Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

July 20

20 JUL – The Divine Purpose of Travail

You know, if you don’t suffer for a thing, you don’t value it. If it costs you nothing then it means little to you. If you have really suffered agonies and anguish for anything, for anyone, over any matter, that thing is of infinite preciousness to you. You’re going to fight for that, you’re going to watch over that with keen jealousy. That is something very precious. And is not that just how the law of travail works? Yes! It’s like that. If it comes without travail, without any cost, well it’s taken too lightly, isn’t it? – far too lightly…

The Lord introduced this factor that in every birth it’s a question of life or death. Life and death are in the balances every time. The governing question: how is it going? You’re held in tension… and when it’s alright, how the heart goes out: thank God! Thank God… Worship. God comes into His place. God comes into His place, very often with those who have never given Him any place before, at any rate there is a spontaneous: “Thank God!” You see the principle; you see how true it is. And so God established this, ah yes, this painful way, this suffering way, as the only way in which He could recover and establish the law of values, of preciousness, and save man from his superficiality with regard to the most costly things.

He did it in order to secure a heart relationship with Himself and with everything that comes from Him. A heart relatedness, that is, love! Love! – a love that is far removed from despising the Lord or anything of the Lord; a love that involves the very life itself; that if its object is lost then life itself goes with it. See? It’s like that.

Anything that comes from God will sooner or later pass into the realm of suffering, into the realm of travail, to find out how much value we put upon it, how much it really means to us, how much we have seen of God in it. It will become a matter of life or death. Under this law all divine things have been put upon this basis.

It is therefore a very important thing that we should understand the meaning attached to this law, why God introduced it and established it and has never lifted it, and never does; but holds all history of individuals, of families, of society, of nations, and peculiarly of the Church to this law. I say, it’s very important that we should understand the divine meaning attaching to travail.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

July 19

19 JUL – The Natural Will – or – The Will of God?

A comparison is made with Israel in the wilderness as being an example of those who set out but who never finished the race. What was the matter with them? There is a reference which perhaps touches the secret core of their failure: “A generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not steadfast with God” (Psalm 78:8).

This seems to indicate a breakdown in the matter of the will. It is true that the Hebrews may have been stumbled by the natural mind and natural emotions, but the main point of failure seems to have been, like Israel of old, in the realm of the will. Whether this natural will is regarded as weak or strong, it has a treacherous effect on spiritual life. There can only be real progress as this natural will is set aside in favor of the will of God.

It was on this basis that the great Author of our faith set out on His race: “I am come… to do thy will, O God” (Hebrews 10:7). What a battle – He had to remain true to the will of God! Even with Him there was that which had to be brought under or set aside, and His was a perfect nature. Our natures are far from perfect; so clearly we shall need to be conquered by the will of God if we are to make progress in the race.

We should remember that the opportunity to know this all-embracing fullness of Christ only comes to us because of His infinite capacity for letting go. But for that, He would never have come to us at all. But for that, He would never have put up with life here on earth for one single day. The story of the laying aside of His glory, the emptying of Himself, His humiliation, His death on the cross, would never have been written if it had not been that He was able at all points to let go and accept the will of God.

“Wherefore… God highly exalted him, and gave unto him…” (Philippians 2:9)

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

July 18

18 JUL – Natural Emotions – or – The Love of Christ?

Paul wrote to the Galatians: “Ye were running well: what did hinder…?” Something had broken in and interrupted their running in the spiritual race. This was extremely serious and disturbed Paul to the depths of his being. They seem to have been of that temperamental constitution which corresponds to Christ’s words in the parable about seed falling into shallow soil. The seed was received quickly and earnestly, but did not go on to produce a harvest. There are some people who make an enthusiastic start in this way and make quite a stir about it, but then do not go steadily on. These Galatians were like that; they made a tremendous response; they loudly protested their devotion; and then they were very quick to drop out of the race. Why? Because they lived on their emotions, on their feelings, and these were changeable. This may well be a matter of temperament, but in fact something of such a characteristic can be found in most of us. We respond to an appeal, come under the power of a great emotion, and then slack off. In the words of the Lord Jesus: “When tribulation or persecution ariseth… he is offended” (Matthew 13:21).

Clearly, then, if you and I are going to persevere to the end we must have a greater power than that of our natural emotional life. The only hope is that it may be true of us, as of Paul: “The love of Christ constraineth” (2 Corinthians 5:14). There is all the difference between the natural and the spiritual in this matter of the energy of love. This word translated ‘constraineth’ is the same one used over the arrest of Jesus when it says: “the men that HELD Jesus” (Luke 22:63). So it is that the love of Christ should hold or grip us, conquering our natural emotions by the mighty power of the Spirit. Our feelings come and go. They may be strong at times but they can also grow very weak. If we do not know something of the mighty grip of Christ’s love, we will never go right through to the end of this strenuous race. After all, it is the love of Christ which makes for the fullness of Christ. If we finally come to that fullness it can only be by the constraint and holding power of His love.

“Ye were running well: who did hinder you?” The answer is: you ran in the strength of your own emotions; you ran as your enthusiastic response to God’s call because it affected your feelings for the time. The letter to the Galatians is devoted to emphasizing the place of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, for He alone can supply the necessary energy of love for us to go on running well.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

July 17

17 JUL – Natural Instinct – or – The Mind of the Spirit?

“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? Even so run, that ye may attain.” (1 Corinthians 9:24)

Paul told the Corinthians to run and later added: “So I run” (1 Corinthians 9:26). We do not have to look far to discover what you had to run against if you lived among those Corinthians. The letter begins with the complete contrast between the spiritual man and the natural man, showing that in this race the spiritual man has to run against the natural, and defeat him. We must be careful to note that it is not a question of overcoming the natural man by the natural man; that is a hopeless endeavor. No, the spiritual man is the new creation man, born of the Spirit and now the deepest inner reality of the Christian. The fact is that within the sphere of a Christian’s being there is the natural man who always hinders God’s purposes, and the ‘hidden man of the heart’ who is governed by the mind of the Spirit. And the attaining of the prize is the result of the progress and growth of what is of Christ in the life and the leaving behind, often by conflict, of that which is not Christ.

Our natural mind is a great obstacle in the race which we are running, cropping up all the time with its complexes, its arguments, its interests and its methods. When the Corinthians were brought into the Church they left behind their obvious sins, but they carried over into their new realm the old, natural ways of thinking and reasoning which belonged to the world and not to the Spirit of God. But the apostle remonstrated with them: “But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16), so urging them to allow the cross to be planted between the natural mind and the spiritual. We shall only come to the fullness of Christ as we leave behind the mind of the natural man and move on more and more in the progress of the mind of Christ. On everything – every judgment, every conclusion, every analysis, every appraisal – we must ask the Lord: ‘Is that Your mind, Lord, or is it mine?’

There was no man who had stronger convictions as to the rightness of his course than Saul of Tarsus. The great revolution which took place in him when he came to Christ was that he had to say: ‘I have been all wrong in my fundamental way of thinking’. After that confession he made good headway in the race because he was always ready to subject his thinking to the jurisdiction of his crucified Lord. This is the way of spiritual progress.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

July 16

16 JUL – “Let Us Run”

“Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:3).

“Let us run”. It is not so much the running or the race that is in view but the goal, the prize. What is the objective of our running? Ideas about this vary greatly, and much evangelism limits it to the fact of being forgiven and going to heaven. When, however, we come to the New Testament, which is our final authority on the matter, we find that although blessings and heaven and glory are included, the real objective is a Person. The prize turns out to be a person, and that person, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The beginning of Hebrews’ epistle gives us one of the two or three classical presentations of the person of the Lord Jesus. The first five verses provide us with a superlatively beautiful presentation of God’s Son. It is to this Son Jesus that we are to look as we run. He is the goal; He is the prize. The letter has as its supreme object the setting forth of Divine fullness and finality in God’s Son, presented to faith for faith’s apprehension and appropriation. Fullness in Christ is the gathering up of all into Him. Finality in Christ is the completion and realization of all in Him. It goes on to consider in greater detail what He is and what He has done, His manifold capacity and ministry as God’s Son, turning then to an exhortation that we should keep this well in view and pursue our race with fullness and finality in Christ as our objective. Our lifetime will not be sufficient for us to attain to this: eternity will be required for us to discover what fullness really is.

If the goal and prize is Christ, then the race will resolve itself into overcoming everything that is not Christ. The Christian life is a course, and a very strenuous course, calling for our utmost concentration, consecration and abandon. After all, progress can never be made unless there is something to work against, and strange as it may seem, friction seems almost essential to progress. One cannot run on ice, and one can only make slow and unsatisfactory progress on deep sand. There must be something against which one can press and push, something that provides resistance and which has to be resisted and overcome. So our race is a matter of overcoming, and supremely of overcoming the natural by the spiritual.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

July 15

15 JUL – The Principle of Safety

God has left us in no doubt that He has a clearly defined purpose in view as the ultimate object of all His dealings. He has also made it abundantly clear what that purpose is. Further, it is distinctly shown that believers are “called according to his purpose”, and that they are to ‘make their calling and election sure’. One who was an aged and advanced believer, and a greatly used servant of God, said toward the end of his course that his great concern was that he ‘might apprehend that for which he had been apprehended by Christ Jesus’.

It is the business and duty of every true Christian so to study as to be quite clear as to what that ‘Eternal Purpose’ is. Having done so, everything that arises to engage us must be brought to the judgment bar of that purpose, and interrogated in its light. God will not cut across our path, or give us particular light at any fork in the road, if we have not been diligent in this quest, or faithful to the light given. It just will not do to allow ourselves to be influenced by questions of comparative right or wrong, good or bad, permissibility, desirability, expediency, or policy. Nor must ambition, soul-gratification, enlarged prospects ‘for the Lord’, wider acceptance in Christianity, or any such thing, color our judgment or affect our decision. Advantage and cost are ruled out here as deciding factors. One question, and one alone, will decide tragedy or glory: Does this that is before me stand directly in line with the full purpose of God? When the end is reached, the full story told, the sum taken, how much that is bound up with this will be stripped off, as having no real substance with what is Christ, and therefore fail to be carried over into the eternal? What will the River carry away, and what will emerge on the other side? This was the big question that Paul put to the Corinthians.

The peril or snare will be cunningly and ingeniously adapted to the ‘prey’. What would capture some would make no appeal to others. The most spiritual will be presented with what appears to be most spiritual. Our particular temperament will be our peculiar danger. We shall have to, ever and always, be governed by principle and not by feelings, preferences, arguments, or natural appeal. Intellectual palliatives (i.e.: alleviating pain and symptoms without eliminating the cause), emotional ecstasies, activity-gratifications must be suspected or challenged. The one question must be paramount: Where does this lead? Does it essentially and intrinsically relate to the one supreme purpose of God?

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

July 14

14 JUL – Dying To Ambition

What do we expect when we go on with God, when we come right out for God? What have we in view? Well, the answer to that question will decide whether, in relation to God, we have ambitions for something on the earth. Do you get the point? You see, it is so possible to swing over your natural ambitions to spiritual aims. It is the same thing still at work, and the only difference is the direction or sphere. You can be as ambitious in the work of God as you can be in the world, and it is the same natural ambition. It is the ambitiousness of nature.

You desire. What do you desire? To see something, to have something, to be in something? Ambition for success… yes, once it was in the world now the same ambition transferred to other things.

You see, it is very often to the children – the kindergarten – the elementary stages of faith, where there is not the capacity to take very much strain, that God has to give quick results and manifest signs. The marks of maturity are equally the withdrawing of outward manifestations and signs – the demand to walk with God alone for God’s own sake. It is a mark of graduation in the school of God that He can withdraw outward things. It shows that we have passed the test as to whether we are ambitious in this life.

It is a mark of going on when we can come to the place where it is true before God that we have let go all the prosperity and success even of Christian work and Christian ministry (as men would count). It is a sure sign of growth to be able to let go the great opportunities and the great advantages that may be had amongst Christian people… and the prizes that can be grasped… and to say: ‘It is all right, the Lord knows; it is for Him to give or withhold. I am not going to make a line for those prizes. I am not going to allow those things to influence my walk with God. Ambition is not going to dictate my course.’

The way of Life demands that we shall get before the Lord and say, “Lord, though all my earthly prospects fade, though all my ambitions are disappointed, it is You I want. You are my ambition – my goal. If I have You, these other things will count for much less.” But let us remember that His desire is to have us for Himself for His own sake; and as we fall into line, Life is found there. It is the way of Life. The law of Life demands that everything should be for the Lord.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

July 13

13 JUL – The Silence of Sovereignty

“And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11-12).

There was a crisis in the life of a prophet, Elijah. He had inwardly collapsed and asked the Lord to take away his life. It was human weakness and failure. But while it is true that there was a crisis brought about by the weakness of humanity, yet we see the triumph of the grace of God.

Now the point upon which I am focusing at the moment is the silence of sovereignty where the Lord’s people are involved. There are times, of course, when the Lord breaks silence and comes out in a terrible manifestation of majesty, of might, unto destruction. But that is not His normal way and specially not His normal way with His people and with His servants. His normal way is silence. It is really a matter of the Holy Spirit in relation to the covenant purpose of God and in relation to the Lord’s honour, for I take it that the still, small voice (or, as the margin has it, that voice of gentle stillness) is the Holy Spirit Himself.

In such a situation the call is to faith to act. Faith is called upon to act when all seems hopeless, just to act. Here God is not accepting passive faith, He calls for action, the action of faith. How often a new practical committal has been God’s way when all seems lost. We are so often found looking for, praying for, expecting, some mighty shattering intervention of God in our situation, the evidence and the proof that God is with us, something that we can lay hold of, something to which we can point, something that we can report on. This is a way of enlargement and God is enlarging in this way, silently, almost imperceptibly. He is going on with His covenant purpose. If you are expecting the Lord to do some extraordinary, miraculous thing in your situation, it may never happen. What God does intend and has intended will happen, if we will believe Him and act on our belief.

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

July 12

12 JUL – The Secret of Courage: Faith in God

Of that first generation, only two men got out of that soul realm, Joshua and Caleb. They triumphed in and over that realm. They were overcomers in that realm first, and then the Lord brought them out, but the fact that it was the rest of faith which was the secret of their triumph while they were in it is brought so beautifully, magnificently, to light in this fourteenth chapter of Joshua.

Caleb, one of the two, comes to Joshua. He is an old man now, but still living by faith in the position which he took up with the Lord years before. He took up that position when he went as one of the spies and when the great majority, the overwhelming majority, brought their evil report. They looked at God through their circumstances; these two men looked at their circumstances through God; it made all the difference. Caleb took up that position of looking at everything through God, and he is still living in that position; and now, as an old man, he comes to Joshua, and, while all the other people are being given their inheritance in nice, easy, prosperous positions “where every prospect pleases”, Caleb says, ‘Give me this mountain where the giants are, and cities great and walled up; this hilly country; give me this mountain!’

What are you looking for? – an easy inheritance, a nice, workable cabbage-patch, something that is going to respond to your touch immediately and give you satisfaction? Are you looking for the flourishing land? The faith which brought Joshua and Caleb into rest of heart before they came into the rest of the land was this kind of faith. Give me a tough proposition! Here is a situation full of difficulties, full of threatenings, full of adversities; why, it is almost an appalling prospect, yet nevertheless give me a chance there! You see the challenge.

How are we facing the big difficulties? Sometimes it seems an impossible outlook and prospect, a hopeless situation. Perhaps for our own lives individually for some reason within ourselves or outside of ourselves, or for the work to which we are called, the ministry, the testimony that is laid upon us, it seems so utterly hopeless, the mountain is impossible. Well, what about it? Do you say, “Give me this mountain!”? Are you looking at the mountain through the Lord, or at the Lord through the mountain?

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Austin Sparks, Christian Ministry, Christianity, Daily Devotional

July 11

11 JUL – Entering Into a Rest of Faith

One of the things which is lacking in so many of us is this rest, or, to put it the other way, the things which characterize us so much are fret, anxiety, uncertainty, and all those things which are just the opposite of calm assurance, quiet confidence, the spirit and attitude and atmosphere which says all the time, ‘Don’t worry, don’t fret, it is all right.’ One thing our great enemy is always trying to do is to disturb that, destroy that, rob us of that, churn us up, fret us, drive us, harass us, anything to rob us of our rest or to prevent us from entering into rest.

It is the rest of faith, not just the rest of passivity, indifference, carelessness. There is all the difference between carelessness and carefreeness. There remaineth, there is still to be had, there still obtains, there still exists, there is still preserved a rest for the people of God. Every day brings hundreds of ways in which there is the opportunity to stand into the rest of faith, into that faith in the Lord which brings rest. It may be an incident in daily life, yes, in many, many ways every day, you and I can so lose our poise and our rest and our quiet confidence as to lose out spiritually, and the Lord lose much, so that it is proved that somewhere faith has been lacking, and with it the rest has gone. That is one side. It is a challenge to us, a real challenge. The thing that matters is the inner man.

We say, ‘If only the Lord would deal with this physical matter or these circumstances or this something else! It is all due to that. That is the cause of it, the reason for it.’ That is our way of reasoning, but it is not the Lord’s thought at all. The thing is deeper down than that, and it is simply a matter of believing God; resolute faith, confidence in God. The Lord is trying to get us out of our variable and varying soul life where we are at the mercy of all our feelings, thoughts and reasonings and all that kind of thing, into a realm where, in spirit, we are steadfast. That is the point upon which it is all fixed in the Psalm. “Their heart was not steadfast with Him” (Psa. 78:37), and around that the whole of their forty years is gathered. The key to this is spiritual; tested by every other line, every other means; it is a spiritual matter ultimately. To be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inward man (Eph. 3:16) is the answer to it all. The other may then give way; at least, we shall gain ascendancy over the other if it is not removed.

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