How long a time I lived the Christian life without discovering the secret of true joy and constant victory! But at last one day the secret was imparted to me, and life became a changed thing. And because of the wondrous change it brought to my own life, the desire grew strong within my heart to impart the glorious secret to others.
But how unworthy I felt and feel increasingly to pose as a teacher of others, until I recall that it has so often been His weak and unworthy ones that He has been pleased to make the object of His grace, so revealing to others what He can do for the “Chiefest of Sinners.”
Not that I considered myself the Chiefest of Sinners. Not at all. I felt myself to be a very satisfactory and commendable Christian indeed, and it has been only since I learned the “Secret” that I have discovered myself to be such a great sinner at heart.
But now for the Secret. It is very simple, and when you here it you will say that it isn’t any secret at all. For the whole blessed experience that came to me was bound up in two words, “Just Himself.” Just Himself; not the blessing, nor His gift of power, nothing but Himself.
There came the time that as a child I knelt with other children in a special service and gave my heart to God. I think perhaps I belonged to Him before that time, but that was my first public acknowledgement of Him. Then came a later time when I was a little girl, just on the threshold of young womanhood, I made a fuller surrender to Him thinking that by so doing I would inherit a blessing which should guarantee me against all future sin. I seemed to feel a newness of life for a time and rejoiced in it and held on to it desperately; but at last I slipped, and mistakenly said to myself that the experience I had was only a myth. This made my heart grow cold and hard.
Then followed several years of spiritual barrenness and hardness of heart during which time I found the world to be alluring and gave myself to worldly ambitions and pleasure. But just as I became twenty the Lord spoke to me unmistakably, and very humbly I crept back to His feet. There were many friendships to be broken, many things of the world to be discarded; but one by one I was freed from the glittering entanglements of sin and ambition that had held me so long, and in Him I was free. Free to give Him all my talents, all my time, all my life. But I had not learned the Secret yet.
I lived the Christian life for many years following this experience, the Lord graciously teaching me and deigning to use me, but the Secret was still not mine. Then came a wonderful day – it is engraven in my heart – when, as I looked out across the sea from the book I was reading, I begin to consider that the saint about whom the book was written knew his Lord in a personal, real way. This was not my experience, and a great longing rose in my heart to know Him like this – and yet … For I was being honest with myself, and I knew, when the thought of Jesus came to me and the possibility of a closer walk with Him confronted me, that some things in my life wouldn’t be pleasing to Him. Indeed, I couldn’t quite imagine Him entering into them with me, and the words flashed across my mind, brought by His Holy Spirit, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”
And then the struggle commenced, because there is no use denying that there were some things I loved better than the possibility of such a walk with Him. Oh the shame of it! But I was still being very honest. They were such trivial, foolish things when compared with the incomparable privilege which He was offering me. And at last, feeling battered by the conflict but very victorious, I came to my Lord and held out the little trophies to Him, saying from my heart, “Dear Lord, I want to walk with thee, I want to abide in Thy presence, to be altogether Thine, and to love Thee wholly. And because I know You cannot walk with me while I pursue those pleasures, I give them all to Thee today.” And then a wonderful thing occurred. He became suddenly very real and very precious. I shall always love that little town in Northern Wales with a peculiar love, for it was there I learned to walk with my Lord. I shall never forget the ecstasy of my heart as I walked its sordid little streets and talked with Him. Sometimes I felt I must put out my hand and touch His garments, He seam so near. And looking up into His face I would find myself saying again and again, “But Thou – Thou art so blessed, and so beautiful, and I never knew Thee like this before.”
There has been years in my Christian life, I say it to my shame, when prayer and reading of the Word had been but a part of the day’s routine. Not that I shouldn’t have hated to omit them; actually I should have preferred foregoing my morning meal. But the fact remained, they were not essential to my happiness, only to my sense of duty performed. But when I let Jesus come to me to abide, then there came a great passion for His word and prayer – a passion which increases with the passing days. It is now a very precious time when I meet with Him and He speaks to me through His word, and again in prayer while I hold myself in His Presence saying, “Speak for thy servant heareth.” I can see the faults of my early conception of prayer. A hurried presentation of numerous requests, a battling with wandering thoughts, an afterthought of praise, then arising from the knees with a sense of having done what was required of me.
Oh the glory! The preciousness of prayer! When it is simply the continuation of your walk with Him; as though it were the withdrawing of yourselves together from the crowded places to where you could be alone and really converse with freedom, opening your hearts to one another. The wondrousness of being able to bring your problems and temptations and lay them out before your Lord one by one, then wait in the silence with your heart open before Him and your eyes upon His face until He speaks. And how wonderfully He does speak, sometimes through the word of Scripture which fastens itself upon your heart, sometimes by a word of counsel that comes almost as though audibly spoken. And best of all, just the sense of being in His presence with nothing to distract.
In the months that followed I found that many other things which I had considered essential to my well-being and happiness had suddenly lost all their earlier significance. With Him by my side in the light of His fellowship these trivial things disappeared from my life one by one. Nor were they ever missed. My only wonder was that I could have held them dear for so long.
And service! It had been true in the past that I felt a certain virtue in serving my Master and in the feeling that I was laying up rewards and earning a recompense. But I fear I knew little if anything of a conviction that after having done all these things I was still an unprofitable servant. But this feeling slipped away and in its place came a wonder that God could use such as I, as I came to know my own heart more and more with all its wretchedness and helplessness apart from Him. And there came the sense that I was but a little child, helpless, weak and needy, but that in Him I could find all the treasures of grace in which I stood in need. An oh, the wonder of seeing all the work as His, and of accepting from His hand His work for me each day, taking with it His grace to perform it, as well as physical strength I so sorely needed. It was blessed to be His servant and receive my daily orders from Him, and know I was truly doing the work He had appointed me and in the strength that He alone can impart.
I find it true that His love constraineth me. It is no longer drudgery to speak to souls about Him, but a privilege and joy; and furthermore there is a constraint laid upon me compelling me to tell others about Him. I cannot keep silent. And my heart that was formerly so hard in the presence of sin and the sinner, I find now yearning over the lost. But how could it be otherwise? It is not that I love the sinner, but having abandoned myself to Christ, He loves him through me.
Now I think you are asking, “What about your personal victory over sin?” I found that two, for it is part of the secret. It is also, “Just Himself.” If you are abandoned – fully yielded to Jesus – if He has become dearer to you than all else so that He, and He alone fills heaven and earth for you, than you will find that you love Him better than sin. I faced the fact early that Jesus could not walk with me if there was sin in my life. And how well I remember those early months when, as I would think of some pleasure given up for Him, I would say to myself, “I could enjoy that now if I wished,” and then as I thought of exchanging the walk with Him for that doubtful pleasure, I would find myself shuddering at the thought. So it came to be with sin.
When tempted to impatience or kindred sins, my first thought is, “But it will grieve Him;” and then knowing my own utter impotency, I fairly cast myself upon His mercy and strength, imploring His aid, and never have I found Him to fail.
And now I am going to make a confession because I want you to profit by my lesson. The months glided away in this blessed fellowship, and because of my love for Him it seemed to me it became increasingly easy to live the victorious life by loving Him and trusting implicitly in His strength. I think I had forgotten a little how weak my own heart was apart from Him and how mighty my adversary. And let me say just here that never have I known such temptations as those since I learn the Secret. It is the very sort of life that Satan hates and fears the most, and against which he hurls his fiercest darts. And so one day I found myself sinning before I was scarcely aware of it. It was not a very great sin, but it showed me nothing else could have done how really dependent I was upon the Lord, and how dangerous it was for me to stray ever so little from His presence.
Very humbly and contritely I came back asking His forgiveness and saying just as Brother Lawrence used to do, “I shall never do otherwise if I am left to myself.” And the lessons He taught me that day of distrust of self, of the utter wretchedness of my own heart apart from Himself, of my need of His presence every passing hour, or rather every moment, will never be effaced from my soul.
To love Him better that anything that would deny you His fellowship and constant presence; to love Him better than any sin so that you feel you would rather die than grieve Him ever so little; to yield every waking moment to Him, and finding in Him your all – that is the life to which He has called you.
That is the great Secret that will transform all life for every Christian – to find the beauty, the preciousness, the victory-giving power there is in “Just Himself.” –
May the Lord bring you into this wonderful secret of “Just Himself.”
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