The Gain of Being Wholly for the Lord - A.E. Myles
THE GAIN OF BEING WHOLLY FOR THE LORD
Mark 10 : 17-31 ; John 15 : 16 ; 1 John 3 : 14 ; Ecclesiastes 4 : 9-12
In all our histories as believers there comes a time of crisis, when we are faced with the question as to whether we are going to be wholly for the Lord or only partly for Him. Some may not yet have faced that question; but it may be others have done so, and have decided by God's help to be wholly for the Lord. To such the great exercise is to maintain that decision, for every committal has to be maintained. The obligations of it are continuous for all who have decided by God's help to be here wholly for the Lord. It is a daily, an hourly exercise to maintain our committal.
To be wholly for the Lord is something very practical and very simple. There may be those who have come into fellowship who have never definitely faced the question of being wholly for the Lord. To many this crisis comes late in their history. Many a person who is actively engaged in business or in some other occupation is so wholly engrossed in it that he has little time for the Lord. But when he retires from it, his desire is to be wholly for Christ. We want to face such a crisis as this early in our history, because there are many first who shall be last. The day is coming in which the Lord is going to determine all priority, when He is going to number His people, so to speak. It will not then be a question as to whether we were leading brothers in the meeting, but of what we were for Christ; not what we were officially, but what we were morally for Christ, and in that day " many first shall be last."
In view of this, the exercise comes to all of us, what are we going to do with our lives ? Are we going to give the Lord the whole of our life or only a part ? Are we going to make every other interest in life, whether of family or business, subservient to His interests, or are we making reserves ? Alas! there are many who only give the Lord a part, but what marks them is they do not get on, they do not move spiritually. They are neither happy in the meeting, in the world, in their family, or in their business. They are like those who are spoken of in Isaiah 28 : 20, who found the bed too short on which to stretch themselves, and the covers too narrow in which to wrap themselves. I want to encourage all with myself to find our full joy and happiness in the circle where life is known. There is a circle where life is known, in which "we know that we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren."
Now the young man referred to in Mark 10 is an illustration of one who was at this crisis in his history. He had not been without previous dealings with God. He evidently had had God before him from his youth, as the case may be with many a young person today on the verge of manhood or womanhood, brought up in a Christian home, preserved from the gross evil of the world, never having consciously transgressed any of the commandments of the Lord. But that is not enough. This young man had the consciousness that there was something more in life than that. He comes to the Lord with his question, What could he do that he "might inherit life " ? He puts his case before the Lord, and the Lord brings to bear upon him that he was to move out of the shelter of his home, out of the shelter of his early upbringing, good as it was, and have direct and personal intercourse with God for himself. But something stands in the way. You look at a young brother in the meeting—he is not getting on. He may have been there " from his youth up " ; he has never been known to misbehave himself, but he is not getting on. Well, the Lord brings to bear upon him the impression that there is something needed in order that he might enter into life. The young man in Mark was to sell all that he had, to give to the poor, to take up his cross and follow Christ. It illustrates a crisis in history which we must all meet sooner or later when we face the question with God as to what we are doing with our lives. We may be nominally in the circle of the brethren, even breaking bread, but not there in full sympathy or in full affection, unlike the two spoken of in Ecclesiastes, who could not do without each other. There are many who have not reached life who are outwardly in the position for it, and the Lord would bring things to bear upon such in His tender grace, for He wants you there. The Lord wants you there in life, sympathy and enjoyment. If you are not there under these conditions He will see to it that your life shall be so disturbed that you have to face this question. This young man had to face the difficult question of selling all that he had. The Lord does not tell him to give away all that he had. He is to sell it in order that he might become a giver. In Christianity you cannot be a giver until you have been a seller. The Lord initiated that great principle when He became a seller, as we are told in Matthew 13, He sold all that He had. It does not say there that He gave all that He had: He sold all that He had in order that He might make one great and glorious purchase. In lesser measure each one of us has to face the crisis of selling all that we have. Now what does it mean ? It means that in some little measure, faintly and feebly perhaps, we must follow in the footsteps of the Lord Himself. He measured all His possessions as a Man, all His wealth (how great it was)—He measured it all, weighed it, and put it into the market where its value was truly estimated, and with what He acquired through it He bought the pearl. You cannot become a giver until you get the kingdom's coinage. The world's system of coinage is not current in the kingdom of God. You all know if you go from one country to another you have to change your money. You do not know what it is worth until you have sold it, and when you have sold it you acquire the coinage of another country. Well, that is the only way to secure coinage that can be given away in the kingdom of God; it is by way of sacrifice.
This young man had to face the tremendous crisis of selling all that he had; have we faced that, or have we got reserves ? Have we only sold a little of what we have ? Are we content to have one foot amongst the people of God, and one foot in the world ? Are we half-hearted or divided in that way ? Let us face this great crisis and sell all that we have in order that we may have the wherewithal to give.
This kind of giving costs something. It is not the rich man devoting a little of the large earnings of a day to give to the poor, but it is the kind of giving which means selling all that we have. Our family, our business, all that we have and are, is to be held for Him. It is a great sacrifice, such a great sacrifice as amazed the disciples who heard the Lord. They were astonished and said, How can any one go that way ? They took the lesson to themselves ; they did not say, That young man is rich and we are poor. They took it to themselves and said, "Who then can be saved ?"
But the Lord shows them that what is impossible with men is possible with God. We have set out on a journey marked from man's standpoint as impossible, but which is marked as possible with God. The camel is to go through the needle's eye. It means a lot of reduction, a lot of breaking up of pride, of birth or position, or mental capacity, or of education—it all has to go if the camel is going through the eye of the needle. It is the direction of movement, the way into life, and there is no other way than this. You may be in fellowship all your days and never cause the brethren any concern; but many a one that has never caused any concern has never been the means of giving the brethren an impulse of heart. Better would it be like Peter to give the brethren a bit of concern, so that the whole company might get the gain when one is restored, and that they might receive an impulse of heart towards God.
To show you how that works out we will suppose for a moment that one has faced this crisis before the Lord, and has come to the sober decision with God's help to be fully identified with Christ and His people, for you cannot have Christ apart from His people. I want to show you from John 15 that His people are all chosen people. We are often marked by pride, by a feeling that those who are better off are superior to those who are poor and lowly. I want to show you that all the Lord's people are chosen. Every one of them has been the subject of divine choice. Do you think that the Lord has to take what is left over out of the world ? Do you think the Lord has to take those the devil does not want ? Do you think that He has to take the leavings ? If amongst His people there are found those who are lowly, poor and unlovely, twisted in body, or stunted in mind, do you think that He had not got the choice of the best ? He had the first choice, it is the devil and the world that has the leavings. How could I credit the blessed Lord, moving within the sphere of divine purpose, with taking what another does not want ? Nay, the choice was His, and every one of His people is the subject of choice. I make no apology for pressing that, for if we are to be happily amongst the brethren, finding our heart's affections satisfied there, we must be prepared to accept them as Christ's choice.
There is nothing more dangerous or destructive of spiritual power than to quarrel with His choice. Whatever they look like, whatever their circumstances, rich or poor, lovely or unlovely, they are all lovely to Christ, every one is His choice, and He has chosen the best! Not the best according to man's calculation, but those that would love Him, that is what marks them as the best. Every one that loves Christ is marked by distinction and honour in the eyes of heaven. Every one that puts the consideration of Christ before every other consideration is ennobled and princely in the sight of heaven. All His people in this way are distinguished.
Now that is the circle in which through divine grace I am privileged to move. I do not know why He should have honoured me so, I do not know why He should have set me in such a noble company. It is the circle where life is known, where every one loves Christ. What is the finest or best in the world compared with that ? You may take the finest product of this world, in skill and in everything, and put it alongside the humblest and lowliest of God's people, and which is best ? You, like Moses, will have to make a choice. All Egypt was before him, its wisdom, its skill, its art, all was before him; all lay, so to speak, within his grasp, but he made a choice, and that was to identify himself with the people of God in their affliction and sufferings. They were but bondmen in Egypt, slaves that moved at the lash of the task-master, their occupation was brickmaking; they bore all the outward marks of humiliation and contempt in the eyes of the world. But Moses, brought up in all the wisdom of Egypt, made his choice. He had seen the people in God's eyes; beyond all their outward form and condition, he saw what they were to God. He was content to walk with them, to weep with them, to stand with them and to fall with them, because he looked on to a day when the outward form and features of the people of God would be in perfect keeping with God's own thought for them.
I now turn to Ecclesiastes to show that having passed the crisis I have spoken of, having come to this decision in faith that we are to be for the Lord, and having recognised that the Lord's people are all chosen ones, all distinguished and ennobled in His eyes, we are prepared to take up practical, daily association with them. These verses develop the gain of the fellowship. Sometimes we think of the loss of it. We may lose a bit of business, or a bit of pleasure ; we feel we cannot do certain things because of the fellowship; for there are pleasures in the world. It puts us under restrictions, if we are not enjoying its blessings. A Christian who is half-hearted loses the gain of two worlds. There will be some who come last in the next world. Do you want to be last amongst all the myriads that love Christ ? That is a solemn contemplation. So the Lord is continually giving us spurs; contemplations which are to have an effect upon us, stirring us up so that we might take up His things—the Lord's things—truly in heart and in sympathy. Sometimes we pass by these homely, practical things, we want to dwell on doctrine — beautiful expressions and phrases—but the fellowship is more than doctrine; it comes down to the practical, daily experience of the hearts of the saints.
Let us look at these things as illustrated in Ecclesiastes 4. It says, " Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour." You see a contemplation like this would hinder us from pursuing individual independent paths, even in labour. Service is in view here. The fellowship of the brethren, their sympathy, their support, all help your service, for " two are better than one." Think what an asset it is to get the old bedridden sisters and brothers praying for you! You see a brother helped of the Lord, you accredit that to the brother; you forget the old sisters on their beds who are praying to God for him! You see, this is not an individual labour. This labour is connected with the fellowship, and in such service "two are better than one." Why does Scripture say " two " ? If it had said a hundred, we might be in a place where we had not a hundred brethren, but you cannot have less than two. If there was only one in this connection, it would raise a grave question as to whether the Lord was in it. But there is great gain in fellowship in that labour; there is a good reward. I have often thought that in the day to come when the Lord will measure things and give credit where credit is due, much of the distinction that is now given to prominent servants of the Lord will be taken from them and given to some poor, humble saint, perhaps bedridden, or in weakness of body, who prayed for the Lord's interests and supported them night and day. In verse 10 it says, " If they fall, the one will lift up his fellow ; but woe to him that is alone when he falleth, and who hath not another to lift him up! " Are you letting the brethren help you up ? We all fall; we all have times in our histories when we get down. That is when the gain of the fellowship comes in, for there will be another to help you up. If you have fifty brothers and sisters to walk with and with whom to work out these things, you have fifty channels through which the Lord would give you comfort, support and help, but " woe to him that is alone when he falleth "—to be outside this circle and to fall where there is none to lift him up!
Then it says, " If two lie together, then they have heat, but how can one be warm alone?" (v. 11). First you get fellowship connected with the labour of the service, then you get the gain of the fellowship connected with the ups and downs of spiritual history that often mark us, and now you get the gain of the fellowship in promoting warmth of love amongst the brethren. Here are two lying together—at rest together in the fellowship of the people of God on spiritual lines. You do not separate yourself from them when you go home and sleep. You are one with the brethren wherever you are. You have no greater solace than that. It is the acceptance of the Lord's people just as they are; the acceptance of their affections mingling with your affections, and the warmth of their love for Christ mingling with yours, so that vigour is promoted and the brethren are warmed. You cannot do anything for Christ if your heart is cold. You can preach, give addresses, fill up all your time, but if your heart is cold you will never move another heart towards Him.
The things of God are marked by warmth. The love of the brethren is a warm thing, it is not cold. The apostle Peter calls it "fervent love." The love of the brethren sustains love, it nourishes it, and promotes the tender exercise of warming the hearts of those who are seeking Christ. It helps the young to come forward and take their place; it helps the old to die; it helps in sorrow, in trial and difficulty. We need to encourage these outlets of warmth amongst our brethren. We need to cast aside the coldness and reserve that we have learnt in the world. In the circle of the saints there is a warmth that is in keeping with eternal life.
Then one thing more. " If one prevaileth against him " (it is attack) " two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken."
First then we have the gain of fellowship in service, then in failure, then in warmth, and now in attack. You have got an enemy. Every one has a deadly, relentless enemy, one that will pursue you night and day. He is going to attack you on every possible occasion. The great source of strength under the Lord in this conflict with the enemy is found in the circle of the brethren. You may be passing through trying circumstances and get hard thoughts about God. Who gave them ? This enemy of yours ; he gave them. Or you may have thoughts of jealousy against another. Who gave them ? The enemy. You may find an unforgiving spirit in your heart; it is sin. The enemy is relentless, he never ceases to look for an opening to overpower you, but you have got a threefold cord in Christian fellowship, and that is not quickly broken.
You find in the circle of the saints the love of God, and the love of Christ, and the love of the brethren. There you get the power of the threefold cord. You are in the company of your brethren, you are with them in spirit and in heart; and, by the Holy Spirit, you are conscious of the love of God and the love of Christ. You see divine love working amongst them, binding them together. Is not that wonderful ? You see the same character of love, divine love, coming out and flowing from one brother to another; you experience that these cords are not quickly broken.
May we all be encouraged to take things up more definitely and deliberately and wholeheartedly for Christ, for life according to God is to be known and enjoyed now in the circle of the saints. Though we may be called upon to lose in natural things—father, mother, brothers, sisters, wife, or lands for Christ's sake and for the gospel's, yet we shall find them all in the circle of the brethren. We shall find lands there—marvellous lands ; and mothers, sisters, brethren, children, we shall find them all in the circle of the brethren, and that is where life is to be known. " We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren."
A. E. Myles