REWARDS OF STANDING BY
T. PIERCE BROWN
When we read the moving story of John 19:26-27 and see the mother of Jesus standing by the cross with her heart breaking for her beloved Son, we find some lessons of a practical value. Perhaps they are especially valuable to any mother who has had to wait as an intolerable burden of sorrow was laid on her soul. Others might find themselves contrasting their attitude with that of Mary.
There is a contrast between the attitude of Mary and the attitude of some that try to follow Jesus afar off. We may have heard people say concerning some meeting of the church, “Does God require that I be there?” Can you imagine Mary asking, “Does God require a mother to stand at the foot of the cross and see her son murdered in cold blood?” Love may compel, and impel, but when a person is moved with a heart of love, he is not concerned with minimum requirements. This principle applies to church attendance, giving, visiting, or whatever action we contemplate. When Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels and have not love, I am become as a sounding brass or tinkling symbol. Though I give all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned and have not love, it profits me nothing” he was expressing a principle that is broad, deep and wide. Whatever the act of worship in which you engage, or deed of service you may do for God or man, if it is not motivated by love, it is of little or no value to you.
A second lesson we may get is from Jesus’ reaction to Mary. Although He was engaged in the greatest task of the universe, and was then directly involved in the supreme purpose for which He came into the world, He did not lose sight of the personal needs of those who loved Him. When He taught me that the very hairs of my head are numbered (a fact of which I have been more aware for several years), and that not even the sparrow falls to the ground without his notice, I am impressed with the idea that not only did He die for the sins of the world, He died for me. I am convinced that if I were the only unsaved person in the world, He would as readily have died for me alone as He did for all the rest.
That lesson should be helpful to all sorts of persons. When children feel that their parents do not understand them, they are probably right. Jesus does, and cares about their wants, needs, hurts and feelings. There are probably few husbands who think their wives understand them (and many are glad they do not). Jesus understands them, strange as husbands may be. In the Great Commission Jesus had said, “Lo, I am with you always.” Every Christian should be aware that Jesus has a constant care for each individual.
There is a third lesson in the expression, “When He saw his mother and the disciple whom He loved standing by.” Each had his own grief and pain, and felt a loss that was different from the loss felt by another. Often at the loss of a loved one, there is little we think we can do. There is one thing we can always do. We can be standing by. John could not solve Mary’s problem, but there is no question that he could give comfort and strength by standing by.
To stand by in times of popularity and ease is one thing. To stand by in the midst of a mocking, milling, murderous mob is another. To stand by with a heart glowing with pride and joy as people shout “Hosanna! Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord” is one thing. To stand by when the mob says, “Let him be crucified” and the heart is bursting with agony every time the dull thud of the hammer is heard is another.
I do not know how much comfort Jesus got from Mary and John standing by. I do know something of what it means for elders or preachers to have someone with understanding and love to stand by when they must act or teach in some way that is not popular. Elders must often make decisions when it is not best for the public to know all the reasoning that was behind that decision. They need someone with love and faith to stand by. This is no excuse for elders to do all their business in secret and simply hand down their final conclusions for everyone to follow like blind sheep. It does suggest that if a man is fit to be an elder, he is worth standing by in times of crisis, and should be given the benefit of a doubt when all the facts cannot be known.
In this article, our primary concern is to emphasize the rewards of standing by Christ. John and Mary were standing by. One reward of standing by Christ is that in time of need He will stand by you. You may stand by the preacher or the elders in their times of distress, and then they will disappoint and fail you. It will never be so with Christ. If you stand by Christ in His interests, purposes and needs, His promise is sure. When He gave the great commission, He said, in effect, “As you go, stand by me. Tell people this good news, make disciples of them by baptizing and teaching them to observe all that I have told you, and I will stand by you always, even until the end of the world.” Are you more interested in arguing why it does not need to be done, or cannot be done than you are in standing by and doing it?
In that day, there were those attached to the band of disciples, but they were not standing by. Today, we have many in the same category. They admit that Christ died for the lost. They know the world needs to be saved. They have heard the great commission. Yet many disciples and churches spend more time, money, energy and effort in almost anything else than we do in carrying out that commission. I have been in business meetings where we would spend hours talking about the hum in the fluorescent lights, leaking commodes, changing the buzzer for the classrooms or putting a molding around some wall. Then they might spend a few minutes talking about the work of the church. There are hundreds of congregations where elders are doing the work that should be done by deacons, while no one is doing anything specific about the great commission. Although it has been written about hundreds of times, I still know of very few congregations that do not spend several times as much time and money in catering to the interests of local members as they do in standing by and carrying out the Great Commission of the Lord. We thank God for those who are not in this category.
The question may be raised concerning why Jesus did not leave His mother in the care of His brothers instead of in John’s care. The answer is simple. In their disbelief, vacillation, weakness and fear they were not there. There are so many things Christ wants done, but we cannot do it because we are not there standing by. For many years I have written, as others have, something like this: Suppose each of us cared enough to give up one useless habit and donate the money we spend on it to some evangelistic program. It would be funded in one day, and no person would have made any real sacrifice.
There may be many problems with that kind of writing, but one thing is that it deepens the impression that we would really be doing the will of Christ without caring enough to give up anything we needed. If it would not blow your mind, consider for a moment what would happen if every so-called Christian were to do what Christ said we must do to follow Him. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew16:24). There would be enough funds available to take the gospel to every home in the world, and do every other thing Christ wants done.
We might consider in the same light the idea of standing by and properly using our time as stewards of the Lord. The average Christian probably spends two to three hours a day looking at television. If the evolutionary theory were true, we probably would develop a generation of humans with one eye in the middle of the head as big as a saucer, and a brain the size of a pea. Suppose each of us would just stand by the Lord and use one hour a day in a deliberate effort to win one soul for Christ. Without going into the fantastic mathematics of how many billions of persons could be won in a few years if every person who is called a Christian only won one per year, I am hoping you begin to get a glimmer of vision of what it means to stand by Christ. Not only would He multiply our loves and fishes, “multiply our seed for sowing and increase the fruits of our righteousness” (2 Corinthians 9:10) and thus provide for the wants of all the saints, when the time comes to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we could say with David, “I will fear no evil, for thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4). If we stand by Him, He will stand by us.