Undeveloped Lives (3)


Development Does Not Depend on Time

The question, then, which I desire to ask is this:

What were the forces that Jesus used in this great work? And I wish you to notice, as it were by way of preface, how the historical career of Jesus makes the thought of development independent of the years. We say that the days of our years are threescore years and ten. We get to think that three score years are needed if human life is to come to its fruition. And then we are confronted with the life of Jesus, a life symmetrical, proportioned, perfect, and Jesus of Nazareth died at thirty-three. Most lives are just awaking into power then; but the life of Jesus was perfect in its fullness. Most of us would cry at thirty-three, “It is only now beginning”; but Jesus upon the cross cried, “It is finished.” And the great lesson which that carries for every one of us is that we must not measure development by time. There may be years in which every talent in us is stagnant. We live in a dull and most mechanical way. Then comes an hour of call or inspiration, and our whole being deepens and expands. A crushing sorrow, a crisis, or a joy, develops manhood with wonderful rapidity, and may do the work of twelve months in a week. Let us remember, looking unto Jesus, and noting the shortness of that perfect life, that the scale of development is not the scale of years.

“Love Lifted Me”

What, then, were the great forces Jesus used in developing undeveloped life? The first was His central truth that God is love. He taught men that in heaven was a Father; that the heart that fashioned them and ruled them, also loved them; and in that vision of the love of God, men found a magnificent environment for growth. I think we all know how love develops character. I think most of us have known that in our homes. If in our childhood we were despised or hated, the most expensive schooling could not right things. A mother’s love is the finest education. When a man is afraid he never shows his best. When all the faces around him are indifferent, there is no call to stir upon his talents. But when love comes, then all the depths are opened, and life becomes doubly rich and doubly painful, and every hope is quickened, and every desire enlarged, and common duties become royal services, and common words take a new depth of meaning. We all know how love develops character. That was the first power that Jesus used. He said to a repressed and fearful world, “God loves you.” And if human life has been developing in Christendom into amazing and undreamed-of amplitude, it is primarily a response to that appeal.

To Develop One Must Surrender

Now, there was another power that Jesus used. It was the human instinct of self-surrender. It is the glory of Jesus that He called self-surrender into the service of our self-development.

There was one religion in the ancient world that strove with all its power to make man complete. It was the beautiful religion of the Greeks, and its aim was to make life a thing of beauty. It did not fail; but it slowly passed away. It proved unequal to the terrible strain of life. And one reason of its decadence was just this, it had no place for the grandeur of self-sacrifice. Then rose the philosophy of Stoicism, and it grasped with both hands the truth of self-surrender. It said the first duty of man is to surrender, till he has steeled himself into impregnable manhood. It failed, because life insisted on expansion. It failed, as every philosophy and creed must fail, that says to the God-touched soul, “Thus far thou shalt come and no farther.” It had grasped the vital need of self-surrender, but by self-surrender it had really meant self suppression.

And then came Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God. And He said, “If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out.” Surrender thy sight, if need be; but then why? That the glories of heaven may break upon thy soul. And if thou hast ten talents, give them out; and why? That thou mayst have thine own with usury. And if thou art a rich young ruler, sell all thou hast; and why? That thou mayst enter into the deeper, larger life that comes from the wholehearted following of the Lord. The Greek philosophy had said, “Develop and be happy.” The Stoic had said, “Surrender and be strong.” But Jesus said, “You never shall develop till you have learned the secret of surrendering.” I think, then, that was Jesus’ second power in advancing the development of life. He did not only say, “Take up thy cross.” There were other teachers who might have said that too. But He said, “Take up thy cross that thou mayst follow Me”; and He is life abundant and complete.

Our Life Shall Go on Developing Forever

Lastly, and this is the crowning inspiration, our Lord expanded life into eternity. Our life shall go on developing forever, under the sunshine and in the love of God. “I go to prepare a place for you,” He said. The environment of heaven shall be perfect. Love is at work making things ready for us that we may ripen in the light forevermore. I know no thought more depressing than the thought that all effort is to be crushed at death. It hangs like a weight of lead upon the will, when a man would launch into some new endeavor. But if death is an incident and not an end, if every baffled striving shall be crowned, if “All I could never be, All men ignored in me,” is to expand into actuality when I awake, I can renew my struggle after every failure. It is that knowledge, given us by Jesus, that has inspired the development of Christendom. I affectionately plead with you to make it yours.

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Whose Will (11)


 

Fellowship Rests on the Will

Think of the relationship of will to fellowship—man’s spiritual fellowship with his Redeemer. That friendship is not based on kindred feeling; it is based, according to Christ, on kindred-will. “Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee”; and Jesus answered, “Who is my brother? He that doeth the will of my Father in heaven, the same is my mother, my brother, and my sister.” It is not a question, then, of what you know, if you are to be a brother or sister of the Lord. It is not a matter of excited feeling nor of any glowing or ecstatic rapture. He that does the will—though it might be often sore and though the way might be dark and though the wind be chill—he that does the will of My Father which is in heaven, the same is My sister and My brother. That means that all fellowship with Jesus Christ depends on dedication of the will.

We must say, “Take my will, and make it Thine,” if we are to be numbered in His company. And if fellowship with Him be true religion—the truest and purest the world has ever known—you see how it does not rest on thought or feeling, but has its wellspring in the surrendered will.

Surrender of the Will

And in the life of Christ this is the crowning glory—a will in perfect conformity with God’s. He is our Savior and our great exam-pie because of that unfailing dedication. Look at Him as He is tempted in the wilderness—is there not there a terrible reality of choice? Does there not rise before Him the alternative of self, to be instantly and magnificently spurned?

Think on these things – Christ who was also one with God, left His throne and Majesty, left His glory and splendor and took on the human state, the nature of mere men. He had the power to unleash legions of angels to clear the road, heal every sick man and triumph into Jerusalem, but every action, every thought, has to be the will of His Father in Heaven, (I must do the will of Him that sent me and finish it). And ever through the progress of His years, He left what He was and could do behind, only and fully focused on one goal which was His meat is to do the will of God who sent Him; until at last, upon the cross of Calvary, the dedication is perfected and crowned.
May we  all, young or old, shepherds and ministers, ever remember that the will is the very citadel of manhood.

To be a true Christian that must be yielded up. Everything else, (personality, fame, charisma, tongues, gifts, eloquence, wealth and riches)  without it aligning with the perfect will of God for us for this time is in vain.

Perfect Will of the Almighty God comes when we humbly go to Him everyday and everytime for direction and guidance, not repeat methodology, because “it worked perfectly yesterday” or “that principle is what we used last year” or as some say “this is how it is done”. Don’t forget the strategy for parting the red seas, was different from the conquering of Jericho, and that was different from other battles that confronted the people of Israel, when you search the scriptures, you discover that every time the Israelites go into battle without consulting the Lord, failure and death awaits them. The Almighty God is unique in His ways and dealings with us as a Nation and as an individual.  “It is not for man to direct His ways, the Lord orders our steps” and He does this every single day, that is why His blessings and mercies are NEW every day.

Religion founded on feeling is unstable. A religion of intellect is cold and hard and doomed for failure

Our ultimate goal is to be conformed to the image of Christ our saviour. Total surrender is what Christ did and demands, and in it lies the secret of all peace. You may have the best idea, most tenderest feelings but if you habour an un-surrendered will, your righteousness is but a  filthy rag before the Almighty God.

So I urge you to pay attention to these words..“And do not be conformed to this world (and its system of things), but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” Romans 12: 2

Think on these things.

Rebecca Ajibola

 

Whose Will (1)


 

The Dedication of the Will

My meat is to do the will of him that sent me— Joh_4:34

Is Religion Based on Reason or Feeling,’

It has been a matter of controversy time and again which is the true wellspring of religion; and to this question, which is fresh in every age, there are two answers which demand attention.

On the one hand there are many reverent thinkers who trace the roots of religion to the reason. It is because we are reasonable beings that we know the infinite reason, which is God. A dumb beast is not endowed with reason though it has instinct. It is man alone, lifting his forehead heavenward, who is a truly reasonable creature; and in man alone, because he is so gifted, is there the craving for the eternal Being, and the assurance, at the back of all things visible, of a hand that guides and of a heart that plans. Thought is the lattice through which the human spirit peers forth upon the vista of eternity. Thought is the mystical ladder that goes heavenward and lifts itself through the silence to the throne. And if the angels, clad in their garb of ministry, move up and down upon its steps of radiance, it is because the head that lies upon the pillow is that of a reasonable man.

On the other hand, there have been many thinkers who have denied this primary place to thought. It is not from reason that religion springs, they tell us; it is from the deeper region of the feelings. How can the fragmentary thought of man reach forth to the perfect thought of the Almighty? Can any by intellectual searching find Him out, and are not His thoughts different from out thoughts? Do we not know, too, that an age of so-called reason is never a time when eternal things are clear, but always a time when voices are but faint that come with the music of the faraway? On these grounds there has been raised a protest against reason as the wellspring of religion. Not upon reason is religion based; it sinks its shaft into the depth of feeling. It is born in the longing you cannot analyze; in the emotion that is prior to all thought; in the craving for God that rests upon no proof, and stirs in a depth below the reach of argument.

 

The Wellspring of Personal Religion Is the Will

But when we turn to the word of Jesus Christ and to its translation in apostolic doctrine, we discover that neither thought nor feeling is laid at the foundation of religion. Christ had no quarrel with the human intellect. He recognized its wonder and its power. His own intellectual life was far too rich for Him to be a traitor to the brain. Nor was Christ the enemy of human feelings. He never made light of tenderest emotion. He who wept beside the grave of Lazarus could never be the antagonist of tears. But in the teaching of Christ, it is not thought nor feeling that is the wellspring of personal religion. “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me”; the wellspring is in the region of the will. It is there that a man must pass from death to life. It is there that the path of piety begins—not in the loftiest and holiest thought nor in the rapture of excited feeling. The first thing is the dedication of the will; the response of a free man to a great God; the yielding of self to that imperious claim which is made by the loving Father in the heavens. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness”—”Let the dead bury their dead, follow thou me“—such are the words in which our Lord describes the primary and determinative action. A man may cherish the most reverent thought or may luxuriate in tenderest feeling, yet if he harbor an unsurrendered will, he knows not yet the meaning of religion.

 

Yield Your Will to Christ

It is thus that we begin to understand the condemnation of Christ on indecision. “He that is not with me, is against me”—”No man can serve two masters.” No matter how ignorant a man might be, Christ never was without hope for him. No matter how depraved he was, there was a spark within him that might be fanned to flame. But of all men the most hopeless in Christ’s sight was the irresolute and undecided person, the man who refused to take a spiritual stand and who was contented to drift aimlessly. It is very probable that Judas Iscariot was a man of such irresolution. It had been growing increasingly clear to him, as months went by, that he was hopelessly out of sympathy with Jesus. But instead of arising in some great decision that might have closed that mockery of following, he drifted, amid ever quickening waters, till suddenly the whirlpool and the cry. The man who hesitates, we say, is lost—but Christ has come to seek and save the lost. Am I speaking to any waverer, to any hesitating, undecided person? Till the will is right, nothing is right. No man is Christ’s until the will has been yielded. “Our wills are ours, we know not how; Our wills are ours to make them Thine.”

Jesus Never Overpowered the Will

It is further notable in this connection that Jesus never over powered the will. It was His glory to empower it, but to overpower it He scorned. “Come unto me, and I will give you rest”—a man must come; no hand from heaven will drag him. No irresistible and irrational constraint will force him into the presence of the Savior. A man is something better than a beast—he is but a little lower than the angels—and as a man, or not at all, Christ will have the allegiance of the will. “Ye will not come to me that ye might have life” —there is the ring of an infinite pity about that; but the other side of that so baffled yearning, reveals the very grandeur of humanity. For it tells of a being whose heritage is freedom—not to be overborne by God Himself—of one who must come with a freely yielded will, or else not come at all. With Mohammed it was the Koran or the sword, and that compulsion was a degradation. Hence never, under Mohammedan dominion, has manhood risen to its highest splendor. But with Christ there was no compulsion of the will, save the compulsion of overmastering love, and that great recognition of our freedom has blossomed into the flower of Christian manhood. Do not wait, then, I would beg of you, as if a day were coming when you must be good. Do not think that the hour will ever strike when you will be swept irresistibly into the kingdom. At the last it is a matter of decision, and in all the changes of the coming years, never will it be easier for you to make the great decision than now.

Christ’s Emphasis on the Motive

We might further illustrate Christ’s emphasis on will by some of the relationships in which He sets it. Think first of its relationship to action. It is not the action in itself that Jesus looks at; He has a gaze that pierces deeper than the action. He sees at the back of every deed, its motive, and that is the measure of value in His sight. Viewed from the standpoint of the day’s collection there was no great value in the widow’s mite. One coin out of the pocket of the rich was worth a hundred such in some eyes. But there is a certain kind of calculation that is intolerant of all arithmetic, and it was always on that basis Christ computed. Was there no sacrifice behind that little gift which was dropped so quietly into the temple treasury? Was there no will so bent upon obedience that it must pour its all into the offering? What Jesus saw was not the mite; it was the dedicated will behind the mite. An action had no value in Christ’s eyes unless at the back of it there was the willing mind. Deep down, in the unseen springs of a man’s being, lay that which determined the value of his conduct. And that is the reason why Christ appraises action in a way that is sublimely careless of the common standards by which the world distributes applause.

To Know, You Must Will

Or think of the relationship of will to knowledge if you want to know how Christ regarded will. “If any man will to do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God.” If any man will ( or want) to do His will—then at the back of true knowledge is obedience, and what we know of the highest and the best ultimately depends upon the will. Let a man refuse to submit his will to God, and the gateway of truth is closed to him forever. No daring of intellect will pierce its deeps, nor will any imagination see its beauty. Truth at the heart of it is always ethical, kindred in being to man’s moral nature; and if that nature be choice less and disordered, the power and majesty of truth are never known. That is the reason why the simplest duty has always an illuminating power. Do the next thing, and do it heartily, and the very brain will grow a little clearer. For the Word of God is a lamp unto our feet, and only when our feet go forward bravely will the circle of light advance upon the dark and reveal what is always shadowed to the stationary. It is not merely by His depth of thought that Christ has kindled the best thought of Christendom. It is by His urgent and passionate insistence upon the dedication of the will. And men have obeyed Him, and taken up their cross, and followed bravely when all in front was shrouded, to find that they were moving into a larger world and under a brighter heaven.

(..to be continued)

Rebecca Ajibola

 

The Revelation of Duty


Conversion of St Paul on the Road to Damascus

Conversion of St Paul on the Road to Damascus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.— Act_9:6

Sudden Conversion but Gradual Revelation

The first thing we learn in these words is how duty is gradually revealed. Our blessed Lord, in His knowledge of our hearts, never overloads His revelations. It is characteristic of the great apostle that he should instantly react on his experience. Vitality is measured by reaction— when we fail to react, then we are growing old—and Paul, vital to his fingertips, instantly reacted to the Lord— “Lord, what wouldst Thou have me to do? Tell me now. Make my future plain. Show me the service I can render Thee, and I shall do it even to the death.” And it was then that Jesus answered him, “Arise and go into the city, and it shall be told thee there what thou must do.” Suddenly was Paul converted. Gradually he learned what that involved. Paul found that illumination of the soul is different from illumination of the future. Step by step, duty after duty, each faithfully taken and performed, was the road to his service and his victory.

Obey As to Your Next Duty

That lesson which the apostle learned is one secret of victorious living still. The next duty is the key to everything. When the future is dark to us as it was dark to him, when we cannot discern the larger will of God, when we want to be used and cannot find the road, when we are dubious of our capacities, always for us as for this great apostle there is a present and commanded duty on the doing of which everything shall hinge. Often it is a very lowly duty, and that is where so many people fail. Dreams may be spun upon the looms of God, but remember that dreams may be our traitors. We dream of voices, heavenly voices, crying to us, “Arise, do big things worthy of your powers”; and the voice on the Damascus road is crying, “Arise and go into the city.” Had Paul not gone, he would never have learned his mission. He learned it by obedience. He learned it by unquestioning acceptance of the first dull thing that was demanded. And whatever the particular service be that God has in store for anyone of us, we learn it just as the apostle did. Service is gradually given. Duty is gradually shown. Do the thing that is demanded now, and out of that the vision shall emerge. It was a poor, dull thing for that illumined soul to go tramping on another mile or two, but it led him to the service of his life.

New Vision for the Old Environment

The other profound lesson of the words is that new vision is for old environment. Converted, changed in his whole being, Paul has to step out on the old road. To Damascus the apostle had been journeying when he set out to persecute the Church. Then came the flood of new life within him and the overwhelming experience of conversion. And the beautiful and Christlike thing is this, that Paul was not swept into any new surroundings but bidden to hold on the old road. Wert thou making for Damascus, Paul? To Damascus thou art still to go. There is no new path for thee across the hills. There is nothing but the old familiar highway. Resume it. Set thy face to it again. Take up and prosecute thy interrupted journey. The new vision is for the old environment.

Shining in the Familiar Environment

Now that is a lesson we do well to learn if we want to handle life aright. For the old roads never seem so dusty as after some great stirring of the heart. There are long periods when we are content. We are happy in the daily round. We are satisfied with our nutshell, unlike Hamlet, because we have no dreams. But then some day to us there comes the vision— the light that never was on sea or land— and there is born the passion to escape. It may come when the glow of youth is burning, or when the beauty of the world has caught us, or when love has wakened with its divine unsettlement, or when the chair is empty and the grave is full. Who has not felt in seasons such as that the longing that arises in the heart to have done with the road that is leading to Damascus? It is not easy to go quietly on then. It is not easy to get back to duty. We hate the drudgery— it is intolerable— we crave a more congenial environment. And it is then that to our restless hearts Christ comes as He came that noonday to St. Paul, saying, “Arise and go into the city.” He does not offer us a new environment. Vision is not given for new environment. It is given that we may take the glory of it and shine it on the old and the familiar. It is given that the common round, the irksome and unceasing drudgery, may be illuminated and transfigured.

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