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Standards Of Life And Service by T. H. Howard

IV Finding God

'Ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart.' (Jeremiah xxix.13.)

The words of Jeremiah in their relation to God are very appropriate for men and women in whose hearts there is any longing after personal Holiness. Look at them: 'Ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart'. I like this word, because it turns our minds to the true and only source of light and life and power. We speak of seeking and getting the blessing; but, in reality, the object is to find God, and that deliverance and blessing which can be secured only from Him.

In our prayers and songs we express a great fact when we say, 'Thy gifts, alas! cannot suffice unless Thyself be given'.

Less than Thyself, Oh, do not give,
In might Thyself within me live,
Come, all Thou hast and art.

I want to make it plain that Holiness is an aspect of religion in which the personality of God is very real. We must find God, and have Him possessing and dwelling within us if we are to live the life and do the work which Full Salvation implies. To realize this Divine union is as essential as to experience the forgiveness of sin. We must know God as well as worship Him, and the text I have read indicates to us that the discovery of a personal God belongs to the heart: 'Ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart'.

God's power displayed in Nature may be perceived by the eye, the ear, and other organs of the senses. On the lines of the Psalmist, we may walk out at night, and consider the heavens the work of His fingers, and exclaim, 'All Thy works praise Thee'; 'The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handywork'. The mind also by reflection and deduction may clothe the Creator with attributes or qualities of character, such as Almighty skill and benevolence; but 'spiritual things are spiritually discerned'; and it is only when God reveals Himself to the heart that He is truly known as a personal Father, Friend, and Saviour.

To the formal religionist or the casual dealer in pious phrases and occasional prayers, these revelations do not come. It is when the heart is set upon finding God that realizing faith makes --

The clouds disperse, the shadows fly,
The invisible appears in sight,
And God is seen by mortal eye.

We urge men and women to thus seek God, because He alone can meet their need; He alone can save after the fashion that they need a Saviour; He alone, having forgiven, can break the power of sin, and cleanse from natural impurity.

But the real trouble with some is that they do not seek Full Salvation with that full purpose of heart which the prophet's words imply. In a sense they want the blessing, but I fear they do not want it enough to make them put their whole heart into seeking God's sanctifying power.

Turn to the Garden of Gethsemane, on that final night when certain men came to take Jesus. When they fain would have included and taken others, His words, you remember, were, 'If ye seek Me, let these go their way'. Now, may I not reasonably apply these words to some who regularly attend our Meetings, but do not obtain the blessing? You are holding on to things about which it requires no stretch of imagination to hear Christ say, 'If ye seek Me, let these go their way'. He desires to be your Saviour and Sanctifier, but cannot until you drop the things which hinder and which come between you and Him.

Some of these things may not be positively evil in themselves, but they are associated with things which are evil or questionable; doubtful pursuits, questionable friendships or conduct. Do you care enough about God and Holiness to drop all such? Some have not done so up to the present, and it is about these very things which hinder that Jesus says to you, 'If ye seek Me, let these things go'.

Then, again, some have not found God as a perfect Sanctifier, because their minds are not fully made up as to the lines of service and duty. The general meaning of our various topics may be put thus, 'Holiness, and what comes out of it'. Not simply spiritual blessings as an inward experience, but a gift to be lived out in daily toil and effort to spread the Kingdom. We must have that or our teaching will be rightly regarded as 'goody-goody', and be of little real use.

A very fine young woman, on the occasion of my visit to a certain town, offered herself as a Candidate for Army Officership. Hearing that the case did not mature, I inquired a little later, from an Officer who had seen her, what the difficulty was, and he repeated to me the explanation she had given him: 'Well, Colonel, I have changed my mind; I have left The Army and become a Christian'. That seems a strange putting of the position; but I fear that it was with her, as with some of you who have sought to dodge the cross, escape the toil, and evade the testimony, the sacrifice, and the service which are indispensable to the maintenance of Holiness. Instead of trying to escape from duty as it is revealed to us from day to day, our hearts should be tuned up to the idea in the song, which says --

For thee delightfully employ
What e'er Thy bounteous grace hath given;
And run my course with even joy,
And closely walk with Thee to Heaven.

The central thought of Jeremiah's text is beautifully illustrated in the Parable of the Lost Piece of Silver. Look at this woman's anxious concern and corresponding action; she lights the candle -- that is, uses what light she has; she sweeps the house -- turns everything over; she searches diligently -- keeps at it, not giving up at the first disappointment. Observe also the effect upon herself when her search is successful. Full of satisfaction she calls in her neighbours and friends -- 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I had lost'. Loud in her testimony, she delights in making her blessing known. You see, this woman so valued the piece of silver, that she gave herself up to the search for it, and nothing satisfied her until she found it. When men appreciate the importance of having a clean heart and the blessing of God like that, they will not seek long without result.

There are two or three things implied in this whole-hearted search after God which need to be emphasized. Of these I will name, first, intensity of desire. There are blessings that come like God's rain and sunshine, sought or unsought; but no man ever got a clean heart who did not badly want it; and if God is to sanctify and keep you in the enjoyment of the blessing, your heart will have to be moved by strong desire.

Jesus put it clearly when He talked about 'hungering and thirsting'. Even prayer, without strong desire, does not accomplish much. 'What things soever ye desire'; it is that which gives intensity to your prayers, as well as 'believing that ye receive'. The Psalmist's words are equally fitting -- 'As the hart panteth after the water brooks' -- as the hunted deer longs for the stream -- 'so panteth my soul after Thee, O God'. That means more than a contention for the doctrine, more than a sentimental admiration of Holiness. It implies the deep stirrings of conviction, the heart moved by strong cravings, the crying out, 'Oh, that I might find Him whom my soul desireth'!

This whole-hearted seeking the blessing also implies fullness of intention. How often I have spoken of the relation of the will; the choice, the setting of the mind in strong purpose, the decision -- 'I ought, I must, I will secure God's sanctifying blessing'; all this counts for much. People speak of their desires and hopes, but how slow they are to make up their minds that, at all costs, they will seek and find a Saviour, by whose power they shall be fully delivered, and kept in purity and fellowship with God. I like those Bible words about 'sincerity', 'following the Lord fully', 'cleaving unto Him with full purpose of heart', for it is to people in that state of mind that God reveals Himself.

Finally, compliance with God's conditions is included in whole-heartedly seeking Holiness. The revealed conditions of entire Sanctification have often been stated, but may be repeated once more: a turning from all things known to be evil or doubtful; a full surrender and dedication of ourselves to God's service; and a simple trust in the all-cleansing Blood of Jesus Christ.

The real tests are different with different people, but all who seek this blessing must face God's conditions, and pay the price by complying with them, not only as I have stated the conditions in general terms, but as the Holy Spirit reveals them to each one personally. To one it is, 'Do this', to another 'Do that'; 'Give up this', or 'Give up that'; 'Trust Me for this', 'Trust Me for that'. But all who cast themselves fully into God's hands, letting Him have His own way with them, shall find the truth of Jeremiah's message, 'Ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart'.

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