The Testimony and Its Vessel unto the Time of the End
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 3 - The Basic Principle of Spiritual Effectiveness

We are concentrating upon this particular thought, that in relation to His heavenly testimony, the testimony concerning His Son Jesus Christ, God has constituted and appointed a vessel, an instrument here in the midst of the Gentile world powers, and that from that vessel or instrument the government of the heavens in this world unto the Lord's end is expressed. The Church is that instrument. Inasmuch as the Church as a whole is not in line with God's purpose, vitally co-operating, and spiritually in a position to exercise that Divine and heavenly authority, God is securing for Himself a remnant, a body within, an overcomer company in which, and through which the laws and principles of this heavenly government are established and put into operation. We are here because it is in that connection that the Spirit is speaking, and we want to hear what the Spirit saith. So far as we are concerned, and all those to whom we may have a ministry, with whom we may have any spiritual influence, that we and they should come fully, livingly, vitally, energetically into oneness with God's purpose unto the time of the end.

Now we began to see that that instrument, that vessel, functions by reason of certain very clearly defined laws. It has to be in a spiritual and moral position and relationship to the Lord. It does not function mechanically or automatically. It may be an elect vessel, and it may have been foreknown and fore-ordained before the foundation of the world, God may have foreknown every member of it, and yet running alongside all the eternal counsels of God, and the sovereignty of God, there is always spiritual and moral responsibility: and while it is difficult to relate and reconcile those two things, nevertheless they are equally true that even an elect vessel can never fulfill the object of its predestination, its fore-ordination, only in so far as it corresponds with the spiritual and moral principles which God has laid down for its effectiveness.

Chapter one of the Book of Daniel, as we have seen, introduces the basic principle of spiritual effectiveness. I am very anxious that this shall not go over your heads or that you should in any measure feel that a great deal of truth on a broad scale is being given out, but rather that you should see that this does apply to you personally and individually, that every one is, in God's thought and desire and will, related to this testimony and to this vessel of the testimony unto the time of the end. That you individually with a personal responsibility and anointing, and in relation to others of the children of God are really called into fellowship with the government of the heavens in this earth concerning God's purpose for the age. You and I are really solemnly called into that. That just as truly as ever Daniel was in that, you and I are in that, for Daniel is only a type and representation. He typifies and represents that which we have in the letter to the Ephesians, which reaches on to us, embraces us, calls us in; and beloved, if ever you read the sixth chapter, or the first chapter of the letter to the Ephesians and feel that that in any way applies to you, that you can stand in there, you can lay claim to that, that it embraces you, well, you are in effect standing in the place of Daniel and his three friends.

Now if Daniel and his three friends represented something of tremendously solemn significance and import to heaven in their day, and to hell, and to the nations of this world, you and I occupy that position of spiritual importance to God. And while that may sound very lofty, it may sound very much above you, if only you could read your own spiritual history in the light of heaven - that is, if you have got a spiritual history, if you are really going on with God spiritually, if your are alive unto the Lord - if you could read your own spiritual history in the light of heaven, you would be reading the Book of Daniel and the letter to the Ephesians in your own life. You would be able to see that the same things are operative in your experience spiritually as were there, and are there. So I want this thing to come right home to us very definitely and draw us in, every one of us.

The Basic Principle of Spiritual Effectiveness

The first chapter of this book, as we have said, introduces that basic principle of spiritual power, authority, dominion, which comes out in the life of Daniel and his friends, and that basic principle is found in the words: "Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king's dainties, nor with the wine which he drank." I do want to add just a very brief word in that connection again by way of extra emphasis, to point out that no life can be spiritually effective, can count for God in the spiritual realm, bring in the government of God, can uphold or maintain or advance the testimony of Jesus, stand against the powers of darkness, bring the consummation of the ages nearer, which is the overthrow of the whole satanic kingdom and the bringing in of the universal rule of the heavens, only in so far as that life is in a position of absolute separation from everything in that realm against which that testimony of Jesus stands. If you have one link, one point of contact voluntarily with that system through any medium, you are crippled, you are paralysed.

How often we have had people come to us and they have poured out a story of spiritual defeat, of failure, an up and down experience (not a down and up one), more downs than ups, a lack of spiritual power, and when we have sought to get to the cause of it they have been willing to confess various things, they have come out quite frankly - "I think it very likely may be this or that or something else," and they have not made much difficulty about confessing certain things, and the Spirit of the Lord has been saying in us: "It is not that, there is something else. There is something else that they are not willing to mention," and when through probing and sifting at last we have got on the scent of the thing, we have touched something that had a relation to their like, something they liked (these other things they did not like, and therefore were willing to confess them), but there was something that they liked, some indulgence of the flesh, and this they would not confess. I remember a man who was in that category, and when one tried to help him he was ready to confess that most likely it was his bad temper, that was the trouble. Confessed it with a long face, and in my heart I felt, No, that is not it, there is something else, and I was asking the Lord: "What is it?" "Give this thing into My hands," and as that man got round to another point of the compass in his direction to me I got his breath, and the Lord said: "That is it, tobacco." And I said: "Has the Lord ever put His finger upon a certain habit, indulgence? You may have argued that there was no wrong in it, but has the Lord ever very gently said something to you about that?" and I saw by a flush that the thing had been touched. He said: "Well, I see no harm in that, what is wrong with that? A good many other men have been used of God who do it." I said: "It is not a matter of general right and wrong; right and wrong is a matter of whether the Lord has ever just touched a thing ever so lightly and said, not that it was a downright wicked thing, but: 'I would rather it was not' and that raises the issue". When we had got down to that he said: "There have been times when I have come up against it." I said: "Brother, that is the arrest of your whole spiritual life and that is the back door through which the Devil comes in, and the bad temper is not the cause but the effect, and all the defeat is the result of one reservation that you have with the Lord. There is not a full obedience and willing abandonment; you are prepared to confess all sorts of faults, but that one thing you are not prepared to confess, you have got a hold with the Lord."

Satan's Vantage Ground

"Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king's dainties, nor with the wine which he drank"; for the king of Babylon was related to Nebuchadnezzar's gods, to idolatry, and this Book of Daniel shows perfectly clearly that it is not just Babylon, but it is the spiritual power and system back of Babylon with which Daniel was dealing. We will prove that before we are through. And Daniel saw that that would be a gangway between him and their system, against which he stood and across that gangway the enemy would come and paralyse him and rob him of the power of spiritual and moral dominion, ascendancy to govern the situation in Babylon for God. The Devil was out to offer him the dainties from the king's table and the pleasant wine as a trap to paralyse his spiritual life. Now do not misunderstand me. The instance cited is not intended as a wholesale condemnation of that thing mentioned or of other things, but it is used as an illustration to show you that if in secret history with the Lord where neither companions, Christian friends and brethren know anything, where Daniel is alone with the Lord, there is a realisation of what the Lord would have and a facing up to that: if in that secret history there is the slightest touch of question, doubt about anything as to the Lord's will, that is the pivot upon which revolves the strength of the whole spiritual life, the dominion, the government of the heavens. Just think, that all the mighty power of the God of the heavens, the kingdom of the God of the heavens is suspended in our lives if there is a questionable thing between us and the Lord, a thing about which we have doubt. Yes, we bind the hands of heaven if we are not absolutely clear on every detail with the Lord and there is not the most complete break at every point with that whole system against which we are here as a vessel of the testimony. Holiness is necessary, separation is necessary; an uncompromising attitude between everything that the Devil offers as a link between us and his system.

The victory of the Lord Jesus over the prince of this world was because the prince of this world came to Him and had nothing in Him. "The prince of this world cometh: and he hath nothing in me." If only the prince of this world could have got something in Him! He tried to get personal ambition. Anything like that and the Divine end is frustrated. You see how basic is the principle of an absolute separateness from that kingdom in all its connections and aspects if there is going to be spiritual power. Let us not consider the question of spiritual power merely from a personal standpoint of how it affects us, whether we win the benefit or not, but let us remember that it is a part of a testimony to God's Son. The Lord Jesus is bound up with this. The kingdom of the heavens is bound up with this. The eternal predestinating of God is bound up with this, and a people out of the nations for His Name.

So then Daniel brings in the moral ascendancy or elevation which is necessary to the vessel of the testimony unto the time of the end. He lays the foundation in that realm, moral and spiritual elevation brought about in the secret presence of God. It says Daniel purposed in his heart; it does not say the other three purposed, but before you get through the chapter the other three are in this; out of the secret history on the part of one, the others are brought in, but it was a personal thing in the presence of God where Daniel said: "I must be clear of this thing, I must stand back from this system at every point; I will not be defiled, for defilement means an advantage to the enemy." That was where the foundations were laid for this whole book on the spiritual side.

Chapter two, of course, brings in the practical outworking of that and it is not long after Daniel has purposed in his heart that he comes into action, God brings him forward under such circumstances and conditions as put the whole situation into Daniel's hands. The king dreams. No magician, no wise men in all Babylon can help the king in the interpretation of the dream and he commands that they all be slain, and they seek for Daniel and his companions to be included in the slaying. Daniel asks: "Why is the decree so hasty from the king?" Asks the king to appoint a time - "There is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets," and so the time, the space is given and Daniel mobilises the prayer forces, goes to his three companions, calls them together, and then in the night vision the thing is revealed to Daniel, and out of the secret history of moral ascendancy there issues the outward and public expression of that ascendancy and the whole situation is put into the hands of Daniel, he is the man in command.

They that Honour God, God will Honour

Now what is the next thing as a secret, for the vessel, as to its ascendancy? The first thing is the purposing of heart. The second is the honouring of God, and that is a thing which runs right through this book. It comes out in very clear definition. "There is a God in heaven," and all the way through when a crisis arises and there is an emergency, it is always a recognition of the God of the heavens, and without any kind of veiling, covering up, hiding, compromise. The declaration is made: "There is a God in heaven." God is honoured. You remember when the image was set up in the plain of Dura and all were commanded to bow down and worship that image, these three companions and Daniel refused to worship the image, and they were brought before the king and challenged as to why they refused. What was their answer? "Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer thee in this matter" - that is fine! There is no place for any argument. The fact is that we are responsible to God, that is settled for us in our hearts for ever. We do not argue, we do not explain, we have taken our position of absolute faithfulness to God and that is all there is to it. If you throw us into the fiery furnace it makes no difference to the position we have taken. "Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; and he will deliver us out of thy hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we wilt not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up" - this is settled once and for all, the thing which is paramount is that we honour God.

Beloved, that represents something very, very valuable to the Lord and gives the Lord a way. There was never for one moment a hint that it was in themselves to do anything. You read chapter one and you find that those who were brought in before the king, of the children of the captivity, were to be of the royal seed and of those who held high positions amongst the Jews in their own nation, socially and intellectually; they were to be wise, taught in all the learning and science of their own people and well read, and Daniel and the other three were chosen because they occupied that high position socially and intellectually and were learned in all the wisdom of their people, but never for one moment in the hour of crises did they hint that any ability of theirs would solve the problem, would give the answer. "There is a God in heaven." They honoured God. They gave no honour in the first place to the king's meat. The difficulty with the prince of the eunuchs was that if Daniel carried out his purpose, and his brethren did likewise, their countenances would be poorer and they would look less well nourished than those who received the king's meat. Daniel and his brethren honoured God and refused to give any honour to the king's meat or wine. If they looked the same as the others, having partaken of the king's food, where was the superiority of the spiritual over the natural? And so they determined to refuse the king's meat and they said in effect: "At the end of the time of probation you will find that we are better than the rest, without the meat." They honoured God, they were trusting God, they gave no honour to the king's meat. They took no honour to themselves and their own ability. They attributed all to God, and whenever a situation of difficulty arose they went to the Lord about it. In the first instance, the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel having been given a space of time sought out his three brethren and before the Lord they sought guidance. You see it was always honouring God: "For them that honour me I will honour," and He did.

This is perhaps a very simple principle and you may hardly see the force of it but a vessel that is really going to bring God into evidence, and the heavens into evidence so that the forces of hell and earth are going to have to take account of this and say: "There is that here which cannot be accounted for on any human ground whatever; this is something beyond the natural, this is something more than man, this is none other than God," a vessel that is going to bring in a testimony like that, a vessel that is going to be instrumental in making every knee to bow to Him, has got to be one which is wholly and utterly relying and dependent upon the Lord, taking nothing to itself, honouring God. It must be a vessel which is empty of every thing but the Lord and gives the Lord His place, and in everything it is perfectly clear that it is the Lord; not man or woman, the company, the movement, the organisation, not the brain behind the thing, the ability, the acumen, but the Lord; on the human plane there is nothing to account for this; this is the Lord.

That is what the Lord is after, to get that testimony. It was like that in the first days of the Church. "For behold your calling, brethren, that not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put to shame them that are wise; and God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put to shame the things that are strong; and the base things of the world, and the things that are despised, did God choose, yea, and the things that are not, that he might bring to nought the things that are: that no flesh should glory before God." But the thing which governs that strange providence of God in making sure that His vessel is an empty one and in himself a weak one and one which will take no honour to itself, the thing which governs Him in so dealing with His vessel is to make sure that all who see, know and wholly attribute it to Himself. You want God to come in? God will come in in the measure in which you go out. The heavens will come in in so far as we are emptied and stripped of all natural resources, and if we are emptied out to the last drop, that may be God's way of making room for a larger manifestation of heaven. It is true to spiritual experience.

When you are weak and conscious of personal helplessness, that is not the time to throw up your hands and say: "I am no good for anything and never shall be," that is the time to say there is plenty of room for the Lord, and to exercise faith in the Lord to come in, and the Lord's providences and sovereignty operate along the line of weakening us to make us strong. "Through faith... out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in light." "The people that know their God shall be strong, and do exploits," but it is immensely important to recognise the place of honouring God. It is just the opposite of nature: it represents the work of the cross having been done. The natural man never will honour God. He may in a mock-humility, but flesh never has, and never will honour God; flesh always takes glory to itself. The most difficult thing for the Lord is to use anybody very much. Whenever the Lord begins to use us there is always that little demon sitting upon our shoulder whispering in our ears: "You are becoming successful, you are becoming something," and that is the Lord's difficulty with this flesh of ours. It does so quickly become gratified with any kind of success or blessing, take something to itself, and when people foolishly begin to gather round and make something of the instrument, as though the instrument were an authority, the flesh feels so nice about it and begins to purr like a cat. Self-satisfaction - that is the curse, and it gets in God's way. For heaven to come in completely God must be honoured, it must be all the Lord and that means when God is honoured He can go on with His work. It is a law of spiritual power, spiritual authority. If Christ had power and authority over the Devil it was surely because of the emptiness of His life from the self-principle. We have often said that the root sin is self interest.

May the Lord just take afresh these two things and bring them home to our hearts. May we keep in mind that what the Lord is after in these days is to bring individuals, and a company of people in this world into a place that through them the heavens may govern, and the powers back of this world system may recognise that there is a God in heaven.


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