POSSESSING OUR POSSESSIONS
T. PIERCE BROWN
The inspiring passage in Joshua 1:1-9 concludes with these words, “Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”
Our God has granted unto us exceeding great and precious promises (2 Peter 1:4). He has told us that “He that spared not his own Son, but freely delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things” (Romans 8:32). He has given us a perfect formula for happiness, peace, joy, prosperity and everything we need. Men would pay $1000 for a bottle of pills that would offer to do for them what God has already provided free if we would only take the prescription on his terms. It is tragic beyond expression how few of us take those promises seriously.
In this study we shall classify those blessings in three ways. First, there are the spiritual blessings that come immediately when one obeys the gospel, though we may be but dimly aware of some of them. When a baby is born into a family, he has many blessings of love, protection and care of which he does not become fully aware until much later in life. When one is born into the family of God, he has forgiveness, justification, regeneration, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the rights and privileges of prayer that will be heard, protection from temptation that is too hard to bear, and every spiritual blessing including those that are exceedingly abundantly above all that we are can ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). It will almost “blow your mind” (whatever that means) if you think of it carefully.
Second, there are blessings that are ours in promise. 1 Peter 1:3-5 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.” This includes the resurrection, redemption, glorification of the body, and all other phases of blessings reserved for us in the next life.
Third, there are blessings that are ours to enjoy, but are not ours in a practical way unless we make the proper effort to take them according to God’s direction. As God said to the Israelites in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Joshua, “I have given this land to you. Go in and possess it.” In their unbelief they failed to do it for 40 years. To make the point emphatic, see if you can name the 12 spies who were sent into thelandofCanaanto spy it out. Probably not one person in 10,000, including all the preachers in the country, could name more than two of them. Joshua and Caleb are remembered because they said, “We can” when God said do it, while the other ten said, “We cannot.” Surely if there is any enduring lesson from this story it is that those who are willing by faith to take what God offers will be remembered in honor and receive the blessings offered; others who neglect to do so will be forgotten and lose the available blessings.
It suggests that many rich blessings are ours if we accept them on his terms, making positive scriptural efforts to possess them. We can gain victory over self and sin. We can have happy, loving home lives. We can live fruitful, abundant, joyous lives of Christian service. We can grow in grace and knowledge and have a peace that passeth understanding. But they do not come automatically. They will be ours as thelandofCanaanwas theirs. We must claim it on God’s terms as much as our faith permits. The principle of Matthew 9:29 is still valid here. “According to your faith be it done unto you.”
There are three principles that need emphasis as we consider our unclaimed riches. First, God will not force them on you. Although he told Joshua, “I have givenJerichointo your hand” (Joshua 6:2), it did not fall into his hand until after it has been compassed about seven days as God directed (Hebrews11:30). Thousands of times those of us who preach have used this in trying to teach alien sinners that salvation is a gift of God, offered freely by His loving grace, but it must be taken on his terms. The same principle applies to us after we become Christians as it does to alien sinners. None of these exceeding great and precious promises are ours until we accept them according to God’s will.
The second principle we need to understand is that we may have as much of these blessings promised as we really want. I do not mean “As much as we sit and wish for.” Often I have had persons say to me, “I wish I could be an effective personal evangelist.” What they mean is that they wish God would pour out on them some ability without them having to bother to obey the rules that would make it so. A woman said to brother Gus Nichols on one occasion, “I would give 40 years of my life to know the scriptures as you do.” He replied, “That is what it will take.” It is doubtful if she really meant that, for she had not given 40 years, nor did she do it after the statement. A person who sits at the edge of a swimming pool, dips his toes in the water and says, “I really wish I could swim” possibly should have someone put his foot in the small of his back and push.
There are many persons who would like to be saved, but on their terms. There are those who would like a clean house, but do not want to sweep the floors. There are those who would like fresh tomatoes and beans, but do not want to tend a garden. Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now unto him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” There are two things that keep us from getting those blessings. First there is a lack of faith and vision that allow us to see and ask for great blessings. Second, there is a failure to let his power work in us (which is, no doubt, connected directly to the first failure).
It is as if God had a diamond mine. He says, “It is yours. Take all you want.” Some of us find it hard to believe that, so we scrape around in the dirt until we find a chip the size of our fingernail. So we rush off satisfied with our riches. Others look around until they find a diamond big enough to make a setting in a small ring. Others will have enough faith to keep on until they have a necklace. Occasionally someone comes with a bucket, which he fills. Once in two thousand years one may bring a freight car and take what is there for anyone. We are dying of thirst while God has a million-gallon tank waiting for us to turn on the faucet. We come with a medicine dropper and say, “I really believe in you, God. Could I have a medicine dropper of water to cool my tongue?”
Read again 2 Corinthians 9:6-12 and see if you believe it. I have no doubt that if everyone who is a Christian really believed and acted upon his belief, verse 12 would be a reality. There is no want (need) of any saint in the entire world that would not be supplied by the power of God that works through us.
The third principle is also true. Not only can we have “all sufficiency in all things ” (2 Corinthians 10:8), and all these blessing that we really want, but we will have as little as it takes to satisfy us. God will not force a man to be better than he wants to be. If we are satisfied with a defeated, frustrated life, he will not force us to take victory. If we are satisfied to sit in the darkness, he will not force us to live in the radiant sunshine. If we are satisfied with lukewarm mediocrity he will not force us to be hot. What he will do, however, is clearly indicated in Revelation 3:16. “I will spew thee out of my mouth.”
These principles are suggested in the statement of Jesus in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled.” He does not say, “Blessed are those who merely wish that their tables were filled.” Hunger and thirst indicate strong yearnings. You must really want these blessings enough to accept them on his terms. This principle is found throughout the Bible. One of the greatest tragedies is that God has placed before his children treasures and blessings of all kinds that are exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think, yet we do not desire them enough to take them on his terms. Many connected with the Lord’s church do not even care enough to come to Bible study and learn what they are. They not only would not bring a freight car to pick up the diamonds, they will not even come to the mine to look.
I recognize that this kind of article and this kind of preaching will not do very much good, for we have become sermon hardened. Even when we want to be thrilled and stirred by some sermon or article, we seem to think that the thrill and the stir can somehow substitute for action that matters. I also recognize that God’s word will not return unto him void. There are honest and good hearts that will take these thoughts and be moved to accept God’s precious promises and be blessed beyond their wildest expectations. Just do what you can, where you are, with what you have, and God will increase the fruits of your righteousness and enable you to do what you cannot, where you are not, with what you do not have. He can and will do exceedingly abundantly above all that you ask or think.