George H. Morrison - Devotional Sermons
The Inescapable Elements of Life
Approving ourselves.., in necessities--2Co 6:4
When the apostle speaks about necessities he does not think of necessary things. That is not the sense of the original. There are things, the opposite of luxuries, without which we could not live at all. Such are food and drink, and the air of heaven to breathe, and the refreshing ministry of sleep. But "necessities," in the idiom of the Greek, does not connote such necessary things; it means experiences from which is no escape. It is in such experiences Paul wants to be approved --to show himself a gallant Christian gentleman. He is determined to reveal his faith and joy in the inescapable elements of life. And so, brooding upon the text, one comes to ask the question, what are those things no one can escape from, in the strange and intricate complex of experience?
One thinks first of certain bitter things that reach men in the realm of mind or body. There are sufferings which pass away; there are others out of which is no escape. If a man falls ill of diphtheria or fever, he recovers, in the good providence of God. If he meets with an accident and breaks his arm, that fracture may be perfectly united. But there are other things, in the range of human ills, from which there is no prospect of escape in the long vista of the coming years. There is blindness, lameness, deafness, or congenital deformity of body. There are brains that never can be brilliant and faces that never can be beautiful. There are thorns in the flesh, messengers of Satan, hindering influence and power and service that are going to be present to the end. It is in things like these that Paul is quite determined to show himself an approved minister of God- brave and bright, faithful to his task, free from the slightest trace of jaundiced bitterness. And to do that is a far higher thing than to come untarnished from temporary trial. It is to "come smiling from the world's great snare, uncaught."
Then one's thoughts go winging to temptation, for temptation is one of the "necessities" of life. Separate from each other in a thousand ways, we are all united in temptation. A man may escape the gnawing tooth of poverty or the anguish and the languor of disease. He may escape imprisonment's and stripes and the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune." But no man, be he wise or simple, rich as Croesus or poor as Bartimaeus, ever escapes the onset of temptation. Temptation is a most obsequious servant. It follows a man everywhere --into the church, into the sheltered study, into the sweetest and tenderest relationships. Men fly to the desert to escape temptation only to find that it is there before them, insistent, as in the crowded haunts of men. That is the reason why our Lord was tempted. A Christ untempted is no Christ for me. He might be the Son of God in all His fullness, but He never for me could be the Son of Man. It is in such "necessities," or, in our Western idiom, such inescapable elements of life that the apostle yearns in Christ to play the man. Is there any finer victory than that? To resist the devil when he leaps or creeps on us clad in the most alluring of disguises; to do it not once, but steadily and doggedly, for when the devil comes he always comes again--that is a far higher thing than to pass untouched from temporary trial. It is to stand (as Browning says) pedestalled in triumph.
Another of the "necessities" of life is what our Savior calls the cross. Just as in every lot there is a crook, so in every life there is a cross. You remember how our Lord declared this--"If any man will come after me, let him take up his cross"--not certain men in strange peculiar circumstances, but any man, right to the end of time. From which we gather that in the eyes of Christ the cross was universal in experience, one of the things that nobody escapes. The cross is anything very hard to carry- anything that takes liberty from living--anything that robs the foot of fleetness or silences the music of the heart. And men may be brave and hide the cross away and wreathe it with flowers so that none suspects it, but, says Jesus, it is always there. There are only two things men can do with crosses --they can take them up or they can kick against them. They can merge them in God's plan of life for them, or they can stumble over them towards the glen of weeping. And what could be finer, in the whole range of life, than just to determine as the apostle did to be divinely approved in the cross? To take the cross up every morning and to do it happily for Jesus' sake--never to quarrel with God for its intrusion --never to lose heart nor faith nor love--that fine handling of one of life's "necessities" is indispensable to following Christ and is, through Him, in the compass of us all.
One last "necessity" remains: it is the grim necessity of death. For sooner or later death comes to every man; from the grip of death nobody escapes. Men used to ponder deeply upon death. Philosophy was the preparation for it. Books were written that dealt with holy dying. Preachers preached "as dying men to dying men." Now that has passed--men's thoughts are turned to life--they have abandoned the contemplation of the grave; and yet from death nobody escapes. Death is the last and grimmest of "necessities." "The paths of glory lead but to the grave." Death, like temptation and the cross, is an inescapable element of life. And then the apostle says: "In that last hour, when my eyes close on the familiar faces, God grant me grace to show myself approved." I go to be with Christ which is far better. O death, where is thy sting? The Lord God is merciful and gracious blotting out our transgressions like a cloud. With such a hope, with such a Father-God, with such a Savior on the other shore, the very weakest need not fear to die.
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