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November 10

10 NOV – Manifesting God’s Glory through Suffering

“This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified thereby.” John 11:4

Now, friends, this is something to which you and I have to seek quite diligently to adjust ourselves. Let us widen and enlarge the application from just human indisposition or sickness, even if it does culminate in death. Let us view in the light of this perhaps a lifetime of difficulty and adversity and suffering, perhaps something that has come to us for which we have more than thrice sought the Lord that it might be removed, and the Lord has in effect said, ‘No’: there has been no removal; it is something that we are called upon to experience and endure. It may be something in our lives as a whole, or it may be some event in our lives of great distress. Oh, look at it, whatever it may be in your case that you would have removed, to which you would take the attitude that Mary and Martha took. This is a tragedy, this is a misfortune, this is a great adversity, this is an overwhelming sorrow, this is all against us, all contrary to our good and to our blessing and to our joy. The Word of God makes it clear in more than one place that there is a sovereignty behind the lives of His own, “the called according to His purpose”, which may have not just let that thing happen, but actually ordained it, and made that very thing, ordered by the will of God, the means by which something should come from our lives very much to the glory of God.

I know that it is not easy to take that attitude toward things when you are in them – it is the most difficult thing; but here is something which is concrete as a statement, and it says in a general way to us, “to them that love God… that are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28): ‘You who love the Lord, there is some tremendous possibility for the Lord’s glory, the Lord’s satisfaction, wrapped up in that which you are inclined to regard as a trouble, suffering, adversity, a setback, a tragedy, if not a catastrophe, a strange and mysterious providence which has reversed your hopes and expectations, all that and much more.’ That may be something that the Lord has not only allowed to take place, but has arranged Himself. In the end, of course, we recognize that and acknowledge it, and we shall not be sorry that we went through that thing. In the lives of those who love the Lord there is in suffering something for God’s glory, and if our hearts are set upon His glory, we shall share it. “If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him.” (Rom. 8:17)

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November 9

9 NOV – Joint Heirs with Christ through Suffering

“Heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him.” Rom. 8:17

This is not just an official thing, something that is a gratuitous gift in a mechanical way, as much as to say, ‘Well, you have done a bit of work; here are your wages’. That thing has been wrought in us through the suffering and the cost and the warfare and the labor, and there is this sense of an inward co-heirship with Christ, if we suffer. It will be a very blessed thing, to us who know how much we are dependent upon the grace of God, how little we can even bear without the support of His grace; it will be a wonderful thing when at last He says, ‘This is the reward of your suffering’. We shall say, ‘Well, after all, it was our light affliction in the light of the far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. How have we earned this?’ But there will be some gratification in recognizing that the Lord has taken account of what we have gone through, and has brought us into a sense of His own gratification, and given us to feel ‘Well, it was not in vain, it was not for naught’.

Many of us have gone through the years in toil, in suffering, in labor and warfare in the Lord’s interests, and if there is anything that comes out of that at all, it is ours, in this sense that we are jealous over it with a right kind of jealousy. It belongs to us in the Lord. Yes, it is the Lord’s, but it belongs to us in the Lord, the fruit of suffering and of travail and of cost. Your faithfulness in prayer, and in prayer-gatherings – it is not without cost that you continue like that. Your faithfulness in the upholding of those who go out – it costs – it is not without price if there is anything. The Lord has given it to you as your inheritance; that is yours. All that eternal spiritual value is yours in Christ. Now look after it, cherish it, watch jealously over it, and from all attacks defend it. If only we had this inward sense of relatedness to everything that costs, what a difference it would make, how less ready we should be to see the defects and the faults!

The Lord bring us to understand that the meaning of the conflict and of the suffering, from His standpoint, is not only – and I say this quite reverently – not only in order to get something for Him. It is because He wants us in an inward relatedness to it, as a very part of ourselves. I believe that is the very essence of this joint-heirship with Jesus Christ.

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November 8

8 NOV – Suffering Is a Purifying Thing

Suffering for anything is a very purifying thing. Take the matter of the child for which there has been suffering, travail. Well, other people who have not so suffered and travailed and gone through for the child can see all the defects and pass all the criticisms and arrive at their judgments, good or bad, about that child, and just stand apart and say their say about the child. But the mother may see very little of that. There is something for the mother which transcends all that. ‘Oh yes, you may say that, but that child is very precious to me. I have suffered for that child, that child is my child, the child of my heart and the child of my travail, and, while I may see its faults, there is something which covers them all, there is the jealousy of a love born of suffering’.

Now you see what I am getting at. There is nothing that is precious to the Lord, and which He would make the property of His people, but there will be suffering for it. It will only become their property in that sense as they suffer for it, and then woe betide who criticizes that! If you are detached from a thing, if you are detached from a testimony, from a work of God, you can do all the criticizing you like. You have no inward heart-relationship to it, and so you pass your judgments upon it. But if you are in it and you have suffered, if it has been a costly thing where you are concerned, then you are seeing more than all the failings, more than all those faults. The people who can criticize like that and judge and point out faults are the people who have not suffered.

On the other side, we may know all the terms, all the phraseology, all the doctrine, all the truth, and it may be just objective, something we have heard; we have lived in the midst of it, it is familiar to us. But what the Lord will do if that is to become ours is to take us into travail over the matter. He will relate that thing to our hearts in a deep, inward way, so that none of us will be able to say, ‘I know all about that, I have heard all about that, I could tell you all that you could tell me about that’. The Lord would so work in a costly, deep and painful way in relation to that, to make it ours through travail that we are brought into a new position. We are not spectators, looking on, criticizing; we are on the inside, looking out, defending. We are jealous over it. Suffering is a great purifying thing. It destroys selfishness. It destroys that self-interest that is the cause of so much of the trouble. It makes us in a disinterested way jealous for what is of God. Yes, suffering purifies, and suffering makes this deep, inward link.

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November 7

7 NOV – The Reward of Suffering

The very heart of suffering, the very heart of co-heirship with Christ, is this wonderful sense of inward relationship to the object in view, inward relationship to the inheritance, inward relationship to the result, the reward. And that is the explanation of suffering, of labor, of conflict. The Lord does not just give to us without cost. He always brings us into the cost of that which He is going to give. It will be grace all the way through, but He brings us into the cost of the reward. In the end, let us repeat, we shall acknowledge that any part we have had in it of suffering, labor, warfare, has been infinitely outweighed by what He has given and that is where grace will always be our theme; but I do believe that mingled with our gratitude will be this sense that the Lord enabled us to achieve, that He did not act without us and apart from us. He brought us into it, and there will be this deep, inward, heart-relatedness to the result, that we share with Him the gratification. That is the very heart of suffering, I believe.

I have just returned from a time in the United States, and it has not by any means been an easy time very much otherwise. But we have been profoundly grateful all the time that you dear friends were so many hours ahead of us. In the Eastern part of the States you were five hours ahead. When we got further west you were six hours ahead, and we constantly reminded ourselves that your prayer gatherings were ahead of us. They had gone before and we were just following on, in our own prayer and in the conflict and the pressure; following on, and, as we believe, being carried through. And there came to me this: Those dear friends are right in the battle, and if there is anything here that really is for the Lord, if anything results for the Lord, it belongs to them, quite as much as it belongs to us. It is theirs; in a certain sense they will own this; it will be, so to speak, their property. They have battled for it, suffered for it, endured for it, toiled for it. They have gone on ploughing the way, pioneering the way, and it is theirs.

That is the thought right at the heart of this word, that there is something that becomes ours through suffering. Yes, it is the Lord’s, and it is all of His grace, but it is ours.

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November 6

6 NOV – Perfected Through Suffering

“I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Rom. 8:18

What is God doing with His people? He is using all these things which are happening, primarily to bring about in His people that conformity to the image of His Son which is to mean Christ in manifestation in an elect people — a people foreordained — foreknown for this very thing. This thought of God is a delivering thought. How do you pray for the Lord’s people in times of trouble? Of course, we are all tempted to pray for their deliverance, to cry to the Lord that they may escape. It may be right at times to pray thus, but suppose the Lord does not deliver? He does not always deliver at once. He allows the situation to continue, to become long drawn out.

The enemy will encamp upon that fact and give it his own twist and interpretation — ‘God is not doing anything; He has left His people – is standing back – is not concerned.’ There is no answering voice, no slightest indication that He is taking any account at all. It is like that very often, and that is a real playground for the enemy. God apparently makes no response. How shall we be delivered from going to pieces, from being overwhelmed in such a time and under such conditions? Only by grasping this thought of God; and then we have to begin to pray along other lines.

If God does not act to deliver His people, there is a deeper and a higher thought and purpose than their deliverance, and He is at work upon that; and deeply in them He is going to reproduce the patience, the endurance, the longsuffering of Jesus Christ. If you go right over the whole ground of God’s Son perfected through sufferings and can read your Gospels anew and understand Him as He differs so utterly from the standards of men, you can see what God is doing with us His people. Meekness and gentleness — these are foreign things to our natures; under stress, under adversity, under the cruel hand of tyrannical men — to say, ‘Father, forgive’! He could say “I am meek and lowly in heart.” Oh, you see — the image of His Son. Such testing conditions are a terrible challenge to our natural dispositions. Our whole nature revolts against meekness and lowliness and wants to rise up and be even with the other one, or be the master. Our nature does not accept and delight in opposition, antagonism, frustration, persecution, and all such things.

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November 5

5 NOV – Conformed To the Image of the Son

“Whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son.” Rom. 8:29

“Conformed to the image of his Son” — that is the basic, all-governing thought of God where His people are concerned. That is what He has been at work upon from the beginning with His people. That is at the very heart and root of our present experiences, our trials, our suffering. God is at work upon you and me with this one thing in view — conformity to the image of His Son. That means many things, which we do not now stay to consider, but we take fresh note of it as the underlying, undergirding fact. Going right back before time, “foreknown, foreordained,” on to “the ages of the ages,” the realization; “conformed to the image of his Son.” The previous verse (v. 28) expresses this — “God is working all things for good with those who are called according to His purpose.”

What good? What is the good of the suffering and trial that we go through? It is this — that God is (may I use the word?) reproducing His Son in us; and His Son is His hope, and His ultimate glory is to be revealed manifestly in the saints in terms of sonship. It is the hope for the whole creation — “subjected to vanity… in hope.” We are travailing in hope. The hope is in God’s Son, and the hope is the manifestation of that Son in the saints. “Christ in you the hope of glory.”

So we must go back to the sphere and conditions in which the Lord has placed us, with this attitude — God has a thought which relates to me as one of His Own; and that thought is, that through the conditions and sufferings of my life He should develop in me the features of His Son. On the one hand, the features of the old creation may be seen to be more and more terrible and horrible, as I recognize them in myself; but over against that God is doing something which is other than myself, not me at all. He is bringing into being Another, altogether other, and that is His Son. Slowly, all too slowly; nevertheless something is happening. That sonship is not very much manifested yet, but it is going to be manifested. What God has been doing will come out into the light eventually — conformity to the image of His Son; “that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

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November 4

4 NOV – God’s Single Purpose

God has a fixed, determined purpose. He has His thoughts from eternity clearly and perfectly defined. The world is not in a jumble; things are not, from God’s standpoint, in chaos. They may be from man’s point of view, but from God’s they are not. One clear, sure thought and purpose is actively at work in all these things which are going on as they affect and touch the life of the people of God, and we must remember that, at the heart of the universe, are the elect; the very core of everything is the people of God, the “called according to his purpose.” That is why they are never exempt from the things which go on in the world; God never puts them into positions isolated from world happenings, never sets them aside in some place where they are untouched and unaffected. The Lord’s people are the heart of things and God’s fullest thought is centered in them; and around that people, embodying that thought of God, the whole creation is gathered, according to this Scripture, and is said to be groaning in travail in direct relation to this thought of God which is to emerge ultimately in the manifestation of the sons of God.

God’s thoughts are very high but they are not beyond any who have the Holy Spirit. Right from the beginning, before the world was created, God had a definite thought. It was not an idea that He was going to try out, not something that had come into His mind and He was going to experiment with it to see if He could bring it to pass. When God thinks a thought it is as good as an act. “I know the thoughts that I think toward you… to give you an expected end” (Jer. 29:11); and who will for a moment allow room for God’s thoughts to be ultimately defeated? No, God’s thoughts are God’s acts. So that He had a thought which was as good as an accomplishment from the beginning, and right through the ages He has been at work with that thought in relation to His own people; and in such times as this in which we are living, times of great trial for the people of God, that thought of God takes on a new meaning and His people ought to turn back to it in order that they may be saved.

What is it, then, that will secure us there? What will deliver us? It will be the basic and all-governing thought of God. If only you can be assured that God is definitely giving Himself to something, and can see what that something is, and can have, by the Holy Spirit, the witness in your own being that He is doing that in your case, you are delivered. Otherwise you are in chaos and you will soon be in despair. That is where the world is. It is indeed “having no hope and without God in the world.”

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November 3

3 NOV – “To This Man Will I Look”

On the one side, it is terribly true: “Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord” (Prov. 16:5). “The haughty he knoweth from afar” (Ps. 138:6). It all sprang out of that proud heart that lifted itself up and said, “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; …I will be like the Most High” (Isa. 14:13, 14). With that “I”, all the trouble began, and that one bit his poison into the race. The poison of the human race is pride, and it has come all the way down. It is sometimes almost untraceable: we are not able always to trace it out in all its forms, because pride has what we might call negative aspects as well as positive. There are, of course, the obviously, manifestly proud, the ambitious, the assertive, the self-important, the self-sufficient. But there are negative aspects and I use that word with regard to pride very carefully, because pride is positive whatever form it takes. It is an ugly thing. A lot of our murmuring is pride; a lot of tears are pride; we think they are humility. A lot of our criticism of other people springs from pride: we think we could do better, we could go one better, setting ourselves up as the judge, the critic; pride is at the root. Very much of our poor, miserable tone is, after all, pride. Oh, how subtle and serpentine a thing this is! It is there. So the Lord has to stand back.

On the other hand, look at humility. “To this man will I look” – that is the beginning, the Lord even looking in anyone’s direction “even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit” (Isa. 66:2), and He dwells with them (Isa. 57:15). And “the meek will he guide in judgement: and the meek will he teach his way” (Ps. 25:9). And “the meek shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5). It is like that all the way through; vindication is on that basis. “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3): and you know when that was said at the time when his position was disputed, and God appeared at the entrance of the tabernacle and answered the challenge on the ground of the meekness of His servant. God stands by and vindicates the meek.

Is not the Lord justified in taking any steps to clear up that situation breaking, emptying, humbling, withholding, deferring, delaying; in any way bringing us to naught, to a place of utter dependence, where there is nothing we can rely upon at all but the Lord Himself? Is He justified? It is a tremendous process. It is a very real, very devastating work.

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November 2

2 NOV – The Central Issue of Human Pride

What is the one evil thing that is the root of all trouble? It is pride. What is the good thing? Well, just the opposite – humility. There is no doubt about it wherever you look, from the day that man sinned to this day and to the end which the Bible gives us, you find it is just that issue which lies behind the whole history of God and man and the evil forces – just that issue. There are many aspects of it, but it comes to one question. In one way or another it can be traced to this question of pride or humility.

Yes, the whole Bible is built upon it. The whole meaning of Christ’s coming into this world is bound up with it, His very coming from glory. Somewhere, somehow, before He arrived, He “emptied himself” (Phil. 2:7). He spoke to the Father later of the glory He had with Him before the world was (John 17:5). He had laid aside all that, He had emptied Himself. And then His strange, ah, yes, very strange – until we have this key – His strange entry into this world, the circumstances of it all related to His coming and His whole time here. “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the heaven have nests [lit. roosts]; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head” (Matt. 8:20). It is all this one issue. The whole meaning of His coming – His condescension, self-emptying, birth, life, death and the whole explanation of the experiences of His people – is all centered in this one matter. The discipline, the chastening, as it is termed, the Lord’s dealings with us are centered in one thing: it is all related to the purpose for which Christ came, and how He came and how He accomplished the purpose.

And, further, the whole nature and vocation of the Church is centered in this one thing. The Church that is going to serve the eternal counsels of God will never be a Church of pride, self-glory, worldly glory, worldly power, worldly praise. It will be, ever and always, what it was at the beginning, something that the world will not look upon with praise, will always look upon with contempt. That is essential to its vocation, for its vocation is positively to displace the world, and its temper and spirit and standards; to do something spiritually in this universe to rid it of that evil thing which has been its plague and curse from Adam onward.

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