I wrestled today with which of the three particular 'thoughts' I came across this week I should send out, since all were good, encouraging, and instructive to the soul. Yet in the end this one won out. It is by John Scudder and is found in his book "Passing Over Jordan." It was published in 1846 and is a little book (about 1/2 inch think, 2 inches tall, and about 1 and 1/2 inches wide). It's an antique I received as a gift from a friend, is signed by the original owner Jonas Walts, and is literally, a "little" gem.
"I pray for sanctification; and when I do, I set no limitations as to the means by which this is brought about. And in order to effect this sanctification (for which I have prayed) my heavenly Father commences a course of discipline with me -- the only course by which my prayer can consistently be answered. He exposes me to various trials from my own heart, or from others, or He sends bodily afflictions upon me.
No sooner, however, does He do this, than I rebel against his treatment and murmur at my hard lot -- murmur and murmur because He is answering my prayer! O my soul, what a mark this is of your utter sinfulness and pollution.
O, my Father, I beseech Thee, for Christ's sake, to forgive all my past murmurings and grant that these sins may never find a place again in my heart. Help me to keep this in mind -- that every trial, every affliction, and every pain which I experience -- is a love-token sent by Thee; sent expressly for my good and sent for my sanctification. Yet this my soul must know, that if but one of these pains were to be withheld, the work might be lost.
It is much easier for an earthly father to caress his children when they do well, than to chastise them when they need his discipline. But his chastisements are greater marks of his love than his caresses. And the reason is this: because it is so painful to inflict the one, and so pleasant to impart the other.
So it is with your heavenly Father, my soul. It is much easier for Him to caress you than to chastise you; but it is a greater mark of love when He does chastise you, than when He caresses you. He afflicts not willingly (Lam. 3:33).
O that this thought might, through grace, constrain me to cry out: Welcome trials, welcome afflictions, welcome pains, as the choicest blessings which can be mingled in my earthly cup. Welcome anything, welcome everything, which may lead me closer to my Savior.
What is earth but a tiresome round, a circle of repented vanities? There is nothing worth living for in this world, but to glorify Jesus... Why should I be setting my affections on this world? It is not my home. My interests are not here. My Savior is not here. Why should I be absent even one more hour from my Beloved?...
Does the soldier desire to be in the battle? Would he not rather have it over, and be enjoying the victory? And yet, my Father, I would not retire from the conflict before I have finished the work you have given me to do. Make me the instrument for bringing even the smallest possible degree of glory to your name -- the instrument of adding but one soul to the kingdom of your grace, and gladly will I remain upon earth.
I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better, nevertheless, to abide in the flesh may be more needful.' And if it is needful, my blessed Redeemer, for me to abide, then abide I will. A thousand lives, had I them at my command, and could they all be spent in Thy service on earth, should be most gladly devoted to Thee."
His view of sanctification -- though I have often wished it were different -- rings true to Scripture, to what I have experienced in my own life, and to what I have heard from the lips of others. We are not cleansed and transformed by easy times of comfort and prosperity. It's not all about "health and wealth." The road to growth in Christ is not unbroken joy, but joy mingled with struggle and trial and affliction. It is to climb victoriously to spiritual mountaintops, and run with arms lifted high in praise, but also to pass through valley's deep and dark and lonely.
Gold is not purified until it is melted in the heat of the flames. The impurities cannot be dislodged until the solid becomes a liquid in what Isaiah calls the "furnace of affliction" and they float to the surface to be scooped off. "I have tested you in the furnace of affliction," says the Lord in Isaiah 48:10. In this way He purifies us.
That's the part we find hardest to understand -- it's God's love that sends us into the furnace. He loves us enough to send us through affliction, because He knows that only under such heat can the ingrained elements of sin in our character be dislodged, and our inner selves be formed more into the likeness of Jesus.
To the end that we might have eyes to see Him and hearts to trust Him, Pastor Jeff