Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
Select a thought to read by choosing a collection, the month, and then the day:
“The sparrow has found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.”
Uncle Joe knew that if God had not stricken him with cancer in 1959, he would not have lived thirty-seven more years. His body was so full of cancer when the doctor operated on him that the doctor gave Uncle Joe six to nine months to live. But the cancer was the chastening of the Lord, and in his room in Veterans Hospital in Durham, NC, Uncle Joe humbled himself and turned from his own way, and God forgave him. Then, he was healed and lived that other thirty-seven years.
My father, too, testified of being chastened by the Lord the same way. And after the chastisement of God served its purpose and he “set his house in order” as God demanded he do, he referred to his affliction as ‘that blessed cancer” for the next forty-plus years of his life. He was aware of the fact that, without that harsh discipline of God, he may not even have been saved in the end. God wanted him to be pure, and He made him that way.
We who have been severely chastened of the Lord know the feeling of gratitude for chastisement, even though “now, no discipline at the time seems joyous, but grievous; however, afterward, it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 12:11). The “peaceable fruit of righteousness” is what God is after when He puts us through the fire, and when we humble ourselves and yield to Him what He demands, we always end up happy and thankful for whatever process God used to get us there.
For several years, I had prayed and prayed about a certain thing that troubled my conscience, a situation I could not see a way out of. Lots of people are in the same situation, but Jesus was not pleased that I was one of them. It was always there, somewhere in the back of my mind, and it would pop up at any time and bother my thoughts. I wanted to fix it, but I did not know how. Then, out of the blue, a certain man sued me for things I was completely innocent of. Innocent or not, I knew that, in this world, evil sometimes wins, and so, I got alone with God and spread the lawsuit on the floor and asked God to be the Judge in this case and to judge me if I had done anything wrong. From the moment I asked God to judge me, I became focused on making certain that there was nothing in my life that displeased God, for I knew that He is “no respecter of persons”. And there it was; that situation that had troubled my heart for several years, demanding to be dealt with. Full of the fear of God, I went about resolving it as soon as possible, determined to please God. And, I did.
The relief was immediate, and great. So much lighter was my conscience that I told the folk here that “God sued me”, and He did it in order to give me the inner strength I needed to take care of a situation that had irritated my spirit for years. He wanted me to have peace. How I love Him for that! It was, in one way, the worst time of my life. I had never been so publicly accused of anything, especially such evils as I was accused of then. But God transformed it, for me, into a most wonderful time of growth in godliness.
The fiery trial is the place where the swallow can safely build her nest and lay her young. David sang, “We are His people, the sheep of His pasture! Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise!” (Ps. 100:3). That sounds so poetic that we often overlook the point. Think about it. Why were sheep brought through the gates of the city of God and into His courts? To be fed? No, the sheep feed on the hillsides, not in the city. They were, and are, brought into God’s court to be slaughtered and laid on the flaming altar of God! Can you enter into God’s court with thanksgiving?
Paul exhorted us to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom. 12:1). And I assume that he, too, would have wanted us to present ourselves with thanksgiving. James felt the same way. That’s why he wrote to the saints, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you fall into various trials” (Jas. 1:2).
It is the fiery altar of God which burns the dross out of our souls. It burns nothing but the things of earth that weigh us down and get in our way. God’s altar is a sacred place where the greatest love of God can be found, yet a place that cannot be found by man; one has to be taken to those flames by the tender mercies of God. It is “the secret place of the Almighty”, where sins are purged and wisdom is learned. It is a place for “the trying of your faith”, which Peter said was “more precious than the trying of gold” (1Pet. 1:7).
To correct the vexing situation I found myself in proved to be very expensive, but then, what is it worth to have perfect peace with God? Looking at it the right way, we will ask, how expensive will it be in the Judgment to meet God with a conscience not purged by the fire? A great and simple secret of wisdom that I learned in the fire was this: the best way to deal with something that troubles the conscience is simply to do it. Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? And yet, every one of us have suffered through periods (or, are now suffering through a period) of putting off the conviction of the Spirit, until God picked us up and tenderly placed us on His flaming altar.
Ah, the great relief that comes when we stay on the altar and let the fire of God’s holiness burn off the chains that have held us to something that displeased God! Uncle Joe once testified, decades after his healing of cancer, that he longed to be back in that place he was with God when he had cancer. He did not want cancer again; he just wanted to feel once more that wonderful sense of being overshadowed by God, of having (in his case) bitterness and an unforgiving spirit burned away from his heart. On the altar, no man can help you, no matter how much they love you. You are alone in the hands of God. But what better place to be, if we endure the brief chastening of the Lord?
Now, like all my fathers, from Abraham and David to Uncle Joe and my earthly father, I refer to the most painful time in my life as blessed, for the results were what God and I had both wanted for so long. The whole experience, painful as it was, came from the hand of my loving heavenly Father, for my good, and for the good of others. He saw both my desire for freedom and my weakness, and He brought about just the right series of events, measured to my faith and designed for my maximum benefit.
How can we lose, trusting a God like that?