Christ Jesus Sympathises

Francisco_de_Zurbarán_006(Francis Bourdillon)

“We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are” Hebrews4:15
In all our infirmities and troubles of every kind–in pain and sickness, in poverty and need, in anxiety and grief–Jesus has a sympathetic heart for us. Is not this comforting? Does it not cheer us in a time of suffering, when some kind friend comes in and sits down beside us and shows most plainly that though he is unable to help us, he does sincerely feel for us? How much more cheering it is to know that Jesus in Heaven sympathizes with us in all our troubles here below! Does not this thought, this blessed truth–take the edge off the sharpest suffering, and lift us for the time above our sorrows?

Jesus Christ Himself was afflicted when He was on earth. He is called a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. No sorrows were ever equal to His. We know that He was tired and hungry and sad. He was besides, the poorest of the poor–He had nowhere to lay His head. He led what would be called a very hard life.

Our greatest sufferings are light when compared with His. He had some afflictions which we cannot fully understand, as when He prayed in the garden, “If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me!” And as when He cried upon the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me!”

He can sympathize with the poor–because He was poor Himself.
He can sympathize with the sad–because He was a man of sorrows.
He can sympathize with all who suffer–because His own sufferings were so many and so great.

He was tempted; He was tried; He was afflicted; He went through what we have to go through–and much more. In this very world in which we live now–He lived and suffered; and therefore He can and does sympathize with His suffering people.

“He was despised and rejected by men–a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces–He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows–yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace, was upon Him–and by His wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:3-5

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Pruning His Elect

arborist_pruning_statue_of_liberty(Francis Bourdillon)

He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit.” John 15:2A

But the gardener does something to the fruitful branch also: “While every branch that does bear fruit–He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15:2B

He is not content with a little fruit from it–he wants more. So he takes his knife and prunes it–and that not once only, but again and again. Not roughly or hastily–but with great skill and care, that it may bear as much fruit as possible.

Does not this show us the meaning of our afflictions? God is the Gardener of souls. What is He doing when . . .
He sends sore trouble on the Christian,
or lays him on a bed of sickness,
or takes away his comforts,
or removes some who were very dear?
What is the meaning of this? God has taken the pruning-knife in hand, and is pruning the branch that it may bring forth more fruit.

People are sometimes surprised at seeing trouble fall on the godly–and not on the wicked. But this parable explains it quite plainly. The godly man is a fruit-bearing branch; he is joined by faith to Christ, the true Vine, and does already bear fruit. But God, the heavenly Gardener, desires more fruit–and therefore prunes him by means of affliction. 

It may be a sharp pruning knife that He makes use of–and He has sharpened it for the very purpose. But it is not too sharp. In His wise and gracious hands–it will do its work well. The Christian will rise from his sick-bed, or come forth from the house of mourning, all the better for God’s dealing with him–more humble, more spiritually-minded, more sober-minded, more zealous and in earnest. Henceforth the world will be less to him–and his Savior more precious to him.

Cannot every Christian, who has been under God’s pruning-knife–bear witness to the gentle firmness with which it has been used? There is no weakness or wavering in God’s dealings–yet no roughness. There is no lack of decision, no half-work–yet no rashness, no mistake.

The gardener’s hand may make a slip–and he may cut too deep, or cut where he did not mean to cut. Not so with the hand of God. When He takes the knife, He uses it . . .
with perfect firmness,
with unerring wisdom, and
with tender and compassionate love.
He will make no slip.
He will not cut too deep.
He will give no needless pain.
He will take away no comfort that would better have been left.

Sometimes the gardener adds an ointment to the place where the cut has been made–lest the branch should “bleed” too much, as they say.

Just so, God is always ready to apply a healing ointment to the wounds which He makes.
Oh, what comfort He sends in trouble!
Oh, what soothing, heavenly thoughts!
Oh, what a sense of His love!
Oh, what answers to prayer!
Oh, what grace and peace–what thankfulness and love!
These are His precious ointments. This is how He binds up the wounds which He has made.

Do not shrink from your Father’s hand–even though the knife is in it! Trust Him, love Him. He will do all wisely, tenderly, faithfully. Let it be your heart’s desire to abide more closely to Christ, and to bring forth more fruit to the glory of God.

Heaven is Our Home

26000000000361342_1920x1080.jpg(Francis Bourdillon, 1864)

“They admitted that they were strangers and pilgrims on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country–a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them!” Hebrews 11:13-16

Every true citizen of Heaven not only has his home in Heaven, but his heart is there too. Not only does he look forward to dwelling there hereafter–but even now he seeks to be holy and heavenly in life and character. Thus he is known by all that he does and says–to be one who belongs to Heaven, and that more and more, as he gets nearer to his eternal home.

Those who live the life of faith, and love their Savior, and strive to serve God–are different in their whole conduct from men of the world. It is plain that they are not of this world. Their life shows it. Their citizenship is in Heaven.

There ought to be no mistaking a citizen of Heaven. But, alas! There is too much of worldliness and carelessness even in those who are in the narrow way. Too often it would be hard to know them as travelers towards Zion, seeking the heavenly country.

What! Shall those who are to live forever with God–have so little fellowship with Him now? Shall those whose treasure is in Heaven, where no rust nor moth can corrupt–care so much for the perishing things of this world? Shall those for whom Jesus has gone to prepare a place–fret against the little hardships and discomforts along the way? Thus the Christian should often remind himself of the heavenly home to which he belongs. It would help him to be heavenly in heart and life.

“Our citizenship is in Heaven–and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ!” Philippians 3:19-20

We look for Jesus–we expect Him–we are waiting for Him. He said that He would return, and told us to watch for His coming. He has told us to be ready, so that when He comes, we may receive Him with joy.

This is the position of the Christian on earth–waiting for his Lord and Savior!

We do not know when He will come, and we do not know how He will come. He may come while yet we are living–or we may die before His coming; no one knows.

To be thus looking for the coming of the Lord . . .
must have a great effect on a man’s character and life,
must keep him from living in sin or in carelessness,
must make him watchful, diligent, and in earnest,
must tend greatly to a spiritual mind,
must lead him to draw off his affections from the world–and to fix them upon eternal realities!

Thinking of Him,
looking for Him,
wishing for Him,
doing His will,
engaged in His work–
this is what Jesus would have us to do and be.
Lord, make us so more and more!

God Is My Portion

1618398_811263558888447_1935275585_n(Francis Bourdillon, “The Lord Our Portion!” 1864)

“You are my portion, O Lord” Psalm 119:57

“You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” Psalm 142:5

God is a satisfying portion. At least He ought to be. And indeed He is–in proportion as He is enjoyed.

As a grown-up person no longer cares for toys–so a spiritually-minded person does not care for the trifles of the world, as he used to care for them. The world’s pleasures are but toys to him–he has found something better. The Lord is his portion. That is enough. He wants no more.

All that comes to him, he takes as part of his portion–because it is from the hand of God. Be it much or little, be it what he would have chosen or not–it is what God sends, his allotted portion. So he is content–content and thankful and happy; for with all that God gives, He does not withhold . . .
Himself,
the sense of His favor and blessing,
the humble yet firm persuasion of His pardoning mercy,
His love and grace in Christ Jesus.
What portion can the world give like this?

God is a sure portion too. An earthly inheritance, however safe it may seem, may be lost. Earthly joy may quickly be turned into sorrow. Everything earthly may be changed or lost. But the Christian’s portion is a sure one–for God is his portion–and God never changes.

“God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever!” Psalm 73:26

BEHOLD…I Am Vile!

35000000000235714_1920x1080.jpg(Francis Bourdillon, “The Self-abhorrence of Job” 1864)

“Behold, I am vile!” Job 40:4

At the close of his long trial Job said, “I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear–but now my eye sees You! Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:6-7

What did he mean? Probably, that while he had long known God, as having heard of Him, and in a measure believed in and served Him–yet . . .
now he knew Him far more deeply and closely,
now he had experienced God’s personal dealings,
now he had had great searchings of heart,
now he had learned far more of God than ever he knew before.

How many can say the same! How many can think of some time of sore affliction–and see that at that season and by that means, they learned to know God in a way they had never known Him before–more closely, more deeply, more lovingly. Yes, more lovingly. For this is what God is leading His children to by all His dealings–to know His love to them more, and to love Him more in return.

How many inward comforts does He send in the time of trial!
What deep searchings of heart go on in the silence of a sick-room!
How many earnest prayers are sent up thence!
What sweet thoughts of Christ are given–what a sense of pardon, what peace, what love, what a manifestation of Christ to the soul!

These are the gifts of God–the work of His Spirit the Comforter–the blessings of sanctified affliction!

Shall we repine when God’s chastening hand is laid upon us? Ah, no! Rather let us . . .
look well into our own hearts,
and search out the root of self-righteousness,
and humble ourselves before God,
and shelter ourselves more closely under the shadow of His wing.
He is teaching us and blessing us now. And if, under His teaching, we find ourselves distressed by a new and deeper feeling of our sinfulness–yet let us then think that we are but learning Job’s lesson; and let us be led to cast ourselves more earnestly and entirely upon the merits of Christ our Savior, that in Him we may find rest to our souls.

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You might want to read the whole of Bourdillon’s insightful 2 page article “The Self-abhorrence of Job.