All things work together for good to them who love God and trust Him. The skeptic jeers at this, but the trusting Christian knows it from actual experience. It is often a dear-bought experience, for some of God’s truths are knocked into us by hard blows, and some lessons are spelled out through eyes cleansed with tears. Our perverse mistake is that we demand that God explain Himself at every step, instead of waiting for Him to unfold His intricate purposes at His own time and in His own way.
Twenty years ago in 1862, on a day of thick fog and storm, I ascended Mount Washington in New Hampshire by the old bridle-path. Over the slippery boulders we picked our toilsome way, unable to see anything but our surefooted horse and our guide. A sulky company were we when we reached the “Tip-Top House,” a simple stone lodge at the mountain summit.
“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
Every sifting comes by divine command and permission. Satan must ask leave before he can lay a finger upon Job. Nay, more, in some sense our siftings are directly the work of heaven, for the text says, “I will sift the house of Israel.”
Satan, like a lowly serf, may hold the sieve, hoping to destroy the corn; but the overruling Hand of the Master is accomplishing the purity of the grain by the very process which the enemy intended to be destructive. To the precious, but much-sifted corn of the Lord’s floor: be comforted by the blessed fact that the Lord directs both threshing-stick and sieve to His own glory, and to your eternal profit.
Now large crowds were going along with Jesus; and He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.”
“Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Luke 14:25-35).
You need to weigh in on the cost factor and count the costs of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. It will cost you popularity. It will cost you promotion perhaps at times. It will cost you an easy life. You will have to discipline yourself. You will have to buffet your body. You will have to say “No” to temptation. You will have to say “No” to this world. You will have to break with the crowd. You will have to be willing to stand alone for Christ. You will have to be willing to walk to the beat of a different drummer and to step out of the crowd even if no one follows after Jesus Christ. You will have to be willing to stand even if you were the only person in the world for Jesus Christ. That’s the cost factor.
“And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me.” — Genesis 21:6
It was far above the power of nature, and even contrary to its laws, that the aged Sarah should be honoured with a son; and even so it is beyond all ordinary rules that I, a poor, helpless, undone sinner, should find grace to bear about in my soul the indwelling Spirit of the Lord Jesus.
I, who once despaired, as well I might, for my nature was as dry, and withered, and barren, and accursed as a howling wilderness, even I have been made to bring forth fruit unto holiness. Well may my mouth be filled with joyous laughter, because of the singular, surprising grace which I have received of the Lord; for I have found Jesus, the promised seed, and he is mine forever.
This day will I lift up psalms of triumph unto the Lord who has remembered my low estate, for “my heart rejoiceth in the Lord; mine horn is exalted in the Lord; my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies, because I rejoice in thy salvation.”
“And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem.” — Isaiah 27:13
Called by the sounding of the great trumpet, the perishing and outcasts come to the Lord. And what do they do when they come? Do they trifle with sin, mock God, and abuse His grace? We read not so. They “worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem.” They worship Him in spirit and in truth; they worship Him in the beauty of holiness. With purified hearts, purged consciences, and spiritual affections, they fall down before Him, and their souls are impressed with a sense of the greatness of His love.
“And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in.” — Genesis 7:16
Noah was shut in away from all the world by the Hand of divine love. The door of electing purpose stands between us and the world which lies in the wicked one.
We are not of the world even as our Lord Jesus was not of the world. Into the sin, the gaiety, the pursuits of the multitude we cannot enter; we cannot play in the streets of Vanity Fair with the children of darkness, for our heavenly Father has shut us in.
Noah was shut in with his God. “Come thou into the ark,” was the Lord’s invitation, by which He clearly showed that He Himself intended to dwell in the ark with his servant and his family. Thus all the chosen dwell in God and God in them.
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father’s will. Even all the hairs on your head are numbered. So do not be afraid; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” — Matthew 10:29
“How happy are those who can resign all to Him, who see His hand in every trying dispensation, and believe that He chooses better for them than they could possibly choose for themselves.” — John Newton
Observe how the hand of God’s providence causes little things to lead on to great matters. In the least of incidents the greatest results may hinge! The pivots of history are microscopic. Hence, it is most important for us to learn that the smallest trifles are as much arranged by the God of providence as the most startling events.
He who counts the stars has also numbered the hairs of our heads. Our lives and deaths are predestined, but so, also, are our sitting down and our rising up. Had we but sufficiently powerful perceptive faculties, we should see God’s hand as clearly in each stone of our pathway as in the revolutions of the earth.