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Foundation Truth, Number 17 (Spring 2007) | Timeless Truths Publications

From The Lure of Divine Love, by Kathryn Helm

The Unprecedented in Temptation

We all need, at times, the uplift of another’s faith.

I am waiting by the river,
And my heart hath waited long
Just to hear the joyful summons
And the angels’ welcome song.
Oh, I long to be with Jesus
In the mansions of the blest,
Where the wicked cease from troubling,
And the weary be at rest.

For some years this was my heart song. Like many another, I had expected much from the sources of the earthly; and must learn the lesson, that will come to all, that “earth disappoints full measure”; and what I had called being homesick for heaven was more a desire to escape it all. For I had yet to learn that with responsive joy I could sing

“I’m satisfied with Jesus here,
He’s everything to me,
His dying love has won my heart.”

I did not know that

“There is an abiding place in Jesus
Where the warring sounds of earth cannot annoy.
A rest from every care, in the secret place of prayer,
Where the storms of life cannot our peace destroy.”

It is quite generally accepted that when one is homesick for heaven, it denotes deep spirituality, or at least a preparedness for that holy place; and it is a premonition of the soon home-going. But in looking back with clarified vision, I can see that my longing for heaven was largely a faint-hearted cowardliness, the lack of reconciliation to the circumstance of living in this fallen world, and the lack of courage to accept them as preparatory discipline for usefulness in this life, or the life across the great divide. They are just as a college course is to our youth; and like many a student considering a heavy “course,” I had yet to win my heart’s consent to life’s hard school, and longed to escape. I wanted the benefit, but the “course” looked too heavy.

A blessedly-saved girl once said, “I want an experience just like Sister —— has.” Someone asked the question, “Would you go through what Sister —— has gone through to get the experience?” Experience, so Webster tells us, is “the knowledge gained by trial and repeated trial.”

To a sister, recently I said, “To long for the Lord to take one to heaven because of suffering or seeming uselessness, is not the highest incentive; really, when you think about it, it is utterly unworthy of a child of God. It discloses cowardice and lack of confidence in the wisdom of our Heavenly Father, and I strongly question if one departing with such a self-centered desire in preeminence would see the gates of pearl swing open wide.”

With the dawning of this truth, I saw things differently, and I read in my Bible, “Consider him who endured such contradictions of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.”* (Hebrews 12:3) And the Lord spoke to me as I sang about my work:

“If in thy path some thorns are found,
Oh, think who bore them on His brow.
If grief thy sorrowing heart hath found,
It touched a holier than thou.
Oh, wait; meekly wait, and murmur not,
Oh, wait; oh, wait, and murmur not.”

I began to understand, and settled down to “endure as seeing him who is invisible.”* (Hebrews 11:27) And in answer to my definite, earnest petition, the Lord took the murmur all out of my spirit; and in its place there was reconciliation, a submissive adjustment, a peaceful content to endure and wait and suffer till his appointed time (Hebrews 9:27).

About that time, the following verses (surely sent of God) found full response, for they express the attitude of confiding trust the heart should hold:

“What if a wondrous hand from the blue yonder,
Held out a scroll
On which my life was writ, and I with wonder
Beheld unroll
To a long century’s end its mystic clue,
What should I do?

“What could I do, O blessed Guide and Master!
Other than this—
Still go on as now, not slower, faster,
Nor fear to miss
The road, although so very long it be,
Which led to Thee?

“But step by step, feeling Thee close beside me,
Although unseen;
Through thorns, through flowers, whether the tempest hide Thee,
Or heavens serene—
Assured Thy faithfulness cannot betray,
Thy love decay.”

Beautiful songs of our Zion, replete with Gospel Truth, how they have comforted our hearts! How often have they been to us the voice of God! “Singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord”* (Ephesians 5:19) is one of God’s commands that is a thousand leagues from being “grievous.”* (1 John 5:3) I have literally sung my way through life (Colossians 3:16).

And now my heart was ever singing,
His blessed will, His wisdom’s ways;
’Twas heav’n’s own music sweetly ringing
Through pain-drawn nights and weary days.

This was a real epoch in my life, and after that I began to take on courage, and apprehend something of the value of living on the earth, and God’s far-reaching designs of added years, not only for this present world with its manifold possibilities in the upbuilding of His Kingdom, but also for the world to come. I began at last to appreciate life; although in my case, at this time, it must be, through faith in God and a knowledge of His will, wrested from the grave day after day (Jeremiah 45:5). And thus I have lived on in His glad service, realizing that time, after all, is only an infinitely small part of Eternity, a valuable preparatory “course” demonstrable in our everyday living, which will qualify us for the activities in those higher branches of learning. And those who hold learning in high esteem will greatly rejoice in the fact that we will always be undergraduates with “Our Father.”

In one of those frequent sick spells, when for weeks it seemed soul and body could scarcely hold together, there was a most bewildering temptation adroitly presented, such as I had never before encountered. Satan was “transformed into an angel of light,”* (2 Corinthians 11:14) yea, worse—he even impersonated the Lord, and so hid behind reasonings of possibilities that I knew were there, that I did not detect him. The adversary is a most skillful reasoner (2 Corinthians 10:3-5) and nothing but a constantly increasing knowledge of God, His character, and His ways of working, through the study of “what is written,” can enable us to cast down his imaginations, or reasonings (as it is in the margin). For he would ever have us think of ourselves as if we “walked after the flesh”; or in other words, as if we were depending altogether upon the natural, and forget that the power of the supernatural is operating in our behalf. And though we walk in the flesh (still live in these bodies), we do not depend upon the natural so much as upon Him who created these natural bodies and can rebuild them according to His will (with our cooperation). No, “we do not war after the flesh: [but] the weapons of our warfare are… mighty through God.”* (2 Corinthians 10:3-4) Even colossal strongholds collapse before Him.

The temptation was to the effect that this unusual sick spell was the home call. (And I knew that might be, but I had not so understood it from the Lord, and was looking to Him for recovery.) And he argued that, because I had such a time to consent to live on and suffer, succeeding finally, and had won a heart-willingness to do so, at the present time, just like a swinging pendulum, I had swung out altogether too far the other way, and now, when His appointed time had come, I was unwilling to die. (And this also could be true. We have observed it on many other lines, and I was so shocked that, instead of going to the Lord at once in humble inquiry, I was half stunned with distress and amazement.) And, continued the accuser, what I had been calling the fight of faith, expecting the Lord to give me “my life as a prey”* (Jeremiah 39:18) taken from the jaws of death to glorify Him in my body, because it was His will, was not that at all. It was in open dissent to the will of God, a voluntary choosing of my own. And, concluding his condemnatory argument with a thrust of his sharpest lancet that pierced the very vitals of my being, he said that since the Lord had so graciously worked in me to will and to do, so that I could live on in triumphant suffering, I had become so absorbingly attached to the little bit of work He had condescendingly given me to do for Him that I was unwilling to lay it down and depart to be with Christ, whom I had professed to love with my whole heart. And the indisputable evidence that I loved His work far more than I loved Him, was this obstinate clinging to life, when He was lovingly calling me to Himself.

All this was quite conclusive reasoning as to a possibility, although I had not been conscious of any such dishonoring reflection upon my Lord, or willful, perverted self-assertion; yet I knew enough about the subtleness of Satanic maneuvering to realize, that in my human frailty I could have unconsciously merged into such an attitude, when I would not have deliberately chosen to do so for anything in the world.

It is the unprecedented in temptation that mystifies and perplexes us. And to know that someone else has had a parallel experience is an encouragement to keep on going through our “sulphur bath” and come out on the Christ side, among the overcomers.

Remember, the overcomers “eat of the hidden manna”* (Revelation 2:17) here and now, and have the “white stone” with the “new name” (or nature), the white raiment of holiness (Revelation 19:8), and have full access by faith to the “much more” that God has included with the gift of the morning star (Revelation 2:28; 22:16; Rom. 8:32); and with all this, the future promise of a seat hard by the Throne (Revelation 3:21-22).

We all need, at times, the uplift of another’s faith.

“Thou hast left thy first love.”* (Revelation 2:4) These words full of pathos, strikingly disclose that God’s estimations differ vastly from men’s (Isaiah 55:8-9).

To rob Him of my first love, to allow anything to hold the first place in my affections, to supplant my Lord by even joyful service for Him (as I had seen others do) seemed so dishonoring to my Lord that this was the one thing that I had determined never to be guilty of. (I have seen parents heartbroken over such depreciating exchanges.) And to appreciate the beneficent bestowments of our Lord, or even His benedictions, above Himself, would surely give to that great loving Heart the pangs of unrequited love. And for me to refuse the love-call to His side would be undeniable proof of all the rest. And I suffered, being tempted, as possibly you may be suffering on some line as you read these words.

I was like a ship floundering at sea without compass or rudder, with the North Star obscured by a heavy storm. I knew all this could be true. For to unintentionally allow that traitor from remote ages to introduce gently or artfully, to work something into favor, or obtain access by flattery or stealth, until we leave our first love, is a grave danger constantly facing us all on one line or another. This is one temptation that is very apparent, “common to man,”* (1 Corinthians 10:13) and it requires prayer and watchfulness to escape that insinuative, insidious, pernicious power in operation.

When one has not been fully reconciled to his lot in life, for instance, and has not been careful to live in triumphant ascendency above it continuously, but drops down and yields to the natural longing occasionally for release from hardship, and craves, like the children of Israel (Numbers 11:1-6), some of the comforts, if not the luxuries, of this life, and does not seek that heart-content with such things as he has (Hebrews 13:5), but persists in some self-choosing, he may secure his desire, but with it will come leanness of soul (Psalm 106:14-15). It always shocks me to hear from the lips of a saint a remark denoting drawing back from hardship, for I sense their danger.

I read somewhere, something like this:

Is the wilderness of this life a loathed and soul-wearing pilgrimage, or a grand training ground for God?

Do you say, “Oh, for some work which will satisfy the finer appetites and subtler sympathies of my soul! But this wholly expends my higher faculties; it makes life a waste, and the future a blank.”

Or do you say, “God, my God, has placed me here, because He knows what Eternity means, and what I am to do there; and because of the grandeur of my future, He is not ashamed to make the scene of present discipline so poor and bare. Be my one work here to make the commonplaces and low levels as full of His presence as the Holy of Holies, where His glory dwells.”

Yes, it is an extremely dangerous thing to beat our wings against the protecting bars of the cage of our environments (1 Corinthians 7:20-23). It is only in the attitude of restful content, that faith in the wisdom of God brings, that “he worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.”* (Ephesians 1:11)

One dear woman, to whom the Savior was a glorious reality and His love her satisfying portion all through her earlier years, and as she was raising her family, even when she must be the breadwinner during the long-declining health of her husband, preceding his triumphant departure, later in life married a man of comfortable means, who lavished every kindness upon her, crowned her queen, and he was her willing servant. A great change for her, and she accepted it with a new, lively joy of advantage gained, with the undiscerned exultation of that devastating self-complacency.

The man had accumulated means, but he was not the strong Christian that she had been for many years, and he saw little beyond his comforts and conflicts and shrinking from them, was weak. He sought out a woman upon whom he could lean, and gave to her the place that he should have given his Lord.

She should have taken her stand against it, differentiated, and said to him: “I cannot consent to be your goddess, for it is written, ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me.’* (Exodus 20:3) But I am free and happy to consent to be your beloved companion.” (For he was hardly conscious of a wrong attitude; his loneliness and other conflicts had blinded him.)

But with her experience in the things of God, it could not be said that she was blind to this, at first. But if she had been, the checks of the Spirit and faithful warnings of friends would have discovered to her the danger the man was in.

You know all real Christians pray for everyone that touches their life (or they should). And she saw how weak the man was, always talking of the loss of his wife and his loneliness. She knew how hard it had been for her to get to the place where she could rejoice in sorrow, and she had learned by blessed experience how truly Jesus can take the place of loved ones, and she carried a burden on her heart for the man. And, as you have proved, as you pray for a soul, Divine love will flow through your heart till you love them up to your capacity as Jesus loves them. It is not so much you loving them; no, but God who so loved (John 3:16), loving them through you.

One of the most subtle, devastating devices which the enemy could have designed, and in which, I am sure, is his highest delight, is to transpose this marvelous, strength-giving Divine love by stealthily introducing that sweet but impotent affection of the human heart. There is a marked similitude between the two, though one is strong and the other ineffective. When this insinuation takes place, one does not readily differentiate. Yet we cannot excuse them, for God is faithful; they could tell the difference if they really wanted to, and it may prove serious indeed if they do not. We may pity them and pray for them, but God does not excuse them, and we dare not call them blameless.

I might mention just one case by way of illustration: A woman of much prayer carried a burden for an evangelist and his work far and near for a year or more. This was all right so far. And then this God-given burden of prayer and love for souls that he might reach, began to be transposed, nonperceptibly at first, with human love for the man himself. And then the most astounding stratagem was used, perverting the Scriptures and exalting the mercy of God above the clearly written Word, as to specially granted privileges and so on, until they were both drawn down into that almost irresistible whirlpool of inordinate affections.

Sooner or later, as a natural sequence, vengeance will follow such inventions of men (Psalm 106:39), referred to here as “idolatrous acts, or attitudes, and new ways of making one’s self more wise or happy than God has made him”; for this does not exalt God (Psalm 99:9).

It may become a serious thing to leave our First Love; and it surely will, unless there is an arresting of spiritual decline.

But to go back to the history of my friend, as she has told it to me bit by bit in the years I have lived by her.

It may have been God’s plan for her—marriage (we know marriage and companionship in the Lord is God’s ideal)—if she had only been careful to keep God first, and in humility of spirit made it all an offering to Him. But—well, she had grown weary in life’s battle. She admired this man; he had means; there would be no longer the pinch of poverty, and considering what all this would mean to her, she accepted his homage without careful discrimination, silencing many a gentle admonition from the Lord, hiding it from some of her most spiritual friends, and became quite self-satisfied. You know it is very pleasing to the natural to be set upon a pedestal, to be petted and loved. Human companionship is very sweet. It is sad to think how many will barter companionship with Jesus for passing human love that has so often soon died out.

But not so did another child of God. Sister A——, with sterling self-denial, refused all this, although proffered again and again, that she might pursue her calling unhindered. Rather late in life, she accepted the companionship of a noble Christian man who, like herself, would keep God first. He became her able assistant in evangelistic work. Happy indeed were they as they continued to “seek… first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness,”* (Matthew 6:33) and exalt His name together.

We all need, at times, the uplift of another’s faith.

But again going back to my neighbor: The earthly side of this woman’s life had been one long battle with the hardship of poverty, and years of lonely widowhood (yet overbalanced a thousandfold with the love of Jesus), and she looked upon this kind companionship and release from poverty and loneliness as her just deserts and special blessing from the Lord—just as it might be with any one of us, without exceptions, unless we were very watchful. She allowed, I am sorry to say, the bestowment of the companionship and kind care of a husband with means to take the first place in her heart, that Jesus had held so long, without realizing it.

Still there was no reason why she should not have realized it. There is no excuse that will stand at the judgment. God is faithful to forewarn, to acquaint us of danger if we will keep a listening ear and an obedient heart. And she could have easily discerned her danger if she had only paused to consider this one fact, that spontaneous thought revolved far more around herself in connection with husband and home, than around the Bridegroom of her soul and the purchase of His blood; which for years had been her supreme delight. She did what she had no thought of doing. She left her first love. To have spoken to her of it then, ever so kindly, would have raised a storm of combativeness. Only the Lord can deal with such a situation at that juncture.

But with all this earthly blessing, there was felt a lack. That heart echo that she used to sing with such rapid rapture, “Precious, gentle, holy Jesus, Blessed Bridegroom of my heart,” did not find that full response it once did. “The love of [her] espousals”* (Jeremiah 2:2) had grown cold. A shadow had come between.

The deep underlying unrest that would come to the surface occasionally was hushed into silence with the thought that this marriage was a blessing from the Lord, legitimate, Scriptural, and according to nature. This was all true, yet the shadow remained. She could not reason it away. Long weeks of sickness and automobile accidents came, and in her extremity she would once and again turn to her Lord who was still waiting to be gracious. But some compromise, because of the husband, would soon obscure the clear shining of His face. Finally the hand of death was laid upon the husband, whom she had suffered to rob her Lord, and for whom she had left her first love.

There are not a few such cases among the pilgrims; and we have some very definite petitions, that we would remember daily before the Throne, for individuals who, we have reason to fear, are nearing that dangerous “ecliptic,” that line where the appreciation of legitimate, earthly good will eclipse the Sun of Righteousness, who has so wondrously risen upon their lives. A partial eclipse is bewildering. But it could become a total eclipse, as it has in other lives, and that is so dark. Judas betrayed his Lord by allowing the desire for added means to supply their necessities to lead him to betray Jesus (but with no thought of what would follow); and when it was settled in his mind to do so, it is written of him, “He then [went out] and it was night.”* (John 13:30)

He had extinguished the light, so the candlestick was removed; and according to the record, indeed “it was night!”