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Victorious Living - Day 1
The Question that Halts Our Quest
In the beginning God (Genesis 1.1).
It would be well if, in our quest for "Victorious Living," we could all begin with God. It would put a solid fact beneath our questing feet. It would give meaning and purpose to the whole of life. But, alas, many of us cannot begin there. For God is the vague, the unreal. We wish we could believe in Him, and get hold of Him so that we could live by Him, for life without the Great Companion has a certain emptiness and meaningless about it. For many skepticism is not voluntary, but apparently unavoidable. The facts of life are too much for us - the unemployment, the hunger of little children, the underlying strife in modern life, the exploitation of the weak and incapacitated by the strong, the apparently unmerited suffering around us, the heartlessness of nature, the discoveries of science which seem to render the hypothesis of God unnecessary - all these things, and more, seem to shatter our belief in God. We do not reject that belief; it simply fades away and becomes unreal. And we cannot assert what to us is not real. For amid all the loses of our modern day we are trying to save one thing amid the wreckage, namely, the desire for reality. We wish to keep an inner integrity. We loathe all unreality. That leads us to face the fact that our skepticism has gone deeper than the matter of belief in God; we find ourselves questioning life itself. Has life any meaning? Any goal? Is the flame of life within us any different from the flame that leaps from the logs in the fireplace - both of them the result of material forces and both destined to die down into a final ash? It it has no ultimate meaning, has it any meaning now as we live it?
O God, Our Father - if we may call Thee thus - as we begin this quest we are haunted with many a biting fear and hesitation and doubt. Help us to face them all and come out, if possible, 9on the further side of them in victorious living. Amen
-excerpt from Victorious Living by E. Stanley Jones, p9
Victorious Living - Day 2
Shall we follow a Life-No or a Life-Yes?
There are just two elemental philosophies of life: that of Buddha and that of Christ. The rest are compromises between. When H. G. Wells chose the three greatest men of history, he selected Christ, then Buddha, then Aristotle - Life-Affirmation, Life-Denial, and the Scientific Method. The two greatest characters of history head up two diametrically different outlooks on life. Both of them looked at the same facts of life and came to opposite conclusions - on to a final Yes, and the other to a final No.
Buddha, pondering under the Bo tree, came to the conclusion, that existence and evil are one. The only way to get out of evil is to get out of existence itself. Nirvana is so close to annihilation that scholars are still doubting whether it means annihilation or not. "Is there any existence in Nirvana?" I asked a Buddhist monk in Ceylon. "How could there be?" he replied, "for if there were existence, there would be suffering." "Is it an emptiness, a cipher?" "It is an emptiness, a cipher," he replied with a final and decisive gesture. It is true that this is called "bliss," but it is the bliss of the world-weary. In its revolt against life the soul performs its final "hara-kiri," clothed, it is true, with an air of sanctity and nobility. Buddha would cheat the sufferings and evils of life by getting rid of life itself. He would have us perform a sanctified suicide, not only of the physical, but of personality itself. It is a final "No" to life.
There is much to be said for Buddha's position. Everything seems to be under the process of decay. The blushing bride - then the withered old woman shriveling to fit her narrow final shroud. We grasp the lurid colors of the sunset and find that we have grasped the dark - first the beauty, then the blackness.
O God, our Father, we stand confused and dismayed, not knowing if we shall be compelled to adopt the noble pessimism of souls like Buddha. Perhaps there is another way. We hardly dare to believe it. But show us the way - the way to life, if there is such a way. Amen.
-excerpt from Victorious Living by E. Stanley Jones, p10
Victorious Living - Day 3
In Which We look At The Alternatives
Is life a bubble or is it an egg? I must make my choice. On the one side, they tell us that the universe is slowly running down and that one day it will end in ash, carrying with it all things and all life to its final doom. Death shall reign. On the other hand, they tell us that the universe is being renewed by a silent and saving bombardment of life-giving rays, so that the last word is not being spoken by death but by life. Life shall reign. One says the universe is a bubble and the other says it is an egg.
On the one side, they tell us that man is made up of elements which can be purchased in a chemist shop for a few cents, so that life is only mucus and misery. On the other hand, they tell us that man is made in the image of the Divine, that he has infinite possibilities of growth and development before him. One says man is a bundle of futilities, the others says he is a bundle of possibilities.
On the one side, they say that man is just a composite of responses to stimuli from environment, mechanically determined and with no real power of choice. On the other hand, they say that man has sufficient freedom to determine his destiny and that the soul shapes its environment as well as being shaped by it. One says that human freedom is a bubble, the other says it is an egg.
Some say that prayer is an autosuggesting of oneself into illusory states of mind, that nothing comes back save the echo of one's own voice. Others say that in prayer actual communication takes place, that I link myself with the resources of God, so that my powers and faculties are heightened and life is strengthened and purified at its center. One says prayer is futile, the other says it is fertile.
O God, our Father, we want life, but not false life. Show us if there is real life, and if there is, help us to choose it. Amen.
-excerpt from Victorious Living by E. Stanley Jones, p12
Victorious Living - Day 4
In Which We Continue To Look At The Alternative
On the one side, there are those who tell us that God is an unnecessary hypothesis, that science can explain all, that the interstices and gaps of the universe into which we used to put the working of God are being slowly but surely filled up by science, so that the universe is self-sufficient, law-abiding, and predictable. On the other hand, there are those who tell us that God is not to be found in the gaps and interstices and in an occasional breaking into the process, but He is in the process itself the life of its life; that the universe is dependable because God is dependable; that it works according to law because God's mind is an orderly mind, not whimsical and notional, that since intelligence comes out of the universe and meets my intelligence it must have gone into it, so that according to Jeans "the universe is more like a thought than a machine": that since the universe seems to work toward purposive ends, we must either endow matter with intelligent purposes (in which case it would not be mere matter), or we must put a purposive creative Intelligence in and back of the process; that since the universe from the tiniest atom to the farthest star is mathematical, we must either believe that matter has sufficient intelligence to be mathematical, or else that "God is a pure-mathematician "; it would seem that the purposive matter-hypothesis takes more sheer credulity than that there is an Infinite Spirit, called God, who is within the process working toward intelligent moral ends, inviting our limited spirits to work with Him toward intelligent, redemptive purposes.
One says the idea of God is a bubble, the others says it is an egg. I must make my choice.
O God, our Father, shall I rule Thee out and vote for a dead universe - dead because its final goal is death? Or shall I vote for a living universe with Thee as its genesis, with Thee as its perpetual Creator and with Thee as its goal and end? Clarify my mind, my heart, that I may not lose myself and Thee amid the maze of things. Amen.
-excerpt from Victorious Living by E. Stanley Jones, p13
Victorious Living - Day 5
In Which We Continue To Look At The Alternative
There are those who tell us that Christ is a spent force in humanity; that Carlyle was right when he stood before the Italian wayside crucifix and slowly shook his head and said, "Poor Fellow, you have had your day"; that His day is over because He spoke to a simple age, but now we face a complicated, scientific age; that He was good, but not good enough - for us.
On the other hand, there are those who feel, with the Carlyle of later years, that His day is just beginning; that what has failed has been a miserable caricature and not the real thing; that even the partial application of His teaching and spirit has been one thing which has kept the soul of humanity alive; that He has been and is the depository and creator of the finest and best in humanity; that when we have hold of Him we have the key to God to the meaning of the universe and to our own lives; that when we expose ourselves to Him in simplicity and obedience, life is changed, lifted, renewed, that He is the one really unspent force in religion - He faces this age as the Great Contemporary and its Judge. One sways that dependence upon Jesus is a bubble, an illusion, the other says it is an egg with untold redemptive possibilities.
There are those who say that conversion is an adolescent phenomenon; coincident with and caused by the awakening of the sex instinct; or that it is the result of mob-suggestion, easily induced and quickly evanescent. On the other hand, many affirm that this change called conversion helps them control and redirect the powers of the sex instinct, and that far from being mob-suggestion it helps them to cut across the purposes of both the mob and the self when they are wrong. One says that conversion is a bubble, the other says that it is an egg.
O God, our Father, hold us steady as we face the issues. May there be no dodging, no turning to irrelevancies, and no excuses. Save us to the real. Amen.
-excerpt from Victorious Living by E. Stanley Jones, p14
Victorious Living - Day 6
In Which We Make Our Choice
The issues of life are before me, I must vote for or against a view of life which has worth, purpose, goal. If I vote that the universe has no meaning, then I vote that my own life has none. But if my life has no meaning and hence no purpose, it will go to pieces, for psychology tells us that without a strong controlling purpose, which or-ordinates life, the personality disintegrates through its own inner clashes - no purpose, no personality. But that purpose must be high enough to lift me out of myself. If my purposes end with myself, again I disintegrate. They must include God, who gives basis and lasting meaning to my purpose. If I lose God, I lose myself, my universe, everything. I see that Voltaire was right when he said, "If there is no God, we will have to invent one to keep sane."
If I let go of Christ, then God becomes the Distant, the Vague, the Unreal. In Christ I find "the near side of God." In Him God speaks to me a language I can understand, a human language. And as I listen to that Language my universe seems to become a Face - tender, strong, forgiving, redemptive. Law becomes Love.
If I do not sincerely get into touch with Him through the written Word, I neglect the greatest and most redemptive fact of history and I pay the penalty of being unfed at the place of my deepest need. If I do not pray, I shall probably become cynical and shallow. If I do pray, I shall probably get nerve and courage, a sense of adequacy, power over wayward desires and passions. If I undergo a moral and spiritual change called conversion, I shall probably be unified, morally straight, and spiritually adjusted. If I do not, I shall probably become a stunted human soul.
If I must vote, then I do. I vote for life.
O God, our Father, I make the choice, I do choose life with all its fullest, deepest implications. Help me to find life and live it - victoriously. Amen
-excerpt from Victorious Living by E. Stanley Jones, p15
Victorious Living - Day 7
What Are We Religious?
There are a hundred and fifty or more various definitions of religion. One says it is "what we do with our solitariness"; another that it is "how we integrate ourselves socially"; another that "the root of religion is fear," and so on.
The reason that it is so difficulty to define is that life is difficult to define. When we define religion in terms of its various manifestations, we get partial, sometimes contradictory definitions. Religion having many forms has one root. That root is in the urge after life, fuller life. In everything, from the lowest cell clear up to the highest man, there is an urge toward completion, toward perfection. "Everything lifts up strong hands toward perfection." The religious urge is found in that urge for completer life. It is that urge tuned toward higher, nobler ends. We feel that we cannot be complete unless this urge for life is fastened upon the highest life, God. Religion is the urge for life turned qualitative. It is not satisfied with life apart from quality. The urge for quantitative life reached its crest in the dinosaurs. That failed - it was a road with a dead end. The huge animals died. In man the life urge turns from being merely big to being better. The qualitative and the moral emerge.
We are religious, then, because we cannot help it. We want to live in the highest, fullest sense, and that qualitative expression of life is called religion. So religion is not a cloak we can put on or off; it is identified with life itself. We are all incurably religious. Even the Communists, though repudiating religion, are deeply religious. They want a better social order. They may be right or wrong in the method of getting it, but the very desire for a better social order is religious. For religion is a cry for life.
O God, our Father, who planted this urge for completion within us? Didst Thou? Then, O my God, this urge is not in vain. Thou hast inspired it. Thou shalt satisfy it with Thyself. Amen
-excerpt from Victorious Living by E. Stanley Jones, p16
Victorious Living - Day 8
The Divine Initiative
Yesterday we said we are religious because it is the giving vent to the life-urge, the qualitative expression of the life-urge./ But this is only half the truth. This upward movement of the spirit of man would not of itself account for the religious spirit of man.
The other side of the truth is that we seem to be pressed upon from above. We do not merely aspire, we are inspired. We feel we are being invaded by the Higher. This pressure from above awakens us, makes us discontented with a divine discontent; makes us pray - sometimes with unwardable longings; makes us revolt, at least inwardly, against things as they are and against what we are. This is the divine initiate - the cosmic Lover wooing His creation to Himself and thus to its own perfection.
Von Hugel speaks of this double movement in religion as the going up of one lift and the coming down of another. Man moves toward God and God moves toward man. The Old Testament is man's search for God, the New Testament is God's search for man. This is true in general but not entirely true, for there would have been no search for God in the Old Testament and in the various religions had not God inspired and initiated that search. So when men began to seek, they had in a sense found Him. God was in the very search for Himself - its author and hence its finisher.
Impossible? Too good to be true? Not if we study the nature of life. Life not only wants more life, but it wants to impart life. The creative urge is within it. God being the perfect life, He would of the very necessities of His being, desire to impart, to share, to create. Hence the divine initiative. We are religious because we long and because He loves. He creates, we crave.
My Father, if this be true, I am not far from Thee, for Thou art not far from me. Perhaps this very longing in my bosom is a scent of Thy being, there my heart grows eager, for I would find thee. Amen
-excerpt from Victorious Living by E. Stanley Jones, p17
Victorious Living - Day 9
In Which Religion is Defined For Us
Yesterday we said that religion resulted from the double movement of our aspirations and God's inspirations. His life impinges upon ours at every point. The result? Something disturbs our clod, we aspire, we pray, we revolt against what we are.
The meeting place of this upward movement and this downward movement is Christ. He is man ascending and God descending - the Son of man, the Son of God. Since He is the meeting place of the two sides of religion. He becomes its definition. To the one hundred and fifty definitions we add one more: Christ., This is not a spelled-out, but a lived-out definition. Some things cannot be said, they have to be shown. So it has been shown us what constitutes religion: His spirit of life. His relationships with God and man, His purity, His love, His mastery over environment of men and things, His care for the sinful and the underprivileged, His redemptive purposes for man and society, His overleaping sympathy that wiped out all race and class and bound men into a brotherhood, His final willingness to take all there pain, all their defeat, all their sin into His own heart and die for them, and His offer to them of a new way and program of life - the Kingdom of God on earth - all this, and His sheer victory of spirit amid it all, constitutes religion.
Never was there such a definition of religion as He gives in His own person. It cleanses away all irrelevancies, all magic, all superstition, all controversies about rite and ceremony and superiorities and turns us to the serious business of learning how to live and to live victoriously. When men, therefore, ask me about this rite and that ceremony, this order, that church polity - all marginal - I simply say, I am not interest, for I have seen the Center. This grips me.
O God, we have seen what we ought to be, what we must be, if we are to live. Help us from this day to give ourselves to it withy a whole-being devotion until it becomes actual within us. In Jesus' name. Amen
-excerpt from Victorious Living by E. Stanley Jones, p18
Victorious Living - Day 10
The Central Emphasis in the Definition
There is one point in the definition of religion which needs emphasis - the Kingdom of God on earth. We need to emphasize it, for He did. It was the one thing around which all else revolved. "And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom." Just what was this Kingdom?
In another book I said the Kingdom of God is a new Order founded on the Fatherly love of God, redemption, justice, brotherhood, standing at the door of the lower order founded on greed, selfishness, exploitation, unbrotherliness. This Higher Order breaks into, cleanses, renews, redeems the lower order, both within the individual will and the collective will. This is true, but not the full truth. It is an offer from without. It is "at our door.," And yet it is within us - "The kingdom of heaven is within you." This Kingdom has been "built from the foundation of the world." Did He mean that this Kingdom has been built within the very foundations of the world and within the very structure of our own mental and moral make-up? Yes, I believe He meant just that. I grant that there is something beyond that - it is "at our doors," and we shall see what that means later. But it does mean that the Kingdom is written, not merely in sacred books, but in the very structure and make-up of the universe and of ourselves and of society. When we study the laws deeply embedded in the universe, in our own mental and moral and physical being, the laws that constitute true sociological living, we discover the laws of the Kingdom. Mind you, not fully, but nevertheless, really and actually. This is important, for when we start with this business of victorious living, we are starting with the solid facts of the laws written within our own being, within the structure of society and the universe around us.
Our Father, we are enveloped with Thee. Thy laws are the laws of our being, Thy will has been wrought within the texture of things. Help us to discover Thy Kingdom and obey it. Amen
-excerpt from Victorious Living by E. Stanley Jones, p19
Victorious Living - Day 11
The Kingdom Written Within
We do not begin with something imposed on life when we are beginning with the Kingdom, but with life itself - its laws and its ways of fulfillment.
The moral laws are deeply embedded in the constitution of things - we do not break them, we break ourselves upon them. For instance, many after the War demanded freedom to do as they liked, they revolted against morality as man-made, they would express themselves as they desired. They result? The generation that tried that is sad and disillusioned. It stands abashed and dismayed. At what? At the fact that the thing will not work. "I had thought that faithful marriage was hell, but what have I been living in"?" asked a dismayed and disillusioned young woman who had revolted. She found her revolt was not merely against moral codes, but against herself and her own happiness. She was breaking herself upon the laws of the Kingdom.
What does the psychologist mean when he says, "To be frank and honest in all relations, but especially in relations with oneself, is the first law of mental hygiene"? Isn't he saying that the universe and you and I are built for true, that the universe won't back a lie, that all lies sooner or later break themselves upon the facts of things? Since the Kingdom stands for absolute truth, and our own mental make-up demands the same thing, then are not the laws of the Kingdom written within us?
Again, what does the psychologist mean when he says, "The right thing is always the healthy thing"? Conversely, he could have said that the wrong thing is always the unhealthy thing. Did he not mean thereby that we cannot be healthy, cannot function at our best unless we discover the right and obey it? Is it not true that sin is not only the bad, but the unhealthy, the crippling? That the sinful are the diseased as well as the guilty? This sobers us.
O God, our Father, the moral law written within us makes us tremble like an aspen leaf. But are these laws redemptive? Art thou saving us through hard refusals? Teach us. We listen. Amen
-excerpt from Victorious Living by E. Stanley Jones, p20
Victorious Living - Day 12
Are the Religious the Unnatural and Queer?
They sometimes are, and this makes many honest souls hesitant, for they do not want to be queer, impossible. Many people feel that religion tries to give human nature a bent that it won't take, that is an imposition on life, something that makes us unnatural and out-of-joint.
A medical student expressed this fear to me when he asked, "Is religion natural?" He feared the unnatural. On the other hand, Tertullian said that "the soul is naturally Christian." My own experience is that Tertullian was right. When I obey Christ, I feel naturalized, at home, universalized, adjusted. When I disobey Him, I feel orphaned, estranged, out-of-joint with myself and the universe. I seem to be made for this Man and His Kingdom.
It is true that when we obey Him we have to break with society in many things. That makes us seem queer and impossible. But may it not be that society, at those points, is queer and impossible? We call a man queer when he is ec-centric - "off the center." Isn't society, insanely bent on its own destruction through its selfishness and its clashes and its lusts, ec-centric, off the center? A great flywheel off its center shakes itself and the building to pieces. On the center it is a thing of construction and production. The center of life is Christ; when we are adjusted to Him, life catches its rhythm, its harmony. When life resolves around something else, it is ec-centric, and thus self-destructive and society-destructive.
Was Christ queer? To the men of His day He was. We now see that His was the only sanity. He moves through those scenes, poised and masterful, at home in the huts of the poor and in the houses of the rich - the one sane One, to whom we must turn or lose our sanity, and ourselves.
O God, our Father, we have become so used to the insanities of life around us that we look on the sane as the insane. Give us a clarity of mind and heart, that we may turn from the insanities of selfishness and greed to the sanities of Thy way. For we know that life will not work in any way save Thy way. In Jesus' name. Amen.
-excerpt from Victorious Living by E. Stanley Jones, p22
Victorious Living - Day 13
Toiling in the Dark
We must get clear this whole matter of whether the Christian way will work before we can go on to "victorious living," for as long as we have the suspicion lurking in our minds that we are about something that cannot be done, that the universe won't back it, there is a paralysis at the center. On the other hand, if we are sure that the sum total of things is behind our acting, then our wills are steeled to do the hitherto impossible.
It was said of the disciples that they were toiling in rowing in the dark and getting nowhere. The wind and the waves were against them and the whole thing was ending in futility. Then Jesus came. They cried out against Him, in fear that He was a ghost. But finally they took Him in, and "immediately the ship was at the land whither they were going." Is that the history of our lives? We strive for goals we cannot reach. The whole thing ends in futility - a toiling in rowing and getting nowhere. The sense of meaningless striving is upon us. We are "up against it." And everything is very dark. Life is too much for us. Then Jesus comes and we are afraid of Him - He is ghostly, unnatural, and will demand the unnatural and the impossible. This is our first reaction. But finally we let Him in - and, lo, we are at the very place we were striving to reach - we are at the land whither we are going! This is the very way it works.
But there is no doubt that we afraid of Jesus. It was said that when Jesus came, Herod, when he heard it, "was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him." Troubled at the coming of the Deliverer! They were naturalized in their own lostness. But should the dynamo be afraid of the coming of electricity? The flower at the coming of the sunshine? The heart at the coming of love? Should life be afraid of the coming of Life?
Help me, gentle, redeeming, impinging God, not to keep Thee at a distance through fear. Help me, then, to take Thee into my little troubled boat. Amen.
-excerpt from Victorious Living by E. Stanley Jones, p23
Victorious Living - Day 14
How Do We Get To The Goal of Happiness?
We all want to be happy. And rightly. This is a deep-rooted instinct. God must have planted it there. The God that made sunsets, that painted the rose, that put play into the kitten and the smile on a baby's face and laughter in our souls, is surely not happy when we are unhappy. "Down with the coffeepot face, up with the teapot fact."
So we start out to get to the land of happiness. We declare that the world shall show us a good time. But somehow or other it eludes us. It slips through our fingers ere we grasp it. The most miserable and fed-up people I know are the people most bent on being happy. They have to jump from thing to thing in order not be bored to tears with themselves. They are saying to their souls what the old lady said to the frightened child whom she had taken to the circus, as she shook him till his teeth rattled. "Now, enjoy yourself, do you understand, I brought you here to enjoy yourself now do it." Thus we try to make our souls enjoy themselves. But the soul weeps within and doesn't know how to enjoy itself. It has missed the way. It is toiling in rowing and getting nowhere. And it is dark, very dark in some people's souls. The land of happiness isn't in sight. Then a Figure across the waters! We are afraid. Is not this "the pale Galilean whose breath has turned the world gray"? We cry out in fear. But this patient insistence overcomes us and we let Him in. We now forget our happiness as we begin to think about the happiness of others. We walk with Him into the saddened homes and strive to lift that sadness, and, lo, our hearts sing with a strange new you - a deep, fundamental and abiding joy. We have arrived.
We have misunderstood Thee, O Christ. We thought because Thy symbol was a cross that Thou art therefore Christ the Sad. Forgive us. We now see that Thou art Christ the Glad. One touch of Thy gladness and our hearts forever sing. We thank Thee. Amen
-excerpt from Victorious Living by E. Stanley Jones, p27
Victorious Living - Day 15
How Can We Arrive At The Goal Of Inward Unity?
If there is one thing that both modern psychology and the way of Christ agree on, it is this: Apart from inward unity there can be no personal happiness and no effective living.
Jesus said, "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation." That simple statement has within it all the depths of wisdom that modern psychology has discovered from the facts of the inner life. Divided personality, inward clash - these are the things that bring desolation to human personality.
Many say to a distracted soul, "Pull yourself together." Futile advice when there are mutually exclusive things within us. They won't be pulled together. Experience taught Old-Testament lawgivers the futility of trying to plow with an ox and an ass yoked together. It was forbidden. Experience forbids us from attempting to pull ourselves together when there are conflicting selves.
"Exert your will," counsels another. But suppose the will, which expresses the personality in action, is itself divided? Again futility.
The psychoanalyst, after getting hold of the distracting place in a disordered life, and after relating it to the rest of life, says that to be held together there must be something upon which you can fasten your affections. This will lift you out of yourself and keep you unified. But often he has nothing to offer - except, perhaps himself, a professional trestle upon which the patient can twine the vines of affection. To say the least - unsatisfactory.
So we toil in rowing, trying to get to the land of inward unity. We are tossed by many a wind and many a wave. And it gets very dark. Then Jesus quietly comes. We more easily let Him in this time, for there seems no other alternative. The soul seems instinctively to feel, "the Master has come." He gathers up the inward distinctions, cleanses away the points of conflict, and unifies life around Himself. We have arrived.
O Christ, we need a master, someone to command us. Thou art that law. For thy commandments are our freedom. Help us to accept Thy way, that we may find our own. Amen.
-excerpt from Victorious Living by E. Stanley Jones, p29
Victorious Living - Day 16
How Can I Find God?
We have seen that life will work only in one way - God's way. The statement of Augustine is oft repeated because oft corroborated: "Thou hast made us for Thyself, and we are restless until we rest in Thee." Let that fact be burned into our minds. Let it save us from all trifling, all dodging and bend us to the one business of finding God and His Way.
In our quest for God let us look at a few preliminary things. Hold in mind that the purpose of your very being, the very end of your creation is to find and live in God. As the eye is fashioned for light, so you are fashioned for God. But many question this. A Hindu student once asked this question, "If there is a God, what motive of His is seen in the creation of this universe, where 'to think is to be full of sorrow'?" At one morning-interview time, five students, one after the other, with no collusion, asked the question, in one form or another, "Why was I created?" It is the haunting question in many minds.
I could only answer this: Of course we cannot see the whole motive of creation, for we are finite. But why does a parent create? Physical lust? Not in the highest reaches of parenthood. Does not a parent create because of the impulse of love - the impulse that would have an object upon which he can lavish his love and to whom he can impart himself in the development and growth of the child? Is parenthood the develop and and growth of the child? Is parenthood different in God? Could God, being love, have done otherwise than create objects of that love? And having created us will He not give Himself to us? If not, then the whole apparent good is stultified. With that thought in mind to think is not "to be full of sorrow," but to full of hope and expectancy. The creative Lover is at the door.
Father God, Thou hast come a long way through creation to the very door of my heart. I hear Thy very footsteps there. I let Thee in. Thrice welcome, Lover of my soul. Amen
-excerpt from Victorious Living by E. Stanley Jones, p30
Victorious Living - Day 17
The Risk God Took
Was it not risky for God to create us as He did, with the awful power of choice and with the possibility that we might go astray and break our hearts and His? Yes, very risky indeed. He might have made us without the power of choice, or with the power to choose only the good. But this would not be choice, for to be able to choose you must be able to choose in two directions, not one. Besides, if we are able to to choose only the good, then it isn't the good for us. We would be determined, and the very possibility of goodness is in freedom. "There is nothing in the world, or even out of it, can be called good, except a good will," says Kant. So where there is no will there is no goodness, no badness - in fact, no personality. There was no other way to create personalities except to give them freedom. Risky? Yes.
But parents take that same risk when they bring a child into the world. That child may go astray and crush their lives and his. But parents assume that awful risk. Why? Because they determine that whatever happens they will do their best for the child - they will enter into his very life, until the child's problems become their own, his troubles theirs, his growth and happiness theirs. This will mean a cross! Of course. But parenthood accepts that cross because it cannot do otherwise. So with God. Our creation meant troubles, our sins His sins, our joy His joy. So creation, then, means a cross for God? Inevitably. But He took it. Love could not do otherwise.
God, we stand astounded at Thy courage. But thou didst create us - it may be, it may be, to re-create us. That is our hope. We clasp it to our bosoms. Amen.
-excerpt from Victorious Living by E. Stanley Jones, p31
Victorious Living - Day 18
God's Search for Me
If what we learned yesterday is true (that God may wish to re-create us as we choose against God and experience sin and heartache), then we must accept that God is in a persistent, redemptive search for us.
Turn to the pages of the New Testament and read the astonishing parables of the 15th chapter of Luke: the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost son. Never before did such astonishing truth tremble on human lips. "The author of the universe is hard to find," said Plato. "Why do you trouble God with your austerities so that He cannot sleep?" was said in rebuke to the austere Hindu sage. "In finding God you must have as much patience as a man who sits by the seaside and undertakes to empty the ocean, lifting upon drop of water with a straw," said Mahatma Gandhi to me. But here Jesus flings back the curtains and lets us see the God of the shepherd-heart who seeks and seeks the lost sheep until he finds. And then the woman who sweeps the house of the lost coin - So, says Jesus, God will sweep the universe with the broom of His redeeming grace, until He finds that lost soul. For as the King's image is stamped upon the coin so is the Divine image stamped upon the human soul, lost though it may be amid the dust of degradation. It is true that the father of the prodigal did not go into the far country after the son, but wasn't his love there with him and wasn't that love the line along which he felt his way back to his father's house? Once I saw blind children running a race with a cord in their hands attached to a ring upon a wire which led them to the goal. So this lad got hold of his father's outreaching love and it led him back to the father's bosom. The Hound of Heaven relentlessly pursuing us a-down the years!
O God, I dare not close my heart to Thee. Thou conquerest me with Thy persistence. But how glad, oh how glad I am to be found! I Thank Thee. Amen.
-excerpt from Victorious Living by E. Stanley Jones, p32
Victorious Living - Day 19
Further Considerations In Finding God
We have got hold of one truth, namely, that God is searching for us. But there is the persistent question in many minds" "Very well, but aren't there some souls incapable of finding God by their very mental and spiritual make-up? Some are more mystically inclined - those may find God, but some of us cannot. We are not mystics."
If by "mystically inclined" we mean that some are more emotionally sensitive than others, then we must admit this to be true. But God does not come to us only by the way of the emotions - He comes by the way of the mind and the will as well - He makes a life approach to us, and this includes all three. So if you are a person whose active side is more developed than the emotional, you can receive Him in at the door of the will. The same with the mind - if you lean toward the intellectual, then you have the privilege of accepting Him at the door of the mind. But if He comes in at any of these doors, He possesses the whole person, by whatever door He comes.
The center of the whole relationships will be love, whether the emphasis be on emotional love, intellectual love, or volitional love. Are you sufficiently mystical to love? Everybody is! A man who was very intellectually inclined said he couldn't find God because he wasn't a mystic. But he loved his wife very tenderly. He was mystical enough to love his wife, but not mystical enough to love God! He was wrong and soon found his mistake. Everyone has a capacity to love God. Everyone who is willing to pay the price of finding can find God. Remember this: no one is constitutionally incapable of finding God. If we do not find God, the cause is not in our constitution, but in our consent.
Of God, Thou who didst fashion us, didst fashion us for Think own entrance. Our doors may be lowly, but Thy cross has bent Thee so low Thou canst get into the very lowest of doors. Come, Thou gentle Wooer, come. Amen
-excerpt from Victorious Living by E. Stanley Jones, p33
Victorious Living - Day 19
Who Can Find God?
Two things we must look at before we can come to grips with finding God. Many feel that, since Jesus called His disciples away from their ordinary occupations, we must now leave ordinary so-called secular life to find God. this is a mistake. Jesus did ask His twelve disciples to leave their occupations and folllow him, but did He not in the very act of calling them approve their occupation by filling their boats with fish? And did not one hundred and twenty disciples wait in the upper room for the Holy Spirit, perhaps only twelve of whom had left their ocupations?
"Shall I be a student or shall I be a religious man?" asked a Hindu youth of me one day. I could only reply that I saw no conflict; that if he found God, he should be a better student. Before Christ came into my life I was at the bottom of my classes - afterward I felt that the bottom of the class was no place for a Christian - and left it. I found myself studying my lessons on bended knees, praying my way through. No, any legitimate occupation can be lifted into a sacrament.
There are those, especially in India, who feel that one has to be matue, even old, to find God. but the christian way is different. At question time this question was asked, "Where is God?" A little fellow of five excitedly whispered to his mother: "Why, I can answer that. He is in my heart." He was right! This note was sent up to me written in block letters: "It works. Wonderfully and well. thank you for this. signed, Jivan Ratman, age 12 years." It does work, even for the child, and may I say, especially for the child, for to find the Kingdom we must catch the childlike attitude of open frankness and willingness to follow.
O Christ, Thou didst hallow every worthy occupation and didst open the gates of life to the little child. In thy Father's house there is the sound of the hammer and the laughter of little children as well as the quiet oratory for prayer. We thank thee. Amen.
-excerpt from Victorious Living by E. Stanley Jones, p34