by T. Austin-Sparks
When here on earth, the Lord Jesus had His life continually in heaven. He never took things for granted, but maintained a life all of faith. He triumphed over the situations here on earth in the power of faith and by prayer. Prayer had a very large place in His life. He continually drew from His heavenly resources the needed strength and means to accomplish His work for the glory of the Father. It was a faith activity in relation to His Father, and it was necessary for Him. How much more should we live on this basis of faith and prayer in union with Him!
Now let us consider the last of these secret resources of Christ - the strength of a divine purpose.
The Lord Jesus was conscious that He was bound up with an eternal and universal purpose. In Matthew 16:18 we read that He said, in view of that purpose: "I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." Let us understand the force and significance of that statement.
The Lord Jesus knew that He was on the way to the Cross. Immediately after the great declaration of Peter concerning Christ as the Son of the living God, the Lord Jesus began to speak to His disciples of the Cross, showing them that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer. Now in the face of this there is that deliberate statement of the Lord: "I will build my church." It clearly shows that the purpose of Christ's life cannot be defeated through death. The Cross cannot destroy it. He said in effect: "I am going to be crucified, but I am come to build my church, and I shall build it. The purpose I have come for cannot be interfered with; the Cross cannot hinder it." Here we see a definite purpose which characterised His life, and which was mightier than death. Yes, He even added: "and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it". All the forces of darkness cannot prevent the purpose of His life, for it is bound up with eternity, with a power that death and hell cannot withstand.
Let us note the emphatic marks of that purpose in the following passages of Scripture:
"My meat is to do the will of Him that sent
Me, and to accomplish His work." John 4:34.
"...The Father that sent Him... he that... believeth Him that sent Me." John 5:23-24.
"...That sent Me... the Father that sent Me." John 5:30,37.
There are other verses which express in a similar way that definite purpose such as:
"I am come that they may have life, and may
have it abundantly."
"The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."
In all these references we recognise a special mission. Behind the coming of the Lord Jesus into this world we see a definite, predetermined purpose. He did not only come for some enterprise or campaign. He was not starting a movement. Everything in His life was in relation to a divine purpose. There was a definite plan in the eternal counsels of God "before the foundation of the world", which the Lord Jesus came to fulfil. That is why it could not be frustrated. Even the gates of hell could not prevail against it.
In the life of the Lord Jesus there was nothing merely incidental. Everything had a definite purpose. Therefore the prophet Isaiah called Him "the servant of the Lord". How often the Lord Jesus said with regard to His mission: "I must". There is something imperative in His words: "I must work the works of Him that sent me." It speaks of a total absence of anything indefinite.
The gospel according to Mark is characterised by definiteness, showing the Lord Jesus as the Servant of the Lord. The word peculiar to Mark is 'straight away'. It occurs some forty times in the gospel, showing how the servant should be. If we are here for the Lord and His service, we have no time to lose. Our whole heart has to be devoted to Him, and our life marked by purpose in obedience to Him. Our attitude, in relation to Him, has to always be 'straight away'.
So the Lord Jesus derived much strength from this knowledge of purpose with which His life was bound up. There is no doubt that we too shall get strength from that sense of purpose, that consciousness of a divine vocation which is ours. That is why the enemy always tries to discourage us. He seeks to raise questions and doubts in our hearts as to the reaching of the goal, telling us that our labour is in vain. If he succeeds to rob us of that sense of purpose in our life, to make us doubt with regard to our testimony, our work, or the value of the suffering we have to go through, we shall lose our strength and the enemy will get the upper hand.
Jesus Christ was maintained in God's strength all the way through, because He was dominated by the sense of His mission, because He kept firm His purpose. If we hold fast the purpose of our life, if we keep in view our heavenly calling, we too shall be maintained in strength. But if we try to fulfil some ambition of our own, if we carry out our own programs, if we keep some movement going, there will be no divine resources available for us. In order to be maintained in strength it is essential that we know that we are in the purpose of God. Our service must always be the result of a divine purpose. It is of the greatest importance for us to realise that we have a place in God's plan. We have to deny ourselves. In God's purpose there is no room for personal interests. "To them that love God", to them whose heart is taken up with God and the fulfilment of His purpose, "all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose". That is a definite statement showing believers are called into a divine purpose. We have got to know as definitely as the Lord Jesus knew, that we are in God's purpose.
Paul speaks in his letters repeatedly of those who are called "according to His purpose". In Ephesians 3:10-11 we have one of these definite statements: "that now unto the principalities and powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose". We might think of it in the future tense, but it clearly says "now". God is doing something now in His church which is teaching principalities and powers. We are surrounded by unseen intelligences who are watching God's dealings with us. They are watching the experiences we have to go through, and which are bound up with God's eternal purpose. What is that purpose? It is that we should be conformed to the image of His Son. In Jer. 18:2-3 we read: "Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words... and behold, he was making a work on the wheels". Principalities and powers have, so to speak, come down to the potter's house and they watch. What is that vessel in the hands of the potter? It is the church. But the heavenly Potter is not satisfied with His vessel. He has to break it and form a new one. Now the clay is on the wheel, and there have to be all kinds of divine dealings and workings, and these unseen intelligences are watching how the heavenly Potter is forming us. We are that clay, and sometimes we feel the pressure of the Potter's hands, and the cuttings, whilst He is shaping His church. But all our trials and our sufferings, all our perplexities are only God's way to bring us to the goal. All His dealings have an effect upon us, and bring about a change in us. And the higher intelligences see it and wonder at God's wisdom at how Christ is being formed in us more and more.
That is our calling. So long as we are in line with God's purpose His work can go on in us. What matters is not first of all our activity. God is more concerned with what is done in us than what we do for Him. He often reaches His end with us much better when we are in a state of inactivity than in times of much work. The hand of the Potter was upon Moses when he was in the wilderness where he could not do much. During forty years he was just looking after a few sheep. That is not very grand. No doubt he wondered sometimes to what purpose he was there, whether his life had any value. But principalities and powers saw something and wondered at God's wisdom. God knew how to equip this man, how to get His way in that life. That is true in the case of many a servant of God. God is working for good, He is shaping His vessel. There is wisdom in all His dealings with us. But we have to see to it that we have no plans or personal ambitions of our own. The clay has to be completely in His hands. If we are really here for God, we can be assured that He will reach His end, that He may work out His purpose in us. And there we shall find strength.
Are you sure you are in the great purpose of God? Everybody has some part in it. Paul, when speaking of the church, illustrates it thus: "that all the body is fitly framed and knit together through that which every joint supplies". No part of the body is without function. Each and every one has to be in God's purpose. Some parts may be very small, they nevertheless are equally important. We have to remember that God has called us for a purpose which will be realised as we abandon ourselves to Him. Whatever it may be to which He has called us, let us be ready and do it. A Holy Spirit possessed life is always marked by purpose. Nothing can be lost in such a life; let us not believe in mere generalities. That is not good enough. There is something far more definite in God's thoughts for our lives. Let us abandon all personal desires, and be filled with the Spirit of urgency - "straight away". Those who know that they are called of God, and who definitely recognise the purpose of their life, will be wholly given up to it. Such no longer have any interest for the things of this earth. They have no time to lose. They must buy up their time.
Now our life is bound up with our Lord Jesus Christ in the glory. God's eternal purpose reigns over us with universal dimensions, as vast as that domain of principalities and powers in the heavenlies. The church of Jesus Christ is entrusted with a tremendous, unfathomable plan of God. To know this means strength. To know this keeps us not only calm in times of perplexity and trial through which God is working out His plan, but it also fills us with that peace and joy, which - as the Lord said - the world cannot take away from us.
We are in the great purpose of God, called with a heavenly calling. There is nothing incidental about our lives. Our time is fixed by God. We are in God's appointments. His purpose is not yet completed. The coming of Christ on this earth was only the first stage of it, but since Christ is in heaven there is now a fuller outworking of His purpose concerning the church. So let us recognise in all things the will of our heavenly Father, in putting our trust in Him, and let us look to the goal in Spirit, believing that we shall reach it by His grace.