Strength Made Perfect in Weakness

Luke 9:10-56
10And the apostles, when they were returned, told him all that they had done. And he took them, and went aside privately into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida. 11And the people, when they knew it, followed him: and he received them, and spake unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing. 12And when the day began to wear away, then came the twelve, and said unto him, Send the multitude away, that they may go into the towns and country round about, and lodge, and get victuals: for we are here in a desert place. 13But he said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they said, We have no more but five loaves and two fishes; except we should go and buy meat for all this people. 14For they were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, Make them sit down by fifties in a company. 15And they did so, and made them all sit down. 16Then he took the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed them, and brake, and gave to the disciples to set before the multitude. 17And they did eat, and were all filled: and there was taken up of fragments that remained to them twelve baskets. 18And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am? 19They answering said, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others say, that one of the old prophets is risen again. 20He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God. 21And he straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing; 22Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day. 23And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. 24For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. 25For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? 26For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy angels. 27But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God. 28And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. 29And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering. 30And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: 31Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. 32But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him. 33And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said. 34While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud. 35And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him. 36And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen. 37And it came to pass, that on the next day, when they were come down from the hill, much people met him. 38And, behold, a man of the company cried out, saying, Master, I beseech thee, look upon my son: for he is mine only child. 39And, lo, a spirit taketh him, and he suddenly crieth out; and it teareth him that he foameth again, and bruising him hardly departeth from him. 40And I besought thy disciples to cast him out; and they could not. 41And Jesus answering said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and suffer you? Bring thy son hither. 42And as he was yet a coming, the devil threw him down, and tare him. And Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the child, and delivered him again to his father. 43And they were all amazed at the mighty power of God. But while they wondered every one at all things which Jesus did, he said unto his disciples, 44Let these sayings sink down into your ears: for the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men. 45But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not: and they feared to ask him of that saying. 46Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest. 47And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a child, and set him by him, 48And said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great. 49And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. 50And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us. 51And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, 52And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. 53And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. 54And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? 55But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. 56For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village. (Luke 9:10‑56)I desire to say a few words in connection with what was said this morning, because, I think, when the Spirit of God strikes a note, we should seek to I follow it up, and I think I caught up one or two truths of what He then brought before us which I should like to follow out. I turn to a few points in the Scripture I have read which will illustrate what I mean.
We were hearing that divine power alone can elevate man. It does not develop man's resources; it makes a new man of him altogether. Human power can only develop what is already there, and an awful development it will be. When the Antichrist-the devil's man-will stand in the temple of God saying that he is God, that is what man's power, led on and helped by satanic power, can and will do. We know the end from the beginning, because we see that in the cross of Christ. I see there what human power can do, when allowed to go to its fullest extent against God; that is what man's malice did; that is the measure given us by God of the first Adam's power.
Now it requires another power altogether to come in, and take us out of the condition we were in by nature, and to use us when we are out of it; and this is divine power. It comes in, and brings me into a new condition before Himself in identity with the Deliverer, and you must never separate your deliverance from the personal greatness and dignity of the Deliverer; it brings me into God's presence, and shows me all my necessities met by Another. Of course this is all anticipative of the chapter I have read. The disciples could not exercise the power that was with them until the Holy Ghost was given; but that day is passed now. The Lord says to them: " Give ye them to eat." Why can they not do so? And why cannot they cast out the devil? Because they did not know the power that was in their Master; they could not cast
out the devil because they were not occupied with Christ, and did not know the power that was with them. They had not come to the end of themselves, and of course they could not until they got to thu cross. I believe many a dear saint of God is in the mud about this at this very day. When we get to the end of ourselves, we reach a point where we are met by divine power.
Let me illustrate what I mean by a little circumstance that comes to my mind. A few weeks ago I was asked to go to see a poor woman who was afflicted with a fatal disease, and who had been crying out for years that there was not such a wicked woman as she was on the face of the earth. I soon found out that she was occupied with herself-with her badness. She reminded me of some persons who will talk about their pains as long as you like; not that they like of pain, but that they like to talk about themselves. " Tell me, Mrs. So and So I said, " if you had been at the cross of Christ, would you, with your unrestrained heart, have smitten the cheek of the Son of God?"―" Oh no! Oh no!" she said; " I know I am the wickedest woman in the place, but I would never do such a thing as that; I am not so bad as that! "―I read her different Scriptures in the Romans and such like to show what the heart of man is, and then said: " Now after such a picture as this which God gives you of yourself, do you still think that the devil could not have twisted your unrestrained heart so into his own shape as to make you smite the cheek of the Son of God if you had stood by the cross?"- She burst into tears, and said: " Oh, I never knew I was so wicked as that! Oh, what love was His to die for such a wretch as I am! "-And immediately she found perfect peace. And I believe many a saint of God is there-just occupied with their badness, and yet, if put to the test, will deny it. I ask every one of you my fellow saints here to-day, are you as bad as that? Could Satan have used you, had you been there, to have nailed the blessed Son of God to the tree? If you see yourself there, you have got to the place where grace can reach you, and where a power outside of yourself can come in.
Christ here reproves the disciples. Why so? Because they were occupied with themselves; they were occupied with the power that they wanted to feel in their resources; they wanted to feel that they could do something; they wanted to be powerful; they wanted to be strong.
Now where are we in reference to this? I do not want you to say where you ought to be, but where you are. This morning we were thanking the Lord that that day was come of which He had said, " In that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you." That day of power is now come, and God has revealed it to you. If the Lord Jesus says to you: " Give ye them to eat," I say: Yes, Lord. Why should I not say so? I say it because, though it would be an impossibility for me, yet it would be no difficulty for Him, and I have got Christ the power to meet the difficulty.
He cannot but rebuke them. "O faithless and perverse generation! how long shall I be with you and suffer you? Bring thy son hither." His blessed love does not give way for one instant, and, oh beloved! His heart abides with us ever the same. You say, the disciples were stupid people!-No! but it is we who are stupid people, who have got the Holy Ghost here, and who yet turn away from His power to seek it in our own resources.
How do I get hold of power? By dependence. It is through learning the want in myself that I am driven to look for a power outside me. Then we meet. Weakness is fit for power, and power for weakness. Just as hunger tells me that there is such a thing as food; hunger is not power, but it tells me there is such a thing as bread which will give my body power. Just as weakness tells me there is such a thing as strength; my very weakness tells me there is power to meet it. And, if my body lean on kindly and supporting strength, I become acquainted with more than strength; I become acquainted with the kindliness and grace that ministers the strength. God's power is just fitted for the saint's weakness, and the saint's weakness is just fitted for God's power; so we suit each other.
Here they were " all amazed at the mighty power of God," but they were not at all amazed at the power of the devil. How often we are like them! How often saints are astonished at the grace of God; we ought really to be astonished at the reverse. I think there is something of my own resources left if I am not occupied with God's power outside me.
There are three reasons which God gives us in this chapter why the disciples could not use the power that was at their disposal, even if they had understood it. I could not help thinking of them this morning when our brother was speaking of the bit of grit in the oyster. Here we find three bits of grit and three beautiful pearls that cover them.*
(* See page 81.)
The first bit of grit is in the forty-sixth verse. " Then there arose a reasoning amongst them, which of them should be greatest." That is personal selfishness: I like myself better than any one else. The question was "which of them should be greatest"-not here, but in the kingdom. Now let me put you to the test as to this. Do you want to get a better place than any one else in the glory? Are you thinking of what you will get, or is it what Christ will get in His people when He has them there around Him? Is it a better place in glory for you, or is it what Christ Himself will get in you?
If I have not reached my moral end in the cross of Christ, I have never yet got rid of self. You may try, try, try, to get rid of it, but you never will, and Satan will only laugh at you. There is no end for self but in the cross. There God is before me-God manifest in the flesh-God revealed in a man down here that I may look at Him. If He had not been a man he could not have been manifested that we might see Him; and if he had not been God He could not have spanned the distance that lay between us and God. But, having become man without ceasing to be God, in order to do both, He who once measured our distance on the cross, now measures our nearness in the glory. Thus self is gone. It does not cease to exist, but, it is gone as to occupation with itself. If it intrude, it can but detach you from the One who, having won your affections, is the alone object that can fully satisfy the tastes and desires of your new affections. " I am crucified with Christ:" that is the grit. " Nevertheless I live:" that is the pearl. Instead of odious self I have the brightest object in glory to occupy me. " Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."-That is the first pearl.
And now I turn to another bit of grit, which we find in the forty-ninth verse. "John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us." This is corporate selfishness. Here was " one casting out devils " in the name of Christ-exercising the power, that the disciples had failed to exercise, because they did not know the One that was with them. God never made sects and systems; God speaks only of " brethren;" and when we use God's words we always take in all saints. The disciples were not doing this here. Why is it we are "a peculiar people "? It is because we belong to the " my brethren " of the twentieth of John. The Lord brings us into His presence that He may reveal the Father to us, and place us in the same enjoyment and relationship as that in which He is Himself. The church, the body, is what God has made; it is not anything that man has made. What is the point of union to the believers of whom it is composed? The Lord Christ is the point of union-and the Holy Ghost is the unity-" the unity of the Spirit." Could you make it?, The thought is monstrous!
There is a thought here that I would refer to, as it is sometimes confused with another Scripture; I mean the fiftieth verse. " Jesus said unto them, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us, is for us." You know there is another verse that appears to contradict this in the twelfth of Matthew: " He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad." May I say a word upon this?
These two passages are in quite distinct connections. With regard to Luke it is a man walking according to his knowledge, putting down the devil, and who exercises power too that the disciples had failed to exercise. But in Matthew Christ is personally assailed, and then the Lord says, you must take sides now. You see that the two connections are utterly different. When Christ's person is assailed by adversaries, you must not put " nice Christians " first and Christ second; Christ must be one and "his name one;" and, believe me, when Christ is first, your love to " nice Christians " will be all the stronger.
With regard to this second point, it is human associations that is the grit; the church of God is the pearl. This is what God Himself has done; this is the mystery revealed to us now; that Christ Himself should have a body is the pearl that covers up all human associations-all human fraternities-all human clubs. We can now have nothing but what the Holy Ghost forms; we can say: " He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit;"-that is the, measure of our union with the Man in the glory.
The fifty-fourth verse is the next bit of grit that we get. "Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?" Here we get human energy going out for Christ-mere human energy, and nothing more; but mark you! it is for Christ. Do not you remember when Peter went astray he was full of self confidence? What mistakes he fell into! First he says, I am a better man than any at the table: " Although all shall be offended, yet will not I." The next thing we find him asleep; and the next thing we find him fighting; he draws the sword, but it is for Christ. Here they want to call down fire from heaven for Christ. It is human energy; and, let me say, that, when human energy is in exercise, though you may be working for Christ, yet you are not doing the work of Christ.-They go to another village; and afterward what we hear of them is, that one gets his head cut off for Christ's sake in Acts 12, and the other is found, instead of calling down fire from heaven, conferring the Holy Ghost in this very same Samaria in Acts 8
No power but that of the Holy Ghost will do. If you and I are active the Holy Ghost is passive; but if you and I are passive the Holy Ghost is active. Human resources are gone; human associations are gone human power is gone; and the Holy Ghost alone exercises His power. Now we see where we are. Where is self? It is mortified! But you will never give up this self, until you find out that it is the most odious thing in the world. Then you are called to get rid of it, and that in the simplest way possible; just by getting another object instead of it; by having the Son of God before your gaze; by letting Him fill your heart to the exclusion of self and all its belongings, while you lay your head on His heart.
Thus we have seen first personal selfishness set aside by occupation with Christ. Second we have had human associations set aside by the church of God. God has formed a unique thing in this day, and we belong to it alone, and to no human association whatever; and we have not made ourselves members of it; it is God who has made us members. And thirdly we get human zeal all gone and annihilated, and another power come in-the power of the Holy Ghost dwelling in believers and handling them.
Do you know the difference between the word handling you, and your handling the word? I hear people talking of handling the word, and a pretty mess they make of it! But, when I see it handling them, I find it soon makes an end of them! And, not only this, but it is then that you learn to love the word-to love the power that handles you. Does a child fear the power of its father? Look at the power of God; What use does He make of it? He has used it to put away your sins and enmities by judgment, in order that y&-ii might now be in the enjoyment of the bosom secrets of Him who once bore that judgment. All power was against Christ when the wrath of God was upon Him, yet, as we were hearing this forenoon in that beautiful sixteenth Psalm, He could say, " The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places," and that too in the intelligence of the divine mind as to all that awaited Him, including that dreadful cup which He deprecated. It was all the way through perfect dependence with Him No mere creature could have said such words as these, with the wrath of God before him. But what is now the difference between Christ and you? It is this; that the wrath of God being now behind Christ, and as much behind you as behind Christ, you also can say " The lines are fallen to me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage."
Thus you see we have got rid of the three bits of grit, and have three beautiful pearls instead of them. I have not to ask God to do all this for me; it is done. Oh, to know what Christ has wrought for us! The apostle says, God has "wrought us for this self same thing." Is not that Scripture language? And did God do His work badly? Did Christ do His work badly? No! Have I to ask Christ to make me fit for God? No! I do not want Him on the cross again, because the abiding efficacy of the work never loses its value, but I want Him for enjoyment-I want Him for communion-I want Him for fellowship-I want to learn more, and more, of Him through communion with Himself; I want to lean on His arm; and I want that the Father may be glorified in the suing of poor things like you and me in this world that still refuses Him.
May the Lord give our hearts the simplicity of little children; for He says we must be " as little children." Little children listen to the voice of their father, and believe every word that he says.
(H. H. M.)