It Remains Tough
Daily life is by no means just easy smooth-running times. It is constantly disturbed by small things or big. Something lost, something gone wrong, responsibilities to fulfill, demanding children, finances, sickness, clashes of personalities, differences of viewpoint, decisions to be made. And at these many moments, self doesn’t remain spontaneous! It comes very much alive and we have our human reactions. It is at this spot that we find it hard to grasp that this is precisely God’s purpose that His sons should be involved in disturbing human situations. The positive must have its negative to manifest through, so we must learn to the full what it is to be a negative. It was said of Jesus Himself that though He was a Son, He yet learned obedience through the things which He suffered, and thus knew that the Son could do nothing of Himself.
We ask a useless question and mistake the meaning of life if we say, “Will there be no let-up from continual pressures?” No. Let me face this in the full depth of its implications. If I am to function in my proper place as a son and inheritor of God’s universe in my eternal destiny, I need to learn first how a son functions in adverse circumstances. A swimmer grows strong against the tide, not with it. So my privilege is to feel the impacts on my negative humanity of all that can disturb me. It is tribulation, Paul said, which works in me finding and experiencing the God of deliverances. It is the trial of my faith which works maturity in me, says James.
There is a fundamental principle here, and when we see that, we can expect and welcome what the world calls problems and frustrations. If in our future destiny we are to be at ease in letting God through in friendly areas of responsibility, it can only be because we gradually became experienced in letting Him through in the enemy’s territory. So these years in the world against the tide are no mistake. They are not something which need not have been. They have to be. If we suffer with Him, we shall reign with Him. We must first learn therefore, and accept with praise as the adventure of adversity, the reality of life’s pressures and our constant negative human reactions to them. By this means only, first finding how earthen our vessels are, shall we then by stages be ever quicker, as Jesus so wonderfully was, in knowing how to replace our negative with His positive. That way we become at home in the eternal fact that His strength can only be made perfect in our weakness; and find Paul’s secret that “when I am weak, then am I strong.” This is of vast importance because we so mistakenly have got used to thinking that we are wrong when we have these negative reactions. No, they must be.
So we shall always start by feeling human hurts, fears, dislikes, unwillingness, coldness, powerlessness, lusts, angers, jealousies, and all the list of them. Start, we say, because the start of such reactions is not sin. A human must be human, and Jesus himself had to feel temptation to be tempted in all points. Sin is not in the start, but in the continuance. Negative reactions are not sin. They are the negative stirrings which are the jumping off point for faith. Sins are when, instead of taking those jumps of faith, we continue in the reaction. “When lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin.” When we “marry” the self-reaction, accept and continue in it, then the child is sin. We have already quoted how Paul went as far as to “take pleasure” in those experiences which hurt us humans: what he named as feeling his weakness, being hurt or insulted by others, having personal needs, being persecuted, having insoluble problems: “for,” he said, “when I am weak, then am I strong.” Note, not “then I shall be made strong or become strong or seek for strength.” No, “then am I strong,” because all he had to do was to recognize who he really was, Christ in him. So to have negative human reactions is not sin, but our opportunities for faith. Sin is when we continue in the reaction, as we all do at times, and then act out some form of “the works of the flesh.”
It is this balanced understanding of our daily living which will save us from false condemnation. We shall not say we were all wrong because we felt so and so—a very ordinary day, no great victories or guidances, no particular elevated feelings, the pressures of daily events, the children’s problems and the work conditions, attacks of depression, no answers to situations. “Surely I should have been brighter or more effective or a better witness. Haven’t I missed opportunities and not been courageous enough?” And so the self-searching tears us down. Cut it out! Praise the Lord. Recognize that if you have a sin, it is the sin of unbelief in doubting or questioning whether He was being Himself in you despite feelings or appearances. Believe and praise!
And where these have been conscious sins, or we feel they may have been sins, it is here John tells us that there is daily cleansing in our daily walk. The Epistles constantly use the word “walk,” and that points us to step by step, because that is the only way a person can walk. So when in our walk, we feel we have missed the mark, even if we are not sure whether it is over the line into a committed sin, or just one of these attitudes, the way out is simple: admission to ourselves and that is of course inwardly to God; bold recognition that all the sins of all the world ceased to exist in God’s sight (and therefore in ours) by the shedding of the Blood of Christ two thousand years ago: the word of faith which we say within ourselves that therefore that sin exists no more: praise in having the cleansed conscience: then walking on as if the thing never happened. Quick sinning. Quick cleansing.