Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake. (Philippians 1:29)
Such is the nature of Christ’s religion, and such the terms of His discipleship—suffering and self-denial. By those who are not initiated into the mysteries of the kingdom of grace, this is a truth hard to be understood.
To them it is inexplicable how one whose person is loved by God, whose sins Christ has forgiven, whose life appears holy, useful, and honored, should be the subject of Divine correction, and perhaps in some instances should, more than others, seem smitten of God and afflicted.
But to those who are students of Christ, who learn at the feet of Jesus, this is no insoluble problem. They understand, in a measure, why the most holy are frequently the most chastened. Ah! beloved, in the school where this truth is learned, all truth may be learned—at the feet of Jesus.
In His light we shall see light. But men turn from the sun, and wonder that, in the study of divine truth, shadows should fall darkly upon their path. They study the Bible so little beneath the cross, with an eye intent upon Christ, from whom all truth emanates, of whom all truth testifies, and to whom all truth leads.
What says “the Truth” himself? “This is life eternal, that they might know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” The crisis in your life speeds on, when all knowledge, save the knowledge of Christ loving you, pardoning you as a guilty, saving you as a lost, sinner, and reconciling you to God as a rebellious sinner, will prove as unsubstantial as a shadow, as unreal and fleeting as a dream.
Oh, let this be the one desire and earnest resolve of your soul, “That I may know Him.” “Yes, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” Such, then, as have learned of Christ can understand why a child of God should be a child of affliction. Why “the Lord tries the righteous.”
Declarations such as these have a significance of meaning they can well comprehend—”I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction.” “Whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.”
And when the present and hallowed results of the Divine dealings are in a measure realized—when some sheaves of the golden fruit of the precious seed sown in weeping are sickled—the heart awakened to more prayer, Christ more precious, sin more hated, self more loathed, holiness more endeared.
And the soul brought into greater nearness to God—when the suffering Christian reviews the Divine supports he has experienced in his affliction, how God encircled him with the everlasting arms, how Christ pillowed his languid head, how the Holy Spirit comforted and soothed his anguish, by unfolding the sweetness and fullness of the Scriptures, sealing promise upon promise upon his smitten heart.
His chastened spirit can well exclaim, “You have dealt well with Your servant, O Lord, according to Your word.” You have broken but to bind up, have wounded but to heal, have emptied but to replenish, have embittered but to sweeten, have removed one blessing but to bestow another and a greater:
“You do but take my lamp away,
To bless me with eternal day.
Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is none upon earth that I desire beside You.”