APPROVED UNTO GOD
"Approved unto God." 2 Tim. 2:15
This is a title I may well desire. It presents the only real purpose in my life. There is no other subject in my personal conduct or relationships that is worth considering separate from this. If I am really approved of God, then I must be right in everything else, for he cannot approve that which is wrong. If every duty is fulfilled according to his will, my obligations to all others are discharged. This is what he commands. Less than this he will not approve. But he cannot approve anything in me, in its own worth. My very best acts are all defiled with sin. He first pardons and accepts me in his Son--acknowledges me personally as his child and servant--then guides me by his Spirit to fulfill his will. And then approves my work, though it is all infirm and unworthy. This is the comfort of his people. And this is one important feature and instrument of their influence abroad. Am I one of them thus approved of God?
1. Then I shall be very indifferent to the judgment of men. Why should I ever feel concerned about that? They must judge according to mere appearance. Very often they do not judge righteous judgment. If I am to follow their opinions in everything, I shall be tossed like a wave of the sea. They disagree on every side. They cannot read my heart. They do not understand my motives. They make no allowance for my infirmities. They cannot exercise a unselfish judgment even of what they see. I shall pay but little attention to their judgments. I will try to do right in everything, rather than to appear right to them. Yet, I am to despise no man. I am not to be indifferent to the effect of my conduct upon them, especially upon the welfare of their souls. I must endeavor to do everything to their edification. But I cannot be governed by their judgments, nor be moved by their censure. I must live above them all, and strive to be approved in the sight of God. His judgment is according to truth.
2. Then God will approve in my own conscience. He speaks there by the voice of his Spirit. He makes me know what he requires of me, and gives me a blessed consciousness in doing his will. I know that the conscience is often dark, ignorant, and deceived. I cannot rest upon all its suggestions as an infallible guide. But when I sincerely desire to do the will of God, and honestly strive to know what he requires of me, and faithfully to follow it, I shall have the witness of his Spirit in my conscience, that he approves and accepts me. This will always be a source of peace and comfort which will outweigh every outward hostility of man.
With a conscience void of offence, I may lay down in peace and sleep, for God makes me to dwell in safety. It is the great happiness of the Christian in the path of duty. It announces to him the approbation of God. It strengthens him for every duty and labor. It makes him not to count his life dear unto himself, so that he may thus finish his course with joy. Let me exercise myself herein continually. With God's approval within, I shall always rejoice. I will look for it. I will ask him for it. I will labor to maintain a mind that can intelligently and justly receive it.
3. Then my conduct and character are to be conformed to his word. This must remain the great and abiding standard. Forever is this word settled in heaven. According to its principles and commands must I be judged--according to them must I be governed. My life may be very imperfect and infirm, and yet be conformed to God's word. It judges according to the integrity of my principles, not according to the perfection of my fruits. By its standard my conduct must be tried. Let the church thus try it. Let my family thus try it. Let the world thus try it. By this standard I must abide. If I am living and walking according to it, then I am approved of God; if his word justifies and sustains me, the opinions of men are of no account. Oh that I might have a more simple regard to this great standard; and be more anxious and determined to walk by it! The day will come that all will and must approve a course that was so laid out and so controlled. That day will try the ways of the people of God, and they shall have their praise of him.
4. Then his providence will also sustain me. He will make all things work together for good to those who love him. His word is full of promises, which cover the whole course of my life. They will surely be fulfilled. He will stand by me when others forsake me. He will make the wrath of man to praise him. He will make his truth triumphant, when enemies assail it. He will give victory to his chosen in the day of battle. Why should I ever doubt it? He is "the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?" Ah, how easily can he make foes stumble and fall! How easily, if my ways please him, can he make even my enemies to be at peace with me. My reputation is his property, an instrument in his service, and he will guard it. He will bring forth my righteousness like the light. Let me trust in him, and fear not. Let me go forth in my appointed path, and leave him to sustain me, and show his sentence according to his will. "He is near that justifies me." I will set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.
5. How precious is this Divine approval! Approved unto God! What can be better for me? I shall out-live all other judgments. But his remains. I may well be indifferent to them. But oh, to have his voice in my conscience sustaining me--his sacred word confirming me--and his gracious providence justifying me--how great and inestimable is this blessing to me! His future approbation I do not now connect with this. Let me think of this under its appropriate title." His present approval! This I will pursue. This I will prize.
Give to the winds your fears–
Hope, and be undismayed,
God hears your sighs, and counts your tears;
God shall lift up your head.
Through wars, through clouds, and storms,
He gently clears your way--
Wait then his time, so shall your night
Soon end in joyous day.