Finding the Way
J. R. Miller, 1904
In the Love of God
A scriptural counsel bids us to "keep ourselves in the
love of God." This does not mean that we should keep ourselves loving God.
Of course, we should always love God. He should ever have the first place in
our affection. Not to love God, is to fail in our first and holiest duty, to
cut ourselves off from the source of all blessing, and to rob our lives of
the best good.
Yet that is not what is meant in the exhortation to
keep ourselves in the love of God. We all know something of the
experience of discouragement which ofttimes comes, when the duty of loving
God is pressed upon us. Our love seems so feeble, so unsatisfactory, and so
much less intense than it should be, and so fitful and changeable, that it
does not comfort us to think of it. It is well, therefore, that we are not
asked to measure our faith, by the degree of our love of God. If this were
the index, our heart's joy would be sadly variable. It is well that we have
for our comfort something better than our poor, fitful love for God.
"Our love so faint, so cold to You,
And Yours to us so great."
We are taught to keep ourselves in God's love, in its
blessed warmth, believing in it, trusting in it, letting it flood our lives.
The love of God is infinite. It is infinite in its
tenderness. Human love is easily wearied. The Divine love is inexhaustible
in its patience and gentleness. Looking back over his past life, with all
its follies, failures, and sins, and remembering the goodness of God which
never had given him up—but which had brought him to honor and power, David,
in his old age, gave the secret of it all in the words, "your gentleness has
made me great." Psalm 18:35. None of us know how much we owe to God's
A writer tells the story of a boy who at the age of eight
was regarded as being of feeble mind, hopelessly imbecile, the result of
some illness in infancy. The boy's father was widely known as an educator.
Inspired by his deep love for his child, he took personal charge of his
training, devoting himself to it most assiduously. If the boy had been sent
to ordinary schools, he would probably never have been anything but an
imbecile. As it was, however, he became bright and talented, passed with
honor through one of the great universities, and became a man of ability and
influence. The father's gentleness made him great. His genius as a teacher,
inspired by his strong love for his child, took the poor, stunted life, and
by patience developed its latent possibilities into beauty and noble
This is what God's wonderful love does with us. What
would we have been—but for the Divine care of us? As the warm sunshine
falling upon the bare, dried, briery bush—unsightly and apparently useless,
woos out leaves and buds and marvelous roses, so the warm love of God,
falling upon our poor, sin-filled lives, with only death before them awakens
in them heavenly yearnings and longings and aspiration, and leads them out
and glorifies them.
There is wonderful inspiration in the knowledge and
consciousness that God loves us. A newsboy was in the habit of running after
a gentleman on the ferry boat and brushing his coat with affectionate
fondness. One day the gentleman asked him, "Why are you so careful with me
every morning?" The boy answered, "Because once, when you bought a paper,
you said, 'My child!' No one ever called me his child before. That's the
reason. I love you for saying that to me." It was the first love the boy had
found in this world, and it was like heaven to him. It is a blessed moment
to us when we first realize that God is our Father, and calls us His own
children. It fills us with unspeakable joy. It brings the love of God about
us in floods. It lifts us up into heaven in our experience.
If we keep ourselves in the love of God, the love of God
will enter into us and fill us. We seem to have now but a small measure of
this Divine love in us. We are unloving in our own lives. We chafe easily
when others irritate us. We are readily vexed and offended and hold grudges
and resentments. If God were like us, what would become of us? If He were as
unforbearing, unforgiving, and uncharitable as we are—if He had no more
mercy on us, than we have on those who unintentionally or intentionally hurt
us—what would become of us? But if we keep ourselves in the love of God, all
this is changed. The love in us transforms us into its own spirit. If a bar
of iron lies in the fire for a time, it becomes red hot—the fire enters into
the iron and transfigures it. A lump of clay lying on a rose becomes
fragrant—the rose's sweetness enters into it. A grain of musk in a bureau
drawer fills all the garments in the drawer with its perfume. If we keep
ourselves in the love of God, in the atmosphere of that love, our whole
being becomes saturated with it until we live as God lives.
So will it be with all who truly keep themselves in the
love of God. Their lives will be transformed into the grace and beauty of
Christ, and the weary ones who see them and know them will have new faith in
God and new love for men.
The love of God is a wonderful refuge to those who hide
away in it. A favorite picture in the Old Testament is the hiding of the
troubled or hunted life, under the wings of the Almighty. Paul has a great
word about the Christian's life being hid with Christ in God. This is indeed
a marvelous hiding—in the heart of Christ, and then in this sacred
enfolding, carried back into the infinite depths of deity. Those who flee to
the love of God for refuge, are safe eternally. Neither height nor depth,
nor angel nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to
come—can separate them from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our
In this refuge, the world's harm never can reach us. It
was in this Divine keeping that Christ Himself was sheltered that
night on the sea when He slept on the boat, and the wild storm and the mad
sweep of the waves did not disturb Him. He was wrapped in the folds of the
same love in all the troubled hours of His trial and crucifixion. He spoke
of His peace—nothing ever broke the quiet of the calm of His spirit. Then He
promises to give the same peace, His own peace, to all who believe on
Him. "My peace I give unto you." "In Me you shall have peace."
This is the blessing of those who keep themselves in the love of God.
The Abundant Life
The Divine ideal for life is health, not sickness;
enthusiasm, not languor; branches bending with fruit, not covered
only with leaves. Christ wants us to have abundant spiritual
life. He is infinitely patient with weakness—but He would have us strong. He
accepts the smallest service anyone may render—but He desires us to serve
Him with our whole heart. The weakest faith has power and gets blessing from
Him—but He is best pleased with the faith which triumphs over all
difficulties and accomplishes impossibilities. He does not despise the
smoking flax, with merely a spark remaining—He will nourish it until it
glows in a hot flame; but He wishes us to be burning and shining lights.
Even a little measure of love pleases Him—but He longs for love which fills
all the being. The spiritual life begins as a tiny spring of water
bubbling up in our hearts—but the Master desires it to grow until it becomes
rivers of water. He came that His followers might have life—and might
have it abundantly.
The abundant life need not be a showy and conspicuous
one, nor one which makes much noise in the world. Some people suppose that
they are living to a worthy purpose, only when they are filling a prominent
and conspicuous place among men, doing work which draws all eyes to it. They
think they are of no use—if they are not making a stir in the world. But
there are some whose voices are heard widely in the community where they
dwell—and yet have little in them which pleases God. They are "rich in
external religion—but poor in inward experience." Or one may have an
abundant spiritual life, and yet move among men so quietly as almost to be
unheard and unknown. It was of our Lord Himself that it was written in an
ancient prophecy– "He shall not strive, nor cry aloud; neither shall any one
hear His voice in the streets."
No other man ever had such fullness and abundance of life
as Christ Himself had, and yet no other ever lived and wrought so quietly.
Noise is not power. The real power of life is in its influence,
in its force of character, in its personality. Many of those
who are fullest of Christ, are least known among men. Humility is one of the
divinest of graces. One asked Augustine what he regarded as the first of all
Christian virtues. He answered, "Humility." "The second?" He answered,
"Humility." And the third?" "Humility." Our Lord put the same quality first
in His Beatitudes—"Blessed are the poor in spirit." It is the lowly ones of
earth, who live nearest to the heart of Christ and have most of His Spirit
The abundant life need not be known by its large monetary
gifts. The tendency is to measure every man's value to the world, by his
charities. No doubt money has its value. Those who give to education, to
religion, to philanthropy, if their gifts are wisely bestowed, greatly bless
the world. Nothing should be said to chill the ardor of those who devote
their money to worthy causes. Yet money never is the best gift which a man
may bestow upon his fellows.
There is a story of a famishing pilgrim in the desert who
found a sack which he thought contained food. When he had eagerly torn it
open it had in it a great treasure of pearls—some man's whole fortune
dropped in the sands. But he flung it from him in anguish. It was food that
he needed—and the bag of pearls was only a bitter mockery to his hunger.
There are great human needs which money has no power to satisfy—but to which
a true heart's gentle love will be the very bread of God. There are sorrows
which money cannot soothe—but which a word of loving comfort will change
So far as we know, Jesus never gave money, and yet
the world has never known another such a lavish giver as He was. Imagine Him
going about with His hands full of coins and dispensing them among the poor,
the lame, the blind, the sick—money, and nothing else. What a poor, paltry
service His would then have been in comparison with the wonderful and
gracious ministry of kindness and love which He wrought!
The abundant life may not have money to give, and
yet it may fill a whole community with blessings. It may go out with
sympathy, with comfort, with inspirations of cheer and hope, and may make
countless hearts braver and stronger. We do not know the value of the
ministry, the influence upon others—of a strong, pure, peaceful, victorious
face. A Hindu woman met on the street a missionary who could not speak her
language and said not a word to her. He only looked into her face and
pointed upward. She hastened home and said that she had seen an angel of
heaven. The glory of God shone on the missionary's countenance. We do not
know when the joy and the love in our faces may put new hope into fainting
hearts, and make men able to win the victory over depression or despondency,
or over a great temptation.
The secret of abundant helpfulness—is found in the desire
to be a help, a blessing, to all we meet. One wrote to a bereft mother of
her little one who had gone to heaven: "Gratia was in our home only once
when but five years of age, and yet the influence of her brief stay has been
filling every day since in all these three years, especially in the memory
of one little sentence which was continually on the child's lips wherever
she went—Can I help you?" We begin to be like Christ only when we
begin to wish to be helpful. Where this desire is ever dominant, the life is
an unceasing blessing. Rivers of water are pouring out from it continually
to bless the world.
That is what might be the ministry of everyone of us to
others, to all who turn to us with their needs, their loneliness, their
heart hungers, their sorrows. We should always have bread in our hands to
give to those who are hungry, and cheer for those who come to us fainting
and disheartened. Life is but another way of spelling love. It
is more love we need—when we cry out for the abundant life. Nothing but love
will answer the great human needs about us. Nothing else will make people
happier and better. The abundant life Christ came to give—is simply fullness
of love in the heart, pulsing out in all the veins.
How can we have this abundance of life? Most of us are
conscious of the poverty and thinness of our spiritual life. We are not
strong—we faint easily under our burdens and in our struggles. We are not
living victoriously—we are defeated continually, and overcome by everything
which assails us—by the smallest antagonism and opposition. We are not
perennial fountains of love, sending out streams of the water of life for
the refreshing and the renewing of the dreary places about us. At the
best—the streams of kindness and beneficence flow in our lives only
intermittently. We have not much to give to the needy, hungry world which
looks to us for cheer and strength. Men ask bread of us, and all we have to
give them is a stone. The come expecting fruit, and find nothing but leaves.
We are not so full of Christ—that those who touch the hem of our garments
feel the thrill of life in them and are healed and are made happier and
better. Our spirits are not so charged with the love of God—that our shadow,
as we pass along the way, heals those on whom it falls. Our hearts are not
so overflowing with a passion for being of use, that we involuntarily,
unconsciously, impart to everyone we meet—some helpfulness, some comfort,
some inspiration, and some good.
Evidently it is more of the life of Christ in us, that we
need to give us richness of character, influence over others, and the power
of helpfulness, which our Master desires to find in us. We may have many
other things which are desirable and pleasant—we may have money or gifts; or
places of honor and power—our hands may be full also of tasks. But lacking
this fullness of life, our hearts are really empty. There is but little of
God, of Christ, of heaven, in us. We have nothing to give others that would
truly enrich them. Our brains may be teeming with plans and projects and
dreams of success—but of spiritual life our veins are scant. It is life we
need—life, more life.
Our deepest longing, therefore, and our most earnest
prayer should be for greater fullness of spiritual life. We need it to
measure up to our Master's ideal and purpose for us. We need it, too, to
enable us to overcome the world. Our strength is soon exhausted, our lamps
soon burn out. The good in us is soon overpowered by the evil
about us. We need more of the joy of Christ in us—that we may be able to
master the sorrow which flows in upon us from the great world. We need more
of the love of Christ—that we may keep our hearts sweet and gracious amid
all which makes it hard to be gracious, loving and kind. We need the
fullness of the Divine Spirit that we may have something worth while to give
to those who turn to us with their emptiness, their hunger, their sorrow.
We Are Able
When Jesus asked His two ambitious disciples if they were
able to drink the cup He was about to drink, and to be baptized with the
baptism with which He was baptized, they said promptly, "We are able." Their
heroic answer furnishes a noble motto for every phase of life. Whatever call
comes to us, whether it be to sorrow or to joy, we should say in quiet
confidence, "I am able."
This is a good motto for life in general. To many people
shrink from anything which is hard. They want only easy tasks. They fear to
grapple with difficulties. They run away from hard battles. They attempt
nothing which they know they cannot do easily. They never grow into
strength, for only in attempting hard things can one gain the ability to do
things noble and beautiful. The habit of giving up easily, is a fatal one.
It weakens the will, paralyzes the energy, and stunts the growth of the
life. What a man thinks he cannot do—he cannot do; but what he thinks he can
do—he can do. The true man is he who can do things which are
impossible—anybody can do possible things.
Our answer to every call of duty should be, "I am
able." Whatever we ought to do—we can do. "I cannot" is a
stunting, dwarfing word. Besides, it is a cowardly word. When we say it, we
do not know what we are missing. We allow magnificent possibilities to pass
by and pass out of our reach, because we think we cannot achieve them.
The poet's picture is true of too many. The days come
with great gifts in their hands—kingdoms, stars, sky, and diadems; we take a
few herbs and apples, and let the messengers move on and vanish, still
holding in their hands the splendid gifts which might have been ours. Many
go through life missing countless opportunities for noble deeds and worthy
achievements, only answering to their call, "I cannot."
"I am able" is the only fit reply to make to every
command and requirement of Christ. James and John did not know what they
were saying—but they faltered not. Their answer showed courage, the
courage of the soldier. Soldiers never say "I cannot." They know only to
obey. The answer of these men also implied love for their Master. They were
ready to suffer anything for His sake. What it would cost them to stand
close to Him they did not know—but whatever the cost would be, they were
ready to pay it. It was also the answer of faith. They knew that
Jesus was the Messiah. What Messiahship meant, they did not know. They had
indeed most confused ideas upon the subject. Yet they believed in Him. There
always are those who have their difficulties with Christian doctrine. They
cannot understand the teachings concerning the person and work of Christ.
Yet they may cling to Him and follow Him ignorantly, loyal to the uttermost,
as James and John did. Some day all will become clear.
"I am able" is always the motto for Christian faith.
Faith deals with the unseen and invisible. We never know what we are
engaging to do—when we pledge ourselves to follow Christ unto the end. When
Abraham was called, he went out, not knowing where he went. In every life
there are experiences of darkness. When we come up to the edge of things we
dread, the Master asks, "Are you able to drink My cup?" That is, "Are you
able to follow Me through this trial, this sorrow, this mystery of pain,
this great sacrifice?" We must remember that the richest blessings of grace,
lie beyond experiences of pain. The question of the measure of blessing and
good we are to receive, is ofttimes another way of putting the question,
whether we can pay the price or not. "Can you drink the cup which I am about
to drink?" If we cannot, the blessing is beyond our reach. If these two men
had said, "No; we are not able to drink the cup with You," what would they
have missed? There are many who do miss life's highest and best blessings,
because they cannot accept the condition. It should help our faith and
courage in time of sore questioning, to remember that it is the Master's cup
we are to drink, and that we are to drink it not alone—but with Him. Surely
we can drink any cup with Him.
"I am able" is the motto also for service. Christian life
is a continual call to heroic deeds. It is not easy to be the kind of
Christians which Christ wants us to be. We can make life easy for ourselves
if we will—but this will not please Christ. The two disciples wanted first
places, and first places are never easy to fill. Jesus showed them that in
His kingdom—rank meant service. "He who would be first among you—must be
servant of all." That is what it is to be a Christian. The mission of the
Church is to bless men, to lift up the fallen, to support the tempted, to
relieve the distressed, to be a friend to the weary, the desolate and the
lonely. "Are you able?" There is no other way to the high places.
There is no other way to become a true minister of
Christ. Four years in a college and three years in a theological seminary,
will make no young man a minister. A Presbytery may license and ordain him
to preach the Gospel after he has finished his course—but that will not make
him a minister. Nothing will make any one a minister but drinking Christ's
cup and being baptized with Christ's baptism. Nor will anything else make
one a Christian of the kind the Master wants. Uniting with the Church will
not do it. "Are you able to drink of my cup? Are you able to put your life
into the service of men along side your Master?"
To Each One His Work
Some people do not like to work. Perhaps it is true that
the disinclination is natural and universal, and that we all have to learn
to like to work. There is an impression prevalent, that work was part of the
curse of the fall, that if our first parents had kept their holy estate in
Eden, work would not have been necessary. But this impression is incorrect.
When man was created—he was put into the Garden of Eden to dress it and keep
it. Work, therefore, was part of the blessing of Eden and is part of the
blessing of all life. It is a means of grace. No one can be a good Christian
and not do anything, unless he is incapacitated in some way. Idleness is
sin, and there is always a curse on it.
Work is part of the plan of God for our lives. The
affairs of the world go on well, only when everyone is doing his part. To
each one his particular work is assigned. Whether our part is great or
small, conspicuous or obscure, if it is the Divine allotment for us—it is
noble and worthy. If our work is Divinely allotted, nothing is unfit for
kingliest hands. That which God assigns—is most worthy. If shining shoes is
a man's duty, is the task allotted to him for the time, there is no other
work in all the world that would be so noble and worthy for him that
particular day or hour.
To each one his work is given. None are omitted or
overlooked in the assignment—no one is left without some task. Duties are
not given to some—while others are sent out with nothing to do. We are all
put into this world to work, until our days of service here are closed.
To each his own particular work is given. Not all
have the same task, nor is the distribution of duties a haphazard one.
People differ in abilities, and the tasks are suited to the hands. If, then,
we do not do our own allotted work—it will not be done, and there will be a
blank in God's universe where there ought to have been a piece of work well
done. It matters not how small our part is, the doing of it perfectly, is
essential to the completeness of the Divine plan, and the failure to do it
well will leave a flaw.
What is true of work in general, is true of Christian
work as well. In a sense, all work is sacred. Everything is to be done in
the name of Christ and for Him, and all duty is part of God's will for us.
Every piece of work has a moral value. Either we do it right and please God,
or we do it indifferently and imperfectly, and so sin against God. The
commonest tasks are as sacred in their way, as are our prayers and songs of
praise. Jesus Himself was engaged in His Father's business quite as truly
and as acceptably when He was working in the carpenter's shop—as when
afterwards He was teaching and healing the people.
Yet we all have duties besides those which belong to our
weekday callings. It is not enough for any man to be a carpenter or a
builder or a merchant or a physician or a farmer. Everyone must be, first of
all, a Christian—Christ's man. We should do our secular work for Christ and
do it well—but we should be a great deal larger than the little measure of
our weekday occupation, and should do far more every day than our little
stint of common task work in the shop or in the field. We represent our
Master in this world, and must not slacken our diligence in the things which
He would do for people, if He were here.
In our Christian work, then, we should be as enthusiastic
and as earnest—as we are in our secular pursuits. If we are conscientious in
the world's work—we should certainly be no less conscientious in our work
for the Master's kingdom. Few even of the best Christians, do their best for
their Master. Paul exhorted his young friend Timothy to stir up the gift
which was in him. The fire was banked up and smoldering, when it should have
been burning brightly. In not many of us, is the passion for Christian
service doing its best.
On all sides the motive of earnestness and
diligence presses. The natural world teaches us the lesson. Every
flower which blooms, has its inspiration for us—we should put beauty
into everything we do. Every bird which sings, calls us to live more
songfully and cheerfully. Every wind which blows, whispers to us of
the breath of God and urges us to open all our being to its blessed
It is true also in the realm of spiritual life,
that everyone has his own work allotted to him. There is something for
everyone. In the building of the wall in Nehemiah's time, each man built by
his own house, and thus the entire wall was soon repaired. We will easily
find our work for Christ, if we will look for it right by our own door. We
never need to journey far away, to come upon it. The trouble with too many,
is that they pass by the work which is at their hand, not dreaming that it
is the thing given to them to do, and expect to find something unusual in
some unusual place. The artist who had looked everywhere for some fit
material for his Madonna, found it at last in a common fire log in the wood
yard. Our holiest duties are always near at hand, not far off.
Our work is not what some other one is doing—but
something which is all our own. Paul illustrates this by comparing the
church to a human body. There are many members in a body, and each has its
own distinct function. If we had only hands, or if our body were all feet or
all hands, we would be only monstrosities. So if all men were fishermen or
all were farmers or all were lawyers, there would be no society. In the line
of spiritual work, there is also the widest diversity of things to be done,
and if we all had the same gift, with ability for doing just one thing, how
could the great field of duty be covered? But there are diversities of
gifts, so that no place shall be left unfilled, so that for no task there
shall be a hand lacking. "To each one his work."
A man may not have the gift of eloquence and may almost
envy another whose speech is winning. But the man of slow speech may have
power in prayer.
We need never envy anyone the gift he possesses. That is
his gift, and we have our own. Ours may not seem as great or
as important as his—but that need not concern us. We are responsible only
for what God has given us, and all we have to do is to make the fullest
possible use of it. If another's gift is more brilliant than ours, the other
has a greater responsibility than we have, and we need not envy him.
Besides, we do not know what particular gift is most important, what kind of
work ranks highest with God or does most for the up-building of Christ's
kingdom. Perhaps it means more to be able to pray well, than to
speak well. Power with God may be a mightier factor in doing
good, than power over men. It may be that the quietest people, who
are not often heard of, who work obscurely and without fame, are quite as
highly honored in heaven, as those who are in conspicuous positions and
receive praise from men.
We please God best, and do the best work in the
world—when we cheerfully accept our place, however lowly, and do sweetly and
as well as we can—the work which God gives us to do. It ought to impart zest
to the humblest calling, to know that it is the will of God for us, and that
and not something else is our part in the Divine allotment of duty. There
can be nothing greater in this world for anyone, than the doing of God's
will. We make the most of our life when we accept our own place and do well
our own work. We work then with God, and we shall not fail either of His
help or of His reward.
One Thing I Do
There is a great deal of waste in all lines of
life—because men scatter their energies over too wide a field. Instead of
doing one thing well, they do a dozen things indifferently. No one is great
enough to do everything. In the arts and professions, men are more and more
becoming specialists. Even ordinary ability would be sure of success,
if it found its true place, and then devoted itself wholly to its work.
Though a man may fail again and again, if he persists and never becomes
discouraged, he will at last succeed.
There is a remarkable direction in our Lord's instruction
to the seventy disciples. Among other things, He bade them to greet no one
along the way. The salutations of those days were tedious and required much
time, and the errands on which His messengers were sent were urgent and
required haste. Not a moment must be lost on the way. When a disciple begged
to be allowed to bury his father before going on his errand, the Master
refused the request. The dead could bury their own dead, and he must hasten
to carry the Gospel message.
If we would concentrate all our energies in one purpose,
we would do all our work better. We would then always do our best, even in
the commonest things of our daily task work. If we are writing only a postal
card to a friend, we will do it as carefully as if we were writing a letter
of greatest importance. We would gather all the forces of our heart into the
simplest kindness we show to anyone. There are authors who have written one
or two books of great interest and value and then have grown indifferent,
doing nothing more worth while. They were too well satisfied with their
early success or a little praise turned their heads, and they never did
their best again.
An old painter, after standing long in silent meditation
before his canvas, with hands crossed meekly on his breast and his head bent
reverently, said, "May God forgive me that I did not do it better." There
are many of us who ought to have the same experience of penitence, as we
contemplate the things we have done. We should continually implore
forgiveness for doing our work so poorly, for we are not doing our best. If
only we would learn to put all the energy of our souls into each piece of
work we do, we would do do fine work for the Savior.
In our Christian life, we should seek only one thing—the
attainment of the highest reaches in character and service. If an absorbing
passion for Christ ruled us, it would bring all our life into harmony with
itself. When Christ is taken into the chief place in the life, everything
which is not in harmony with His peerless beauty must go out, and only the
things that are in keeping with the mind and spirit of Christ, can have a
place in the life.
When Christ becomes really the one thing of our lives,
there is less and less of living for self, and more and more of consecration
to the service of love. Some people suppose that holiness separates a man
from his fellows, that as he becomes really like Christ—he grows out of
touch and sympathy with people, less interested in their human affairs, less
gentle, less kindly, less human, less accessible, and less helpful. But it
is not the religion of Christ, which produces such results. Never did any
other man get so near to people as Christ Himself did. He lived among them;
they loved Him and trusted Him, and they told Him everything. When Christ
truly enters a man, one of the unmistakable marks of His indwelling, is the
new love which begins to appear in the man's life. His religion made Paul a
friend of man, eager to help everyone he met. When Christ really gets
possession of a heart, the sweet flowers of love begin to grow in the life.
If we are not becoming more patient, more glad hearted, more charitable,
more kindly, more thoughtful. If there is not in us an increasing desire to
help others, to do them good—we need to pray for more of the love of God in
our hearts. We may tell people that Christ is still in this world, coming
close to them in their needs—but He is here only as He lives in us. He has
no other present incarnation but in the lives of His friends. He helps the
suffering, the toiling folk, the weary hearted, the weak, the sorrowing—but
only through us. We are most like to Christ—when we are nearest to the
hearts of men, when our sympathies are widest, when we are the gentlest,
when our hands are readiest to minister.
If in our hearts the great master purpose is to live for
Christ only, we will grow continually away from all that is worldly and
unworthy, toward things which are spiritual and Divine. Paul describes
himself as forgetting the things which are behind and stretching forward to
the things which are before.
The life which is under the full dominance and sway of
Christ, is ever unfolding new beauty, and growing into holier, sweeter,
tenderer, diviner character and into larger, fuller usefulness. For while
the beauty of Christ becomes more and more manifest in the personal
life, the influence of Christ is manifested more and more distinctly
in the impression made on the world. If our citizenship is truly in heaven,
we will carry the atmosphere of heaven with us wherever we go, and heavenly
flowers and fruits will grow about us which but for us would not have been
there. There is no more infallible test of the reality and the power of our
spiritual life—than in the measure of heaven we bring down into this world's
At Your Word, I Will
The Divine Will settles everything of duty. When we know
surely what our Master would have us to do, there is no longer the slightest
question as to what we should do. All we have to do then is to obey. We have
nothing to do with the expediency or the inexpediency of the command, with
the determining of its wisdom or unwisdom, with the question of its
possibility or impossibility.
When the Master bade Peter push out into the deep and let
down his nets for a catch, the old fisherman promptly answered, "At Your
word, I will." He had learned the first lesson in discipleship—prompt,
cheerful, unquestioning obedience. According to ordinary fishing rules,
nothing would come from obeying this command. Yet Peter did not think of
that. The word of the Master had supreme authority with him. It could not
possibly be mistaken. No appeal from it was to be considered for a moment.
So Peter answered unhesitatingly, "At Your word, I will." Peter's example is
to be followed in every case, by the Master's friends. The question of human
judgment or opinion, is not to be considered when Christ speaks. The best
human wisdom is fallible and may easily be mistaken. Men in authority may
make mistakes of judgment, by which those who are required to follow their
direction shall be compelled to suffer harm or loss. On a battlefield, a
general's mistake may result in the sacrifice of many lives. Somebody
blundered, and the six hundred rode into the valley of death. Ofttimes bad
advice has wrecked destinies. Even those who love us most truly may err in
the counsel they give us, and may lead us into paths which are not good.
Many people suffer from the ignorance of those whom they
trust as guides. But in Jesus Christ we have a Leader who never errs in
wisdom. He never gives wrong advice. He is never mistaken in His decision as
to what we ought to do. We are absolutely sure that His commands are both
right and wise. Our own opinion and judgment may be against what
He bids us to do. It may seem to us from the human and earthly side, that
the course on which He's taking us can lead only to disaster. In such cases,
it is an immeasurable comfort to us to know that his biddings are always
absolutely infallible. When He bids us to cast our nets in any particular
place, we may be perfectly sure that we shall draw them up full.
Many of the things our Master calls us to do or to
endure—do not seem to our eyes, at the time, to be the best things. Much of
our life is disappointment. Sorrow comes ofttimes with its hot tears, its
emptying of the heart, its pain and bitterness. We do not know, when we set
out on any bright, sunny path—into what experience we shall be led.
About a dozen years ago, a noble young man married a
sweet, beautiful girl. They were very happy. Life began for them in a garden
of roses. Only three bright years had passed, however, when the young wife
broke down in health. She had been an invalid ever since, much of the time
unable to leave her room. The burden has been a very heavy one for the
husband, requiring continual self denial and sacrifice, besides the grief
and anxiety it has brought.
That was not the life these two dreamed of on their
wedding morning. They thought only of gladness and prosperity. It never
occurred to them that sickness or any trouble could break into their
paradise. But the Master has made no mistake. Even already, to those who
have watched their lives and noted the fruit of the suffering in them, it is
becoming apparent that love and goodness are written in all the painful
lines of the long story. The young man has been growing all the years in
strength, in gentleness—in purity of spirit, in self control, in the peace
of God, and in all manly qualities. It seemed a strange place to bid him
cast his nets—into the deep waters of disappointment—but he is now drawing
them full of rich blessing and good.
Here is another story of wedded life. A gentle girl was
married to a young man of much promise. But soon the bright promise faded.
The prosperous circumstances which it was thought were suddenly interrupted,
and the accumulation of years, the fruit of hard toil, was gone. Then the
husband's health failed, and times of pinching poverty followed. The young
wife has had little in these years but trial and sorrow.
There are those who would question the wisdom of the
Master in leading her into all this experience of pain and suffering. We
cannot understand it. We cannot read the Divine love in the strange writing,
yet we know that the words really must spell love as the angels read them.
To infinite wisdom, the way of sorrow seemed the best way for the
adorning, the enriching, the ennobling and the perfecting of that beautiful
life. Sunshine is not all that the fields and gardens need to make
them beautiful; they must have clouds and rain as well, or
they would be parched and withered. It is so also with human lives.
Prosperity and happiness are not the only experiences which bring blessing.
"Is it raining, little flower?
Be glad of rain.
Too much sun would wither you;
'Twill shine again.
The sky is very black, 'tis true;
But just behind it shines the blue.
"Are you weary, tender heart?
Be glad of pain.
In sorrow sweetest things will grow
As flowers in rain.
God watches; and you will have the sun,
When clouds their perfect work have done."
We may always say to Christ—whatever His bidding may be,
whatever He asks us to do or to suffer, into whatever mystery or trial or
pain He may lead us, "At Your word, I will." There need never be any
smallest exception to this obedience. Though to our narrow, limited vision,
it seems that only hurt and loss can come to us out of the experience, still
we may heed and obey the voice which calls and commands, knowing that in
spite of all seeming ill—there must be blessing and good in the end. We need
never question the Divine wisdom. Who are we, that we could know better than
God what we need, what will bring to us the truest good? God's will is
always perfect—and we may implicitly, unquestioningly accept it, knowing
that the outcome will be blessing.
This makes the way of life very plain and simple. We have
only one thing to do—to obey Christ. In whatever way His will is made known
to us, whether in His word, through our own consciences, or in His
providences, we have but to accept it and do it. It may mean the setting
aside of cherished plans, the giving up of things that are dearest to us, a
life of pain and suffering—but in any case it is ours to obey without
We may fix it unalterably in our belief, that there never
can be any mistake in our Master's guidance. Obedience always leads to
blessing. It cannot be otherwise, since God is God—and His Name is Love.
Christ cannot fail to keep His smallest word. The universe would fall to
wreck if He did. "Heaven and earth shall pass away—but My word shall not
pass away." Some day we shall know that the end of all our Lord's commands,
all His leadings, is good.
The Duty of Pleasing Others
"Each one of us must please his neighbor for his good, in
order to build him up." Romans 15:2
Some people are not accustomed to think of pleasing
others as a duty. We have been trained to think of what is right and just in
our relations to others, without reference to the effect our words or
conduct may have upon them. But there is no reason why we should not do the
things that are right, and at the same time seek to please those with whom
we are dealing.
Paul says, "Let each one of us please his neighbor—for
his good, unto edifying." We are to please our neighbor for his good.
We must not think of gratifying his whims, of feeding his vanity, or of
nourishing his self conceit. This would not be to "please him—for his good,
unto edifying." A great many people are hurt irreparably by insincere
flattery. They may be pleased in a sense—but it is not for their good. They
are puffed up by it, encouraged to think more highly of themselves than they
ought to think. We can do no greater unkindness to another, than to
stimulate his self conceit. Yet one of the temptations of good nature, is to
be insincere and even untruthful in commending others. But it is not this
kind of pleasing that Paul had in mind. It must be for the person's good,
his growth in character, and then it must be genuine and altogether true.
The duty of pleasing others is part of the great lesson
of love. If we love our neighbor—we will desire to give him pleasure, to
make him truly happy. We get the lesson from our Master, and in His life,
love blossomed out in all its perfection. Christ never sacrificed truth, was
never insincere—and yet His speaking to men was always marked by kindliness.
He was never brusque in His speech. He never lost His temper, nor spoke in
anger. He reproved men's sins and faults—but when He did this, His tones
were quiet and His voice was full of love.
If we love others as Christ loves them, we will seek
always to do them good. We will never speak pridefully. We will never reveal
vanity or self conceit in our fellowship with those about us. There is a way
of criticizing and reproving, which is offensive and brash. Love gives us no
right to judge and condemn. It does not authorize us to watch others or to
treat them censoriously. If we have love in our hearts—we will seek to save
others from sin, to restrain them from wrong doing—but we will do even these
services in lowliness and love, so as to win and not to lose those we
reprove. Humility will mark our every word and act. We will always be gentle
and kind, speaking in love when we must say anything unpleasant, anything
which will give pain.
Another reason we should seek to please others, is that
everyone needs encouragement and cheer. It is possible for us so to bear
ourselves in our relations to others as to make life harder for them.
On the other hand, we have the power of adding immeasurably to the strength,
the cheer, and the energy of others about us. Words of encouragement are
wondrous inspirations. An artist said that his mother's kiss made him a
painter. That is, when she saw his crude work and thought she detected in it
indications of genius, instead of laughing at what he had done, she kissed
her boy with encouragement and gave him an impulse which sent him on his way
with enthusiasm and hope.
But children are not the only people who need
encouragement, and are pleased and helped by words of appreciation. We never
get too old or too high up in our work, to be cheered and stimulated by
sincere commendation. When we read a book which helps us, no matter how
distinguished the author may be, we will please him and do him a real
kindness—if we will write him a few words of grateful recognition, telling
him how his book has helped us. When the preacher has spoke earnestly
and his words have given us cheer, or comfort, light on some dark problem,
or help in some perplexity, however great he may be, however praised among
men—a word of encouragement from the humblest person in his audience will
send a glow of warmth and cheer into his heart—pleasing him for his good.
It is the good of the person, which we are to think.
Edifying means building up. This is always the motive of love.
Envy seeks to harm another, to take away from his honor, to check him in his
progress, to tear down what he has built up. But love always thinks of the
good of the other person, and of how his best interests may be advanced. We
have an errand to everyone whose life we touch. We are sent from God with a
blessing to Him. We may not know what our mission is, what the good is that
we are to do for Him—but love will find something to do for him which will
make him a better and happier man. The true Christian way of relating
ourselves to those about us is this—to be ready always to give any help that
may be needed.
The idea of help does not have in mind merely
material aid. Ofttimes the last thing we should do for one in need, is to
help him by relieving him of his load, by doing the hard task for him by
giving him money. In the miracle at the Beautiful Gate the apostles
had no money to give—but what they gave was better than money. We must not
think that none need love's ministries, but those who are in some physical
distress or in some great sorrow. Many who reveal no tokens of suffering,
are yet sufferers. Grief does not always wear mourning clothes. There are
hungry hearted ones, who need love and sympathy. There are those who are
misunderstood, to whom a word of confidence would impart strength. There are
discouraged people, to whom a glad, welcoming face is a heavenly blessing,
full of inspiration for them.
We cannot estimate the value of our influence, as helpers
of those who need help. We must seek to please them in ways which will make
them stronger, truer, better. There is a great deal of unfit comforting of
others by those who think only of pleasing, not of helping.
There is a kind of sympathy which only makes one weaker and less able
to endure. The word comfort means to strengthen. We have comforted a
sorrowing one, only when we have made him stronger. The Holy Spirit is
called the Comforter. The name means one who stands by another. Standing by
means comradeship. We may not give the person anything. We may not do
anything at all which can be regarded as a favor—but the mere fact of our
standing by him in strong friendship, is of incalculable value to him. That
was what Jesus hoped of His friends in Gethsemane. They could not help Him
in any way—He must drink the cup Himself; but if they were near by Him in
love and companionship, this alone would make Him stronger.
Our helping of others must not be too insistent. We must
respect the individuality of those to whom we would be friends. There is
danger that even love will be officious sometimes, and reveal its eagerness
in ways which will take away much of its value. People do not like to be
helped in a demeaning or professional way. The help must be the help of love
itself—and must be given simply, quietly, gently, unostentatiously. It must
never intermeddle. When we stand by one who is in sorrow—the fewer words we
speak the better. There is altogether too much talking in many cases, by
those who are sincerely eager to help. The best service we can give to
those who are in grief—is to lead them into the presence of Christ and leave
them there alone with Him.
A strong, quiet face, telling of peace and joy in the
heart, is in itself a blessing. On the other hand, a gloomy and discouraged
face hurts everyone who looks upon it, leaves a shadow upon other lives, and
makes them a little less fit for the struggles, the tasks, and the duties
If we are wise, we will avoid all ostentatious display
in efforts to please others. We will simply seek to be our natural
selves, with sincere love, with patience, thoughtfulness, and kindliness in
our spirits. We will not talk about it—talking about it spoils everything.
The best good is always done—when we know not that we are doing good. The
greatest help is given to others—when they knew not that they are being
The Duchess of Kent was a richly endowed woman, and was
universally beloved. Once the Princess Alice, herself simple, sweet and
unspoiled, asked her: "What makes everyone love to be with you? I am always
so sorry to have to leave you, and so are all the others who come here. What
is the secret, grandmamma?"
It was not easy for the noble woman to answer such a
personal question. But it was important that it should be answered for the
sake of her who had asked it, and who was indeed hungry to know the secret.
So the noble lady gave this memorable answer:
"I was early instructed, that the way to please
others--was to be sincerely interested in the things which interested them,
namely their own affairs; and that this could be accomplished only by
burying one's own troubles, interests, or joys completely out of sight.
Forgetfulness of one's own concerns, a smiling face, a sincere word of
sympathy or unselfish help, where it is possible to give it--will always
please others--and the giver equally so."
"I try to please everyone in everything I do. I don't
just do what I like or what is best for me, but what is best for them—so
they may be saved." 1 Corinthians 10:33
The Privilege of Suffering Wrongfully
One of the most difficult duties of Christian life, is to
endure wrong patiently and sweetly. Yet many people have to learn the
lesson. There are none who do not, sometime or other, suffer unjustly.
Strength ought to be gentle—but there are strong men who use their strength
brutally. There are those possessing power, who exercise it tyrannically.
Justice is not a universal quality among men. There are many who are
misjudged or misunderstood. There are those who for kindness—receive
unkindness. There are those who repay self sacrifice and love—with
ingratitude and neglect. There are good men who suffer for their goodness.
Much of our Master's teaching has to do with this
experience. One of the Beatitudes tells of the blessedness of the meek,
those who endure wrong patiently, without complaining. Another tells of the
happiness or blessedness of those who are persecuted for righteousness'
sake. In another teaching, the Master bids us to turn the other cheek to the
one who smites us, to love our enemies, and to pray for those who persecute
us. The lesson of the forgiveness of injuries and of all wrongs
done to us, is taught over and over again, and to make it still more
emphatic and essential, is linked with Divine forgiveness of us, so that we
cannot ask God to forgive us without at the same time solemnly pledging
ourselves to forgive those who sin against us.
All our Lord's lessons—He lived Himself, illustrating
them in His own obedience. We say we want to be like Christ, to live as He
lived. When we begin to think what this means we shall find that a large
part of Christ's life was the enduring of wrong. He was never welcome
in this world. "He came unto His own—and His own received Him not." He was
the love of God incarnate, coming to men with mercy and with heavenly
gifts—only to be rejected and to have the door shut in His face. The enmity
deepened as the days passed, until at the last He was nailed on a cross! Yet
we know our Master bore all this wrong and injury. On His trial, under false
accusation, He held His peace, answering nothing to the charges made against
Him. On the cross His anguish found vent not in imprecations upon His
enemies, nor even in outcries of pain—but in a prayer of love,
"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
There was not a moment in all our Lord's life when there
was the slightest bitterness of feeling in His breast. No resentment ever
found an instant's lodgment in His heart. His answer to all the unkindness,
the enmity, the plotting, the denials, the treason, and to all the cruelty,
the brutal accusations, and the terrible wrongs inflicted upon Him—was LOVE.
Thus it is, that we should bear all that is unjust, unkind and wrong in the
treatment that we receive from others. We are to keep love in our hearts
through it all.
A summer tourist writes of a water-spring as sweet
as any that ever gushed from the sunny hillsides, which one day he found by
the sea, when the tide ebbed away. Then the sea rolled in and poured its
bitter floods over the little spring, hiding it out of sight, wrapping it in
a shroud of brackish waters. But when the tide ebbed away again, the spring
was still pouring up its sweet stream, with no taste of the sea's bitterness
in it. Such a spring, should the love in our hearts be. Though floods of
unkindness and of wrong pour over us, however cruelly we may be treated by
the world, and whatever unkindness or injustice we may have to endure from
others—the well of love in our bosom should never retain a trace of the
bitterness—but should be always sweet.
The world cannot harm us if we thus live. The things
which hurt and scar our lives are resentment, unforgivingness, bitter
feeling, and desire for revenge. Men may beat us until all our bones are
broken—but if love fails not in our hearts meanwhile, we have come through
the experience unharmed, with no marks of injury upon us. One writing of a
friend who was dreadfully hurt in a runaway accident, says that the woman
will be probably scarred for life, and then goes on to speak of the wondrous
patience in her suffering and of the peace of God, that failed not in her
heart for a moment. The world may hurt our bodies—but if we suffer as Christ
suffered, there will be no trace of scarring or wounding in our inner life.
We may learn form our Master, how to endure wrong so as
not to be hurt by it. "When He suffered, He threatened not; but committed
Himself to Him who judges righteously." He did not take the righting of His
wrongs into His own hands. He had power and could have summoned legions of
angels to fight for Him—but He did not lift a finger in His own defense.
When Pilate spoke to Jesus of his power to crucify or release Him, Jesus
said, "You would have no power against Me—unless it was given you from
above." God could build a wall of granite about us, if He would, so that no
enemy can touch us. He could shield us so that no power on earth can do us
any hurt. He could deliver us from every enemy. We should remember when we
are suffering injury or injustice at the hand of others—that God could
have prevented it. He could have held back the hand that it should not
touch us. He could have ordered that no harm should be done to us, that we
should suffer no injury.
This wrong that you are suffering, whatever it is, is
therefore from God, something He permits to come to you. It is not an
accident, a lawless occurrence, something which has broken away from the
Divine control, something which God could not prevent breaking into your
life. In nature, not a drop of water in the wildest waves of the sea ever
gets away from the leash of God's control. God reigns everywhere, in things
small and great.
The same is as true of events, of men's actions, as it is
of matter. God's hand is in all things. Someone oppresses you, deals with
you unjustly. God permits it, and this means that a good, a blessing, shall
come out of the suffering. It may be a good for you. What you are
called to endure may be designed to make you better, holier, richer in life
and character, gentler spirited, more patient. It is well for us to think of
this when a wrong has been done to us by another. We may leave to God—the
matter of the evil committed against us. It is against Him far more
than against us—and He will judge in the matter. Our only concern
should be to get the lesson or the good there is in it for us.
Or the suffering we have to endure, may be for the sake
of others. God permitted the terrible crime against His Son for the good of
the world. Human redemption came out of it. When He permits us to suffer for
righteousness' sake—we are in a little measure sharing the sufferings of
Christ, and out of it all, will come something to make the world better.
Paul speaks of being crucified with Christ. When someone has treated us
unkindly, wrongfully, it is a comfort to think that in a small way, at
least, we are being crucified with Christ and that blessing and enriching
will come to the world from our suffering.
We dread suffering in any form. It seems to us something
evil which can only work harm. Yet the truth is, that many of God's best
blessings and holiest mercies come to us in the garb of pain. We
dread especially the suffering which men's wrong or cruelty brings upon us.
We resent it. But no other experience brings us so fully into companionship
with Christ, for all that He suffered was unjust, and out of His untold
sufferings have come all the hopes, joys and blessings of our lives.
When a great building was to be erected, an artist begged
to be permitted to make one of the doors. If this could not be granted, he
asked that he might make one little panel of one of the doors. Or if this,
too, were denied him, he craved that he might, at least, be permitted to
hold the brushes for the artist to whom the honor of doing the work should
be awarded. If so small a part in a work of earth were esteemed so high a
privilege, it is a far higher honor to have even the least share with Christ
in His great work of human redemption. Everyone who suffers any wrong
patiently and sweetly, in love and trust, is working with Christ in the
saving of the world.