To be right with God and to have a constant knowledge of His approval is the desire of every Christian. Many people deep in sin and others honest at heart have a longing to live a righteous life, but they have always found obstacles in their pathway and have been defeated in every attempt.
In the preparation of this volume the author has aimed to refer to such obstacles and hindrances in the lives of others, so that anyone passing through a trial or laboring under a heavy burden or oppression may, by reading these narratives, learn how to find relief.
A lady who was victor over many trials and impositions of the enemy, and who knew that I had been passing through some severe ordeals, said to me, “It does me good, and is a source of great encouragement, even to know that you and others who are supposed to be strong in faith have trials and severe testings occasionally.” It is hoped that the trials and the victories mentioned herein will be not only a source of encouragement to others but such an inspiration to their faith that they will be enabled to understand and do the will of God.
This book is a compilation of experiences from people in various parts of the world who have written by special request of the author. The fact that they were written by people in China, India, Australia, Egypt, West Indies, and other countries, is evidence that although the environment and circumstances may differ, yet God is everywhere the same to fulfill the promises given in His Word, in all countries and among the people of every nation. Although the names and addresses are not given, the experiences are genuine, and the author will take pleasure in furnishing information concerning any of them.
The “Experience a Hundred Years Ago” was taken from an old book that in my early childhood days I often saw my mother read. The book was old and worn long before I was born, and I have only a few pages as a relic of early remembrances. It was entitled The Riches of Grace.
No doubt the title of this old book, together with a knowledge of the comfort and consolation that my mother received from reading the many Christian experiences it contained, contributed to my inspiration in presenting these pages for the benefit of others.
I hereby acknowledge my indebtedness and heartfelt thanks to those who have so kindly contributed to this compilation of experiences, and I trust that every burdened soul that reads these experiences may take courage and may henceforth abound in the riches of the grace of God.
Yours for a victorious life,
E. E. Byrum
Anderson, Indiana, January 16, 1918
The Joy and Blessings of a Christian Life
The pathway of life has its shadows and sunshine, its pleasures and sorrows; and in the Christian life, I am convinced, many people live in the shadow more than in the sunshine, when they could very well have it otherwise.
When I was about thirteen years of age, I yielded myself to the Lord and made a decision to spend my life in His service. Since that time, like Christian in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, I have met with many and varied experiences. But one beautiful and encouraging thought has been that, no matter how hard my trials, how near my strength was gone, nor how close my courage came to failing, just at that time, when I was the most helpless, God was always present to help, either by His Spirit or by sending one of His servants to encourage and strengthen me.
I have, indeed, found the Christian life to be a warfare. Every individual who enlists in the service of the Lord will have the forces of evil to battle against, but God has made provision whereby every child of God can be an overcomer in every conflict. The one who has a firm decision to be true at any cost will receive such power and help that Satan cannot prevent him from serving the Lord. The enemy may try to hinder by causing trials, difficulties, and perplexities, and at times the way may seem dark, with no apparent hope of day; but our God, who is mighty, will turn all these seeming hindrances into real blessings and make them stepping-stones to glory.
In my youthful days I felt a deep desire to work for God and longed to fill some place in life where I could feel that I not only was living a life of salvation, but was really engaged in my Master’s service. As I knelt in earnest prayer and consecrated myself fully to the Lord for Him to direct me as seemed best, a dark sorrow filled my heart; for Satan whispered, “You are too young. You cannot stand against the powers of evil that all young people must meet. Your covenant with the Lord is too great for you to keep.” But with tears I cried unto the Lord to know if these suggestions were true. At that moment the Lord gave me the assurance that if I decided to serve Him He would teach me how to do so. He would give me grace in every time of need.
Sometime after this I became very ill and knew that unless God came to my aid I should soon have to leave this world. As I thought of my condition, a joy filled my soul that I might soon be with the Lord. With this joy came also a sadness, as I realized that I had done nothing in the vineyard of the Lord. It seemed that I could not bear to go empty-handed. I prayed God to spare my life that I might work for Him. He graciously and instantly touched my body with His healing power, and in a few days I was able to attend school. Once I was about to make a decision and take a step that would have hindered me from filling the place the Lord designed I should fill. At that moment the Lord made known to me by His Holy Spirit in such a way that I could not question His leadings that He had called me to His service, and also made known to me the place that I was chosen to fill. Immediately I was reminded of my covenant with the Lord, although I had to stand against the pleadings and earnest entreaties of some of my very dear friends.
Before this I had decided not to leave my mother, but to work near my home so that I could readily respond in case of sickness. After considerable meditation about the matter of leaving my father and mother, brothers and sisters, in order to take up my work for the Lord, the matter became very serious. Finally I went to the Lord one morning in earnest prayer. I shall never forget that season of prayer, when I seemed to be in the direct presence of the Lord. My consecration was put to a test as one question after another was presented, as to whether or not I should be willing to die, to really give my life, if God so designed, that my unsaved loved ones might be saved, or to do the same for lost souls who were not dear to me according to the ties of nature. And again, should I be willing to give my life for lost sinners and have them scoff and spurn me? These were hard questions, but my heart said, “Lord, Thy will be done. Where thou leadest I will follow.” I was solemnly impressed with the thought: Jesus came to save a lost world, but they crucified Him; instead of accepting His love, they rejected it.
Within a short time I had the matter settled beyond a doubt that the time had come for me to enter upon the mission whereunto the Lord had called me. The way began to open before me, and as I bid loved ones farewell, a sweet assurance filled my soul that my decision and action was in accordance with His will. It gave me much sorrow to leave home, but God so blessed and directed me that I have never been sorry that I obeyed His voice. Over and over I have proved that God’s way is best. His way may cause pain and sorrow at times, which we may not be able to understand, but in the end we can know of a truth that God has caused all things to work together for our good and for His glory. At one time I was very much tested, and discouragements presented themselves. I was trying hard to be an overcomer and to cast every burden upon the Lord. The enemy would suggest that it was of no use for me to try to stand against the things that were oppressing me and that it would be better to surrender, and even give place to discouragements, and that even if I should come out a conqueror later, no one would ever know anything about it. At first this suggestion seemed plausible, but upon further consideration I said: “No, I will not surrender. If no one else ever knows, I will know, God will know, and the devil will know, that I stood true and came out victorious.” This experience has since that time often been a real encouragement to me.
At another time I had for weeks been passing through real testing times. Occasionally the trials would lift and God would bless my soul, but again the darkness of depressions would settle over me. I began to weary and to long for deliverance. The suggestion came that it would be better for me to cease serving God and never to try again. Over and over something whispered that there was no use to continue; that if others who were older and better qualified fell by the wayside and could not stand, there was positively no use in my trying. Finally the enemy insisted that there was nothing else for me to do than to give up, and that, after all, I was in a deplorable spiritual condition; that there was no hope for me. At this point I discerned that it was the enemy, and, kneeling before God, I promised Him that if He could get more glory out of my life by my being in such a trial all the rest of my days, I was willing to submit to the trial. When I came to this decision my trial vanished suddenly, and God poured the glory into my soul and the victory was far sweeter than the trial had been bitter.
Sometimes I have had trials in which I could see no good nor from which I could not perceive how any good could possibly result; but later I would be enabled to know that those very trials were worth more to me than any treasure this earth could afford.
As I look upon my past life and see how mercifully God has dealt with me, how He has guided and protected, and how He has shielded me from the power of the tempter, my heart cries out, “What a mighty God! What a great and loving Father!” Counting my blessings, I find they so far outnumber my trials that it brings me real courage to press on, knowing that, as I do, grace will be given me to meet whatever may yet lie in my pathway. For “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”* (I Corinthians 10:13)
Experiences of a Minister
A careworn woman once asked a philosopher how she might obtain relief from and victory over the trials and sorrows of life. He said to her, “Fetch me a cup of salt from some home where sorrow and care has never entered, and I will then tell you the secret of victory.” After a long and weary journey, she returned to him saying that she had given up the search in despair; for in all her travels she found no home entirely free from care and sorrow.
Like this poor woman, I once longed and sought for some state or condition in life where I might be free from the cares and perplexities that distressed me, but my search too seemed fruitless. At last, after many disappointments, I found the more excellent way of victory over my trials through simple, trusting faith in Him who notes even the sparrow’s fall.
Before I fully learned this lesson, there were times in my life when it seemed I was on the verge of despair, so severe were my trials. As I now look back to those scenes and experiences, there come to my mind the pathetic lines from Longfellow’s poem “The Bridge”:
For my heart was hot and restless,
And my life was full of care,
And the burden laid upon me
Seemed greater than I could bear.
But now it has fallen from me,
It is buried in the sea;
And only the sorrow of others
Throws its shadow over me.
And I think how many thousands
Of care-encumbered men,
Each bearing his burden of sorrow,
Have crossed the bridge since then.
For the sake of the many thousands who are still trying to bear their own burdens, I send forth the following account of some of my life’s experiences. I trust the Lord may use it to help some on their way to the feet of Him who said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”* (Matthew 11:28)
There are doubtless thousands whose sins have been forgiven, but who have not yet learned by actual experience the precious privilege expressed in these words: “Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you.”* (I Peter 5:7) An old lady was once trudging along a hot and dusty highway carrying a heavy basket. She was soon overtaken by a kind man, who invited her to take a seat in the rear of his carriage. After some time had passed, he looked back to see how his passenger was getting along, when he was astonished to see her holding that heavy basket on her lap.
“Grandma,” said he, “there is plenty of room; why do you not set your basket down?”
“Oh,” she replied, “you are so kind to take me in that I thought I would make the load as light as possible for your horses, so I concluded to carry the basket myself.”
We may smile at her reply, yet many who have trusted the Lord to forgive their sins, are nevertheless trying still to carry their own burdens.
In early childhood I was taught to pray and to reverence God’s Word. I was deeply impressed with the truths that I learned at Sunday school. Even as a child I loved the preaching service, and the Word of God made a strong and lasting impression upon my mind.
When I was about ten years old, a revival was held in my home community. At an afternoon service, held especially for the children, I responded to the altar call, and there I was completely broken up, the tears running in profusion down my face.
My dear mother knelt by my side. “My boy,” she said, “if you should desire anything good that I could bestow upon you, would you ask me for it?”
I promptly replied that I would.
“Then,” she continued, “would you believe that your request would be granted?”
Again I answered in the affirmative.
“That is the way to receive God’s blessings,” she said. “Now, when you ask the Lord to forgive your sins, believe that He hears and answers your prayer.” In simple, childlike faith I believed the promise, and the peace of God gently flooded my soul. One of the most prominent features of my childhood experience was the peculiar love I felt for everyone. I longed to see my companions saved.
Soon after my conversion and before that special series of meetings closed, I heard the pastor relate the experience of a certain boy who had sought and found the Lord. He said that after a period of earnest seeking, all the darkness was instantly dispelled and the boy was wonderfully saved. Judging from this vivid description, I decided that the boy must have witnessed some sudden manifestation of light. Immediately I began to doubt my experience. I was still more disturbed when I saw older persons struggling night after night at the altar and then finally experiencing some powerful emotions which seemed to be far more wonderful than anything that I had experienced.
Sometimes I wished that I too might go to the altar again and pray and struggle until some wonderful demonstration should be given to me; but I was naturally backward and timid, and could scarcely make up my mind to go through such an ordeal of struggling as I had witnessed in some of more mature years.
Although at times I was greatly distressed, yet often when I was in secret prayer, my heart was greatly comforted and I experienced seasons of quiet, peaceful blessings. I noticed, too, that some who had wonderful outward demonstrations at the time they were converted, did not hold out very long, but soon drifted back into sin, while in my own heart the desire still remained to be true to the Lord.
I did not, however, enjoy constant victory. At times I gave way to ill-temper or selfish motives. My conscience being tender, I often felt instant condemnation after yielding to these things, and then I would pour out my heart in secret prayer for forgiveness and for grace and strength to resist the temptation more successfully the next time. I remember, also, occasions when, upon the approach of temptation, I would steal away to the secret place of prayer and ask for strength to keep me sweet in my soul. I could then go forth to meet my trials with the utmost calmness and serenity, and victory then seemed easy.
Although I had a Christian home, yet sorrows and trials came into my young life, very painful ones at times. How often I would seek the place of prayer and there in simple, childlike faith unburden my heart to the Lord. Whenever I called upon Him, He always gave me relief and never failed to provide a way of escape from every temptation and difficulty.
“In seasons of distress and grief,
My soul has often found relief,
And oft escaped the tempter’s snare,
By thy return, sweet hour of prayer!”*
Although I had never received any definite teaching on the subject of divine healing, yet almost intuitively, it seems, I would call upon the Lord for help when afflicted, and would receive the needed help. Several times my mother seemed to be at the point of death. With troubled heart, I sought the place of prayer to tell the Lord all about it. My heart was comforted, my prayers were answered, and Mother was spared.
Call to the Ministry
Even in childhood I learned to pray and to testify in public. At first these things were very hard for me, owing to my timid disposition. However, I was always blessed in the effort. The impression came to me early in life that someday I should preach the gospel; in fact, I would occasionally find myself mentally addressing an imaginary audience. Many of my acquaintances also were impressed that the ministry would be my lifework.
As time went on, formality again found its way into our meetings, and I also imbibed its spirit. My conscience was no longer as tender as it had been, and I actually indulged in things that were sinful. Still I kept up my profession, attended the services, testified and prayed in public, and was generally counted a good Christian.
At last a humble man of God became our pastor. Without fear, and yet in gentleness and meekness, he preached the Word of God as far as he had light. As I sat under his preaching, the truth went straight to my heart, and I began to see my lack. The revival meeting had now begun, and I saw that I must either serve God in earnest, obeying Him in all things, or quit professing.
One night after services, while on the way to my room, I resolved to get where the Lord would have me to be even if I should have to pray all night. I began; but the more I prayed the worse I felt. I was shown one thing after another that I should have to give up or make right if I would enjoy God’s favor. About the midnight hour, I had said the last yes to God, and then came the test of faith. That very evening I had heard the minister instructing seekers to give up all sin, to ask God’s forgiveness, and then to believe His promise that He forgives and saves, whether any change was noticed in the feelings or not; and although I had always longed for the great emotions I thought others had experienced, yet in the absence of any particular feeling, I was willing to believe God’s promise.
When I first began to pray, I was conscious of a great deal of fear, which deepened until it seemed I was almost in despair; but as I yielded my will to God’s will, all fears subsided, and just before I grasped the promise, I was void of any particular emotion. It seemed to please the Lord to take this plan to teach me that, after all, salvation does not come by feeling. Then calmly and quietly I laid hold upon the promise, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”* (I John 1:9) I said to the Lord, “Now I am willing to forsake all sin and do all Thou wouldst have me to do; and although I do not feel any great change, yet I believe that, according to Thy Word, Thou dost save me now.” Quietly but earnestly I said from the depths of my heart, “Jesus saves me now.” In a short time the peace of God gently flooded my soul, and I knew that my sins were forgiven.
After spending sometime in peaceful communion with God, I went to sleep, knowing beyond a doubt that if I should never awaken, my spirit would immediately take its flight to the realms of the blest. In my gratitude, the tears streamed down my face, and I wondered how I had ever been content to live at such a distance from God as I had lived during the past few years.
Conflict with Doubts
When I awoke the next morning, the peace of God was still in my soul; but Satan faintly whispered, “Perhaps, after all, you were mistaken last night; you may not have a genuine experience of salvation.” He suggested also, “You do not feel quite so joyful as you did.” In spite of all this, I knew that a great change had taken place in me. Some whom I had previously hated, I now most tenderly loved. Life had a new charm for me, and I remarked to my mother that it seemed that I had just begun to live. So in spite of all the doubts suggested by the evil one, I testified publicly how God had most wonderfully blessed me. While testifying, I was blessed again. Feelings
I now turned my attention toward my feelings and decided that the normal experience of the Christian was to be happy and joyful constantly. My joy soon settled down into a deep, calm peace. Soon the enemy began to suggest, “Where is your joy? You must be losing out.” At these times I tried to stir my emotions again by meditation and earnest prayer. However, I was not always successful; and often great distress settled over my spirit. Sometimes I would almost decide that I must be unsaved, although I also had victory over the sins that formerly held me in bondage, and my supreme desire was to do God’s will in all things. Yet my feelings were so variable that perhaps one day I would feel glad and joyful and would conclude that I was truly saved. At such times I would decide never to doubt my experience again; then probably the next day, if not the very same day, my feelings would change, and the old doubts would come back again.
I was also surprised in another respect. The old temptations that had seemingly left me never to return, as I had hoped, came back with renewed force. By earnest prayer, however, I obtained complete deliverance. This taught me the necessity of watching and praying.
After sometime I received light on the subject of restitution. Although I had never committed any grave or serious wrongs against anyone, yet I needed to confess some things and to make proper restitution to certain individuals. This was very humbling to me, as I was generally considered a good boy and a model young man in the community where I was born and reared and where I still resided at the time of my restoration to the favor of God. In fact, many seemed to believe that I was a pretty good Christian at the very time I was in my backslidden condition. It, therefore, took a great deal of grace to humble myself sufficiently to make these wrongs right. However, I was always blessed in making the required restitution.
Restitution Going to Extremes
At first Satan tried to keep me from making any restitution. Then, after I had started, and he saw he could not prevent me, he pushed me to the other extreme. One little neglect or forgetfulness after another came to mind until it seemed to me there would be no end of making reparation. These little shortcomings were so trivial in their nature that, as I now review them, I am convinced that they were either no wrongs at all or else merely mistakes resulting from a lack of wisdom or knowledge, and that they had been readily overlooked at the time or soon forgotten by all parties concerned until my own mind began to search for them.
The following will suffice as a fair sample: I had by oversight forgotten to return a borrowed lead pencil, which had been about three-fourths used up. Months afterwards I happened to think of it, and I became so worried and accused that I finally attempted restitution, as I had already done in perhaps dozens of other just such trivial instances.
I was also driven to the consideration of my past conduct in the light of my present experience. I then made apologies one after another for my past failures. In some instances this was perfectly proper; but again I was driven to such extremes that I scarcely had any peace. The natural result was that I watched every word and act so carefully that often I was afraid to smile, for fear I might laugh at the wrong time. I was so busy watching myself that I did not get much enjoyment out of my religious experience. Indeed, the standard I set for myself was so rigid that I speedily came into bondage. I was unhappy myself and made others unhappy about me. However, I had no intention of going back into sin.
I took a great interest in reading religious books and papers. Although doubtless the motives of those who wrote these were high and noble, and their sole aim and purpose was to further the interests of God’s kingdom on earth, yet some of these productions were written in such a manner as to cause a conscientious soul to feel that it is almost impossible for an ordinary person to reach a standard of experience and life such as they set up. My natural tendency, however, impelled me to try in my weak way to pattern after the most rigid examples. I noticed that some of the characters mentioned were given to much fasting and to abstinence from all except the very plainest of foods. My tendency toward extremes again asserted itself, and sometimes I felt condemned for enjoying even a wholesome meal. I remember one occasion when I worried because I had indulged in eating a reasonable amount of meat which was pleasing to my taste.
The last year I was in school these morbid tendencies reached their climax. I had read of devoted men in the ministry who had labored so zealously that they allowed themselves only six hours sleep. Besides their daily tasks, which were enormous, some of these men had spent as long as two hours each day in private devotions. I tried to force myself to this rigid routine, besides keeping up with my classes in the university. Almost every night religious services were held either in the chapel or in some cottage. On Sunday there were four and sometimes five services. Of course, I felt duty bound to attend all of these, besides keeping up daily my two hours of private devotions. Sometimes I was obliged to lose a part of the six hours allotted for sleep, in order to carry out this rigid program I had set for myself. Not only did I suffer from exhaustion induced by the constant and heavy strain; but if I happened to fail in spending the full two hours in prayer or in reading the Scriptures, I would sometimes be so terribly accused that I would resort to a public confession of my “neglect,” and once I went to the public altar under accusation that was largely due to this very cause.
I had heard a great deal, also, concerning our obligation to do personal work and threw myself into this phase of Christian activity. Of course, I soon went to extremes. If I happened to be in the company of someone for a short time and failed to speak to him about his soul’s welfare, I was likely to be dreadfully accused for gross neglect of duty. Under such circumstances it was hard for me to testify, because the accuser could always find some “neglect” or “oversight” with which to trouble me. On the other hand, I was afraid not to testify lest I should soon be hopelessly backslidden if I neglected this duty. So I finally drifted into the habit of silently asking God’s forgiveness for any possible “neglect” in any way, just before rising to testify, so as to make sure that I was in a proper condition to witness for the Lord. All this was exceedingly wearing on my whole being.
A Morbid Conscience
At last my conscience became so morbid that every sermon I heard and every religious book or tract I read was at once compared with my experience to see if I lacked in even the lightest details. I happened to read of one devoted man who literally gave all his possessions to the Lord’s work. Immediately I thought of the small amount of money that I had with which to pay my winter’s tuition in the university. It was not quite enough to pay all my expenses, and yet when I would decide that I could not give my “all” to the Lord’s work, terrible accusations would crush me down until it seemed that my reason itself would become unbalanced. In my despair, I opened up my heart to a trusted friend, and he showed me that this was clearly an accusation from Satan and should be entirely ignored. All these things told sadly on my mental and physical condition, so that when the school year ended and I returned home to my friends, they were very much disappointed in me. Finally they became alarmed at my morbid condition.
Satan at last overdid himself; and by the help of kind friends, I discerned his devices and the extremes to which I had been driven. Once the following lines were quoted to me: “If you want to be miserab1e, look within; if you want to be distracted, look around; but if you want to be happy, look to Jesus.” These I shall never forget. A friend also pointed out the fact that I was constantly feeling my spiritual pulse. He said that this was just as detrimental to my spiritual condition as the constant counting of heartbeats would be to my physical health. Just as a patient would be likely to imagine himself afflicted with heart trouble, so the same habit in the spiritual realm would, if continually indulged, prove disastrous to constant peace and victory. It took sometime to throw off entirely the “straight jacket” which had been imposed upon me; but by patient persistence, with God’s grace, I was made an overcomer. I was taught to discern the difference between accusations and the workings of the Spirit of God. The voice of the accuser is harsh, cruel, nagging, or exacting; God’s Spirit is mild, gentle, and encouraging. When God’s Spirit reveals anything, it is made clear and plain. The accuser bewilders, confuses, and discourages. I also learned that our kind heavenly Father is not watching for an opportunity to cast us off, but rather He is seeking by the wooings of His gentle Spirit to lead us into green pastures and beside the still waters, where we may nourish our souls and become strong to meet the battles and trials of life. He will show us our shortcomings, but not in a way that will discourage or crush us.
Oftentimes while I was under such crushing accusations, the tempter would say, “How can you ever hope to preach the gospel, when you are so unsettled in your own experience?”
One day there came to my mind the scripture which says that He “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.”* (Ephesians 3:20) I decided that in some way God would work out His purpose concerning my life if I would patiently serve Him to the best of my knowledge and ability.
Inherited Disposition to Worry
Another lesson I needed to learn was to trust God with the future. I was naturally inclined to worry. For several generations back my ancestors on one side of my family tree had been given to excessive worry, their condition at times bordering on utter despondency. I was painfully conscious of this inheritance in my constitutional makeup. In my morbid imagination, nearly every threatening trouble was magnified to the proportion of a dreadful disaster. Many an hour, and even days, I wasted in useless worry. Perhaps not one tenth of my gloomy forebodings ever materialized.
Facing a Nervous Collapse
In order to teach me more thoroughly the lesson of trust, the Lord permitted me to pass through a peculiar and severe trial. As I looked forward to the time when I hoped to take up the active work of the ministry, I had a great desire to be at my best in every way. I had hoped to be in good health so that I might be able to bear the strain of the work and to meet every emergency that might arise. But just as I was about ready to enter upon my life’s mission, I found my health breaking and myself on the verge of a nervous breakdown. This was indeed a keen disappointment to me. My sufferings at times seemed almost intolerable. I could not understand it: I longed so much to be of real service to God and to accomplish what I regarded as my lifework—the ministry.
Although the prospects seemed gloomy and my friends expected a complete breakdown in my health, yet I determined to go forward in the name of the Lord and to do the best I could. I even began to fear that my reason would be dethroned. However, I said nothing about my condition to my congregation, but sought to be a blessing to them in every way. I finally tried to form the habit of beginning each day with a season of thanksgiving for all the blessings I could think of. This proved to be very helpful.
Relieved by Helping Others
Some days were more trying than others. While passing through the severest tests I learned that it was very helpful to look for some other tried or tempted ones and do my best to cheer and comfort them. Just a few doors from where I roomed was a lady past middle age, who had been a sufferer for eleven years. She had been helpless during the greater part of that time. I went to see her often and did what I could to lighten her burdens. She knew nothing of my sufferings, however. She was so grateful for everything I did for her, and the Lord’s presence was so real every time I talked or prayed with her that invariably I was abundantly helped in the very efforts put forth to cheer and comfort her. Sometimes my heart carried an almost intolerable burden; but after a call in this home of affliction, my burden would grow light and I would sometimes wonder which had been helped the more, she or I. Also, when I considered what she had endured for so long, I was ashamed to tolerate anything like discontent concerning my own lot, which, though seemingly so hard at times, was so much better and easier, in some respects at least, than hers. There were times when, to add to my sufferings, Satan would bring against me accusations that I could not have borne without special help from God. Often the old temptations to doubt my experience of salvation would return with tremendous force, and if I had listened to the enemy’s suggestions, I should have cast aside my experience in spite of all that God had ever done for me.
The accuser would sometimes begin by suggesting that I had never been truly sanctified. (I obtained the experience of entire sanctification soon after entering the work of the ministry.) Then the enemy would become more bold and would suggest, “You know that you have often had serious doubts concerning your experience of justification, and after all, perhaps you have never been truly converted.” After annoying and distressing me in this, Satan would fling at me such taunts as these: “You are a pretty example of a minister who is supposed to be truly called and qualified of God to preach His Word.” Many times I would have a conflict like this just before rising to preach. If I had given way to feelings, I would rather have sought some place of quiet seclusion than to have faced the waiting congregation before me. But then the thought would come, “Perhaps in the congregation there are tempted and tried souls who need special help”; and so I would decide to preach, not according to how I felt, but according to actual knowledge of God’s Word, which is ever unchanging. It seemed that whenever I was most severely tried in this manner, I would get the greatest victory and blessing by moving out in the performance of whatever duty confronted me. Indeed, I do not remember a single instance when I failed to preach at the appointed hour on account of the state of my feelings.
I sometimes wondered why the conflict was so long, for I suffered thus month after month. Sometimes I comforted myself with the thought that someday death would bring relief; but I learned at last that God was only permitting these sufferings in order to refine the gold. My best and most helpful sermons were preached while I was in the very midst of the deepest suffering.
At last I came to realize that it mattered not so much, after all, how much I suffered, just so the people whom I served were helped and blessed; that true blessedness in life does not consist in freedom from suffering, but in accomplishing one’s mission in the world according to the divine plan.
Christ More Real
Some of my most precious seasons of fellowship with Christ were experienced, when, in the absence of all feeling, except that of severe suffering, I would say by faith alone, “Thou, O Christ, art by my side. Thou wilt never leave me nor forsake me.” At last I accustomed myself to believe His presence was real in spite of my feelings, so that by faith I could almost imagine Him at my side. As I walked, it seemed that we kept step together; as I faced my congregations, He stood by my side, unseen of course by physical eyes, but under such circumstances the natural eyes cannot be compared with the spiritual sight for clearness of vision. I then learned what Paul meant to express when he said, “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”* (II Corinthians 4:18) “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”* (I Peter 1:8)
Some Lessons Learned
Thus my trials and hardships taught me that a genuine experience of salvation is obtained, as well as maintained, not by working up some great feeling or emotion, but by simple, trusting faith in God, and implicit obedience to His Word.
I found that our God is a loving Father and not a hard taskmaster. “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.”* (Psalm 103:13) Neither does He require us to do anything that is unreasonable. “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”* (Romans 12:1)
I also learned that the true test of our Christian experience is not the state of our feelings, but the power to resist temptation, to keep sweet under severe trials, and to manifest the meek and gentle spirit of the Master. I learned, moreover, that the Lord is not anxious to cast us off for every little failure, but is longsuffering and patient with us as long as we have a sincere aim and purpose to please Him in all things. I learned more fully the secret of “Casting all [my] care upon him,”* (I Peter 5:7) knowing that “all things work together for good to them that love God.”* (Romans 8:28)
The last few years of my life have been marked by great victory in my experience. The former trials through which I passed have increased my usefulness by helping me to be more unselfish. I wondered at the time why God permitted such trials and sufferings; but now as I look back upon the past, I see that I could not afford to be without the discipline and training which those severe trials brought to me. In my work as a pastor I am all the more qualified to sympathize with and to help those who are meeting with similar trials and difficulties. As I remember my own conflicts and trials, I can be more charitable for others.
As the Lord turned again the captivity of Job and restored to him his former blessings, so He restored my health in due time, together with great victory along every line. Though I still meet with hard trials and perplexing problems, yet I have learned to take them all to Him in simple, trusting faith, fully assured that He will direct in all things. As already explained, my natural tendency was to worry; yet through God’s grace I have been able to meet some of the most perplexing problems with calmness and even in the face of these things to enjoy refreshing sleep, knowing that “he is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.”* (Ephesians 3:20)
I have ceased to long for an experience like that of someone else, knowing that God has given me one that is best for me. Peter and John were both true disciples of our Lord, yet how differently did they manifest outwardly the workings of God’s Spirit within, which is ever the same!
Some years ago I discerned the oneness of God’s people and became fully convinced that the Word of God should be our guide in all things pertaining to our spiritual welfare; that none of it should be omitted or cast aside. Since that time the light has been constantly increasing, and each succeeding year becomes more blessed in His service. I am learning more and more, as Paul expresses it, that “in whatsoever state Jam, therewith to be content.”* (Philippians 4:11) With the past all under the blood, I have no gloomy forebodings concerning the future; “for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”* (II Timothy 1:12)
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