by T. Austin-Sparks
In our recent meditations the Lord has been directing our attention very much to the matter of Life and as representing the chief, the supreme feature of His testimony, for when we have said everything we can about the Lord's testimony, then the whole thing becomes a question of Life. The presence of the Lord's testimony, when all the talking is done, is proved by the presence or absence of Life, the manifestation of spiritual and Divine Life. In that, everything else is gathered up.
If that is true, if spiritual Life is the ultimate proof and evidence of the Lord being present and the Lord's testimony being in any one or in any place, then we have very carefully and continuously to consider the way of Life. For Life has a way; Life, Divine Life, takes a way. It is possible to be out of the way of Life - we know that. It is possible to be in the way of Life.
The Lord has constituted His creation in which the principle of Life operates in this way: that that Life expands and produces an enlarged vessel or channel or organism by a series of crises. That is true in our physical bodies. We are supposed to change our physical frame once in seven years, so that some of us have had a good many bodies already! The body of the second seventh year is not that of the first seven. It is different and normally it is enlarged. It is the effect of being alive, having life in us. It is changing us and it is enlarging us. That is also true in the kingdom around us. Every year we go into our garden and we see changes, not the changes which make it impossible for us to recognise what is there - we see it to be in form the same - but we do see, or should see in a normal line of things, enlargement and increase. We should see a larger tree or plant, and we should see more fruit as the years go by. It is the result of life operating in its normal way, but every year that development and that increase is the result of a crisis, a crisis in which death takes place, death works, and then resurrection takes place. We know that quite well.
We know that in the physical realm in our own bodies, especially in those earlier sevens, the crisis is marked by something quite critical. It does represent a critical change in the physical organism. It is a crisis of death and of life.
The Lord has constituted His creation on that law and that principle. It is this: that life itself produces crises, which crises are for increase and enlargement, and strangely enough, it is the very life principle which brings about death. In most cases (there are one or two exceptions I know, but in most cases) speaking quite generally, a tree which cannot dispose of, or divest itself of its leaves at the end of the season, is not a healthy tree, it lacks vitality. Life is in a poor state. The evidence that life there is strong and healthy is that it can change its strength, it can go from strength to strength, it can shed a form which has served its purpose up to that point and prepare the way for something more, something new, something that will bear again the evidence of newness of life. And so creation goes on and so the spiritual Life goes on. These things of the earth are types of heavenly things as they were always intended by the Lord to be.
The heavenly truth is the same. How is Life in the testimony of the Lord in us maintained? It is maintained by that very Life itself bringing us up against a crisis, in which crisis something has got to be let go, something must go out. That is, there must be a handing over to death, and when that happens, the way is clear, and there is newness of Life, there is greater fulness. I suppose those crises in the secret, in the hidden realm are quite severe crises. We do not always understand the meaning of things happening in us. We are aware in our own physical lives of certain things, and perhaps hardly aware of them, and yet we bear the marks of them. We know that in the case of children. They get to a certain stage and, while they do not understand themselves, we know that they are going through something, they are under strain. There is a crisis taking place. As we get older, we begin to realise that we are losing certain powers we once had. We do not sit down and think it all out. All we know is that we are conscious of something happening. There is a change taking place. These crises are real things. They are not, perhaps, the things upon which our minds dwell a great deal, but they are very real things, and so it is spiritually. The life itself does this. Of course, the analogy is not perfect between the natural and spiritual, I know, but the principle is the same.
Now, do you want to go on, to grow, to increase in spiritual capacity, or in other words, do we desire that Life shall be maintained regnant? Well, the way of Life is that we shall, right through to the end, be brought up against things which, on the one hand, demand a letting go, perhaps a letting of our own ideas. We have been brought up or trained to think in a certain way about certain things. Our convictions are such and such, or we have never thought about certain things. They have never occurred to us. And then, in the course of our walk with God, our desire to go on with the Lord, suddenly we are confronted, or steadily we find ourselves being confronted, with something. Something has come up. It has been intimated to us. It has just been brought on our horizon, and then perhaps for a little while we have not had very much to do with it. Then it comes back and we just faintly begin to recognise that that thing has been up before. And then again a little later, and so we find that particular thing coming up again and again.
It may constitute a battle, because it is something we have never been taught to believe, never thought to be necessary, we have never given a thought to it, and so on. But now we have got to let go somewhere. In the matter of our will, perhaps. In the matter of our reason, perhaps. Or it might be even in the matter of our desire - that is the last thing that we want. But it is a crisis and it is a crisis of Life. Life has done that, and I would say to you, never do anything because someone else tells you that you ought to. Always wait until the Holy Spirit puts His finger on that and holds you to it. When it comes up in Life, then things happen. You are up against it really, it is a crisis.
Now then, your enlargement of capacity, your increase of spiritual measure, your growth in spiritual fruitfulness, lies in the direction of getting through that crisis. If you are going to hold on to your position, you are going to reverse the order of spiritual nature - that is a new term; the order of the Spirit, shall I say. The natural order of the spiritual life is that way. "Always bearing about in the body the dying (the deadness) of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh". It is a principle that, on the one hand, there has to be a dying, a process by crisis. On the other hand, a living process also by crises and every new increase and enlargement of life and capacity comes by a crisis and that is a thing that all of us have got to recognise.
The first crisis may be that of our initial surrender to the Lord. Well then, Life begins. Later we may come up against the crisis of baptism. Sooner or later, if we are going on with the Holy Spirit, we shall. I do not hesitate to say that. I have lived long enough now and had enough to do with spiritual things to know that if anyone is really going on with God spiritually, sooner or later they will have to face baptism. I am saying a big thing in the face of a multitude of Christian people who never have been baptized. Nevertheless, I do not withdraw a little bit from what I have said. They will have to face it with the Lord. That may be another crisis. Then there will be another and still another, and, brethren, you and I have not got through our last crisis yet. We may think that we have got over a good many of these things and have not very many difficulties in the matter of going on with the Lord, but I personally, at any rate, will not take the place that I have got through the last crisis, and a crisis is a crisis.
A crisis is something which is not always pleasant. It carries with it features that are not comfortable, not nice to the flesh. If we have got through our last crisis, let it be at once recognised that we have become stagnant, we are fixed. Who wants to be fixed? Who wants to come to a standstill? Oh, it is painful that so many, because they have refused to go through a crisis, have not moved for years. They are just where they were years ago spiritually. There has been a putting of that thing on one side, but the Lord has never put it on one side, and it struts the path as surely as the angel straddled the path of Balaam. That is the principle of growth. Life, to be maintained, has got to bring us up to repeated crises which are in the nature of a new death on one side, and a new life on the other, a new fulness of Life.
I must just make this word clear. It is not the Life of the Lord which dies. You see, there is a sense in which the child of God is a paradox. There are two natures at work. There is the tree of Ezekiel, trees on either side of the river whose leaf never falls, bearing fruit every month. That is a contradiction of all that I have just said, is it not? That is one side, that is the expression of Divine Life. Divine Life never dies, Divine Life is never unfruitful, it is perpetually fruitful.
When you and I are passing through experiences of deepest death and we feel ourselves to be as dry as ever a winter leaf felt, that may be an evidence of Life, and it is not necessary, when we are having one of those experiences of death, that everybody else should recognise that we are having them. It is not necessary that other people should be conscious of death where we are concerned. It may be true that death works in us, but Life in others. Very often that proves to be so, that when we are feeling most dead, other people are getting the greatest blessing. The seed of the Divine Life is never dead under any circumstances. Our consciousness of it is quite another thing. It is necessary at times that we should not have the consciousness of fulness of Life, because the Lord is taking us through something unto enlargement. I mean that it is true that so often when we are in the sense of blessing, enjoying things, we would so cling to that, hold on to it, as not to go on to anything else. So the Lord sometimes has to remove our blessing or the sense of the blessing, in order to move us from one thing to the next thing. All that is quite true, but it is an explanation of what I have been saying.
Now, to keep the testimony in us and in the church a living thing, it is necessary that there should be these crises. It is a living thing for the church to go through crises. The church or a person never going through a crisis is something quite dead, quite stagnant, at a standstill. It is a real mark of Life to have crises in which there is the travail unto a new Life, a new fulness.
Do you want to go on? Do you want enlargement, increase, greater capacity for spiritual things, a rising up, a release of the Lord? What you have to ask is, "Well, what is the thing that stands before me as the thing which the Lord has indicated for me, the course I am to take, the thing I am to do?" Are you perfectly sure that there is nothing? I do not want to make you introspective, but I do suggest to you that you ask, "Is there something that is before me that represents a challenge of the Lord to me, a new crisis, something the Lord has faced me with?" Are you faced with anything? You know. You know where your battle is. You know where your difficulty in getting through is. You know what it is that stands before you. If you do not, ask the Lord to keep you so much in the way of Life that you will come up against things, you will have exercise. It is a mark of Life that we have exercise. It is a mark of Life that we are faced with something as the Lord's will or mind for us. If ever we settle down to a place where we are satisfied, we are content, we have got it all, we know - well, we have reached the end. No one can touch us any more. The Lord have mercy on us!