Such was the glad and free outburst of a young heart to which Christ was evidently precious. It came spontaneously, and was the rich overflow of a soul that was more than full.
“How long have you been saved?” I asked. “About five or six years,” he replied.
Sufficient time, thought I, for a fair trial of his faith.
“Have you any doubts or fears?”
“I had at first,” he said.
“And how did you overcome them?”
“By faith in Christ, and then occupation with Him.”
“Quite right,” I replied; and the whole story was told.
Now, it is most cheering to meet such a ease—one that can give a reason for his hope, and make you feel that he knows what he is about.
What struck me most was the last three words, “occupation with Him;” for they let me into the secret of his appreciation of salvation. None can speak in gladsome terms or with thankful heart of the grandeur of salvation, except they are maintained in happy intercourse with Christ. When heavenly heavenly streams fail to flow into the heart, then sad leanness inevitably follows. It is just in proportion as we walk with God that the freshness of His grace and love fills our hearts. The cares of the world do not canker them, the thorns do not choke, not the “little foxes” spoil. Care is cast upon Him, thorns are rooted up, and foxes driven away. “Occupation with Him” is the true preventive, the blessed panacea for all the evils of the spiritual life. It is the divine provision and safeguard, the haven from storm, health from sickness, sunshine from cloud and shade and gloom. Blessed resource, and always within reach!
But this “occupation” is not legal effort, nor monkish toil. It is not dreary servitude, nor the work of a “hired servant”—so much labour for so much bread. Neither is it a dreamy sentimentalism, without nerve or bone or muscle. It is bright, active, hearty companionship. It links you in sympathy with Christ in glory; it brings you into His sphere of interest; it elevates you above the monotony of earthly things; it calls for self-denial, but it points to the reward; it detaches from many an old association, but it places you, in the centre of others, purer, nobler, and more enduring. The Master said to His trusted servants, “Occupy till I come;” or, as otherwise translated, “Trade while I am coming,” Now, this trading implies anything but idleness. You are entrusted with your Master’s money, and He expects the same with interest, What a trust”! such a trust as no angel ever knew; and it is a small matter that we, so honoured, should seek to bring Him large returns. As surely as we belong to Him, so surely is some grace entrusted to us—some privilege, or opportunity, or means of witnessing to, or suffering for, Him. All this, and much more, is embraced in “occupation with Him.”
Now, it is this that keeps the lustre on the soul, that prevents dullness and the ten thousand ailments that flow from its opposite—self-occupation; for no greater plague ever assailed the Church than this, if Christ be the object, all is healthy; if self, then all is practically over.
We should doubtless hear fuller praise, did Christians live in more constant occupation of heart and life with Christ. Things divine would largely displace things of this world, and out of the abundance of the heart would the mouth speak.
It is quite true that “faith in Christ,” and that alone, puts the soul in possession of “peace with God.” This must be clearly understood. To confound the diligent activities of life with that which lays hold of that life is fatal. Eternal life is the gift of God—a gift received by faith; whilst the activities referred to are its outcome—the fair fruit of that wondrous tree.
How many a heart is drooping, how many a lip silent, that would be filled with joy and praise were “occupation with Him” the one business of life. How can such silence be otherwise accounted for? Christ is known, His work trusted, but the heart turns elsewhere, and the feet fail to follow Him. This is the trouble. When one turns to the “epistle of Christian experience experience”—that to the Philippians—he finds abundance of joy, the mere word occurring some twelve times; and the whole point in that epistle is “pressing toward the mark for the prize.” It has Christ in glory for the one bright commanding object of Christian life, and the result nothing but joy.
Nothing but joy? Well, plenty of suffering too. “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (chap. 1:29). But, then, the suffering enhanced the joy. They who do not suffer for Christ’s sake have very little of Christian joy. The anthem in Europe received its key-note in the Philippian jail. The dungeon, the scaffold, the pyre, have struck the Church’s loveliest harp-chords. Suffering and joy, tears and smiles, death and life, have always balanced each other. “Sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing,” is one of the contradictions of Christianity which perplex the infidel, but are as clear as noonday to the believer.
Well, “Philippians” presents Christ in glory as the object of the heart and life. How glorious He lived and died for me; He is risen and and seated on the Father’s throne. He lives for me; and now, by grace, I would live for Him. That is Christianity. The law of old made “self” my object: “This do, and thou shalt live.” Self, wretched self—all one’s thoughts had to circle round self, like the wheel round its centre. Now, self being dealt with—that is, sins being pardoned, the soul justified, the old man crucified, every question settled—the happy heart is free to live for another, to please Him, to serve, worship, and adore Him, soon to be with Him.
Yes, over and over again, dear fellow-Christians, depend upon it that “occupation with Christ” is the one only means whereby you can continue, to enjoy or speak gladly of the moral grandeur of salvation.