Ellen G. White Writings

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The Signs of the Times

February 21, 1900

“My Ways Are Not Your Ways”

The worker for God often regards the activities of life as essential for the advancement of the work. He looks upon himself as a necessity, and self is mingled with all that is said and done. Then God interposes. He draws His child away from the earthly, which holds his attention, that he may behold His glory. He says: “This poor soul has lost sight of Me and My sufficiency. His eye is not fixed upon his Lord. I must throw My light and My vitalizing power into his heart, and thus prepare him to work in right lines. By anointing his eyes with the heavenly eye-salve I will prepare him to receive truth.

The Lord is compelled to fortify the soul against self-sufficiency and self-dependence, in order that the worker shall not regard his failings as virtues, and thus be ruined by self-exaltation. Sometimes the Lord makes His path to the soul by a process that is painful to humanity; the work of purifying is a great work, and will always cost man suffering and trial. But he must pass through the furnace until the fires have consumed the dross, and he can reflect the divine image.

Those who follow their own inclinations are not good judges of what the Lord is doing, and they are filled with discontent. They see failure where there is triumph, loss where there is gain. Like Jacob, they are ready to exclaim, “All these things are against me,” when the very things whereof they complain are working together for their good. “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater; so shall My Word be that goeth forth out of My mouth; it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

Let us consider the experience of Paul for a little. At the very time when it seemed that the apostle's labors were most needed to strengthen the tried and persecuted church, his liberty was taken away, and he was bound in chains. But this was the time for the Lord to work, and precious were the victories won. When to all appearance Paul was able to do the least, then it was that the truth found an entrance into the royal palace. Not Paul's masterly sermons before these great men, but his bonds attracted their attention. Through his captivity he was a conqueror for Christ. The patience and meekness with which he submitted to his long and unjust confinement, set these men to weighing character. Sending his last message to his loved ones in the faith, Paul gathers up with his words the greetings from these saints in Caesar's household to the saints in other cities.

Tho a prisoner, and kept in close confinement, Paul was given some privileges which many of his fellow-prisoners did not have. One which he prized highly was that of being allowed to receive his brethren, and through them he sent messages of instruction and encouragement to the churches. Writing at this time to the Philippians, he says: “Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the Gospel from the first day until now; being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ; even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the Gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace. For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ. And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.”

The sustaining grace of God ministered to Paul in his imprisonment, making him cheerful, and he could even rejoice in tribulation. With faith and assurance he writes to his Philippian brethren, showing them that his imprisonment has resulted in the furtherance of the Gospel. “I would ye should understand, brethren,” he writes, “that the things which have happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the Gospel; so that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; and many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the Word without fear.”

We have a lesson to learn from this history, revealing as it does God's way of working. The Lord can bring victory out of that which to us may seem discomfiture and defeat. It is always His plan to disappoint the enemy. We are apt to forget God, and look at the things which are seen, which are temporal, when we should look at the things which are not seen, which are eternal. When misfortune or sudden calamity comes, we are ready to charge God with cruelty. If He sees fit to cut off our usefulness in some line, we mourn and lament. We do not stop to consider that this may be God's way of working. We have yet to learn that chastisement is a part of God's great plan; that under affliction's rod we may do far more for the Master than when engaged in active service.

Because a man is sick, God does not lay him aside; He makes use of the sickness. The man who exercises unshaken faith under suffering, exercises a more telling influence than he could possibly do in health. Often the afflicted one can preach a more effectual sermon from his sick-bed than ever he preached from the pulpit. And it is on the sick-bed that the sustaining power of God is magnified. When we are pressed by suffering or bereavement, God sends the needed help. His promises are proved to be steadfast and unfailing.

Mrs. E. G. White

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