Griefs & Trials - JB Stoney
July 2, 2011
NOTE: In recently reading the ministry (JBS New Series vol. 12) shown below, I thought this particular ministry to be both timely and vital – especially in view of current and recent pressures being felt by many.
I have been impressed at different times in latter years that brothers of stature – while sympathizing fully with others in view of various griefs and trials – have emphasized and brought out the place of the Lord rather than reverting simply to human condolences. Our trials here – the trials of mankind – are very real. The Lord wept at the tomb of Lazarus. However, it must be noted that the Lord put out the crowd and the flute players at the house of the ruler prior to raising up the damsel. In like manner, Peter was shown with tears by the widows the body coats which the deceased Dorcas had made; however, he put them all out and then raised the sister.
We should be more and more impressed both with the glory and place of the Lord, and, while at times undergoing severe testing, how all things, also, are to work together for good for those who love God.
JORDAN LEARNED PRACTICALLY
“He bringeth down . . . and bringeth up.” Often when a serious illness befalls us, we experience what it would be if all natural lights here were extinguished; how one could part company with all here, and depart to be for ever with the Lord. This experience is very helpful; one finds that the Lord’s presence can be abundant compensation for every loss here. He is magnified to one’s heart in a moment like that; and even if the illness be removed, the experience taught, because of its dangerous nature, cannot be lost; you have learned to accept Jordan. True it is, that often in the first instance it is the prospect of one’s own dissolution which challenges the heart as to how it would bear to leave all here and go to the Lord. But when the challenge can be accepted in the words of Rebekah, “I will go”, the light and power of Jordan, of crossing this death with Christ to where He is, are known and enjoyed; and this knowledge and enjoyment remain, though the health be perfectly restored; one is able in the brightest circle of earthly blessings still to say, “I will go”, and not only so, but I know and enjoy the way to Him. This is really Jordan. My own death or dissolution is not Jordan. Jordan is when I am loosened from every tie here so absolutely by death with Christ that I can cross over in spirit to the place where He is, and become so formed in that place that I am in every divine relation on earth more truly for Him.
You see, it is a different thing to be loosened to every tie here when there is no hope of my being able to stay here, and to be so when I have plenty of natural vigour to enjoy them all. Christ surely is the joy of the heart when it cannot enjoy anything here; but He can he be its supreme joy when it has full natural ability to enjoy all His gifts hcre. Nay, He can be so much so, that it delights in parting company with all here, and in spirit crossing over to be with Him where He is.
When I know Christ fully as my Saviour, God’s love perfected to me, I delight to make much of Him at my own expense, as Jonathan stripped himself for David. Next, when I know Christ’s company as indispensable to me, like Ruth, I give up my own place (earth) for His place; but when I know Him above, as united to Him there, I can resume here in cheerful devotedness, like a faithful wife to an absent husband, in every position in which He is pleased to set me. Knowing His work for me, I strip myself for Him; knowing Himself, He is necessary to me, and I leave earth for heaven; but when I am in the restful enjoyment of union with Him, by which alone I reach Him in heaven, I resume here in faithful devotion to His interests.
FRUIT OR USEFULNESS
“FIRST the blade, then an ear, then full corn in the ear.” The last is fruit or usefulness; and all the previous growths were working to this end. The blade is the first manifestation of a distinct new existence here; and so it is when a christian takes a stand for the Lord. If you had not been born again in secret, like the grain in the soil, hidden from every eye, there could have been no blade. The blade at once declares your generation, as I may say. It is the first appearance of this new being here, but its first appearance (the blade) tells what it is; in your case it is seen that you are of Christ —a christian. Every one that can distinguish between one blade and another, immediately marks you off as a christian.
Many are very long before they are thus distinctly manifested, and sometimes they are very pleased with themselves, or their progress, when they have arrived at this definite growth, which answers to the blade, that is, to be distinctly recognised as a christian; but this is not enough. As the blade becomes really established an entirely new phase is reached, and that is the ear. The ear indicates that I am set for being useful; not useful yet. It is the purpose to be useful that the ear sets forth; as the blade has weathered many variations of climate, wind, rain, and sun, before it has reached the ear, so has the christian experienced many trials and hindrances, and surmounted them, before he has reached as visible his fixed purpose — to be of use here. In other words, to be for Christ here and to serve Him. When he has come to this, he has advanced from dwelling in and caring about himself and how things relate to him. To be for Christ is now the great purpose of his life. This is the ear. Where the purpose is simply this, the usefulness comes, which is the full corn in the ear. I believe the hindrance to most is the lack of single-eyed purpose to answer to the purpose of the Lord in leaving them here.
The Lord give you simple purpose to be here for Him; not only here definitely as one of His, but so devoted to Him that He may use you — that you may, like Ruth, be ready to do the smallest service which comes to your hand, because it is the one that is suitable at the time and pleasing to Him — not thinking of yourself, but how you may be here according to His pleasure.
THE TESTING OF FAITH
THERE is a cheering side to every divinely appointed pressure or disappointment. It is good to bear the yoke, and cheerfully too, or it would not be as Christ bore it. Where our wishes are checked, it is often not only better for us, but really less trying, than when they are gratified. I think we should get to comprehend in some measure every dealing of the Lord. Sometimes we think we have learned our lesson because we have faith about it; that is, we are really cast upon God as to it, and know that we are. But then comes the trying — the testing. The faith has to be tested, in order that we may be governed by it, and that it may be proved that it is not merely a sentiment in our minds, but a power over our whole being. It is not enough for a horse to be able to jump a fence, it is necessary that he should jump it, in order that his limbs should be made skilful in acting up to his power.
A weakness, be it bodily or otherwise, is sometimes allowed to continue in order that there may be dependence, and when there is dependence, the weakness becomes a gain; the grit — the trying thing — is superseded by a pearl.
Do not be trying to be anything, let the heart be what it is, as Christ is in it; and as to work, the greatest secret of doing everything well and pleasing to the Lord is giving your attention to the one thing at the time, so that that thing is the one attended to until it is finished. I have had often to say to a labourer when I called him to do something, ‘Finish what you are at first’. It is a great thing to work on cheerfully, expecting from none but the Lord; self-contained, a fountain, not a brook. This can only be when one is satisfied in the Lord. He delights in the soul that is satisfied in Himself, and can use such an one.
I CANNOT tell you, though I can tell the Lord, how thankful I was to get your letter. Varied are the ways by which the Lord leads us ‘round’, often not direct, when He would have us to teach others also. Moses was forty years in the wilderness before he was fit to lead the children of Israel. Caleb had to remain forty years in the wilderness after being assured of the land. He must not enter on possession without experience. Paul was allowed to diverge to Jerusalem, that he might be the unflinching witness of the setting aside of the old order of things, and that “the Christ”, in and from heaven, was now the centre and the manifestation of God’s ways and counsels. I think we are sometimes ready to say to the Lord, Could you not have taught me without subjecting me to so much sorrow and humiliation? The answer I have had is, ‘You could not be effectually taught any other way’. The Lord knows the nature of the obstacle in me which He has to overcome: a less efficient hand might think that it could be removed in some other way.
One great comfort is that the greater the struggle, and consequently the greater the victory on the Lord’s side, the greater champion you are for the truth. Paul, the greatest Pharisee, was the greatest witness of the free grace of God; and I, from my heart, desire and pray that you may now come out the great witness of Christ’s present interests on the earth.
“I WAS BROUGHT LOW, AND HE HELPED ME”
HE who loves you infinitely more than any of us is making your bed in your sickness. As we wait on Him we learn what His purpose is in the suffering — the wisdom of it. It comes from the deepest love; but the delay with us is in being able to see the wisdom of it. Jacob is crippled before he meets Esau; he is a self-reduced man before he is a triumphant one, through God’s own ordering. Joseph comes from a prison in Egypt to nearly the highest position there. “I was brought low, and he helped me.” The great gain in discipline is the helplessness which discloses the vanity of natural resources, but at the same time separates our hearts to God. Then we are “partakers of his holiness”. In Jordan “the living God” was known; and in the tediousness and irksomeness of illness there is a sense of the emptiness of everything, and the measure of one’s real resource in God is found out. I have said to a dear brother before now, surrounded by his family and natural comforts, ‘You enjoy the word and the Lord in your present circumstances, but I should like to know how much real spiritual enjoyment in the Lord you would have if these happy surroundings were broken up’. They were broken up afterwards, and no doubt with very great blessing to him.
In sickness one loses the power to enjoy, while in bereavement one loses the object to be enjoyed. I believe one learns differently in each. In illness I am occupied with myself, there the grievance is, and while there is life there is hope. It is my resourcelessness as to power that is impressed on me; while in bereavement it is my resourcelessness as to the place; I am lonely. My very health makes me the more keenly to feel like a tree with its branches torn off, which can never be restored. There is an end of hope in bereavement. In the one case myself is lost for a time to me; in the other, the stay of my heart may have gone for ever. Thus the Lord is the One who heals us in the one; and He only can fill up the blank in the other.
SORROW AND TRIAL (1)
“Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth”. Thus He shows His interest in us. His purpose is that we should be “partakers of his holiness”, a word used only once in Scripture. You have both passed through deep sorrow. The Lord not only measured the sorrow, but He is near you now to make Himself your solace. That the affliction is a gain in a twofold way; that is, on one hand you are detached by it from some “weight”, and on the other, you are more separated unto God. When you are in Christ’s path, He sympathises with you in your desolation, and you learn Him in a fuller way than ever before. The word (as we see in Hebrews 4) leads you into clear light exposing all the mixed motive and when you are in the right way, you find how He feels with you, and by His company not only consoles you, but effects for you the greatest blessing, even that of knowing Him better, and being more simply attached to Him. The deepest attachment is formed in sorrow that is, in your sorrow you find out the real value that any one is to you. No doubt Mary (John 11) learned more of the heart of Christ as He walked beside her to the tomb of Lazarus than she had ever known before. May you both, though sowing in tears, reap in joy.
To remain here after death has removed a beloved one gives one a right sense of the nature of the scene. The Lord has died here, and as we are true to Him we follow Him to the place where He is.
SORROW AND TRIAL (2)
HEARING of your deep sorrow I think you will like me to write you a few lines of sympathy. I often feel that if we truly entered into communion with His blood that is, being identified with His death, no death here would be a surprise to us. The greatest death — Christ death — has occurred here. He not only died here but He died on my account, which intensifies it immensely.
You never feel sorrow less because you have gone through much of it; nay, the more sorrow you have gone through, the more you feel every fresh sorrow. In our individual history there is no time in which our blessed Lord so peculiarly reveals Himself to us as in sorrow. Sorrow in itself makes one a recluse, but the Lord cannot be shut out, and when I know His sympathy in my sorrow, I am not only more attached to Him, but I am mellowed, I am sensible of a heart with the tenderest love touching my heart, and helping it, when I was ready to admit no one. The fact of finding Him beside me, and how He draws me to Himself, has wrought out in many a one a new era in the kingdom of love, a deeper tie to Him than ever; the very absoluteness of His love in its depths of tenderness has bound me absolutely to Him, and for Him, and I am weaned away from myself and the dark chamber of sorrow, into the bright and holy sense that I am an object of deepest interest to Him, and the very sense of this softens me into the gentleness and hope of a weaned child.
May you be thus blessed, and though you sow in tears you shall reap in joy!
SORROW AND TRIAL (3)
Itis a very blessed time when there is a real sense that every tie to this world is being loosened, and one is about to step into an entirely new place “with Christ”. Everything is real then. What He has done for us is deeply real; the nearer we are to Him, the more perfectly His love shines into our hearts. There is no fear when His love is perfected with me.
But it is not only that the dark side has been cleared away, but He Himself is made known to us, not only as the Saviour who has set us in unclouded peace with God for ever, but as our friend — “a friend loveth at all times”; “the shadow of a great rock in a weary land”. He is indispensable to us. We cannot do without Him. “His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me”. What a sense this gives us of His present consolation, as Paul says, “If there be . . . any consolation in Christ”. This is the greatest personal enjoyment now. I do not say, that standing here for Him, knowing our union with Him in heaven, does not lead us into a higher joy; but there is a more private joy, if I may so express myself, in sitting under His shadow with great delight, and His fruit sweet to my taste. It is what He is personally to me. I am restful in the perpetuity of His love, when I learn that I am united to Him; but it is the love that He has engendered and fostered in my heart privately with myself, which makes the union such a climax of bliss.
I send you this little line, that you may seek the more to know Him in this private way. He will bring you to His banqueting house. Be to Him as Ruth was to Naomi, “Whither thou goest, I will go”. May your joy be indeed in the Lord; may He be increasingly your delight.
SORROW AND TRIAL (4)
IT seems unaccountable to us at times, that the Lord who loves us so much, and is so deeply touched with our sufferings, should allow us to suffer so much, when we know that He could prevent it. John 11 acquaints us with His reason for doing so. If He allow great grief to overtake us, that great grief will recall a greater grief to Himself, and will receive from Him a sympathy and a consideration, which without the grief would not have been required. How it explains His heart to us! Our deepest heart-sorrow He allows, in order that He may make Himself nearer to us. He removes the most loved one, in order to make known how all-sufficient He can be to the heart.
Blessed Lord! How great is Thy love, that Thou desirest to be so near, and so much to us! May your heart find it so, dear brother! May the terrible blank be filled up by Him, and then instead of loss there will be great gain. May you have this great gain; and thus may you be divinely comforted.
SORROW AND TRIAL (5)
IT is one thing to be silent and passive under suffering, and quite another to be conscious of its ‘needs be’; and though it may be only in a very partial way at first, to derive such real good and help from it that, instead of lamenting, one is owning to the Lord His wisdom and thoughtfulness in putting one through such necessary discipline. Now this can never be reached but through exercise of soul. The trial which one feels much ought to exercise one much before God. If I am assured that His love is as great as His power, and knows neither measure nor end, must I not be exercised before Him as to why, in His love, He should allow me to be so afflicted? The very exercise engages and connects my soul with Him; and this nearness acquires for me help and instruction about many other things. The waiting on God in the time of affliction, or because of it, is requited with a growth and a strength in God, which tends to relieve of the suffering which was the original cause of waiting on Him; and the soul, once truly habituated to wait on Him, learns so to value it, that it never again can do without it; and then it can say, “All my springs are in thee”. The fact of the desolation which one feels here when a beloved one has been removed, and the reluctance with which one refuses to submit to it, proves that the heart required the trial, in order to discover to it that it had rested and hoped in something outside of God; and the exercise of soul, consequent on the affliction, leads to that nearness and waiting on Him, which supplies what was before unknown. Most blessed it is when the trial produces this, its true effect, the one intended for us by our gracious God, whose heart is set on our blessing.