Resting in Past Achievements
A common cause of delay and hindrance is the constitutional trait of wanting to stop and tent in good places we are brought into. There must be a coming time for crown wearing, and coronation days, but it is after the work is done, and the call has been made “Come up higher.”2 Now is our field of battle. The watchword is “Go work today in My vineyard” (Matthew 21:28ff). “Over there” we may have our harvest home, and sit down in quiet by the side of the river of life and sing the song of Moses and the Lamb.3
Here the battle is on, and the marching orders forbid our long stay in any one camp. Too many who cross Jordan would fain abide in the first camp by its banks, to sit and sing themselves away to everlasting bliss, with Jericho and unconquered thousands in full sight. We are loath to be taught that our progress is not in rest or circumstance, or in freedom from testing and trial. Rest is internal, not external. Victory lies in the inward dominance of the spirit. “Faith is the victory that overcomes the world,”4 and not ease of circumstance, nor surcease from outward perplexity, proper anxiety, proper toil, or any of the legitimate cares of life. The crying baby is not out of God’s order; that is the only way it can talk. The plowing of the soil and sowing of the seed in the unpromising days of early spring may not be very restful, but they are very needful in the natural order of God. Victory lies not in being excused from these things, but in having the victory in them. The little old black lady was right when she came to the Lord with praises for everything. One day when her husband was brought home with a broken limb, she, as usual, said, “Bless the Lord.” He was amazed and wanted to know why that was. “Why,” she said, “I praise the Lord because the other one is not broken too.” She had the true victory, not over, but in, circumstance.
A sister wrote me the other day that she “did not feel like camping at all.”5 And yet, in the same letter, she said, “This has been one of the most trying years of my life.” She has learned the way of faith. There is, in one sense, being put and kept in a place where you can trust the Lord; but it is quite another thing to be where you must trust Him because there is no other way. We need more to be run to our extremity than we do to be left lying in the lap of easy circumstance. Ecstasy is not so helpful as trial. Rest is not so enlarging and upbuilding as labor. The rough road is the best for exercise. The mountain country produces the most rugged physical constitutions, if not the largest per cent of stalwart minds. Only the soul that has gone through the fires knows what lies in them, and what beyond them.
In Israel’s case, at the Jericho camp, they had just passed through a wonderful experience. The Jordan, at the word of the Lord, had stood in heaps while the hosts of God passed through. It was something never to be forgotten. It was a wonder to be seen but once on earth. It was such a victory as men did not know. And yet there was no time to sit in idleness and while away the hours in hallelujahs. This victory, great as it was, was but one in the great chain that was to give to them their own land. In getting our land in full possession, we are to go from strength to strength, until we reach the heavenly Zion. To sit down to camp for a stay is to fail. The strength of each achievement is to go into the next conquest. We cross our Jordans to take Jerichos. We fall down in defeat before Ai, to learn how to trust in the Mighty to deliver, discover our Achans, get rid of them, and so be ready to go to the battle of the confederate kings and see them melt away like frost before the sun.6 Each battle is not a finality in itself, but a gateway to something better.
All past achievements are like the letters of the alphabet—not ends in themselves, but factors that are to go into all the coming reading and study. The law of the ongoing of this life is not to rest in the past so much, as in the continued use of the past. Everywhere, all the time, “we are brought out that we might be brought in.” The rest of soul that we come into possession of after some battle or trial is not for sinking away into some ecstasy, but for mightier conquests.
As Meroz was cursed because its inhabitants settled themselves down in their quiet habitations, and “would not go up to the help of the Lord against the mighty” (Judges 5:23), so we will fall into the same pathway it we neglect to follow up each victory with renewed campaigns for fresh conquests.
- 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. ↩
- There’s an obvious allusion here to the words, “Friend, go up higher” in Luke 14:10. But the exact quote is probably from a popular revival hymn of Reid’s time. “Jesus now says, ‘Come up higher’ ” is a phrase that comes from the fourth verse of Tullius Clinton O’Kane’s hymn, Sweeping Through the Gates (also called Washed in the Blood of the Lamb). ↩
- A reference to the heavenly hymn found in Revelation 15:3-4 ↩
- This is a restatement of the last half of 1 John 5:4. ↩
- That is, she didn’t feel up to attending the annual Iowa Holiness Association camp meeting. ↩
- This is a one-sentence summary of chapters 7, 8, and 10 of the book of Joshua. ↩