Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

May 28

28 MAY – Joint-Heirs with Christ through Suffering

“Heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him” (Rom. 8:17).

This is not just an official thing, something that is a gratuitous gift in a mechanical way, as much as to say, ‘Well, you have done a bit of work; here are your wages’. That thing has been wrought in us through the suffering and the cost and the warfare and the labor, and there is this sense of an inward co-heirship with Christ, if we suffer. It will be a very blessed thing, to us who know how much we are dependent upon the grace of God, how little we can even bear without the support of His grace; it will be a wonderful thing when at last He says, ‘This is the reward of your suffering’. We shall say, ‘Well, after all, it was our light affliction in the light of the far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. How have we earned this?’ But there will be some gratification in recognizing that the Lord has taken account of what we have gone through, and has brought us into a sense of His own gratification, and given us to feel ‘Well, it was not in vain, it was not for naught’.

Why did I read those passages in the Old Testament from Numbers and Joshua? They both have to do with inheritance. I read them for this reason, that here were people who, in the first place, were concerned, were jealous, for the inheritance. And then they were people who were prepared to enter into the cost of the inheritance, after which, when they had got it, it was theirs. Yes, it was the Lord’s, but it was theirs. Do you see what I mean? It is theirs. And many of us have gone through the years in toil, in suffering, in labor and warfare in the Lord’s interests, and if there is anything that comes out of that at all, it is ours, in this sense that we are jealous over it with a right kind of jealousy. It belongs to us in the Lord. Yes, it is the Lord’s, but it belongs to us in the Lord, the fruit of suffering and of travail and of cost. Your faithfulness in prayer, and in prayer-gatherings – it is not without cost that you continue like that. Your faithfulness in the upholding of those who go out, it costs. Taking the years over, it is not without price if there is anything. The Lord has given it to you as your inheritance; that is yours. All that eternal spiritual value is yours in Christ.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

May 27

27 MAY – Inward Relationship through Suffering

The very heart of suffering, the very heart of co-heirship with Christ, is this wonderful sense of inward relationship to the object in view, inward relationship to the inheritance, inward relationship to the result, the reward. And that is the explanation of suffering, of labor, of conflict. The Lord does not just give to us without cost. He always brings us into the cost of that which He is going to give. It will be grace all the way through, but He brings us into the cost of the reward. In the end, let us repeat, we shall acknowledge that any part we have had in it of suffering, labor, warfare, has been infinitely outweighed by what He has given and that is where grace will always be our theme; but I do believe that mingled with our gratitude will be this sense that the Lord enabled us to achieve, that He did not act without us and apart from us. He brought us into it, and there will be this deep, inward, heart-relatedness to the result, that we share with Him the gratification. That is the very heart of suffering, I believe.

What we have labored for, suffered for, travailed for, becomes something over which we are very jealous. Suffering for anything is a very purifying thing. Take the matter of the child for which there has been suffering, travail. Well, other people who have not so suffered and travailed and gone through for the child can see all the defects and pass all the criticisms and arrive at their judgments, good or bad, about that child, and just stand apart and say their say about the child. But the mother may see very little of that. There is something for the mother which transcends all that.

There is nothing that is precious to the Lord, and which He would make the property of His people, but there will be suffering for it. It will only become their property in that sense as they suffer for it, and then woe betide who criticizes that! If you are detached from a thing, if you are detached from a testimony, from a work of God, you can do all the criticizing you like. You have no inward heart-relationship to it, and so you pass your judgments upon it. But if you are in it and you have suffered, if it has been a costly thing where you are concerned, then you are seeing more than all the failings, more than all those faults. The people who can criticize like that and judge and point out faults are the people who have not suffered.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

May 26

26 MAY – An Inheritance of the Suffering of Christ

Little need be said, I think, as to the fact of the sufferings. We know the people of God are not exempt from sufferings. That, I think, need not be labored. But there are many sufferings into which they enter because they are the people of God; and that, perhaps, needs a little thinking about. There are sufferings we may bring upon ourselves, sufferings which need not be, but I am not thinking about those. I am speaking about the sufferings of Christ, of the fact of these, and that they are the common lot of the people of God, and that when they come upon us, there is nothing wrong in that.

But when you think about these sufferings, with Paul as the great example and interpreter, you are led to see that these are not just incidents, local or earthly things. Even when they take legal and earthly form and coloring by reason of situations and circumstances and events, they have a far greater range than anything incidental, local, temporal, earthly. The range of these sufferings is no less than the spiritually universal. They reach out beyond ourselves, our circle, our lives, our time, and beyond anything here and now. I would use the word ‘dispensational’ but for its being perhaps misunderstood. Paul’s sufferings comprehended the dispensation and are virtuous today after so many centuries, and have touched every realm of the celestial and the diabolical. These sufferings are more than just incidents in life, painful as they may be. They are set within a vast realm of significance and effectiveness. They are, in the main, the ‘kick-back’ of a vast and mighty system of antagonism to everything that is of Christ.

We must therefore accept the fact of such sufferings, and adjust to the spiritual significance of it. If you and I ever do get the idea that the Christian life is to be a perpetual picnic, we shall get ourselves into all kinds of difficulties and perplexities and disappointments. If we seek to escape from the sufferings of Christ, we are going to cut the very vitals of our spiritual worth-whileness. Take heed to that. We have to accept the fact that, being the Lord’s here, our inheritance is an inheritance of the sufferings of Christ, and we must not seek to avoid them.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

May 25

25 MAY – Paul’s Spiritual Suffering

Here is a spiritual suffering for Christ’s sake; and that which Paul speaks of as “the sentence of death”, though beyond our explanation, yet does seem to suggest that he got into a terrible state spiritually because of certain conditions. If I were to try to reshape this situation, I should say Paul had received this terribly bad news about the state of things in the church at Corinth, with more perhaps from other directions as well, and he had gone down under his suffering and said, ‘Is it worth it? Is it not all in vain? Is it not an utterly hopeless situation? Am I not wasting my life in pouring it out for such people?’ When you start like that, there is no end. You can go down and down until waters of despair gradually close over you. You try to pray and you cannot, for a doubting man can never pray. He may cry, but he cannot pray. A man who has let go to that sort of thing cannot pray; heaven is closed. And Paul, so to speak, interrogates himself and says, ‘What is the meaning of this?’ The answer is, ‘It is death; along that line it is death; if you get down there, there is no way through and no way up; that is the end of everything – death!’

My point at the moment is that death here was spiritual, not physical. He was tasting something of the real nature of death. Death is a sense of being excluded from God, of heaven being closed, of there being no way through and no way out, shut up and shut in, at the end of everything; and that registered in or upon your soul. That is more than physical death. Some of us more than once would have been glad to die physically. But this other thing is spiritual death, and it is terrible, it is awful; there is no gladness about that. To taste that is to know something of the sufferings of Christ. Those sufferings may be known along other lines, but we are not attempting here to define in detail the whole range of Christ’s sufferings, but only to stress the fact of them.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

May 24

24 MAY – The Suffering Within the Sufferings

There are sufferings and the suffering; the plural and the singular – the suffering – that is, the suffering which is within the sufferings. Sometimes it is the suffering which brings about the sufferings. Take Paul, for instance, and the suffering to which he refers in II Corinthians 1:8-10 “our affliction which befell us in Asia”. The word ‘affliction’ there is from a Latin root which means ‘a flail’, and it pictures the wielding of a flail upon the naked body of a bound man, bruising and breaking and battering; it is a strong word. Paul says that is what happened to him in Asia. “Weighed down exceedingly, beyond our power, insomuch that we despaired even of life: yea, we ourselves have had the sentence of death within ourselves…” ‘We had the answer to our enquiry; the answer was “It is death!”’ Now, that is the suffering within the sufferings.

Do not think for a moment that that was just a physical matter. A man who could go through all those experiences which are recorded of Paul, and who could say that to depart and be with Christ was far better, was not afraid of dying. Not at all! There must have been some suffering within the sufferings. ‘Weighed down exceedingly, beyond our power’ – that was something inward; it was not because he was desperately ill and might die at any moment. What then is this? It may have been due to the report that came to him of conditions in Corinth, for it was at this time that he received the news of the terrible state of things in Corinth recorded in these letters, and he speaks of “that which presseth upon me daily, anxiety for all the churches” (2 Cor. 11:28). Even if it was physical sickness that assailed him, we know that sickness in the body is very often caused by grief of heart; the outward sufferings are sometimes the result of inward distress. Thus we have the suffering within the sufferings.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

May 23

23 MAY – Growth and Ability by Suffering

Progress and growth are also secured by sufferings. All nature declares it. Growth, development, increase, is by that expanding power which creates a creak and a groan and an ache within the organism; and in the spiritual life it is like that. We speak about growing pains. I believe that is considered to be unscientific now, but it is a very useful phrase. Yes, there are growing pains, and the sufferings of Christ in the members of His Body are related to growth. The difference is this, that in what we have called growing pains it is the growing that is actually taking place which causes the pains, while here, in what we have before us, it is the pains which produce the growth afterward. We grow by means of suffering, there is no doubt about it. Show me a mature spiritual life, and you show me the embodiment of much suffering of some kind – not always physical – a life which has gone through things. Paul found his turning point there “that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raiseth the dead”; a new discovery from the depths. Where he touched bottom, he discovered God in a new way-”God who raiseth the dead”. Such knowing of Him comes along that line. The values of suffering are there.

But then note what he says again “God… who comforteth us in all our affliction, that we may be able…” Oh, there is a lot in that! That speaks of stock in trade, the means for service, does it not? We may often have bad times about our lack of ability in many ways, comparing ourselves with other people and deploring our lack of ability in this and that. Oh, for ability! But what is the greatest ability after all? The best and most fruitful ability is to be able to help people in the deep experiences of spiritual life; to be able to explain to them the meaning of God’s dealings with them, to be able to show them what is intended to be the outcome of it all, to be able to give them some support by counsel which comes from real knowledge – some of that comfort which we ourselves have received of God. That is real service, that is, building up the Body of Christ, the House of God – being really able, in a spiritual way, to strengthen the sorrowing. That comes through suffering.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

May 22

22 MAY – The Need and Value of Suffering

Let it be settled with us once for all that the sufferings of Christ are an absolute necessity. I am going to say a very strong thing, and it is this – that if you know nothing about the sufferings of Christ, there is something wrong with you as a Christian. I am not, of course, speaking of such as have only just entered upon the Christian life, though suffering is sometimes encountered right from the first. But obedience and faithfulness soon lead to the experience of some form of Christ’s sufferings. If you are avoiding those sufferings, if you are rebelling against them, you are taking an entirely wrong line. They are the true lot of children of God. I do not say that you will each have them in the same measure or of the same kind, but you will have them. Ask the Lord if your bad times may not, after all, fit into this. You have been thinking of them merely as circumstances, as disappointments, working out to your misfortune, your disadvantage. But wait; see whether these are not, after all, bound up with your spiritual life, whether they do not bear a relationship to your spiritual growth. Interrogate yourself, examine this question.

Sufferings are necessary for several things; first of all, to keep things real, practical and up-to-date. The Lord is not going to allow any one of us to live upon a past, upon a theory, upon a tradition, upon a doctrine as a doctrine. He will allow us to live only on what is real and practical and up-to-date, and, being made as we are, we do not so live unless we are made to. If I know even a little about the Lord and the Lord’s things, I can tell you perfectly frankly it is because of suffering. I could not and would not have learned unless the Lord had made me learn, and taught me in a very deep and practical school where things were kept right up-to-date, and where every bit of ministry sprang out of some new experience. It is a law which applies to us all. The fact is that these sufferings are absolutely essential to keep things real; people have a right to ask, ‘How did you get to know that? Have you proved that? How much has that been to you in the deepest hours of life, when things were beyond your power? Did that prove to be true then?’ If we are not able to say with all our heart in utter sincerity, ‘I found the Lord to be like that; I have put that truth to a thorough test and proved it’, then we are frauds. The Lord has no place for frauds; therefore He keeps us up-to-date. Reality is by suffering.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

May 21

21 MAY – What God Is Trying To Do In Us

Think of the marvel of Christ in Pilate’s hall and before the High Priest. Spat upon, mocked, struck, in every way degraded — and He is almighty and infinite God incarnate Who, with the parting of His lips, the silent lifting of His hand, could have smitten that crowd out of existence! The centurion was right; when he saw what had happened he was filled with fear and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God.’ We have heard of people suddenly discovering their awful mistake and dying of heart failure on the spot. Think of the shock that has to come yet to those who treated Him as He was treated — when they see Him. You can understand something of what took place in Saul of Tarsus (who knew all about what had happened in Jerusalem) when he saw Him — “I am Jesus” — saw Him in a brightness above that of the noonday sun.

But my point is this, He accepted and endured all that, going through to the bitter end, letting them hammer nails through His hands and feet and fix Him to the Cross, with all the deriding — “He saved others; himself he cannot save… Let (God) deliver him now, if he desireth him: for he said, I am the Son of God.” And He did not stir a finger or utter a word when twelve legions of angels were standing ready for His aid. (If one angel could smite the host of Sennacherib, what would twelve legions do?) That is meekness and lowliness of heart, and that is what God is trying to effect in us. That is the thought of God; that is going to be glory in God’s universe; that will make a world worth living in, and a universe of that nature will be bearable. God thus works in us in these words — “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

May 20

20 MAY – What Is God Doing With His People?

How do you pray for the Lord’s people in times of trouble? Of course, we are all tempted to pray for their deliverance, to cry to the Lord that they may escape. It may be right at times to pray thus, but suppose the Lord does not deliver? He does not always deliver at once. He allows the situation to continue, to become long drawn out. The enemy will encamp upon that fact and give it his own twist and interpretation — ‘God is not doing anything; He has left His people, is standing back, is not concerned.’ There is no answering voice, no slightest indication that He is taking any account at all. It is like that very often, and that is a real playground for the enemy. God apparently makes no response.

How shall we be delivered from going to pieces, from being overwhelmed in such a time and under such conditions? Only by grasping this thought of God; and then we have to begin to pray along other lines. If God does not act to deliver His people, there is a deeper and a higher thought and purpose than their deliverance, and He is at work upon that; and deeply in them He is going to reproduce the patience, the endurance, the longsuffering of Jesus Christ.

Meekness and gentleness — these are foreign things to our natures; under stress, under adversity, under the cruel hand of tyrannical men, to say, ‘Father, forgive’! He could say “I am meek and lowly in heart.” Oh, you see — the image of His Son. Such testing conditions are a terrible challenge to our natural dispositions. Our whole nature revolts against meekness and lowliness and wants to rise up and be even with the other one, or be the master. Our nature does not accept and delight in opposition, antagonism, frustration, persecution, and all such things.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

May 19

19 MAY – An Inwrought Knowledge of the Lord

We are all conscious how very testing are the limitations that growingly bear down upon us as those who would serve the Lord. They raise many questions and problems in our minds, so far as concerns the fulfilment of what we have thought to be our ministry. The situation is a very trying one. We have to look deeper, still more inward, as to God’s thought.

This is a fact borne out in the case of every servant of God in history who has really come under the hand of God — that the real values of their lives for all time have been those which correspond to the wine of the grape, the thing trodden out in the winepress, the agony of the heart; and you know that it is true in your case that if ever you have had anything at all which you knew to be worthwhile and which has really helped someone else, it has been born out of some travail in your own experience. You have gone into the winepress, through an agony, to produce it and that is the nature of real service to God.

How do we know? — not have information, but know? We only know anything in that deepest sense by going into a situation where we are stripped of everything in order to prove that one thing, and to find in knowing it our deliverance, our salvation. That is the way in which we learn, and there is no gap whatever between that kind of knowledge and our very being. That knowledge is not objective to ourselves, it is ourselves, and when we give that we give ourselves. We cannot stand back from that and say, ‘I believed that once, but I do not believe it any longer; I had those ideas, but I do not hold them now.’ Oh, God could never be satisfied with anything like that.

There may be sifting and adjustment as to our ideas, but the Lord is after ‘true knowledge.’ We stand or fall by our knowledge, because true knowledge is life, is being, and it is what God Himself is in us.

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