Through Faith

“Pressed out of measure” (2 Cor. 1:8).

“That the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9).
God allowed the crisis to close around Jacob on the night when he bowed at Peniel in supplication, to bring him to the place where he could take hold of God as he never would have done; and from that narrow pass of peril, Jacob became enlarged in his faith and knowledge of God, and in the power of a new and victorious life.

God had to compel David, by a long and painful discipline of years, to learn the almighty power and faithfulness of his God, and grow up into the established principles of faith and godliness, which were indispensable for his glorious career as the king of Israel.
Nothing but the extremities in which Paul was constantly placed could ever have taught him, and taught the Church through him, the full meaning of the great promise he so learned to claim, “My grace is sufficient for thee.”

And nothing but our trials and perils would ever have led some of us to know Him as we do, to trust Him as we have, and to draw from Him the measures of grace which our very extremities made indispensable.

Difficulties and obstacles are God’s challenges to faith. When hindrances confront us in the path of duty, we are to recognize them as vessels for faith to fill with the fullness and all-sufficiency of Jesus; and as we go forward, simply and fully trusting Him, we may be tested, we may have to wait and let patience have her perfect work; but we shall surely find at last the stone rolled away, and the Lord waiting to render unto us double for our time of testing. –A. B. Simpson

(From Charles E Cowman Devotionals – Streams in the Desert) 

Faith Triumphs

“Under hopeless circumstances he hopefully believed” (Rom. 4:18). (Weymouth)

Abraham’s faith seemed to be in a thorough correspondence with the power and constant faithfulness of Jehovah. In the outward circumstances in which he was placed, he had not the greatest cause to expect the fulfillment of the promise. Yet he believed the Word of the Lord, and looked forward to the time when his seed should be as the stars of heaven for multitude.

O my soul, thou hast not one single promise only, like Abraham, but a thousand promises, and many patterns of faithful believers before thee: it behooves thee, therefore, to rely with confidence upon the Word of God. And though He delayeth His help, and the evil seemeth to grow worse and worse, be not weak, but rather strong, and rejoice, since the most glorious promises of God are generally fulfilled in such a wondrous manner that He steps forth to save us at a time when there is the least appearance of it.

He commonly brings His help in our greatest extremity, that His finger may plainly appear in our deliverance. And this method He chooses that we may not trust upon anything that we see or feel, as we are always apt to do, but only upon His bare Word, which we may depend upon in every state. –C. H. Von Bogatzky

Remember it is the very time for faith to work when sight ceases. The greater the difficulties, the easier for faith; as long as there remain certain natural prospects, faith does not get on even as easily as where natural prospects fail. –George Mueller

 
(From Charles E Cowman Devotionals – Streams in the Desert) 

Nothing is Too Hard

“Is there anything too hard for Jehovah?” (Gen. 18:14).

Here is God’s loving challenge to you and to me today. He wants us to think of the deepest, highest, worthiest desire and longing of our hearts, something which perhaps was our desire for ourselves or for someone dear to us, yet which has been so long unfulfilled that we have looked upon it as only a lost desire, that which might have been but now cannot be, and so have given up hope of seeing it fulfilled in this life.

That thing, if it is in line with what we know to be His expressed will (as a son to Abraham and Sarah was), God intends to do for us, even if we know that it is of such utter impossibility that we only laugh at the absurdity of anyone’s supposing it could ever now come to pass. That thing God intends to do for us, if we will let Him.

“Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Not when we believe in Him enough to go forward and do His will, and let Him do the impossible for us. Even Abraham and Sarah could have blocked God’s plan if they had continued to disbelieve.

The only thing too hard for Jehovah is deliberate, continued disbelief in His love and power, and our final rejection of His plans for us. Nothing is too hard for Jehovah to do for them that trust Him –Messages for the Morning Watch

(From Charles E Cowman Devotionals – Streams in the Desert) 

The Captive

“As I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God . . . and the hand of the Lord was there upon me” (Ezek. 1:1,3).

There is no commentator of the Scriptures half so valuable as a captivity. The old Psalms have quavered for us with a new pathos as we sat by our “Babel’s stream,” and have sounded for us with new joy as we found our captivity turned as the streams in the South.

The man who has seen much affliction will not readily part with his copy of the Word of God. Another book may seem to others to be identical with his own; but it is not the same to him, for over his old and tear-stained Bible he has written, in characters which are visible to no eyes but his own, the record of his experiences, and ever and anon he comes on Bethel pillars or Elim palms, which are to him the memorials of some critical chapter in his history.

If we are to receive benefit from our captivity we must accept the situation and turn it to the best possible account. Fretting over that from which we have been removed or which has been taken away from us, will not make things better, but it will prevent us from improving those which remain. The bond is only tightened by our stretching it to the uttermost.

The impatient horse which will not quietly endure his halter only strangles himself in his stall. The high-mettled animal that is restive in the yoke only galls his shoulders; and every one will understand the difference between the restless starling of which Sterne has written, breaking its wings against the bars of the cage, and crying, “I can’t get out, I can’t get out,” and the docile canary that sits upon its perch and sings as if it would outrival the lark soaring to heaven’s gate.

No calamity can be to us an unmixed evil if we carry it in direct and fervent prayer to God, for even as one in taking shelter from the rain beneath a tree may find on its branches fruit which he looked not for, so we in fleeing for refuge beneath the shadow of God’s wing, will always find more in God than we had seen or known before.

It is thus through our trials and afflictions that God gives us fresh revelations of Himself; and the Jabbok ford leads to Peniel, where, as the result of our wrestling, we “see God face to face,” and our lives are preserved. Take this to thyself, O captive, and He will give thee “songs in the night,” and turn for thee “the shadow of death into the morning.” –William Taylor

“Submission to the divine will is the softest pillow on which to recline.”
“It filled the room, and it filled my life,
With a glory of source unseen;
It made me calm in the midst of strife,
And in winter my heart was green.
And the birds of promise sang on the tree
When the storm was breaking on land and sea.”

(From Charles E Cowman Devotionals – Streams in the Desert) 

The Old Refiner

“He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver” (Mal. 3:3).

Our Father, who seeks to perfect His saints in holiness, knows the value of the refiner’s fire. It is with the most precious metals that the assayer takes the most pains, and subjects them to the hot fire, because such fires melt the metal, and only the molten mass releases its alloy or takes perfectly its new form in the mould. The old refiner never leaves his crucible, but sits down by it, lest there should be one excessive degree of heat to mar the metal. But as soon as he skims from the surface the last of the dross, and sees his own face reflected, he puts out the fire. –Arthur T. Pierson

“He sat by a fire of seven-fold heat,
As He watched by the precious ore,
And closer He bent with a searching gaze
As He heated it more and more.
He knew He had ore that could stand the test,
And He wanted the finest gold
To mould as a crown for the King to wear,
Set with gems with a price untold.
So He laid our gold in the burning fire,
Tho’ we fain would have said Him ‘Nay,’
And He watched the dross that we had not seen,
And it melted and passed away.
And the gold grew brighter and yet more bright,
But our eyes were so dim with tears,
We saw but the fire–not the Master’s hand,
And questioned with anxious fears.
Yet our gold shone out with a richer glow,
As it mirrored a Form above,
That bent o’er the fire, tho’ unseen by us,
With a look of ineffable love.
Can we think that it pleases His loving heart
To cause us a moment’s pain?
Ah, no! but He saw through the present cross
The bliss of eternal gain.
So He waited there with a watchful eye,
With a love that is strong and sure,
And His gold did not suffer a bit more heat,
Than was needed to make it pure.”

(From Charles E Cowman Devotionals – Streams in the Desert) 

Not of the Extraordinary

“Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside, of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush” (Exod. 3:1,2).

The vision came in the midst of common toil, and that is where the Lord delights to give His revelations. He seeks a man who is on the ordinary road, and the Divine fire leaps out at his feet. The mystic ladder can rise from the market place to Heaven. It can connect the realm of drudgery with the realms of grace.
 
My Father God, help me to expect Thee on the ordinary road. I do not ask for sensational happenings. Commune with me through ordinary work and duty. Be my Companion when I take the common journey. Let the humble life be transfigured by Thy presence.

Some Christians think they must be always up to mounts of extraordinary joy and revelation; this is not after God’s method. Those spiritual visits to high places, and that wonderful intercourse with the unseen world, are not in the promises; the daily life of communion is. And it is enough. We shall have the exceptional revelation if it be right for us.

There were but three disciples allowed to see the transfiguration, and those three entered the gloom of Gethsemane. No one can stay on the mount of privilege. There are duties in the valley. Christ found His life-work, not in the glory, but in the valley and was there truly and fully the Messiah. The value of the vision and glory is but their gift of fitness for work and endurance. –Selected

(From Charles E Cowman Devotionals – Streams in the Desert) 

Delayed

“Know of a surety that thy seed shall be sojourners in a land that is not theirs; . . . they shall afflict them four hundred years; . . . and afterward they shall come out with great substance” (Gen. 15:12-14).

An assured part of God’s pledged blessing to us is delay and suffering. A delay in Abram’s own lifetime that seemed to put God’s pledge beyond fulfillment was followed by seemingly unendurable delay of Abram’s descendants. But it was only a delay: they “came out with great substance.” The pledge was redeemed.

God is going to test me with delays; and with the delays will come suffering, but through it all stands God’s pledge: His new covenant with me in Christ, and His inviolable promise of every lesser blessing that I need. The delay and the suffering are part of the promised blessing; let me praise Him for them today; and let me wait on the Lord and be of good courage and He will strengthen my heart. –C. G. Trumbull

Unanswered yet the prayer your lips have pleaded
In agony of heart these many years?
Does faith begin to fail? Is hope departing?
And think you all in vain those falling tears?
Say not the Father hath not heard your prayer;
You shall have your desire sometime, somewhere.

Unanswered yet? Nay do not say ungranted;
Perhaps your work is not yet wholly done.
The work began when first your prayer was uttered,
And God will finish what He has begun.
If you will keep the incense burning there,
His glory you shall see sometime, somewhere.

Unanswered yet? Faith cannot be unanswered,
Her feet are firmly planted on the Rock;
Amid the wildest storms she stands undaunted,
Nor quails before the loudest thunder shock.
She knows Omnipotence has heard her prayer,
And cries, “It shall be done”–sometime, somewhere.
–Miss Ophelia G. Browning

(From Charles E Cowman Devotionals – Streams in the Desert)

He Refines Them

“God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Gal. 6:14).

They were living to themselves; self with its hopes, and promises and dreams, still had hold of them; but the Lord began to fulfill their prayers. They had asked for contrition, and had surrendered for it to be given them at any cost, and He sent them sorrow; they had asked for purity, and He sent them thrilling anguish; they had asked to be meek, and He had broken their hearts; they had asked to be dead to the world, and He slew all their living hopes; they had asked to be made like unto Him, and He placed them in the furnace, sitting by “as a refiner and purifier of silver,” until they should reflect His image; they had asked to lay hold of His cross, and when He had reached it to them it lacerated their hands.

They had asked they knew not what, nor how, but He had taken them at their word, and granted them all their petitions. They were hardly willing to follow Him so far, or to draw so nigh to Him. They had upon them an awe and fear, as Jacob at Bethel, or Eliphaz in the night visions, or as the apostles when they thought that they had seen a spirit, and knew not that it was Jesus. They could almost pray Him to depart from them, or to hide His awfulness. They found it easier to obey than to suffer, to do than to give up, to bear the cross than to hang upon it. But they cannot go back, for they have come too near the unseen cross, and its virtues have pierced too deeply within them. He is fulfilling to them His promise, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32).

But now at last their turn has come. Before, they had only heard of the mystery, but now they feel it. He has fastened on them His look of love, as He did on Mary and Peter, and they can but choose to follow.

Little by little, from time to time, by flitting gleams, the mystery of His cross shines out upon them. They behold Him lifted up, they gaze on the glory which rays from the wounds of His holy passion; and as they gaze they advance, and are changed into His likeness, and His name shines out through them, for He dwells in them. They live alone with Him above, in unspeakable fellowship; willing to lack what others own (and what they might have had), and to be unlike all, so that they are only like Him.

Such, are they in all ages, “who follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.”

Had they chosen for themselves, or their friends chosen for them, they would have chosen otherwise. They would have been brighter here, but less glorious in His Kingdom. They would have had Lot’s portion, not Abraham’s. If they had halted anywhere–if God had taken off His hand and let them stray back–what would they not have lost? What forfeits in the resurrection? But He stayed them up, even against themselves. Many a time their foot had well nigh slipped; but He in mercy held them up. Now, even in this life, they know that all He did was done well. It was good to suffer here, that they might reign hereafter; to bear the cross below, for they shall wear the crown above; and that not their will but His was done on them and in them. –Anonymous.

(From Charles E Cowman Devotionals – Streams in the Desert)

Satan’s Tools

“Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and, let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1).

There are weights which are not sins in themselves, but which become distractions and stumbling blocks in our Christian progress. One of the worst of these is despondency. The heavy heart is indeed a weight that will surely drag us down in our holiness and usefulness.

The failure of Israel to enter the land of promise began in murmuring, or, as the text in Numbers literally puts it, “as it were murmured.” Just a faint desire to complain and be discontented. This led on until it blossomed and ripened into rebellion and ruin. Let us give ourselves no liberty ever to doubt God or His love and faithfulness to us in everything and forever.

We can set our will against doubt just as we do against any other sin; and as we stand firm and refuse to doubt, the Holy Spirit will come to our aid and give us the faith of God and crown us with victory.

It is very easy to fall into the habit of doubting, fretting, and wondering if God has forsaken us and if after all our hopes are to end in failure. Let us refuse to be discouraged. Let us refuse to be unhappy. Let us “count it all joy” when we cannot feel one emotion of happiness. Let us rejoice by faith, by resolution, by reckoning, and we shall surely find that God will make the reckoning real.–Selected

The devil has two master tricks. One is to get us discouraged; then for a time at least we can be of no service to others, and so are defeated. The other is to make us doubt, thus breaking the faith link by which we are bound to our Father. Lookout! Do not be tricked either way.–G.E.M.

Gladness! I like to cultivate the spirit of gladness! It puts the soul so in tune again, and keeps it in tune, so that Satan is shy of touching it–the chords of the soul become too warm, or too full of heavenly electricity, for his infernal fingers, and he goes off somewhere else! Satan is always very shy of meddling with me when my heart is full of gladness and joy in the Holy Ghost.

My plan is to shun the spirit of sadness as I would Satan; but, alas! I am not always successful. Like the devil himself it meets me on the highway of usefulness, looks me so fully in my face, till my poor soul changes color!

Sadness discolors everything; it leaves all objects charmless; it involves future prospects in darkness; it deprives the soul of all its aspirations, enchains all its powers, and produces a mental paralysis!

An old believer remarked, that cheerfulness in religion makes all its services come off with delight; and that we are never carried forward so swiftly in the ways of duty as when borne on the wings of delight; adding, that Melancholy clips such wings; or, to alter the figure, takes off our chariot wheels in duty, and makes them, like those of the Egyptians, drag heavily.

(From Charles E Cowman – Streams in the Desert)

By Death We Live

“As dying and behold we live” (2 Cor. 6:9).

I had a bed of asters last summer, that reached clear across my garden in the country. Oh, how gaily they bloomed. They were planted late. On the sides were yet fresh blossoming flowers, while the tops had gone to seed. Early frosts came, and I found one day that that long line of radiant beauty was seared, and I said, “Ah! the season is too much for them; they have perished”; and I bade them farewell.
 
I disliked to go and look at the bed, it looked so like a graveyard of flowers. But, four or five weeks ago one of my men called my attention to the fact that along the whole line of that bed there were asters coming up in the greatest abundance; and I looked, and behold, for every plant that I thought the winter had destroyed there were fifty plants that it had planted. What did those frosts and surly winds do?

They caught my flowers, they slew them, they cast them to the ground, they trod with snowy feet upon them, and they said, leaving their work, “This is the end of you.” And the next spring there were for every root, fifty witnesses to rise up and say, “By death we live.”

And as it is in the floral tribe, so it is in God’s kingdom. By death came everlasting life. By crucifixion and the sepulchre came the throne and the palace of the Eternal God. By overthrow came victory.

Do not be afraid to suffer. Do not be afraid to be overthrown.

It is by being cast down and not destroyed; it is by being shaken to pieces, and the pieces torn to shreds, that men become men of might, and that one a host; whereas men that yield to the appearance of things, and go with the world, have their quick blossoming, their momentary prosperity and then their end, which is an end forever.–Beecher

“Measure thy life by loss and not by gain,
Not by the wine drunk, but by the wine poured forth.
For love’s strength standeth in love’s sacrifice,
And he who suffers most has most to give.”

(From Charles E Cowman Devotionals – Streams in the Desert)