BLOOD, TOIL, TEARS, AND SWEAT
It was on May 13, 1940, in his first speech to the House of commons, that the newly elected Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, said; ‘I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.’ And so it was to be for four more harrowing and weary years until the devastating and bloody Second World War came to its end.
Let God be praised that the gospel speaks of more than blood, toil, tears, and sweat, but let it ever be remembered that it does not speak of less! There is joy, rejoicing, blessing and singing before the believer
reaches heaven but that is not the whole story. The outcome of the Christian’s warfare is certain. He is to live in the comfort of that precious truth and that was a comfort denied to the British people throughout most of the awful years of conflict from 1939 to 1944. However, the assurance of final victory does not lessen the need for resolution in the constant battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil.
The brave martyrs literally resisted evil powers, evil doctrines, and evil systems, to the death, but for most of us it is a fact that, ‘Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin’ (Hebrews 12.4). From the moment spiritual life is given the battle is to be joined and the battlefield is the believer’s arena. There is no ‘no discharge in that war’ (Eccl. 8.8) any more than a discharge from the inevitability of that death over which we have no power. Questions must be faced even if we cannot unhesitatingly give an answer: Am I willing to lose all for Christ and His cause? To what extent am I willing to deny myself and what kind of cross am I willing to bear? Could I face the martyr’s death that were the outcome of faithful discipleship? Our Lord’s ultimatum
is as relevant now as it was nearly two thousand years ago; ‘For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it,’ (Mark 8.25).
Paul was a great labourer and knew much of the toil of the Christian ministry. He could say of his Lord; ‘Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily’ (Col. 1.28-29). Though not all are called to preach, yet labouring and striving are to mark the life of all true Christians because, ‘Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain’ (1 Cor. 9.24). In these days of so many labour-saving devices it seems to surprise some people that there are no such devices to relieve the toil of the narrow way to heaven. Some churches languish, not only because there are so few members but because so few are willing to work. They have forgotten the Saviour’s words, ‘I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: The night cometh, when no man can work’ (John 9.4).
Go labour on: spend, and be spent,
Your joy to do the Father’s will;
It is the way the Master went;
Should not the servant tread it still?
There are nights of weeping for every weary traveller to be followed by mornings of joy, but the joyous morning does not last all day! Tears are an essential ingredient in every believer’s pathway for, ‘Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted’. Sin outside and sin inside brings sorrow upon sorrow and, although tears will never wash away the stain, they cannot be unknown if the blood of Christ cleanses our souls. We shall weep for Him as well as for ourselves. We shall be amongst ‘the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst’ both of the world but more especially of the church (Ezek. 9.4). Not once nor twice shall we need our Saviour’s words of power and sympathy, ‘Weep not’ (Luke 7.13).
Since Adam fell it has been true in one way or another that, ‘In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground’ [Gen. 3.19). But there was sweat of a very different kind because of that first sin and many that followed as a result of it. As Jesus prayed in agonising earnestness, ‘His sweat was as it were great drops of blood
falling down to the ground’ (Luke 22.44). It is a most humbling thought that, when He came to His disciples still bearing the marks of His anguish, He found them sleeping and, although it was for sorrow they slept, He lovingly warned them, ‘Why sleep ye? Rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation’. Not many pray until they sweat and none but the Holy One has prayed in such a way as to sweat blood. If we realised more of our weaknesses, our needs, and our dangers, there would be much more ‘wrestling prayer’.
‘Wrestling prayer can wonders do;
Bring relief in deepest straits!
Prayer can force a passage through
Iron bars and brazen gates.’
Through God’s mercy and in answer to many prayers this island was spared the horror of invasion and defeat. At last the conflict was over and joyful celebrations followed throughout the land. Britain was not spared the blood, toil, tears, and sweat, but we were not finally crushed under the heel of Hitler’s war machine.
So it is for the believer. It is promised that we shall be more than conquerors through Him that loved us (Rom. 8.37). But conquerors are those who have overome all enemies. The battle has raged; the enemies were many and strong; there was no final rest, no lasting relief, until victory was given. There were serious reverses, battles were lost, some were prisoners-of-war for a while but the war itself was won. The final victory is to be celebrated in glory not here below. Till then the alarms keep sounding; the enemy never gives up; some even become traitors and weaken those who loyally struggle on the Lord’s side; but the final outcome is certain, for our Lord spoke words of great authority when He cried, It is finished’. His work was done, His battles over, and so it will be for all who trust in Him and fight the good fight of faith to the end.