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13 August, 2014

Evidences & Results Of Sanctified Affliction

 By John Angell James
"Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves; therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty!" (Job 5:17)

"Before I was afflicted I went astray—but now I keep Your word. It is good for me that I was afflicted—that I might learn Your statutes. I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous—and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me." (Psalm 119:67, 71, 75)

"And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons: My son, do not take the Lord's discipline lightly, or faint when you are reproved by Him; for the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and punishes every son whom He receives. Endure it as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there whom a father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline—which all receive—then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had natural fathers discipline us, and we respected them. Shouldn't we submit even more to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time based on what seemed good to them, but He does it for our benefit, so that we can share His holiness. No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it." (Hebrews 12:5-11)

Our subject is peculiarly appropriate to many. Few are the travelers to heaven who do not pass through the land of 'Bochim' (the place of weeping– Judges 2:5), and the valley of tears, in their way. Blessed are they, and more blessed will they be, who, being chastened by the hand of their heavenly Father—are thereby made partakers of his holiness. The afflictions and consolations of ministers are often made subservient to the good of their people. The apostle has beautifully expressed this, 2 Cor. 1:3-7. I would not be a sterile thorn in the garden of the Lord, but a fruitful vine, and bearing the more fruit for the 'pruning of his severe but infallible kindness'; and "I desire fruit that may abound to your account." May it be granted me to teach you by example as well as precept—not only the 'active virtues', but the 'passive graces' of our holy religion; and both by what I suffer and enjoy, may I be made more effectually the comforter as well as instructor of the sorrowing portion of God's chosen family.

I. The proof of a sanctified affliction begins to show itself while the trouble lasts. Though it be very true that it is "afterwards," when it is gone by, that it yields "the peaceable fruits of righteousness" in their maturity; yet as there can be no fruits where there have been no blossoms, so in this case the 'buds of spiritual improvement' must be seen during the season of affliction, or there will be no ripe fruits afterwards. A right frame of mind rarely comes on when the trial is over—if it does not commence while it lasts. 

The seeds of improvement, like some grain—must be sown while the showers are falling and the ground is wet, or they will not germinate and yield a crop. While the tear is yet in the eye, the earnest desire after sanctification must be in the heart. Let not the sufferers, therefore, put by the wish, and suspend the effort to get good, until the visitation of the Almighty has passed away. A child who is not brought to reflection, and to begin, at least, an appropriate disposition, while under chastisement—is rarely brought to it when the rod is laid aside, and he is restored to his fellows, in all the joyousness of boyish hilarity. The reason why trials are so generally unproductive of spiritual effect, is because the sufferer postpones his attempts to render them beneficial until days of prosperity return—and then he is too busy and too happy in the enjoyment of his altered circumstances, to call to remembrance the wormwood and the gall.

Hence, a striking proof of sanctified affliction is a deep concern, a studious effort, and much earnest prayer—that it might be blessed for the good of the soul. The only solicitude of a worldly man and of a 'worldly-minded professor of religion', is to get out of trouble as fast as he can, and in any way he can. But the concern of a consistent, spiritual, and growing Christian—is to get out of it only in God's time, by righteous means, and with holy fruits. When there is a real inward desire, and not the mere profession of such a wish, that the trial might be sanctified, and that it might not be removed until it is; when there is a willingness to remain in the furnace, however long the time and fierce the fire, until the dross is separated, and the gold refined; when there is a disposition to say, "Lord, smite me until the folly is beaten out of your wayward child. Do not stop until you have restored me to yourself, since the sorest word you could say to me, would be, 'Why should you be stricken any more?' and my chief blessing, not to have it said of me, 'Let him alone'"—this is sanctification. If the soul is in that state, it has received good, and is getting it still. Here is God's end in afflicting accomplished, which is—that we might be partakers of his holiness.
But just look at a more detailed description of the state of mind of those who are really benefiting by affliction.

They recognize the hand of God in it, whether it comes direct from him—or through the medium of second causes. "It is the Lord!" they exclaim. "It comes from God! Is there evil in the city, and the Lord has not done it? I am silent, and open not my mouth, because you, O God, have done it!" Yes, they do not wander about amidst the briars, torn and lacerated, seeking after second causes—but go and lie down at once on "the soft green" of the doctrine of providence.

Then, as they recognize the hand that smites, they are equally forward to acknowledge His DESIGN in their affliction. "This is for my good, I know, because I am told that all things work together for my good. I do not see how, but that is not my business—all I know is, it will be so, for God has said it. He intends to make me holier by this affliction. He is bent upon my improvement. He thinks me, shall I say, worth and worthy of being chastised? Yes, I receive it as a message from God to me, saying, 'See how important holiness is in my people, since I call you to suffer so much in order to promote it.'"

Nor does the Christian's recognition of God stop here, for it goes on to the PRINCIPLE from which the dispensation proceeds. "

This, yes, even this is love!" says the believer, whose affliction is sanctified. "Even through the cloud I so clearly perceive the smile, not only of peace, but of affectionate, tender love, on the countenance of that Father who holds the rod—as to be constrained to run into those very arms which chastise me. I resolve all into love. I know that in faithfulness he has afflicted me. Love cannot act unlike itself. I could sooner believe a mother would torment her child, than that God would his.".....