The effect of the presence of the Lord on His disciples was always to constrain them into the mind of God, so that He could say, "While I was with them in the world I kept them in Thy name." Wonderful is the effect of a presence which commands our veneration while controlling us into fellowship with itself. If we have no liking or drawing to it, we soon retire from it, for we cannot endure a restraint entirely foreign to our tastes. The taste may not be strong enough to sway us into the same line which the presence of one supremely powerful will sway us into if there be any real taste for it.
In John 11 we find that Martha, when the conference with the Lord becomes close, escapes from it. Not so with Mary; the closer it becomes, the more swayed is she by His all-controlling presence, and she walks according to God, side by side with her Lord, fulfilling everything in her path. Her grief at the death of her brother was none the less, nor her joy at seeing him raised up, and yet all the time her soul was gathering up that ointment of spikenard which was to be expressed at the proper time. She was lovely in the common walks of life; and, learning the heart of her Lord there, and walking with Him there, she could say to Him, when He came into His own house, "While the King sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof." She was beautiful and useful in every position: she abode in the Lord, and therefore brought forth much fruit.
It is a very harassing and profitless occupation to lose time asking oneself, "What shall I do now?" If I were near the Lord, I should see in a moment what He would not have neglected; and the next thing to be done is always at the very doorway; for the smallest thing often leads to the greatest results; and it is in neglecting these that the greatest misadventures have occurred. Nothing is neglected by God.
If at any time I am at a loss to know my true path, I shall ascertain it better by drawing near to the Lord than by cogitating the various bearings of the circumstances. I may be very laboriously fishing all night, and have taken nothing; but if the Lord is with me, I shall surely find the difficulties vanish.
While He was with the disciples, they lacked nothing; He was both a purse and a sword to them; but when He was going to leave them, He says, "He that hath a purse, let him take it; and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one." He was going to leave them there for that all-absorbing work of sin-bearing, and they could not reckon on His care for the time being. No greater picture could be given of their desolation.
The presence of the Lord gives a perception and power for doing things. Not only does it furnish me with power, but the possession of power provokes me to use it like vigour in a man of strength. I feel He is better to me than a purse or a sword, and He will always succour me if I am in my true path; for there alone are the proper difficulties to the faith which He gives me, or rather the proper exercises for that faith. If I turn aside from my path, I turn aside from the faith proper to it, and I must leave His presence, which could only attend me while walking according to God's will. Abraham sought to walk with God; and thus He entered into His joys and blessings. Lot sought to make a path for himself, and he was for ever going from one sorrow to another, seeking to escape evil, instead of walking with God above it. There is no use in trying to better an evil or mistake. We must only, like Peter, abandon the ship, and cast ourselves on the Lord; and then the path will be open to us again, and we shall have grace to follow Him.