The Man God Uses
It was in the late 80’s a copy of this was given to me. I have read it countless times and handed it out to others time without number.
It is an echo of the soul of every one whose life is defined by “full time ministry”. Not ever point has equal weight in the life of every preacher; but we understand them well for they are familiar friends.
” The Man God Uses ”
“But the Lord said unto him, Go thy Way for he is a chosen vessel untome, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children ofIsrael: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for myname’s sake.” (Acts 9:15-16)
There is no man on the face or the earth who lives such an unusuallife as the man God would see fit to use for His glory and praise. Ifhe is to be God’s messenger, Christ’s shepherd, the Spirit’s vessel,then he of necessity must be an instrument prepared by the hand of Godin any way needed to make it fit. The message he bears is a livingmessage, for it is the life of Christ Himself, Since it is a livingmessage, he proclaims by the Spirit’s power, then he, of necessity,must be made to “live” this message within the confines of his ownexperience. He may soar to the heights of Mt. Zion’s glory today thathe might proclaim that he has seen God’s King on the holy hill of Zion,and tomorrow he might find himself sinking in the depths of despairthat he might learn and reveal to others the sweetest LILY that evergraced the valley of defeat: JESUS! He may meet with Jesus and Moses onthe mount of transfiguration today and tomorrow be laid bleeding anddead in the streets of Jerusalem and made a gazing stock to a Christrejecting world, He may wax bold one moment among the philosophers ofthis world as he eloquently tells the riches of God’s grace and in amoment’s time be found in weakness and in fear and trembling, havingcontemptible speech and looked upon by others as a false apostle. Allthis that God might mold in his soul an unshakable determination topreach Christ and Him crucified.
God tunes his emotions like a fine harpist before each concertthat be might pluck from them the music that thrills the soul and fillshis hearers with joy. It may require a tightening on one, a looseningof others, but when all are under the skilled hand of the Master, eachone brings forth its hidden message. He is lifted to some height oftruth to be smashed on the rocks of unbelief a moment later that he might feel the hopelessness of his hearers and preach to them with a compassionate heart, He is constantly on the forge, and ere the heat ofone battle be passed, the hammer and the tongs begin to fashion a new tool for the glory of God. These experiences try the man of God and often make him a monster of unreasonable proportions. All these violent dealings and his business with God in deep waters tend to turn him without apparent cause to depression and almost unbearable seasons of despondency. His anchor in every storm is the solemn truth that the power of Christ’s resurrection can only be transfused through the fellowship of His sufferings.
That these “things” are the work and will of God cannot be deniedin the words of Romans 8:28. It might do well to remind ourselves ofdear old Elijah, who one day while walking with God, found himselfnearer heaven’s home than earth’s and went on to glory. When he wasmissed by the clergy of his day, they wrote his obituary in the ironic words, “. . . peradventure the Spirit of the Lord hath taken him up, and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley” (II Kings 2:16). Thus had been his earthly portion, and in the end his homegoing in the whirlwind brought him the answers to the unanswerable experiences of his soul, for they were found unto praise, glory and honor, Elijah is gone, but his mantle fluttered to earth, and Elisha wore it for a season and went on to glory. But the rough garment of the wilderness prophet has been handed down from age to age, and yet it is the same. Let the man who would wear it lightly beware, for with the mantle goes the juniper tree experiences, the hatred of all earth’s Jezebels and Ahabs, the indifference of the Obadiahs, and also, bless God, the double portion of Elijah’s spirit! The chariots and horses of fire and the smiting of Jordan’s waters! But let all concerned remember thatwhen the hoary head of the prophet hangs down in defeat, and he weepsunder his juniper tree with a homesickness for Heaven, that none lessthan an angel of God can touch him.
Depression without reason is a monster that cannot be reckonedwith. Were it not for the cakes and cruse of water in a needy time,these vessels of God would succumb in the death grip of thatundefinable…intangible…unexplainable…unspeakable cloud of gloomand mist of darkness, called DEPRESSION. There are, as the angel said,times when the journey is too great for him, and he must sleep untilGod ministers to him and enables him to go on for 40 days and nightsmore in the strength of that ministry.
Our brother Peter warned that we should not think it “strangeconcerning the fiery trial which IS to try you, . . . as though someSTRANGE thing happened unto you.” No, this is nothing strange to whohave gone onto glory before us. This common lot of them all. We cannottake too lightly Paul’s solemn words that he had “trouble” inAsia………that he was “pressed out of measure”…… far “abovestrength”, and that when this tempest had reached its zenith, the greatheart of the man that shook Rome “despaired even of life!” We cannotsoon forget this testimony that while in Macedonia, his flesh had norest. He was troubled on every side, Without were fightings, and withinwere fears. Drink deeply from the cup of his sufferings drawn from the well of experience when he says that he was cast down and in desperate need of encouragement. See Elijah after routing Baal’s prophets,weeping like a child and trembling like a leaf in the fall wind. SeeMoses in his tent, telling God that he can go no further with thisstiff-necked people. Harken to the many witnesses that compass us aboutand see if every man God saw fit to use as a polished shaft in Hisquiver of arrows was not straightened in the press of circumstances toogreat to bear and tempered under the weight of despair. Luther oftenleaped from the mountain peaks of joy into the fathomless depths ofdiscouragement and, I am told, sobbed himself into his last sleep likea frightened child. Some of the means employed in these trying timesmight give us some insight into the burden of them.
“HE LIVES A LONELY LIFE”
“At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me.” (2Tim. 4:16). “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world.”(2Tim. 4:10). “Elijah wept…I, even I only, am left: and theyseek my life to take it” (1 Kings 19:10)
The man God would see fit, by grace, to use for the blessing ofothers and the glory of Himself must be made to stand alone in thepresence of God. Only a man, who has been ALONE in the wilderness forthree and a half years, will ever have what it takes to face an Ahaband a Jezebel. The man God uses to call down fire from Heaven will haveto submit himself to the discipline of loneliness, If a man would havethe revelation of Jesus Christ shown to him, he “must accept theloneliness of Patmos’ Isle. The revelation of the grace of God isalmost always and surely learned in the solitude of Arabia, when eventhe brethren withhold the fellowship of a handshake for 14 years. Aman, who would know God in the burning bush, must suffer rejection atthe hands of the world and brethren alike and retire to the backside ofthe Midian desert to be ALONE with God. He is called upon to leave”all” to follow Jesus. This often requires that he be forced further outside the camp than others that he might challenge the saints to a higher walk He learns to worship, leaning on his staff with a look of apprehension at all who would offer to “support” or strengthen him, lest it turn out to be only another broken reed and it pierce his often-pierced hand. This walk and schooling called “loneliness” brings two results in his life.
(1) When he tries to explain the source of his sorrow in order to findsympathy or relief, he finds that the inner conflicts cannot berevealed to others, lest men count him mad and God be robbed of theglory of being ALL to him. He must suffer with it alone like a firethat burns in the bones that only God can know, understand and quench.This gives him a tendency to sense no human sympathy or understanding.
(2) His burden becomes heavier when, like the Lord Jesus in Gethsemane,in His greatest agony, He looks in vain at sleeping brethren unaware ofHis dear soul’s fear and need. He is often shocked by the apparentindifference of the brethren and returns to unknown agony with a burdenheavier than ever. This often leaves him exposed to the sin of acritical, fault finding heart.
“HE LIVES A BURDENED LIFE”
He carries about in his heart, if he be the Lord’s vessel, a burdennone can share but those who know it firsthand. The great weight ofdivine responsibility makes him cry, “Who is sufficient for thesethings?” He oftentimes would quit his post and flee to a lawfuloccupation for relief and rest but is bound by an inescapable, “Woe isme if I preach not the Gospel.” He groans in his earthly house, beingburdened, and would forsake all and go fishing if it were not for theconstant reminder that there will be a day when he must come drippingwet out of the sea of life to face a heavy-hearted Lord and hear Himsay, “Lovest thou Me?” This burden the man of God tries from time totime to carry for himself He cries, “This people be too much for me.”He would sink beneath its load until he learns that the burden is theLord’s and His burden is light and His yoke is easy. The constant burden to study the Word of God tends to make him weary as the Preacher said in Ecc. 12:12, “Much study is a weariness of the flesh.” The word wearied conveys to us the thought of exhaustion and fatigue. A Demas, who forsakes us…a brother, who must be withstood to the face…a professed brother, who lifts up his heel against us while eatingbread of love and fellowship with us can take from us in a few hourswhat ten years of honest toil with the hands could not.
“HE LIVES IN WEAKNESS”
Then consider that Romans teaches that we all have infirmities, elsewhy would the Spirit of God help us with them? These weaknesses may bephysical fountains of despondency. These bodily weaknesses may gnaw atour reservoir of strength until in our weakness we are driven to Hisstrength. If we really knew the heat of the furnaces in which some menlabor and walk, we would realize anew that GRACE still has her martyrsbeing burned daily as living sacrifices at stakes unseen to men. If wecould see the inner conflict under which men often preach and labor, wewould marvel at the Grace that sustains him and not at the spasmodicdepression that overwhelms’ him. We would glorify God for His manyvictories instead of magnifying his few defeats. The saints sit at thefeet of the man of God as he ministers, and they feast at the spring ofliving waters; and some never know that those refreshing waters were digged from the rock of his own soul.
He is engaged constantly with a hidden struggle that rages betweentwo convictions, (1) That his body is a living sacrifice to God and assuch is the temple of the Holy Spirit and must be cared for as such;(2) That as a living sacrifice, he must spend and be spent…… pouredout on the sacrifice and service of the faith of the saints. He isbadgered by the thought that his Lord’s body was broken for him andthat he can do no less. While conflict rages, and each passing day heis sure he will reconcile these two opposing thoughts, he drives himself at an unnatural pace. He is driven hour by hour with the incessant whiplash of a burden to know more of God’s Word, until sometimes the study becomes a prison and his books iron bands that shackle him to the pillars of responsibility. He forgets, or no one reminds him, that every beast of burden must eventually be turned out to rest and that every field must lie fallow or become fruitless. He forgets that every workman must have a time to sharpen his tools and refresh himself, and often the sweet reasonableness of caring for his body is swallowed by the zeal of the Lord’s house.
“HE SUFFERS FRUSTRATION”
This is such a fountain of discouragement. Suddenly the man of Godsees so much to do . . . so little time to do it in. He may be in sweetfellowship in and with the Word of God and suddenly blazing from itspages comes the message that “Just one life.. ’twill soon be past, justwhat’s done for Christ will last.” He looks upon so much yet undone andsees himself as a grasshopper” in his own eyes. He falls prostrate inhelplessness. He looks upon such a large field (the world) to be plowedand sees how dull his plow point is and how hot the sun and how roughthe plow handle. His little efforts seem so futile and he judgeshimself unfit as he looks back in despair. He hears the Lord God say,”Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet and shew mypeople their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sin. (Isa.58:1). And he puts feeble lips to the trump and too often the trumpgives forth an uncertain sound. All this results in a seething torrentof frustration suddenly released upon his soul, and it requires thepatience of Jesus and the balm in Gilead to restore him to his place ofservice.
“HE IS ATTACKED BY SATAN”
Like Paul at Philippi, as they went to prayer, a demon possessed girldisturbed them, and this satanic interruption had to be dealt withbefore there could be any prayer. Wherever there will be a Job, therewill be a Satan to falsely accuse him and beg God for the chance tobring unusual trials into his life. The man of God daily wrestles withprincipalities and powers and learns early in his ministry to recognizethat unseen struggle in every innocent appearing in his life. (He seesit at work through his own children, other believers, enemies andfriends. Good and bad things alike are scrutinized for the unseenattack and snare of the Devil. But many times, instead of watching and praying, he, like the disciples of old, sleeps, and is overcome and carried off captive. These attacks take their toll on the vessel God uses. He may stand before a murmuring multitude one moment and go to his tent to sob himself to sleep in loneliness. Just when he feels that God has blessed his ministry, and he finds himself preaching to multitudes, the thousands suddenly turn away and reveal that they did not really want the words of Eternal Life, and he turns in disappointment to the twelve that are left and realizes with sinking heart that one of them is a traitor, and sometimes it is more than he can bear for an instant.
He withstands a volley of arrows shot from the bow of an infidelonly to fall mortally wounded by a dart from the mouth of a brother. Heis constantly being accused of one thing or another and the steadydrips of criticism and fault finding falls upon the great rack of hisheart with apparently no success day after day, and then withoutwarning a single drop sends it crashing in upon him.
“WHY DOES GOD ALLOW ‘THESE THINGS’?”
I find three unvarying principles at work in this matter.
(1) God allows Defeat to Follow Victory:
David slew his ten thousands, but the Word of God declares that hewaxed faint in battle. Jacob wrestled all night but leaned on hisstaff the next morning. Elijah prayed fire from heaven and put Satanto flight, and the brook ran red with the false prophets’ blood. Seehim the next day. He is not bragging in his works…see him with hisface to the ground…… hear him as he sobs in humiliation andfear……hear him as he cries for deliverance. It is God’s balance.God’s way of bringing His servants low before Him, humbling them underHis mighty hand that He might exalt them again in due season. Thereseems to be a season for victory and also a sanctified season forapparent defeat. I say “apparent,” for it is only so to the untrainedeye of flesh. Flesh cannot see that the man of God is in the school ofdiscipline and is in the furnace for perfecting…is on the wheel beingmade a new vessel. Only faith can lay hold of that. Read John 16:20-22and see God’s unchanging rule. Sorrow before joy. He must hideHimself that the revelation of Himself will be even more glorious.
(2) Victory is Oftentimes Preceded by a Crushing Defeat:
He is many times made to stand at the borders of Canaan and see himselfas a grasshopper in his own sight and made to tremble in fear, butanother day comes and rightly and properly humbled, he marches on invictory, He looks upon a Ninevah and is ready to flee like Jonah, ifonly a convenient ship would come along and swiftly and quietly takehim to some far away Tarshish. Then he pays the fare in defeat anddiscouragement and is brought back by the whale’s belly in shame andvomited out of his circumstances into the lap of the will of God todeliver a city into His hands.
(3) They are Necessary So That We Bear One Anothers Burdens:
So our brother Peter assures us. Fiery trials… manifold heaviness…great temptations…if NEED be. Yes, praise God, the man God uses musthave a thorn from time to time to keep him from being exalted abovemeasure. You, to whom he ministers, would have a tendency to exalt himabove measure, if God from time to time did not allow you to see that he is also a man of like passions. You are driven to prayer by the frailties of him, whom you supposed to be strong. You feel keenly the need of watching in prayer for your own well being and you fear that if the Shepherd falls, the sheep may also fall from their own steadfastness. These times are needed that we might bear one another’s burdens.
The man of God has the things of Christ revealed to him from timeto time. Paul said the abundance of revelation secured for him aconstant messenger of Satan to buffet him into humbleness. Oh, praiseGod for these messengers of mercy and gems of His grace! These, whospeak the oracles [sic] of God, must be brought to the emptiness of their owndevices. These, who would be vessels of glory, must be broken often onthe wheel of the potter. If a man would be led by the Spirit, he mustof necessity be tempted of the Devil as our Blessed Lord was. He whowould be lifted into the third heavens of revelation, must of necessity be brought to the limitations of his own resources by a thorn in the flesh. He, who would share in any measure the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings, must be brought to the death of the cross in his own heart and life. He, who would watch the sheep of Christ, must share the love of the Shepherd, who said, “I lay down My life for the sheep.” Eventhough there is suffering, it is not worthy to be compared to the glorythat shall be revealed in us. Even though he shares for a moment thefellowship of Jesus’ suffering, it shall be followed by the power ofHis resurrection. Even if he, like Peter, is for a season in greatheaviness and many temptations, it shall be followed by joy unspeakableand full of glory. Even though his world be engulfed in a flood offorty days and nights, there will be a bow in the cloud, and God willremember His covenant, and he shall come to rest on holier ground. Heis more than conqueror through Him, Who loved him. The sweet words ofJesus’ promise purge his sorrows in a holy flood of joy, “Blessed arethey that mourn for they shall be comforted.” (Matt. 5:4)
Hear the conclusion to the whole matter as Paul freely speaks ofhis own ministry: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, thatthe excellency of the power may be of God and not of us. We are pressedclosely on every side, but not cramped; we are unable to find a wayout, but not in utter despair; pursued for the sake of vengeance butnot left in the lurch, smitten down, but not killed; always bearingabout in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus that the life also ofJesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live (live untoGod, that is) are ALWAYS delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake that thelife also of JESUS might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So thendeath worketh in us, but life in you… (2Cor 4:7-12)