Behold, we count them happy which endure. You have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord…
It is the supreme exercise of faith to believe in its goodness; to accept it as a beautiful, a precious, yea, even a blessed part of the heritage of benediction which we enjoy. It is hard to believe in the goodness of toil, and to break forth into praise as the nerves throb, and the flesh quivers under the strain. It is far harder to praise when the fibres of the soul are throbbing with anguish, and the heart reels under a pressure which it can no longer endure. The real question is, What is in the child's heart, not when it is tormented, but when it is in its right mind, and the hidden nature is free to express itself, to make known its secret thought, and to declare its love. If that be right with God, as Job's was, the plaints and meanings enter into a compassionate ear, and are so many pleas, like the infant's cry, for loving glances, tender touches, wooing words, and all the gentle efforts by which the Father strives to draw the moaning child to His bosom, and to hush him to rest in the arms of His love. It is a state of gracious discipline to which we are called in this life; not a home, not a rest, but a school of culture, a wilderness of pilgrimage, in which salvation is not through possession, but through hope. And for this goodly heritage, this scene and school of discipline, I call you this day to praise. For man constituted as he is, or rather as he has made himself by sin, tasks are good, and the sentence of toil is good. It is good to bring him back into that harmony with the Divine law from which he had withdrawn himself; good to remind him that he is living in God's world, and not in his own, and that he must study and obey humbly the laws of its constitution if he would lift his hand, draw his breath, and eat his bread, The lesson was made hard; the work was to deepen into toil that would strain every fibre, and start every pore, that the lesson might be driven home, and that powers might be drawn forth and cultivated which, when the painful process of their first training was over, would be instruments of power and inlets of joy to the being through all the ages of eternity. Discipline takes up and carries on this ministry of the tasks of life. It carries it up into higher regions — the regions of spiritual experience and power. It is a still stronger and sharper reminder to man that he has placed himself in collision with the whole system of things around him, by the transgression of the Divine commandment; and that submission, believing submission, to the will which is above him, is the one secret of peace and blessedness. It would be very terrible for man, the sinner, in the physical world, if he could command successfully the stones to be made bread — that is, if he could make things obey him instead of God. It would but make for him a fool's paradise for a moment, which his own selfish passions would soon convert into a hell. It would be still more terrible, were it possible for man, if he could lie, and cheat, and steal, or be arrogant, self-willed, lustful, tyrannous, or unjust, and live peaceably, free from storm and inward and outward wretchedness. If he could play the tyrant in his home, and find it a house of benediction, or in his state, and find it prosperous and strong; if he could play the hypocrite or the satyr in his own soul, and be honoured and loved of all men, live in peace and die in hope, it would be a training for a miserable and lost eternity. The pain of life throws back man's thought on his sin. He sees, or is meant to see, how his own selfishness, injustice, impurity, are armed with scourges to smite him, and will bury their thongs in his quivering flesh, and stain them with the starting blood, before they leave him to dream, if he can, that the way of the transgressor is peace. But it would be a dark mistake to imagine that the whole meaning of life's discipline has relation to transgression, and that when it has convinced a man of sin, and set right his relations with the laws of the world around him, its work is done. The end of the Lord in much of our affliction is not so much to convert as to elevate, purify, and conform unto Himself. There is a strange absence of bitterness in this form of suffering; the pain may be terribly sharp, while within there is the perfect peaceful consciousness that the chastisement is the most tender and even yearning manifestation of the Divine love. Those deeply experienced in suffering learn lessons of unselfish thought and activity, of devotion to great ends of human good, of comfort, of healing, of teaching, of ministering, which make them the helpers and saviours of society. And what is true of the greatest, is true in minor measure of minor ministries of blessing. It is those who have learnt much in God's high-school of discipline who best understand His mind and methods, and are His servants and ministers for the instruction of the world. It is suffering which unveils to us life's inner mysteries, solves for us its deepest problems, shows us the true treasure-house of the wealth of being, and brings uncertain riches and possessions to their true weight — but a slight one — in the scale of life. The sorrowful find how little gifts and possessions can content them, can lighten their burden or soothe their pangs. They are open to the teaching which bids them "lay up treasures in heaven"; they know that a soul's wealth lies absolutely in fellowship, sympathy, and love, and the fruit of noble, unselfish work.
(J. B. Brown, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.