When God uses time terminology it is always for our benefit, and therefore, always to be understood on human terms
Always in every prayer of mine [I pray] for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now. Philippians 1:4-5
One list of longest-married couples in the world cites 47 couples. The shortest marriage—that of couple number 47 on the list—was 81 years, 31 days. The longest marriage on record is 90 years, 60 days.1 Those numbers stand in stark contrast to the length of the average American marriage: 8.2 years.
We are surprised today when we hear of a couple staying together for decades. It says something about the nature of commitment in modern societies. When it becomes acceptable in society to go back on commitments, spiritual commitments also become easier to break. Paul knew that and so commended the Philippian Christians for their commitment to the Gospel “from the first day until now.” The Philippians were staying true to Christ, and Paul prayed joyfully for them to remain true to their calling and commitment.
Trials bring the temptation to abandon vows and promises. Pray for all your commitments—to marriage, to Christ, to the Gospel, to your children. Ask God for grace to stay committed regardless of what may come.
The call to Christian commitment is not basically a call to enjoy happiness but to endure hardness.
Very few people in this day and age appreciate Jesus’ use of the plow as an illustration of a life dedicated to the Lord. The ancient plow, shaped much like the antique version of more recent centuries, was a single wooden blade attached to two handles. A mule did most of the work by pulling the apparatus forward, but the farmer held on to direct the path of the blade.
I tried out an old-fashioned plow once and discovered that using it was no easy task. The simple machine bumped and jerked under my hands as it tore up the ground. There was only one way to make a straight line, and that was to stay focused on the work and keep my eyes forward every single second.
When believers trust Jesus Christ as Savior, they “put their hand to the plow.” The idea is for us to follow the Lord in absolute obedience—always keeping our eyes focused on Him. That’s how we reap a harvest of faith. Discouraged believers oftentimes plow a crooked row, because they’re looking over their shoulder to dwell on past regrets or peering around to see what pleasures await. Their field of faith looks like a disorganized mess. Moreover, distraction slows them down, with the result that spiritual growth is sluggish, if they mature at all.
Give up whatever draws your attention away from the heavenly Father. Believers who focus on past failures and present distractions end up all over the place in their Christian life; peace and joy are elusive and prayers go unanswered. Follow the Lord earnestly, and He will bring forth much spiritual fruit.
“When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.” (Psalm 27:10)
There may be more people alive today than ever before, but there are also more lonely people today than ever before—divorced spouses, homeless people, many elderly parents and, perhaps saddest of all, orphaned or abandoned children. These and many others are still alone, even in a crowded world.
No one, though, was ever so alone as the Lord Jesus on the cross. “Behold, the hour cometh,” He had said, “yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me” (John 16:32). Then, only a few hours later, as He hung on the cross, even His heavenly Father had to leave Him, and He cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). He died alone, bearing the burden of all the sin of all the world on His soul.
But because He suffered alone, no one else need ever be alone again. “Be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5). The apostle Paul, suffering alone in a Roman dungeon shortly before his execution, could still say: “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me” (2 Timothy 4:17). John the beloved, old and imprisoned alone on the tiny isle of Patmos, nevertheless “was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day” (Revelation 1:10) and then saw the Lord in all His glory. So it has always been with those who know the Lord, for He is there, even when all others have forsaken them, and He understands. He has already been there ahead of us, “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16). HMM
But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. —Job 23:10
The file is more painful still, for its business is to bite into the soft metal, scraping and eating away the edges till it has shaped the metal to its will. Yet the file has, in truth, no real will in the matter, but serves another master as the metal also does. It is the master and not the file that decides how much shall be eaten away, what shape the metal shall take, and how long the painful filing shall continue. Let the metal accept the will of the master and it will not try to dictate when or how it shall be filed.
As for the furnace, it is the worst of all. Ruthless and savage, it leaps at every combustible thing that enters it and never relaxes its fury till it has reduced it all to shapeless ashes. All that refuses to burn is melted to a mass of helpless matter, without will or purpose of its own. When everything is melted that will melt and all is burned that will burn, then and not till then the furnace calms down and rests from its destructive fury….
How could Rutherford find it in his heart to praise God for the hammer, the file and the furnace? The answer is simply that he loved the Master of the hammer, he adored the Workman who wielded the file, he worshiped the Lord who heated the furnace for the everlasting blessing of His children.
Lord, let me, like Job and like Rutherford, see that after the trial is the gold, after the hammer, the file and the furnace is the everlasting blessing of Your children. Amen.
I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. (3 John 2)
The people of this world have always fussed and argued over this world’s resources—hope for life, health, financial prosperity, international peace and a set of favorable circumstances. These resources are good in their own way, but they have a fatal defect—they are uncertain and transitory! Today we have them; tomorrow they are gone.
It is this way with all earthly things since sin came to upset the beautiful order of nature and made the human race victims of chance and change.
We desire for all of God’s children a full measure of every safe and pure blessing that the earthand sky might unite to bring them. But if in the sovereign will of God things go against us, whatdo we have left? If life and health are placed in jeopardy, what about our everlasting resources?
If the world’s foundations crumble, we still have God and in Him we have everything essentialto our ransomed beings forever! We have Christ, who died for us; we have the Scriptures, whichcan never fail; we have the faithful Holy Spirit. If worst comes to worst here below, we have ourFather’s house and our Father’s welcome!
It is a happy thing when we can address the Lord with the confidence which David manifests; it gives us great power in prayer, and comfort in trial. “On thee do I wait all the day.” Patience is the fair handmaid and daughter of faith; we cheerfully wait when we are certain that we shall not wait in vain. It is our duty and our privilege to wait upon the Lord in service, in worship, in expectancy, in trust, all the days of our life. Our faith will be tried faith, and if it be of the true kind, it will bear continued trial without yielding. We shall not grow weary of waiting upon God if we remember how long and how graciously he once waited for us.