NO CONTINUING CITY
Since our move to the North almost a year ago, our patience and faith have been exercised over the matter of finding a home of our own in which to live, Â— thanks be to God we have just moved and are now beginning to appreciate something of the Lord’s design in having us wait so much longer than we anticipated for this earthly habitation.
The varied circumstances, which seem to hinder our progress and which are to the unbeliever the twistings and inconveniences of fate, must be examined by the saint and seen as the intricate and wise design of his heavenly Father. (Romans 8, 28.) These events, far from being the fruit of mere chance, are given to instruct, to try, and to draw us to the One who does all things according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth Â— the One who cannot be resisted, for none can stay His hand, the One of whom we must not complain, nor say “what doest thou?” (Daniel 4, 35.)
It is perhaps less usual for the work of sanctification to be carried out in the fiery furnace of persecution than in the apparently mundane realm of civil and domestic life, yet true faith will flourish wherever it is keenly tried and we are not to think that only those who endure the experiences of a Tyndale, a Knox or a Bunyan can attain to godliness and humility. The winds may well soon change for the people of God in this land and the wrath of man be revealed against us, yet in the meantime let us turn even our light afflictions to our profit and God’s glory.
The Children of Israel in the Old Testament were a home loving people and indeed many of the spiritual treasures of God’s Word come to us through domestic illustrations easily understood. This should be an encouragement and a delight to those who live the life of a city commuter, a manual worker or a housewife. The four Gospels clearly show that our blessed Lord in the days of His flesh, far from confining His ministry to the impressive Galilean mountain slopes or the temple in Jerusalem, was frequently present in the homes of the common people. This was because He was fully aware that it is in just such places that His chosen ones seek His face, often with the greatest fervour and frequency.
He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities at all times and in every place and is free to pour out blessing upon the most ordinary of homes in such a manner as there would be scarcely room enough to contain it.
In returning briefly to our own experience, let me make three observations –
1. The Lord would have us learn to value and be thankful for the minimum of earthly comfort. Our age is one of gross materialism which amounts to nothing less than idolatry; greed, covetousness,
and appalling waste are but three of its symptoms; we are not to be conformed to this world’s thinking nor partake of her whoredoms. O, that we might be content in knowing that we have laid up for us an inheritance of truly satisfying treasure worth far more than the glitter of this world. Joseph Alleine once gave us this thought: “What if a man have a pound for my ounce, if mine be gold and his be brass?”
2. The Master would also teach us of the temporality and passing nature of all created things. The world would build its heaven on earth Â— it would find its salvation in life insurance schemes and investments Â— yet we remain strangers and pilgrims, we look for a city which has true foundations. In “The Saints’ Everlasting Rest”, Baxter added a chapter entitled, “The Saints’ Rest not to be expected on earth”, and he was one who, laying hold of his own doctrine, as a good preacher should, “took joyfully the spoiling of his goods”. Could we? or is the embrace of our earthly estate too warm and comforting? Alleine, in a prison letter to his flock, once wrote “Let every one search his heart and his house” lest there should lie within either, the cursed thing which hinders our progress with Christ.
3. Lastly, our Father taught us that whatever we found of true value and for our good in this realm, was in a far superior way to be found in Him in the spiritual realm. Have we food and drink? He is the bread and water of life. Have we a roof over our heads? He is our dwelling-place in all generations (Psalm 90). Have we money? In Christ are infinite and unsearchable riches. Have we clothing? He is a robe of immortality. Perhaps the Lord could have shown us these things had we been living at the height of affluence and comfort, but knowing the weakness of our flesh and the deceit of our hearts, it is far more likely we would have contented ourselves with these earthly blessings and never looked beyond them to the glorious spiritual realities of which these are but a shadow and a type.