For the last few days, the paper has been reporting that a Russian satellite is about to crash to earth. This is causing some consternation. This machine is tumbling, out of control. At one time it was obedient to its maker, but it has taken over its own course, it is now on an unpredictable course, and man cannot estimate what damage will do, because it has become severed from its maker. While it was under control, it was bringing honour and glory to the country, but now it is bringing discredit, dishonor, and is an embarrassment.
Psalm 19, “The heavens declare Thy handiwork.” The heavens are bringing glory and honour to God, because of their unfailing obedience to their maker over thousands of years these heavenly bodies have circled the earth, and they obey His commands. There is no confusion with the heavenly bodies; God has put them on a course, in a heavenly course. God’s children are going forward in an orderly manner Acts 2:37, “What shall we do?” “Repent.” When there are some road repairs being done, there is a sign that says “SLOW” in large letters, or “STOP.” There is not a lot of small print as on an insurance policy, everyone knows what it means, because there is danger. There is not any danger that anyone would perish naturally, but men and women are in eternal danger of losing their lives. There are three things that need to happen for salvation. The first is “Repent,” the second is “be baptized,” and the third is “receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” This clearly marks the pathway to safety. This is all the gospel in one verse. It is a matter of receiving the Holy Ghost, which in the Greek is Holy Guest.
When we become a member of the human family, we are born into it. Also with the divine family we are born again, and receive the nature of God. A person may live a good life, they may give to the poor, but this does not make them a child of God. “By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, by the love that ye have one for another.” This is one thing that identifies a child of God. If we went to a zoo and we hadn’t seen an elephant before, we could say that it is easily identified because it has a trunk, it is so distinctive. If people have love one for another, this identifies His people. False prophets can do many things, but this is not a proof that they are of God. The devil cannot produce love. Love leads to humility.
God’s people are held together without earthly headquarters. We can explain it this way, that there are sparrows in Ceylon, and where are there headquarters? Is it America, Russia? No. They are controlled and directed by a nature that God has given them. We are controlled by the nature of God. We once visited an old lady and she showed us her ornaments, and one ornament in particular she said she would not like to get broken, because it was given to her by someone she loved. Our lives are very ordinary, but because this poor life of ours has been given to God with our love, it matters so much to God. It means so much to Him.
Mark 14:3 tells of Jesus being in the house of Simon the leper, and a woman came to Him with an alabaster box of ointment, very precious, and she broke the box and poured it on His head. Others said, “Why this waste?” They were putting a measure on sacrifice. This that was so precious to the heart of God could not be measured, because it was given with love. This woman understood that this was her Redeemer, her Lord, her Master, and this was something she wanted to do for Him. Our love cannot be measured, it is something that means so much, and others cannot grasp what it means to the heart of God. Love is the vital ingredient.
I have been interested to see the condiments that go into making a curry, so many things go in. With our service to God, there is no substitute for the real ingredients. We may do so much, but if love is not in it, it is not right. Sometime when we cook something, we ask someone to taste it, and a good cook can tell when something is missing. When we put in the missing ingredient, it is just right. That is how it is with my service to God. I may put everything in, but then there could be something missing, something that doesn’t feel quite right. I go and ask my Lord, who is my friend, and He tells me that my love is missing. When I give my love, it feels right, and brings joy to us. We need to serve God because we love Him, not because we are expected to do so, but because we love to. This is what brings joy and satisfaction. Today, as God is looking on a hard, cold world that is careless, indifferent, the only thing in the world that comforts the heart of God is the love of His children, serving Him because they love Him. “I am purposed nought shall hinder, God shall have my very best, how to gain His loving favour, this my eager, earnest quest.” So much depends on the purpose of our heart. What we require is a fixed purpose, not a mixed purpose. To begin in the way of God is good; to continue is better; but to finish in the race of life is best of all.
2 Kings 4, tells us about the Shunammite woman. She was a great woman. She had a good purpose to do what she could for the Lord. They built a place of rest for the servant of God. Elisha was moved to ask, “What can we do for this woman, what would she like?” Her reply was, “I dwell among mine own people.” She had no great desires, she had begun to do so much that encouraged the heart of Elisha, but all she wanted was to continue to dwell among her own people. She did not mention that she did not have any children, and I marvel that she was so content to just say, after she had done so much, given her best, that she just wanted to continue life as it was.
We want to have a purpose like Hannah. She saw the tremendous need in the kingdom, and she had this desire that God would use her life. Abraham, also, desired a son, to share in his inheritance. This woman was just content to say, “I dwell among my own people.” She had no fixed purpose to do more and more for the servant. She did not desire to have a son who could be used in the great kingdom of God. It tells us of the “voice of many waters.” At the Niagara Falls, you cannot hear the person next to you, all other voices are drowned out.
John 12:24, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” The way of God is based on sacrifice, and maintained by sacrifice, in giving our lives wholly, and using our lives in the will of God. It is not a light thing. We can have questionings in our hearts unless we are convinced that we must give our all to God. If we have questionings, it will cause us to waste valuable time. The devil wants to spoil our lives by making us think we can give less than our all. Unless we are convinced that we must give our whole lives, it will be very hard for us to be whole-hearted in what we are doing. Jesus was showing here that there was only one way for the grain of wheat to be profitable, and that was to fall into the ground and die. Other than this, it would not be profitable. The seed is in itself and will bear fruit after its kind. We are living in a modern age today, and man can do many things, but the only way for a corn of wheat to produce a harvest is to die.
Scientists do not waste time trying to use it for anything else. The seed that is sown is gone, and gone forever. To serve God, to please God, we must give our all. We could be willing for some things, and not for others, and it brings no satisfaction. It is not difficult to do some things, but it is difficult to do all things. Men have tried to take away some of the sacrifice of the way of God, but there is no return. Just the same as God planned for seed to be sown in the earth to produce fruit, God planned the same for us. We need to grasp this, and retain it, that this matter of living for God means that our lives are sown like seed, otherwise we will remain unprofitable. If we try to be helpful, and escape the sacrifice, it will not work. We could plant just the husk of the wheat, or just the kernel, but it won’t work; the whole seed has to be sown for it to produce fruit. There is no question that it is profitable to sow seed in the ground. The farmer may plant a truck full of seed, but at harvest time, there are many truck-loads of grain, and it sometimes takes weeks to gather all the harvest in. As we leave convention, we are bearing precious seed. As we face another year, we are bearing the incorruptible seed. God wants us to remember that what He has put in our hearts is incorruptible, and He wants us to be obedient.
A contented worker means a great deal to the work. A contented saint means a great deal to the church, and a contented worker and saint together are the hope of the world. When God and Christ are in us, we are the hope of the world. We are not going out to play, we are going out to face tests and trials, we are going out to a battlefield. God’s hand leads us through our experiences, God’s love keeps us in our experiences.
I have made a study this year of “seven times” in the Bible. 2 Kings 5 speaks of complete obedience, which brings us into God’s family, and into an atmosphere of love. Seven times speaks of completeness. Five is man’s number; six is the devil’s number; seven is God’s number, perfect. The devil likes us to go to number six, but not to number seven. The devil wants to keep us from finishing with Christ. 99% service does not bring 99% satisfaction, but 100% service brings 100% satisfaction. Jacob went to God and prayed, “Lord, deliver me from Esau.” This is a prayer we need to pray daily, that God would deliver us from our human nature.
Naaman went into Jordan seven times: complete obedience. Peter said, “How often should I forgive my brother; seven times?” Jesus said, “Seventy times seven.” This is complete forgiveness. When Jacob bowed before Esau, he bowed seven times: complete humility. When the children of Israel marched around Jericho, they marched seven times, and the walls of Jericho fell: complete unity. The best way to deal with the tongue is to be silent.
Wisdom is composed of 9 parts silence and one part brevity of speech. Daniel’s three companions were put into the fiery furnace that was heated seven times greater than usual: this was perfect bitterness – something we expect from the world as we seek to do the will of God. The Bible tells us that we are just clay. Sometimes we are given to think that we are of some value, by education, we could feel important, but we are just clay. You could find very expensive land, and take away a wheelbarrow full of soil, and it would not make very much difference. You would not know where you had taken it from. This represents you and I. God wants to take this land, and put His seed into it. In the Old Testament there is a question asked, “Is the seed yet in the barn?” That is so for millions of people in this world, the seed is still in the barn. The Lord has not been able to take His seed and put it into the soil. If the farmer did not put any seed into the soil, he would not make any money.
In the world there are many “Christians” under different labels. What is a religion? It is just an imitation of what Jesus lived and taught. When we speak to people who have some religious connection, they say to us, “Tell us what’s wrong about it.” They try to defend it. If you were in the city and wanting to go to the country, and the bus came along, with nice seats and a nice colour, but the front wheel fell off when it stopped to pick you up, you would know that there was enough wrong with it, not to get on. Jesus is the way, and now is the day. We cannot put it off. We knew a young man, 24 years of age, had a traffic accident at 23 – he had had everything he wanted, but now, one year later he did not have all he needed, he did not use the time. One day we will face the same position, and you may not have all you need.
In Daniel’s day, King Belsha made a party. He was the king, and he had a thousand lords at this party. This was the most important kingdom of the day, and he was the most important person. It was a big party. The fingers of a man’s hand came and wrote on the wall. This was not scribbling, because the king saw part of the hand. The king was the richest man, but when he saw the writing on the wall he trembled. This was God’s messenger. Daniel spoke to him, not of how rich he was, but of his grandfather whose heart was lifted up, and God humbled him. “And thou his son, you knew all this, but you have not humbled your heart.”
At the end of life, it doesn’t matter how rich we are, how far we’ve travelled, how many degrees we’ve got, that is not the thing that will be discussed then, but it is how we lived and whether we have humbled our heart or not, whether we knew it and had not done it. God numbered his kingdom, and he died. This is the story for every one of us – one day there will be the handwriting on the wall, and our yesterdays will be behind us. All that will matter then is whether we humbled our heart or not. This king had a great position in the world, he looked big, but the day came when he was weighed in the balance, and he did not weigh anything. He thought that he carried a lot of weight in the kingdom, but he didn’t weigh anything in the sight of God.