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Mornings and Evenings with Jesus
Devotional: May 26th
I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe. - John 11:15.
THE sufferings of some are designed for the good of others. Here Jesus stays away from the sick Lazarus, and from his sorrowing relatives. At length the sweat of death bedews his brow and he expires! The sisters are filled with anguish; the servants are sobbing over the loss of one of the best of masters! Here is a scene of distress and wretchedness! And all this is not for the benefit of the individual, but for the advantage of the disciples of Christ. “I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe.” And this has a connection with Christian experience. As Christians suffer in various ways, so they suffer for various ends. Sometimes they are afflicted by way of correction. This is the law of the house:-“If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my statutes, then will I visit their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquities with stripes. Nevertheless, my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.”
Sometimes they suffer by way of prevention. Prevention is better than cure. Thus, Paul “had a messenger of Satan sent to buffet him,” not because he was proud, but “lest he should be exalted above measure.” He was not aware that he was becoming inflated; but the Lord saw and prevented that. Sometimes by way of probation. Hence afflictions are called trials, because they are a test to ourselves and others: they show the real state of grace and corruption. Sometimes they are for usefulness to ourselves and others. Ezekiel was forbidden to weep when the desire of his eyes was taken from him; not on his own account, but that he might be “a sign.” So it is with ministers. They are often poor, that they may sympathize; they are afflicted, that they may have “the tongue of the learned to speak a word in season to them that are weary.”
Thus Christians suffer for others. What is it we most admire in them? Is it their dress, their wealth, their equipage, their abilities? No; but we admire the social feeling; the heart that is tender; the eye into which the tear suddenly starts; the ear that is chained by the tale of distress; the hand that slides into the pocket before it is aware; the feet that lead them to visit the fatherless and the widow in their affliction. And where do we learn these fine feelings? In the house of affliction. “Be kind to strangers,” said God to the Jews, “for ye know the heart of a stranger.” We naturally weep with those that weep, when we have felt what they have felt. We never pass by him that says, “Have pity on me, O my friends, for the hand of God hath touched me!”
Christians ought never to glorify God more than when they are in the fires. God, by placing his people in trials, designs to show the tendency of the gospel and the excellency of his grace. Nothing strikes like facts. “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee; wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” By nothing may we be more useful than by the exercise of the passive graces.
Christians are called to be useful, and, while they suffer according to the will of God, they comfort the feeble-minded, while, by the grace of God which they display, the inhabitants of Zion may praise God afresh for them:-“For we are a spectacle to angels and to men.”
Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. - Titus 2:12.
HERE we see what the gospel teaches us to deny, and what it teaches us to do. It teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. We are therefore required to “lay aside all malice and guile, and hypocrisy and evil speaking,” and to receive with meekness the engrafted word-to put off the old man with his deeds, according to the deceitful lusts of the flesh-to put on the new man. It requires us not only to “cease to do evil,” but to “learn to do well.”
There are many people who are leaning on a negative religion; and a negative useless life is as criminal and as unchristian a life as a life of profligacy. The tree that brought not forth good fruit was hewn down. The servant that was unprofitable was a wicked servant, and cast into outer darkness; not because he abused his talent, but because he hid it. Therefore, observe what the gospel teaches us to do, “to live soberly, righteously, and godly.” Here is a fine reference to the three parties concerned in all moral acts and duties-ourselves, our fellow-creatures, and our God. When we are sober minded, temperate in the indulgence of our passions, affections, appetites, and senses; when we are moderate with regard to all earthly things-not too eager to gain them-not too fond of possessing them-and not too sorrowful when we resign them-then we live soberly.
When whatsoever we would that men should do unto us we do so also unto them; when we render to all their due; obedience to whom obedience is due; honour to whom honour is due; pity to whom pity is due; relief to whom relief is due; money to whom money is due; when actuated by conscientiousness, we regard what is due to the souls and bodies of our fellow-creatures, then we live righteously. And when our hearts are right with God; when we believe in him, fear him, love him, resemble him; when we make his word our rule, and his honour our aim, and do all to the glory of God, then we live godly. And the Apostle reminds us where we are thus to live-namely, “in the present evil world.”
There is another world to which we are rapidly advancing, and with which we are intimately connected. The gospel teaches us to make religion our principal concern in this world. Its truths must be learned; its principles must be gained; audits disposition must be exercised in the present world. We must now, or never, acquire that taste that will prepare for the enjoyment of heaven. We must now, or never, obtain that capacity that will fit us for the employments of heaven. We must now be made “meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.” “Now, he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who has also given us the earnest of the Spirit.” And when the Apostle says that it must be in the present world, he means to show the possibility as well as necessity of the case.
Bad as the situation is, it is possible for the grace of God to teach a man to live righteously, soberly, and godly in the present world. There have already been instances of this, and there are instances now.
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