The Church's Position and Power in the Heavenlies

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 13 - Open Question & Answer Session 4

Initials of those giving answers (where known) refer to:
- Theodore Austin-Sparks
P.W.F. - P. W. Faunch

G.P. - George Paterson
G.T. - George Taylor

Remarks from various people: The Lord has said, "Whoso offereth praise glorifieth Me", and I would like to praise God for leading me here. I have felt very hungry for some time and this conference was the desire of my heart at the beginning of the year - the Lord has opened the way unexpectedly for me to come here. And I do take my place with the Lord in His throne-life and trust Him to work it out.

The thing is the faith position the Lord wants us to take; He will work it out afterwards.

Another thought is that the throne life is entered into by a step of faith and the armour of God is not to get to a position, but to maintain and hold it.

The overcomer: one standing in the open door - an attempt being made to close the door of service, but strength asked to maintain this for His glory. "I have set before thee an open door".

If anything has been made clear, it is that it is necessary for this faith step to be taken. Failing that, all that has been coming through in this conference will go as doctrine and teaching and will be of no practical value until we have taken that step.

These days have meant a great deal. One impression is that a great deal of what has come to us, especially along the line of the unveiling of the wiles of the enemy and the attempt to get us out of our position, have been interpretive of experience. The Lord has been putting into words on a Scriptural basis what has been happening in a good many of our experiences; putting into words what we have been finding out to our own utter humiliation: the wiliness and craftiness of the enemy and our unwatchfulness, the coming of the Gibeonites and the natural conclusion and that we do not enquire of the Lord. By one step out of direct dependence upon the guidance of the Lord we commit ourselves to a course of conduct, of action, or of fellowship that may bring us into a limitation of what the Lord would have brought us into. Then, on the other hand, what to do about that is, as has already been emphasised, again to take the faith position, to assert in faith our position in the Lord and retake what may have been the ground lost. That is a little more difficult than taking the first faith position. If you have taken a position and you have gone out from that position and in the battle you have been beaten out of it, it is less easy for you to retake that position than when the first revelation came to you. There comes in the necessity for that Spirit energised faith that takes the stand.

P.W.F. The Lord has been showing also, crystallizing again, that specific ministry, the objective of our testimony. And it has been surely to those of us who have ears to hear, a clarion call to a specific ministry in prayer and testimony. And the responsibility upon you and me is tremendous, what we have heard and seen, we must obey.

Q. A question I have been expecting. Supposing we see the position and by faith we stand in the position, and in the course of standing there comes a particular thing, a snare of the devil because of unwatchfulness or that we are not as crucified as we ought to be, by some reason or other we fail in maintaining the throne position, what do we do? It was a very real problem to me. The Lord led some of us to take this position years ago and I remember the problem that came when I realised I had failed.

A. G.T. It is not our victory, it is the Lord's victory we are standing in, and it is not a case of getting back into a position by any effort or merit on our part. All we have to do is to put ourselves right with the Lord and we are back in the throne, we can again exercise our ministry. Once we are there, once we come to our realisation and maintain our fellowship with the Lord there, that is ever our position. If we fail, our object is to get right with the Lord and we are back in the throne. There is not an extra effort required if you have got right with the Lord, to get yourself back in the throne; it is one and the same thing because the Lord's position for you is in the throne.

P.W.F. The effort is, as it were, to believe that you really are seated together with Christ in the heavenlies.

G.T. Perhaps I was not clear in giving an explanation of what it was in my own case that got me out of my throne position. One had a controversy with the Lord, there was some issue in my own life with the Lord that really amounted to this: although I had yielded myself to the cross I came to that place where I was preventing the cross working in a certain portion of my life; I withheld something from the Lord. I got back into the throne by getting right with the Lord, I had to yield that ground, the cross had to have full and complete sway over every bit. Once that was done I was back in the throne.

G.P. That presupposes you had recognised who the Lord was in the fulness of His Person. There might be some who have not adequately appreciated the Lord.

G.P. I feel for myself a very real reminder from the Lord that the essential thing above everything else is to believe God in this way. We have heard much of the wiles of the devil, how he seeks to bring us down and we recognise the Lord allows him liberty to exercise his wiles in order that he may, if we are bring-downable, to bring us down. It is the Lord's way to strengthen us. It is not always easy, in the day when the enemy is allowed to do his work, to believe the Lord is the Lord. Before this conference some of us were tremendously conscious of a very real withstanding and spiritual difficulty on one issue particularly, that of the sickness of our little friend. We brought ourselves to a standstill; we were adopting an attitude which is unbelief. One could pray and pray and seek to fight through to a position and, because having taken that position in prayer the thing did not instantly manifest itself, we would pray against that thing instead of taking the position that the thing is done, however much may be exhibited afterwards, we have to believe God now. And if the Lord allows the circumstances or the enemy liberty that seems to contradict the fact, here I must believe God. He allowed the circumstances to arise to give the ground for our own activity and caused the circumstances out of which the very message of this conference has come. Believe God, no matter what the circumstances look like, and the enemy is beneath our feet in the Lord.

Unknown: Yet that wants analysing a little more. Such times of conflict are fruitful. It is perhaps a little doubtful, open to question, whether you could have taken that position right at the beginning of the battle and said, "This thing is finished" at the first sign when the battle was raging. That battle was allowed in order to bring you somewhere in order that you might stand in a victory, and there was more than one thing bound up with that battle. The Lord had several big things that He was aiming at through that battle and it was not until perhaps other things that were not immediately the cause you were concentrating upon, other things bound up with it, got clear. It is not always when the battle starts you can say, "This is finished" in the Lord. You must say, "What is the Lord after?" And it is not until you get that and say that is the thing, the occasion, the reason for it. I made a note in my notebook which I think comes right into that very realm. We never got peace in a situation of trouble, distress or trial, a difficult situation, we never get the place of ascendency until the Lord has got us to the place which He has in view for us by allowing that situation to arise. Now a whole situation is churned up, tremendously trying, full of suffering, difficulty. At once you ask the Lord to give you peace in these threatening, grave possibilities, you seek the Lord to put peace in your heart and yet you find yourself constantly not only assailed, but overcome by fears and dreads and you cannot put them off. They haunt you and follow you round, and some of the waves get inside your boat! Now, you do not get the ascendency of peace until you have come to the spiritual position the Lord wants you to come to by reason of that trouble, and that trouble simply forces you up to the position and has the effect of bringing you to ascendency although the situation has not changed. It is first of all to get the meaning of a situation before you get the ascendency over it. You cannot say when a thing starts, "Now that is finished", because the Lord is Lord and He has spared the devil to be His instrument to rush us up into some position. When He allows the enemy to rampage, it is only to bring us to a position, or make us in a new way assert our position. Strength of spirit in a new emphasis is only a new position spiritually. We want to become strong in spirit and we become that by being driven into it.

T.A.-S. That takes me back to another thought. Speaking about the difficulty of recovering a lost position, what do we do? It is very precious to reflect upon the faithfulness of the Lord. If the Lord has called you to something and has brought you there at some time, and for no deliberate reason, not because you have with forethought, premeditation, or by deliberate letting go lost that position, the Lord is so faithful with you that He will put you into the most difficult and painful situation to get you back. I was thinking about the difference between the Ai situation and the later one. The Lord was prompt in His faithfulness with the Ai situation because of the particular form of the difficulty where the people were not themselves all that responsible for what happened. Achan was the devil's instrument put in among the people to be his foothold in Israel, and although the Lord held the people responsible for eliminating the Achan element of uncrucified flesh, the Lord's faithfulness was very prompt because of the nature of the coming down. But when the whole people later on simply dropped into a state of passivity in spite of Joshua's entreaties to take full possession, when they got into that state of acceptance and satisfaction, the Lord's faithfulness seems to have been put back into another realm. You do not see it promptly coming out in the same way and you have the three hundred years of the Judges with those breaks of Gideon, Samson and others. He has so much more difficulty and it takes so much longer and is so much more doubtful when there is a complicity with the situation by the Lord's people. But if you are not deliberately responsible for the thing, the Lord comes in very faithfully to act in a swift, drastic way to set you back into position. It is a great thing to reflect upon the faithfulness of the Lord and we must see that if we do lose our position in which we have been, we have to count on the Lord's faithfulness and believe the Lord to bring us back to position again. The faithfulness of God has been very much with me of late.

Q. Are there times when, having lost a position, it may need another to get alongside you in order to re-take and get through?

A. Seeing the Ephesian position is corporate in real effectiveness, it is the church in the heavenlies, if one member suffers all the members suffer with it, one would feel the dropping out of one member would be the occasion for the others coming in to help that one back.

Q. (cont.) At times when the accuser would get on top and the only way is to get another believer right in with you and deal with it before the Lord?

A. T.A.-S. That's the object of the armour bearer.

Q. How would you explain the need if already in the throne?

A. T.A.-S. Doctrinally, and in the thought of God, you are in Christ in the heavenlies, but experimentally you are not. The fact is you are not; and you have got to come to where you are! There is a difference between our placing in the Lord Jesus and our enjoyment and experience and functioning in our place, and if you are not enjoying it, or experiencing it, or functioning there, you are as good as out of it. The ultimate fact that we are in the heavenlies in Christ is unchanged in the mind of the Lord - it's a position we can always claim, the working virtue of it we can claim. The Lord can only bring you there as you take your position. It is a whole lifetime progressive getting there experimentally. Passing through the sieve.

Q. In order to be effective in prayer, we were told that we must pray with a true conception of what God is doing in world events. During the time that we are seeking to know what God is after - for me that has taken a long time - is there an attitude we can take up in prayer which will be effective while we are trying to know what God is doing? When you say "dispensationally" you do not mean that applies to everything that we go to the Lord about?

A. T.A.-S. The first part of the answer to that enquiry is that we stand in faith with the Lord in prayer, for His purpose. We were saying you cannot pray to the Lord to upset His prophetical programme and stop the war in China if that should be a part of His prophetical programme. You go to Him and say, "This is a part of the order of things (if you see that it is) we do not seek to have the fixed order upset but we do want to know what this means for You. At present we do not see quite clearly what it is, but we stand strongly for Your interests in this thing and for what You are after. We stand with You and ask to be given light, as far as we are to have it, as to what You are after in this thing so that we can intelligently co-operate in prayer in the Spirit towards that end." The beginning is, nevertheless to stand in the Lord for His interests and the protection of His interests in a thing like that - the securing of His ends. And then, perhaps there will begin to filter through something the Lord is sovereignly doing by which means He could not do in any other way. For example, the Boxer Uprising; something was got out of it for the Lord which was exceedingly precious. One thing alone was the bringing out of the overcomer spirit in the Chinese converts themselves and showed this was not a foreign thing, not something imported, but something there which was of God among the Chinese themselves. So that the Boxers who said, 'Down with the foreign devils!' and regarded the whole thing as an imported thing, discovered there was something in China itself which was of God. It could not be destroyed by driving missionaries out, and this was a great strengthening of faith. God has something inside an event, and you can pray the Divine interest through and you have to begin to pray on the simple basis that God has got something in this. Then you go the next step to pray with the Lord in fellowship for the securing, or maintaining, or protecting of the Lord's interests in that time.

T.A.-S. Perhaps we do not have enough light about what the Lord is after in things because we do not take up these great dispensational interests of the Lord. Some of us are tremendously burdened and concerned about the awful grip of Islam. I speak for myself - I am before the Lord in my heart about this. Why has Islam got so much strength against the real thing? The false thing against the real. Why has Islam this awful grip? It seems almost an impenetrable barrier. I am very much before the Lord to see why the Lord has permitted Islam to have this grip upon the world situations. If only we can get the clue, the key, we get into co-operation with the Lord in the throne to bring through something proving the sovereignty of God has been vindicated in allowing Islam to have that grip, just as His sovereignty will be vindicated in allowing the enemy a lengthening of tether. Once you get the clue, you are in the way of power. Sometimes you have to wait before the Lord to bring out of cover the hidden secret, as it were. I think we have also to take more seriously what can be done in hindering, preventing, or even wiping out the things of this earth by prayer. It is not only the sovereignty of God in the dispensational thing, but there are a great many things that can be upset by prayer, even world movements, precipitous events. You remember the general strike, some of us have reason to believe that general strike broke down because there was a very definite standing in the throne, because some big interests of the Lord were bound up with that thing. It was a marvelous thing how that collapsed. Had you known the spiritual background, you would see it could not be explained on any natural ground. You can only deal with things like that as you see from the Lord what His interests are, whether His interests are more bound up with the breaking of the thing or with the thing going on. That is where fellowship with the Lord is so needed. Daniel set himself twenty-one days when he discovered by books, the times.

Q. A question regarding being covered by co-operation with God's people, the need of the covering and what that covering is? (Miss Featherstone)

A. Unknown: The Lord Jesus is presented to us as Head over all things to the church which is His Body, and the principle of headship in the Word of God is the principle of covering; taking responsibility. If there is any action of a member out of fellowship and harmony with the Head, that is disorder and the whole body is in an upset, disorganised state. You get a disorder where the members are functioning without the Head; they go sprawling without the Head, the whole nervous system is in disorder. The Head is not ruling and therefore, the body is exposed to all kinds of danger and perils because it is not in cover. Now we see Paul bringing in the Body in Corinthians, with the Lord Jesus as sovereign Head. That is the whole design of 1 Corinthians, to recognise the Sovereign Lordship of Jesus Christ, and these Corinthians are not doing that. They are circling round men and things. Paul is aiming at the absolute Lordship and Headship of the Lord Jesus. "We preach Jesus Christ as Lord", he says, trying to establish the Sovereign Headship. Later he goes on with the object, but in line with that he comes into those more mysterious things: the man being the head of the woman. A man praying with his head covered dishonours his head, a woman praying with her head uncovered dishonours her head; it is a question of headship all the time. The spiritual principles there are simply that the church is in relation to Christ as the wife to the husband, and the husband being head of the wife. Christ is the Head of the church, and therefore the Lord Jesus will take responsibility for all His members if only they will come under His Headship. And the Lord says to the wife, and woman, 'As long as you recognise My heavenly principles and laws and orders as represented in the earth by the relationship I have created between man and woman, I have provided you with protection, but if you women take the place a man ought to have, you forfeit your covering and expose yourselves to any amount of perils.' Many women who have taken administrative positions have made this mistake.

The point you have raised comes into this particular connection, that the corporate nature of the Body, that we are all members one of another, demands that there shall be no independent action of any kind. We used the phrase "freelance" yesterday. The life and ministry and everything else of the individual is relative and corporate. That principle is bound up in the New Testament with a definite form of recognition. We cited the case of Paul's conversion and Ananias as a representative member of the local assembly at Damascus to which Saul was deliberately sent by the Lord to get his instructions; the Lord refusing to give Saul direct instructions as to his next step. Ananias, as a representative member of that assembly, went in and laid his hands upon him and said, "Brother Saul...". That is an act of identification with the assembly representatively, bringing him into the assembly and under the Headship of the Lord Jesus. And so the laying on of hands was a testimony in the New Testament, not of ecclesiastical office, but to the oneness of the Body; after baptism a testimony to the fact that these individuals are not just individuals any longer, but they are members of one Body and share a corporate life, and corporate Spirit, one Spirit baptised into one Body; not so many holy spirits as believers but one Body. Then laying on of hands upon the servants of the Lord as Paul and Barnabus at Antioch; it is a recognition that the ministry to which they are going is corporate ministry, not independent, but ministry of the Body and this company of believers is going out with them. And Paul maintained that position always. He always sought their prayers, "I trust to come to you through your prayers and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus". "Praying always, at all seasons, and for me...". Everything he is in is relative and corporate because he recognised the oneness of the Body.

In so far as Paul, or anyone else goes off and detaches themselves, they get out of cover and sooner or later they will meet such difficulties which they will not be able to go through and then in a simple way, perhaps without understanding all the truth of the Body, they will discover they need someone to come and pray for them. They are coming back to the Lord's order of things and presently the Lord will give them light about the Body and they will see why they could not get through without calling in prayer. The simple explanation is getting your head out of cover. There is a great heavenly order of things which the Lord wants to reproduce in His church, to bring it into a heavenly order. God is the Head of Christ, Christ is the Head of the church, and the man is the head of the woman, and that is a heavenly order reproduced through the relationships of the Lord's people. Parents are the head of their children. It is something more than, "Children obey your parents", and if children do not do it in the Lord, they will suffer. Therein is the importance of the Lord's servants being closely related by a spiritual fellowship and that they go out to their ministry as out from an assembly. And the weakness of a society as separate from an assembly is just that, that not the same spiritual responsibility is always taken, that is, continuous responsibility. The Lord's order is an assembly.

In keeping with T. Austin-Sparks' wishes that what was freely received should be freely given and not sold for profit, and that his messages be reproduced word for word, we ask if you choose to share these messages with others, to please respect his wishes and offer them freely - free of any changes, free of any charge (except necessary distribution costs) and with this statement included.