Consider These Things
The Ravens and the Lilies
“Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them. How much more are ye better than the fowls?”
Ravens are the active side of our consideration, while lilies are the passive side. Ravens work to supply themselves. They fly here and there. They forage for food. But they don’t plant it, they don’t reap it, and they don’t store it up. But God feeds them. Do we not have the faith of fowls?
“Consider the lilies how they grow; they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”
Lilies, on the other hand, cannot move about. They cannot resist or ward off blows or adversity. They have no part in their planting, no choice of their position, nor control of their progress from bulb to flowering. Yet God gives them a very special, exquisite beauty, a beauty that the wealthiest man who ever lived could not purchase or create.
In these two examples there is an intensive use of the verb “to consider.” It means to perceive clearly what is said; give your utmost attention to the illustration; for in it lies the secret of the spiritual life. In it God communicates to His children a basic principle, an unbelievably simple statement of how to draw close to God; namely, trust Him. First, we begin by trusting Him for earthly things. Are we not better than birds? Of course we are. To ask the question is to beg the answer. At least we are better in our own eyes. But to God? Here begins our instruction in the ways of God. We may be most important in our own eyes, but in God’s eyes He cares for all His created beings equally. Not one sparrow falls to the earth without His knowledge. We live in an ordered universe and sparrows are important in that system. But as an earthly father values all his household, yet makes a distinction between his sons and his hired hands, so the Lord makes this distinction between His sons by faith and all other created beings. He acknowledges a very special relationship that is not true of any other creature, that of Sons.
“Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you,” is a first principle of fellowship with God. The slightest movement of the soul towards the Lord creates a response in Him that sets the energy of the whole world in motion in our behalf. But the drawing nigh cannot be with the lips, as the prophet warned, nor can the heart be withdrawn, for then fear is taught by the precept of men. But the drawing nigh must be with a true heart of full assurance of faith. The first step of faith is to trust God for earthly things. It is the simplest trust of all. It is both the active and passive trust of ravens and lilies. “If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?” Confidence grows as we take these first baby steps, and we then can trust Him for the perfecting work begun in us the day we committed our souls to Him for safekeeping. We can understand how all things are working together for good to those called according to His purpose. This trust grows as we consider the author and finisher of our faith, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the forerunner, the captain, the first fruits of salvation.
How crystal pure is our fellowship then! How deep the streams that flow from the heart of God! “He leadeth me beside still waters; he restoreth my soul.” Even in the dry and thirsty land of this world are hidden these deep, sweet wells of love, and the shepherd of our souls will find and lead us to them. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death (to get to them) I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.”
The Instructions of Paul
“Consider what I say, and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.” (2 Tim 2:7)
But what had the apostle said? Well, first, be strong in grace. Be “en-dynamited.” Be intensely animated by the gift of new life which came by Christ Jesus (“in spiritual blessing that comes through union with Christ.”) As Peter has said, “Ye are a peculiar people (an obtained possession purchased by blood), that ye should show forth the virtues of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light.”
How then do we show forth His virtues? Paul says by personal work. (v. 2). You have heard, and so have many others, how you ought to teach faithful men who shall be able to teach others also; I left you an example, he said. No one can read the second letter to Corinth without exhaustion. The labors of the apostle were soul-wearying. He was beaten, afflicted, hungry, weak from fasting and sorrowing constantly for them, night and day. He exhorted and beseeched them with many tears, working to feed himself and his companions, pleading with them to repent, to purify themselves. He suffered especially from his own people, the Jews, and was stoned, ship-wrecked, robbed, often weary and in pain, cold and naked. But “we are glad, when we are weak, and ye are strong; and this also we wish, even your perfection.” No mother’s heart was ever more tender and self-denying.
How else shall we show forth His virtues? By discipline. If the key to building in others is personal work, then the key to building up our own effectiveness, is discipline. How we loathe the word! Is it because we do not appreciate the prize, or because we are weak in faith and do not rejoice as a strong man to run a race? What Pyrrhic victories we win. Little personal vendettas against disabling sins occupy our time, while the king of self sits on the throne of our life usurping the place of Christ. Oh, deal with the usurper! Arm yourself with like mind and endure hardness that you may assault the very stronghold of the trouble. It will be no easy victory. Every foot of ground will be contested. But “fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life whereunto thou art also called, and hath professed a good profession before many witnesses.”
Just stop and think, Paul says. Can you be a soldier and entangled (literally: implicated) in a pragmatic affair? How can you please a commander who is bent on making war? Will he consider you loyal to him? Indeed, not. He chose you to be a soldier. He wants you to fight, not to plan the attack. He will direct the battle. He will command. He will assume full responsibility for the outcome. But you must be free to obey Him. Therefore, separate yourself and follow me, he says.
There are three requirements for service in the Lord’s army:
1. Devotion — enduring hardness as a good soldier must.
2. Discipline —striving lawfully as a good athlete should.
3. Diligence — hardworking as a farmer, expecting to receive the first fruits.
We object to these requirements for ourselves, but not for an Olympic star, or a virtuoso, or one who excels in any other field except the Christian arena. But they are essentials.
The Example of Elders
“Remember them which have rule over you (who are your guides) consider the end of their conversation.” (Heb 13:7)
Consider how these worthy ones made their exit. Notice how they behaved in the face of death. This is the ultimate test. We may pretend all our lives that God is real and Christ is all, only to die an imposter. Were these our guides dead while they lived, who now are living, yet dead? Did the word they taught us bear fruit in their own lives, so that their end was a glorious consummation of all they believed? That is why the epistles of the beloved Apostle Paul have captivated the mind of men for centuries. He died as he lived, and he lived as he expected to die. It might be said of him that the good that some men do lives after them, for he was of those that “loved not their lives unto death.”
A shepherd was once asked, “Do the sheep always follow the shepherd when he calls?” He replied, “There is only one exception — when they are sick.” How did the elders behave when the sheep were sick? Were they patient and gentle and careful of them? Were they faithful and watchful, willing to spend and be spent? Remember them, then, “whose faith follow.” These are the true guides to follow, for their love is like the Master’s. They are not hirelings.
“And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works” (Heb 10:24).
Here is another intensive use of the verb “to consider.” “Notice this carefully,” the apostle cautions us, “Observe how contary our lives are to this principle. We rather provoke each other to strife and envy and false separation, than to love and good works.”
Do not be like those who “considered not the miracles of the loaves; for their heart was hardened.” But recall the many times He has rescued you from the storms of life, and reach out your own hand to the perishing. Go even beyond this obligation and love the saints. Provoke them to love. Stimulate, excite them to love. Make it a sin for them to refuse you.
Take those steps necessary to prove your love. The indelible outline is given to us in the first letter to the Corinthians (ch. 12). There is no way to improve upon those fifteen points. They are the signs of life in the believer. They are the things love is. Notice the character of a few of them:
1. We are to suffer for the saints and be kind in doing it.
2. Don’t boil over with envy, but deliberately deflate yourself.
3. Love isn’t rude and selfish, insisting on its rights, so follow love’s example in all things.
4. No one denies it is more difficult to bear the irritations of men than to die for them, but take the better part and bear them.
5. Forget how they hurt you and say all manner of evil against you, false. Do it for my sake.
6. Conversely forget their evil and rejoice in the truth.
7. Fear, believe, hope — but endure — don’t give up.
These steps in love’s behalf will make the very stones cry out in the day of judgment. They will even now convince some, and mark everyone for shame who resists.
And provoke them to good works. Remind them of their responsibility. Show them how. Exalt the good works done by other men. The mean spirited person tears down every good work but his own. But avoid this discouraging, useless warfare. God will be their judge. Let them alone. Every man will answer to his own master. If his work be of God we may be found working against God. But rouse all to greater works than these. Provoke them to it.
“Considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Gal. 6:1).
Here is a different word. Now we are to take the role of skeptic. We are to start watching ourselves. We are being warned. Don’t be blind to your own faults. You also were dug from the same pit. You can be tempted, too, you know. That mote in your eye will cause you to stumble if you are not careful. So watch out. On the other hand, don’t spend too much time in introspection. Just enough to get a healthy look at what you are. You are under solemn obligation to take care. Remind yourself how great a debtor you are. There is not one thing you have that you have not received, neither patience, wisdom, health, wealth or prudence. So don’t boast. It precedes destruction. If you have received it, what can you boast of? Take one look at the danger, then flee to the Rock, which is Christ. There in the spirit of meekness, restore the fallen, weep with them. Don’t lord it over them that you were never caught in the same trespass. But tremble and fear, conscious that “there, but for the grace of God, go I.”
Consider Christ Jesus
“Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus” (Heb. 3:1).
Is not this the apogee, the outer limit of the orbit in our considerations? It is here that we begin the swing back to earth because there is no further access to heaven, no way the mind can fathom the heart of God, than to see in His Son the extent of His love towards us. Consider Him, then, as the one sent from God. He left the halls of eternity where praise never ceases day or night, where the angels sing, where all is peace and joy, and celestial music fills the vaults of Heaven of heavens. He left His Father’s side willingly. He was sent. He was not cast upon the earth as a thunderbolt or a sword of light. Not yet. He came as a child to win children. He came to walk purely in the midst of impurity, speak honestly in the midst of a perverse generation, suffer silently for sins he never committed, and at last to be put away for all sin, only to rise again and return to His father who had sent Him.
This Apostle was faithful, as faithful as Moses in his house, but He was greater than Moses, because Moses was only a servant in his house, while Christ was a Son over His own house. God, His Father, was the builder, and anyone knows that the builder is greater than the house he builds. We are the result! We are the house He is building!” Amazing grace, how sweet the sound!” Consideration of Him as the Apostle of our profession leads us to the very throne of Heaven. We are received there as expected guests, royalty returned to their inheritance. A people longed for, sons and daughters by adoption, whom the Spirit Himself groaned for with groans that could not be uttered in speech intelligible to men, as He waited for this very adoption.
As High Priest of our profession we consider Him to be above every priest that ever lived. Higher than Moses, higher than Aaron, higher even than Melchisedec. For consider how great this man Melchisedec was. Melchisedec was a priest before the Law was given that established priesthood! Abraham recognized him as such and gave him a tenth of all that he had. But Christ was better. The oath of God was a sure covenant, but His son was better. The oath was the earnest of our hope, the Son was the guarantor, the full payment. If the oath was sure, the Son was better. Therefore, let us look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
“For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (Heb. 12:3).
The word used this time to consider means to “reckon up” and is used only this once. It is fitting to close these meditations on that note. Let us reckon up. Let us analyze what we have seen in these passages. What is the scripture saying? Well, first, if we acknowledge that all these considerations lead us to higher planes of affection for the Lord Jesus Christ, then the highest of all occupations is to be occupied with Him. But immediately we are led to look at our own failures and we are crushed. The only manner in which we have ever considered ourselves is as neglected orphans, forsaken children, who have by concerted and holy effort raised ourselves from the mud and muck of our own circumstances to a favored position in God’s sight. Then the scriptures turn our eyes to our lack of faith, of zeal, of proper fear, and of the excellencies of Him who saved us, and we are wearied beyond measure. Our hope fails and we are ready to faint. But, no, Christian! Look once more. The Saviour endured as much and for less reason. He had no one to comfort Him. All forsook Him and fled. He stood before the bar of justice, alone, silent in His own behalf. He saved a wretch on the cross when He could not, would not, save Himself. He was mocked, jeered, torn and bleeding, contradicted on every hand. But he endured. He said that you could. He would not leave you orphans and helpless. “Faithful is He that promised, and will do it.” It will not be much longer. The journey is almost over. Heaven is within our grasp.
Dr. Henry Morrison was returning on the same ship as Teddy Roosevelt, who had been on one of his famous African hunting trips. Thousands swarmed the docks in New York to greet the noted hunter, but not a soul was there to welcome Dr. Morrison. “There are none to meet me when I reach home,” he thought, “though I serve a King.” It almost seemed as if the Lord Himself spoke, Dr. Morrison relates and said, “No, Henry, but you are not home yet.”