Streams in the Desert

December 21

“To him will I give the land that he hath trodden upon … because he hath wholly followed the Lord.” (Deut. 1:36.)

EVERY hard duty that lies in your path, that you would rather not do, that it will cost you pain and struggle or sore effort to do, has a blessing in it. Not to do it, at whatever cost, is to miss the blessing.
Every hard piece of road on which you see the Master’s shoe-prints and along which He bids you follow Him, surely leads to blessing, which you cannot get if you cannot go over the steep, thorny path.
Every point of battle to which you come, where you must draw your sword and fight the enemy, has a possible victory which will prove a rich blessing to your life. Every heavy load that you are called to lift hides in itself some strange secret of strength.—J. R. Miller.

“I cannot do it alone;
  The waves run fast and high,
And the fogs close all around,
  The light goes out in the sky;
But I know that we two
  Shall win in the end,
  Jesus and I.

“Coward and wayward and weak,
  I change with the changing sky;
Today so eager and bright,
  Tomorrow too weak to try;
But He never gives in,
  So we two shall win,
  Jesus and I.

“I could not guide it myself,
  My boat on life’s wild sea;
There’s One who sits by my side,
  Who pulls and steers with me.
And I know that we two
  Shall safe enter port,
  Jesus and I.”

365 days with Newton


A refreshing stream

‘And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.’ Isaiah 32:2

Why is he compared to rivers of water? The knowledge of Jesus produces a change as if one could turn [divert] a river of water into a wilderness; then the desert begins to flourish and blossom like the rose. It puts a new face upon the world, gives a sunshine, as it were, to every object, sanctifies and spiritualizes common employments, gives a double relish to every comfort, and even sweetens the bitter cup of affliction. Then we see the directing, disposing hand of our Redeemer at every turn. We have a friend near to help us in trouble, and act and suffer in a new manner when we are taught to do everything as for him who loved us. And so it is written in the heart. The knowledge of Jesus and communion with him is a refreshing stream, by which comfort will flow in spite of awkward things. This healing, fertilizing, life-giving stream is communicated in the means of grace. These are as pipes through which the water is received: promises, ordinances, prayer. The promises are such channels, when opened and applied by the Spirit. How do they revive in the time of drought! The ordinances: when all has been barren and discouraging within and without, how sweet to have the heart opened and watered by a blessing on the preaching. So at times in prayer. Perhaps by one hour’s secret waiting upon God, yea, a few minutes, there is a change like from the depth of winter to the height of summer.
This knowledge of Jesus is compared to water on account of its refreshing qualities: because it is necessary (no life or growth without it) and because it is cheap (wine and milk must be bought but water is free. Isaiah 55:1). It is compared to a river because it is full and always flowing. A summer’s brook may fail, but rivers are abiding. Such a river is Jesus.
FOR MEDITATION: [for Easter Day, 16 April 1775]
See! the streams of living waters
Who can faint while such a river
Springing from eternal love;
Ever flows their thirst to assuage?
Well supply thy sons and daughters,
Grace, which like the LORD, the giver,
And all fear of want remove:
Never fails from age to age.


My Utmost for His Highest

December 20th

The right lines of work

I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me. John 12:32.

Very few of us have any understanding of the reason why Jesus Christ died. If sympathy is all that human beings need, then the Cross of Christ is a farce, there was no need for it. What the world needs is not ‘a little bit of love,’ but a surgical operation.
When you are face to face with a soul in difficulty spiritually, remind yourself of Jesus Christ on the Cross. If that soul can get to God on any other line, then the Cross of Jesus Christ is unnecessary. If you can help others by your sympathy or understanding, you are a traitor to Jesus Christ. You have to keep your soul rightly related to God and pour out for others on His line, not pour out on the human line and ignore God. The great note to-day is amiable religiosity.
The one thing we have to do is to exhibit Jesus Christ crucified, to lift Him up all the time. Every doctrine that is not imbedded in the Cross of Jesus will lead astray. If the worker himself believes in Jesus Christ and is banking on the Reality of Redemption, the people he talks to must be concerned. The thing that remains and deepens is the worker’s simple relationship to Jesus Christ; his usefulness to God depends on that and that alone.
The calling of a New Testament worker is to uncover sin and to reveal Jesus Christ as Saviour, consequently he cannot be poetical, he must be sternly surgical. We are sent by God to lift up Jesus Christ, not to give wonderfully beautiful discourses. We have to probe straight down as deeply as God has probed us, to be keen in sensing the Scriptures which bring the truth straight home and to apply them fearlessly.

Streams in the Desert

December 20

“Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.” (John 16:32.)

IT need not be said that to carry out conviction into action is a costly sacrifice. It may make necessary renunciations and separations which leave one to feel a strange sense both of deprivation and loneliness. But he who will fly, as an eagle does, into the higher levels where cloudless day abides, and live in the sunshine of God, must be content to live a comparatively lonely life.
No bird is so solitary as the eagle. Eagles never fly in flocks; one, or at most two, ever being seen at once. But the life that is lived unto God, however it forfeits human companionships, knows Divine fellowship.
God seeks eagle-men. No man ever comes into a realization of the best things of God, who does not, upon the Godward side of his life, learn to walk alone with God. We find Abraham alone in Horeb upon the heights, but Lot, dwelling in Sodom. Moses, skilled in all the wisdom of Egypt must go forty years into the desert alone with God. Paul, who was filled with Greek learning and had also sat at the feet of Gamaliel, must go into Arabia and learn the desert life with God. Let God isolate us. I do not mean the isolation of a monastery. In this isolating experience He develops an independence of faith and life so that the soul needs no longer the constant help, prayer, faith or attention of his neighbor. Such assistance and inspiration from the other members are necessary and have their place in the Christian’s development, but there comes a time when they act as a direct hindrance to the individual’s faith and welfare. God knows how to change the circumstances in order to give us an isolating experience. We yield to God and He takes us through something, and when it is over, those about us, who are no less loved than before, are no longer depended upon. We realize that He has wrought some things in us, and that the wings of our souls have learned to beat the upper air.
We must dare to be alone. Jacob must be left alone if the Angel of God is to whisper in his ear the mystic name of Shiloh; Daniel must be left alone if he is to see celestial visions; John must be banished to Patmos if he is deeply to take and firmly to keep “the print of heaven.”
He trod the wine-press alone. Are we prepared for a “splendid isolation” rather than fail Him?

365 days with Newton


Oh, lonesome me!

‘And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.’ Isaiah 32:2

We have spoken of Jesus as the refuge from storm and rain—the sure and welcome retreat for every convinced, tempted soul. The next clause sets him forth in a very acceptable view. And here we may enquire what is meant by a dry place. The dry place signifies a wilderness, as Psalm 105:41. The believing soul is in a wilderness in a twofold state and must perish without these refreshing streams. Such is the prayer of David (Psalm 143:6). A wilderness is barren, lonesome, uncomfortable. Such a state is applicable:
(i) to the world: it does not appear to us so by nature—rather fruitful and pleasant, and the poor soul says as Psalm 132:14. But when the eyes of the mind are opened, the false appearance vanishes and it is all a wilderness. A right view of God and divine things puts us out of conceit with the world, and its poor pleasures are no longer pleasing. A Christian, except he has some believers with him, is alone in a multitude—as a man would be counted solitary if he had none of his own kind, but only wild beasts of the forest around him.
(ii) to the heart: this likewise is known to be a wilderness when known aright. It is indeed full of wickedness—full, as it were, of serpents and dragons, but nothing good or pleasant. By nature we think ourselves rich and increased in goodness, but, when awakened, we find ourselves poor and destitute.

FOR MEDITATION: I have little new to say of myself. My wanderings and wildness when I would attempt praying in secret, are beyond description and would seem impossible to be the lot of a heart in any degree right with God. And yet I am enabled still to hold by the promise, and to say, He is my God and in him will I trust.
Diary, 24 November 1774


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