Monday, March 1, 2010

The Chariots of God

The following is a chapter from one of my favorite all time spiritual classics, The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life, by Hannah Whitall Smith. This volume, originally published in 1870, has seen me through many a dark trial, a companion of sorts as I made my solitary pilgrim's way through this world.

The Chariots of God

It has been well said that "earthly cares are a heavenly discipline." But they are even something better than discipline,---they are God's chariots, sent to take the soul to its high places of triumph.

They do not look like chariots. They look instead like enemies, sufferings, trials, defeats, misunderstandings, disappointments, unkindnesses. They look like Juggernaut cars of misery and wretchedness, which are only waiting to roll over us and crush us into the earth. But could we see them as they really are, we should recognize them as chariots of triumph in which we may ride to those very heights of victory for which our souls have been longing and praying. The Juggernaut car is the visible thing; the chariot of God is the invisible. The King of Syria came up against the man of God with horses and chariots that could be seen by every eye, but God had chariots that could be seen by none save the eye of faith. The servant of the Prophet could only see the outward and visible; and he cried, as so many have done since, "Alas, my master! how shall we do?" But the Prophet himself sat calmly within his house without fear, because his eyes were opened to see the invisible; and all he asked for his servant was, "Lord, I pray thee open his eyes that he may see."

This is the prayer we need to pray for ourselves and for one another, "Lord, open our eyes that we may see"; for the world all around us, as well as around the Prophet, is full of God's horses and chariots, waiting to carry us to places of glorious victory. And when our eyes are thus opened, we shall see in all the events of life, whether great or small, whether joyful or sad, a "chariot" for our souls.

Everything that comes to us becomes a chariot the moment we treat it as such; and on the other hand, even the smallest trials may be a Juggernaut car to crush us into misery or despair if we so consider them. It lies with each of us to choose which they shall be. It all depends, not upon what these events are, but upon how we take them. If we lie down under them and let them roll over us and crush us, they become Juggernaut cars, but if we climb up into them, as into a car of victory, and make them carry us triumphantly onward and upward, they become the chariots of God.

Whenever we mount into God's chariots the same thing happens to us spiritually that happened to Elijah. We shall have a translation. Not into the heavens above us, as Elijah did, but into the heaven within us; and this, after all, is almost a grander translation that his. We shall be carried away from the low, earthly, groveling plane of life, where everything hurts and everything is unhappy, up into the "heavenly places in Christ Jesus," where we can ride in triumph over all below.

These "heavenly places" are interior, not exterior; and the road that leads to them is interior also. But the chariot that carries the soul over this road is generally some outward loss or trial or disappointment, some chastening that does not indeed seem for the present to be joyous, but grievous, but that nevertheless afterward "yields the peaceable fruits of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby."

In the Canticles we are told of "chariots paved with love." We cannot always see the love-lining to our own particular chariot. It often looks very unlovely. It may be a cross-grained relative or friend; it may be the result of human malice or cruelty or neglect; but every chariot sent by God must necessarily be paved with love, since God is love; and God's love is the sweetest, softest, tenderest thing to rest one's self upon that was ever found by any soul anywhere. It is His love, indeed, that sends the chariot.

Look upon your chastenings then, no matter how grievous they may be for the present, as God's chariots sent to carry your souls into the "high places" of spiritual achievement and uplifting, and you will find that they are, after all, "paved with love."

The Bible tells us that when God went forth for the salvation of His people, then He "did ride upon His horses and chariots of salvation." And it is the same now. Everything becomes a "chariot of salvation" when God rides upon it. He makes even the "clouds his chariot," we are told, and "rides on the wings of the wind." Therefore the clouds and storms that darken our skies and seem to shut out the shining of the sun of righteousness are really only God's chariots, into which we may mount with Him, and "ride prosperously" over all the darkness. Dear reader, have you made the clouds in your life your chariots? Are you "riding prosperously" with God on top of them all?

I knew a lady who had a very slow servant. She was an excellent girl in every other respect, and very valuable in the household; but her slowness was a constant source of irritation to her mistress, who was naturally quick, and who always chafed at slowness. This lady would consequently get out of temper with the girl twenty times a day, and twenty times a day would repent of her anger and resolve to conquer it, but in vain. Her life was made miserable by the conflict. One day it occurred to her that she had for a long while been praying for patience, and that perhaps this slow servant was the very chariot the Lord had sent to carry her soul over into patience. She immediately accepted it as such, and from that time used the slowness of her servant as a chariot for her soul; and the result was a victory of patience that no slowness of anybody was ever after able to disturb.

I knew another lady, at a crowded convention, who was put to sleep in a room with two others on account of the crowd. She wanted to sleep, but they wanted to talk; and the first night she was greatly disturbed, and lay there fretting and fuming long after the others had hushed and she might have slept. But the next day she heard something about God's chariots, and at night she accepted these talking friends as her chariots to carry her over into sweetness and patience, and was kept in undisturbed calm. When, however, it grew very late, and she knew they all ought to be sleeping, she ventured to say quietly, "Friends, I am lying here riding in a chariot!" The effect was instantaneous, and perfect quiet reigned! Her chariot had carried her over to victory, not only inwardly, but at last outwardly as well.

If we would ride in God's chariots instead of our own we should find this to be the case continually.

Our constant temptation is to trust in the "chariots of Egypt," or, in other words, in earthly resources. We can see them; they are tangible, and real, and look substantial, while God's chariots are invisible and intangible, and it is hard to believe they are there.

We try to reach high spiritual places with the "multitude of our chariots." We depend first on one thing and then on another to advance our spiritual condition, and to gain our spiritual victories. We "go down to Egypt for help." And God is obliged often to destroy all our own earthly chariots before He can bring us to the point of mounting into His.

We lean too much upon a dear friend to help us onward in the spiritual life, and the Lord is obliged to separate us from that friend. We feel that all our spiritual prosperity depends on our continuance under the ministry of a favorite preacher, and he is mysteriously removed. We look upon our prayer-meeting or our Bible-class as the chief source of our spiritual strength, and we are shut up from attending them. And the "chariots of God" which alone can carry us to the places where we hoped to be taken by the instrumentalities upon which we have been depending is to be found in the very deprivations we have so mourned over. God must burn up with the fire of His love every chariot of our own that stands in the way of our mounting into His.

We have to be brought to the place where all other refuges fail us before we can say, "He only." We say, "He and---something else," "He and my experiences," or "He and my church relationships," or "He and my Christian work"; and all that comes after the "and" must be taken away from us, or must be proved useless, before we can come to the "He only." As long as visible chariots are at hand the soul will not mount into the invisible ones.

Let us be thankful, then, for every trial that will help to destroy our earthly chariots, and that will compel us to take refuge in the chariot of God which stands ready and waiting beside us in every event and circumstance of life. We are told that "God rides upon the heavens," and if we would ride with Him there we need to be brought to the end of all riding upon the earth.

When we mount into God's chariot our goings are "established," for no obstacles can hinder His triumphal course. All losses, therefore, are gains that bring us to this. Paul understood this, and he gloried in the losses which brought him such unspeakable rewards. "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him."

Even the "thorn in the flesh," the messenger of Satan sent to buffet him, became a "chariot of God" to his willing soul, and carried him to the heights of triumph which he could have reached in no other way. To "take pleasure" in one's trials, what is this but to turn them into the grandest of chariots?

Joseph had a revelation of his future triumphs and reigning, but the chariots that carried him there looked to the eye of sense like dreadful Juggernaut cars of failure and defeat. Slavery and imprisonment are strange chariots to take one to a kingdom, and yet by no other way could Joesph have reached his exaltation. And our exaltation to the spiritual throne that awaits us is often reached by similar chariots.

The great point, then, is to have our eyes opened to see in everything that comes to us a "chariot of God," and to learn how to mount into these chariots. We must recognize each thing that comes to us as being really God's chariot for us, and must accept it as from Him. He does not command or originate the thing, perhaps; but the moment we put it into His hands it becomes His, and He at once turns it into a chariot for us. He makes all things, even bad things, work together for good to all those who trust Him.

When your trial comes, then, put it right into the will of God, and climb into that will as a little child climbs into its mother's arms. The baby carried in the chariot of its mother's arms rides triumphantly through the hardest places, and does not even know they are hard. And how much more we who are carried in the chariot of the "arms of God!"

Get into your chariot, then. Take each thing that is wrong in your lives as God's chariot for you. No matter who the builder of the wrong may be, whether men or devils, by the time it reaches your side it is God's chariot for you, and is meant to carry you to a heavenly place of triumph.

No doubt the enemy will try to turn your chariot into a Juggernaut car by taunting you with the suggestion that God is not in your trouble, and that there is no help for you in Him. But you must utterly disregard all such suggestions, and must overcome them with the assertion of a confident faith. "God is my refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble," must be your continual declaration, no matter what the seemings may be.

Moreover, you must not be half-hearted about it. You must climb wholly into your chariot, not with one foot dragging on the ground. There must be no "ifs," or "buts," or "supposings," or "questionings." You must accept God's will fully, and must hide yourself in the arms of His love, that are always underneath to receive you, in every circumstance and at every moment.

Do any of you ask where your chariots are to be found? The psalmist says, "The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels." There is never in any life a lack of chariots. One dear Christian said to me at the close of a meeting where I had been speaking about these chariots: "I am a poor woman, and have all my life long grieved that I could not drive in a carriage like some of my rich neighbors. But I have been looking over my life while you have been talking, and I find that it is so full of chariots on every side that I am sure I shall never need to walk again."

I have no shadow of doubt, dear readers, that if all our eyes could be opened today we should see our homes, and our places of business, and the streets we traverse, filled with the "chariots of God." There is no need for anyone of us to walk for lack of chariots. That cross inmate of your household, who has made life a burden to you, and who has been the Juggernaut car to crush your soul into the dust, may henceforth be a glorious chariot to carry you to the heights of heavenly patience and longsuffering. That misunderstanding, that mortification, that unkindness, that disappointment, that loss, that defeat,---all these are chariots waiting to carry you to the very heights of victory you have so longed to reach.
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2 comments :

  1. WOW. I know a few people who be helped by reading this. At first I was going to ask your permission to quote a few sentences to them in an email if I credited you, but they really need to read the whole entry. Offering them a few sentences out of this would be like handing them one of the frosting flowers off a huge wedding cake but never allowing them to taste the cake. I'll be passing on your blog address to a few more hurting Christians. Today (May something-th)I noticed you were back blogging. Welcome back!

    ~mary

    ReplyDelete
  2. Mary,

    I'm glad to hear that you found this post so inspiring. I would recommend the book that this was taken from, The Christian's Secret of A Happy Life (by Hannah Whitall Smith) to anyone longing to better understand life's trials. (I think this book can be found at any Christian bookstore, and probably on Amazon as well.)

    My own copy is so worn and dog-eared that the cover is half off!

    Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment.

    ReplyDelete

Comments, anyone? I'd love to hear your point of view.