THE LIFE DEFINED
In the first chapter I have tried to settle the question regarding the scriptural basis of the experience sometimes called the higher Christian life. It is the only true Christian life which is best described in the words, the "life hid with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3). In the second chapter I have sought to bring the two distinct sides of this life together - the part to be done by the Lord and the part to be done by ourselves. I will now consider the point to be settled. The Bible presents a life of abiding rest and continual victory to the believer in the Lord Jesus. That is far beyond ordinary Christian experience. The Bible presents a Savior who saves us from the power of our sins just as He saves us from the guilt of sin.
The next point to be considered concerns the nature of the chief characteristics of this "life hid with Christ in God," and how it differs from the greater part of Christian experience. The chief characteristics of the higher Christian life are: a complete surrender to the Lord; a perfect trust in Him, resulting in victory over sin; and finally, inward rest of soul. It differs from the lower range of Christian experience in that it causes us to let the Lord carry our burdens and manage our affairs for us, instead of trying to do it ourselves.
Getting Rid Of Burdens
Most Christians are like a man who was toiling along the road, bending under a heavy burden, when a wagon overtook him, and the driver kindly offered to help him on his journey. He joyfully accepted the offer, but when seated in the wagon, continued to bend beneath his burden, which he still kept on his shoulders. "Why don't you lay down your burden?" asked the kindhearted driver. "Oh!" replied the man, "I feel that it is almost too much to ask you to carry me, and I could not think of letting you carry my burden too." And so Christians, who have given themselves into the care and keeping of the Lord Jesus, still continue to bend beneath the weight of their burdens, and often go weary and heavy laden throughout the whole length of their journey.
When I speak of burdens, I mean everything that troubles us, whether they are spiritual concerns or earthly concerns. The first burden, which I believe to be the greatest burden we have to carry in life, is self. The most difficult thing we have to manage is self. Our own daily living, our feelings, our weaknesses, and temptations - these are the things that confuse us more than anything else. In getting rid of your burdens, therefore, the first one you must get rid of is yourself. You must hand yourself, and all your inward and outward experiences, over into the care and keeping of your God, and leave it there.
He made you and He understands you. He knows how to manage you. All you must do is trust Him to do it. Say to Him, "Here, Lord, I give myself to you. I have tried in every way I could think of to manage myself and to make myself what I know I ought to be, but I have always failed. Now I give it up to you. Take complete possession of me. Work in me all the good pleasure of your will. Mold and fashion me into a vessel that seems good to you. I leave myself in your hands. I believe you will, according to your promise, make me into 'a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work'" (2 Timothy 2:21). At this point you must rest and trust yourself continually and absolutely to Him.
Next, you must get rid of every other burden - your health, your reputation, your Christian work, your houses, your children, and your business. In short you must get rid of every inward and outward thing that concerns you.
It is generally easier for us to trust the Lord for our future than it is to trust Him for our present life. We know we are helpless regarding the future, but we feel as if the present is in our own hands and must be carried on our own shoulders. Most of us have an unconfessed idea that it is enough to ask the Lord to carry ourselves without asking Him to carry our burdens, too.
Leaving Burdens with God
I knew a Christian lady who had a very heavy earthly burden. It took away her sleep and her appetite, and there was danger of her health breaking down under it. One day, when it seemed especially heavy, she noticed lying on the table near her a little tract called "Hannah's Faith." Attracted by the title, she picked it up and began to read it, little knowing, however, that it was to create a revolution in her whole experience. The story was of a poor woman who had been carried triumphantly through life of unusual sorrow. She was giving the history of her life to a kind visitor on one occasion. When she finished the visitor said, "Oh, Hannah, I do not see how you could bear so much sorrow!" "I did not bear it," was the quick reply "the Lord bore it for me." "Yes," said the visitor, "that is the right way. We must take our troubles to the Lord." "Yes," replied Hannah, "but we must do more than that. We must leave them there. Most people," she continued, "take their burdens to Him, but they bring them away with them again, and are just as worried and unhappy as ever. But I take mine and leave them with Him, and come away and forget them. If the worry comes back, I take it to Him again. I do this over and over, until at last I just forget I have any worries and am at perfect rest."
My friend, very much struck with this plan, resolved to try it. She couldn't change the circumstances of her life, but she took them to the Lord and handed them over into His management. She believed that He took them, and she left all the responsibility and the worry and anxiety with Him. When the anxieties returned, she took them back to the Lord. The result was, that although the circumstances remained unchanged, her soul was kept in perfect peace in the midst of them. She felt that she had found out a practical secret. From that time she never attempted to carry her own burdens or to manage her own affairs, but to hand them over to the Lord as fast as they arose.
This same secret so effective in her outward life, also proved to be still more effective in her inward life. She gave her whole self to the Lord with all that she was and all that she had. Believing that He took all she had committed to Him, she stopped worrying and her life changed for the better. She found out a simple secret. It was possible to obey God's commandment contained in the words, "Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God" (Philippians 4:6). By obeying this promise the result would inevitably be the "peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4 :7)
Rest In The Lord
There are many other things to be said about this life hid with Christ in God. There are many details concerning what the Lord Jesus does for those who give themselves to Him. The heart of the whole matter is stated here. The soul that has discovered this secret of simple faith has found the key that will unlock the whole treasure house of God.
I am sure these pages will fall into the hands of some child of God who is hungering for such a life as I have been describing. You long unspeakably to get rid of your weary burdens. You would be delighted to hand over the management of your unmanageable self into the hands of one who is able to manage you. You are tired and weary, and what I speak about looks unutterably sweet to you.
Do you recall going to bed with a great sense of rest after a day of great exertion and weariness? How good it felt to relax every muscle and let your body go in perfect abandon of ease and comfort! The strain of the day had ceased, for a few hours at least, and the work of the day had been forgotten. You no longer had to hold up an aching head or a weary back. You trusted yourself to the bed in absolute confidence, and it held you up without effort or strain or thought on your part. You rested!
But suppose you had doubted the strength or the stability of your bed. Suppose you were frightened that at any moment it would give way beneath you and you would land on the floor. Could you have rested then? Every muscle would have been strained in a fruitless effort to hold yourself up and the weariness would be greater than if you had not gone to bed at all.
Let this analogy teach you what it means to rest in the Lord. Let your souls lie down upon the couch of His sweet will as your bodies lie down in their beds at night. Relax every strain and release every burden. Let yourself go in perfect abandon of ease and comfort. Be assured that since He holds you up you are perfectly safe. Your part is simply to rest. His part is to sustain you. He cannot fail.
Freedom From Care
Let us look at another analogy which our Lord Himself has abundantly approved - that of the childlife. For "Jesus called a little child unto Him, and set him in the midst of them, and said: "Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:23).
Now, what are the characteristics of a little child, and how does it live? It lives by faith. Its chief characteristic is freedom from care. Its life is one long trust from year's end to year's end. It trusts its parents. It trusts its teacher. It even sometimes trusts people who are completely unworthy of trust. A child's trust is answered abundantly. The child provides nothing for itself and yet everything is provided. It takes no thought for the morrow, and forms no plans, and yet all its life is planned out for it. It finds its paths made ready and prepared as it comes to them day by day and hour by hour. It goes in and out of its father's house with ease. It enjoys all the good things of the home without having spent a penny in procuring them. Under its father's tender care the child does not worry about disease. Famine and fire and war may rage, but the child abides in utter unconcern and perfect rest. It lives in the present moment and receives its life unquestioningly as it comes to it day by day from its father's hands.
I was visiting once in a wealthy home where there was a little adopted child who received all the love and tenderness and care that human hearts could give. As I watched that child running in and out day by day, free and lighthearted, with the happy carelessness of childhood, I thought what a picture it was of our wonderful position as children in the house of our Heavenly Father. And I said to myself, "If the loving hearts around this child would be grieved to see her worried or anxious about herself in any way about whether her food and clothes would be provided, or how she was to get her education or her future support. How much more must the great, loving heart of our God and Father be grieved and wounded at seeing His children taking so much anxious care and thought!" And I understood why it was that our Lord had said to us so emphatically, 'Take no thought for your life' (Matthew 6:25).
Who is taken care of the best in every household? Is it not the little children? And does not the least of all, the helpless baby, receive the largest share? We all know that the baby doesn't work or sew, yet it is fed, clothed, loved, and rejoiced in more tenderly than the hardest worker of all.
This life of faith, then, about which I am writing, consists in just this being a child in the Father's house. And when this is said, enough is said to change every weary, burdened life into one of blessedness and rest.
Let the ways of childish confidence and freedom from care, which so please you and win your hearts in your own little ones, teach you what should be your ways with God. Leave yourselves in His hands. Learn to be literally "careful for nothing" and you will find it to be a fact that "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee" (Isaiah 26:3) .
This is the divine description of the life of faith about which I am writing. It is no speculative theory, neither is it a dream of romance. There is such a thing as having one's soul kept in perfect peace here in this life. Childlike trust in God is the key to its attainment.
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