THE FRUIT OF EXERCISE
Isaiah 53: 11
John 16: 19-22
Genesis 35: 16-18
1 Chronicles 4: 9-10; 7: 20-24
I have an impression to speak on this occasion about the fruit of exercise. I do not intend to dwell upon exercise itself; we all have exercises, and God allows them for a purpose. How much exercise there is at the moment; sufferings affecting the health of the brethren, household exercises, family exercises, assembly exercises. All these things affect the brethren and they can be excruciating; they can lead a soul to ask why God allows these things. God allows things in order that there should be a result. You will have noticed that most of the scriptures which we have read refer to travail, and that particularly is a form of suffering whereby something is brought forth.
Isaiah 53 speaks of the Lord Jesus and refers to the travail of His soul. What a holy subject! Who can say much about it! But the Lord Jesus Himself spoke about His soul. Remember on one occasion He said, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death”, Matt 26: 38. Think of what He went through in His soul, His deep feelings. The Lord Jesus was a real Man! He had all the feelings of a man, but greater that those you and I have, because of His personal holiness. He felt things in a way that you and I could never feel them. O beloved, what it meant for Him! In John’s gospel the greatness of the Son of God is presented. John does not dwell on His sufferings, but even in John’s gospel, think of that terrible cry, “Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour”, chap 12: 27. What a cry that was coming from the lips of One who was so holy! The thought of what was before Him prompted that cry but think of His perfection as immediately He added, “But on account of this have I come to this hour. Father glorify thy name”. His motive was the Father’s glory and the Father’s will. He never put His own will first even though for Him it meant enduring the travail of His soul.
Luke gives us something of that on the mount of Olives. Think of Luke’s description of the Lord Jesus; he says, “And his sweat became as great drops of blood, falling down upon the earth”, chap 22: 44. What a thing to take account of beloved; He had before Him all that was abhorrent to Him; think of what sin was, think of what death was, and He would face them alone! How often have we gone over those wonderful words -
‘And for Him death was death. Man's utter weakness, Satan's extreme power, and God's just vengeance, and alone, without one sympathy, forsaken of those whom He had cherished, the rest His enemies, Messiah delivered to Gentiles and cast down, the judge washing his hands of condemning innocence, the priests interceding against the guiltless instead of for the guilty - all dark, without one ray of light even from God.’
JND Col Writings, vol 7, p169.
What that meant to Him! It says in Luke that “being in conflict he prayed more intently”, chap 22: 44. There was what was before Him, and “being in conflict he prayed more intently”! There was no thought that He should ever turn aside. He said, “My Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from me”, (Matt 26: 39), He never asked for the Father’s permission to turn away from the cup that was presented to Him: no, never! He said, “if it be possible let this cup pass from me”. But it was not possible. O beloved, the travail of His soul! What can we say about it? The feelings of the Lord Jesus as He was facing the most extreme form of anguish of soul! No other person has ever faced anything like that; He faced it, and He faced it alone! Why did He face it; what was the result? The result was that there was going to be something that would satisfy Him: “He shall see of the fruit of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied”. Why does Isaiah say, “He shall see of the fruit”? Why does Isaiah not say He shall see the full fruit: “He shall see of the fruit of the travail of his soul”? I think the full fruit will be seen in a day to come, but, beloved, is He seeing “of the fruit” today? We were speaking of that in the reading; is He satisfied with what He sees? Many years ago Mr Walkinshaw came to Redbridge, and preached. He began by asking, ‘Are you satisfied with Jesus?’, that was the first half of his preaching, and of course we all loved it! Then the second half of his preaching was, ‘Is He satisfied with you?’. What a test! Well the Lord sees something; I would say is He seeing it in me? Is He seeing something that satisfies Him, “of the fruit of the travail of his soul”? How much He has suffered for it! What He has been through, in order that you and I should be here today! That we should have such a conversation as we have just had, to be able to speak together mutually, about divine things; involved the sufferings of Jesus! The fact that we are here involved the sufferings of Jesus. I have often thought that even our natural relationships came about because He went that way. I suppose most of us here would never have met our wives or husbands if it were not for the fact that the Lord Jesus went that way and we, as vessels of mercy, have been brought by His grace to one another. Wonderful is it not! What He has done! But it cost Him a great deal, beloved; let us never forget it!
Well, another instance of wonderful grace is what the Lord Jesus speaks of in this passage in John 16. He was speaking to His disciples and He used the same figure. He was saying. ‘I am going to leave you and that will involve travail for you’. What grace! He was the One who was going to suffer, but He said they would go through this experience! He knew what it would mean for them; He knew what their sorrow would be when He was taken away! He knew what it would mean for them when He was crucified! He knew the agony of soul that they would be passing through! He realised how deep that suffering was and in grace He used the very same metaphor for them: He says, “ye now therefore have grief”, but then He gives the encouragement, “but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice”. When the Lord Jesus was taken away what did the disciples have? Some of us have been speaking about Mary; what did she have without the Lord Jesus? She had nothing! In John 20 it speaks about the disciples having their home; Mary did not have a home here because Jesus was not here! She had no home without Him! If He was not here then there was nothing here for her! What a wonderful soul she was; “they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him” verse 13. She had nothing without Christ; are we like that? As you go to work or to school, do you feel the absence of the Lord Jesus? Do you feel that He is not wanted? Maybe when people speak you recoil from some of the things they say, but do you genuinely feel His absence? Do you take account of all that is going on in the world? You see political news and people vying to become heads of states; do you not resent the fact that the government of the world belongs to another Man, but He is given no place here? Does it not mean anything to your soul that really this whole scene is going to be completely changed, and it will all be overturned? God Himself says in Ezekiel, “I will overturn, overturn, overturn it!”? This also shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it to him”, chap 21: 27. The government of the world will be given to the Man who is morally qualified for it! And in the meantime we are here, going through this scene and we have no home here. The One to whom we are attached is in heaven; He is rejected here, and we are to go through this scene recognising the fact that we have no part here in this world. Christ has been rejected by it; how can I find my part in it? Our dear brother Mr Trussler, who some may remember, once said that the whole world system has been judged and condemned in the cross of Christ. It has been condemned but it is awaiting the execution of the judgment. It is like a prisoner in a condemned cell; and he added, ‘Do you want to find your future in a condemned cell?’. Beloved, the world goes on for a time, and soon the whole world system will be done away with and the Lord Jesus will reign, but in this time where do we find our interests? Where do we find our life? Do we find it in Him, and in His things, His circle? That is where our life is to be.
I read in Genesis because we have this wonderful figure here. Jacob had received special light from God. He had left his home; he was in Padan-Aram for twenty years where he served fourteen years for two wives, and six years for a flock. He was exceedingly rich, and he was doing very well for himself, but then something happened in his life that changed it completely. He had already got ten sons and a daughter, and then Joseph was born. What a change it made when Joseph was born! Jacob said, ‘I am not staying here any longer; I have to go back, go back to the place where God called me’. When Joseph was born, Rachel named him Joseph, saying, “Jehovah will add”, Gen 30: 24. Joseph was a great type of the Lord Jesus. You might ask how God will add; once you have Christ, how will God add? What does it mean, “Jehovah will add”? We come to this point; they were on their journey, “there was yet a little distance to come” and another son is born. Rachel is passing off the scene; she is a type of Israel, and she names him, Benoni, ‘son of my affliction’. Jacob says, ‘No! He is Benjamin, ‘the son of the right hand’’. Benjamin is really a type of Christ characteristically, seen in the saints. So Jacob names him, ‘son of the right hand’. God acts in power and secures what is of Christ in the saints.
Remember Paul, when writing to the Galatians, refers to them as those “of whom I again travail in birth until Christ shall have been formed in you” (chap 4:19), that there should be that work of God which has the character of Christ Himself formed in the saints. This was to be the result, the fruit of this exercise, that there should be that formed which was of Christ. It involves the Holy Spirit’s own work. We have been speaking about that; maybe He began a work in new birth in you. But that work has to continue; we have to make way for Him, and as we make way for that work to continue there will be something which will be formed substantially, something which is of Christ; it is Christ all over again. That is what is being formed in the saints, and Jacob lays hold of this in type. He says, ’My son is not to be just a testimony to a line of things that has ended in suffering; my son is a testimony to the way things are going to be carried through; he is the son of the right hand!’. Well, beloved, the Lord will carry things through:
He by his church has always stood:
His loving-kindness, O how good! (Hymn 107)
We sing those words with joy, do we not? We might also say, ‘He by his church will always stand!’. He will always stand by it, right through to the end: lay hold of that! It must be so! If it was not so it would be attributing failure to divine Persons, and that can never be right. Well, Jacob names this son Benjamin. Think of the place that he acquired as the history unfolds; what a place Benjamin acquired in the affections of Joseph. How Joseph strove in order that Benjamin should be brought forward, that he should be given the place that was his. He was really elevated among all the sons of Israel; Benjamin was elevated by Joseph.
I just turn to these other passages in Chronicles, and seek to touch on them briefly. First of all this man Jabez; He was one of God’s people, but one thing that characterised this man was that he was the fruit of exercise; he was the fruit of suffering; his mother bore him with pain: his very name means, ‘Causing pain’. This man had to go through his life with that name! You wonder at the names given to some of these people in the Old Testament! If he were asked what his name was he would have to say, “Causing pain”! There was another man in Samuel whose mother died when he was born, and she said the glory has departed, 1 Sam 4: 21! That was what she named him, Ichabod, ‘No glory’! Now publicly that might be so; publicly the glory has departed from Christendom. Christendom has become debased; terrible things are found in Christendom! Things contrary to the word of God are not only permitted but encouraged; it has all become debased, the glory has departed, but here is a different man! He prayed because he had a desire. What he desired was spiritual blessing. Have you got a desire for spiritual blessing? Get a taste for the blessing! Once you get a taste for it you will want more! Some of us were speaking in the interval about when we first started reading the ministry. Maybe you read a little bit, and then a bit more, and soon you find you do not want to put the book down because you now have a taste for it! And it is when you get a taste for it, that you realise it that is the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s work in the soul. You get a taste for divine things, and you want more. So this man says, “Oh that thou wouldest richly bless me”. “The blessing of Jehovah, it maketh rich, and toil addeth nothing to it” (Prov 10: 22, see footnote)! The blessing of Jehovah! He says, “Oh that thou wouldest richly bless me, and enlarge my border”; he wanted more of the inheritance. The wonderful thing about the spiritual inheritance is that you can always enlarge your border; you are not taking anything away from your neighbour: no, you can always enlarge your border and your neighbour can enlarge his too! Our possession of spiritual things can continually grow, and they grow as we lay hold of them, and as we go after them, and he prays to God about this! Do you ever pray about that?
Well, what do you pray about? We pray for one another, we pray for the brethren, we pray for those who are sick, and those that are old and so on, and it is right we should do so. How much do we pray that we may acquire some more spiritual territory, that we may gain spiritual understanding of the truth? How much do we pray about the brethren in that sense? There was one man who prayed for the brethren in that regard. He was with the apostle Paul who was in prison, and he prayed, combating; again it was severe exercise for him, but he was combating so that the brethren might “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God”, Col 4: 12. I am sure Paul heard him praying; it would seem from what Paul says, that he heard him praying and saw the combat that was going on. Satan would try to deflect you from that; he would bring in other things; he would say, ‘Well, you have only got a couple of minutes to pray, you have got to get to work, you have got to do other things’. Make time for prayer! Not only formal prayer, but make time for personal communion with divine Persons, and you will find that your border will be enlarged; you will find rich blessings. And then Jabez says “that thou wouldest keep me from evil”; and that is another thing! My father used to tell me to pray all the time - even walking along the road, or whatever you are doing, get into the habit of praying, and one thing it does is to keep you from evil because you cannot ask the Lord to bless you if you are doing what is wrong! He says, “Oh that thou wouldest richly bless me, and enlarge my border, and that thy hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil”. Why? “That it may not grieve me”. He was affected by the way things affected the Lord. How do my actions affect the Lord; how do yours affect Him? That is what this man was interested in; he wanted the inheritance; he wanted to lay hold of it, and he wanted to be pleasing to the Lord.
Now the other scripture I read relates to Ephraim. We do not read about this incident in the history as far as I am aware, but it comes in here in Chronicles, written many years later, and it says that disaster had come upon his household. He went through terrible exercise, and his brethren came to comfort him, and eventually there was fruit from the exercise. There was a son, and then there was a daughter, and I just want to touch on this daughter and what she was doing, because this is important as well. She was building. Beloved brethren, let us be constructive! Let us build. It says, “she built Beth-horon the nether, and the upper”; it looks as though she built two places. I suppose the nether, the lower, would represent what is basic. We are very thankful for the service of brothers who instilled basic truth into us, especially when we were young. That is like building the nether. But then she built the upper as well! That would be something like the heavenly side, Ephesian truth for us; she was building the nether and the upper! Let us be building one another up, beloved brethren; it is so important in these days. Food builds us up. Paul said at a time of extreme exercise, “I exhort you to partake of food, for this has to do with your safety”, Acts 27: 34. If you do not feed then you will not get through the shipwreck; that was the circumstance in which he said it! The building up is essential; let us be building up, beloved.
We are only here for a time; I come back to the passage in John. The Lord Jesus says, “I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice”. Beloved brethren, we are soon going to see Him; that will be the culmination of everything! All that the saints have gone through will become clear, the dark threads in the weaver’s hands! He will explain the reason why:
The dark threads are as needful in the Weaver’s skilful hand
As the threads of gold and silver in the pattern he had planned!
(Grant Colfax Tuller)
It will all become clear then, and we will see Him! And when we see Him we will be like Him! Are you looking for that time? What will it be to see Jesus! To see His face! The actual face of Jesus will be before us; we will see His face and we will be in His presence where no sin, no difficulty, no trials, will ever enter, and we will be in His presence to enjoy Himself. What fruit that will be! Beloved, we are looking for that! That is what is immediately before us. If He does not come sooner we will have the Supper tomorrow; we will call Him to mind in view of the time when He comes again and establishes His rights here. But in the meantime may we be encouraged that, whatever our circumstances may be, whatever our anxieties or our difficulties may be, there may be fruit, that we may hold the Lord Jesus increasingly in our affections, and give to Him the place that is rightly His, that we may see that God in wonderful grace and power is working something out, and producing something that is of Christ Himself in the saints, that we may have a desire to go in for our spiritual blessings, and that we may be on the line of building one another up.
For His Name’s sake.
5th November 2016