Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

November 25

25 NOV – Why God’s Vessels Must Suffer

Why is it that – God willing and purposing a certain object to be accomplished, e.g.: the salvation of souls, the building of the Church, the increase of spiritual measure; and God being Who and What He is, All-mighty, All-wise, All-gracious – the work is fraught with so many problems? The workers are often at the end of themselves; everything is so hard and heartbreaking; and in deepest suffering many die with so little accomplished. Why is the vindication of those who have honestly sought to do the will of God and have suffered deeply at the hands of men, even Christian men, so long delayed?

How much we could enlarge upon the perplexities of the work of the Lord! But if we could say all, does not the same solution apply as above?

It has become almost a platitude now to say that ‘God is more concerned for the worker than for the work’. Yes, and, as a proposition, we may quite honestly believe it; but as applied and experienced, it is the root of unspeakably much perplexity and disappointment. Yet there it is: the whole fact that, second causes being admitted or rejected, the work of God has never been something easy or straightforward, with the continuous manifestation of His absolute All-mightiness making difficulties as though they were nothing.

God will never put work or service in the place of character; and, if we do that, eternity will reveal that, however much we may have done; we are very small amongst the inhabitants of the Land, whose stature will be measured by ‘the measure of Christ’. It would be well if all who contemplate or are engaged in the work of God were governed by this one absolutely final law: that, both as to themselves and as to those amongst whom they minister, the ultimate test is – not how much work is done, but how much of Christ is present, or results from the ministry. This might solve many problems, explain many ‘strange’ ways of God, and seal life with the kind of ‘success’ that is worthy of the Name in the eyes of Heaven.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

November 24

24 NOV – The Problem of Suffering

Suffering may include many things; physical, circumstantial, spiritual. It may relate to ourselves or to others. Almost countless are the ways of God’s dealings with us, which are most trying and hard to bear. The most acute form of suffering is that which relates to God Himself: His silence; hiding Himself; seeming to have neither knowledge nor care. Prayers seem to be unheard, and are, apparently (we would say positively) unanswered. What is the explanation? Well, the Word of God has made very clear that such an explanation exists.

There is one all-comprehending, all-embracing, all-governing purpose to which God has committed Himself – by creation, by redemption, and by union. That purpose is the conformity of a race to the image of His Son. This is man’s chief end and chief good. What more satisfied and ‘happy’ person is there – even amidst suffering and sorrow – than he or she who is most perfect in patience, love, faith, and the other ‘fruits of the Spirit’? If our requests regarding things were granted, while we were left the same people, unchanged in disposition and nature, it would not be long before we should be in the same unhappy condition over other things. There is possible for us some inherent quality that wears out circumstances and reigns above them. Some of the most radiant people have been the greatest sufferers in infirmity, poverty, or other forms of adversity; whilst the most ‘privileged’ are often the most discontented.

The solution to the problem of suffering does not lie in being philosophical; it is not in fatalistic resignation – ‘This is my lot; I suppose I must accept it’. It is not in passive or active suppression of desire. It is far removed from self-pity, bitterness, cynicism, or envy, and the rest of their wretched family of wilderness-makers and wanderers.

We may have to let go the particular occasion of our trouble, and first recognize, and then embrace with our heart, the fact that in the affliction there resides the immense eternal potentiality of an increase of the image of God’s Son, which is to be the one and the only character and nature of the eternal kingdom. We have too much visualized the ‘Heaven’ that is to be, as geographical and pleasurable, without giving sufficient weight to the fact of a nature to be inculcated and perfected.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

November 23

23 NOV – Exercising Our Spiritual Senses

There can be no development unless you are given something beyond your capacity. It is true in every realm. It means that the Lord is constantly putting you into situations beyond your capacity. If it is a matter of seeing, and you cannot see, what are you going to do when you just cannot see what the Lord means, what the Lord is after, what He is doing? Give it up? Say, ‘I cannot see’ – that is an end of it and go home? Of course not! We are there for that faculty to be developed and capacity increased. Have we not already proved that through many a dark way? We just cannot see or understand, but we have at least learned something of the ways and mind of the Lord. And in every other way too we are put into positions beyond our capacity. Does that comfort you? Are you out of your depth today? Are you in situations that you just cannot cope with? The explanation is in Hebrews 12.

There is a very great cost bound up with capacity – that is what I find. There have been people of whom we have despaired. We have wondered if ever they really would see, whether they would ever grow at all. They seemed to stay for so long in exactly the same place and with the same measure, and we have despaired. And then the Lord has taken them into a very deep place, breaking and shattering and emptying; and before they are through, things have changed inwardly: they have got a new knowledge of the Lord; they have come out with something which we had despaired of their ever reaching. There is something there now; there is the possibility now that they are going to count for something more. They are seeing.

I do not think there is any other way for increasing capacity. Capacity is a costly thing. We had better face it. Every little bit of increase means agony. There is a big afterward in view. “All chastening seemeth for the present to be not joyous, but grievous”, and do not expect it to be otherwise – but afterward, and maybe, in measure, in the afterward here, we may be of greater value to the Lord, as He puts us through His school.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

November 22

22 NOV – The Realm of Spiritual Exercise

“But solid food is for fullgrown men, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil” (Heb. 5:14). “All chastening seemeth for the present to be not joyous but grievous: yet afterward it yieldeth peaceable fruit unto them that have been exercised thereby, even the fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 12:11).

If you look to see the object of this exercise, you will discover that it has to do with just one thing – but a very great thing. It is not just development, getting big; it is what we call capacity, that is, ability, or being able for things. That is the Divine object in this exercise, quite clearly set forth in this letter. And capacity, as I am sure you will agree, is a very vital matter. Whether it is in the natural realm or in the spiritual, it does amount to something to have capacity – to have ability. It is a very distressing thing to find how few, even of the Lord’s people, have real spiritual capacity. You will see what that means as we go on. But let us get the object of this exercise in view, that we may make no mistake. It is not just to be something, but to be able for something – that is capacity. In gymnastics you can do it for its own sake, just to develop yourself, just to be something, but the real object is to be able to do things, to be capable of much more.

What is the realm of this exercise? Here it speaks of having the senses exercised. Well, of course, that is very simple and easily understood. In our natural, physical man we have five senses. We have our sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. Those are the five senses of our physical natural life. But there is also an inner man called the “hidden man of the heart”, and that inward man has what corresponds to the outer man’s five senses. There is a faculty of spiritual sight, of spiritual hearing, of spiritual smelling or sensing, of spiritual taste and spiritual touch, and these senses are very important to the life of the inward man – yes, more important even than the senses of the physical man. We know how we feel the tragedy of people who have lost any of those outward senses. It is a great loss; it is an imperfect life, a life of limitation. But it is equally true of the inward man. To be without spiritual sight is a tragic loss and a terrible limitation; or without spiritual hearing, that capacity for answering to the Spirit “he that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith”: if there is no capacity for hearing, that is a desperate situation.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

November 21

21 NOV – God Always Has the Last Word

Are you expecting ends, limitation, feeling that for you there is no hope, no future? Do not believe it! Get down to this and see it as the great eternal fact. God is trying to bring us to the place where we stop expecting what the Devil is constantly offering through circumstances – death, an end, limitation. God is all the time thinking of increase, enlargement. That is the history of the Church. Again and again, generally and in individual cases, it has been said, This is the end; it is all over; the Lord has done with us; and yet oh, how slow we are to learn it, to get it fixed, established! – It does not prove to be the end, does it? We find that there is still a lease of life, still something more in the Lord’s intention; and even when the point is really reached of an end here on earth, we do not believe that is the end of life and work – it is emancipation unto fullness.

These are very simple things, but all hang upon this little word “that.” God allows very deep and hard and painful things – things which bring us in ourselves really to the point of giving up, where we pass the verdict of death upon ourselves. He allows them with this object, that however much we may have known and proved the truth in our earlier experience, He may bring us yet a stage further into the power and good of it, that God raiseth the dead. If He does that, then there is hope for anybody and for anything. The Lord give us more of this disciplined, instructed, enlightened faith. We cannot come to it by being told it, by hearing it a thousand times, but only by experience.

Some of you know what we are talking about. You know despair, you know hopeless situations, you know what it is to come to the place where you are finished and throw up your hands. If you do not, you may know it yet. The Lord is after getting us, as many as He can, through to that place where, in and through His Church, death is swallowed up in victory, death is no more. That is practically the last word of the Bible. Nearly the first words of the Bible are about the entrance of death; the tree of life was cut off. At the end of the Bible we read “Death shall be no more” (Rev. 21:4). That has got to be wrought out in an instrument, and we know that that process is very practical. The Lord enable us to learn that lesson and gain the vantage ground of the triumph of Christ’s resurrection.

We should never expect an end until God says, That is the end! He is the God of hope, “who… begat us again unto a living hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away” (1 Pet. 1:3-4). If we leave out the negative and read only the positive statement in the passage which we are considering we read: “That we should… trust in God who raiseth the dead.”

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

November 20

20 NOV – The Things which Befall Us

You and I, in the time of difficulty and adversity, deep suffering and trial, are so often tempted to think that something very wrong has taken place, and there is a big question as to whether it ought to be, seeing we belong to the Lord. We are really, in heart, devoted to the Lord; we mean business with Him and now look at this! Well, it befell and it befalls. We must get to the point of a conclusion about this, that there is no charm resting upon the life of the most devoted child of God, there is no special providence to say that no adversity shall overtake, shall befall. It just does happen, it is a fact, and that is where we begin.

It happened to Paul, it befell him (2 Cor. 1:8-10), but he does not raise any questions at all about God or about spiritual issues in such a way as to lead him into difficulties with the Lord. Are you one whose way has been, and perhaps still is, one of great adversity, trial, suffering, perplexity? It has happened to you, it has overtaken, it has befallen you. Well, Paul is not alone in this, that it is a part of the course of things. It has a meaning; but my point at the moment is that these things are facts. You cannot get away from them. You must settle down to it that they are facts to be recognized and accepted as making up the lot of a true servant and child of God. That is where we begin.

But then there is another thing here. Of course, we do not know what was the exact nature of Paul’s particular trial. It is probable that it was some terrible illness which overtook him, some sickness which brought him to an end of all hope. Whatever it was, he says: “We despaired even of life; yea, we ourselves have had the sentence of death within ourselves.” This is the end, death! But what we want particularly to note is the exercise that the affliction produced in Paul. Evidently he had been looking into this thing, scrutinizing it and saying, What is the Divine meaning in my situation? What does the Lord mean by this? Although it looks like a hap, it has befallen me, yet the Lord has something bound up with it. There was enquiry and exercise about the situation, and in his prayerful investigation, he comes to realize what the Lord’s mind is, and he sums it all up in the little word THAT. “We have had the sentence of death within ourselves, THAT we should not trust in ourselves, but in God…” All this happened in order that… There was a Divine object, a Divine meaning, something quite precise. …in order that “we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raiseth the dead.”

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

November 19

19 NOV – The Fire of the Chosen Ones

But you are really going into the furnace if you are going to be of intrinsic spiritual value, if it is going to be the Lord. Oh, do not go out with teaching. ‘This is our teaching, what we stand for.’ No, none of that! Go out and live and be the Lord, in effect, in manifestation. That is the only justification.

What the Lord is after is men and women individually and collectively who do not hold some higher truth, propound some fuller or deeper doctrines or have a more exact New Testament technique, but who are the impact and registration of Himself in a spiritual way, that it can be said, “In touching them, I have met the Lord”. That is the way of a fiery furnace.

God does not want instruments. An instrument, a tool, is something you take up and has to respond mechanically to you. God wants living beings impregnated with Himself; to touch them is to touch the Lord Himself. Well, that explains the way of the Lord with us in our own experience, what He is after. It is a fresh challenge to us. May it have this effect, that it saves us from looking at others, what they are doing and what is being done, and coveting and envying; saying, Well, you see… and then gravitating in heart in that direction.

Remember that it may be — I am not going to say dogmatically that it is — but it may be an election. “I have chosen…” Maybe He has put His hand on you for something more. You could serve Him; you could be of use in other realms. It may be He has put His hand on you for something more, and because of that you go through it as other people do not.

Fire for you means something far more than for many others. Think that it may be an election to serve the Lord in some deeper way than the average, than the general, and the fire will see to the matter of conceit and pride. There will be no room left for them.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

November 18

18 NOV – Chosen for Intrinsic Value

You know in Romans 8, perhaps the most familiar chapter in the Bible to you, it is always the contrast there between the Spirit and the flesh. You know that in that chapter you have got past the grave, you are now on resurrection ground, and it is all now the spiritual. First, the law of life has made you free, then it is all the Spirit, the spiritual mind, the spiritual man, everything spiritual, and God has not departed from that. Man, thinking in more material and objective terms, has not taken God away from His basis. His basis is still that, right from the cross; it is spiritual nature, spiritual measure. It is all what is really spiritual in the divine sense. It is the Lord.

And that explains so largely the Lord’s dealings with us. Do believe it! The Lord is after having mother tincture in spiritual life – that is, the ‘flavour’, trace or tinge of the Lord Himself. That is essentially spiritual intrinsic value.

Here, speaking among ourselves, I do not see, as I have thought and thought, and spent very much time in weighing up everything, I do not see any other explanation for the way in which we are dealt with by the Lord. I see no other explanation for our existence. I have never accepted that, if the Lord wanted to do what He is doing generally in this world, why He should have made something more here, something separate here? We were at one time doing that and getting on splendidly in the general realm of earnest Christian evangelical activity. That could have gone on. But the Lord did something and brought us apart as a people, not — let me say it strongly — not to make us in ourselves any more important. We have not got one inch of ground to stand upon to speak of superior importance or our superior value. But I do believe that He did something because He wanted His people, perhaps in all the world, or many of His people all over this world, to come into something more of Himself by putting this corporate vessel into the furnace. You know immediately you come into touch with this, you get into trouble. The only thing that will keep you going on, that will maintain your relationship, is that you find more of the Lord. If you do not — go, friend, go! Do not be attached to a thing. It is the Lord. And if it is not, my prayer is ever: Wind it up, put it out, if it does not stand justified in its extra measure of the Lord.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

November 17

17 NOV – Meeting the Lord in the Word

The all-governing thing with God is His self-manifestation, and that can only be along the lines and by means of spiritual life. There is no other way of manifesting God, God becoming really known; only along spiritual lines. There is not one of us who knows the Lord Jesus and has that knowledge in any other way. We do not have a physical knowledge of Jesus. We have come into our knowledge of Him in a spiritual way, and every fuller bit of knowledge of Him is spiritual, essentially spiritual, and God cannot be known in any other way. The Lord cannot be manifested in any other way. There is that mystic, strange, inexplicable something which is extra, which is the Lord. I mean, it is not teaching. There may be a great mass of teaching, and perfectly right and true teaching, a great fullness of truth, and yet there may just be lacking that something, that extra something, that mystic something that leaves it as truth, a bulk of truth, and does not get you anywhere. When you have got it all, it has not got you anywhere. It is not something objective at all, objective in the way of truth imparted, teaching given, doctrine held.

It is not a matter of work done for the Lord, in the Name of the Lord, things that we are doing — even the matter of leading others to accept Him, as an engagement, as a form of activity, of work. It is not the constituting or the constructing of something for the Lord in the same way as we would go to work to build up some other institution in the world and call it by this or that name; it is not that. These may be means, but if there is not that extra, as I call it, that mystical something, if it is just an objective thing, it has failed in its divine value. That something, that extra, is the Lord. The Lord has been imparted, and all teaching and truth which does not impart the Lord — not just knowledge, truth and doctrine, material, however right in its place — if it does not carry with it the Lord and impart the Lord and result in people who are alive, who are sensitive, who are open, who are prepared, being able to say, Yes, the Word was good, but the Lord met me in the Word — if it is not that extra, it has failed. If any of the work that is being done, all the activities, all the business, with the best of motives and a great zeal and devotion, whole-heartedness, if the upshot of it is not that the Lord has come in, it is the Lord, something extra to the Word, you have come into touch with the Lord; it has failed.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

November 16

16 NOV – The Marks of Our Likeness to Jesus

For you and for me there has got to be Christ-likeness as the mark of His ownership of our lives. How does Christ-likeness come about? Well, the marks of devotion in service come about by the measure in which we are prepared to suffer for Him, make sacrifices for Him. The marks of Christ-likeness come about by the measure in which we have communion with Him, so that the marks of Christ-likeness are the result of faithfulness in communion.

You see, the marks of ownership are the results of faithfulness in loyalty; the marks of devotion in service are the marks of faithfulness in suffering and sacrifice; the marks of Christ-likeness come out of faithfulness in communion with the Lord. How shall I be like Christ? How will you be like Christ? How will others see the marks of Jesus in us? Just in so far as we are faithful in our communion. You know that in everyday life. Start the day without your quiet time, without your prayer, and it will not be long before there are other marks in your life than the marks of Jesus. Neglect prayer, neglect communion with your Lord, and the traces of the Lord will soon disappear from view. On the other hand, look after the matter of communion, preserve that quiet time, those quiet times, look after your times of prayer, see to it that He has a place in your heart, a large place in your heart every day and you need not worry about being like the Lord Jesus. All the worry to be like the Lord Jesus will not make any difference. People who walk closely with Him, keep in touch with Him, look after the prayer life, do carry those marks of His restfulness, His peacefulness, His patience, His gentleness, His kindness, His love; the marks of Jesus. That is how it comes about.

I do not tell you to strive and I do not tell you to strive and struggle to be like Jesus. I say, keep in touch with Jesus. Do believe me, for I have gone this way. I know, oh! I know, on the one hand the blessedness, and on the other hand the bitterness of suffering bound up with this very thing. The blessedness of looking after the quiet times, the prayer times, the communion life with the Lord! Oh yes! In business, in the world, what a difference it makes! On the other hand, things breaking in, adverse things that interfere with the life of communion with the Lord, and the result—! Oh, the miserable, wretched result! May I urge upon you to see to faithfulness in communion with your Lord, and, perhaps without knowing it (and it will be better so), you will be bearing the marks of the Lord Jesus, His likeness. I do not want you to be able to go about showing people how like Christ you are. We want it to be there and yet not to know it. It will be there if you look after the life of communion. So be faithful in this. And then? Well, what matters? “Henceforth let no man trouble me, I bear branded on my body the marks of Jesus”. May it be like that with all of us! “His forever, only His, Who the Lord and me shall part?”

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