An Unexpected Source of Hindrance
- “If the good man of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched and would not have suffered his house to have been broken up.”
- Matthew 24:43
So the Master taught. There is a long list of things that are of such nature that they cannot be prepared for or provided against, for the reason that we do not know of their approach. It is the same way with things that we do not understand or see into.
“If we had known!” How much lies behind these words? In so many things we are called to go out like Abraham, “not knowing.”2 How many places in life I see now, as I look back, that I started out “not knowing,” and yet thinking I did. There have been many times when I have been brought into incomprehensible places, but not, as I now see, for the sake of these places themselves so much, nor for the sake of being puzzled as to what was to come in the future. This experience is a common feature of all our trials, or testing times. We had never gone that way before,3 and of course could not understand it. Because we do not understand the trial, it seems all the harder. We cannot have the experience of a journey till we make the journey, however. The mission of trial and suffering necessarily appears hidden, its “peaceable fruits of righteousness”4 only being discoverable after it has passed. It is this “not knowing” element that hinders us, perhaps, from discovering a very important law of God’s administration in things spiritual. It is this:
Nearly all great insights of God are preceded by severe experiences.
Examine the following Scriptures:
- We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
- Acts 14:22
- I have refined you, but not with silver;
I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction.
- Isaiah 48:10
- And all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
- 2 Timothy 3:12
- I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for their testimony.
- Revelation 6:9
- And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, “What are these which are arrayed in white robes? And whence came they?” And I said unto him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
- Revelation 7:13,14
- They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.
He that goes forth and weeps, bearing precious seed,
shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
bringing his sheaves with him.
- Psalm 126:5,6
- 2And you shall remember all the way which the Lord your God led you these forty years in the wilderness to humble you, and to prove you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments, or not. 3And He humbled you, and suffered you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you knew not, neither did your fathers know; that He might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord does man live.… 5You shall also consider in your heart, that, as a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you.
- Deuteronomy 8:2,3,5
I do not name this law to encourage you to seek such experiences (for only such trials as come to us, not by our own intention, yield us the highest good), but rather to forewarn, and forearm you so that you will “hold still in pain’s furnace heat” till the face of the Master shows in the melted metal in the crucible.
Our first thought in pain, or trial of faith, is to look for some way out, rather than to seek for what purpose we are there. We rush for the door, when God would have us stay and find a gold mine. We struggle and cry so that we cannot hear the voice that tells us what is wanted of us in that place. We long for the end of the journey before we have passed through that which is needed to prepare us to enjoy its privileges. We want the results of study without the drill to get them. We want our apples before we plant our orchard, if we could have our way. We are unwilling to go out “not knowing.” If anything in this brain-worshipping age grinds, it is to not know, and to be willing to hold still, right where we are. “We must understand,” we say. It is here that we miss the main thing that we need. We must submit to God to hold still and “let Him bring it to pass.” The hindrance is our want of submission. In our hurry to get out of unpleasant surroundings, we miss getting the benefits. One has said,
“It is a ‘law’ of our spiritual growth, that in proportion as we bear patiently spiritual trials, hunger, thirst, and nakedness, or violent and protracted temptation, so will the Deliverer appear in us, and impart His strength, virtue, and beauty to us.…
“There is as real a connection, in the kingdom of God upon the earth, between suffering patiently, giving up freely, and believing constantly, on the one hand; and receiving more and more of the divine Love, with minor gifts and graces continually, on the other—as there is between cause and effect in any of the operations of the natural world.
There is a striving and believing, which does little or nothing in the kingdom, because it is of man: but there is a suffering, striving, and believing, which, though it merits nothing, strictly speaking, wins everything, because the Spirit is in it. The kingdom, with its blessings, beauties, and glories, may not be given in exchange for these, nor because of them; but it is given, by Royal bounty, according to the measure of them, mostly—for in very truth, these are part and parcel of it, in the nature of things, as at present existing.”5
Our danger point in this pass lies in our restlessness because we do not know. Victory lies in our submission and confidence in God, while we “wait patiently” for Him (Psalm 37:7).
- The text itself is public domain. The original book, How They Grow, was transcribed by Jim Kerwin, biographer of Isaiah Reid, and co-edited and emended with Denise Kerwin. Annotations and emendations are copyright © 2008, 2011 by Jim Kerwin along with his other contributions to the online, print, and e-book versions of Isaiah Reid's How They Grow. ↩
- The allusion is to Hebrews 11:8. ↩
- Here’s another allusion, this time to Joshua 3:4. ↩
- See Hebrews 12:11. ↩
- The source of Reid’s quote was not clear to me for many years, even though it was right under my nose in my own personal library. His citation comes from an obscure, wonderfully deep, and challenging book titled Letters of a Man of God. The author chose to remain anonymous. The work was published in 1879, “printed by John Bellows, Gloucester” (England). The book was guardedly recommended to me nearly fifty years ago by my spiritual mentor, Percy Gutteridge. I say “guardedly recommended” because it is not a book for the spiritually immature. (Many thanks to friend Jim Boetcher for the surprise and undeserved gift of a irst-edition copy, lo, these many years later.)
The first paragraph of Reid’s quotation comes from Letter 50 — “On Bearing Inward Suffering; And Its Fruit,” page 79. The remaining three paragraphs of the quote come from the same chapter, page 80. Note: I have altered the paragraph breaks slightly, changing them match the text of the original book from which Reid quotes.
Brother Reid brings us through to the penultimate paragraph in this letter. Perhaps reading the last paragraph from this letter would be a good tie-off to this chapter’s subject matter:
This, when rightly and graciously understood, gives power, in God, to glory in tribulation, rejoice in suffering, and count it joy to meet with temptation: knowing that we are more than conquerors through Him who hath loved us, and that His infinite and adorable strength is made perfect in our weakness.