God's Workshop
by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 4 - The Pattern Shown

"A copy and shadow of the heavenly things, even as Moses is warned when he is about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith He, that thou make all things according to the pattern that was showed thee in the mount" (Heb. 8:5).

Now we will go on to "the pattern shown", and of course carrying with it the whole matter of conformity to God's pattern.

It is important for us to remember that God has the full pattern before Him and in mind before ever He starts. The whole thing, to the last detail, is perfectly defined in the mind and the purpose of God. There is nothing casual, nothing that is mere chance with God. We come to the Word of God and to these great illustrations and pictures of God's workmanship as in the tabernacle and Ezekiel's temple, as in Solomon's temple, and we find God having the whole thing to a detail before Him. I am coming to that again presently, but we must start there.

Now, I have got here illustrations. This, of course, is not God's pattern, but it shows a design, a complete picture. You will see the purpose of my putting that before you in a minute. Those two pictures represent a complete design. One is a lampstand, the other is a fruit stand. It is the complete thing, and the workman who is going to fashion either or both of those things has that thing completely in his mind before he starts. He does not just put a piece of wood on the machine and start it revolving, and then apply his tool or tools to see what happens, to see what comes out, to see if he can do anything if it works. I repeat: with God there is no chance, there is no trying it on with us to see if He can do something, if something will be produced. God knows what He is after, and He knows it to a fragment, He has the whole thing in view.

Christ - God's Pattern

Of course we know that God's pattern is Christ, the perfected Man, with literally countless details. You are going to be surprised in a minute on that point, the countless details of a perfected Man. Christ, the perfected Man, is inclusive and comprehensive. He includes all the Divine thoughts that God has ever had, as to what His glorified, perfected Man should be to a detail. Christ is inclusive of all God's thoughts, that is, spiritual thoughts and moral thoughts, as to His creation. Christ is a universe of Divine ideas.

And of course Christ is exclusive as well as inclusive. He stands alone, one by Himself. There is not another like Him. He is not a pattern, a model; He is the pattern, the model. He is the first and the last, the Alpha and the Omega, and you can have no language outside of that. There is no speech outside of what lies between Alpha and Omega, and so He is the full and the final, the conclusive and the exclusive speech of God.

The Comprehensiveness of Christ's Diversity

He is comprehensive also in the sense of being diverse. There are many different aspects of Christ all in one. He has many different aspects, at least as many as there are different kinds of people. No two people are exactly alike. Somewhere you will find some point of difference, as in the whole creation. God's creation is a very diverse creation, and Christ is capable of revealing Himself in some different aspect through a countless host of people. He is not just making us all exactly alike. He is spreading Himself over a vast number and is capable of doing so, and revealing Himself in this way through that one, and in that way through this one, and so on almost ad infinitum. The diversity of Christ is God's pattern also. Remember that. Perhaps you are trying to imitate some other Christian. Imitation does not come within the scope of God's work at all. Imitation is ruled out. Conception is God's law. It comes out of Life, and life is the most diverse thing in this universe. Think for a moment of the diversity of life in God's creation. You cannot comprehend it, and God needs this wide range to express His so great fulness, and yet, at the same time, there is a basic oneness, and it is oneness with the substance of Christ, or is represented by the substance of Christ. I am not talking about deity and Godhead now. I am talking about the perfected humanity, the Man in the glory, and there is a basic substance in that humanity which is the norm of every man in Christ.

A Basic Oneness in Christ

The oneness is upon this, that there is a nature, which is Christ's nature, which is imparted to us when we are born from above, or in other words, when we become joined to the Lord one Spirit we become partakers of His nature. In elementary forms it is true, but there is the basis, and it is in that oneness with His very substance as the Son of Man glorified that we have a oneness, and can therefore be conformed to His image. It is the kind of Being that He is. Do remember that all service for the Lord, whether it be as a light bearer or a fruit bearer, all service for the Lord springs out of that basic nature. That basic nature lies behind all our acts and our activities. It is not, in the first place, what you or I say, or what you or I do, but it is the kind of person that is saying it and doing it that is the real value of everything and gives it its meaning. God is more after the person than the works and the words. To Him, the works and the words, all the activities, are worthless, if they are not coming from this basic nature of Christ. That is very searching. It is the spirit and the nature behind everything that matters, that gives it its value. The nature has to come first, and that is why God takes such infinite pains with us. He allows a lot of people to do a lot of talking, and He allows a lot of people to do a lot of work, but the people who are going to count most for God in eternal values are those upon whom God has wrought most deeply, in whom He has worked His work to produce this nature of Christ. They may not do so much talking and working as others, but there is the intrinsic value of Christ, and it is that that matters to God. It is the nature, and God knows when the nature is there.

There is nothing feigned or pretend with God. A business man, if he is clever and astute enough, can gain his point; he can steal very politely. He has not got to hold the pistol at the customer's head - "Your money or your life" in principle. He can be very polite, very gentlemanly, very nice apparently, but behind that, he is going to get an advantage to gain his point, and he is going to get more than he ought to get, and someone is going to be cheated, very nicely cheated, but God sees through it. It is not our niceness on the surface that passes with God. It is not our feigned Christ-likeness. God is looking right through. "Thou desirest truth in the inward parts" (Psa. 51:6), and God does not let us off in any deception at all, any pretence. We sometimes think we are getting on very nicely, but God is looking deeper and is after something deeper.

Therefore the pattern is the point to begin with. The complete pattern is in God's view. But the workman, when he gets to work, does not have that complete pattern there; it is inside. He has something else that he applies, so we take the next step.

The Measurement of Details

How does the workman begin his work on what he has in view? Of course, the piece of wood goes on the machine long ways. You remember we brought our piece of wood and found our dead centre, the dead centre being the will of God governing all from centre to circumference. When we found our centre, we drew our circle, the circle of God's will, Christ, and then, having drawn our circle, we find we have some corners, and we studied God getting rid of the corners. The first practical operation with tools was to get rid of those corners, but having got rid of the corners so that this becomes a round thing, it goes onto the machine, and it is now with that full picture in view that the workman gets to work. It is what is called a profile, and this is what happens. The wood is put on the machine, and then something like that is put on the wood, and then lines are drawn. You would not, of course, know what that was if I showed it to you apart from everything else. You would see a piece of cardboard, a lot of angles and cuts and so on. But when you begin to put it on there, you begin to see what you are doing. You have the outline, and from that outline you begin to work.

What is the next thing to do? There is your outline, your profile. You have drawn all those lines. All those lines are the measurements of every section, small and large, and the workman has first of all to put his measurement on that little bit there, and then how far down it comes and all the way along until you have a smother of lines with dimensions, length and breadth and height and depth all the way along. You cannot take any chance on this matter of detail. If you are working to a pattern, you cannot take any chances. You have to be meticulous to a fraction all the way along. Every curve has to be exact. It is simply a smother of figures, that this is this fraction of an inch, and so on, in breadth and depth and height. It is all worked out like that.

Now, perhaps you think that is an exaggeration as to God's workmanship, but make no mistake about that. That is the only thing that comes near to the machine, and you are working all the time according to marked out measurements. Our point at the moment is this, that God is very particular, God is very careful. God is never casual, haphazard or taking chances. He is not just doing something to see what may happen, what may come, how it may turn out. If God has got us in hand, He is very careful and particular, and there is no getting away with it. We cannot get off God's machine unless we absolutely refuse and resist God, unless we say, "I am not going to have this", then the Lord, because He has made us with that power of choice, says, "All right, you are laid aside until you come into line". But if He has us it is like that, He is not careless about His work at all. It does not matter how long, what pains, God is going to have an exact expression of His Son. All things according to the pattern shown.

You remember, from your knowledge of the tabernacle, how detailed God was in all measurements. You remember Ezekiel's temple; he measured and measured, and gave the measurements all the way along, in and out, up and down, and round about. Why? Because this is a figure of Christ - and Christ and His church, His Body - and they are one in this, that it has to be conformed to His image not to be a caricature of Christ, a false representation or distortion; no, exact. The length, breadth, height and depth - the measure of Christ, and the measure of Christ does not just mean the final fulness and wholeness; it means that measure complete to every detail and every point.

That means this, that God, being exact (and perhaps you are learning this, I trust you are), that if you get into the hands of God, He is very exact, very particular, and He keeps everything to His own known design in its details. The word 'perfect' is applied to so much. "Let patience have her perfect work" (James 1:4). God has His way with us over patience. There will be eventually no room for anything but patience. It is patience or it is nothing. It has to be all patience. Patience perfected through faith, and patience the perfecting of faith. It is very real, because God is working to this pattern of His Son, and it raises questions like this, "Have you learned that lesson?" God is seeking to teach you that lesson. His dealings with you are all to teach you a particular lesson about a particular way, particular behaviour, particular kind of life you are living, a particular habit, and the question is always arising. He is bringing His profile to that point. He will leave all the rest for the time being while He gets on with that point, and that point represents some lesson that we are being taught by the Lord on His machine. He is cutting away, dealing with us, apparently in a hard way. He brings His profile, and places it there to see if you have learned that lesson. You are not going to get any further until you have. It would be a terrible thing for us to go on and God having left things imperfect, and then in the end what we would have thought to have been His kindness and love in letting us off, to find there is something that cannot stand, that cannot pass with God in the final issue, something not right after all. God is very particular. As He is with the foundation, so He is with every part of the work. Have you learned that lesson? Have you yielded on that point? The Lord does not swallow up that point in ninety-nine others. He is very careful. His principle is that of the shepherd. He has one hundred and loses one. Why not be content with ninety-nine? What does one matter? Ah, that one matters as much as the ninety-nine to Him, because completeness cannot be reached while one point is lacking, and He is after completeness. Have you yielded on that point? Have you made that adjustment? You want to get on, you want to get out into the Lord's work. The Lord says, 'We cannot go on.' We are held up maybe a lifetime, years, because that lesson, that point, that adjustment, still lacks something, and thus He is constantly applying His profile.

The Instrument of the Word and the Spirit

He has an instrument with which He does it. The instrument is fixed according to the measurement that particular part of the vessel requires, and screwed up tight. No weakness about this, no uncertainty, no indefiniteness. If it is half an inch, it is going to be half an inch. It has two points. Those two things are the Word and the Spirit, the Spirit working in relation to the Word, fixing the measure. The Word made alive by the Spirit, the Word made experience by the Spirit; the Spirit bringing the Word into practical value, and the Holy Spirit is not going to move one hair's breadth from the Word of God. The last chapter of Exodus has that constant, almost monotonous, repetition, "as the Lord commanded Moses". The word that the Lord had given governed, and it was that, and the Holy Spirit holds to that. It is fixed, and whatever God's measure for any particular point in our lives may be, that is fixed. God does not vary that. He waives no point, He does not ease it up. That is the measure. There is no varying it, it is fixed. He brings us back again and again. God is constantly coming back with His pattern, but His pattern worked out to a detail, and the details are all fixed and governed by the Holy Spirit according to the Word of the Lord.

When the profile has been put against the wood, then the next thing is that on the wood all the marks are made, first as to the measurements, the distances, the depths, and then that is put on the machine, and the cutting tool is used in the first place, and the Lord begins to cut in. You do not need to be told a lot about the Lord cutting into the life. He cuts in and He cuts out. He makes His grooves, He makes His mark. It is very real work in the hands of God. Well, we know something about that. But when He has made His first cuts and He has begun to mark us, then He begins to shape, and the rounding processes begin, and something of a shape begins to take place.

The Sandpaper of Corporate Life

And when the cuts are made and the shaping is done, that is not all. Then He applies the sandpaper to smooth it all, make it smooth to the touch. Do you know anything about Divine sandpaper? Well, you know, Divine sandpaper very often comes through the person next to you. Perhaps you would not mind if it were directly an angel from heaven coming to say, 'I am going to smooth you out a bit; it will be a bit uncomfortable'. But when the Lord takes up another person, and makes that person His sandpaper... but it is like that. That is one of the great values of corporate life, there is no doubt about it, and if we have not learned how to yield to the sandpaper of corporate life, we have missed one of God's great methods in perfecting a corporate vessel. This is a corporate vessel, and the perfecting of it is very largely along this sandpaper line of things. You put your hand with the sandpaper on that thing and you are amazed at how uneven it is. It looks fairly good, but your hand is almost torn by the roughness, and you gradually feel that wearing down and smoothing out until there is no longer any bumping or unevenness. There is a lot of roughness about us that the Lord has to get rid of, and it is only done by sandpaper, and that is very often only done by relationships. We very often think that we would get on very much better and become a very much more beautiful vessel if we could get right away with the Lord somewhere, away from things and people, we would be beautiful. We would not. It does not work like that at all. We do not become spiritually beautiful in that way. The beauty is false, if there is any. It is here in this related life that the sandpaper of contacts is applied, the smoothing. We could dwell a long time upon the smoothing processes.

The Time Factor

But let us go on to other things to be briefly touched upon. The time factor. All this with God is so largely a time factor. I tell you, in that little workshop, I have to put many things aside, spoiled, because I have not had time to do them properly. I have tried to do them in half an hour, and it required hours, perhaps days. God does not do that. He does not try to do in five minutes what requires such thoroughness as to necessitate it being spread over a lot of time. It is one of our troubles with the Lord, this time factor. But God is doing things thoroughly. He does not want to have to put things aside, spoilt by hurrying the process. Do you know something about that? It is like that. God is working thoroughly. He is taking time, He has all eternity before Him. We are in such a hurry. Some of us have tried to put such a pace on life, crowd so much in, thinking that time is going, we must get it all crowded in, and some of the deepest lessons the Lord has tried to teach us are in that connection. It does not matter to Him if we are laid aside for months on end, provided the work is going on in us, something is happening in us and to us. It is a mystery of God to lay aside His servants, whom the world says are so needed, and time seems to demand, and they themselves feel that it is lost life. The Lord does not look at it like that at all. He is going to spoil nothing by hurrying. We do; He will not.

The Realm of the Heavenlies

Finally, we must consider the realm in which all this is taking place. Although we are talking by natural illustration, from time to time we have put our finger on extra factors to the natural. It is in the spiritual realm, it is in the heavenly realm. This workshop is a heavenly workshop. Ephesians is in the heavenlies, and God is working in that realm. In that realm nature cannot stand up to it, and it is useless to try to meet this thing and go through with this thing with natural elements.

How can I best illustrate that? Here are two friends, or two related, husband and wife, or other relationships. There may be a very real, genuine and true natural basis to that relationship, there may be genuine natural affection, there may be everything there in the natural which makes it a right, and proper, and good, and valuable relationship. Bring that into the workshop of God, and you will find you need something more than that natural basis of your relationship to go through this. Your natural affection will not stand up to this, even for this one nearest to you. You have to have something more. You are meeting extra factors. It is no use resorting to sentimentalism here. It does not do. You have to rise to a higher level even in the best natural relationships to get through this. This is too much for nature, this work of God on us. "Paul, are you not a man of tremendous intellect? Everyone who has had anything to do with you for hundreds of years regards you as a man of tremendous intellectual power, and here you are saying that in this realm you are a fool, you have not got what is necessary for understanding, for explaining, you have to have something more than all your natural ability, you are praying for a spirit of wisdom and revelation!" Yes, the natural at its best cannot stand up to this realm. There is no explanation that we can find intellectually or rationally in the realm of God's activity. You just cannot explain God naturally and why He does this, why He does it in this way, what He is doing, or what He is after. You can search, but no man by searching can find God out. Nature in the realm of intellect will not get us through here. We are in a realm where only Divine, heavenly, spiritual resources will get us through.

What is true of the intellectual is true in the matter of the will. Apply it to Paul again. "Paul, you are a man of terrific will-power; as a young man, you allowed no one and nothing to stand in your way. If you made up your mind naturally, you had an indomitable will", and this man, of all men, is making it perfectly clear that to get through at all, he needs strengthening with might by His Spirit in the inward man. Nature will not get us through.

And the same in the emotional realm. If we are going to live on our natural feelings, we are not going to get through, and it is no use trying to find good feelings to get us through. It just will not work. In this realm you have to have another source of supply for mind and heart and will, for spirit, soul and body. Do you understand that? The most difficult place for anyone to live in naturally is a spiritual realm, where the things of heaven are going on. Some people think that 'Honor Oak' is the most difficult place in all the world to live in. Here is the explanation. You can go away and it can all let up while you are on holiday. A fortnight of that, and you say, 'I am losing out spiritually, I am going to get back into the fight, into the realm where things matter.' Our spiritual and heavenly life is bound up with this grim operation of heaven. A lot of people have tried drawing out, going away, and they have lost out. Oh, the tragedies, those who have lost out because they drew out. And yet to be in on the basis of nature is impossible. You try to live on the basis of nature, and find your resources in a heavenly realm and you will find it is not possible to survive. To live in heaven, you need the oxygen of heaven.

When God gets us on His machine and starts that wheel whirling, we lose all resource in the flesh and in ourselves, and we discover something more is needed here and that is, as we once said about the wood, the difference between spiritual people and a piece of wood. A piece of wood has no chance. A piece of wood is what it is in itself, but a spiritual person has extra resources and extra factors to draw upon, extra to what it is in itself. Yes, I am a poor bit of wood, that is how I am made. What can you expect of me? What does God expect of you? Lay hold on Life, exercise your spiritual volition to draw upon resources that are not in yourself, and if you do not do that you will die. We have those resources in God, and we have to draw upon them continually. "This morning I feel out of it, down, battered, helpless; this is terrible..." and we go about with a miserable face. No, I lay hold on the Lord - His Life, His grace, and that will make me different from what I am in myself, and it is only as we do that that we can go through in this realm of conflict, pressure and strain, for it is dreadful to the flesh if we have not got up somewhere in spirit, and we have to constantly get up somewhere in spirit, on top of these atmospherics.


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