by T. Austin-Sparks
I have often been very comforted by the words of Scripture which
say, "He remembereth our frame, that we are dust". And if the Lord
remembers our frame, that we are dust, I'm quite sure that He
would have me remember that.
We have had a heavy day today and there does come a time when we've just about had enough that we can carry. I feel, therefore, that this evening I should take perhaps a little lighter line and not go more deeply into the matter which is before us in these days, but just speak in a simple way in order to encourage the Lord's people in this heavenly calling.
I can remind you of the basic words, "Wherefore, holy brethren, companions of a heavenly calling". Then I'll turn you to the tenth chapter of the letter to the Hebrews, at verse 35, "Cast not away therefore, your confidence which hath great recompense of reward for ye have need of patience, that, having done the will of God, you may receive the promise."
Sometimes the companions of the heavenly calling get a bit weary and they need such words as these, "cast not away your confidence which hath great recompense of reward". Now, those words are all of a piece with this whole letter and its purpose. These Hebrew Christians were in danger of doing that very thing. They were in danger of casting away their confidence. There were various reasons for this, they had those who were all the time trying to persuade them to take an easier way, to be satisfied with something less than they were being called to... just to settle down to the historic religion, the religion of forms and creeds and symbols - without Life - all that which made up the Old Testament Jewish system.
These people were saying, "Why? Why are you so troubled about this upward heavenly way? Be satisfied with just going to church when the time comes to go to church, and bringing your offerings at the time to bring offerings, and going through all the set rituals of the temple. Just be satisfied with this routine! Don't be so worried about this 'higher life', let go of all that and be content with an ordinary kind of religious life." And seeing that these people were having a very bad time from the world, that was a very real temptation. You will read in this letter that when they made their decision for the Lord Jesus, they suffered a great deal at the hands of the world. The world turned against them and they lost a lot. And that persecution had persisted, they were having a difficult time. And so the appeal to take it easy was a very real temptation. "Just do not go on", was the argument.
You notice how the letter comes in again and again, "Let us go on! Let us neither look back nor stand still". These were their perils, and so the writer gave them this word of counsel, "Cast not away your boldness, it has a great recompense of reward." But it's one thing just to say something like that, "Oh brothers, don't give up! Oh brothers, don't let your confidence go. Oh brothers, keep going on!" Well, that's alright, but it really isn't enough - you want something more than that. And so the Holy Spirit through the writer of this letter just shows the ground on which we should keep going on; the method of meeting a situation like this. And what is that matter? The matter that this letter presents: it is a wonderful fresh unveiling of the glories and greatness of Jesus Christ. You notice how the first part of the letter is just one glorious revelation of the Lord Jesus. And all this is said in order to get these people really satisfied with the Lord Jesus.
There's nothing like being satisfied with anything to draw you away from dissatisfaction. You know, it's a wonderful thing for a people to be seen to be satisfied with the Lord. It's a wonderful thing for those people themselves, but it's a wonderful thing for other people.
Now, I am going to give you a little bit of personal testimony, that is, if you will promise me one thing: that you will not think that I am trying to draw attention to myself, or that I think that I am anything very important. Those who know me best would never think that of me; no, I'm trying to be helpful by just touching upon some principles of a life of victory, something in my own early Christian experience. I think very few people have ever heard me say this before, but my hope is that it's going to especially help the young Christians here tonight. And if it applies to the old ones, well, you wear the cap!
When I was a young man in my late teens, although I had had a very godly mother, who had prayed much for me and from infancy had taught me about the Lord, there came this time when I was far from happy. I knew about Christianity, but I was not rejoicing in the Lord; indeed I was a very unhappy person.
I was living in the city of Glasgow and one Sunday evening, very unhappy, I decided that I would go for a walk. I didn't know where I was going, I just went out and began to walk down the street. After I had been walking for about 15 minutes, I heard some singing in the distance. And, as I listened, I heard that it was a hymn that I knew. I decided to make my way in the direction from which the singing came. As I got nearer and nearer, the singing became louder and louder. At last I arrived at the place where it was coming from. It was a place where five roads met and right in the centre was a great lampstand with five lamps. Gathered around those lamps was a circle of people and then a great crowd stretching in all directions. And these people in the centre were singing these hymns.
I began to forget that I was miserable as I worked my way nearer and nearer. Well, before the meeting was finished, I was singing! They were just very ordinary working people, men who loaded the ships, men who drove carts in the street, men and women who worked in the factories, but how happy they were! How satisfied they were! And it was just their satisfaction that went to my heart. They were rejoicing in the Lord Jesus.
Now, I wasn't anybody important, I was only a young man of 17 years of age, but these people were delivered from themselves because they were so occupied with the Lord Jesus! I was just living in my miserable self because I didn't know their joy in the Lord Jesus. Their joy in the Lord Jesus delivered me from my miserable self and turned me out so that I became satisfied with the Lord Jesus. Now, that's not all of the story, but that's a very good beginning. I'll tell you some more in a minute.
You see, you come back to this letter to the Hebrews and that is just the situation that you meet: people who were losing their joy. Perhaps they had lost their joy. There were days, this letter says, when they were full of joy in the Lord, and now it's gone. And the writer says, "Have another look at the Lord Jesus! Take your eyes off of yourself, take your eyes off of your troubles, have a look at Him." And then he gives this wonderful picture of the Lord Jesus. That's something to look at! And that is going to be the beginning of your salvation, the beginning of your salvation as Christians.
Now to go on with the testimony.
The Lord had gained the first victory along that line, and by the satisfaction of these Christians with Himself, had brought me to the same satisfaction. Now, shall I tell you that it wasn't long after that, that I was right in the middle of that ring giving my testimony! I'm afraid it was a very feeble effort, I was very nervous. I can't remember for the life of me what I said, but nevertheless, I let go and that was the second big thing in my crisis. By stepping into that ring and committing myself to the Lord, and giving my testimony, I was a completely released man. I had been all locked up in myself, just in the prison of myself, and that night when I spoke about the Lord Jesus, told somebody else, told all those people what the Lord Jesus was to me, I was completely released. From that day I went right on testifying to the Lord Jesus.
Sometimes I was speaking in as many open air meetings as five in a week. Now, don't think about me, think about the principle: you commit yourself, and let people know it, and you will be released. Tell other people what the Lord Jesus is to you, and you'll find it has a wonderful releasing effect in your own life. You know, this is a New Testament law, "if thou shalt believe in thine heart and confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus..." I know how elementary that is, but dear friends, there are times, even in the lives of advanced Christians, when they become silent; when their discouragements or their troubles close their lips and they again become all locked up in themselves. The only way of deliverance is to commit yourself, and declare yourself: "I am going on with the Lord! There's plenty of discouragement in myself, there's plenty of discouragement in my circumstances, but I am going on with the Lord by His grace." Say it! Let people know it, and it will be your way of salvation. So the letter says to these people: "Let us go on!"
Now, that is not all about the testimony, and the next thing is a little more difficult for me to say. Again, it is not because I think anything of myself, but many of you know that the Lord has given me a very wide ministry during these many past years in so very many parts of the world, by personal ministries and by written ministries. It's just gone out over a very large part of this world. The value of it I don't know and it is not for me to think anything about that; heaven alone will tell what the value has been. But this is my point: a faithful company of people whose lives were hard and difficult who were rejoicing in the Lord, was the beginning of this worldwide ministry.
My point is this: you never know how far reaching your faithful testimony is going to be! I don't know what happened to all those people. I lost sight of them in after life. I was preaching in Glasgow some years afterwards and I did see one little man in the congregation whom I recognised as one of those people at the open air meetings. I don't know what happened to them and I am very doubtful as to whether they knew what happened to me, but the fact is they were faithful in their testimony. It was not an easy thing to live in that city in those days. Their lives were very hard lives indeed, but they were faithful to the Lord Jesus and their faithfulness led to whatever value there has been in this worldwide ministry.
I don't want you to tell me what the value of Aeschi conferences is, but I have to conclude that you don't come here for nothing. These Aeschi conferences alone began in that open air meeting all those years ago in the city of Glasgow. My point is: friends, be faithful in your testimony and you never know what the fruit of it will be. You may never see that fruit, but it will be there.
"Let us go on," says the letter. We may not know in this life the value to others of our going on.
Now, my last word at this time is just this: that, of course, was a very simple beginning of the Christian life. At that time I just knew the Lord Jesus as Saviour and I was rejoicing in Him as my Saviour. The day came later on when the Lord showed me that that is only the beginning; that He does save us not just to save us, but with a great purpose in view; that there is a very great purpose bound up with our salvation. And that is just the burden of this letter. It is as though the Lord was saying to these people, "You were saved, you did rejoice in your salvation, but that was not intended to be everything. There's a great purpose unto which you are saved, a marvellous inheritance. Cast not away, therefore, your boldness which hath great recompense of reward, do not be satisfied with being saved. Set your hearts wholly upon the great purpose for which you were saved."
Now, that hasn't been a very heavy discourse has it? Very simple, but I feel, full of very important things. It may be that many of you here tonight just need that word. Seek that full satisfaction with the Lord Jesus, for as others see how satisfied you are with Him, it may just be the turning point in their life.
You know, dear friends, this is very practical. Today everything is being done to try to attract people, especially young people, to the church. They will have entertainments, they will have cinemas; anything to attract young people, and it's a poor business... these young people, if they are attracted, don't go very far with the Lord. They always want more and more entertainments, but if they are drawn because they themselves are not satisfied, and they see people who are satisfied, that will answer their need if they are able to say, "I came in because I saw how much of the Lord Jesus there was there; I saw how satisfied those Christians were with Christ".
Yes, Christ is the big Attraction, He is the big Satisfaction and it is the answer to this world's deep need. The world has all those other things; church cannot give the world anything of its own kind, but the Lord Jesus can go far beyond the world.
Well, you and I must pray that we will be an attraction for others toward the Lord Jesus. I think that's enough for tonight.