Asking and Thinking

Eph. 3:20.---' Unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.'

Where is the power of God best verified? In the vast order of Creation, in the enormous Universe? On the scale of history, with its centuries, or in the tracks of space revealed to us, for example, by the Hubble telescope? Is it in this enormous realm of matter, which has become so vivid in these latter days?

No! the ability of God is a moral ability; its perfect expression can never be in terms of matter. It is in the moral sphere, in our human experience, that the real power of God is best verified and tested. Power is always tested and shown by the obstacles it has to overcome. We measure a force by watching it in a resisting medium. And, after all, it is our human experience, with its dullness and narrowness, its shallowness and fickleness, which really tests the power of God. When we see what God can make of the material man or woman, we recognize that His power is largely shown in His great patience with our faulty lives, in His handling us wisely, and drawing us into habits of faith and goodness, and keeping us there, without getting tired of us. We know from our experience, and from our observation of other people's lives, what God can make of a human life. He can work with it, even though it be unreliable and stubborn; He can change it; He can do for it more than we ask or imagine. We have all seen men and women made clean and sober and honest. We have seen lives altered and lifted by the grace of God---and grace is just another word for Love in power. We know that God is too strong to be hasty; and all the evidence presses upon us this conviction---that there is a power working in us, the power of God, carrying out His purposes inch by inch.

No doubt it is beyond what we understand; far beyond our knowledge, and it often surprises us. But then, that is true of all influence. We are all today being influenced far beyond what we know. A father, for example, has ways of impressing his character upon his children, of which, at the time, his children are unconscious; and it is when looking back afterwards that they see the telling power of the father. God is prepared to do for us what exceeds our belief, and repeatedly men and women have to wake up and say: 'God is in this place, and I never knew.'

At the same time it is assumed that we do ask or think. He is 'able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.' But our cooperation is required. God cannot, or should I say will not work, without our wills. If we give God empty minds and idle wills, or lives under the bondage of prejudice and antipathy---well, He can do no mighty works there. He requires a life with some spirit of effort, and desire, and thought, and with prayer in it. And if there be any failure in the Church or individual life the reason is not with God, but with us. If missions are a failure, says missionaries, it is our failure and not God's. If we only prayed and had more faith what a difference it would make! And that is true of missions and of all branches of our religious service. "If we only prayed," if we only asked or thought---what a difference it might make. It might allow the power of God to come more into play in our lives. If we thought more and prayed more we should be less hasty, less apt to be discouraged, less conventional. There is an idea abroad that we had better not think too much about our religion---"let us work our religion but don't let us think about it." But the things of God bear thinking about. The greatest object of human thought is the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, the revealed God. And all the relations of life branch out from our thought of God's power in the Lord Jesus Christ. 'Have ye understood these things?' said Jesus once to His disciples, after an address. 'O, yes, Lord, we have understood them.' But we know they hadn't. We think we understand, but we fail often to put thought and meditation into the revelation we receive. And without effort of will and mind nothing can ever be done. Let us 'ask or think.'

In this hurrying age we talk about religion and the Church. We talk, and talk, and talking has its place. But do we think?

For example, do we think how much might be gained for God's Kingdom in our land if we could get rid of some of our needless Church divisions, with their friction and bad example and jealousy? We have grown so accustomed to them---we were born in them---that not, perhaps, until we go abroad, and see them from a greater angle, do we realize how small and sour they are, and how difficult it would be at the Judgment of God to justify ourselves.

Again, do we think, as we ought, about how other people live? Would it not make for good-will in our social condition if people thought more about the difficulties and handicaps of those in other classes than themselves; those who are poorer, and those who are richer? Easy it is for us to mark their lapses and criticize their faults; but in many cases we are unjust to them . . . . If we put ourselves into other people's places, and took time for thought, this would be a happier world.

Or, again, do we think, as we should, about our personal lives, steadily and quietly---what it might mean if we were better Christians? Do we put God's law before our ordinary lives? Do we take the trouble to watch ourselves as we are getting older?---to watch, especially, our day dreams, which are one of the unconscious revelations of personality. It is for want of this steady thought that the Church and the whole world are vexed by the good man in a hurry, and the good man who hesitates.

We must think more, for example, of what it means to love one another . . . . If we thought out that, it would take us longer than we realize, and would add infinitely to the power of our lives.

In Christ. timothy. maranatha

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