|FOR the grace of God that bringeth salvation to all men hath appeared; teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.|
In this wonderful passage we see grace in a threefold aspect: grace that bringeth salvation; grace for holy living; and grace for service. I have had three red-letter days in my experience: the first was, when I was converted; the next was when I got my lips opened, and I began to confess Christ; the third was, when I began to work for the salvation of others.
I think there are a great many who have got to the first stage; some have got to the second; very few have got to the third. This is the reason, I believe, why the world is not reached.
Many say they are anxious to |grow in grace.| I do not think they ever will, until they go out into the harvest field and begin to work for others. We are not going to have the grace we need to qualify us for work until we launch out into the deep, and begin to use the abilities and the opportunities we already possess. Many fold their arms, and wait for the grace of God to come to them; but we do not get it in that way. When we |go forward,| then it is that God meets us with His Grace.
If Moses had stayed in Horeb until he got the grace he needed, he never would have started for Egypt at all. But when he had set out, God met him in the way and blessed him day by day as he needed. Many grow discouraged because there is a little opposition; but if we are going to work for God we must expect opposition. No real work was ever done for God without opposition. If you think that you are going to have the approval of a godless world, and of cold Christians, as you launch out into the deep with your net, you are greatly mistaken. A man said to me some time ago, that when he was converted he commenced to do some work in connection with the Church; he was greatly discouraged because some of the older Christians threw cold water on him, so he gave up the whole thing.
I pity a man who cannot take a little cold water without being any the worse for it. Why, many of the Christians in old times had to go through the fire, and did not shrink from it. A little cold water never hurts any one.
Others say they have so many cares and troubles, they have as much as they can carry. Well, a good way to forget your trouble is -- to go and help some one else who is carrying a heavier burden than yourself. It was when Job began to pray for his friends that he forgot his own troubles. Paul gloried in his infirmity, and in the tribulations he had to undergo, so that the power of Christ might all the more rest upon him. He gloried in the Cross: and you must bear in mind that the Cross was not so easy to bear in his day as it is in ours. Every one was speaking against it. |I glory in the Cross of Christ,| he said. When a man gets to that point, do you tell me that God cannot use him to build up His kingdom? In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul speaks of |the thorn in the flesh;| he prayed the Lord to take it away. The Lord said He was not going to take it away: but He would give His servant grace to bear it. So the apostle learned to thank God for the thorn, because he got more grace. It is when the days are dark that people are brought nearer to God. I suppose that is what Paul meant.
If there is any child of God who has a |thorn in the flesh,| God has grace enough to help you to bear it if you will but go to Him for it. The difficulty is that so many are looking at their troubles and sorrows, instead of looking toward the glorious reward, and pressing on their way by God's help.
In ii Corinthians 9:8, we read: |God is able to make all grace abound towards you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.| There are three thoughts here -- God makes all grace to abound, that we may have all sufficiency in all things. I think this is one of the most wonderful verses in the Bible.
There is plenty of grace. Many Christians, if they have grace enough to keep them from outward sin, seem to be perfectly satisfied; they do not press on to get fullness of grace, so as to be ready for God's work. Many are satisfied to go into the stream of grace ankle deep, when God wants them to swim in it.
If we always came to meetings desiring to get strength, then we should be able to go out to work and speak for Christ. There are a great many who would be used of God, if they would only come boldly to His throne of grace, and |find grace to help in time of need.| Is it not a time of need now? God has said, |I will pour water on him that is thirsty.| Do we thirst for a deeper work of grace in our hearts? -- for the anointing of the Spirit? Here is the promise: |I will pour water on him that is thirsty.| Let all who are hungering and thirsting for blessing come and receive it.
Another reason why many Christians do not get anything is -- because they do not give out to others. They are satisfied with present attainments, instead of growing in grace. We are not the fountain; we are only a channel for the grace of God to flow through. There is not one of us but God wants to use in building up His kingdom. That little boy, that grey-haired man, these young men and maidens; all are needed: and there is a work for all. We want to believe that God has grace enough to qualify us to go out and work for Him.
If we have known Jesus Christ for twenty years or more, and if we have not been able to introduce an anxious soul to Him, there has been something wrong somewhere. If we were full of grace, we should be ready for any call that comes to us. Paul said, when he had that famous interview with Christ on the way to Damascus, |Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?| Isaiah said, |Here am I, send me.| Oh that God would fill all His people with grace, so that we may see more wonderful things than He has ever permitted us to see! No man can tell what he can do, until he moves forward. If we do that in the name of God, instead of there being a few scores or hundreds converted, there will be thousands flocking into the Kingdom of God. Remember, that we honor God when we ask for great things. It is a humiliating thing to think that we are satisfied with very small results.
It is said that Alexander the Great had a favorite General to whom he had given permission to draw upon the royal treasury for any amount. On one occasion this General had made a draft for such an enormous sum that the Treasurer refused to honor it until he consulted the Emperor. So he went into his presence and told him what the General had done. |Did you not honor the draft?| said the Emperor. |No; I refused till I had seen your Majesty; because the amount was so great.| The Emperor was indignant. His Treasurer said that he was afraid of offending him if he had paid the amount. |Do you not know,| replied the Emperor, |that he honors me and my kingdom by making a large draft?| Whether the story be authentic or not, it is true that we honor God when we ask for great things.
It is said that on one occasion when Caesar gave a very valuable present, the receiver replied that it was too costly a gift. The Emperor answered that it was not too great for Caesar to give. Our God is a great King; and He delights to use us: so let us delight to ask Him for great grace, that we may go out and work for him.
I find that many Christians are in trouble about the future; they think they will not have grace enough to die by. It is much more important that we should have grace enough to live by. It seems to me that death is of very little importance in the meantime. When the dying hour comes there will be dying grace; but you do not require dying grace to live by. If I am going to live perhaps for fifteen or twenty years, what do I want with dying grace? I am far more anxious about having grace enough for my present work.
I have sometimes been asked if I had grace enough to enable me to go to the stake and die as a martyr. No; what do I want with martyr's grace? I do not like suffering; but if God should call on me to die a martyr's death, He would give me martyr's grace. If I have to pass through some great affliction, I know God will give me grace when the time comes; but I do not want it till it comes.
There is a story of a martyr in the second century. He was brought before the king, and told that if he did not recant they would banish him. Said he, |O king, you cannot banish me from Christ; for He has said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee!| The apostle John was banished to the island of Patmos; but it was the best thing that could have happened: for if John had not been sent there, probably we should never have had that grand Book of Revelation. John could not be separated from his Master.
So it was with this brave martyr, of whom I was speaking. The king said to him, |Then I will take away your property from you.| |You cannot do that: for my treasure is laid up on high, where you cannot get at it?| |Then I will kill you.| |You can not do that; for I have been dead these forty years: my life is hid with Christ in God.| The king said, |What are you going to do with such a fanatic as that?|
Let us remember that if we have not grace enough for service, we have no one to blame but ourselves. We are not straitened in God: He has abundance of grace to qualify us to work for Him.
MORE TO FOLLOW.
I heard a story about two members of a Church: one was a wealthy man, and the other was one of those who cannot take care of their finances -- he was always in debt. The rich brother had compassion on his poor brother. He wanted to give him some money; but he would not give it to the man all at once: he knew he would not use it properly. So he sent the amount to the minister, and asked him to supply the needs of this poor brother. The minister used to send him a five-dollar bill, and put on the envelope |More to follow.| I can imagine how welcome the gift would be; but the best of all was the promise -- |More to follow.| So it is with God: there is always |more to follow.| It is such a pity that we are not ready to be used by God when He wants to use us.
Dear friends, let me put this question to you: Are you full of grace? You shake your head. Well, it is our privilege to be full. What is the best way to get full of grace? It is to be emptied of self. How can we be emptied? Suppose you wish to get the air out of this tumbler; how can you do it? I will tell you: by pouring water into the tumbler till it is full to overflowing. That is the way the Lord empties us of self. He fills us with His grace. |I will pour water on him that is thirsty.| Are you hungering to get rid of your sinful selves? Then let the Spirit of God come in and fill you. God is able to do it.
See what He did for John Bunyan -- how He made one of the mightiest instruments for good the world ever saw, out of that swearing Bedford tinker. If we had a telescope which would enable us to look into heaven as Stephen did, I can imagine we should see the thief, who believed in Jesus while on the cross, very near the throne. Ask him how he got there; and he would tell you it was through the grace of God. See how the grace of God could save a Mary Magdalene possessed of seven devils! Ask her what it was that melted her heart: and she would tell you that it was the grace of God. Look again at that woman whom Christ met at the well at Sychar. The Saviour offered her a cup of the living water: she drank, and now she walks the chrystal pavement of heaven. See how the grace of God could change Zaccheus, the hated publican of Jericho! Now he is in yonder world of light; he was brought there by the sovereign grace of God.
You will have noticed that many of those who were about the most unlikely, have, by the power of God's grace, become very eminent in His service. Look at the twelve apostles of Christ; they were all unlettered men. This ought to encourage all whose education is limited to give themselves to God's work. When our earthly work is ended, then, like our Master, we shall enter into glory. It has been well remarked: |Grace is glory militant; and glory is grace triumphant. Grace is glory begun; glory is grace made perfect. Grace is the first degree of glory: glory is the highest degree of grace.|
|Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let Thy grace, Lord, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it --
Prone to leave the God I love --
Here's my heart, oh take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.|