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George H. Morrison - Devotional Sermons

Devotional For

December 16

      Contrasted Environments
      I was in the isle that is called Patmos I was in the Spirit--Rev 1:9-10
      The two brief texts which I have chosen suggest the two environments of life, and do so in a very vivid way. For John, the one environment was Patmos, a rugged and inhospitable island where the sound of the breakers was never far away and everything was desolate and dreary. But along with that there was another, unseen and yet intensely vivid, for John says, I was in the Spirit. He was moving in a spiritual world, living in heavenly places with Christ Jesus. He was engirdled by the love of heaven and by all the promises of God. And there is one very delightful little touch that reveals to the discerning heart which was the real environment for John. He does not tell us that he was in Patmos. He says he was in the isle that is called Patmos. He had heard that name upon the lips of others, and he took it upon their authority. But, he adds, I was in the Spirit. He needed no one's authority for that. In this environment he was at home.
      It is instructive to contrast these two environments which have their parallels in every life. We note, for instance, that one of them was visible and the other unseen by any human eye. When John awakened in the morning, we can picture the scene that broke upon his vision--the stem hills, the debris of the mines, the waves washing on the barren shore. It was a desolate and dreary prospect, made more so by the sea, for no Jew ever loved the sea. Had that been all, what a profound depression would have settled down on the apostle's heart! But the beautiful thing is that the moment he awoke he was conscious of another environment than that. And the question for all of us is this, are we alive to that unseen engirdling when we waken to the duties of the day? There are many people who feel a deep depression when the routine morning breaks on them again. They have to drag themselves out: they see nothing before them but drudgery. But what a profound difference it makes when, with the returning of the daylight, we waken to the spiritual environment! Still we are in Patmos. It is by the will of heaven that we are there. I pray not, says the Lord, that Thou wouldst take them out of the world. But the dreariest Patmos becomes bearable when the life is hid with Christ in God. I was in Patmos ... I was in the Spirit.
      Imprisoned and Yet at Liberty
      Again, I note that the one environment was not of the apostle's choosing; the other depended on himself. If John had had the ordering of his ways, he certainly never would have chosen Patmos. He was an old man now--his years were ebbing out--he had reached the period when rest is sweet. He was quietly happy in his home at Ephesus, and there he had the society of Christians. Then suddenly the mighty arm of Rome had gripped him and carried him to exile--and he was in the isle that is called Patmos. A greater power than he had sent him there; it was not the place of his desire. There was no resisting that iron arm of Rome--to it the individual was as nothing. And then in Patmos, his forced dwelling place, John moved freely into another world, for he kept himself within the love of God. He was imprisoned and yet he was at liberty, for where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. In the bitter bondage of his exile, the Son had made him free. The sharp contrast between life's compulsion and the heart that triumphs in the midst of it, is all in these two little sentences, "I was in Patmos...I was in the Spirit."
      For as it was with John, so is it with every one of us: there is an element of necessity in life. We do not choose the country of our birth, nor our parents, nor the homes where we are cradled. We do not choose the schools where we are educated, nor perhaps the particular places where we dwell. But how we live there, in what atmosphere, environed by what unseen presences, all that is within the compass of our will. In Patmos we may be in the Spirit, and the fruit of the Spirit is love and joy and peace. We can have liberty and rest in Patmos, though we be set there by grim necessity. How many dream that life would be far richer if they only had the wings of a dove to flee away! But--"I was in Patmos ... I was in the Spirit."
      Amid Criminals and Yet "In the Spirit"
      I note in closing that in these two environments there was the contrast of loneliness and company. Amid the desperate and hardened criminals incarcerated on this island, John was more lonely than had he been alone. In the one environment he was a solitary: in the other he had a vision of the Lord. He was in living touch with an ascended Savior. He had a Friend who understood. And that made all the difference to him as it makes all the difference to us amid the enforced loneliness of life. Even Patmos became bearable for John when he realized that Christ was there. He would move among these desperadoes as a man who has a satisfying secret. They were in Patmos, and they hated it. There was no other environment for them. Is there another environment for you ?

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