2 Timothy 1:3-8.
Such exhortations are never given unless there are circumstances to require it. They are intended to meet some tendency in the flesh, that we may guard against it in the Spirit. It is well to remember how the Lord deals with us, just as we are; how, in all His ways, He takes into account the circumstances we are in, and does not, like philosophy, take us into other circumstances.
With regard to our cares and trials, Christ does not take us out of them: "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world." While He leaves us in the world, He leaves us liable to all that is incident to man; but, in the new nature, teaches us to lean on God. The thought with us often is, that (because we are Christians) we are to get away from trials; or else, if in them, we are not to feel them. This is not God's thought concerning us.
The theoretical Christian may be placid and calm; he has fine books and nice sayings; but, when he has something from God to ruffle his placidity, you will find he is a Christian more conscious of the difficulties there are in the world, and of the difficulty of getting over such. The nearer a man walks with God through grace, the more tender he becomes as to the faults of others; the longer he lives as a saint, the more conscious of the faithfulness and tenderness of God, and of what it has been applied to in himself.
See the life of the Lord Jesus; take Gethsemane, what do we find? Never a cloud over His soul, uniform placidity. You never see Him off His centre. He is always Himself. But take the Psalms, and do we find nothing within to break that placidity? The Psalms bring out what was passing within. In the Gospels He is presented to man, as the testimony of the power of God with Him, in those very things that would have vexed man. He walked with God about them; and so we find Him in perfect peace, saying with calmness, "Whom seek ye?" - "I am He." How peaceful! How commanding! (for peace in the midst of difficulties does command.) When by Himself, in an agony, He sweats as it were great drops of blood; it was not a placidity because He had not heart-feeling within. He felt the full trial, in Spirit; but God was always with Him in the circumstances, and, therefore, He was uniformly calm before men.
We are not to expect never to be exercised, or troubled, or cast down, as though we were without feeling. "They gave me also gall for my meat, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink." He thoroughly felt it all. The iron entered His soul. "Reproach," He says, "hath broken my heart." But there is this difference between Christ, in suffering and affliction, and ourselves; with Him there was never an instant elapsed between the trial and communion with God. This is not the case with us. We have first to find out that we are weak, and cannot help ourselves; then we turn, and look to God.
Where was Paul when he said, "All men forsook me"? His confidence in God was not shaken; but, looking around him, by the time he got to the end of his ministry, his heart was broken because of the unfaithfulness. He saw the flood of evil coming in (2 Tim. 3:4) and the danger of Timothy's being left alone, looking at the evil, and feeling his own weakness; and so (lest Timothy should get into a spirit of fear), he says, "Stir up the gift that is in thee,* . . . . for God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou, therefore, ashamed of the testimony of the Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou a partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God." If we have got the spirit of fear, this is not of God; for God has given us the spirit of power. He has met the whole power of the enemy in the weakness of men, in Christ, and Christ is now set down on the right hand of the majesty on high.
*This passage connects the exercise of gift with the spiritual state. "God hath not given us the spirit of fear;" therefore do not be discouraged, though the state of things is so melancholy. Again, in Philippians, they were to be "in nothing terrified by their adversaries."
"Be thou a partaker of the afflictions of the gospel, according to the power of God." What! a partaker of afflictions? Yes. Of deliverance from the sense of them? No - a partaker of afflictions that may be felt as a man, but "according to the power of God!"
This is not in not feeling the pressure of sorrow and weakness. Paul had a "thorn in the flesh." (2 Cor. 12); and did he not feel it, think you? Ay, he felt it daily; and as "a messenger of Satan to buffet him" withal. And what did he say? "Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities [in those things in which I am sensibly weak], that the power of Christ may rest upon me." The power of God coming in on our side does not lessen the feeling to us, but we "cast all our care upon him; for he careth for us." Not that at the very moment we refer it to God we shall get an answer. Daniel had to wait three full weeks for an answer from God; but from the first day that he set his heart to understand and to chasten himself before his God, his words were heard. (Dan. 10) With us the first thing often is to think about the thing, and begin to work in our own minds, before we go to God. There was none of this in Christ. "At that time, Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father," etc. (Matt. 11) We weary ourselves in the greatness of our way.
"Be careful for nothing." (Phil. 4:6.) That is easily said. But what? not be careful about the state of the church, or about the pressure of a family? etc. "Be careful for nothing." Whatever produces a care in us, produces God's care for us; therefore "be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." So, "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds, through Jesus Christ:" not your hearts keep the peace of God; but the peace that God Himself is in, His peace, the unmoved stability of all God's thoughts, keep your hearts.
Further, when not careful, the mind set free, and the peace of God keeping the heart, God sets the soul thinking on happy things. "Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest - just - pure - lovely - of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do; and the God of peace shall be with you." God is there the companion of the soul; not merely "the peace of God," but "the God of peace."
When the soul is cast upon God, the Lord is with the soul in the trial, and the mind is kept perfectly calm. The Spirit of love, the Spirit of Christ, is there; if thinking of myself, this is the spirit of selfishness.