God's Method and Means in Times of Special Peril

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 3 - Divine Resources

I think perhaps the Lord would have us to underline and go just a little bit further with what we were saying at the close of the gathering last evening. You know we are in the letters to Timothy, and we are seeing by the aid of those letters that they, and Timothy himself, stood at a very critical turning point in the history of the church, of Christianity. And that the things that the apostle wrote to Timothy in those letters, were things which bear very, very strongly, seriously, upon the whole course of things as it was being "reshaped", shall we say, at that time.

And in speaking about Timothy last night, as himself a symbol of the situation and of God's method of meeting it, a symbol of the need to meet the new situation of spiritual declension and departure, we noted, on the one side, the neediness of Timothy - how he is presented in these letters as one in need in every way. And then on the other side, the urge that the apostle brought to bear upon him, the tremendous responsibility which the apostle indicated as resting upon him. And all these words of exhortation and command, seeming to make very great demands upon this young man: "I charge thee...", says the apostle, "in the sight of God...", "Oh Timothy..." the appeal, more than once to him, "Be strong", "Endure hardship as a good soldier", "Give diligence to show thyself approved unto God", and so on. And in the light (as we pointed out) of the situation which was developing at that time - the terrible, terrible persecution of Christians that was coming about, to which Paul himself so soon after writing this last letter fell a victim. And Timothy knew all about it. It was indeed putting a lot upon a weak vessel. It was making tremendous demands upon one who was evidently in himself not, speaking quite naturally, of great account. Apparently physically he was at a discount, "thine oft infirmity" the apostle mentions, "thine oft infirmity". Evidently Timothy went down under some malady, repeatedly and often.

Well, what did it all amount to? And this is the point; and we only need, as I have said, to re-emphasise it this morning: Paul was not calling upon Timothy to be a kind of super-man; neither was he calling upon Timothy to be more of a man than he was. That doesn't get us very far; we might talk to one another like that when we get down and under, or knocked about a bit. We might speak in human language and terms, "Well now, buck up!" "Now then, none of that, no giving way! Remember you're a man, remember you're a woman, remember you're a responsible person! You ought to behave better than that, it's most undignified!" Well, I don't know how far that gets you. It may make us feel all the worse, and  thoroughly ashamed of ourselves and such utterly worthless creatures that we want to get out of it altogether. And so Timothy might, if this had been what Paul was doing, might have said, "Well, Paul evidently doesn't think much of me; he has got a very poor opinion of me. And, well, I'm good for nothing - I had better just give it all up". But you see, that was not what Paul was doing.

It's important to notice this great feature about his letters; we shall enlarge upon it in other connections probably later, here we just take note of it. And I repeat: Paul was not telling Timothy to be a super-man - for it wanted a super-man to stand up to this situation, to carry this load, to meet these emergencies - it wanted a super-man, but Paul wasn't telling him to be that in himself, nor, as I have said, to be more of a man than he was. He was (Paul was) indicating to Timothy all the way through that Timothy's very life and work, his ministry and his position of responsibility, rested upon a Divine and supernatural basis. "The gift that is in thee... that was given thee" Paul refers to that, as you notice, more than once in his letters, "God has not given us a spirit of fear". And I call you to just read through again as I have no time to take you through, and note this: the strength that Timothy was to have, the ability that was to be his for doing and for enduring, was a strength and an ability which would not come from any spring in himself. He could be, and Paul was calling upon him to be, a super-man - but not in himself. "Be strengthened in the grace that is in Christ Jesus". He was really being called upon to be and to do far more than any human person could measure up to; far more than was possible even for the best men, the strongest and the wisest - to say nothing about Timothy. Timothy! And the Lord never lays upon us an impossibility. If He charges, calls, demands; He provides: His is the strength, His is the wisdom.

Now, without taking that any further, I bring it to this focal point. Dear friends, difficult as it may be for you and for me to believe it, especially at times, it is true that every Christian in a sense, and a very real sense, is a super-man and a super-woman. Every Christian is supposed to be something that no other person in this world, even at their best, can be. Every Christian is supposed to know, have knowledge of, and understanding of, that which no other person at their wisest can know. Every Christian is supposed to do what no one outside of Christ can possibly do; and every Christian is called upon and supposed to go through what no one else can go through, in the way in which a Christian is supposed to go through it. There are imposed upon Christians demands which are super-human. There are given to Christians resources which are super-natural. The Christian life is supernatural, from start to finish.

It's very important for you young Christians to recognise this, and for all of us to call it to mind. When the whole story is told, when we know as we are known, when we see all things clearly and no longer through the glass darkly, the one thing I am sure that will overwhelm us will be this: "My, it took the infinite power of Almighty God to do that, and I didn't know it!" Our salvation took that. Salvation is not the simple little thing that I am afraid a lot of people think it is, or make it out to be. However simple may be the turning-point, there are vast immensities of Divine power lying behind the rebirth of any one soul. And to get that soul right through and at last bring it into His presence glorified, calls for the "exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward". Thank God, that is available!

Now, is it not true, dear Christian? You've been on the way long enough, you know quite well that you couldn't get through? Indeed, you broke down in yourself, you did just break down and go all to pieces. It may have been worse, you may have said, "It's no good, I give it all up", and you contemplated another course, you looked for a way out - the situation was so difficult, so trying. But you're here, in spite of yourself, in spite of the Devil and all his forces, in spite of everything, you are here! How do you account for it? Well, there is something to account for it that's not in us, and in that very sense we have surmounted a tremendous force of opposition and antagonism to our getting through to a glorious end. I have often said here humourously, we'll look at one another when we're there and say: "Well, we're here brother, you're here brother! You didn't expect to be, did you? But you're here!" Yes, even Timothy will be there! Ah, but what he had to face, that's the point, and what was put upon him, and yet "be strengthened in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." That lifts us above the level of any human possibility.

Well, I just hope that the underlining of that would be perhaps helpful to us all. We are, oh do remember, we are as Christians, supposed to be something other, and more wonderful than any other people in this world; supposed to be, in every way, in every way. That wonder may be secret and hidden, and not manifest to the world, but it's there. May the Lord help us to lay hold, to lay hold upon that which He has presented to us - for a miraculous life. "Lay hold," says Paul, "on eternal life". Lay hold on eternal life. Lay hold.

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