There is a great difference in the way the above subject is looked at by the blessed Lord in Luke 12 and John 16. Both these conditions of heart and soul, namely, the one enjoined in Luke and that enjoined in John, ought to be found in the saints at this present time. Luke regards us as going through a hostile scene, even this poor ruined world, and therefore there is the moral condition of heart looked for (as Luke's gospel always takes up the moral side of things) in view of the Lord's coming. He is absent, and while we are waiting for Him to come, we have that word, "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." That is a blessed word, "It is your Father's good pleasure." Here in this world is the very scene of the Father's interest and care, watchfulness and love. We are in the wilderness, where we want it; by-and-by we shall be in a place where we shall not want it; this is one thing that makes the wilderness so blessed; it is the only spot where God can show us how He cares for us. We shall not want His care in heaven, because we shall have exchanged all the circumstances where we needed it for His presence, where is fulness of joy; there no care can come. This wilderness world, on the contrary, is the place of care; and I do not know anything that sits heavier upon us than care. The Lord puts care along with a number of other things that we would never think of classing with it — "The cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches." Any one would say riches are deceitful things; but cares are as choking as riches; I do not mean cares about wrong things, but cares about right things. It is, in truth, a slight upon our Father's interest that we should carry them; and the Lord, looking at us in the spot where they abound, says, "Fear not." Suppose you are few or little, you have a Father, and the good pleasure of His heart is to be a Father to you; that is the meaning of it. It is His delight to be a Father, and to do a Father's part by us. It is the very same word that is used in another place, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased;" and the same word, too, in Luke 2, when the heavens gave that blessed One out to the earth, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good pleasure in men." In Luke, then, it is God's good pleasure to do a Father's part to me. "Fear not." I need not have any anxiety or trouble about anything; it sets me free. Whilst I am in the presence of such things, I am liberated from them. Verse 34 is a sort of junction between Luke and John, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Though, you will observe, Luke never carries you out of the present, but looks for moral condition in you suited to the circumstances; then you get, "Let your loins be girded about and your lights burning." Now, there are two things that become us while passing through this present world; we want the girdle and the lamp. We shall not want the girdle and the light in heaven — we shall be in a place where no girdle will be needed, and where it is all brightness — but we want the girdle here. What a moment it will be when we are in the consciousness of having been introduced into a place where a girdle will not be needed. You cannot let your affections out now, you will smart for it if you do; but there we can let them out without let or hindrance, because everything will suit the presence of God, and we shall have dropped the thing that constantly seeks a place of prominence in us now, and we shall not need the lamp which we do want here. There is something very beautiful in that little word, "Let your loins be girded about." Does it not challenge us in many ways? Are we circumspect? Are the affections and spiritual judgment braced up? Does the world see in me the bearing, the likeness of a person that is waiting for Christ? Are we like unto men that wait for their lord? I grant you it may be said, "We do wait for Him;" but does that produce a moral effect upon us? Think of what a man waiting for his lord would exhibit in all his ways; everything in readiness, everything prepared, nothing unsettled, the eye free, the heart free, and the affections going out towards that one spot from whence His well-known presence will come forth. We are to be the expression of it; our very appearance, as it were, is to testify of this to the world — everything packed up and sent on before, and we ourselves waiting only for Christ. "Like unto men that wait for their lord," is a very practical word, and one which should touch our hearts; and let me say that anything which contravenes it in connection with our circumstances in this world ought not to be allowed, because it is not only that I am to be waiting for Christ, but the moral impress of that is to display itself in my actions and circumstances. "Blessed are those servants whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching;" and then most remarkable words follow: "Verily I say unto you, he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and shall come forth and serve them." Think of the grace of His heart, who, whilst He keeps alive by His Spirit the sense of watchfulness, rewards us for what is the fruit of His own love. If we do watch, what is it? It is the fruit of a love whose watching is unfailing. We are not to sit down now, we are to be on the watch; but when He does release us, He will say, "Now you can sit down, now I am coming forth to serve." Christ never gives up the servant's place — He is a servant for ever. What a wonderful thing! the Son of God came down into this world, and became a servant, and will never give it up.
Are you and I walking like the heirs of such things as these? "He shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them." That is the way Luke speaks of the coming of the Lord. Now let us turn for a moment to John; there we get it in another way. We do not find a moral condition looked for as in Luke, but we are in the presence of a higher thing; both ought to be found together in us. In John it is not so much the Lord speaking of His coming to us here, but, on the contrary, it is His going away. In Luke it is as if He said, "I am coming back;" in John, "I am going away; I am about to transfer your hopes and expectations to another place." Then in chapter 14, He speaks of the Father's house. Now we know but in part what kind of a place the Father's house will be: it is the best that His love could give, and will in all respects answer to that love; but we do know the Father's heart, we know Himself: it is by this love all is measured, but there is no measure to the love itself, it passes knowledge. All the Father's heart has been manifested in the Son of His love; and we know the house will be commensurate with such a love. In John, then the Lord Jesus, who from the first is looked at as rejected and refused, departs out of this world, goes on high, thus transferring our hearts and hopes into that bright and blessed place where He Himself is; and tells us if He goes away He will come again and receive us unto Himself, that where He is there we may be also. He goes away, that we may no longer be detained as to our affections where He is not; oh, how little are we thus sanctified by His absence! (See John. 16:19.) How little do we mourn His absence here! not only reminded of Him by His Spirit, but longing for His return, who won our hearts in humiliation, and satisfied them in glory.
This twofold condition of soul, beloved, ought, I judge, to be found in us at this present moment; that, looked at as passing through the wilderness, we are to walk it girded and with the expectancy and bright hope of His coming in our hearts, watching and ready. There is something blessed in the thought of a vigil-keeper, awake and alert; when all around is asleep and buried in rest, he is watching, he has the light, and his heart is expecting his Lord. Is that the next thing that is before us, the dearest and brightest vision filling our sight? What an effect it would have on us! I feel it would separate us from a thousand things, it would carry our interests out of earth. And is that too much? Is it too much to say that the blessed One who came down here, has gone up to heaven, and has translated my affections into that bright and blessed place where He my Lord is?
The Lord by His Spirit, beloved, give us to know what these things mean, to walk with girded loins, and burning lamps, and expecting hearts, through this world, and to be able to do so all the easier because our treasure, even the Lord Jesus Christ, has gone into heaven, in all the perfection of that glory of which He Himself is the brightness, for His own name's sake.
"A little while," the Lord shall come,
And we shall wander here no more;
He'll take us to His Father's home,
Where He for us has gone before:
To dwell with Him and see His face,
And sing the glories of His grace.
"A little while" — He'll come again,
Let us the precious hours redeem;
Our only grief to give Him pain,
Our joy to serve and follow Him.
Watching and ready may we be,
As those that wait their Lord to see.
"A little while — 'twill soon be past,
Why should we shun the promised cross?
O let us in His footsteps haste,
Counting for Him all else but loss:
For how will recompense His smile,
The sufferings of this "little while."
"A little while" — come, Saviour, come!
For Thee Thy bride has tarried long;
Take Thy poor waiting pilgrims home,
To sing the new eternal song:
To see Thy glory, and to be
In everything conformed to Thee.