ever after
so sacred in the memory of those men. They had found their Lord again.
The presence of Christ changes everything, wherever it is
recognized. It changed everything for those men. The seas had never been so
beautiful to their eyes before. The hills had never looked so glorious in
their spring verdure. No morning had ever appeared in such radiant splendor
as that morning. Their sorrow was changed into joy—and their loneliness into
the blessedness of holiest companionship.
So always, when Christ comes into our lives, all things
are made new. A letter received the other day illustrates this. The writer
has been a Christian many years—faithful, trusting, helpful, and full of
good works. But during the past three months there has been serious illness
in her home—a beloved daughter has been lying in fever. In this experience
the mother has learned as never before how real is the love of Christ in the
lives of His friends. "No story could be told which would be more wonderful
than the story of the goodness shown to me these months, nothing more nearly
reaching the miraculous than the way Christ has sent comfort and blessing to
me and to my sick child." Then she goes over the story, and it is wonderful
indeed. At the moment of need the right comfort always came. A nurse was
necessary—but could not be afforded. Then a message came from an old friend,
not seen for years, and the nurse was provided. Letters came every day with
their sympathy and cheer, just when the mother's burden seemed too heavy for
her to bear. Every memory of the suffering of these months is made bright
with some thought of Christ's love which came at the right moment.
Everything has been transfigured for this mother. She found the fire burning
on the beach, with fish thereon and bread, and the Master standing by.
This scene on the beach had also its comfort for the
disciples. For three years they had been with their Master in closest
companionship. He had received them into most intimate fellowship. They had
heard His teachings and experienced His friendship in its most sacred
revealing. Some of us know what even a rich hearted, noble, strong, gentle,
true human friend may be to us in the way of comfort and strength.
If a noble human friendship can mean so much to
one who enjoys its blessings—what must the friendship of Christ have
meant to the men who had enjoyed all that was tender and precious in it! But
now this precious companionship was ended. In their bewilderment without His
presence, the disciples had gone back to their old work. "I am going
fishing," said Simon. "We also come with you," the others said. But how
weary it must have seemed, this tiresome handling of boats and oars and
ropes and nets, after those three years of exalted friendship with Christ!
They had supposed that this sort of commonplace work would never be theirs
again. But now it seemed all that was left for them to do. They were heroic
in returning to the old tasks, dreary though they were. They took up the
work that was at hand, dull though it was, and lo! There stood the Master by
the fire, with comfort and blessing for them!
The time of the appearance of Jesus was most opportune.
It was when the men were at their work. A little while before He had
appeared to them in the upper room, when they were at prayer. We expect
Christ to meet us when we assemble to worship Him. But here the appearance
was when they were at their old occupation. Christ will meet us, not only at
the Communion or at the mercy seat—He is quite as likely to manifest Himself
to us in the dullest task work of the common days.
"So still, dear Lord, in every place
You stand by the toiling folk
With love and pity in Your face,
And give of Your help and grace
To those who meekly bear the yoke."
In every life there are tasks which are irksome. Young
people sometimes think school work dull. There are faithful mothers who grow
weary in the endless tasks of the household life. There are men who
sometimes tire of the routine of the office, the store, the shop. There
comes to all of us at times, the feeling that our work is not quite worthy
of us. We have had a glimpse of life in some exalted experience. It may have
been a companionship for a time with one above us in circumstances or in
attainments, and now it irks us to come back again to the old plodding
round, or to the old, plain, commonplace associations. After three years
with Jesus, we can easily understand how distasteful to the disciples it was
to return to the fisherman's life, among the crude, coarse and ungentle
Galilean fishermen with whom they must associate.
A young woman spent ten months in a home of rare
refinement and grace, with the best books and music and art and culture in
the daily home life. Then she returned to her own lowly home, with its plain
circumstances, its lack of art and music and books, and it's much
uncongeniality—a home, too, that was not always sweet in its fellowships. We
can understand how hard it was for her to do this.
Sometimes this happens. There comes a reverse in fortune
which changes all one's circumstances. The income is cut off perhaps by the
death of the bread winner—and leisure, ease and elegance have to be
exchanged for plain conditions, poverty, toil and bare rooms. It is not easy
to leave the beautiful home and go to live in a tenement or in a narrow
court. The experience tests character, and some people lose their courage
and hope in the testing. Some, however, meet it nobly, because they have
Christ. A man thinks he is settled for life in a condition of comfort and
elegance; that is his prosperity is sure and cannot be broken. Then suddenly
all his dreams vanish. He loses all he has. His first thought is, "How can I
go back to the bare circumstances, the hard tasks, the dull drudgery, the
long hours, the grinding routine under an exacting master?"
Some such feelings were in the minds of the disciples
that morning when they saw the fire burning on the beach. They had taken up
their old occupation as a duty, and there was the Master waiting to greet
them. So it will always be with those who bravely accept changed conditions
and nobly take up the work which lies nearest, though it be hard and
Another suggestion from this scene, is that Christ helps
His friends in their common task work. The disciples were sorely
discouraged. They had been dragging their nets all night and had nothing to
show for their toil. Morning began to dawn, and lifting up their eyes, they
saw a fire burning on the beach, and their Master standing beside it. At
once He showed His sympathy with them. Knowing their disheartenment, he
called to the, "Children, have you anything to eat?" He is always trying to
cheer us and make us brave and strong. Then a moment later he told them
where to cast their net, and they drew it full.
We must notice that it was their secular work, in
which Jesus helped these men. We expect Him to help us in our praying, our
religious duties, our church work—but here we have Him helping at a piece of
common task work. Christ has a deep interest in our worldly affairs and
occupations, in our toil and burden bearing. Somehow, many good people
expect no Divine interest and help in their week-day work. But here we see
the Master helping his friends at their fishing. This suggests to us how
earthly success depends on the Master's direction. We may ask Him to show us
where to drop our nets. Many of us get disheartened when things do not seem
to go well. Our business is not as profitable as we could wish. Burdens are
heavy, competition is keen. We do not get on well. Ofttimes it is with us—as
it was with the disciples that morning—hard, discouraging, fruitless toil.
Then it was at the close of that long, toilsome night, with nothing to show
for its work, that, looking shoreward, they saw a fire burning on the beach
and the Master standing beside it.
That is the picture for us all. Ever the fire is burning
on the beach. Always the Master is full of sympathy when we have failed or
are discouraged. Always He will help, changing failure into success, filling
nets empty until now. Over against all failure, at the dawn of every morning
that breaks after a night of unavailing toil, Jesus stands on the shore to
give help, blessing and cheer.
Thus, the fire on the beach is the token of Christ's
interest in all our work, and a pledge of His help in things we
call secular as well as in things we call spiritual. Jesus is always the
Friend of the toiling folk, and makes many of the sweetest revealings, in
lowly and humble places.