"He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that
loseth his life for my sake shall find it" -- Matthew 10:39
This is surely a very extraordinary chapter. As its contents pass before us we are possessed by feelings of ever-heightening surprise. Here is Jesus, gathering about Him a little company of twelve men. No member of the little band belongs to the ranks of power, or culture, or wealth. They are all inconspicuous, many of them unlettered, the majority of them poor; it is just a company of working men standing nervously on the borders of an unfamiliar publicity.
And now their Master is about to send them forth to proclaim and perpetuate His ministry. With what kind of program will He inspire them? What glory of possibility will He set before them? What light will He place upon the distant horizon to cheer them in their mission? What will He say to kindle in the hearts of these timid toilers a burning and insatiable enthusiasm?
When I turn to the program, I wonder at the oppressiveness of the shadow. I wonder that the Master uses such black colours in depicting the coming day. "Ye shall be brought before governors and kings for My sake." "Ye shall be hated of all men for My name's sake." "When they persecute you in one city, flee ye into another." "A man's foes shall be they of his own household." "He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me."
I am amazed at the almost audacious candour of the program. There is no hiding of the sharp flint, no softening of the shadow, no gilding of the cross. The hostilities bristle in naked obtrusiveness. Every garden is a prospective battlefield "I am not come to send peace, but a sword." The choice of the Christ involves a perpetual challenge to war.
Now, if this be the program of the kingdom, what shall we do? What are we tempted to do? We are tempted to frame for ourselves a very perverted conception of the characteristics of a reasonable life. If our surrounding can be so hostile, if our difficulties can be so stupendous, if the hatred we may awake can be so intense, if we can call into being a mighty army of aliens, surely the policy dictated by a sane and healthy judgment will be this: Take the line of least resistance; keep your lips closed; go with the stream; look after yourself!
This is the method of reasonableness! This is the policy which assures self-preservation! This is the secret of a successful and progressive life! Keep your lips closed -- the policy of silence; go with the stream -- the policy of opportunism; look after yourself -- the policy of self-aggrandizement. Such is the counsel of Mr. Worldly Wiseman, who strenuously urges upon me this threefold policy of silence, drifting, and suction, if amid all these sleeping hostilities I would attain to a roomy and successful life.
Now, in the chapter before us the Master absolutely reverses the counsel. Not by the policy of the world shall we ever attain to self-preservation and enrichment; it is a policy which speedily and inevitably leads to impoverishment and self-destruction. The policy of the world leads to an apparent "finding"' in reality it is a terrible "losing." Along these roads the apparent finder is the loser; the apparent loser is the winner.
Let us proclaim the methods of the Lord. It is not by silence, but by expression that we win; "Whoever shall confess Me before men." It is not by drifting, but by endurance that we win; "He that endureth to the end shall be saved." It is not be self-aggrandizement but by self-sacrifice that we win; "He that loseth his life for My sake shall find it." This is the secret of Jesus; life is sustained and enriched by expression, by endurance, and by sacrifice.
Let us now apply these principles of the Master to the individual life. Take the first -- life is secured and enriched by expression. Apply the policy of silence to the domain of the feelings. Feelings which are never expressed languish away and die. It is equally true of the noble and the base. Refuse expression to an unworthy passion and we slay it by suffocation. Love that never tells its story, that never utters itself in word, or gift, or service, fades away into drowsy indifference. Sympathy that never becomes incarnate congeals into cold benumbment. Gratitude that never testifies soon ceases to be felt.
Pursue the policy of silence in the matter of the sentiments, and we shall speedily be despoiled of our wealth. Our feelings require an outlet; they are oxygenated in speech. The price of retention is expression. We must give them out if we would keep them in. We must lose them if we would find them.
Apply the policy of silence to the acquisition of a truth. A truth that is never proclaimed is never really known. Truth reserves her rarest beauties for the moment when she is being shared. If we retain her we only see her partially; if we give her away we see her "in new lights." In the moment of communication she reveals an unsuspected wealth. The teacher gains more knowledge while he is giving away what he knows. Truth is vivified in the very ministry of expression. "What I tell you in the ear, that proclaim ye upon the house tops!"
Perhaps our Master intended to suggest that we never see the full glory of truth when we receive it; the full glory will break upon us only when we proclaim it. Never tell the truth, and the truth will always remain dim; proclaim it, and it will emerge from the mist in clear and most alluring outline. The price of retention is expression. We must lose if we would find.
Take the second of the principles given us by our Lord -- the purposes of life are not served by the policy of drifting, but by the ministry of resistance. Life is energized by endurance. Drifting may be the secret of easy living; it never discovers the entrance into a spacious life. To go with the stream may be a luxury, but it is a luxuriousness which is productive of a perilous enervation. We can never drift into any really worthy and permanent wealth.
We can never drift into rest. The only people who never find rest are the idle and the indolent. The preparative to rest is labour, and rest only reveals its rich and essential flavours to those who have plodded the ways of toil. It is the men who have lost who find. Rest never visits the idle man, even though he have an easy chair in every room in the house. "Strive to enter into rest."
We can never drift into joy. The only people who are strangers to joy are the people who shirk every difficulty, and never contend with a troublesome task. It requires a little pressure even to get the juice out of a grape, and it does seem as though the fine juices of life are only tasted where there is a certain stress and strain, a certain pressure, a certain sense of burden and task. The precious juice of joy is never the perquisite of the drifter; it visits the lips of resistance and is the fruit of conquest. "Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord"; that is the commanding issue of prolonged strife and resistance.
We never drift into strength. Drifting makes no muscle; the muscle is impoverished. The man who drifts with the stream appears to be conserving his strength, while in reality the ease is just the measure of the leakage. It is the man who appears to be expending strength who is really gaining it; the man toiling at the oar and resisting the stream, he acquires the power of the stream he resists. The policy of drifting appears to find, but it loses; the policy of resistance and endurance appears to lose, but it grandly finds. "He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for My sake shall find it."
Take the third of the principles proclaimed by the Lord -- it is not by the policy of self-aggrandizement that we can find the secrets of an enduring progress. Life is not enriched by selfishness, but by sacrifice. Life becomes fruitful only when it becomes sacrificial. This is true concerning our influence upon one another. It seems ordained that life has to attain a certain fervour of sacrifice before it can become contagious and multiply itself throughout the race. On the cold planes of calculation and selfishness life is unimpressive, and its products leave the general life unmoved.
It is even so with a poem, with a painting, with a sermon, ay! With a courtesy; the measure of its impressiveness is just the measure of the sacrifice of which it is the shrine. What is there in the poem of the heart, of energy, of blood? What has the man put into it? What did he lose in its making? What "virtue" has gone out of him? Just so much will be the measure of healing. Just what he lost will be our gain; he becomes fruitful where he touches sacrifice.
But let us say more -- the poet himself is the gainer by so much as he lost. The spirit of sacrifice not only impresses others, it fertilizes self. In the fervent atmosphere of sacrifice buried seeds of possibility awake into life, which in an air of cold calculation remain in their graves -- powers of perception, of resolution, of effort. In the tropical heat of sacrifice they spring into strength and beauty.
I say, therefore, that the spirit of sacrifice enriches self while yet it fertilizes others. Our giving is our getting. "With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again."
Here, then, are the gates to a rich and roomy individual life; not silence, but expression; not drifting, but endurance; not self-seeking, but sacrifice; for "he that findeth his life shall lose it, but he that loseth his life for My sake shall find it."
Now let me lift up the principles to a larger application. I have tried to reveal their relationship to the individual, but they are equally applicable to wider relationships -- to families, to societies, to states, and to the Church.
Let me confine this larger outlook to the life of the Church. Here is the Church of Christ placed in an environment of sleeping hostilities. If she moves, her foes awake and arrange themselves in serried ranks. Here and there she meets with violent hatred, and everywhere she is confronted with gigantic tasks. The difficulties are here in our homeland, and they are multiplied in lands afar.
What shall be our policy? We may not definitely formulate the policy, and by the very absence of a clear and strong decision we may be snared into the three perilous worldly policies of silence, drifting, and self-aggrandizement; a policy of silence, not proclaiming in every place the evangel which we have received; a policy of drifting, evading the enormous tasks and difficulties of the almost immeasurable field of service; a policy of self-aggrandizement, appropriating the ministries of grace to our own consolation, and sitting and singing ourselves "away to everlasting bliss."
And here, again, is the word of the Saviour. By the methods of the world the Church will never gain her life. Life gained in such conditions is miserably delusive. The vitality is only apparent. The growth is dropsical. The finding is only a losing. The Church that would grow rich must externalize and invest its treasure. The Church that would live must die. If she would have her Olivet of enriched communion, she must seek it by the way of Golgotha and the Cross. If she would gain, she must lose. She must be a missionary Church, working out her salvation by the ministries of expression, endurance, and sacrifice.
How would she gain? Turn again to our principles. The life of the Church is secured and enriched by expression. I do not think the Church ever discovers the manifold wealth of her evangel until she begins to proclaim it to the varied and manifold needs of the race. Its adaptability to diverse circumstances brings strange corroboration to its truth.
It is even so on the plane of matter. On the material plane a scientific discoverer hungers for a multiplicity of tests. He longs to give his theory the trial of multiplied experiments. The larger and more varied the range, the more illumined and assured becomes his conviction. And here is the evangel of the Christ. We can only apprehend it partially if we confine its application to our own needs. Set it in a different light, and it will reveal an unsuspected glory.
Take it to India; bring it to bear upon the Hindoo; set it side by side with his sad and dreary religion; let the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ be seen in contrast with his own deity, inaccessible to human affection, or, indeed, to anything else; proclaim the duty and privilege of holiness amid conditions which give little emphasis to morals. Do all this, and it requires but little imagination to see that our evangel will assume an undiscovered majesty and glory, which will warm and illumine the minds and hearts of its own heralds.
Take it among the primitive islanders of the South Pacific; take it among the keen and sinewy natives of Central Africa; take it among the half-awake and conservative people of China; take it among the alert, absorbent, and prospecting Japanese; and every new application will reveal a new adaptability of "the exceeding richness of His grace."
We discover while we evangelize. Our torch emits new flame while we light the lamps of others. We get while we give. "He that findeth his life shall lose it; he that loseth his life for My sake shall find it."
Again, the principle is true in wider relationships. The life of the Church is energized and enriched by endurance. The difficulties of home and foreign missionary work are gigantic. No field has been discovered where the difficulty is absent. The line of least resistance is to remain at ease. But the path to ease is not the way to life. A difficulty should always be interpreted as an invitation. If the Church be healthy, a great task will always be an allurement. For difficulties are only rightly interpreted when they are regarded as promises.
Every difficulty contains prospective wealth. Break it open, and the wealth is yours! We appropriate the strength of the enemy we vanquish. Overcome a difficulty, and its power henceforth enlists on our side. That is a grand evangel, having application both to individual and to common life.
There are monster difficulties in China. Let the Christian Church overcome them, and the force of the monster difficulties is added to her strength. We are energized by our tasks. Our muscle is made by our resistances. And, therefore, you will find that the seasons of commanding difficulty have ever been the seasons of the Church's exuberant health. The strong negative has begotten mighty affirmative. The forces of persecution have produced sterling muscle and inflexible resolve.
Let us, therefore, look at difficulties as promises in the guise of tasks. They are treasure houses presenting the appearance of bristling forts. Break them open, I say, and the treasure is yours. To dare is to win! "He that loseth his life shall find it."
And as for the third principle, only a word need be said. The life of the Church becomes fruitful when it becomes sacrificial. When the church is easeful she loses the power to redeem. I remember the old story of Pope Innocent IV and Thomas Aquinas, who were standing together as bags of treasure were being carried in through the gates of the Lateran.
"You see," observed the Pope, with a smile, "the day is past when the Church could say, `Silver and gold have I none!'"
"Yes, Holy Father," was the saint's reply, "and the day is past when the Church could say to the lame man, `Rise and walk!'"
When the church's life is lived on the plane of ease, and comfort, and bloodless service, she has no power to fertilize the dry and barren places of the earth. When the Church becomes sacrificial, she becomes impressive. The sacrificial things in history are the influential things today.
It is the men and the women who give away their being, the bleeding folk, who are our present inheritance. The woman who gave the two mites still works as a factor in the life of the race. Sir John Kelynge -- have you ever heard of him? -- the brutal, cynical justice who thrust John Bunyan for twelve years into Bedford gaol, his very name is now a conundrum! John Bunyan, the sacrificial martyr, is still fertilizing the field of common life with energies of rich inspiration.
The finders have lost. The apparent losers are at the winning post! The sacrificial are the triumphant. "They loved not their lives unto the death, and they overcame by the blood of the Lamb." A sacrificial Church would speedily conquer the world! "He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for My sake shall find it."