By Evangelist B. N. Wire
The Why of Temptation
My early teaching as to the doctrine and experience of entire sanctification left me with the strong impression that holiness is an old age problem, an end in itself, a finishing principle, the roof on the house, or the cap sheaf on the shock. If we were sanctified wholly, I thought, one could shout and smile and sing all the time. One preacher illustrated the experience of sanctification as "The elevator to heaven", in contrast to the experience of justification as "The climb by the stairs". I longed for the experience, thinking that my battles for the most part would be over, yet I soon found, with all who enroll in the department of sanctification of the school of Christ, that there are some required courses. Among those required courses is one having for its text a large black book entitled "Temptation " .
There can be no exemptions from this course. Most of us have looked upon its lessons only as unnecessary burdens without benefit or purpose. We have often cried "Why Lord?" under the agony of the manifold heaviness of temptation. But there is a Divine plan and purpose back of it all. I have found that if we can grasp this fact it will make our temptations and trials much easier to bear. All of us must be made to understand that God not only makes temptation and affliction work for our highest good, but also he purposes them as essential to our spiritual well-being and development. According to The Bible, temptation has a two-fold meaning. First and most basic it refers to satanic enticement to sin, but it is also used to denote a test, trial, or challenge coming from God Himself in order to strengthen us and fit us for greater service. Through these tests and trials of the course of temptation, God has seven divine aims or purposes which He wishes to be accomplished .
I. Temptations serve as monitors, reminding us continually of our own utter weakness and our necessary dependency upon the Divine.
God is a jealous God and He will get all the glory for the victory which His people have over Satan and sin in time and eternity. If the mighty powers of satanic enticements were not loosed upon us until we sensed utter defeat and helplessness in ourselves we would become sufficient in ourselves and fail to see our strength is of God and give Him all the glory. God must teach us that "When I am weak, then am I strong." 11 Cor. 12:1. That is, the less we trust in our own strength and understanding, the more we draw upon and live in the power of God. If we were not forced to face things that were too much for us we would not learn how utterly dependent upon our Heavenly Father we are and hence would not appreciate and glorify Him as we ought. "For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works least any man should boast," Eph. 2:8,9. Salvation is of the Lord! To God be all the Glory!
II. Temptations help us to keep God's commandment, "Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth. " Col. 3:2.
God loves us too much to let everything go too easy and ideal in our earthly life. He knows it is hard for us to grasp the reality of the unseen and spiritual and set our affections upon it. Material things, earthly ties and human affections demand most of our time and seem so real to us. It is so easy to live for and set our affections on the things we see and handle and the ones to whom we are bound by ties of human love. But God wants to detach and wean us from this old world and human dependencies and help us to look at and live for the eternal values which are not seen. Hence it will be necessary for us to suffer sad experiences and losses to teach us that all earthly possessions are but dross, and every human tie may perish. We may possess, but we must not set our hearts upon our possessions. "If riches increase set not your heart upon them." We may love, but we must not idolize or love too much or God will allow tragedy to come to teach us to set our affections upon Him. God must have first place in the hearts of His people.
We must be taught by many dark providences that all earthly things and joys are of but little value in comparison with spiritual and eternal things. I Timothy 6:7 says, "For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out." What a difficult lesson for God's people to learn, that it is only those spiritual values that we build into our lives that are the worthwhile and abiding realities. May God help His people to live more for spiritual and eternal things - to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, for nothing else will finally count.
III. Temptations serve to develop the soul into spiritual maturity.
The tested character of manhood is more precious in the sight of God than the innocence of a babe. The innocence of childhood is neither morality nor spirituality. But when we live a life of righteousness, in spite of Satanic enticements to evil on every hand, we exalt Christ and give moral and spiritual quality to living.
We would never develop in the iron graces of faith, patience and fidelity were it not for the temptations and trials of life's battle field. God designs to keep us from being jellyfish, spineless Christians. He takes pride in those who can "Endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ." 11 Timothy 2 3. But such soldiers are made at the battle front, facing the foe midst shot and shell, danger and death. A good soldier must learn how to take blows as well as to give them. He must learn how to hold his ground when he cannot advance, and never to retreat. He must learn by experience not to give up the fight because he is wounded. Every battle won means a stronger, more efficient soldier for the next fight.
After all it takes experience to teach us how to take the criticisms and hard things that are thrown in our path to trip us up, and make them stepping stones to higher and better Christian living. A good sailor, one says, must learn to utilize a head wind. He must be able to take that wind that would blow the ship upon the rocks and by setting the sails cause it to bring him on his desired course and to his desired destination.
Temptations are to the spiritual life of the Christian what gymnastics are to the physical life. The muscles of the athlete are developed by using them in the contest, and so the graces of the Spirit are developed in the soul by the exercise of them in the battle against temptation and trial.
IV. Temptations serve to teach us of God's Divine care and glorious deliverances for His children.
We did not learn the most about God in the camp meeting love feast but by going through the deep waters and the fiery trials. We did not learn to appreciate the unfailing promises in the sunlight of human happiness, but in the shadows of human anguish and sorrow.
God's holy people are indeed a peculiar people. Ask them to tell of the most precious experience of their Christian career and they will take you back to one of the saddest and darkest hours of their lives.
Baby Carolyn's Death
Those who are filled with the Spirit will understand why I say that the passing of our four month old daughter, Carolyn Lois, was one of the most precious experiences of my life.
It was February 10, 1930. Our home was then in Greenville, Illinois. I was in Niagara Falls, New York in the midst of a great revival meeting. Two letters came in the morning from my sweetheart-wife, Dorothea, telling me that all were well and happy at home. Not one thought had ever entered my mind of death or sadness entering our home. While we were seated at the dinner table talking and laughing, a Western Union lad came to the door with a telegram. Smilingly, I took it and opened it thinking it to be concerning some of my future revival campaigns, but instead of that I read, "Baby Carolyn died today at noon, wire arrival." It was a thunder bolt out of a clear sky and for a moment seemed unreal and impossible. Then, the fact began to break in upon my mind and it dazed me like a blow. I arose and went to my room, dropped on my knees and tried to pray, but I could not pray with my lips. My heart seemed to be in my throat. But in this hour I learned that we pray best sometimes when we don't say a word and there will be many times when sorrow tears our heart strings and manifold temptations bring such heaviness we cannot pray with our lips. Then we can remember that
How precious it is dear pilgrims in the deep valley and the fiery trial to remember that God sees the sorrow of our broken hearts; He hears the faintest sigh of His saints and marks every falling tear. After all, words are such feeble things in the greatest hours of our lives.
It was such a glorious thing to feel no disposition to complain over the death of our little one. My heart still trusted perfectly and rested in God as I said, "It's all right Lord." (We gave our basics to God before they were born, and demanded that all be saved even if they had to be taken while little.) This thought came with such force, "Baby Carolyn is safe forever, but those who fill the church to hear the sermon tonight, are not. I must preach before I take my train for the funeral." I went to the pulpit and spoke for about twenty-five minutes. then the altar was filled with seekers. God so lifted me in the passion to see these souls pray through that I literally laid off my sorrow until ten o'clock that night. At ten forty I took train at Niagara Falls, changing to a Pullman at Buffalo. When I retired to my berth the sorrow of my circumstances rushed back upon me with renewed force - the revival in the background, the funeral ahead, and me speeding over the rails on the Lake-to-Shore Limited, New York Central train, sixty miles an hour. "What is Life? What has happened?" (Baby Carolyn had never been sick a day in her life and the telegram had given no explanation). "Why has this come?" These, and many other questions rushed through my mind.
There I lay with tears running down the sides of my head when the Comforter (the blessed Holy Ghost) entered and laid His healing hand upon my broken heart. His presence was just as real in that pullman berth as mother's ever was at my bedside in boyhood. He wrote out before me the verse of the fourteenth chapter of John, as I had never read it before. These words, "Let not your heart be troubled" stood out as if in letters of fire, and struck like a command, and yet brought healing comfort. At once my soul was flooded with such light and joy as I could hardly contain. In my joy I exclaimed, "I never was so glad as I am tonight that I am a Christian." Then I fell asleep until eight o'clock the next morning.
I arrived at Greenville, Ill. Tuesday, February 11, to find the Rev. Geo. E. Kline, our pastor, and Professor Robert Woods at the station to tell me that the baby had died in her sleep on the front porch in her buggy. No one will ever know how, or why she died, but again we bow our heads in humble heart-broke submission. Baby Carolyn never knew her Daddy here, for I had been away when she was born and had only seen and held her in my arms about three times during her life. She was like a ray of sunshine that endured only for a few hours but which brightened our hearts and home with the love of the Heart that loaned her to us for a few days.
If it had not been for this sorrow in our home, I never would have known what an inexpressible comfort a spiritual pastor and his wife can be. It was also a revelation to me to see how many friends I had. No one except those who have experienced it can ever know what a comfort it is to have the saints share your sorrow in such an hour.
When we stood the next afternoon on that snow-covered hillside and lowered that little white casket - the hope of the resurrection and the fact that we shall know each other on eternal shores thrilled my heart. As a result of this experience the Bible became more a book of God, the staff of the promises held sure and became more precious, even heaven drew nearer and earth receded.
We turned from the cemetery and in a few hours with wife and our older daughter, June, boarded a fast train for Buffalo, arriving the next day in Niagara Falls to continue the revival services. Some said they did not see how we could do it, but we did not see how we could do otherwise for we knew "That all things work together for good to them that love God We have never once felt like complaining over our loss because 'He doeth all things well."
It is hard for us to learn and not forget that:
It is certain we should not worry over life's sorrows and troubles. If we keep faith in God, all is well. A little want should teach us to live more on the Bread of Life. Sickness should send us to the Great Physician. The loss of friends should cause us to cling more closely to the Friend of Sinners. The hymn writer ably expressed it thus:
B. N. Wire
There are several repetitions of certain truths and scripture. There are two reasons for this. 1. These messages were often given at different times and places. Each one has a special point in it separate from the other, but many truths in other messages are related and necessary to the full clarification of the point. 2. Some scriptures and truths are repeated purely for emphasis sake. Repetition is one of the laws of learning.
I have not quoted anyone knowingly without acknowledgment. These three Minister's writings have helped me most. Rev. C. W. Ruth, H. A. Baldwin and General Superintendent R. T. William's little book on "A Neglected Theme".