by PASTOR OTTO STOCKMAYER
Let me bring before you a word given to the apostle Paul by his Master in a very critical moment of his life. It is in 2 Corinthians 12, where in writing to this Church he goes back to past days in his life, some fourteen years ago, when there was a man so-and-so—it was himself—and that man had received wonderful revelations, and at the same time, or soon afterwards, the Lord gave him a thorn in the flesh (v. 7); the messenger of Satan was permitted to buffet him, that he should not be exalted over much. He did not know at the time wherefore it was necessary, but fourteen years later he rejoiced. He then understood the matter; but knowing not at the time, he besought the Lord thrice that this trial might pass from him, and then came the answer (v. 9): My Lord said unto me, “My grace is sufficient for thee, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
It was not want of obedience and submission on the part of the apostle, but how could this man accept that an angel of Satan should buffet him, an apostle, who knew and had testified (Col. 2) that Jesus Christ, on His cross, had overcome and triumphed over all principalities and powers of darkness, over all messengers of Satan? How could he accept that, denying his own preaching and knowledge? He could not, for his Saviour’s sake. Three times, therefore, he stood before his Lord and said, “Lord, canst Thou do this?” And the Lord, without giving him any explanation, simply told him, “My grace is sufficient for thee.”
There are times in our Christian life in which we have just to do this—accept as children from God things which often seem to be, and are, in contradiction with what appears to-us the teaching of Scripture. We have not to make what some call efforts of faith; we have to wait upon God—we shall never suffer from anything that comes from God. And yet it was a messenger of Satan who had buffeted him; but even that messenger was sent or permitted, as you may take it. The reply to his prayers was, “My grace is sufficient for thee,” and later on, when fourteen years had gone by, little by little the light came, and looking back after new experiences in his missionary life, he saw and understood that with such overwhelming revelations as he had had of God’s glory, he was exposed to self-exaltation, and that the Lord in His grace kept him, though permitting even Satan’s messenger to buffet him.
Oh, let us stand always, and live always, so near to our God, not that He may give us an immediate explanation, for we will gladly wait until He be pleased to lift the veil, but so that in every critical situation, in everything which seems in contradiction with God’s own word, and with God’s own dealings at other times, we may stand by faith in the attitude which pleases Him, until the thing is taken away. Oh, yes; “My grace is sufficient for thee, but for the moment I cannot explain, nor take away this trial.” The Lord is Sovereign in His majesty; He is “a God who hideth Himself,” but in His own time, some years later on, when we have grown up, and look back in new light, we shall see in the light of His wonderful faithfulness, why God had to permit this for our sake, and for His own. “My grace is sufficient for thee.”
I need not to know why my God has led me to-day as He did lead me, but I can go on knowing that God makes no mistakes, that His horizon is wider than mine; and I can bow down and await the moment in which God may be pleased to justify Himself, and to explain His own ways. Meanwhile, His wonderful grace is quite sufficient for me— and for thee, my brother and sister, whatever be the situation. Should you be not yet saved (is it possible that anyone should be sitting in this hall’ day after day, and not know we are saved by grace, through faith, which means that God has taken everything upon Himself from beginning to end) there is only one thing to prevent your being saved—your abominable unbelief and disobedience. It is disobedience not to believe, to go round God’s grace and make no use of it. Grace means just this: that the Lord God undertakes to carry out and carry through, and do from beginning to end, what the law could not do, what human effort could not do—for we could do absolutely nothing in our impotence and inability to approach one step to God. Yet He came near to us, down to our platform, our standpoint, to take our very nature. He did all, all, just that you this very evening may take the grace that is offered. “The grace of God hath appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11), to every kind of man, to all peoples, to every person, whatever his situation of soul or of life—it is equal to all captivity, to all pride, to all lust—equal to triumph over and overcome all hindrances.
Pastor Monod, who has just left us, told you the old, old story—God has done everything which belongs to salvation, to conversion, to piety, to godliness, even to becoming a “partaker of the divine nature.” Nothing is wanting; it is God who has done it. Everything is provided, and there is the Holy Ghost to carry out in your souls everything which Jesus Christ has carried out for you; and yet you, a miserable sinner, are sitting and hearing us, miserable messengers, as if you were to do it, and you forget that behind us there is His own majesty, and that he who rejects the poor, vile messenger, rejects the Lord.
You say, “But my dear German Pastor, you don’t know in what a situation I am.” No, I know not, but I know the words my Lord spoke before He ceased speaking to man. With His eyes toward His heavenly Father, He said, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 6:33). You speak of the difficulties of your surroundings, but you don’t believe what is written in the Word of God; and yet you speak against those people, Ritualists and others, who don’t recognise the authority of the written Word—and you are quite as bad as they are. You have before you the Word of God, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world,” yet you look at the world as a world which has power to stop you, and think that so long as your situation is what it is—in the shop, the office, the army, among worldly men—you cannot trust God.
Oh, trust Him! I have a God who can do impossible things; I have a God who has done impossible things; I have a Lord who has overcome the world, even my Lord and thy Lord. There is a pathway whereby he who looks to the Lord and not to his own things, can pass from prison even as Peter one night went out from between the soldiers, and out from prison. What a wonderful word that is in Titus 2, “The grace of God appeared to all men.”
To do what? Just to bring us into a real position toward this world, which had frightened us, or attracted us, or had dominion over us through fear or lust, and to give us the possibility of denying our ungodliness, and of living soberly, righteously, and godly. When? After death? When you are in another world? No, in this present world as it is to-day, and as you find it this evening, and to-morrow, and next week. I am enabled to live pleasing God, like Enoch, with the testimony that I, even I, may please my God, because I live by grace, leaning upon God, trusting God, no longer seeking strength and good influences in that abominable world of my own, never seeking God in places where there is only evil.
Do take your place, and more of the grace of salvation will appear before you; leave the dead body, quit your false humility, and the life of Christ will unfold before you, and He will carry you through this life in a wonderful way. The grace which brings salvation brings victory; it is salvation to the uttermost, it is grace to be sanctified, grace to live unto God, and no more for your own miserable self, to be true unto God, and true to yourself as a saved one. All this for you if you look up by faith. Don’t look to yourselves to find faith; look up and see the Saviour and thank Him.
There is a second meaning, a second application for the word grace besides that I have referred to. There is a special grace for every special ministry, and every special duty, and every special difficulty, and every impossibility in life—a special grace for special days, as you see clearly in Ephesians 4: 7, “Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ . . .” and then comes the apostle, the pastor, the evangelist, the Bible-woman, anyone who has to do with liberality. For every ministry in the Church (and every saved one is a member of the Church, of the body of Christ) there is a special grace, diversified in its nature according to the diverse ministry.
I have not the grace of George Muller, to build orphan houses, and receive by faith all his orphans; I have not the grace of dear Hudson Taylor, nor the grace of a simple housekeeper, a woman, or girl, to manage her ministry rightly; I have just the grace, the special grace, for the ministry which is committed unto me. There is no member of the body, no saved one introduced by God’s grace into that wonderful, mysterious organism, the body of Christ, who has not received, besides the general grace, a special gift of grace for a special ministry in the body. Every member has his own grace. The grace is this: to live unto Christ and to be at His disposal, caring no more for your own life, every member of your body being equally at the disposal of your will for the service of the body, the service of the Lord’s people, for the glory of the Head.
There is a wonderful passage in the Old Testament in the life of Jonah. It is not quite in your Bibles as it is in our French and German Bibles. We read the wonderful story of Jonah being in that mysterious place, the belly of a fish. The poor prophet had been at last set right. In the night of that mysterious captivity he understood things in their true meaning, and he saw one thing about “lying vanities” (2:8). The prophet had been frightened by the call to preach in such a city as Nineveh, and he fled. Had the Lord called him to preach in a little village it would have been different, but in a great city! Yet he sees it all clearly now.
The Lord had prepared for him a special grace, and he had forsaken his grace. He had been guilty in forgetting this, that our God, the God whom the prophet serves, will never give to a prophet an exceptional task or duty in his ministry without a corresponding equivalent, exceptional measure and gift of grace according to the ministry. It was a grace given to no other man at that time, because no other man had been called to go to Nineveh. When a man is called to a place where no one else is called, he is as sure as he is of his own life, that the Lord who called him has provided a grace absolutely covering and corresponding to everything in the task and in the man.
“My grace!” I had forsaken it, until at last, shut up like the poor prophet, my eyes are opened to see my folly. To be a fleeing prophet—fleeing away from my special ministry—is to regard “lying vanities,” lying impossibilities. Be not frightened. There is special grace for special days—not only for prophets, but for the woman, the wife, the child, the servant, the doorkeeper. There are days in the lives of women as well as men when the difficulties, trials, and sufferings accumulate; but every day has its corresponding grace. When once you have learned to trust your God, when you have trusted for service and for overcoming the world, then you can get on in absolute weakness and nothingness, looking to God just to know if He is sending you to Nineveh, or directing you to visit someone, or to write a letter—no matter what the difficulty, only look to Him, and be sure He cannot send His servant to perform a duty without a corresponding, absolutely corresponding, special grace.
And you are spoiling your life and forsaking your grace if you don’t see this. One day—it may be the day of judgment—you will look back on your life and see all your graces which had been prepared for you, besides the saving grace and the sanctifying grace: all the special graces and gifts and provisions, prepared for special days and years and circumstances, and that you had been afraid and had shrunk back like Jonah. The day will come when your eyes will be opened, when it is too late to trust God, too late, you have missed the opportunity.
I now come to the last grace: it is the grace of the last days, the final grace—for there is in my Bible a third kind of grace, for the time of the end which is the object of hope. Turn with me to 1 Peter I: 13—in the R.V. you have it, “Set your hope perfectly on the grace that is being brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” This first chapter of Peter is a chapter of hope, and here the grace is not only to be brought, but it is coming, it is on the way, it is “being brought,” it is approaching nearer and nearer as the day-star approaches, as the dawn of a new day is breaking in, a new light is pouring on the horizon of the Church. The revelation of Jesus Christ comes nearer and nearer; and just as the sun draws near the horizon before I see it, and the light is clearer, so new light, morning light, new grace such as never before, the grace of the end, is being brought with the revelation of Jesus Christ the coming Lord. We are not waiting for His coming (if we translate the word more literally), we wait for His presence, for His being here. He is coming, we know He is coming; it is close upon sunrise.
You can read in your rooms at four o’clock, even now, but it grows clearer and clearer just before the sun rises. When the moment comes in which Satan can no longer touch our inward life, nor make a break in our life of trust and full surrender, when he can no longer touch the spiritual man, he then attacks the body, because he knows the times and seasons better than we do. If he cannot break down the soul he tries to break down the body, because he sees sanctification threatens to issue in the redemption of the body. Satan knows this and, therefore, he does what he can to break down in an inexplicable way those who are watching for the coming of the Lord, and to whom He shall appear. As there has been grace for the beginning, for service, for sanctification, and for overcoming, and a special grace for the special task, so there is a grace for the end, for the last days. Learn to hope perfectly for new grace, the grace of the full victory that is coming.
PASTOR OTTO STOCKMAYER