We were asked recently if we could account for the lack of growth on the part of so many Christians who seem both unworldly and estimable. Why don't they develop in the knowledge of the deep things of God and become enthusiastic in the goings forth of the truth. Why are they so dull and heavy spiritually, when the Word of God clearly shows that they ought to be joyous, energetic, and fruitful? We ventured to quote the words of the Lord Himself in answer "And that which fell among thorns are they which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection." And it is probable that it is the CARES OF THIS LIFE, more than the riches and pleasures of it, that burden those about whom the question was asked. Is there a remedy? We believe there is. It is a fuller knowledge of the Father and His care for them, and if they would know Him they must consider His beloved Son. The object of this paper is to turn the thoughts of those who are anxious and burdened in these days of testing to the Father who has been revealed to us by our Lord Jesus Christ.
Would it not be an immense relief to every child of God who may be in circumstances of trial and anxiety, or in any others that make demands upon them, if they knew that divine love had not only provided for their everlasting felicity, but that God Himself-even the Father-was taking a personal, constant, and minute interest in each individual case? Would not such knowledge, if it were the deep conviction of the soul, bring a great peace into the life and drive away dull care, and set the heart free to enjoy the children's place and portion? We know that it would.
Now to assure us of this God has taken infinite pains in His sure and holy Word: it is bright with many faithful sayings in regard to it, and beautiful with many concrete cases in which His perfect care for those who trust Him is illustrated, but nothing can be more conclusive and convincing in regard to it than the life of our Lord Jesus on earth.
Let us consider, then, how the Lord Jesus acted in regard to the matters domestic, and the general needs of those whom He loved, as shown us in the Gospel of John. In which Gospel, be it remembered, He is shown to us coming forth as the Word, who was with God, and who was God-the great Creator of the universe become flesh for our blessing; and the only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, who came forth to declare what He is, and has done this so perfectly that He could say "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father."
Is it not, then, most worthy of note and full of comfort to all who need comfort, that in this Gospel, and this alone, He is shown to us as a guest at a wedding, rejoicing with those that rejoice? and is it not equally significant that in this Gospel, and this alone, He is also shown to us weeping with the bereaved sisters at the grave of their dead brother? He who came to show us heavenly things (ch. 3) and to give the power to all that believe on Him to enter into spiritual and heavenly relationships, did not pass by these earthly relationships as though they were beneath Him. He recognized and sanctified them by His presence.
The wedding is the beginning of the home life, and may represent its most joyous period; the sealed grave is the close and the break-up of it, the darkest day of all. And the Lord, who came to earth to show to us the Father, was at both; and is there a day between the two when He is absent? No. He has said: "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee," and that, be it noted, again in connection with the home life (Hebrews 13:4-6). The sense of His presence will make the one who has it contented with such things as he hath; for nothing burdens the heart like discontent, it is really rebellion against the will of God and must rob the heart of all joy and peace.
There are profound depths of spiritual meaning in these two incidents that we quote from John's Gospel, and we should certainly seek these, but in doing so do not let us miss that which lies clear and plain upon the surface. Jesus, who was the Creator, the only-begotten Son of God, the revealer of the Father, associated Himself with His own in the joys and sorrows of their everyday life. Perish the thought that we may only know His presence at the meetings for prayer or worship, that He only connects Himself with what are known as religious services. If this were all, then our religion were artificial and dead, and our Lord useless to us in this present stress, and scarcely of more value than the dumb idols of the heathen. But He comes into the home life when He is allowed, comes in all the plenitude of an inexhaustible grace; rejoicing if we rejoice, and Himself becoming the source of a joy that earthly circumstances cannot yield; and standing by us in days of stress and sorrow, to sympathize with and support the heart that looks to Him. How near this brings Him to us! how real it makes Him! how tender and accessible it shows Him!
If this is the case, and only those who do not know the Lord will deny it, then all we have to do is to bring our need to His notice. At the wedding in Cana and at the sorrowing home in Bethany this was done, and it was not done in vain. So that we would say to all who are afflicted and tested, Make your need known to Him-present your case before the Father, whom He was here revealing, and if in His love and wisdom He sees that it be for the blessing of you and yours, and for His glory, He will certainly hear your prayer and remove your trial, but if it would not be for your good to have the trial removed He will still hear you and carry you through it, and make you more than a conqueror in it, for His grace is sufficient for you, and His peace can keep your heart and mind by Christ Jesus and make you superior to the trial.
Commit your whole case to Him. He knows and sympathizes, and He will not permit you to be overburdened; not a feather's weight more than you are able to bear joyfully will be put upon you, and though you may be reduced as to material comforts, you will be greatly enlarged in the knowledge of Himself, who is the Lord Almighty, and who has said: "I will be a Father to you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters" (2 Corinthians 6:18). Thus will you prove for yourself that it is possible to be without anxiety.
But these incidents took place during His life before the cross. May not He have changed since His death and resurrection? Lest we should think so He showed Himself to His disciples after He rose from the dead, and His tender care for them was seen to be still the same, and the manner in which He showed Himself to them is recorded for us that we may be assured that He is the same yesterday, today and for ever. In John 21 the disciples set out to do the best they could for themselves without direction from their Lord; and weary work it was, for they toiled all night, and cold and hungry bodies and disappointed hearts were the only results of the labours. But when they turned their eyes to their Lord, who stood in the rosy light of the morning upon the shore, they discovered that He had not forgotten them. THEY WERE COLD. He knew it, and so had gathered coals and made a fire at which they could warm themselves. THEY WERE HUNGRY. He knew it, and so had prepared them a breakfast of fish and bread for their need. Their faithlessness had made them FEARFUL AND ASHAMED. He knew it, and so invited them to sit down before Him, and made them quite at home by His grace, while He gave to them the food that those precious pierced hands had prepared for them. As He cared for those loved disciples, so cares He for you, who are loved as much as they were. And He and the Father are one in this care for you, just as they are one in your preservation from perishing (ch. 10).
Grieve not the tender heart of Christ by doubting Him. The gold and the silver are His, and the cattle that feed upon a thousand hills. He sits above the water floods, and all power is given to Him in heaven and earth. He is to us the revelation of the Father, the sure declaration to us of the Father's care, and we may be at all times without anxiety, for "WE KNOW THAT ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD TO THEM THAT LOVE GOD, AND TO THEM THAT ARE THE CALLED ACCORDING TO HIS PURPOSE" (Romans 8:28).
"Your Father knoweth," and He can do better for you and yours than you could do even were your love and wisdom and power a thousandfold greater than they are. Then yield yourself and your affairs to Him, not with resignation merely but joyfully, as those who have a perfect trust in perfect love.
God intends that great good should come to you out of every trial, and He will see to it that your faith in it shall remain undamaged. But there is more: in the midst of it your Saviour and Lord desires that your heart should be unafraid and that His own peace should be yours. How can this be? The peace that He gives is His own peace, and He gives it not as the world gives. The world stands at the doors of its splendid mansions and dispenses its benefactions to the poor and distressed that gather at its gates, but these same poor do not enter the homes from which the good things come. They are not welcomed to the luxuries and the warmth of the dwellings of their benefactors, they remain outside-aliens and strangers. But not thus does our Lord give His peace to us, and not thus could we know it. He opens the door of His dwelling to us, and bids us "Come and see." And His dwelling is His Father's bosom (1:18)-the infinite, changeless love of His Father's heart. He shows us that that is our home, the place of our rest. He shares it with us as those whom grace has made His friends (15:15), and His brethren (20:17). Can any trouble disturb the deep serenity of the Father's bosom? Can earth-born storms create forebodings in the heart that dwelleth there? And this is your refuge, dear Christian heart; here you may rest in quietness and confidence. It is here that divine love displays its choicest treasures to the loved ones, and life is no longer one dull, monotonous care-laden thing, but the joy of Christ is known and the realities of eternal life. "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."