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16 August, 2014

Evidences & Results Of Sanctified Affliction - Part 4

By John Angell James


8. A more entire consecration of the soul to God's service in general, and to some special service in particular, is also a proof of sanctified affliction. How delightful a spectacle is it to God, to angels, and to men—to see a Christian rising from the bed of his own sickness, or returning from the grave of a near relative, in the spirit of the hundred and sixteenth Psalm—and while the eyes are yet moistened with tears, and the heart soft with sorrow, yielding up himself afresh to the claims, the service, and the glory of God; and instead of being paralyzed with grief, or taken up with enjoyment, setting himself apart by a new dedication to God.

How beautiful is the language of the Psalmist in the review of his deliverance, "I love the Lord because He has heard my appeal for mercy. Because He has turned His ear to me, I will call out to Him as long as I live. The ropes of death were wrapped around me, and the horrors of the grave overcame me; I encountered trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: "Lord, save me!" The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is compassionate. 

The Lord guards the simple; I was helpless, and He saved me. Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. For You, Lord, rescued me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living. I believed, even when I said, "I am severely afflicted." How can I repay the Lord all the good He has done for me? I will take the cup of salvation and worship the Lord. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people. Lord, I am indeed Your servant; I am Your servant! You have loosened my bonds. I will offer You a sacrifice of thanksgiving and will worship the Lord. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord, in the very presence of all His people, in the courts of the Lord's house. Hallelujah!"

This is the language of sanctified affliction. Then when the Christian is seen giving himself afresh to the service of God, in a more devoted attendance upon all the means of grace, private, domestic, and public; when his liberality is more diffusive, and his zeal more ardent; when he seems concerned, inventive, and laborious to show his gratitude and love by new acts of devotedness, and former measures of service will not content him—it is a convincing evidence that he has derived benefit from tribulation.

9. Increased sympathy for others in their affliction, is a proof that our own affliction has done us good. In some cases sorrow has hardened the heart, and made men selfish; it has drawn off all their attention from others, and concentrated it on themselves. This is a dark sign; nothing can be a stronger proof that trials have done us harm, instead of good—than when they have blunted our susceptibilities, hardened our hearts, and put all our tears in reserve for ourselves! 

Nor, on the contrary, can there be a more convincing evidence that they have benefited us, than an increase of sympathy, and a greater readiness to weep with those who weep. It is a delightful exhibition of a mind softened and sanctified by affliction, to see a person, on recovering from it, still holding in remembrance the wormwood and the gall—and instead of giving himself to selfish enjoyment, going forth with quickened sensibilities to support and comfort the distressed.

Such are the proofs, evidences and results of sanctified affliction.

May they be found in you, my dear friends; and in your pastor. Trials abound in this world—it is a valley of tears. Happy will it be for us, if we shall emerge from it at length into that blessed region, where God shall wipe away all tears from every eye. "I reckon," said the blessed Paul, "that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us!" "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory!" "We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, and are called according to his purpose." With such internal consolations as the gospel affords, and with such a peace as passes understanding—what external tribulation may we not endure, and endure not only with all patience, but with joyfulness?

It is beautifully said by Leighton, "All outward distress to a mind thus at peace, is but as the rattling hail upon the tiles, to him who sits within the house at a sumptuous feast." Do not dread affliction—or at least dread far more being left to grow worldly and sinful, for lack of affliction; or being allowed to endure the pain of affliction without reaping the benefit of it. The losses, the pains, the disappointments, of the present state—if blessed for our spiritual good—will all fit us for the state where there shall be no more sorrow nor crying! The drops of sanctified grief—are the seeds of immortal joy! There will soon be a last tear—but never a last joy! Fix your heart upon holiness as the preparative for heaven, and be little concerned at what expense of present ease and possessions it be obtained—so that it holiness obtained.

The first look at Jesus as he is, and the first moment spent in heaven—will make ample amends for the longest and the saddest life on earth! Abound in hope—a lively hope of that inheritance which is incorruptible and undefiled, and unfading, reserved in Heaven for you! Be much in prayer for the presence and help of the Spirit of God as a Comforter. Without his aid the least trial will distress you—and with it the greatest cannot crush you! God is able to support and comfort—as well as save—to the uttermost! And none of us can tell what, in either case—the uttermost of God can do!

PART 3