"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee because he trusteth in Thee" (Isaiah xxvi. 3).
A wonderful promise is that, and it ought to be the aim of every one of us to make it our experience. The way to do this is simple: it is to keep our minds stayed on our Lord. But while it is simple, I confess it is no easy matter for most men to do it. They would rather think about business, about pleasure, about the news of the day, about politics, education, music, or about the work of the Lord, than about the Lord Himself.
Now, business and other things must needs take some of our thought, and we must pay attention to the work of the Lord, if we love Him and the souls for whom He died; but, just as the maiden in all her work and pleasure thinks of her lover, and just as the young bride filled with new cares is in her heart communing with her husband, though he may be far from her, so we should in everything think of, and commune with, Jesus, and let our hearts fully trust His wisdom, love and power, and then we shall be kept in "perfect peace."
Just think of it! "All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid" in Him, and we, in our ignorance and foolishness, are "complete in Him." We may not understand, but He understands. We may not know, but He knows. We may be perplexed, but He is not perplexed. Then we ought to trust Him if we are His, and we shall be kept in "perfect peace."
Ten thousand times I have been at my wits' end, but, oh! how it comforted me to know that Jesus saw the end from the beginning and was making all things work together for my good because I loved and trusted Him! Jesus is never at His wits" end, and when we are most puzzled and confounded by our foolishness and short-sightedness, Jesus, in the fullness of His love and with all the infinity of His wisdom and power, is working out the desires of our hearts, if they be holy desires; for does He not say, "He will fulfil the desire of them that fear Him" (Ps. cxlv. 19)?
Jesus not only has wisdom and love, but He assures us that "all power in Heaven and earth" is His, so that the counsels of His wisdom and the tender desire of His love cannot fail for lack of power to fulfill them. He can turn the hearts of kings, and make them do His will, and His faithful love will lead Him to do it, if we but trust Him. Nothing is more surprising to the children of God, who trust Him and watch His ways, than the marvelous and unexpected deliverances He works out for them, and the kind of people He uses to fulfill His will.
Our hearts long to see the glory of the Lord and the prosperity of Zion, and we pray to God and wonder how the desire of our hearts is to be obtained; but we trust and look unto God, and He sets to work, with the most unlikely people and in the most unheard-of way, to answer our prayers and reward our patient faith. And so, in all the little vexatious trials and delays of our everyday, plodding life, if we trust and keep on rejoicing right through all that bothers us, we will find God at work for us, for He says He is a "present help in trouble" -- all trouble -- and so He is to all who keep their minds stayed on Him. Only a short period has elapsed since the Lord has been allowing me to pass through a series of the most troublesome little times, just calculated to annoy me to the uttermost. But while waiting on Him in prayer, He showed me that if I had more confidence in Him in my difficulties, I would keep on rejoicing, and so get blessings out of my trials, as Samson got honey out of the carcass of the lion he slew, and so I proved it to be. Bless His holy name! I did rejoice, and one trial after the other vanished away, and only the sweetness of my Lord's presence and blessing remained, and my heart has been kept in perfect peace since.
Does not God do all this to hide pride from us, to humble us, and make us see that our character before Him is of more consequence than our service to Him; to teach us to walk by faith and not by sight, and to encourage us to trust and be at peace?
Now, let no honest soul whose faith is small, nor any of those big busybodies, who seem to think that if they did not worry and fret and rush about and make a great noise the universe would come to a standstill and go to ruin, suppose for an instant that there is any likeness whatever between "perfect peace" and perfect indifference. Indifference is a child of sloth. Peace is the offspring of a faith that is ceaseless in its activity -- an activity that is the most perfect, and the mightiest of which man is capable, for through it, poor unarmed men have "subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens, women received their dead raised to life again" (Heb. xi. 33-35).
To exercise this mighty faith which brings "perfect peace," we must receive the Holy Ghost into our hearts, and recognize Him, not as an influence or an attribute of God, but as God Himself. He is a Person, and He will make us know Jesus, and understand His mind and will, and realize His constant presence, if we trust Him. Jesus is ever present with us, and, if we long for Him, it will so please Him that He will always help us to stay our minds on Him.
It will require some effort on our part, however; for the world, business, the weakness of the flesh, the infirmities of our minds, the careless example of the people about us, and the devil with all his wiles, will so seek to turn our thoughts from our Lord and make us forget Him, that, maybe, not more than once or twice in twenty-four hours shall our thoughts and affections turn to Him, and then only by a strong and prolonged effort, and even in times of prayer we may not really find God.
Let us then cultivate the habit of communing with Jesus. When our thoughts wander from Him, let us turn them back again; but let us do this quietly and patiently, for any impatience, even with ourselves, is dangerous, disturbing our inward peace, drowning the still small voice of the Spirit, and hindering the grace of God from mastering us and subduing our hearts.
But if, in all meekness and lowliness of heart, we allow the Holy Spirit to dwell in us, and are obedient to His voice, He will keep our hearts in a holy calm in the midst of ten thousand cares and weaknesses and troubles.
"Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep [garrison your hearts and mind through Christ Jesus" (Phil. iv. 6, 7).
Practical Lessons Of The Resurrection
Paul tells us that the same power which raised Christ from the dead is in us who believe (Eph. i.17-20). He says of Jesus: 'When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men' (Eph. iv. 8). He says of himself, 'But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ. . . . That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection' (Phil. iii. 7, 8, 10). The practical, everyday teaching of these Scriptures to me is this: that since Jesus rose from the dead and ascended on high, He puts at my disposal the same power to do and suffer His will that His Heavenly Father gave to Him. Jesus 'was crucified through weakness, yet He liveth by the power of God' (2 Cor. xiii. 4), and when He rose from the dead He broke every fetter forged by Satan, sin and Hell, and carried them captive, and opened a way by which every child of man may go free and enter into union with God through the indwelling Holy Ghost, and have the power of God working mightily and triumphantly in him. Bless God for ever! In ancient times victorious generals carried captive the captains and kings whom they conquered, with all the wealth they could lay their hands upon, and when they returned to their own people, they distributed gifts from the spoils of the enemy. So Jesus, having triumphed over all the power of the enemy, distributes gifts of love and joy and faith and patience and spiritual insight and wisdom to His people, that shall enable them also to have power over all the power of the enemy.
He came as a lowly stranger into the iron furnace of this sin-cursed, devil-enslaved world. He toiled with its toiling millions, He suffered their sorrows and their sicknesses, their poverty and their temptations, and when He had impressed upon a few of them a faint sense of His divinity, hid under the humble garb of His humanity, He suffered their death and dashed their hopes, as they supposed, for ever. But He rose again and ascended 'far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion' (Eph. i. 21), and is set down at the right hand of the Father as our Intercessor, and our Advocate. From that place of power He pleads our cause, watches our interests, guides our steps, strengthens our hearts, illuminates our minds, secures for us boundless gifts and graces and immunities, which we are at liberty to take by faith and use for the advancement of His kingdom of holiness and humility, of righteousness and joy in our hearts and the hearts of others.
It is His purpose that we should, in a most important sense, sustain the same relation to Him now that He sustained to His Heavenly Father in the days of His humanity; that we should be baptized with the same Spirit, and preach with the same authority, and secure the same results, and gain the same final and eternal victory, and at last sit down with Him on His Throne for evermore.
This being so, I am under as much obligation now to be holy, to be empowered by the Spirit, and to be about my Lord's business, as I shall be in Heaven. And, bless God, this is not only an obligation, but an inspiration!
Who, having caught a glimpse of this high and holy purpose of His resurrected Lord, can ever be content again to grope in the malarial fogs of unbelief, and grovel on the dung-hill of this world's poor little pleasures and riches and honors? Who would not forsake father and mother, and wife and children, and houses and lands, pluck out a right eye, cut off a right hand or foot, cast off every weight and easily-besetting sin, deny himself, take up his cross, esteem all this world's gain as loss, and if needs be sacrifice his life in order to 'know the power of His resurrection,' enter into this 'life hid with Christ in God' and not disappoint his Lord? It was for this we were born, and to fall short of this will be infinite, eternal loss, and doom us to an everlasting night of shame and contempt.
Prayer is the way of approach to God, and the soul-winner keeps it open by constant use. It is the channel by which all spiritual blessings and power are received, and therefore the life of the soul-winner must be one of ceaseless prayer. "Pray without ceasing," wrote Paul. It is the breath of the soul, and other things being equal, it is the secret of power.
It is written of Jesus, "And it came to pass in those days that He went out into. a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God." And this was followed by mighty works.
What an amazing statement is this: "Whatsoever things ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them;" and this: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it you;" and this: "If ye abide in Me and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will and it shall be done unto you!" And yet, amazing as they are, there they stand in "the Scripture of truth," a challenge to every child of God who is jealous for God's glory, who longs for the triumph of righteousness and who seeks the salvation of souls.
The soul-winner must pray in secret; he must get alone with God and pour his heart into his Heavenly Father's ear with intercessions and pleadings and arguments, if he would have good success. There is no substitute for much wide-awake, expectant, secret waiting upon God for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the gift of wisdom, strength, courage, hope, faith, discernment of times and spirits, and a glowing, burning, comprehensive message from Him to the people. If men fail at this point, they will in due time fail at every point Jesus said: "When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." Here, then, is the secret of success closet communion and counselings and conversations with God, who is our Father, and who can and will no more turn away from us when we come in the spirit of an obedient and affectionate child, than can the sunlight when we throw open the windows and doors and stand in its beams. I say it reverently. He cannot turn away from us, but will surely reward us, and that openly, because He said He would, and He cannot lie.
Prayer must be definite. Once, when Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimeus sat by the wayside begging, and when he heard Jesus was passing by, he began to cry out and say: "Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me," but that prayer was not definite -- it was altogether too general. Jesus knew what Bartimeus wanted, but He desired Bartimeus to state exactly what he desired, and said to him:
"What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?" Then the blind man prayed a definite prayer.
"Lord, that I might receive my sight," and the definite prayer then received a definite answer, for Jesus said unto him:
"Go thy way, thy faith hath made thee whole," and immediately he received his sight.
We should be as definite when we go to God, in asking him for what we want, as we are when we go to the store. The salesman is prepared to sell us anything and everything in the store, but he in reality sells us nothing until we tell him what we want, and so it is with our Heavenly Father.
Our prayers must be bold Paul said: "We have a great High Priest who has passed into the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, who is touched with the feelings of our infirmities, and was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin," and adds: "Let us come boldly unto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace in time of need." Of course this boldness must be coupled with humility, but the greater the humility, the greater the boldness, if mixed with faith. I have often been amused and amazed at the boldness with which children come to their parents for the things they need and the things they want, and how gladly does the true parent respond to the child's request, especially if it expresses a genuine need! And Jesus said: "If ye then being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give good things to them that ask Him?"
The devil stands mocking and teasing the praying souls to drive him from his knees and from his Father's face, but let him rather come boldly in the name of Jesus and wait patiently for the things he desires, and he shall have an abundant reward. It is not our Heavenly Father's will to disappoint His trusting children, but rather to give them their utmost desire, yea, "exceeding abundantly above all they ask or think," for His heart is all love toward them; therefore let them not be timid and wavering, but steadfast and bold as His dear children.
Prayer must be importunate, persevering. Jesus teaches this very clearly in His parable of the importunate friend "Which of you," said Jesus, "shall have a friend and shall go unto him at midnight and shall say unto him; 'Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine in his journey has come to me and I have nothing to set before him and he from within shall say, 'Trouble me not, the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed I cannot rise and give thee.' I say unto you, though he will not rise and give him because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity, he will rise and give him as many as he needeth;" and then Jesus adds: "Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened unto him;" by which Jesus means to teach that we are to hold on in prayer till we get an answer. If the answer is delayed, our own hearts will be searched, the purity of our motives will be proved, and our faith will be purified, tried, developed and strengthened for future and greater triumph.
Jesus prayed three times that the cup of death in the garden of Gethsemane might pass from Him. It was not death on the Cross, but death in the garden He feared and the apostle tells us, in Hebrews 5:7, that He was heard. Daniel abstained from all pleasant food for three weeks at one time, and prayed until God appeared unto him and said: "O man, greatly beloved, fear not; peace be unto thee; be strong; yea, be strong;" and added, "I will show thee that which is noted in the Scriptures of truth," and then told him all that he desired to know. And Elijah, after his victory over the priests of Baal, sent his servant seven times to look for the cloud that should bring rain, while he bowed his face between his knees, and poured out his heart to God in prayer until the cloud appeared that should bring the floods of rain. Muller sometimes prayed every day, and often several times a day, and that for months and years for some things he wanted, before the answer came, but come it did in due time. Though the answer be delayed, it is not God's purpose to deny us without letting us know the reason why.
Prayer must be for the glory of God and according to His will. If we ask things simply to gratify our own desires, God cannot grant them. James said of certain ones, Ye ask ..... but ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts," but John said, "This is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us.; and if we know that He heareth us..... we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him" Jesus said, "If ye abide in Me and My words abide in you. ye shall ask what ye will and it shall be done unto you."
We are to ask according, to the things revealed as His will in His Word, and according to the principles laid down therein; therefore we should study His Word constantly and hide it in our own hearts, and see to it that we hide ourselves in His heart and thus be filled with the truth; we shall then not ask amiss, and being filled with the Spirit, we shall not be denied.
Prayer must be mixed with faith -- must be believing prayer. "Whatsoever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive and ye shall have." Oh, what a victory I got one morning over the devil, when he tried to shake my faith and confidence! I laid hold of that promise and wrestled through to the solid rock of believing prayer, and had one of the most glorious soul-saving days in my life! The man whose faith is constantly wavering shall receive nothing from the Lord. (James 1: 6-7.)
Finally, prayer must be in the name of Jesus. "Whatsoever ye will ask in My name that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son," said Jesus.
"The Blood, the Blood is all my plea," and with that plea the vilest sinner may come, while the child of God may approach with unabashed boldness into the presence of his Heavenly Father and claim all the resources of Heaven in his warfare against sin, in his effort to save sinners and build up the kingdom of God.