Patience and Her Perfect Work (Part 2)
II. But the effect of this trial is pointed out by the Holy Ghost; it "worketh patience." By "patience" we are not altogether to understand the word in its usual signification. The word "patience" in Scripture means rather endurance. It does not so much signify that quietness of soul - that calm and silent, that uncomplaining, unrepining submission to God s will which we understand by the word "patience" as that firm and lasting endurance of all that God may see fit to lay upon us. It is a solder s virtue rather than a hermit s; a stout man s fortitude under pain rather than a quiet woman s passive submission under suffering. "Ye have heard," says James, "of the patience of Job." Look at the context. "Behold we count them happy which endure." What follows? "Ye have heard of the patience of Job." Now it is just the same word in both expressions in the original, and should therefore have been rendered the "endurance" of Job; for not all his trials and temptations made him give up faith and hope.
1. Faith, then, viewed as the gift of God, and as proved by all the trials and temptations that he sends to exercise it, "worketh" the soldier-like endurance of which our text speaks. For how is a soldier made? Send him to the Crimea or to India; that will make him a soldier. He does not learn the stern duties of his calling by being paraded upon Aldershot heath or by going through his drill upon Southsea common. He must go into actual war; he must hear the cannon roar and see the sabres flash in his face; give and take cut and thrust; lie all night upon the battle-field; rush up the steep breach amidst the groans of the wounded, and press on determined to conquer or die. Alma and Inkerman make the soldier - the experience, not the theory of war. How is the Christian soldier made? By going to chapel - by reading the Bible - by singing hymns - by talking about religion? Just as much as the veteran warrior is made at Aldershot or Southsea. He must go into the battle and fight hand to hand with Satan and the flesh; he must endure cruel wounds given by both outward and inward foes; he must lie upon the cold ground of desolation and desertion; he must rush up the breach when called to storm the castles of sin and evil, and never "yield or quit the field," but press on determined to win the day or die. In these battles of the Lord, in due time he learns how to handle his weapons, - how to call upon God in supplication and prayer, to trust in Jesus Christ with all his heart, to beat back Satan, to crucify self, and live a life of faith in the Son of God. Religion is not a matter of theory or of doctrine; it is to be in the thick of the battle, fighting with the enemy hand to hand, foot to foot, shoulder to shoulder. This actual not sham warfare makes the Christian soldier hardy - strengthens the muscles of his arm - gives him skill to wield his weapons, and power sometimes to put his enemies to flight. Thus it "works endurance," makes him a veteran, so that he is no longer a raw recruit, but one able to fight the Lord s battles and "to endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." What then have been your best friends? Your trials. Where have you learnt your best lessons? In the school of temptation. What has made you look to Jesus? A sense of your sin and misery. Why have you hung upon the word of promise? Because you had nothing else to hang upon. Thus, could you look at the results, you would see this - that trials and temptations produced upon your spirit the two effects of which the text speaks; that they tried your faith, and that sometimes to the uttermost, so that in the trial it seemed as if all your faith were gone; and yet they have wrought patience - they have made you endure. Why have you not long ago given up all religion? Have your trials made you disposed to give it up? They have made you hold all the faster by it. Have your temptations induced you to let it go as a matter of little consequence? Why, you never had more real religion than when you were tried whether you had any; and never held faith with a tighter grasp than when Satan was pulling it all away. The strongest believers are not the men of doctrine, but the men of experience; not the boasters but the fighters; not the parade officers in all the millinery of spotless regimentals, but the tattered, soiled, wounded, half-dead soldiers that give and take no quarter from sin or Satan.
I. But the word has another meaning, one in more strict accordance with the word "patience;" that is submission to God s will. When the Lord puts us in the furnace, we go in kicking and rebelling. Our coward flesh shrinks from the flame. But when we have been some time in the furnace and find that we cannot kick ourselves out, and that our very struggling only makes the coals burn more fiercely, - at last, by the grace of God working in us, we begin to lie still. It was so with Job. How he fought against God! How his carnal mind was stirred up in self-justification and rebellion till the Lord himself appeared and spoke to his heart from heaven. Then he came to this point - "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eyes seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes." Then the Lord accepted him and delivered him; turned his captivity, pardoned, and blessed him. So with Abraham, when he submitted to sacrifice Isaac, God appeared to deliver him. So with David, when he submitted to the Lord s chastening hand, he brought him back to Jerusalem. But this will be more evident in our next point, to which I now hasten.
III.- "Let patience have her perfect work that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." There is a work for patience to perform. Every grace of the Spirit has a certain work to do. As in a large manufactory, every hand knows his place and the work he has to do, so in the wonderful piece of divine machinery - the work of God upon the soul, every grace of the Spirit has its separate work to perform. Faith does not do the work of love, nor hope that of faith, nor love that of patience. Each several grace, like separate wheels in some beautiful machine. has its own place and its own work. Patience then has its work; and what is that? Twofold, according to my explanation of the word.
1. To endure all trials, live through all temptations, bear all crosses, carry all loads, fight all battles, toil through all difficulties, and overcome all enemies.
2. To submit to the will of God - to own that he is Lord and King - to have no will or way of its own, no scheme or plan to please the flesh, avoid the cross, or escape the rod; but to submit simply to God s righteous dealings, both in providence and grace, believing that he doeth all things well, that he is a sovereign "and worketh all things according to the counsel of his own will." Eph 1:11. Now until the soul is brought to this point, the work of patience is not perfect; it may be going on, but it is not consummated. You may be in the furnace of temptation now, passing through the fiery trial. Are you rebellious or submissive? If still rebellious, you must abide in the furnace until you are brought to submission; and not only so, but it must be thorough submission, or else patience has not its perfect work. The dross and slag of rebellion must be scummed off, and the pure metal flow down. It is all of God s grace to feel this for a single moment. But are there not, and have there not been, times and seasons, in your soul, when you could be still and know that he is God? when you could submit to his will, believing that he is too wise to err - too good to be unkind? When this submission is felt, patience has its perfect work. Look at Jesus, our great example; see him in the gloomy garden, with the cross in prospect before him on the coming morn. How he could say - "Not my will, but thine be done!" There was the perfect work of patience in the perfect soul of the Redeemer. Now you and I must have a work in our soul corresponding to this, or else we are not conformed to the suffering image of our crucified Lord. Patience in us must have its perfect work; and God will take care that it shall be so. As in a beautiful piece of machinery, if the engineer see a cog loose or a wheel out of gear, he must adjust the defective part, that it may work easily and properly, and in harmony with the whole machine; so if the God of all our salvation see a particular grace not in operation, or not properly performing its appointed work, he by his Spirit so influences the heart that it is again brought to work as he designed it should do. Measure your faith and patience by this standard; but do not take in conjunction, or confound with them the workings of your carnal mind. Here we often mistake; we may be submissive as regards our spirit - meek and patient, quiet and resigned, in the inward man, yet feel many uprisings and rebellings of the flesh; and thus patience may not seem to have her perfect work. But to look for perfect submission in the flesh, is to look for perfection in the flesh, which was never promised and is never given. Look to what the Spirit is working in you - not to the carnal mind, which is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be, and therefore knows neither subjection nor submission. Look at that inward principality of which the Prince of peace is Lord and Ruler, and see whether in the still depths of your soul, and where he lives and reigns, there is submission to the will of God.
But it adds, "that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." The word "perfect" in the Scripture does not mean, as applied to a saint of God, anything approaching to the usual idea of perfection, as implying spotless, sinless holiness, but one who is matured and ripened in the life of God - no longer a child but a grown man. As a tree grown to its full stature is said to have attained perfection; so when the Lord the Spirit has brought forth the work of patience in your soul, as far as regards that work you are perfect, for it is God s work in you; and so far you are "entire," that is, possessing all which that grace gives, and "wanting nothing" which that grace can communicate. To submit wholly to the will of God, and be lost and swallowed up in conformity to it, is the height of Christian perfection here below; and he that has that wants nothing, for he has all things in Christ. What, then, is the greatest height of grace to which the soul can arrive? Where did grace shine forth so conspicuously as in the Lord Jesus Christ? and where did grace manifest itself more than in the gloomy garden and on the suffering cross? Was not the human nature of Jesus more manifestly filled with the Spirit, and did not every grace shine forth in him more conspicuously in Gethsemane and on Calvary than when enraptured upon the Mount of Transfiguration? So there is more manifested grace in the heart of a saint of God who, under trial and temptation, can say, "Thy will be done," and submit himself to the chastening rod of his Heavenly Father, than when he is basking in the full beams of the Sun of Righteousness. How often we are mistaken in this matter - longing for enjoyment, instead of seeing the true grace makes us submit to the will of God, whether in the valley or upon the mount!
IV.- But to come to my last point, which is the grand key of the whole, and on which I need not tarry long, as I have already anticipated it; we are to "count it all joy" when we fall into divers temptations. I have been setting before you a problem in arithmetic - a sum in compound addition; run it up or down, and look at the sum total - "Joy." Take all your trials and put them down; next add all the temptations with which your mind has been exercised - make a row of them; now cast them up, and what is the full amount? A word of three letters - a sum more valuable than if it were three figures, and each figure a nine - "Joy." That is the sum total, according to the calculation of the Holy Ghost of all your trials and all your temptations. You are to "count it all joy." What mysterious arithmetic! How unlike the ciphering taught in schools! How different from the sums and problems set on slates and copybooks! How different, too, a result does the Lord the Spirit bring out from your own calculations when you looked at them one by one, without casting up the whole sum! Then "count it all joy" when ye fall into divers temptations, knowing that their effect is to wean you from the world - to endear Christ - to render his truth precious, and to make you meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.Are you satisfied with the solution of the problem? Can you write down your own name at the bottom of the sum and say, "it is proved; I carry the proof in my own bosom?"