If Death is in Your Cup

Do not be afraid! I am the First and the Last, the Ever-living One! I died — but see, I am alive forevermore! And I hold the keys of death and Hades (the realm of the dead). – Revelation 1:17-18

If death is in our cup, that cup has been put into our hands at the time fixed by unerring wisdom and infinite love! When it is affirmed that Jesus holds “the key of death,” it is plainly implied that none can pass out of this present world without His appointment. And, more generally, that He is lord of the living not less than of the dead, and has a thorough control over everything that can in any way affect the lives of men. An absolute power over death, necessarily presupposes a corresponding power over life and its affairs. And it is by the exercise of His providence in sustaining life that He fulfills His purpose as to the time and mode of their departure hence.

Has the Redeemer the keys of death? Then this should mitigate the anxiety which often preys upon the mind when we look forward into the future, and contemplate the prospect of our own death. We should remember, that as the Redeemer alone has the keys of death. Nothing can happen to send us forth from the world before the time which He has appointed for our departure. Neither man nor devils can abridge the term of probation assigned to us by our gracious Master. Nor, until He is pleased to call us away, shall any power on earth or in Hell prevail against us. The Redeemer is possessed of absolute power over the course of our lives on earth and over the time and manner of our departure out of the world.

No accident, no hostile violence, no insidious snare, no dark conspiracy — can touch our life but by His command. And surely, when we reflect on the numerous dangers to which human life is exposed, the frailty of our frame, the diseases to which it is subject, our constant exposure to fatal accidents, the malice of open or concealed enemies, it must be consolatory to know, that the key of Death is in the Savior’s hands, and that, come what may, we cannot be forced out of the world, until He opens the door and bids us to come to Him.

More especially, when we are visited with disease, and threatened with a speedy termination of life, the Savior’s power over the keys of death should repress or assuage those violent anxieties as to the probability of death or of recovery, and those disquieting speculations as to the outcome of disease, and the mode of its treatment. For disease cannot kill, nor can medicine cure — without the appointment of Him who holds in His own hands the keys of life and of death! And if He has fixed the outcome of this disease, then why should we be anxious?

If the door of death is opening for our departure, it is because the tender Savior, whom we love and trust, is summoning us to be forever with Him!

Shall we, then, rebel against His appointment? Shall we doubt the love and wisdom of His determination? Or, as ignorant as we are of what is before us in this world, and of what really concerns our best interests, can we entertain the wish, that the power of determining the time of our death were wrested out of His hands and placed in our own?

True, we may have many ties that attach us to this world. We may be young, and, with the optimistic hope of youth, may cleave to life. We may be prosperous, and surrounded with many comforts. We may have a young and engaging family, whom we are loath to leave behind us to the cold charities of the world. We may have many dependents on our industry or bounty, who will bitterly lament our loss. But do we imagine that these considerations are not known to the Redeemer, or that He has not weighed them all? And if, notwithstanding, it is His will to summon us home, are we not prepared to yield up our faulty judgment to his unerring wisdom?

The duration of each man’s existence on earth is determined by the Redeemer. It belongs to Him to appoint a longer or shorter period to each, as He wills. And in doing so, we have reason to be satisfied, that He determines according to the dictates of His infallible wisdom, although the reasons of His procedure must necessarily be to us, for the present, inscrutable.

We cannot tell why one dies in infancy, another in childhood, a third in the prime of manly vigor, and a fourth reserved to the period of old age. But suffice it for us, that this happens not by chance, neither is it the result of caprice or carelessness, but flows from that unerring wisdom, whose counsels are formed on a view of all possible relations and consequences. The power of death being in the hands of the Redeemer, the duration of human life is, in every instance, determined by Him. And none, therefore, ought to entertain the thought, either that death is, in one case, unduly premature, or, in another, unduly delayed. None live, either for a longer or for a shorter period, than infinite wisdom has assigned to them. Reason teaches, that to His appointment we must submit, however unwilling, it being irresistible, and far beyond our control. So, as Christians, we should learn to acquiesce in it cheerfully, as the appointment of one who cannot err.

– James Buchanan – 1837

The Ache of Autumn

The following is a guest post written by my daughter, Christine Eaton.

“I feel a loneliness for my Creator that pulls me like a migratory bird in the Fall.” -Rebecca Reynolds

If fall were a person, she’d be an introverted poet and artist. She steps out of summer shyly, never quite sure if the world is ready for her yet. As she paints the leaves red and strips down the trees, and as the carved jack o’ lantern sitting out on the neighbor’s front porch grows mold and curls in on itself, she reminds us that there is death, but for those who know, there is more than that.

Through the moments she creates, the cuddling with a lover under a blanket, the communion with family over meals, and the satisfaction of sitting alone with a book while the room fills with the aroma of freshly baked pumpkin bread, she awakens a nostalgia we have kept in the most reserved parts of ourselves. We feel separated from something we have not yet fully known. But we know that separation is due to the death that fall keeps revealing to us. As she touches us in this way, we ache. We feel that our deepest desires lie in a longing for something more; an intimacy that nothing in the world can ever satisfy.

Well-made poetry and art, the kind we must sit back and call beautiful or sublime, is able to show us in small glimpses this idea of light and this glorious intimacy for which we are longing. Fall’s work is just that, for while she shows us death, she also shows us this light (like any good poet). Since the medium fall paints and writes with is the form of nature, we can be assured that while she is groaning, with an anguish like our own, under the weight of death, she is pointing us to her Creator.

For the ones who know her Creator, let fall remind you through that ache you feel in your bones, that we are made for something more. We long for that deep communion and intimacy with Him. We are made for heaven, and let us be assured that one day, we will stand as a bride and that ache will be replaced with glory, death will be undone, and everything sad will come untrue.

-Christine Eaton

Fresh Courage for Your Soul

After a little while — you will see Me! – John 16:17

Those sweet tender words, “After a little while,” have deep thoughts in them, like the still ocean at the twilight — thoughts too deep for our fathoming. They breathe some precious comfort to those believers whose burdens are heavy — either with care, or poverty, or sickness. Neither shall the mourner weep much longer, or God’s poor children carry the pains and hardships of poverty much longer. The daily toil to earn the daily bread, the oppressive care to keep the barrel from running low and the scanty “oil” from running out — will soon be over. Cheer up, my brother! “After a little while — you will see Me!” says your blessed Master, “for I am going to prepare a place for you!”

Oh the infinite sweep of that glorious change! A few years here in a poor dwelling, whose rent it is hard to pay — and then infinite ages in the palace of the King of kings! Here a scanty table and coarse clothing — and there a robe of resplendent light at the marriage-supper of the Lamb! Let this blissful thought put new courage into your soul, and fresh sunshine into your countenance!

I sometimes go into a sick room where the godly are suffering with no prospect of recovery. Perhaps the eyes of some of those chronic shut-ins may fall upon this article. My dear friends, put under your pillows these sweet words of Jesus, “After a little while — you will see Me!” It is only for a little while — that you are to serve your Master by patient submission to His holy will. That chronic suffering — will soon be over. That disease which no earthly physician can cure — will soon be cured by your Divine Physician, who by the touch of His messenger death, will cure you in an instant, and bring you into the perfect health of Heaven! You will exchange this weary bed of pain — for that crystal air in which none shall ever say, “I am sick;” neither shall there be any more pain.

Not only to the sick and to the poverty-stricken children of God, do these tender words of our Redeemer bring solace. Let these words bring a healing balm to hearts that are hurting under unkindness, or wounded by neglect, or aching under adversity, or bleeding under sharp sorrows. I offer them as a sedative to all sorrows — and a solace under all sharp afflictions. “After a little while — you will see Me!” The sight of Him shall wipe out all the memories of the darkest hours through which you made your way through this wilderness world — to mansions of glory!

“A few more struggles here,
A few more conflicts more,
A little while of toils and tears —
Then we shall weep no more!”

May God help us all to be faithful — only for a little while — and then comes the unfading crown of glory!

-Theodore Cuyler

Is Discouragement Always an Enemy?

How do you live with discouragement? Every attempt to remove yourself from the trial fails. Even the normal days are not good; they are only manageable. When people look at you, they see courage, but you know it is nothing but a stiff upper lip. The last thing you want to do is burden them more than you have to.

The problem is that every setback brings you a little lower. It has become so much of a pattern that when you see a little light at the end of the tunnel, you refuse to let it lift your spirit because it has let you down so many times in the past.

You know you must fight, but the desire and will to do so has been beaten lifeless by the enemy. You had the courage once, but it has been taken from you. So what do you do now? Do you allow the misery to take over? Do you resign yourself to it? Clearly, the answer has to be, no, but what do you do?

It is at this point you find your will exhausted, and that is probably a good thing because perhaps the battle is not yours to fight. Or perhaps you have been fighting the wrong battle. The first thing we must begin to realize is that, in at least one sense, discouragement is not always the enemy. Maybe, just maybe, it is a tool in the hands of our loving God to do us good. Bear with me for a minute.

Our God is sovereign. He is not simply trying to manage the chaos of this world. He is in complete control of it. His sovereignty becomes clear when we ask two questions of any hardship. Did God know this was going to happen, and could he have stopped it?  If we answer no to either of these questions, we truly are in trouble because God has ceased to be God, and something else is mastering him. This, of course, can never be because there is nothing beyond God’s knowledge or power. Being God means he knew you would face this and that you would respond to this trouble with discouragement, so dismay was part of his plan. I know this is the hardest part of the pill to swallow, so let me elaborate for a minute because the payoff will be worth it, and without this pill, experiencing disappointment will be unbearable.

The most significant objection people have with the conclusion drawn from the fact that God knows what is happening to us and could stop it, and that discouragement was part of his plan, lies in the fact that discouragement is often a sin. If God’s plan for us was to reach a point of discouragement, doesn’t that mean that God is causing us to sin?

The problem is that this way of thinking is too simplistic. The disconnect is in failing to realize that we are already sinful. The fact that the Lord allows us to face situations that draws our dross to the surface, in no way makes him the author of our sin. This understanding lines up perfectly with scripture. We are humanly responsible for our sin, and God is completely sovereign. We cannot deny either of these truths if we wish to remain biblical.

If you are God’s child, and he has brought you to a low point, he’s doing it because he loves you. There is something he wants to do with this discouragement in your life, and ultimately, like all dross drawn to the surface, he will wipe it away.

The first thing we need to do when discouragement hits is to ask ourselves why we are demoralized. Discouragement is almost always tied to the things of the world. Our hearts cling to them, and when hardship hits, they start to falter. Dismay almost always involves the removal of some earthly pleasure. We have placed our hope and trust in some aspect of the world.

Homes, cars, jobs, human relationships, health, quality of life, or even mortal life itself; discouragement is always the result of losing, or the threat of losing, one or more of these. But even as these begin to show weakness, God has not failed us. Knowing that God has not failed us, and we are still dismayed should be an indication that we have misplaced our trust.

This revelation of misplaced trust may be the the first blessing the Lord is bringing to us. He is going to use it to set us more firmly upon the rock of Christ Jesus. When we find ourselves discouraged, we are not to resign ourselves to it. We are to change the way we see it. Instead of trying to will our way out of it, we should ask the Lord what blessing he is giving us through it. The most significant blessing will always be increased faith.

Scripture tells us, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials (1 Pet. 1:6).” There are two things we need to see in this verse to help us. First, we need to realize that this happens after we have received the gospel. That is what “in this you greatly rejoice” means. We rejoice in the gospel. This verse is talking to believers, and the trial taking place is happening to Christians. The second point is that it says you have been “grieved” by the trials. One version says, “distressed,” and another refers to it as “heaviness.” The point of all these synonyms is that these are trials you will feel. These are not merely outward trials you will float through on a spiritual cloud. They are trials that will hurt your heart; they will bring you low. Dare I say, “discourage” you. And as the passage indicates, if they hit us, they are necessary.

There is a reason for this adversity. It is not pointless. The passage continues, “so that the tested genuineness of your faith may be tested,” and that faith is worth more than gold. It is worth more than any earthly possession because faith is our trust in God, and he is purifying it. The result of this is the praise and glory of God (1 Pet. 1:7).

Even when our health fails and we find our quality-of-life slipping, we must remember that even though the outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. This continued renewal in the face of hardship is why we do not lose heart (2 Cor. 4:17).

How do we not lose heart? The scripture tells us, “by looking not to the things that are seen, but the things that are not seen.” For the things that are not seen are eternal, and everything else is passing (2 Cor. 4:18). If the things of Earth are not letting you down yet, they will.

How do you live with discouragement? You allow it to do the work God intended it to do when he sent it to you. You let it turn your eyes away from this world, and be renewed spiritually. All of this will end in the glory of God, which is the chief end of man. This is where our true enjoyment will be found, and that enjoyment is eternal with a weight of glory that cannot compare to the heaviness you are facing now. Let the dross rise to the surface, look to the things unseen, and your loving Father will begin to wipe it away even if the trial remains.

-D. Eaton

Anchored to the Distant Shore

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. – Micah 7:18-19

Even as Christians, the greatest storm we face is the sin that rages in us. It crouches at our door, its desire is for us, and its only fruit is destruction. It threatens to sear our consciences, hinder our prayers, and even cause our love for Christ to grow cold. But even when we fail, and some of these things begin to be seen in our lives, let us never forget that our God will have compassion on His children. He delights in mercy, He will turn again to us to subdue our iniquities, and cast’s our sins to the depths of the sea.

Do you see dear believer what hope is found in this Scripture? God is not looking to help you because you have been perfect and you deserve to be helped. He desires to pardon your iniquity. He knows you have sinned and need to be delivered. He has placed the wrath that your sins deserve on Christ your substitution. And though your sinful heart still threatens to toss you where it will, like a lost vessel on an angry sea, our God anchors you with a strong and secure hope.

Grab hold of Christ who is that hope. Like an anchor securing a ship on a stormy sea has plunged beneath the veil of the water and cannot be seen, so Christ has entered within the veil; where he has gone as a forerunner on your behalf (Heb. 6:17). And though we cannot see Him at this moment, the hope he has given us is like a secure chain anchored to the throne of God, which is pulling us home through the tumultuous sea.

As the storms grow stronger, by His grace He strengthens our hold upon this hope, as we learn that nothing else can save us. The tighter we hold to our hope, the more tight the line between us and our true home becomes, until we can feel it pulling us homeward.

Though the storms of sin surround, take heart that your sins have been removed, and you are anchored to the distant shore through Christ. Fear not, for no surer hope has ever been tested, and as your love for this world slowly weakens, you will notice the chain between you and your true home has become that much shorter. When you see this, you will know He has turned to you, and is having compassion upon you, because this is work that only He can do.

Let us end with a short verse by Charles Spurgeon, who inspired most of the content of this devotion.

Let the winds blow, and billows roll,
Hope is the anchor of my soul.
But can I by so slight a tie,
And unseen hope, on God rely?
Steadfast and sure, it cannot fail,
It enters deep within the veil,
It fastens on a land unknown,
And moors me to my Father’s throne.

D. Eaton

When Pain and Faith Collide

When pain and faith collide
The one absorbs the other.
But not without an impact
That shakes us to the core.

We walk as if omnipotent
Forgetting that we’re frail.
Until that trying moment
We’re broken, hurt, and sore.

It can come in many ways,
But never goes unnoticed.
As with perfect strategy
It weakens where we’re strong.

Our thoughts become unclear
When hit while unaware.
And brings to mind our sins,
As we barely scrape along.

Then in our shaken voice
Our faith lets out a groan.
And thunders cross the heavens,
As by Him, it’s supplied.

For faith is the power
That overcomes the world.
And the one absorbs the other
When pain and faith collide.

-Doug Eaton

Times of Refreshing

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out,” that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. -Acts 3:19

Has your life grown dim and stale because you are no longer walking closely with the Lord? Our God is so gracious that even after we have rebelled against him, he not only wipes out our sins, but he also goes on to give us times of refreshing. This phrase, “times of refreshing,” encompasses quite a bit, including the return of our Lord, but it also seems to include a sense of spiritual refreshment that comes to the individual believer. Think back to when you first came to know the Lord. The burden of your sin was heavy upon you as you felt the curse and judgment it demanded. Then someone pointed you to Christ, and through faith, your sins were washed away. Then, do you remember what followed? Do you remember being refreshed as the Joy of the Lord became your strength? The world was just a little brighter, the mountains where a bit more majestic, and the burdens of the world seemed lighter, because you knew nothing could separate you from his love.

What we experienced during these times was the Holy Spirit’s work, as he bore witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16). As Paul told us, even if the outward man is perishing, the inward man is being renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16) because even in this fallen world, the Spirit has been given to us as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come (2 Cor. 5:5). As he works in our lives, our spirits are refreshed knowing that our sins can no longer condemn us because of Christ’s work, and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever when this life is through.

There are, however, times in the believer’s life when this refreshing may fade. If we begin to turn our focus to the things of this world, whether its vanities or trials, there is an intimacy with Christ that can be lost; much like when Peter was walking on the water and turned his eyes away from Jesus. Maybe you are finding yourself in that place right now. Something has caught your eye that is luring you away from the Lord and seeking first the kingdom of God is no longer your main desire. Maybe the straight and narrow is not as appealing to you anymore because some lesser light has stolen your heart as it offers you more than it can actually provide. The problem with this is that you are being tempted by your own evil desires, and when it is conceived it will give birth to sin, and sin, when it is full-grown gives birth to death (James 1:15). As this process is taking place the Holy Spirit grieves within you, and there can be a dimness that can come back to your eyes as you once again try to shoulder the weight of this world without Christ’s abiding presence. So much so, that at times you can begin to wonder if you were ever a child of God to begin with.

It is at this point, that the enemy begins to mock you for taking the bait, and begins to tell you that you’ve gone too far and that you have never been his child. But the Spirit of God, who has never left you, has many ways of stirring you to a remembrance of the times of refreshing you once had. He moves you to recall the former times for at least two reasons. First, to remind you that you are his child and give you strength as you deal with the sin in which you now find yourself entangled, and second, to call you to repentance because the times of refreshing can be experienced again.

If you find yourself in this situation, and the joy of your salvation has been eclipsed by the cares and sins of this life, remember the times you once had with your Savior. By doing so you can be confirmed that you are his child, and you will hear the call to repentance saying, come back to your First Love, and as you “draw near to me and I will draw near to you” (James 4:8). And if you have never come to Christ for the forgiveness of sins, you too can have your sins wiped out, that times of refreshing may come.

You Will Soon Be Home

“These all died in faith . . . they confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” – Hebrews 11:13

The day of life with them is ended. Its duties are ended. Its responsibilities are passed. Its hours are fled away.

What a trying day some of them had! How stormy. How sultry. How often overcast. How gloomy. But it is now past–and past forever! The toils of the wilderness are over! They had much to afflict and pain them . . .
a difficult and dangerous journey,
a long wearisome march,
many a heavy cross to carry,
many a stubborn foe to face,
many a painful doubt,
numerous gloomy fears.

But now the wilderness is all behind them! The afflictions of the pilgrimage are terminated. Those sufferings were sharp, and some of them continued long. Many of them were endured in secret, without sympathy and without relief. They were soul sorrows, agony of mind–as well as sharp pains of body. But however multiplied, however severe, however protracted those sorrows–they are past and gone, never, never to return!

The sweetest repose is now enjoyed. The poor tabernacle has been taken down, and is laid in a quiet resting-place until the resurrection morning. The soul is gone to be with Jesus. It has traveled through the rough path of life–and is now in God’s presence, where there is fullness of joy, and pleasures for evermore!

As Christians, we are going to the same place. The graves will soon be ready for our bodies–and the mansions of glory for our souls. We are going home! Home to our Father’s house! Home where our hearts have long been. Home where all our prayers will be answered, and all our best desires will be gratified. “Home, sweet home! There is no place like home!” Especially our home! A paradise without a tempting serpent! A paradise where all are holy, all are safe, all are happy. Those pure and perpetual joys, which are at God’s right hand, await us! We taste them now and are delighted with a sip–but there we shall soon drink full draughts of eternal glory, eternal joy, and eternal blessedness!

Amidst present toils and trials, dangers and distresses–when wearied, way-worn, and tempted to fret–remember that you will soon be HOME! Think, think, O my soul, of an eternity of enjoyment–when the sufferings of time are ended!

“Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away!” Revelation 21:3-4

-James Smith (1802—1862)

He Stands Between the Mighty and the Weak

He stands between the mighty and the weak!

O LORD, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak. – 2 Chronicles 14:11

I am weak, oh Lord, and you are mighty. Today, I have been brought low, and in my weakness, I must face the day. The work and responsibilities ahead of me seem daunting. In light of my limited strength, they are mighty, yet You stand between the mighty and the weak. You are my strength.

I know this because the most significant contrast between might and strength that I have experienced was when I stood before You in my sinfulness. The Omnipotent One at enmity against His defiant and foolish creature. The Lord of all of heaven against mere dust.

First, You devastated my defiance by showing me my sinfulness. Then you let me lay prostrate in the mire so that I could see what I rightly deserved from Your hand. In Your justice, your bow was bent, arrows waiting, and I had no defense. Yet even there, You stood between the mighty and the weak by sending Your Son.

Jesus stepped in, and You took the arrows of Your wrath, directed them at Him and without mercy, let them fly. He willingly, without a word took the full brunt of what I deserved; satisfying Your righteousness and justice. With your quiver empty and your bow at rest, You gathered me up and called me Your own. Oh, what manner of love it is that we should be called sons and daughters of God.

Now, as I go out in my weakness to face the full strength of this day, I know all will be well. In my deficiency, You will be my abundance, and the mighty will fall. When the day comes that You allow the mighty to overtake me, it will be because you will be delivering me in the most profound way yet. You will be setting me free from this fallen world to live with You for all eternity.