Bearing the Cross – John Calvin

“No one will calmly and quietly submit to bear the cross except those who have learned to seek their happiness beyond this world.”
– John Calvin

In This World You Will Have Trouble

…the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.
Mt 8:20, Lk 9:58

The Lord is our only stay. We have this fantastical image in our minds of Daniel in the lion’s den: where the lions all have smiles on their faces and Daniel is petting their manes. But the man beloved of God whom the Lord ordains to be thrown in with the lions will shortly find that their den is no such place. The lions may well be subdued and have their mouths held shut from truly harming him; but they nonetheless have every intention of ripping at and tearing apart the man of God, and will mercilessly intimidate him day and night. Even in the envelopment of our Lord’s protection, there is every earthly reason to abandon faith and be devoured.

When the Lord our Shepherd prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies, we are no less in their presence. We may eat and rejoice at the bounty of the Lord, yet the ravenous wolves stand across from us, at every moment spitting and shouting curses upon the Food and Drink of which we partake, seeking to shame us from partaking in the table of His sufferings. But the one whom the Lord upholds will not give in to fear.

We shall find no rest in this world of rebellion. We will be afflicted on all sides. Our blessed hope is a heavenly one, and it is one which we yet await. Let our running therefore not be stumbled by vexation with trials, as if a temporary world of tribulation is not worthy to be suffered for His eternity victory.

Rejoice in affliction!

A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow’r are great,
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing,
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He
Lord Sabaoth, His Name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us;
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That Word above all earthly pow’rs,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him Who with us sideth;
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

– Martin Luther

The Time Is Now

And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.
And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Matthew 24:10-13

The time is now to know God.

As the lies of earthly satisfaction and false purpose in man’s religion are discovered by men to be empty, they are becoming all the more despairing of God, Whom they thought they had known by these vain things.

It is a day of utter meaninglessness, and of loathing for all that so much as resembles life. It is a day of disdain for light and infatuation with darkness. Man competes for the lowest degeneracy, and counts the void as the only substance; for what he was sold as substance was exposed to be devoid of it. Disillusionment only breeds further illusion for those who do not run to God in the hour of distress.

But as at all times, it is those learning to thrive in the hidden place of Christ in God who will find solace. The calling takes shape only for those who do such, and only to the degree that they press further into that precious communion with HIM.

I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.
I believed, even when I spoke, “I am greatly afflicted;” I said in my alarm, “All mankind are liars.” What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
Psalm 116:7-15

The time is now to know the Lord!

If men will ever say one thing of me, I want it at least to be, “He knew his God.”

God Is His Strength

So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.
Then Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, burned with anger. He burned with anger at Job because he justified himself rather than God. He burned with anger also at Job’s three friends because they had found no answer, although they had declared Job to be in the wrong.
Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job because they were older than he. And when Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, he burned with anger.
Job 32:1-5 (ESV)

Now here is a man that lived up to his name.

Elihu means “God is his strength.”

The God who truly requires no introduction is ever so gracious that He prepares the way before Himself: tilling the hardened earth of our hearts as best as it will allow so that His word might not go forth in vain. He needs no witness from the mouth of a man, yet in mercy he sends one. He sends the voice crying out in the wilderness, uprooting the excuse of men and exposing their great need of the One coming. These voices are held in contempt by those that are wise in their own eyes; but they are considered of God a blessing unto His people. (Elihu was a Buzite, which literally means “contempt;” and his father’s name Barachel means “God has blessed”.)

Such a blessed voice was this Elihu. For after the seeds of discord and confusion were sown by those three fools called friends of Job, this little-remembered young man delivers his word immediately before the Almighty boasts of His majesty, and is never mentioned again. The Lord never rebukes this one: indeed, He begins right where Elihu leaves off and even expounds upon much that he said. This man was a sword long sharpened for a particular day of war, to cut asunder the lies of one man’s heart; he was a choice arrow crafted for a single flight, to pierce one target reached by no other; he was a treasure-trove of precious gems, fashioned for the day of lack: he was the witness of God among the profane, that their babbling mouths might be shamed through the foolishness of preaching.

The words of Elihu are words of great offence to the religious heart. It is no wonder that he is left so forgotten. He is a sort of prophet – not one trained of men, nor versed in “higher thought;” but of the simplicity of true wisdom found only in the stillness of God’s voice…

And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said: I am young in years, and you are aged; therefore I was timid and afraid to declare my opinion to you.
I said, Let days speak, and many years teach wisdom. But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand. It is not the old who are wise, nor the aged who understand what is right. Therefore I say, Listen to me; let me also declare my opinion. Behold, I waited for your words, I listened for your wise sayings, while you searched out what to say. I gave you my attention, and, behold, there was none among you who refuted Job or who answered his words.
Beware lest you say, “We have found wisdom;” God may vanquish him, not a man. He (Job) has not directed his words against me, and I will not answer him with your speeches.
They (Job’s friends) are dismayed; they answer no more; they have not a word to say. And shall I wait, because they do not speak, because they stand there, and answer no more? I also will answer with my share; I also will declare my opinion. For I am full of words; the spirit within me constrains me.
Job 32:6-18

Those who know their God are ever ruined for Him: they cannot stand to bear the prattling on of carnal men, who love to pit fool against fool and declare the craftier wise. The end of all human thought without God is emptiness and confoundment.

Elihu observed all of this with eyes quite unhindered by the scales of man’s reasoning: he beheld the folly of Job’s defence as well as the folly of his accusers, for he beheld the manifold wisdom of the sovereign Lord. From within his belly there groaned a burden of righteous angst not of his own making; and from within his very bones there kindled a holy fire destined to enflame the words of his mouth – if by obedience he would allow it.

Like the pressure of a great river held back by a dam, he longed after the very desire of God for those waters to be liberated as is their nature – for the word of God is not bound. Those who truly have the word of God within them have also its desire at work in them. These have given up the futility of their own hearts for the in-filling of God’s heart. Those who so know their Maker speak of what they have seen and heard in the secret of His counsel, seeking not the approval of man, but of their Lord.

Behold, my belly is like wine that has no vent; like new wineskins ready to burst. I must speak, that I may find relief; I must open my lips and answer. I will not show partiality to any man or use flattery toward any person. For I do not know how to flatter, else my Maker would soon take me away…
…My words declare the uprightness of my heart, and what my lips know they speak sincerely. The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
Job 32:19, 33:3-4

These are not the words of arrogance, but of humility’s confidence. Elihu did not come wielding the word of the Lord; the word of the Lord came weilding Elihu. The word was the wine, the man was the wine-skin; and this man recognized that such was the righful order. His rebuke was not to destroy Job, but to show him the right. It was to remind his self-justifying friend of God’s kindness and forebearance so that he might repent back unto the eternal blessedness of the Name he had once rested in.

Behold, I am toward God as you are; I too was pinched off from a piece of clay. Behold, no fear of me need terrify you; my pressure will not be heavy upon you.
Job 33:6-7

Job had begun well in his suffering, and was commended for the saying “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” [For the scripture thereafter says, “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” (Job 1:22)] But Job did not continue in this right and humble frame of spirit. For thereafter he began to rather pity himself; and in response to the false accusations of evil suspicion from his friends, he attributed their folly unto God and counted his sufferings unjust.

Elihu continues,

Surely you have spoken in my ears, and I have heard the sound of your words. You say, “I am pure, without transgression; I am clean, and there is no iniquity in me. Behold, He finds occasions against me, He counts me as His enemy, He puts my feet in the stocks and watches all my paths.”
Behold, in this you are not right. I will answer you, for God is greater than man. Why do you contend against Him, saying, “He will answer none of man’s words?”
For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men, while they slumber on their beds, then He opens the ears of men and terrifies them with warnings, that He may turn man aside from his deed and conceal pride from a man; He keeps back his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword.
Job 33:8-18

There is no injustice with God: He works great evil unto the good for those that are with Him. He turns loose the very hords of hell to prove the mettle of His servants; and He delivers them from the gates of destruction, that they might see how their God delivers destruction back unto the enemy’s gates. The sufferings of the present time are the growing pains of the Life begotten of God within the creature. It is of mercy that He will not relent, and it is of wisdom that we should submit ourselves to the knife of our skilled Physician. The Lord will ever draw out His own unto the brink of despair, that they may learn the trust of Him – the faith which is called heavenly vision. He will expose the self-preserving heart by any means until it at last cries aloud, “It is well! You have declared my soul Your own, here it is for safe-keeping, as I cannot preserve myself, nor endure unto the end. But with You it shall be possible.”

Man is also rebuked with pain on his bed and with continual strife in his bones, so that his life loathes bread, and his appetite the choicest food. His flesh is so wasted away that it cannot be seen, and his bones that were not seen stick out.
His soul draws near the pit, and his life to those who bring death. If there be for him an angel, a Mediator, one of the thousand, to declare to man what is right for him, and He is merciful to him, and says, “Deliver him from going down into the pit; I have found a ransom; let his flesh become fresh with youth; let him return to the days of his youthful vigor;” then man prays to God, and He accepts him; He sees his face with a shout of joy, and He restores to man his righteousness.
He (the man) sings before men and says: “I sinned and perverted what was right, and it was not repaid to me. He has redeemed my soul from going down into the pit, and my life shall look upon the light.”
Behold, God does all these things, twice, three times, with a man, to bring back his soul from the pit, that he may be lighted with the Light of Life.
Job 33:19-30

Much more was also declared by the mouth of Elihu before the Lord spoke to Job from the whirlwind; but this I hope has introduced the essence of it. It is wisdom greatly despised by the world, and often forgotten by God’s people. He aquired his knowledge from heaven afar, he ascribed righteousness to his Maker; his words were not false, but perfect in knowledge. He declared purity in the heart by the loving of God’s justice, and trust in the Lord by the disciplines of His mercy.

Though perhaps little more than a youth, he yet spoke from what he had both seen and heard in the Lord.

God was his strength.

The LORD is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in Him.
The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.
It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.
Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him; let him put his mouth in the dust— there may yet be hope; let him give his cheek to the one who strikes, and let him be filled with insults.
For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though He cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of His steadfast love; for He does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.
To crush underfoot all the prisoners of the earth, to deny a man justice in the presence of the Most High, to subvert a man in his lawsuit, the Lord does not approve.
Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?
Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins?
Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD!
Lamentations 3:24-40

Calm in the Storm

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said…
Job 38:1

The mighty fortress of God wherein we find true shelter is the place where He reigns: and that place is the eye of the storm.

For it is His storm: it is the fervent whirling of every wind both foul and fair as He bends them all unto His will, that a man might at last be shaken and undone at the wonder that is HE. The closer we come to the calm of His shelter, the more fiercely the wind seeks to bewilder; but He brings it into subjection, and the strong tower of His strength shall envelop all who draw near on the wings of His Spirit.

He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.
Psalm 18:11

Without the veil of His cloud is a tempest of rebuke; within His bosom is the surety of His good rule. Amidst the swirling fury of many voices and the battering rains of many matters, the still of knowing God disarms our every excuse, giving way to that peace which no man can make for himself.

Though furor of words and turmoil of mind may prevail in this day, let us give our hearing and vision to that two-edged sword which cuts asunder this shadowy veil of our present darkness unto the seeing of the Lord seated in His temple. Let the prayer of our lives become that of the contrite soul which trembles at His word: bold in the Spirit and meek in the earth. Let Him be our fear, let Him be our dread; then shall He become our sanctuary, and we His.

Then Job answered the Lord, and said,
“I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.
Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? Therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me.
I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
Job 42:1-6

Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils. He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me. They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the Lord was my stay.
Psalm 18:15-18