In an era of error, for the last century and a half or so, in my opinion, there is an ominous manifestation that many believers are lacking application of significant Biblical growth truths. This sad but true condition has shown itself primarily through an unawareness (thus unintentional) of preoccupation with unscriptural doctrines (yet still saved) which interfere with “being conformed to the image of His Son” (Ro 8:29; 2Co 3:18).
Conforming to the Lord Jesus’ walk in us is a separate work than that of His redemption in us, in that it’s a permanent lifestyle of godliness that manifests but not produces rebirth. One can have the Spirit but has yet to learn to “walk in the Spirit” (Gal 5:25). Similarly, we can have the Son but not yet “be conformed to His image,” both of which requires time in learning the knowledge, understanding and application within the fundamentals of Biblical spiritual growth (Eph 4:15).
The Hand of Love
Let us remember that God, even our God, has better thoughts for us than a portion here. He is educating us for a blessed and eternal rest, free from evil and all that would cause it, and He is intent upon the blessing of His children; and moreover He is bound by His holiness to purge us suitably (though most graciously) for the place to which He has called us. How often He allows Satan to do this painful work, and try to sift us as Job (or like Peter - Luk 22:31, e.g. “make them look like all chaff, by covering the wheat of grace with the chaff of sin”—John Gill)! But His hand and will are behind it all (Ro 8:28—NC). He gives His saints up to Satan’s hand to a certain point (e.g. Job 1:12; 2:6—NC), but only so far as to bring the heart fully to a bearing before Himself, and enter into deep questions with it, breaking down its pride (e.g. 1Co 5:5; 1Ti 1:20—NC).
But not only was the tempter absolutely limited in what he was to do to Job, it was the Lord who first proposed his case to Satan. He had His own end in it, as we see: Job gets into blessing with a knowledge of himself and of God, incomparably beyond what he had before. In all these cases, therefore, though Satan may sift and try us by a thousand trials without and thoughts within, our responsibility is to think on His hand and love who originates it all as to the ultimate purpose. By its being the enemy, the soul is sifted in it, tempted to murmur. God could not do that; and what flesh is (in relation to the “old man”—NC), is fully brought out to us, and there is a giving up of self, which enables us infinitely better to appreciate God.
Be assured then of His love. “Tribulation worketh patience: and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given unto us.” But for this should we murmur and complain—think God in spirit, if not in judgement, hard and wrong? With the sense of His love we are more than conquerors; none of these things separate us from it. May we know that it flows from love, a love we have known by His not sparing His only begotten Son, and by every step of His life in a world of evil.
A Jehovah of Israel stood engaged to bless, and punish in government, most patient, no doubt, but still in government which manifested outwardly the sense He had of such and such conduct. But the Father stands engaged towards much deeper work. He keeps us in His own Name as a Holy Father, and thus deals with us according to that which, as such a Father, He would work in our souls. For such a blessing He is bringing His Children in inward life to Himself. Alas, how much there is often to be done in us!
Do not faint therefore, if a rebuke is come thus. He speaks to you as a Father (and what a Father!) to a child-chastening (or training) whom He loves (Heb 12:6). Trust His love; trust it for yourself, for your family, for everything—be assured nothing escapes Him; and you will find in the end that it is not an ungracious act He has done. Let the thought of grace and of His perfect love come in between you and all your thoughts, an you will find His hand loving though it smite you, and the Lord Jesus your eternal portion in a way you never knew before.
The first feeling may be merely bowing to His hand and will; the next, the restful recognition of His hand of love; and then in a heart weaned from other things, a capacity to discover the Excellency and enjoyment of the grace of the Lord Jesus, which will cause you to bless the Day He sent it to you. Be assured His love makes no mistake with us. It is certain and infinite. We know it, sinful as we are (the old man as bad as it can be—NC), by the gift of the Son. And oh, what is our eternal portion in grace—yes, glory with Him—compared with weary trouble here below? Better to suffer in a world of sin. The manner of it must be such as makes us feel a good deal, or it would be of no use.
—J N Darby (1800–1882)
MJS daily devotional: http://www.abideabove.com/hungry-heart/day/2021/04/01/