Lessons God Would Have Us Learn
SOME TEACH that “miracles” are the thing; they are the ultimate sign of God’s blessing and loving care; that God wants you well and is ever-ready to give you a miracle to make it so. But empirical evidence in man’s Cyle of Life just will not bear that out. If you will study the history of miracles through human history, even in all of the Bible accounts of miracles, you will not find this doctrine to stand up under scrutiny. Even the adherents to this doctrine, primarily the Pentecostals and Charismatics, have to admit that God does not heal everyone that prays for a healing, but they tend to blame the failure on the afflicted one or whoever is doing the praying, that he or they just “don’t have enough faith.” They teach that God certainly is willing, so it must be our lack of faith when healing is not in evidence. In essence, if God does not work according to what the sinner asks, it must be the sinner’s fault, his lack.
No matter how sincere these adherents are to such a doctrine, all recorded history and the scarcity of even Bible miracles proves the doctrine is not true. In fact, it is a cruel doctrine, teaching something that God does not teach us and denying His wise use of the sufferings and afflictions of man while he is in this sin-cursed world.
It is far more comforting—and, yes, it is also scriptural—to teach that God’s will and purpose is being done regardless of sickness or good health; that He has a higher purpose if He says “no” to the sincere prayers of His saints.
Does this make God less loving? God forbid! Perish the thought! In Heaven and the eternal realms of glory there is no sickness and disease or death. Still saints are ultimately healed by Christ’s stripes. We know God is working out His divine purpose on this earth. He has all-power, but He also has all-wisdom. And seeing the state of His people and even man in general, He means for some things to “take their course,” for consequences to be seen and reaped, for judgments to be executed, for the chastisements of His people to be tasted for their good, and even for the very conforming process to make them like Christ Jesus their Savior. He wisely wills their sanctification, their perfection, the refining of the gold which has to have the dross burned off even in a furnace of affliction. THIS IS GOD’S PURPOSE. And man being sinful, no perfect-health status for all time would accomplish what even a little affliction can accomplish. He knows this. He is all-wisdom. The doctrine that God wants you rich and in good health always is not true doctrine. What is true “in heaven” does not mean we can have it “on earth” at this time. “Are we there yet?” No, we are not THERE yet.
King David, that tried saint of God and the author of so many psalms says in Psalms 119:67, “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept Thy word. Thou art good, and doest good; teach me Thy statutes.”
What about you? Can you also say, “Yes, Lord, even if you must afflict me to keep me from straying, or to call me back, then afflict me. I want to keep Thy Word and know and keep Thy statutes. I want my life to be holy; I want to be conformed to Christ Jesus and be like Him, even though it takes a cross of affliction, or sickness—or whatever You see needful for such holy purpose.”
God being wise, if He sees that affliction is even necessary, and yet He would withhold it and instead spoiled you with a life of ease and always good health to the detriment of your spiritual health, then He would not be showing His love and wisdom. He meets the needs of His people, the REAL needs, even when those needs are hidden from us and not realized.
It is so evident that the psalmist David realized his great need, though it took affliction to even SHOW him the real need.
The Lord is the GOOD Shepherd. I have heard that a shepherd of sheep will sometimes break the leg of a straying sheep to keep him from straying. Such is a necessary and loving act.
Regardless of man’s inherent desire for utopia on earth, this life is not a Retirement Center with glorious gardens, peaceful meadows flowing with exhilarating water-falls. This life is a battlefield, a training camp, where the enemies of the world, the flesh and the devil are to be overcome through the blood and strength of the Lord Jesus Christ. This world is not our permanent home, though by nature we are so inclined to think and act like we are going to live here forever. God’s purpose is to TEACH US DIFFERENTLY. Otherwise, we might even fall prey to our idols and our own fleshly desires. Our spiritual muscles, by lack of exercise, would then become weak and flabby, and could even atrophy.
“Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are excercised thereby.” (Hebrews 12:11)
“For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chaseteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof ALL are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.” (Hebrews 12:6-8)
In this battlefield, in this training camp, men need strong meat to grow and for strength, even to know good and evil, to accept what is true and reject what is false.
“For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:13,14)
Lessons from God to Learn:
- Gifts from God are on loan; they can be taken away by the God who gave them.
- It is too human to take God’s gifts for granted; we don’t fully appreciate the water until the well runs dry.
- Christians are pilgrims on earth. We are not to rest as though this is our permanent home, but to yearn, as Abraham did, for that “city not made with hands, whose Builder is God.”
- Even sorrow, grief and death can turn and cut loose to a large extent our attachment to this world and turn our affections to eternal values, to our home with our heavenly Bridegroom, causing us to cry and yearn for His kingdom of total righteousness.
- Afflictions can keep us from sin and help deliver us from sin, making the meditations of our heart pleasing and acceptable to God.
- God has all-power; God has full control of the universe, of everything. If God did NOT have full control, He could not say, “All things work together for good to those who love God, to the called according to His purpose.” If He did not have full control He would not even be sure that His PURPOSE would come to pass. That is very unthinkable, for the scriptures teach the opposite. He sees the end from the beginning and He brings His purposes to pass and “none can stay His hand” or say to Him, “What doest Thou?”
God uses afflictions and sorrow, turning them into good, for even making His children what He has designed and purposed them to be—jewels in the temple of God. He even uses DEATH to turn our thoughts to Him and build our affections and desires to be with Him where He is, to crave His love and presence as a lover does his or her beloved. He even uses death to RELEASE us from earth, to fly to Him.
If God did not have all power, He could not turn bad things to work good for His people; He could not take the evil that Satan intends for our destruction, and turn it to God’s glory and to even further advance the spiritual character of the redeemed—the very redeemed that have been previously held in the clutches of that wicked serpent, the devil himself. So NOW nothing, no creature and no thing, can separate God’s sheep from the shepherd love of God.
- By affliction, sorrow and grief that can come from losing one so beloved by us, a bit more of the magnitude of sins of omission, even after dealing with sins of commission, is made known to us. We learn more that sin in whatever form falls short of the glory of God and needs to be repented of. “For godly sorrow worketh repentance.” (2 Corinthians 7:10)
- Especially from sorrow and grief caused by the loss of a mate, we learn by experience that life is indeed as a vapor, or as a tale that is told, fleeting as a weaver’s shuttle. We learn, as God would have us learn, that we need to “redeem the time” for good, while we HAVE time in hand. We can’t “redeem time” when there is no more time! Scriptures teach that we are to work while it is day, for night comes when no man can work.
When I comment against some false doctrine held by Pentecostals or Charismatics, understand that I am not speaking against what the Bible calls being “filled with the Spirit,” or walking in faith, but all that glitters is not gold. “But the just shall live by faith.” A man of faith praying in faith does not mean being fully assured God is going to do all you ASK Him to do just because He is ABLE. To assume He is willing because He is ABLE is presumption, not faith. Faith is His so making it plain to your spirit what His will is, and it somehow being revealed to you so FAITH COMES DOWN with full assurance. This can happen, but it is quite rare. Many assume Oral Roberts was such a man of faith, but I read an account where he once had a healing campaign with a tribe of Indians. So, according to him, he had the faith to heal them; and they who were lined up for healing certainly had faith—at least in the “healer.” But they were not being healed. It seems he may have feared what the Indians would do if mass healings did not take place. The account said he slipped out and left on his plane while the Indians were still waiting in the healing line. Was it fakery or what? Pretend faith? It was not Biblical miracles. This does not mean that “other denominations” have little or no truth, though many are void of much truth. One main evil of “denominationalism” is the assumption that truth lies only with them. But God is not in a box; His truth is too vast to be so contained. His gifts are spread among far more than those in your own “denominational circle” of influence. Who has ALL truth? Who is free from all error? Where do God’s gifts stop? All have their doctrinal and theological sins of commission and omission.
I want to take the remaining pages to bless you with some excerpts by the old writer, Horatius Bonar, taken from his chapter on The Consolation. It comes from a soul that experienced many of the deep things of God. Please read closely, and take time to dwell your heart in a season of meditation.
If you have lost a believing mate and a large part of your grief is due to your not being able to now love, provide and care for her, you can take comfort in a reality you know to be true, that her Loving Lord now cares and provides better than you ever could, and He knows full well of the desires of your heart.—Glen Berry
by Horatius Bonar
“TO BRING MANY SONS UNTO GLORY,” was the end for which the Son of God took flesh and died. This was no common, no inferior object. So vast and worthy did Jehovah deem it that it pleased Him for the attaining of it to “make the captain of their salvation perfect through suffering” (Heb. 2:10). It was an object worthy of the God “for whom are all things, and by whom are all things.” It was an object glorious enough to render it “becoming” in Him to make Jesus pass through suffering and death, and to justify the Father in not sparing His only begotten Son.
They for whom God has done all this must be very precious in His sight. He must be much in earnest indeed to bless them and to take them to be with Him forever. As He so delighted in Enoch that He could no longer bear the separation and the distance, but took him to be with Him without tasting death, and long ere he had run the common race of man, so with His saints. He is making haste to bring them to glory, for the day of absence has been long.
The glory which He has in reserve for them must be surpassing glory, for it was to bring them to it that He was willing to bruise His Son and to put Him to grief. Eye has not seen it; ear has not heard it; it is far beyond what we can comprehend, yet it is all reality. God is not ashamed to be called our God because He has prepared for us a city. Were that city not worthy of Himself He would be ashamed to have called Himself by the name of “our God.” For that implies large blessings on His part, and it leads to large expectations on ours-expectations which He cannot disappoint.
He did not count this glory to be bought for us at too dear a rate, even though the price was the sufferings of His only begotten Son. If, then, God thus estimated the glory to which we were brought, shall not we do the same? If He thought it worth all the sufferings of His Son, shall we not think it worth our poor sufferings here? Shall we not say, “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).
This is consolation. It is that which most naturally occurs to us, and it is both scriptural and effectual. This is what is usually presented to the afflicted saint, and it is what he feels to be very precious and suitable. But though the most common and the most natural consolation, it is by no means the only one. Let us suggest a few others.
1. Jesus weeps with us. “In all our affliction he is afflicted.” He knows our sorrows, for He has passed through them all, and therefore He feels for us. He is touched with the feeling of our griefs as well as of our infirmities. Man—very man—man all over, even in His glory, He enters most fully into the fellowship of our burdens and sorrows whatever these may be, for there is not one which He did not taste when He “dwelt among us” here. His is sympathy, deep, real and true. It is no fiction, no fancy. We do not see His tears falling upon us; neither do we clasp His hand nor feel the beating of His heart against ours. But still His communion with us in suffering is a reality. We may not understand how it can be. But He understands it; and He can make us feel it, whether we can comprehend it or not.
2. We are made partakers of Christ’s sufferings. What honor is this! We are baptized with His baptism; we drink of His cup, we are made like Him in sorrow as we shall hereafter be made like Him in joy! How soothing and sustaining! If reproach, and shame, and poverty are ours, let us remember that they were His also. If we have to go down to Gethsemane, or up to the cross, let us think that He was there before us. It is when keeping our eye on this that we are brought somewhat to realize the feeling of the apostle when he “rejoiced in his sufferings” for the Church, as “filling up that which is behind (literally the leavings of Christ’s sufferings) of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church” (Col. 1: 24). To be treated better than Christ, is neither what a thoughtful soul could expect,, nor what a loving heart could desire.
3. Suffering is the family lot. This we have already dwelt upon, and we refer to it simply to present it more prominently as a consolation. The path of sorrow is no unfrequented way. All the saints have trodden it. We can trace their footprints there. It is comforting, nay, it is cheering to keep this in mind. Were we cast fettered into some low dungeon, would it not be consolation to know that many a martyr had been there before us; would it not be cheering to read their names written with their own hands all round the ancient walls? Such is the solace we may extract from all suffering, for the furnace into which we are cast has been consecrated by many a saint already.
4. All things work together for our good. Nothing is unsuitable, unseasonable or unprofitable. Out of all evil comes good to the saints; out of all darkness comes light; out of all sorrow comes joy. Each pang, sharp or slight, is doing its work—the very work which God designs, the very work which we could not do without. The forces of earth, unless they all bear in one line, or nearly so, tend to counteract each other and arrest the common impulse. But the forces which God brings to bear upon us in affliction are all directly and necessarily impulsive. Come from what quarter they may, or from opposite quarters all at once, they still bear us successfully forward. “All things work together for good.” “All things are ours” (1 Cor. 3:21).
5. There is special grace for every trial. As trials bring to light the weakness that is in us, so they draw out the strength of God to meet that weakness—new resources of strength and grace which we never knew before. In affliction, we may be quite sure of learning something more of God than we were acquainted with before, for it is just in order to furnish an opportunity for bringing out this and showing it to us, that He sends the trial. How little should we know of Him were it not for sorrow! What fullness of blessing comes out to us, what riches of love are spread out before us in the dark and cloudy day!
6. Affliction is our fullest opportunity for glorifying God. It is on earth that He expects to get glory from us, glory such as angels cannot give, glory such as we shall not be able to give hereafter. It is here that we are to preach to angels; it is here we are to show to them what a glorious God is ours. Our whole life below is given us for this. But it is especially in sorrow and under infirmity that God looks for glory from us. What a God-honoring thing to see a struggling, sorrowing child of earth cleave fast to God, calmly trusting in Him, happy and at rest in the midst of storm and suffering! What a spectacle for the hosts of heaven! Now is the time for the saints to give glory to the Lord their God. Let them prize affliction as the very time and opportunity for doing so most of all. Let them use such a season well. And what consolation to think that affliction is really such a season! Surely it is one which an angel might covet, which an archangel would gladly stoop to were that possible! They can glorify God much in heaven amid its glory and blessedness, but not half so much as we can on earth amid suffering and shame!
7. We are getting rid of sin. Each pain is a nail driven through some sin, another blow inflicted on the flesh, destroying the very power of sinning. As we entered on our first life, sin fastened its chain upon us, and link after link twined itself about us. When we commenced our second and better life these began one by one to untwine themselves. Affliction untwines them faster; and though it is not till we are laid on our death-bed, or till Jesus come, that the last link of earth is thoroughly untwined or broken, still it is consolation to think that each successive trial is helping on the blessed consummation. A lifetime’s sufferings would not be too long or too heavy, if by means of them we got rid of sin and sinful ways and tempers, and became more holy, more heavenly, more conformable to the image of the Lord. God drives affliction like a wedge between us and the world; or He sends it like a ploughshare right across our most cherished hopes and brightest prospects, till He thoroughly wearies us of all below. “He hath made me weary,” said Job. Nor do we wonder at the complaint. He might well be weary. So with us. God makes us weary too, weary all over-thoroughly weary. We get weary of a present evil world, weary of self, weary of sin, weary of suffering, weary of this mortal body, weary of these vile hearts, weary of earth-weary of all but Jesus! Of Him no trial can weary us. Suffering only endears Him the more. Blessed suffering that makes Him appear more precious and the world more vile; that brings Him nearer to our hearts and thrusts the world away!
8. We are preparing for usefulness while here. We have but a few years below, and it concerns us much that these should be useful years. We have but one life, and it must be laid out for God. But we need preparation for usefulness. We need a thorough breaking down, a thorough emptying, a thorough bruising. God cannot trust us with success till we are thus laid low. We are not fit to receive it; nor would He get the glory. Therefore He sends sore and heavy trials in order to make us vessels fit for the Master’s use. And oftentimes we see that the heaviest trials are forerunners of our greatest usefulness. When we are entirely prostrated and crushed, then it is safe to grant us success, for God gets all the glory. And what wonders has God often done by bruised reeds! It is the bruised reed that is most often the instrument in His hand for working His mighty signs and wonders. What consolation is this! Suffering is stripped of half its bitterness if it thus brings with it a double portion of the Spirit, and fits for double usefulness on earth.
9. We have the Holy Spirit as our Comforter. He is mighty to comfort as well as to sanctify. His name is ‘the Comforter.’ His office is to console. And in the discharge of this office He puts forth His power, not only mediately and indirectly through the Word, but immediately and directly upon the soul, sustaining and strengthening it when fainting and troubled. It is consolation unspeakable to know that there is a hand, a divine and omnipotent hand, laid upon our wounded spirit, not only upholding it, but drying up as it were the very springs of grief within. In the day of oppressive sorrow, when bowed down to the dust, what is there that we feel so much we need as a hand that can come into close and direct contact with our souls to lift them up and strengthen them? For it is here that human consolation fails. Friends can say much to soothe us, but they cannot lay their finger upon the hidden seat of sorrow. They can put their arm around the fainting body, but not around the fainting spirit. To that they have only distant and indirect access. But here the heavenly aid comes in. The Spirit throws around us the everlasting arms, and we are invincibly upheld. We cannot sink, for He sustains, He comforts, He cheers. And who knows so well as He how to sustain, and comfort, and cheer?
10. The time is short. We have not a pilgrimage like Seth’s or Noah’s, or even like Abraham’s to pass through. Ours is but a hand-breadth in comparison with theirs. We have not many days to suffer, nor many nights to watch, even though our whole life were filled with weary days and sleepless nights. “Our light affliction is but for a moment.” And besides the briefness of our earthly span, we know that the coming of the Lord draws nigh. This is consolation, for it tells not only of the end of our tribulation, but of the beginning of our triumph; and not only of our individual rest from trouble, but of the rest and deliverance of the whole Church together. For then the whole “body of Christ,” waking or sleeping, shall be glorified with their glorified Lord, and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads.
In the day of bereavement, the day of mourning over those who have fallen asleep in Jesus, this consolation is especially precious. Them that sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. And if the Lord be near, the time of reunion may not be far off. They that lie down at evening have a whole night’s slumber before them; but they who lie down towards morning have, it may be, but an hour or less till the dawn awakes them. So with the dead in Christ in these last days. They will not have long to sleep, for it is now the fourth watch of the night, and the day-star is preparing to arise. What consolation! How it soothes the pain of parting! How it cheers the wounded spirit! “Awake, and sing, ye that dwell in dust,” is now our watchword every day.
11. All is love. Affliction is the expression of paternal love. It is from the deepest recess of the fountain of love that sorrow flows down to us. And love cannot wrong us. It blesses, but cannot curse. Its utterances and actions are all of peace and gladness. It wants a larger vessel into which to empty itself, and a deeper channel through which to flow. That is all. It seeks to make us more susceptible of kindness, and then to pour that kindness in. Yes, love is the true, the one origin of the sharpest stroke that ever fell upon a bleeding heart. The truth is, there is no other way of accounting for affliction but this. Anger will not account for it, forgetfulness will not account for it, chance will not account for it. No. It is simply impossible to trace it to any cause but love. Admit this as its spring, and all its harmonious, comely, perfect. Deny it, and all is confusion, cruelty, and darkness. Chastising love is the most faithful, pure, and true of all. Let this be our consolation.
Beloved, “it is well.” It is good to be afflicted. Our days of suffering here we call days of darkness; hereafter they will seem our brightest and fairest. In eternity we shall praise Jehovah most of all for our sorrows and tears. So blessed shall they then seem to us that we shall wonder how we could ever weep and sigh. We shall then know how utterly unworthy we were of all this grace. We did not deserve anything, but least of all to be afflicted. Our joys were all of grace—pure grace—much more our sorrows. It is out of the “exceeding riches of the grace of God” that trial comes.