These Testing Times

Victories that history acclaims, and that make names which live upon the lips of men for centuries are not gained upon beds of sloth and in easy circumstances, but amid appalling privations and stern realities that put to the test the mettle, and nerve, and sinew of the warrior. Neither does faith flourish and win its triumph in times of material prosperity, such times cause it to become shrivelled and flaccid; but in the rough days of trial and stress, it revives, and thrives, and grows strong and valorous. May these testing times rekindle the faith of the saints of God in Himself, so that "GOD IS" may become the supreme factor in their lives.

We Shrink from Trials

We shrink from trials and difficulties, it is natural to do so, for they are not "joyous but grievous"; and yet we need not, for AFTERWARD they yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby (Heb. 12:11). They are wise who look on to the AFTERWARD — the result of the trial. This result does not hang in the balance, as may the result of some great battle that rages for hours and days; it is assured to us; we only stand to gain if we are exercised by the trial. Then let faith rear its head in the storm, let it lay hold upon God with strong grip. Let it speak out with confident voice, and say, "Though He slay me yet will I trust Him," assured that if that be the end of the trial it shall be well, for He does all things well. And to have "died in faith" like those great souls in God's "Roll of Honour "in Hebrews 11 is better than to live without purpose and "die without mercy."

Things Could Not Continue as They Were

If we carefully consider things we shall see that they could not have continued as they were. The iniquity of Sodom, which was "pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness" (Ezek. 16:49), prevailed in these "civilised" countries of Europe, and the church had largely fallen under their seductive spell. Christians caught by the spirit of the times have followed eagerly the prizes that the world had to offer, and it has laid a heavy toll upon them, so that spiritual life has become much weakened, faith has declined, the Lord's work has languished, and His interests have been neglected. He loved His saints too much to permit such a condition of things to continue, and, we doubt not, that, for the sake of His saints, as well as in mercy to the world at large, He has permitted the awful calamity of this European war to come upon us, so that — seeing that all these material things, which appeal so strongly to the senses, must perish — our faith might be quickened, and we might find God to be better than possessions, and look with a truer earnestness onward to that new heaven and new earth wherein righteousness shall dwell.

Days of Ease are Not the Best for us

Let us clearly understand that days of ease are not the best for us, and we shall be greatly helped. David's chequered career yields striking proof of this. When his prosperity had reached its flood-tide, he forgot the God whose goodness had followed him all the days of his life, and he could not rest though he lay upon a curtain-hung couch in a great palace. There his unsatisfied heart and restless eye led him into that foul sin that stained his name, and makes the enemies of the Lord blaspheme even to this day. But in the darkest hour of this strange history, when his traitor son pursued him for his blood, and his only bed was the cold earth on the hillside, he could sing: "Thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of my head. I cried to the Lord with my voice, and He heard me out of His holy hill, Selah. I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about" (Ps. 3:3-6). Prosperity and the palace, with forgetfulness of God, gave birth to sin. Adversity, with the Lord at hand, yielded the Psalm that sings its music to our souls even in these testing times.

Christians Must Not Expect to Escape from Sorrow

God can deliver from trouble His people who trust Him; He can cover them in the day of battle, and preserve them from the terror by night; and He will do these things for them when it is for their greatest good that He should; so that they may always commend themselves and all that are theirs to His wise and tender mercies. Yet the Christian ought not to hope to escape the sorrow and suffering through which others are passing; it would be unwarrantable selfishness and sheer weakness to expect to do so. The sword is as likely to bereave the Christian home of a beloved son as any other, and the house that is sanctified by prayer has no immunity from the bomb that falleth in the darkness, except, as we have said, God sees that their preservation from these things will be for their greatest good. Then what advantage has the Christian over the one who knows not God? His advantage lies in the fact that he knows God — God behind the sorrow, God over it, God in it, and God abiding in all His infinite wisdom and love when the sorrow is past and gone. And faith in God — who is not only the Almighty but the God of all comfort — lifts the Christian out of all depression and enables him, instead of attempting to escape sorrow, to share the sorrows of others, and to suffer instead of them if needs be. With this knowledge the Christian is the man to brighten the corner in which he is set and to convey hope and comfort to the despairing and distressed.

The Testing Time is a Sifting Time

There is more comfort in the Scriptures than ever we have drawn from them, or ever shall. They are like the boundless ocean, while our need is like the bucket that is dropped into it. Take such a passage as this, "For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, YET SHALL NOT THE LEAST GRAIN FALL UPON THE EARTH" (Amos 9:9).

The words have special reference to the sons of Jacob, but they declare a great principle in the ways of God with His saints, and His never-failing care of His work in them in all dispensations, and they are written for our learning and comfort.

The true saints of God are the wheat, fair and priceless in His estimation, and it is necessary that they should be put into the sieve, that they might be ridded of the chaff, set free from all refuse forever. Yet in the sifting not a grain shall be lost. God Himself will take care of even "the least." What comfort there is in that.

The New Testament word is tribulation = tr?bulare — to rub out corn. The tr?bulum was a wooden instrument fitted with iron spikes for rubbing out corn. And though tribulation cannot be anything but grievous to nature, yet we shall glory in it if God's purpose in it lays hold upon us (Rom. 5:3).

The sifting may come in various ways. In Peter's case Satan was permitted to use the sieve, and in it the adversary hoped to destroy him, but the result of the sifting was that he was freed from the chaff of self-confidence and boasting. A blessed result! The wheat remained uninjured. His faith did not fail (Luke 22:32). But whether the sifting comes directly from Satan, or through the circumstances of these sad times through which we are passing — circumstances of sickness, pain, anxiety, bereavement, hunger, nakedness, peril or sword — "GOD IS FAITHFUL, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, THAT YE MAY BE ABLE TO BEAR IT" (1 Cor. 10:13).