Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Spacious Place

“I called to the Lord in distress; the Lord answered me and put me in A SPACIOUS PLACE” (Psalm 118:5 HCSB).

“I go to prepare a place for you”—Jesus Christ

I have experienced as of late, and have noted many others experiencing the same, that we are all being painted into a corner, that we are all being brought to dead ends.  Many of us are being brought to discontent, to narrow confinement, to prison-like existence in the small place of our current experience.  All the promises of God that are yes and amen in Christ are seemingly no and no way in our experience.  As was often the cry of the psalmist, so we too are crying: “Where are you Lord!?”  But God’s way to enlargement is always through prison doors.  Confinement to expansiveness is counterintuitive, just as death to resurrection is counterintuitive.  A narrow gate leads to an expansive mansion.

The paradoxical truth is that that which is most refined, that definition which is most resolute in its stubborn refusal to deviate a whit from its exact meaning and is the most populated with pixels (resulting in the best resolution—the best and brightest depiction of truth in pictorial form) is the clearest and most expansive knowledge.  All definition narrows to a point and thereby sharpens the understanding which in turn broadens the perspective.  Though it is true that to focus too hard and too long on one tree fades the forest from view, seeing many trees in the proper bounds of their individual sharp and true relief populates the forest.

Christians are often accused of being exclusive or narrow-minded, and some no doubt are so in the wrong way, but there is a right way, a way that is, indeed, very narrow.  But on the other side of that narrow gate is a table-land of understanding, a place of abundant nourishment: a place of wide, rich, and expansive pastures in which to graze and freely roam about.  When Jesus Christ is defined as the narrow and only way, the only gate by which one might legally enter the presence of God, and when He is described as the complete embodiment of all wisdom and knowledge and understanding, He is paradoxically representing both stricture and boundlessness.  Another way this paradox is expressed is in those who choose the wide road to destruction.  Whereas the narrow and dark path of sorrow on earth leads to the wide and full effulgent plain of joy in heaven, the broad and riotously and raucously expansively gay spirit way on earth leads to the narrow, dark, and confining prison cell of hell in the afterlife.

In the booklet “Faith unto Enlargement through Adversity,” by T. Austin-Sparks, he says: “‘Out of my distress I called upon the Lord: the Lord answered me and set me in a large place’ (Psalm 118:5 ARV).  Are these words of the Lord Jesus?  Yes: out of His distress He cried: ‘O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass away from Me.’  ‘And being in agony He prayed more earnestly...’  ‘Father, if this cannot pass away, except I drink it, Thy will be done’ (Matt. 26:39, 42; Luke 22:44).  ‘Out of my distress I cried...’ and, although it does not seem that the Lord answered and delivered, the Apostle says that He was heard (Heb. 5:7).  And how was He heard?  Have we the proof that He was heard and answered?  ‘The Lord answered me and set me in a large place.’   A large place?  Yes, a very large place He is in.  How enlarged was our Lord through His Cross!  ‘How am I straitened,’ He said—‘how am I straitened till it be accomplished!’ (Luke 12:50).  This was enlargement through suffering: His passion meant enlargement, release from limitation.  But it is the voice of faith.  As He goes to the Cross, faith goes beyond the Cross and claims the answer of life, not death; enlargement, not limitation.”

“We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

The word “tribulation” here means “narrow” or “tight place”; it suggests “trouble” and oppositional crowding, “to cramp.”  God cramps our style, and we are in trouble all the way through and every day (whereas the wicked are not in trouble as other men).  We must through Jesus Christ—and sharing in His experience of death, burial, and resurrection—enter spiritual life and the privileges associated with that life.  And there is no other way to get there except through this narrow way.  Yes, it is frightful to realize it means flaying the meat of our flesh off its skeletal support—that it will indeed kill us as we are presently constituted; but once we go through it, it is over, and we walk in newness of life no longer tormented by the insistent suggestion of sin and the confining ravages of depravity.  Flesh only gets tribulated because it is too big, and if we are sorrowful and hurting about it, it is only because we are not as spiritually mature as we thought we were.  Webster’s 1828 version dictionary defines tribulation as “Severe affliction; distresses of life; vexations. In Scripture, it often denotes the troubles and distresses which proceed from persecution,” i. e., “When tribulation or persecution ARISETH BECAUSE OF THE WORD, HE IS OFFENDED” (Matthew 13:21).  The verse preceding this one explains the one who gets offended (and falls away [at least on some level]); he has no FIRM ROOT in himself.  In other words, he never married himself in REAL belief to it; he is superficial, and values his own mind about things above the whole truth of the word of God.  This is epidemic today!

But Isaac (for an example), whose name means “laughter,” did not laugh with joy straightway; likewise, we too cry before we laugh.  When Isaac was commanded by God to not return to Egypt during a time of famine in the land, he settled in Gerar (an oxymoron, because Gerar means “sojourn” or “to be a stranger”).  In other words, settle while in a state of exile or pilgrimage or “Occupy till I come” (Luke 19:13).  Isaac’s first attempt to obey God’s word about remaining in Gerar resulted in digging a well at Esek, which means “contention.”  Then he ups and tries again at Sitnah, which means “enmity.”  Is warring and enemies our lot?  Will we ever reach pay-dirt?  Will we ever win?  Will we ever be happy?  Oh, up and try just one more time!  And Isaac does; at Rehoboth, which means “plenty of room.”  Indeed, “At last the Lord has made room for us [Isaac, his family, and his entourage], and we shall be fruitful in the land” (Genesis 26:22).

The point is this: God is making a spacious place for us, but sorrow fits us for it, not joy (though joy is promised and is never-ending ultimately).  Indeed, “God in His power is guarding through faith for a salvation that even now stands ready for unveiling at the End of the Age.  Rejoice triumphantly in the prospect of this, even if now, for a short time, you are compelled to SORROW amid various trials” (1 Peter 1:5-6 Weymouth).  “I assure you: you will weep and wail, but the world will rejoice. You will become sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy” (John 16:20 HCSB).

Another example of sorrow preceding joy—and thus narrowness preceding expansiveness—is found in the life of Jabez.   “Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, ‘Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.’ And God granted his request” (1 Chronicles 4:10 NIV).  Preceding Jabez’ cry was his mother’s cry when she bore him; she bore him in pain, thus she named him Jabez, which means “he will cause pain” or “sorrow maker.”  But Jabez was more honorable than his brothers!  Yes, “sorrow maker” or “he will cause pain” is more honorable than his brothers, just as “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy” (Proverbs 27:6 NASB).  Smallness is where evil prevails upon us; it is only the magnanimous—the enlarged-above-pettiness-person—that walks above the storms of mortal man (we are not to walk as mere men).  Small-mindedness is selfishness, and selfishness is blindness and lameness (forms of death by stagnation); “Where there is no vision [no redemptive revelation of God], the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18 Amp.).

“It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to heart.  Sorrow is better than laughter, for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better and gains gladness.  The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth and sensual joy” (Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 Amp.).  “They who sow in tears shall reap in joy and singing.  He who goes forth bearing seed and weeping...shall DOUBTLESS come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:5-6 Amp.). “Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the poor in spirit (the humble, who rate themselves insignificant), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!  Blessed and enviably happy [with a happiness produced by the experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His matchless grace] are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted!” (Matthew 5:3-4 Amp.).