Life

I came that they may have life and may have it abundantly.

— St. John 10:10

The man who loves his fellow is infinitely more alive than he whose endeavor is to exalt himself above him; the man who strives to be better, than he who longs for the praise of the many; but the man to whom God is all in all, who feels his life-roots hid with Christ in God, who knows himself the inheritor of all wealth and worlds and ages, that man has begun to be alive indeed. Let us in all the troubles of life remember that what we need is more life, more of the life-making presence in us making us more alive. When most suppressed, when most weary of life, as our unbelief would phrase it, let us bethink ourselves that it is in truth the inroad and presence of death we are weary of. When most inclined to sleep, let us rouse ourselves to live. Of all things, let us avoid the false refuge of a weary collapse, a hopeless yielding to things as they are. It is the life in us that is discontented; we need more of what is discontented, not more of the cause of its discontent. He has the victory who, in the midst of pain and weakness, cries out, not for death, not for the repose of forgetfulness, but for strength to fight; for more God in him; who, when sorest wounded, says with Sir Andrew Barton in the old ballad:

Fight on my men, says Sir Andrew Barton,
I am hurt, but I am not slain;
I’ll lay me down and bleed awhile,
And then I’ll rise and fight again
.

Commentary

Self: The Enemy of Life
by Dave Roney

How often our Lord said both what a thing is and what it is not, using contrast as liberally as He did comparison. The verse before us is no exception; though we are familiar with that part of it quoted concerning the “abundant life,” how much thought do we give to its counterpart; “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy?”  It is first said that this “thief” would do this, then the Lord says He would provide the Life.  By “I came” He identifies Himself specifically; concerning the “thieves and robbers” (see 10:8) he is unspecific; we may assume it to be Satan, but He does not restrict the thief to any particular wrongdoer; the fact that it is in the plural, “thieves” and “robbers,” indicates more than a single felon is in His view.  If that is the case, of whom does He speak?  His reference is to “the world, the flesh, and the Devil,” so including any and all things which would usurp His rightful place?

Of these three I would now, in view of the daily reading, turn my attention to that usurper who is the “the flesh,” for this speaks of the Self, each person individually; in the reading is the contrast found between the man who “loves his fellow” and “he whose endeavor is to exalt himself above him,” and the man who “longs for praise” over against “the man to whom God is all in all.”  If I am the one who exalts myself, who longs for the praise of men, then I have met the enemy and it is me; I am the thief!

If my focus is turned inward on my old miserable Self, who is it that I first rob?  Is it not my own miserable Self—am I not the making of my misery?  It is not God, Who cannot be robbed; it is Me.  What does a man rob himself of?  Is it not his peace, his joy, his true-son relationship with God?  What of neighbor?  By Self-exalting I am debasing him; if I expect or demand praise for myself, what room is left to approve him?  But if I rob myself, what is the most precious treasure I can steal?  It is my life itself, plundering its goods and then, in desperation, perhaps by the ending of my own life.

Sometimes a man can be his own worst enemy, in which case and if he be honest, he would say to himself; “I have met the enemy and it is me!” 

As I wrote this, a man of my acquaintance who had previously attempted to hang himself while in jail is now more miserable than before; I cannot help him because he will not receive my help; “The help you think you need I cannot give; the help I know you need, you will not receive.” So utterly self-absorbed is this man that he informed me he is going to hang himself again.  To him I said “You are contemplating suicide because of your despair,” and he replied (his very words) “Yes, I am despairing my life!”  How would you answer a man in this condition?  In my own words I said to him what MacDonald said to us in this reading:

“When most suppressed, when most weary of life, as our unbelief would phrase it, let us bethink ourselves that it is in truth the inroad and presence of death we are weary of.”

In other words, said I, “You are not despairing of life; the problem is that you need more life and do not see how you can get the life you must have in order to live; for without more of life than you possess, living can become impossible; death can appear to be a better, a final option, a way out.”  This man, in denying the Truth, has deceived himself; what he mistook for life was only the shadow of life, a living death.  He, through compounded misery, has met his enemy and it is himself—yet he has not suffered enough yet to know it true.  It is not Satan, nor the world, not God, but his own miserable Self.

I prayed for him; “Father, the cause of his misery is his dross; let your Consuming Fire continue to do its work of love and grace in him, either in this life or if necessary in the next, to burn Self out of him and bring this errant Prodigal-child to your great Heart.  For only when his Self dies will he become his true self, Your own self-child.  Only then will he discover the peace and joy which, without You, has ever eluded him.”  This is the best I can pray for such a man.  I cannot pray that God would, in his present spiritual darkness, relieve him of his misery (which is his desire) because, thus far and as bad as his life is, the misery has not been sufficient to drive him to his Father (which is my desire for him).

At the moment this fellow despises me because he thinks he needs money and I have withheld it, and he despises God because he thinks he needs peace, joy, success and the things of the world, without submitting to the Divine requirement of an inner change, and God is withholding these things from him.  He will continue to despise the Good until he learns to despise himself; I pray God, and know, that He will use the evil in my friend to bring about the Good.  Then will he know, as I and so many others have found, that “He has the victory who, in the midst of pain and weakness, cries out, not for death, not for the repose of forgetfulness [as though by some soul-sleeping death], but for strength to fight.”  And any such strength rises out of the heart of God, our Friend and no enemy to us.

And in conclusion to this reading, GMD says; “It is the life in us that is discontented; we need more discontentment, not more of the cause of its discontent...”   

“I am hurt, but I am not slain;
I'll lay me down and bleed awhile,
And then I'll rise and fight again.”

Andrew Barton, 1466-1511, High Admiral of the Kingdom of Scotland