Joy in Prison

“And Joseph’s master took him, and put him into a prison . . . But Jehovah was with Joseph . . . and that which he did, Jehovah made it to prosper” (Gen. 39:20-23).

When God lets us go to prison because we have been serving Him, and goes there with us, prison is about the most blessed place in the world that we could be in.  Joseph seems to have known that.  He did not sulk and grow discouraged and rebellious because .”everything was against him.”  If he had, the prison-keeper would never have trusted him so.  Joseph does not even seem to have pitied himself.
Let us remember that if self-pity is allowed to set in, that is the end of us–until it is cast utterly from us.  Joseph just turned over everything in joyous trust to God, and so the keeper of the prison turned over everything to Joseph.  Lord Jesus, when the prison doors close in on me, keep me trusting, and keep my joy full and abounding.  Prosper Thy work through me in prison: even there, make me free indeed.–Selected

A little bird I am,
Shut from the fields of air,
And in my cage I sit and sing
To Him who placed me there;
Well pleased a prisoner to be,
Because, my God, it pleaseth Thee.

My cage confines me round,
Abroad I cannot fly,
But though my wing is closely bound,
My soul is at liberty;
For prison walls cannot control
The flight, the freedom of the soul.

I have learnt to love the darkness of sorrow; there you see the brightness of His face.–Madame Guyon

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

Thou Art Near

“What I tell you in the darkness, speak ye in the light.”(Matt. 10:27.)

OUR Lord is constantly taking us into the dark, that He may tell us things. Into the dark of the shadowed home, where bereavement has drawn the blinds; into the dark of the lonely, desolate life, where some infirmity closes us in from the light and stir of life; into the dark of some crushing sorrow and disappointment.

Then He tells us His secrets, great and wonderful, eternal and infinite; He causes the eye which has become dazzled by the glare of earth to behold the heavenly constellations; and the ear to detect the undertones of his voice, which is often drowned amid the tumult of earth’s strident cries.

But such revelations always imply a corresponding responsibility?”that speak ye in the light? that proclaim upon the housetops.”

We are not meant to always linger in the dark, or stay in the closet; presently we shall be summoned to take our place in the rush and storm of life; and when that moment comes, we are to speak and proclaim what we have learned.

This gives a new meaning to suffering, the saddest element in which is often its apparent aimlessness. “How useless I am!” “What am I doing for the betterment of men?” “Wherefore this waste of the precious spikenard of my soul?”

Such are the desperate laments of the sufferer. But God has a purpose in it all. He has withdrawn His child to the higher altitudes of fellowship, that he may hear God speaking face to face, and bear the message to his fellows at the mountain foot.

Were the forty days wasted that Moses spent on the Mount, or the period spent at Horeb by Elijah, or the years spent in Arabia by Paul?

There is no short cut to the life of faith, which is the all-vital condition of a holy and victorious life. We must have periods of lonely meditation and fellowship with God. That our souls should have their mountains of fellowship, their valley of quiet rest beneath the shadow of a great rock, their nights beneath the stars, when darkness has veiled the material and silenced the stir of human like, and has opened the view of the infinite and eternal, is as indispensable as that our bodies should have food.

Thus alone can the sense of God’s presence become the fixed possession of the soul, enabling it to say repeatedly, with the Psalmist, “Thou art near, O God.” — F. B. Meyer.

Perfection of Suffering

“The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me” (Ps. 138:8).

There is a Divine mystery in suffering, a strange and supernatural power in it, which has never been fathomed by the human reason. There never has been known great saintliness of soul which did not pass through great suffering. When the suffering soul reaches a calm sweet carelessness, when it can inwardly smile at its own suffering, and does not even ask God to deliver it from suffering, then it has wrought its blessed ministry; then patience has its perfect work; then the crucifixion begins to weave itself into a crown.
 
It is in this state of the perfection of suffering that the Holy Spirit works many marvelous things in our souls. In such a condition, our whole being lies perfectly still under the hand of God; every faculty of the mind and will and heart are at last subdued; a quietness of eternity settles down into the whole being; the tongue grows still, and has but few words to say; it stops asking God questions; it stops crying, “Why hast thou forsaken me ?”

The imagination stops building air castles, or running off on foolish lines; the reason is tame and gentle; the choices are annihilated; it has no choice in anything but the purpose of God. The affections are weaned from all creatures and all things; it is so dead that nothing can hurt it, nothing can offend it, nothing can hinder it, nothing can get in its way; for, let the circumstances be what they may, it seeks only for God and His will, and it feels assured that God is making everything in the universe, good or bad, past or present, work together for its good.

Oh, the blessedness of being absolutely conquered! of losing our own strength, and wisdom, and plans, and desires, and being where every atom of our nature is like placid Galilee under the omnipotent feet of our Jesus. –Soul Food

The great thing is to suffer without being discouraged. –Fenelon

“The heart that serves, and loves, and clings,
Hears everywhere the rush of angel wings.”

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

Deeper

“Not much earth” (Matt. 13:5).

Shallow!  It would seem from the teaching of this parable that we have something to do with the soil.  The fruitful seed fell into “good and honest hearts.”  I suppose the shallow people are the soil without much earth–those who have no real purpose, are moved by a tender appeal, a good sermon, a pathetic melody, and at first it looks as if they would amount to something; but not much earth–no depth, no deep, honest purpose, no earnest desire to know duty in order to do it.  Let us look after the soil of our hearts.
 
When a Roman soldier was told by his guide that if he insisted on taking a certain journey it would probably be fatal, he answered, “It is necessary for me to go; it is not necessary for me to live.”

This was depth.  When we are convicted something like that we shall come to something.  The shallow nature lives in its impulses, its impressions, its intuitions, its instincts, and very largely its surroundings.  The profound character looks beyond all these, and moves steadily on, sailing past all storms and clouds into the clear sunshine which is always on the other side, and waiting for the afterwards which always brings the reversion of sorrow, seeming defeat and failure.

When God has deepened us, then He can give us His deeper truths, His profoundest secrets, and His mightier trusts.  Lord, lead me into the depths of Thy life and save me from a shallow experience!

On to broader fields of holy vision;
On to loftier heights of faith and love;
Onward, upward, apprehending wholly,
All for which He calls thee from above. –A. B. Simpson

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

Shaped Stones

“I will lay thy stones with fair colors” (Isa. 54:11).

The stones from the wall said, “We come from the mountains far away, from the sides of the craggy hills.  Fire and water have worked on us for ages, but made us only crags.  Human hands have made us into a dwelling where the children of your immortal race are born, and suffer, and rejoice, and find rest and shelter, and learn the lessons set them by our Maker and yours.  But we have passed through much to fit us for this. Gunpowder has rent our very heart; pickaxes have cleaved and broken us, it seemed to us often with out design or meaning, as we lay misshapen stones in the quarry; but gradually we were cut into blocks, and some of us were chiseled with finer instruments to a sharper edge. But we are complete now, and are in our places, and are of service.

You are in the quarry still, and not complete, and therefore to you, as once to us, much is inexplicable.  But you are destined for a higher building, and one day you will be placed in it by hands not human, a living stone in a heavenly temple.

“In the still air the music lies unheard;
In the rough marble beauty hides unseen;
To make the music and the beauty needs
The master’s touch, the sculptor’s chisel keen.

“Great Master, touch us with Thy skillful hands;
Let not the music that is in us die!
Great Sculptor, hew and polish us; nor let,
Hidden and lost, thy form within us lie!”

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

God’s Will

“Thou couldst have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above” (John 19:11).

Nothing that is not God’s will can come into the life of one who trusts and obeys God.  This fact is enough to make our life one of ceaseless thanksgiving and joy.  For “God’s will is the one hopeful, glad, and glorious thing in the world”; and it is working in the omnipotence for us all the time, with nothing to prevent it if we are surrendered and believing.

One who was passing through deep waters of affliction wrote to a friend: “Is it not a glorious thing to know that, no difference how unjust a thing may be, or how absolutely it may seem to be from Satan, by the time it reaches us it is God’s will for us, and will work for good to us?  For all things work together for good to us who love God.  And even of the betrayal, Christ said, “The cup which my Father gave me, shall I not drink it?”  We live charmed lives if we are living in the center of God’s will.  All the attacks that Satan, through others’ sin, can hurl against us are not only powerless to harm us, but are turned into blessings on the way.–H. W. S.

In the center of the circle
Of the Will of God I stand:
There can come no second causes,
All must come from His dear hand.
All is well! for ’tis my Father
Who my life hath planned.

Shall I pass through waves of sorrow?
Then I know it will be best;
Though I cannot tell the reason,
I can trust, and so am blest.
God is Love, and God is faithful,
So in perfect Peace I rest.

With the shade and with the sunshine,
With the joy and with the pain,
Lord, I trust Thee! both are needed,
Each Thy wayward child to train,
Earthly loss, did we but know it,
Often means our heavenly gain.
–I. G. W.

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

Meant to be Used

“Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises” (2 Pet. 1:4).

When a shipwright builds a vessel, does he build it to keep it upon the stocks?  Nay, he builds it for the sea and the storm.  When he was making it, he thought of tempests and hurricanes; if he did not, he was a poor shipbuilder.

When God made thee a believer, He meant to try thee; and when He gave thee promises, and bade thee trust them, He gave such promises as are suitable for times of tempest and tossing.  Dost thou think that God makes shams like some that have made belts for swimming, which were good to exhibit in a shop, but of no use in the sea?

We have all heard of swords which were useless in war; and even of shoes which were made to sell, but were never meant to walk in.  God’s shoes are of iron and brass, and you can walk to Heaven in them without their ever wearing out; and His life-belts, you may swim a thousand Atlantics upon them, and there will be no fear of your sinking.  His Word of promise is meant to be tried and proved.

There is nothing Christ dislikes more than for His people to make a show-thing of Him, and not to use Him.  He loves to be employed by us.  Covenant blessings are not meant to be looked at only, but to be appropriated.  Even our Lord Jesus is given to us for our present use.  Thou dost not make use of Christ as thou oughtest to do.

O man, I beseech you do not treat God’s promises as if they were curiosities for a museum; but use them as every day sources of comfort.  Trust the Lord whenever your time of need comes on.–C. H. Spurgeon

“Go to the deeps of God’s promise,
And claim whatsoever ye will;
The. blessing of God will not fail thee,
His Word He will surely fulfill.”

Now can God say no to something He has promised?

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