Last night I said I’d put up this quote that was blessing me when thinking about the study on eternal life. It’s from T. Austin-Sparks, from a book called “The Battle for Life” which you can download and read, for free, here. Sparks was a British preacher in the middle of the last century. The link to all of his writings is over at the resources page. Here’s the passage:
[After tracing the idea of eternal life through the scriptures, and all the way through the life and death of Jesus, He goes on to speak about the church in the book of Acts and beyond…]
The same thing is carried on into the Church. It is not long before Stephen is stoned, and James is killed. Peter is taken with the same object, but marvellously delivered because God had yet something to do through him. Paul was in deaths oft, despairing sometimes of life. It is a battle with the power of death. There are the sweeping persecutions in which literally tens of thousands of Christians are called upon to lay down their lives for the testimony, and “count not their lives dear unto the death”. It goes on still. We are in that succession, not all of us perhaps of outward persecution, but do we not know something of the pressing of that spirit of death? We do!
All this is very true. It is the controversy of Zion. It is the battle for the life of the Lord’s people. May the Lord bring home to our hearts the nature of the conflict in which we are found! We have perhaps painted a dark picture, have brought the gloomy aspect into view, and have been rather strong and severe, but if you are not able at the moment through your own experience to enter into what we are saying, you may come to do so if you are going on with the Lord. In some real way you will enter into this controversy of Zion. I am anxious that we should see this more clearly, and recognise it in a more definite way. We can never adequately seek the Lord in relation to it and come into line with His intention to overcome it, be to Him the instrument against it which He requires and desires that we should be, until we are fully alive to what the issue is. I wonder if the Lord’s people are at times really alive to the issue, and whether their prayers are always a true index of their apprehension of this thing! I believe that if you and I were adequately impressed, and fully alive to the tremendous issue, we could never pray mere prayers. We could never allow words to run out of our mouths, which is what we call praying. We should be down on our faces in a tremendous conflict on God’s side against the evil menace that is seeking to devour the life of God’s people; but we shall never pray like that unless we are really alive to what the issue is.
While we may know it in a doctrinal way, it is necessary for us to wake up to what is happening and to what this means. The explanation of many a heaviness and of many a difficult experience is not simply that we have had a meal that does not agree with us, or that we are none too well and therefore not able to pray as we would wish. No, it is not just some physical malady from which we are suffering. This is not something which can be explained along any ordinary line of nature. Behind these things there so often lies another power. We may feel ill in body for no justifiable reason, from the natural standpoint. Our very energies and vitalities, physical and mental, may be sapped, and we say that we are tired, but there is something extra to that. The enemy delights in our accounting for these things on human grounds, when we ought to be waking up to the fact that there is a much bigger issue at stake. Let us ask: what is its tendency, and what is its effect? Is it to destroy our prayer life? Does it work in the direction of bringing us into a state of weakness and uselessness to God? If so, are we going to accept that? That is the question. There is a good deal that seems to be perfectly natural which should not be accepted by the Lord’s people, and we need to test everything, try it out, and see whether, after all, the whole thing is natural, or whether there is not something hidden. Do not look for a devil with horns and a tail and a pitchfork! He hides himself. He covers his tracks. He comes in such an intangible way that you are often inclined to explain the whole trouble as quite a natural thing, when it is all covering up something else, and its effect is simply to put you out of spiritual action. We have to wake up to what is the issue for the Lord’s people today, and it is no less an issue than that of life and death.
Do you recognise what is actually happening? The enemy does not mind how many so-called churches there are, how much preaching there is, or how much religious worship. I do not know that he minds very much how much orthodoxy there is, or how much of what we would call sound doctrine. What he is against is life. In multitudes of places, so far as the preaching is concerned, and so far as the things said are concerned, no fault can be found, but there is no sense of any vitalizing. There is no energizing, no impact, and no moving of the people to register the testimony of the risen Lord against the forces of evil. The enemy is getting them all quietly, nicely, snugly into spiritual death.
Oh, may the Lord move us to a new position in relation to this tremendous issue, the issue of life and death. The Lord bring it home to our hearts!