Our greatest spiritual victories do not always come by our being delivered from trials and adverse circumstances. Paul has been speaking of “tribulation … distress … persecution … famine … nakedness … peril [and] sword,” and he says that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” Many times the Lord manifests His grace to us in and during a time of trouble, before He delivers us from it. His promise is that “he shall call upon Me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him.” It is gloriously true that “the righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles,” and that though “many are the afflictions of the righteous … the Lord delivereth him out of them all,” yet we can also say to Him that “Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress,” and “I called upon the Lord in distress: the Lord answered me, and set me in a large place.” Many times we have to say with the psalmist, “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept Thy word.”
“I will deliver thee,” He does declare, This word so blessed He has spoken, But He giveth grace in the trial itself And stays near to the heart that is broken.
Strange to say and sad to say, we who know the Lord are many times guilty of fearing “the reproach of men,” as if such reproach was of eternal consequence. We forget that “the fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe.” Suppose that we are reproached of men because of our trust in the Lord, or suppose that we are reviled because we “walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,” is it not better to have the Lord’s approval than to have the approval of men? “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man,” even the best of men. “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?” “The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me,” and “Thou shalt hide them in the secret of Thy presence from the pride of man: Thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues.” “My help cometh from the Lord.”
Kept from man’s anger, kept from his hate, Kept by God’s power and grace, We look above to Jesus our Lord, With no need to fear man’s face.
Many different kinds of testing and trials come to the Christian. It may be misunderstanding or ridicule or scorn; it may be sickness, poverty or peril. But God in grace permits these things and tempers them. And He sends them only “if need be.” “Though He cause grief, yet will He have compassion according to the multitude of His mercies. For He doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.” He seeks to help us, not to hurt us. “No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” Thus God desires “that no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.” Moreover, “our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” And in every trial, He says to us that “My grace is sufficient for thee.”
To him who would honor and please the Lord, Afflictions and testings shall surely come, But He weighs the load before He gives it; His grace abundant ever leads toward home.
There is much loose thinking on the part of Christians, not always evil thoughts, but also thoughts that are vain and useless. Thus God calls upon His redeemed children to “gird up the loins of your mind,” “casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” Outward life is the result of our inward thinking, and our heavenly Father desires that we “be not conformed to this world: but be … transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” It is true of all of us that “as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” It is not humanly possible to control our thought life; it must be by God’s grace and power. The psalmist knew the secret when he said, “I hate vain thoughts: but Thy law do I love.” It is as we fill our hearts and minds with God’s Word and walk in obedience to it that we can “gird up the loins of your mind” and “set your affection on things above.”
Thoughts of righteousness, thoughts of peace, Thoughts that glorify our Lord, Thoughts taken captive by His grace, Thoughts that are molded by God’s Word.
What untold solace and encouragement it brings to our hearts to know that “the Lord knoweth.” Whatever trials may beset us, however grieved our hearts may be, however much we are misunderstood by friends or foes, though we “are in heaviness through manifold temptations,” still “the Lord knoweth,” for “all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do,” even Him who “calleth His own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them.” And He says to His own, “Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art Mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” Let us follow the example of David, who “encouraged himself in the Lord his God,” for “He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”
The floods overflow, and the trials overwhelm, And the heart is as heavy as stone, But His Word comes to us, “Be of good cheer,” For He will never leave us alone.
How great are the tender mercies of our God. “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.” How unlike us He is. We, in our dealings with each other, are prone to be ungracious, quick to become angry, and short on mercy. But He calls upon us who know Him to manifest His character. “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” To Him “belong mercies and forgivenesses.” So “be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love.” Let it not be said of us that “they remembered not the multitude of Thy mercies,” but rather, “let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart.” Let the assurance of His tender mercies comfort our hearts. He “crowneth thee with loving-kindness and tender mercies. … He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him.”
Merciful and gracious, full of compassion, Yet righteous and holy is our God above, Dealing with us in tenderness and kindness, Never forsaking His grace and His love.
If the believer is to please and honor his Lord, there are not only certain things which he must pursue and follow by the grace of God, but there are also certain things which he must refuse and deny. We are called to “ever follow that which is good,” and to “follow after the things that make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.” We need to “seek peace, and pursue it.” But the grace of God is also constantly “teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” And rather than be ensnared by “the love of money,” we instead ought to “flee these things, and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.” We who know the Lord are responsible to refuse and deny sin in our lives and associations. “Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.” For needed power to do this, “put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” “Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.”
If we would live for Christ’s glory, And walk with Him in the way, We must deny all sin’s wooings, Taking grace from Him each day.
Blessed indeed are they who wholeheartedly seek to obey the Word of God. To do so is to seek Him, our blessed Lord, who said that “the Scriptures … are they which testify of Me.” “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.” To “keep His testimonies” is to honor Him. He said, “If ye love Me, keep My commandments,” and “if a man love Me, he will keep My words.” “Blessed are they that keep judgment, and he that doeth righteousness at all times.” Truly, “blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” Be sure that “ye are doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. … A doer of the work … shall be blessed in his deed,” for “blessed are they that hear the word of God, and do it.”
Hear the Word, and do it; Fail not its plea to heed; Your Lord shall be honored, And you’ll be blessed indeed.
A joyless Christian is a powerless Christian, both in maintaining his own life and in communicating help to others. God wants His joy to grip our hearts, no matter what state of things may surround us. “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” The Lord desires us to be “exceeding joyful in all our tribulation.” He desires to “fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” Much joy ought to be connected with our salvation, and only broken fellowship with the Lord can rob us of that joy. When that happens, let us come quickly to the Lord in confession, praying, “Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free Spirit.” Hard circumstances and bitter trials ought not to nullify our joy in the Lord, for we can be “as sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing.” Therefore, “count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations [testings].” “My soul shall be joyful in the Lord: it shall rejoice in His salvation,” and thus “with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation,” finding that “the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Joy when the heart is burdened, Joy when trials we face, Joy in the Lord’s great mercy, Joy in Him and His grace.
God wants the hearts of His redeemed people to be filled with His own “peace always by all means.” He is “the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant.” On the night before the cross, our Lord said to His own, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” Peace is just the opposite of agitation and fear. God does not want us to be continually stirred up about our problems or our circumstances. He wants us to have His peace in our hearts, irrespective of our circumstances. He has told us to “be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” So “let the peace of God rule in your hearts … and be ye thankful.” “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee.”
Peace when there is trouble? Peace when the heart is sore tried? Yes, His own peace to guard us, When we in Jesus abide.