Stability and Peace
“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed; for the Lord thy God is with thee wheresoever thou goest.”
Here lies the true secret of stability and peace at all times and under all circumstances. The authority of God for the ground we occupy, and His presence with us thereon — the Word of the Lord as the warrant for what we are doing, and the light of His countenance in the doing of it. There is no possibility of getting on without these two things. It will not do merely to be able to give chapter and verse for a certain position which we have taken up; we must realize the Lord's own presence with us. And it will not do to say we have the Lord's presence with us, unless we can give a divine warrant, a “Thus saith the Lord” for what we are doing and for the path we are treading.
Joshua could never have faced the difficulties of his day without these two things. And although we may not have to meet the same things that lay in his path, yet we may rest assured of this, we shall never get on in these days without the Word of God as our authority and His presence as our strength. Our lot is cast in a time of special confusion. A multitude of conflicting voices fall on the ear. Men are taking sides. We see apparently the best and holiest, the most devoted and intelligent men ranged on opposite sides of the same question and pursuing opposite ways, though professing to follow the same Lord. What are we to think? What are we to do? What do we want? We want to hear, deep down in our very inmost soul, these two weighty and imperishable sentences, “Have not I commanded thee?” — “Lo, I am with thee.” These are grand realities which the feeblest and most unlettered saint may enjoy, and without which none can possibly make headway against the tide of evil at present rising around us.
Never, perhaps, in the annals of Christianity was there a moment which more imperatively demanded the most direct personal dealing of the soul with God and His truth. It will not do for anyone to pin his faith to the sleeve of another. God is testing souls in a very remarkable manner. The sieve is doing its solemn work in the midst of the Church. Those who are enabled to go through the sifting and testing with God will reap a rich harvest of blessing, but we must go through it. It is being made manifest just now in a very special way, whose faith is standing merely in the wisdom of men and whose in the power of God. All that is hollow is being exposed and will be so more and more, but God will keep those whose hearts are true to the name of Jesus. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee.”
This is the soul's unfailing refuge at all times. It was to this the apostle Paul directed the elders of Ephesus at the close of his touching and pathetic address in Acts 20. “And now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the Word of His grace.” He does not commend them to any order of men, not even to apostles or their successors, or to general councils or their decrees, or to fathers or their traditions, or to doctors or their dogmas. No, none of these would avail in the presence of the “grievous wolves” which were about to enter in among them, and amid the “perverse things” which some from among themselves would give utterance to. Nothing but God Himself and the Word of His grace could stand in an evil day, or enable a soul to stand.
There is something beautiful in the jealous care of the apostle Paul lest any should lean upon him or upon anything except the living God Himself. Hearken to the following glowing passage, “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the Word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thess. 2: 13). That devoted, single-hearted workman only sought to connect souls with God by means of His Word. This is the object of all true ministry. Where the ministry is not true, not of God, it will connect souls with itself; and in that case human influence will be brought to bear — weight of character, education, mental power, wealth, position, a thousand things which are all used to form a foundation for the soul's confidence and shut it out from God. Thus the faith of the soul is made to rest in the wisdom of men and not in the power of God.
Christian reader, we want you to ponder this matter deeply. Be assured it demands your serious attention. See that your soul is resting on the deep and solid foundation of God's Word — that you have His direct and positive authority for where you are and what you are doing. And then see also that you have His presence with you. These two things will impart sweet peace to your spirit and holy stability to your path, come what may. “Have not I commanded thee?” — “Lo, l am with thee.” It is your happy privilege to know the reality of these things, just as fully and just as distinctly in your day as did Joshua in his day, Jeremiah in his day, and the apostles in their day. The measure of apprehension may vary — the circumstances may differ — but the ground of principle is the same always.
Do not, therefore, we entreat you, be satisfied with anything less than God's authority and God's presence. Be not troubled or perplexed about the conflicting opinions of men. You must expect these. They are nothing new. But remember that, far above all the din and confusion, the strife and controversy, the opposition of sects and parties — far above all these things, in the clear light of the divine presence, in the calmness of the inner sanctuary, faith can hear with distinctness those precious, soul-sustaining words, “Have not I commanded thee?”, ”Lo, I am with thee.”
These things can never fail: they are imperishable. See that you possess them just now. Be able, in the calm dignity of a faith that rests only in the power and on the authority of God, to give a reason for the path you tread, the work you do, the niche you fill. This is not highmindedness or haughtiness, dogmatism or pride, self-confidence or vainglory. It is the very reverse. It is self-denial and confidence in God. “With the lowly is wisdom.” Precious truth! May we all remember it! It is the lowly mind that really possesses heavenly wisdom. It is not the learned, the astute, the intelligent or clear-headed among men who can thread their way through the labyrinths of the present moment. No, it is the lowly, the simple, the self-distrusting, the childlike, the unpretending. These are they who will have wisdom to guide them in darkest times. These are they who will possess peace in their souls and stability in their ways. May God's Spirit lead us into these things!