Kindness That Comes Too Late

Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment. – John 12:3

I have always been glad that there was one who brought out her alabaster vase, and anointed the Lord beforehand for his burial. Most people would have waited, keeping the vase sealed, until he was dead, and would then have broken it to anoint his body when it lay, torn, wounded and cold, wrapped in the garments of burial. But she did not wait. She opened the jar while he could enjoy its sweet perfume, and when his worn and weary feet could feel the delicious refreshment which it gave.

We have not to read between the lines to find the lesson. After one dies—there is no lack of alabaster boxes to be brought from their hiding-places and unsealed. The kindest words are spoken then. Not a voice of fault-finding is heard in the darkened room where the dead form reposes in silence. A thousand pleasant things are said. A gentle charity covers and hides all his mistakes, and even his follies and sins. His life is talked over, and memory is busy gathering out the beautiful things he has done, the self-denials he has made, and the kindnesses he has wrought for the poor along the years of his life. Everyone that knew him, comes and looks on his pale face and says some generous word about him, recalling some favor received from his hands or some noble deed wrought by him. Near friends go to the florist and order flowers, woven into crosses, harps, pillars or crowns—to be sent with their card and laid upon his coffin.

There is nothing wrong in all this. Flowers on the coffin are beautiful. When a Christian sleeps, there they are fit symbols of the hope in which he rests. Then they seem to whisper sweet secrets of comfort for sorrowing hearts. They tell, too, of kindly feelings and gentle remembrances outside the darkened homes, while hearts are breaking within. They are the tokens of love and respect for the dead. There can be nothing inappropriate in the placing of a few choice flowers upon a coffin, or on the bosom of the dead.

It is fitting, too, that kind words should be spoken—even when the ear cannot hear them, or the heart be warmed and thrilled by them. There is no richer tribute to a human life, than the sincere witness of sorrowing friends around the coffin and the grave. It is natural that many a tender sleeping memory should be awakened at the touch of death. It is natural that when we have lost our friends, all the sealed vases of affection should be broken open to anoint them for the last time. It is well that even death has power to stop the tongue of detraction, to subdue enmities, jealousies and emulations, to reveal the hitherto unappreciated beauties and excellences of a man’s character, to cover with the veil of charity—his blemishes and faults, and to thaw out the tender thoughts, the laggard gratitude and the long-slumbering kindly feelings in the hearts of his neighbors and friends.

But meantime there is a great host of weary men and women toiling through life toward the grave—who sorely need just now the cheering words and helpful ministries which we can give. The incense is gathering to scatter about their coffins—but why should it not be scattered in their paths today? The kind words are lying in men’s hearts unexpressed, and trembling on their tongues unvoiced, which will be spoken by and by when these weary ones are dead—but why should they not be spoken now, when they are needed so much, and when their accents would be so pleasing and grateful?

Many a good man goes through life plain, plodding, living obscurely—yet living a true, honest, Christian life, making many a self-denial to serve others, doing many a quiet kindness to his neighbors and friends—who scarcely ever hears a word of thanks, or cheer, or generous commendation. He may hear many criticisms and many expressions of disparagement—but no approving words come to his ears. If his friends have pleasant things to say about him, they so manage to speak them—that he will not hear them. Perhaps they are not uttered at all. Those he loves and toils for, may be grateful—but their gratitude lies in their hearts like fruit-buds in the branches in February. The vases filled with kindly appreciation are kept sealed! The flowers are not cut from the stem.

You stand by his coffin, and there are enough kind things said there, to have brightened every hour of his life—if they had been said at the right time, while he was still alive. There are enough flowers piled upon his casket—to have kept his chamber filled with fragrance through all his years—if they had only been wisely scattered in daily clusters. How his heavy heart would have leaped and thanked God—if he could have heard some of the expressions of affection and approval in the midst of life’s painful strifes, and when staggering under its burdens, which are now wasted on ears that hear them not! How much happier his life would have been, and how much more useful, if he had known, amid his disappointments and anxieties—that he had so many generous friends who held him so dear! But, poor man! he had to die that the appreciation might express itself! Then he could not hear the gentle words spoken over his cold form! The flowers sent and strewn on his coffin—had no fragrance for him. The love blossomed out too late.

Many a woman gives out her life for Christ in lowly, self-denying ministries. She turns away from ease and comfort and toils for the poor. With her own fingers, she makes garments for the widow and orphan. When she is dead—there is great mourning. The poor rise up and call her blessed. Those she has clad, gather about her coffin and show the coats and garments she made for them while she was alive. Her pastor preaches her funeral sermon with wondrous tenderness and eloquence. All very well. It is a sweet reward, a beautiful ending, for such a life. But would it not have been better—if part at least of that kindness, had been shown to her while her weary feet were walking on their long love-errands, and her busy fingers were drawing the needle through seam after seam?

A husband piled most elaborate floral offerings about his wife’s coffin, built a magnificent monument over her grave, and spoke in glowing eulogy of her noble sacrifices. But it was whispered that he had not been the kindest of husbands to her while she lived. A daughter showed great sorrow at her mother’s funeral, and could not say enough in commendation of her—but it was known that she had thrust many a thorn into her pillow, while she was living.

Is it not a better thing to seek to make the living happy—than to leave them to walk along dreary paths without sympathy, unhelped, neglected, perhaps wronged—and then flood their coffins with sunshine? Many a man goes down under the pressure of life’s hardship, and the weight of its burdens, never hearing the voice of human sympathy. What does it matter to him, when the agony is over and he lies dead—that friends come in throngs to lament his death and to utter his praises? May it not be that a fragment of the sympathy and appreciation wasted and unavailing now that he is dead—would have kept his heart bravely beating for many another year?

Do not, then, keep the alabaster boxes of your love and tenderness sealed up until your friends are dead! Fill their lives with sweetness. Speak approving, cheering words while their ears can hear them. The things you mean to say when they are gone—say before they go! The flowers you mean to send for their coffins—send to brighten and sweeten their homes before they leave them.

If a sermon helps you, it will do the preacher good to tell him of it. If the editor writes an article that you like, he can write a still better one next week if you send him a note of thanks. If a book you read is helpful, do you not owe it to the author to write him a word of acknowledgment? If you know a weary or neglected one or one overworked, would it not be such work as God’s angels love to do—to seek to put a little brightness and cheer into his life, to manifest true sympathy with him, and to put into his trembling hand—the cup filled with the wine of human love?

I have always said—and I am sure I am speaking for thousands of weary, plodding toilers—that if my friends have vases laid away, filled with the perfumes of sympathy and affection, which they intend to break over my dead body—I would be glad if they would bring them out in some of my weary hours and open them, that I may be refreshed and cheered by them while I need them. I would rather have a coffin without a flower, and a funeral without a spoken eulogy—than a life without the sweetness of human tenderness and cheer! If we would fulfill our mission, we must anoint our friends beforehand for their burial. Post-mortem kindnesses does not cheer the burdened spirit. Tears falling on the icy brow—make poor and tardy atonement for coldness and neglect and cruel selfishness in long, struggling years. Appreciation when the heart is stilled in death—has no inspiration for the spirit. Justice comes too late—when it is only pronounced in the funeral eulogy. Flowers piled on the coffin—cast no fragrance backward over the weary days.

J. R. Miller, 1880

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Published in: on July 25, 2016 at 1:39 am  Leave a Comment  
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Work for God’s eye

 

“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Matthew 6:1

No grace shines more brightly in a Christian, than humility. Wherever SELF comes in–it mars the beauty of the work we are doing. Seek to do your work noiselessly. Do not try to draw attention to yourself–to make others know that you did some beautiful thing. Be content to pour your rich life into other wasted, weary lives–and see them blessed and made more holy–and then hide away and let Christ have the honor. Work for God’s eye–and even then, do not think much about reward. Seek to be a blessing–and never think of self-glory.

“Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:4

J. R. Miller, 1840-1912

Published in: on July 24, 2016 at 10:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Salvation is all of God

The Bible simply tells us that salvation is altogether and entirely the work of God. It tells us that man in his sinful state is against God, he does not desire God and would never return to God. There would have been no church at all, nor would there have been salvation, if God had not begun to act. ‘He which hath begun a good work in you’ – it is all of God.

Of course it is not surprising that Paul, above everybody else, should teach this. He never forgot what he had been himself; he remembered himself a blasphemer, and a persecutor of the Christian Church, and he knew perfectly well that he would have continued in that state were it not that at midday, while he was traveling along the road to Damascus where he intended to persecute a body of Christian people, the Lord suddenly appeared to him. Paul never decided to become a Christian, he never thought about it, he did not initiate the work. It was God who did it in him, and Paul therefore always referred the work to Him.

“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.” – Philippians 1:6

– D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Life of Joy and Peace

You MUST be born again

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. – John 3:3

We should notice what a mighty change our Lord declares to be needful to salvation, and what a remarkable expression He uses in describing it. He speaks of a new birth. He says to Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” He announces the same truth in other words, in order to make it more plain to his hearer’s mind–“Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” By this expression He meant Nicodemus to understand that “no one could become His disciple, unless his inward man was as thoroughly cleansed and renewed by the Spirit, as the outward man is cleansed by water.” To possess the privileges of Judaism a man only needed to be born of the seed of Abraham after the flesh. To possess the privileges of Christ’s kingdom, a man must be born again of the Holy Spirit.

The change which our Lord here declares needful to salvation is evidently no slight or superficial one. It is not merely reformation, or amendment, or moral change, or outward alteration of life. It is a thorough change of heart, will, and character. It is a resurrection. It is a new creation. It is a passing from death to life. It is the implanting in our dead hearts of a new principle from above. It is the calling into existence of a new creature, with a new nature, new habits of life, new tastes, new desires, new appetites, new judgments, new opinions, new hopes, and new fears. All this, and nothing less than this is implied, when our Lord declares that we all need a “new birth.”

This change of heart is rendered absolutely necessary to salvation by the corrupt condition in which we are all, without exception, born. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” Our nature is thoroughly fallen. The carnal mind is enmity against God. (Rom. 8:7.) We come into the world without faith, or love, or fear toward God. We have no natural inclination to serve Him or obey Him, and no natural pleasure in doing His will. Left to himself, no child of Adam would ever turn to God. The truest description of the change which we all need in order to make us real Christians, is the expression, “new birth.”

This mighty change, it must never be forgotten, we cannot give to ourselves. The very name which our Lord gives to it is a convincing proof of this. He calls it “a birth.” No man is the author of his own existence, and no man can quicken his own soul. We might as well expect a dead man to give himself life, as expect a natural man to make himself spiritual. A power from above must be put in exercise, even that same power which created the world. (2 Cor. 4:6.) Man can do many things; but he cannot give life either to himself or to others. To give life is the peculiar prerogative of God. Well may our Lord declare that we need to be “born again!”

This mighty change, we must, above all, remember, is a thing without which we cannot go to heaven, and could not enjoy heaven if we went there. Our Lord’s words on this point are distinct and express. “Except a man be born again, he can neither see nor enter the kingdom of God.” Heaven may be reached without money, or rank, or learning. But it is clear as daylight, if words have any meaning, that nobody can enter heaven without a “new birth.”

– J. C. Ryle, (1816 – 1900), Commentary on the Book of Matthew

Love keeps no record of wrongs

 

“Love does not take into account a wrong suffered…” 1 Cor. 13:5

Logizomai (take into account) is a bookkeeping term that means to calculate or reckon, as when figuring an entry in a ledger. The purpose of the entry is to make a permanent record that can be consulted whenever needed. In business that practice is necessary, but in personal matters it is not only unnecessary but harmful. Keeping track of things done against us is a sure way to unhappiness–our own and that of those on whom we keep records.

The same Greek word is used often in the New Testament to represent the pardoning act of God for those who trust in Jesus Christ. “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account” (Rom. 4:8). “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Cor. 5:19). Once sin is placed under the blood of Christ there is no more record of it. It is blotted out, “wiped away” (Acts 3:19). In God’s heavenly record the only entry after the names of His redeemed is “righteous,” because we are counted righteous in Christ. Christ’s righteousness is placed to our credit. No other record exists.

That is the sort of record love keeps of wrongs done against it. No wrong is ever recorded for later reference. Love forgives. Someone once suggested that love does not forgive and forget, but rather remembers and still forgives. Resentment is careful to keep books, which it reads and rereads, hoping for a chance to get even. Love keeps no books, because it has no place for resentment or grudges. Chrysostom observed that a wrong done against love is like a spark that falls into the sea and is quenched. Love quenches wrongs rather than records them. It does not cultivate memories out of evils. If God so completely and permanently erases the record of our many sins against Him, how much more should we forgive and forget the much lesser wrongs done against us (d. Matt. 18:21-35; Eph. 4:32)?

– John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary on 1st Corinthians