No matter how well maintained we are at disallowing our problems to escalate into “troubles” (Jhn 14:1, 27), there will always be prearranged difficulties in the way. Though sovereignly controlled (Ro 8:28), they will require “enduring” (2Ti 2:3), by “casting all your care on Him” (1Pe 5:7); and the greatest result here is that “your heart” will be “kept” and “ruled” via “the peace of God” (Phl 4:7; Col 3:15). May God’s Spirit give us to thoughtful (especially in the trials that must come and go) of our position (presently and eternally in the “Father’s hand” - Jhn 10:29), more than of our condition (infirmities - Heb 4:15). Though it is the enduring of our condition that produces the greatest growth in Christ’s image, and is also by which we glorify God the most, we are to be mindful, as much as lies within us, on the Father and the Son, and on where They are—which is where we will unfailingly be (Col 3:1, 2).
Life There, Death Here
There are two things which constitute a saint’s happiness according as they are known simultaneously. The one is, that he has a home and life outside this scene (Eph 2:6); the other, that he has a grave and dies in this scene (2Co 4:11). If I have no a home—a retreat, known to my soul in heaven, and an assured sense that the Lord Jesus is my life there—I must, like the raven, though once in the ark, seek for something to solace me here.
The real reason why I find it hard that my only possession here should be a grave, is that I have not an abiding realization of my home in heaven, of enjoying life there in all its wondrous perennial virtues and delights (if we understand rebirth to be permanent—NC). If I do not walk in the truth, the path of wisdom, I am made to encounter rebuffs and rebukes (Heb 12:6) in order to force me into the way, which is the one of pleasantness and peace. The truth is, we have a home in heaven and the Lord Jesus is our life there; and if this be not simply enjoyed, there will be an attempt to modify the desolation here (which is to be endured, not avoided - 1Co 13:7; 2Ti 2:3; Heb 6:15—NC), and an inability to interpret the varied inroads which death makes on us (for our good—NC).
It is plain that if I have a home and life outside this scene, I cannot have either in it. Consequently, as I enjoy by faith the one, I see that it is only consistent that there should be neither here, and I become a Caleb, and find a throne in Hebron, where my Father Abraham had only a grave!
There is death before quickening (which lies between this body and the one “that shall be” 1Co 15:37—NC), though we through Christ enjoy the quickening (spiritual death and resurrection at rebirth—NC) before we die morally; but it is as we die, that we are confirmed in life. The proof that I enjoy my home and life in heaven is shown in the way that I accept the grave here. If I am walking by faith, nothing visible will suit me, for the visible comes not within the domain of faith. A man who has emigrated and found a new home, and happy associations, does not lament that the sea rolls between him and his former domicile of sorrow and privation; but if his satisfaction in the new home flags, he will sigh for the old. So it is with the saint, when his faith and enjoyment in his home above wane, like Israel in the wilderness, he remembers and longs for the “choice” things of Egypt (Num 11:5).
Every growth begins in summer, and the stronger it grows in summer, the better it is prepared for winter. The defect in souls is, not that they bear the winter so badly, but that they have enjoyed the summer so little. They have not made their own of the season and clime which is suited for them, and without which there is no growth, so they are not prepared for the winter. Hence there is an effort to assuage the bitterness of winter when it comes, instead of having, like the ant, prepared in summer for the trials of winter (Pro 6:6-8).
The growth is in summer—the endurance is in winter. Summer is my home and lifetime (heavenly life—NC), winter is the testing (earthly life—NC) time. If I have known the bright happy sunshine of the summer, I am invigorated and ready for the dark bleak days of winter. Fine days in winter add really nothing to my growth. It is when winter is past and the rain and snow over and gone, that the flowers appear and singing of the birds is heard. It is the one who does not know that the summer is his only season, his only time for growth and fruitfulness, that pines for mild weather in winter.
Properly you are the dove who has found a retreat in the ark, and from thence you can fly out and survey the wave of death rolling over the earth, and accepting it, return again to the ark, and to the hand that is stretched out to receive you to the retreat which He has formed for you, and you for it.
— J B Stoney