“A Pastor of Excellence” Others taught fear and fire. He taught Hope and Life!

russell-pdcOne Hundred years ago on October 31, 1916, newspaper headlines shocked the nation.  A world-renowned Christian minister died “in the harness” serving the Lord Jesus on a transcontinental speaking tour. To thousands of congregations around the world he was a beloved Pastor. Tens of thousands of individuals were encouraged by hearing his hope-inspiring lectures. Hundreds of thousands were greeted by his distinguished image as they weekly opened their local newspapers to read his faith-inspiring sermons. In the last three years of his life, “some eight million people” saw and heard this dynamic speaker on film as Pastor Russell introduced his epic multi-media The Photodrama Of Creation, with a color motion picture. It was the crowning feature of his outreach ministry. Of course, it broke all records in attendance and technology. Never before had sound and color been incorporated into motion picture presentations.

Yes, one hundred years have past since October 31, 1916, when Pastor Russell died. An era of excellence in the communication of faith and hope came to an end. He served the LORD as a Pastor of Excellence till his last breath. But some will ask—wasn’t Pastor Russell the founder of Jehovah’s Witnesses? No! Nothing could be further from the truth. He preached an opportunity of life for all—even after the LORD gathers all nations to Armageddon. (Zephaniah 3:8, 9)

What did C.T. Russell accomplish?

Just how popular was Pastor Russell? The Overland Monthly, a noted periodical of his era, reported in 1909 that Studies In The Scriptures, by Charles Taze Russell, was one of the world’s three most widely circulated works, surpassed only by the Bible and The Chinese Almanac.

Significantly, The Continent, a publication whose editor often opposed Pastor Russell, once published the following statement concerning him: “His writings are said to have a greater newspaper circulation every week than those of any other living man—greater, doubtless, than the combined circulation of the writings of all the priests and preachers in North America.”

George Swetnam, the official historian for the Pittsburgh Bicentennial in 1958-1959 wrote, “Pastor Russell traveled constantly, covering more than a million miles, delivering more than 30,000 sermons, lectures and talks, writing books totaling over 50,000 pages which have reached a circulation of more than 20,000,000 copies…his influence has easily been the widest of any man whoever lived in the city [Pittsburgh], not even excepting Andrew Carnegie.” (Swetnam, George, Where Else But Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh: Davis and Warde, Inc., 1958, p. 110)

The London Graphic (April 8,1911) described Pastor Russell as follows: “The advent of Pastor Russell brings to this city and country a man of international reputation, who is known almost as well in Great Britain as he is in America…who is reputed to be the most popular preacher in America….”

And, finally, the Christian Globe (May 5, 1910) of London, stated, “Since the days of Henry Ward Beecher and Dr. Talmage, no preacher has occupied so prominent a position in the United States as Pastor Russell of Brooklyn Tabernacle holds today.”

The full impact of Pastor Russell’s ministry can only be understood against the context of church history.

An Overview of Christian History

Life for the Christian minority in the second century was brutally cruel. The pagan religious leaders and civil leaders demanded allegiance to their multiple gods. By the third century many Christian leaders felt a need to compromise Christian doctrine to make Christianity more acceptable to the rulers of the Roman Empire. For starters, they embraced Plato’s “immortality of the soul,” and also met the urgent need to include multiple gods. The “trinity” soon became a hallmark of Christian doctrine. Then Christianity seemingly succeeded beyond its most extravagant hopes, when in the fourth century, Emperor Constantine declared freedom of religion in the Edict of Milan, A.D. 313. It did not matter that he did this for his own political reasons. Christianity eventually became the official religion of the Roman Empire in A.D. 380 under the Emperor Theodosius. Through the following centuries the church’s “inglorious” reign over the nations was written in blood. Historians called it the “Dark Ages.”

The worldly church persecuted any and all who rejected its claims—with the amazing cooperation of civil governments. Millions who were consigned to eternal damnation were tortured in this life because their heresies supposedly justified that treatment. The Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century helped but a little. Luther’s rejection of the doctrine of the “immortality of the soul” was quickly forgotten. Soon the Protestant churches found it expedient to retain much of the “Dark Age” dogmas—especially the trinity and eternal damnation for all who rejected their gospel.

Instead of inspiring greater faith, a tidal wave of infidelity swept over the Christian world in the 18th and 19th centuries. Finally, modernist theology was born. The only response permitted within the precincts of conservatism was to blindly defend the old creeds of the “Dark Ages.” Something had to be done. Where was the “good news” of the “Gospel”? Brighter light, real hope, based on the Scriptures was desperately needed.

Pastor Russell and the Bible Students

In 1870 at Allegheny, Pennsylvania, a Bible class was formed for systematic Bible study. Soon they selected Charles Taze Russell as their Pastor. At that time other earnest Christians were also forming independent Bible classes for in-depth Bible study.

Pastor Russell became a leader of thought and activity among these congregations. In 1879 Zion’s Watch Tower was formed—later (1881) known as the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society (not to be mistaken as “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” the 1931 Watchtower organization). But, Pastor Russell’s Watch Tower Society did not become a dictatorial central authority of the Bible Student movement. It could not. Why? Because all cooperating congregations of Bible Students held strictly to the Scriptural, congregational, concept of self-government. The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society was basically a publishing house.

Pastor Russell never claimed to originate Bible truths, but rather to recover from the Bible key truths held by the First Century church. He succeeded more than any other person, but not without controversy. Wearied with the “Dark Age” theories of Christendom, he inspired hope and faith in the hearts of the masses. Like faithful believers of the past who followed closely the teachings of Jesus, multitudes clamored to hear his truly “Good News” sermons. He taught that the Bible is its own interpreter—that the Scriptures are the basis of our beliefs—not the traditions of men, councils or synods.

Clergy Opposition

Why do some ministers today use the same old worn out vilifications that “doom and gloom” ministers in Russell’s day used in desperation? Was it jealousy? The people clamored to hear Russell and demanded that the newspapers carry his sermons. Clergy opposition lamented that Pastor Russell’s writings had a “greater newspaper circulation every week…than the combined circulation of all the priests and preachers of North America.” Why? Because Pastor Russell’s message gave sound scriptural hope by contrast with the message of those “doomsday preachers.”

Every Jew, Hindu, Moslem—and even Christians who do not accept the self-acclaimed Christian “orthodox” brand of teaching before their death, are all damned to an eternity of torment. These preachers of “doom” (both in Russell’s day and today) hold in contempt the Gospel of love taught by Pastor Russell and the Bible Students he instructed. Calvinists especially cringed under in the sunlight of this love found in God’s Grand Plan of the Ages. No wonder—they taught that the vast majority of humanity was eternally damned to torture even before they were born! Unable to meet Russell’s scriptural logic, many resorted to personal attacks on him. All these attacks have been refuted.

Not the Founder of “Jehovah’s Witnesses”

After the death of Pastor Russell in 1916, Joseph Rutherford,(a man whom Pastor Russell had recently dismissed from his staff} rapidly returned to Brooklyn from California to seize control of the Watch Tower, dismissed the majority of the Board of Directors and established dictatorial control. The writings of Pastor Russell were soon to be discarded. The Watch Tower under Rutherford became the central headquarters, holding authority over all congregations willing to yield their sovereignty. Basic doctrines of the society seriously digressed from the teachings of Pastor Russell. The methods of conducting the evangelistic work were altered. The more sensational digressions such as refusing blood transfusions and refusal to salute the flag quickly caught the public’s eye.

However, many individuals and congregations refused to surrender their Christian liberty or accept the new teachings. As early as 1917 the exodus from the newly declared sovereign headquarters began. By 1931 over three quarters of those associated with the Bible Student movement in Pastor Russell’s day had separated from the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society and formed independent and autonomous congregations. Today’s Bible Students trace back their roots through these separatists to Pastor Russell and his teachings.

Jehovah’s Witnesses Founded in 1931

In 1931, fifteen years after Pastor Russell’s death, Jehovah’s Witnesses was founded. Its founder, Joseph Rutherford, presented a startling resolution entitled, “A New Name,” that was adopted at its international convention on July 26, 1931. The resolution first observed that neither “Russellites” nor “Bible Students” were any longer appropriate names. (This claim was ironically true, because over 75% of Bible Students from Pastor Russell’s era had already separated.) Henceforth, they would call themselves “Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Joseph RutherfordNOT Pastor Russell founded Jehovah’s Witnesses. Pastor Russell died in 1916. Jehovah’s Witnesses was founded in 1931.  Rutherford:

  • rejected Russell’s key teachings;
  • purged Russell’s Bible Students;
  • rejected the name Bible Students and
  • created the “Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

Pastor Russell as an early Christian Zionist understood and taught from the Scriptures that the scattering and regathering of Israel were prophesied by Isaiah, Amos, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Ironically, Israel, the Jewish people, are Jehovah’s Witnesses. Why? Because God called them His Witnesses. (Isaiah 43:1-15)

Pastor Russell v. the so-called “Jehovah’s Witnesses”

The main teaching of Pastor Russell was that Jesus died a “ransom for all.” (1 Timothy 2:5, 6) Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Jesus died only for some. Pastor Russell taught a future probation because millions have died without hearing the Gospel. Even among many who hear it, uncertainty and confusion exist. (John 5:28-29; Acts 15:14-17; Revelation 22:17) Sadly, Jehovah’s Witnesses, like all fundamentalists, believe that if you reject their brand of the Gospel, you are lost eternally.

Pastor Russell believed Bible prophecy, and zealously taught that the Jewish people would be regathered to the promised land. Reality is that the State of Israel has been reborn. (Jeremiah 31:4-12; Ezekiel 37:1-14; Matthew 24:32) “Jehovah’s Witnesses” teach that the regathering of the Jews and the rebirth of Israel is completely unrelated to Bible prophecy.

Clearly and finally, it should be understood that Pastor Russell did not found “Jehovah’s Witnesses” who reject his basic teachings of the “Ransom for ALL. “Charles Taze Russell is respected by Bible Students as their Pastor. Bible Students today, as in Pastor Russell’s day, affirm those teachings on the Scriptures that portray a Gospel of love, wisdom, justice and power in God’s Plan of the Ages.

Bible Students Forum

Greetings,  forum

We have added a small forum to the site, for those who which to discuss the Scriptures, various features of the Divine Plan, Bible Student history, or just wish to fellowship. Some may remember in the past we had a very popular forum that proved to be a blessing to many, and there were many lively discussions. Unfortunately the  forum was hacked and destroyed and all the content was lost.

Some have requested a new forum be installed to continue these lively discussions, and after prayerful consideration, have installed a small forum and see where the Lord takes it.

To join just go to the link and create a simple account:

Bible Students Forum

The forum is still a work in process, so please be patient.

 

 

 

 

Staying Awake

awake

I guess for most of us there have been times in our lives when we have wanted to stay awake all night. It might be because we wanted to read or study, maybe because we were excited about something happening the next day or because we were on a long journey and travelling at night was more convenient. It may have been because we had to work. Whatever the reason, it was sufficiently necessary or interesting to keep us awake. Yet as the night draws on, tiredness sets in and often we awaken in the morning with a book fallen to the floor or if driving we need to pull over and sleep. I have not worked or travelled at night very often, but have found that the hardest time was 3-4 am when my eyes wanted to close and concentration was at its worst.

I am sure we all remember the parable Jesus told about the 10 virgins, five who were wise and five who were foolish. All of whom fell asleep waiting for the bridegroom to arrive. Though they all fell asleep the wise had at least prepared for the bridegroom coming, they had tried to remain alert and prepared before sleep overwhelmed them.

Our primary goal in life must be to keep our eyes firmly fixed upon God’s Kingdom and the things that we so dearly believe in. Indeed the cry “Here is the bridegroom come out to meet him!”  has come(Matthew 25:6) Now Jesus said that upon his return, the angels would go out to gather the elect from the four corners of the earth. That gathering continues till this day, although in smaller number. What will our reaction then be? Will we be alert and prepared? Shall we have thoughts of this life and what we are leaving behind, or shall we go with fear?

Let us daily fix our eyes upon his coming Kingdom, for it will generate zeal to stay alert. It will generate a willingness to make the effort to develop a character pleasing to the Lord Jesus. It has been a long night, the ‘bridegroom’ has tarried long and it is now almost dawn. It is well worth considering and meditating upon what is to come, for it will help us remain awake. The Master has come, our hope is certain; as we read “Your eyes will see the King in his beauty and view a land that stretches far” Isaiah 33:17. At that time when the earth is ruled by a righteous King, there shall at last be peace. God’s righteous and just law shall go forth from Jerusalem, we read that:

“In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and peoples will stream to it. Many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war any more. Every man will sit under his own vine and under his own fig-tree, and no-one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken. All the nations may walk in the name of their gods; we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.” Micah 4:1-5.

With this wonderful vision of the kingdom to come, a time when the nations will be ruled by God’s just law, is our resolve to “walk in the name of the Lord our God”? We have been called to know the one true God, our Creator, what an immense privilege! This calling is something we do not deserve and do not merit. It is a calling based upon the great mercy of our Father in heaven. So, how much does that coming Kingdom mean to us? Is it valuable enough to us, that we consider it worth staying awake for? Jesus frequently tells us throughout the gospel records to be watching and if we truly value and love our Lord and Master, we will obey this command.

But surely this obedience is not something we would find onerous. It is for our ultimate good, it is a command born out of love. It should be a joy to follow the Lord Jesus and his example. To encourage us we have a glorious view in the scriptures of the earth at that time when the Kingdom is established. In Isaiah we have many word pictures of the Kingdom age. For example:

“Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.” Isa 35:4

That is our trust, that is our hope, God will indeed save us. Therefore let us be strong, let us hold fast to the end, for God’s word will never fail! The chapter continues

“Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. “ Isa 35:5-7

No need for a national health service, no need to fear disability. No more will the earth be desolate and famine strike. But apply this to spiritual matters and the vision becomes even more thrilling. No more will mankind stumble around, groping as a blind man to find some meaning to life, limping along striving to make some sense out of the world and the many troubles that beset us all. No, the eyes of the spiritually blind will be open; the knowledge of God’s ways will set man truly free. The tongue shall be full of praise for our Creator and joy will fill the heart. Sorrow and sighing will flee away and this spiritually parched desert of life will be full of bubbling fresh springs of the water of life.

“Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice for ever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. “Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. Isaiah 65v17-20

Such will be the contrast between the peace of the Kingdom age and life now, that our trials and sorrows will be but as a bad dream that vanishes when we awaken, vanishing like the morning mist when the sun shines. It will be a time of renewal, a time of refreshing and we will indeed sing for joy at the wonder of the new creation. Once again, the difference will be seen between the righteous and the unrighteous, the godly and the ungodly. God always hears the prayer of faith; He will bring peace and salvation.

“…they will be a people blessed by the LORD, they and their descendants with them. Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the LORD.” Isa 65:23-25

No, there shall be no harm in that glorious age for sorrow and sighing shall flee away. The great Prince of Peace will rule in righteousness and we shall be with him! Regarding the wisdom as righteousness of Christ Isaiah records:

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD— and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash round his waist.

Creation itself shall be at peace and at rest:

“The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” Isaiah 11:1-9

Peace will only come when the world is full of the knowledge of the Lord our God and mankind obeys His righteous and just law. His name alone shall be honoured.

We have been called according to God’s mercy to be part of that nation of kings and priests, to honour Him and reflect His glory. Of that city we are destined by God’s grace to inherit, we read:

“You have come to mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the first born, who’s names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant” Hebrews 12:22.

Thus we shall be privileged to join in with that mighty throng singing “The song of Moses, the servant of God and the song of the Lamb” Rev 15:3. We have so much encouragement to keep us awake and striving to please our heavenly Father. We deserve nothing, yet have been offered everything! Surely as the scripture say’s “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb” Rev 19:9.

This life is full of much sorrow and much sadness. But, and it’s a big BUT, we have so much to look forward too. We are called, as the scriptures say’s to be FIRST BORN SONS of the LIVING GOD! What a privilege, what a hope!

It is our Lord who has made all these things possible, he who has redeemed us by his own great sacrifice. John writes “This is how God showed his love among us, he sent his one and only son into the world that we might live through him”. John 4:9 Of Jesus it is written “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”. If we obey his commandments, we remain his friends.

Therefore, let us keep AWAKE! For if God loved us while we were yet sinners, how much more will we not be loved now we are reconciled to him through Christ. Let us then diligently, watch and pray for his coming, confessing our sin’s before him and resolving to do his will. Let us always keep in our mind’s eye that wonderful and exhilarating view of the Kingdom age, for it will spur us on, keeping us spiritually alert and filled with the oil of the word of our heavenly Father.

Difficult Times

tough-times-aheadThere is no doubt that we are living in the last days. Many of the faithful have lived in difficult times, but these times in which we live grow ever more evil. The age is materialistic and centered around self and self seeking. The solid foundations of the Truth are questioned in some quarters and zeal is something considered somewhat archaic. The words of Paul to Timothy come to mind:

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God — having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” 2Timothy 3:1-5

Now if we stayed with verses 1-4 the description is very apt for the world in general but verse 4 applies it to those nominally disciples of Christ who have a ‘form of godliness’. In other words having the outward appearance of godliness, but not having a true desire in the heart to seek the Truth. Of this ilk are those who will say:

“Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.”

Under these circumstances what can those who seek to be righteous do?

The answer to this question applies equally as much to those from any age who sincerely desire to love the Lord their God. We must hold fast to the solid foundation of scripture neither adding to it, nor taking from it, rightly dividing the word of Truth and being very clear in ones mind about what is believed and what is to be rejected. This is exactly what the faithful of old did and it is exactly what we must do in our day and age.

There is a need to be definite and uncompromising in ones stand for the Truth and sound doctrine. Do not follow the crowd, but be willing to stand up for what is right just as did Daniel in his day.

But how should we speak of the true gospel message and the sound teaching of scripture? Well, by speaking the words of scripture, not embellishing scripture overly with personal feelings and experiences, but speaking the Truth in its purity and simplicity. Proverbs says:

“In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.” Prov 10:19

And Ecclesiates:

“The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?” Eccl 6:11

These thoughts apply to all that we do, be it proclaiming the Truth, giving an exhortation or giving a sermon. The whole objective must be to speak the words of God, not propound our own ‘crotchets and quavers.’

How can we then prepare ourselves for speaking the sound words of scripture? Well only by knowing the word of God! Do not be content with the elementary things of the Truth but rather try to understand some of the deeper things. Bible study is essential, but not all are for example inclined towards wanting to study the meanings of Hebrew and Greek words, understanding the ‘signs of the times’, working out the relationships between scriptural characters, knowing the history of the nations and kings or gaining a deep understanding of the furnishings and ritual of the Tabernacle or Temple. These things undoubtedly have their place, but we each have different interests and abilities. Equally of interest and of great importance is to study the life of Christ, comprehend his teachings, understand and develop the fruits of the spirit that Paul speaks of, learn the proverbs and how to apply them in our lives or study the profound subject of prayer. What ever our level of knowledge, interest, or ability every single one of us will benefit from reading the scriptures daily by following the Bible Companion or other method that ensures we read the totality of the Bible regularly. There is no substitute for regular reading, yet not just merely reading, but also thinking about what we read and then putting it into practice. These two aspects cannot be emphasized enough, think and put into practice.

Who would go to college from work to learn more about their job and not then use what they had learned? Nobody would go to that effort and not make use of knowledge gained. How then can the Truth be any different? No, we should the more so act upon it.

Finally we must always remember that we need a balance in all that we do, think and say. Do not discourage by thinking only upon the hardships of the way but consider also to the joys that lie ahead.

The hardships are there, the need for warning always present because of our human nature, but we also very much need the encouragement to persevere and there is indeed great joy ahead. There are promises from God so wondrous in their scope, that they are beyond our full comprehension and appreciation. Paul writes that we shall be made to be like the Lord Jesus Christ:

“If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.” Rom 6:5

”…who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Phil 3:21

Finally by way of encouragement we can think of these words penned by John:

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” 1John 3:2

What manner of love indeed Yahweh has shown to us that we who are but dust are called to be His children. Should we be discouraged by the need for separation and hardship along the way? Should we be discouraged when we fail and come short? No, not at all! These things that befall the faithful are cause for perseverance, joy and encouragement. The trials confirm that we are called of God, that He treats us as His children and that He is merciful. This is the response of faith:

“Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. “ 1John 3:3

“To whom shall we go?”

to-whom-shall-we-goThese were the words of Simon Peter as recorded by John. Following the miraculous sign of the feeding of the five thousand Jesus had spoken at length of the significance of this sign. He had compared and contrasted the provision he would make with the giving of manna in the wilderness. “I am the bread of life. Your fathers did eat the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which cometh down out of heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die … yea and the bread which I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world” (John 6. 48-51 RV).

This caused confusion among his listeners but instead of explaining what he meant he followed up with more “hard sayings”. Even his disciples began to grumble amongst themselves: “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” (v.60 NIV). Jesus, of course, was aware of this but still made no attempt to explain his words. As a result: “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him” (v.66). When Jesus spoke to the twelve, asking them if they also were going to forsake him, Peter replied: “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (vv.68,69).

Peter still did not understand; Jesus still did not explain. But Peter refused to go away, he refused to follow those who had turned away. He gave two reasons for this refusal: (1) There was nowhere else to go, and (2) Whatever the difficulties, they had sufficient positive evidence to convince them that, come what may, they had to maintain their faith in Jesus. Their faith was so strong that it amounted to certain knowledge. “We believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God”. It was unthinkable that they should turn away from him. To go away was to go nowhere. With all the positive evidence they had, the last thing they thought of doing was to indulge in negative thinking, allow doubts to enter in and then turn away.

The disciples could not understand Jesus’ sayings; Jesus did not attempt to explain them or enlarge upon them. Whatever the difficulties, he expected them to trust him and maintain their confidence in him.

It has not been unusual for God’s servants to have difficulty in understanding God’s ways: how He was working in their own lives or the lives of others. The Psalmist was puzzled by the apparent prosperity of the wicked and was tempted to say: “Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.” It was only when he “went into the sanctuary of God” and considered the “end” of the wicked that he found the answer to his problem (Psalm 73. 1-17). Jeremiah had a similar difficulty (Jer. 12.1,2). David could not understand why, when it was he who had sinned in numbering God’s people, it was the people who suffered.(1 Chron. 21.17) The prophet Habakkuk had two problems. First he could not understand why God did not punish His people for their wickedness (Hab. 1.1-4). Then, when God said He had already planned such a punishment and would be using the Babylonians to execute it, the prophet found it hard to accept that God should use such an evil nation to carry out His work. “Thou that art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and that canst not look on perverseness, wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and boldest thy peace when the wicked swalloweth up the man that is more righteous than he” (Hab. 1.13 RV).

Perhaps the clearest illustration of this problem is to be found in the experiences of Job. We know how greatly he suffered. At first, despite the extremity of his sufferings, he accepted them without question. “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Even when provoked by his wife he stood firm: “What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 1.21; 2.10). Sadly, provoked by the glib “explanations” and totally false accusations of his so-called friends. Job eventually went too far in questioning God’s ways and, in the end, God Himself challenged him. “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?” Job had to admit the justice of God’s reproof: “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted …. Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know” (Job 40.7,8;42.2,3 NIV).

God did not offer Job or his friends any explanation of the way He was working in Job’s life. By word and by the manifestation of His power in a great storm He impressed on Job the fact that He was the great creator and sustainer of all things, of infinite power and wisdom, in full control of every part of His creation. Job was compelled to confess that all he could do was to accept God’s will and God’s ways without questioning them. “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer—twice, but I will say no more” (Job 40.4,5 NIV).

We must expect to have to face tests of a similar kind; to: have experiences which we cannot understand, which are hard for us to accept. Sometimes, in the mercy of God, over a period of time we begin to discern a purpose in those experiences, but not always. We have to learn to simply accept. This surely is one of the greatest tests of our faith and our trust in God; to accept where we cannot understand; to accept that our God is in full control of our lives and is of infinite wisdom; more than this, that He is our loving heavenly Father and that in all His dealings with us He is expressing His love—and never more so than in our severest trials. (Heb. 12.4-13).

That was true of the experiences of His only begotten Son. His supreme sacrifice on the cross, when, for a moment, even the Son felt forsaken by his Father, was God’s greatest expression of His love for His creation. It is no good thinking we can understand this or explain it in coldly logical terms; we cannot. So it is sometimes in our lives. We have to learn to accept, to let go— let go our doubts, our anxieties, our mistrust. We once heard a speaker coin the expression: “Let go! Let God!”—let God take over completely. This is never going to be easy, but this confident faith and implicit trust in Him and submission to His will is surely what He is looking for above all else. We have to be prepared for our loving heavenly Father to take extreme measures if He judges them to be necessary to help us to develop and manifest these qualities.

The alternative is unthinkable. “Lord, to whom shall we go?” To turn away as some of those early disciples of Jesus did is to admit failure; to say, in effect, that God has tried us beyond what we are able to bear, and the inspired apostle has assured us that He will never do that (1 Cor. 10.13). But we must allow God to decide what we are able to bear. He has promised that He will be with us in all our trials, that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13.5).

In the end it is our faith which will win through; our faith in God, our faith in His love, our faith in His promises. “Thou hast the words of eternal life.” By the grace of God there will come a day when we shall know even as we are known, when we shall understand all things, when we shall be able to look back and see a pattern in our lives wrought in love and wisdom by our God to lead us to perfection.