"Christ Pleased Not Himself"
J. G. Bellett (available on CD, from Stem Publishing)
It has just struck me, that we may continually
observe all absence in the Lord to merely please His disciples.
He never did this. Nay, I am sure that He passed by many little
opportunities of gratifying them, as we speak, or of introducing
Himself to their favour. He did not seek to please, and yet He
bound them deeply and intimately to Himself.
This was very blessed; and the same thing in
anyone is always a symptom of moral power.
"If we seek to please, we shall scarcely
fail to please." This is true, I doubt not; but nothing
can be morally lower. It makes a fellow-creature supreme; and
we deal with him as though his favour was life to us, which God's
is, but His only.
But to bind one in full confidence to us - to
draw the heart - to have ourselves in the esteem and affection
of others, without ever in one single instance having that as
our object - this is morally great. For nothing can account for
this, but that constant course of love which, by necessity of
its own virtue, tells others that their real interests, and prosperity,
and blessing are in deed and in truth the purpose and desire of
And this was the Lord. Nothing that He did told
them that He sought to please them; but everything that He did
told them that He sought to bless them.
And again I say - I believe that He passed by
many little opportunities of gratifying them, or of introducing
Himself to their favour. And yet He met them graciously and tenderly
on many occasions which we might have resented. And both of these,
the one as well as the other, came from those springs and sources
of a moral perfection which took their rise in Him. For if vanity
had no part in Him to put Him to an effort to please, malice had
no part in Him to make Him quick to resent. He could not be flattered
into graciousness, nor provoked into unkindness. Look at Luke
22: 24-30. They had just betrayed nature, striving through pride
about the highest place. He corrects this; but He does not hold
that object long before Him, but allows another to command His
heart and His thoughts respecting them - "Ye are they which
have continued with Me in My temptations."
Was that exactly the moment for remembering this
fact? Was it just the time for looking at them so steadily in
so favourable a light? No, not for nature to do so; but for Jesus
it was just the time. And He is our example, that we should follow
His steps, and partake of His mind. And after the pattern of this
little occasion, we have to remember that it is not the present
act that has to decide our thoughts and hearts respecting each
other. It may have much of the vileness or working of nature in
it, as this strife had; but it may be, as this strife was, the
act of those in whom much of the preciousness of the Spirit dwells;
and "the precious" should be remembered for the commanding
of our thoughts often, even in the very presence of "the
Strange this may appear. Yes, and the ways of
divine unselfish love are strange. Here is our pilgrim part, and
the part of a stranger in a scene of multiform selfishness like
this. It may not be well to be always understood. Joseph spoke
roughly to his brethren in a moment of their sorrow. But Joseph
was not to be the servant of the present moment, but of their
good. He was seeking to bless them, not to please them. Jesus
told Thomas in a moment of repentance, that there was a character
of still higher blessing to which he did not belong. But Jesus
was true to the truth, true to us all, true to Thomas himself,
when he might have been flattered into softness. Like Joseph,
He was serving Thomas, and not the moment or occasion.
O the perfectness of it all! O the unspottedness
of the path of His spirit within, as of His feet abroad! O the
beauty of all which love does or says! We shall understand it
all bye-and-bye, and have pages open to us which now we have no
eyes to read. Through selfishness, we mistake the doings of love,
and expect gratifications, when we find ourselves passed by; and
are sent away with the material of some solid lasting benefit,
when we hoped for a mere present pleasurable excitement.
O, for more of that love that is "in deed
and in truth," which eyes the solid good of others, and
can sacrifice their favour towards ourselves to their own blessing.