The Separating Power Of Things Present
Things present — Rom_8:38
It is notable that in his enumeration of things which might dim the love of God to us, the apostle should make mention of things present, and by things present I take it that he means the events and trials of the present day. Many of us know how things to come may tempt us to doubt the love of God. The anxieties and forebodings of tomorrow often cloud the sunshine of today. But Paul, who knew all that as well as we do, for his apostleship gave no exemptions, knew also the separating power of things present. The task in which we are presently engaged, the thronging duties of the common day, the multitude of things we must get through before we go to bed at night, these, unless we continually watch, are apt to blind us to the great realities and to separate us from the love of God in Christ.
Things Present May Blind Us to the Brilliance of Things Distant
In part that separating power arises from the exceeding nearness of things present. Things which are very near command our vision and often lead to erroneous perspective. When I light the lamp in my quiet study, the moon may be riding through the sky, the stars may be glittering in heavenly brilliance, proclaiming that the hand which made them is divine. But the lamp is near me, at my side, and I read by it and write my letters by it, and most often the stars are quite forgotten. Things present are things near, and near things have a certain blinding power. You can blot the sun out with a penny if you only hold it near enough to the eye. And yet the sun is a majestic creation, beautifier and conserver of the world, and the penny is but a worn and trifling coin. For most of us each day that dawns brings its round of present duties. They absorb us, commanding every energy, and so doing may occasionally blind us. And that is why, in busy crowded lives where near things are so swift to tyrannize, we all require moments of withdrawal. To halt a moment and just to say “God loves me”; to halt a moment and say “God is here”; to take the penny from the eye an instant that we may see the wonder of the sun, that, as the apostle knew so well, is one of the secrets of the saints, to master the separating power of things present.
Things Present Are Difficult to Understand
Another element in that separating power is the difficulty of understanding present things. It is always easier to understand our yesterdays than to grasp the meaning of today. Often in the Highlands it is difficult to see the path just at one’s feet. Any bunch of cowberries may hide it or any bush of overarching heather. But when one halts a moment and looks back, generally it is comparatively easy to trace the path as it winds across the moor. So we begin to understand our past, its trials, its disappointments, and its illnesses; but such things are very hard to understand in their actual moment of occurrence, and it is that, the difficulty of reading love in the dark characters of present things, which constitutes their separating power. Many a grown man thanks God for the discipline of early childhood. But as a child it was often quite unfathomable, and he doubted if his mother loved him. And we are all God’s children, never in love with the discipline of love, and in that lies the separating power of things present.
Things Present Distract Us
Another element of that separating power is found in the distraction of things present. “Life isn’t a little bundle of big things: it’s a big bundle of little things. “I read somewhere of a ship’s captain who reported that a lighthouse was not shining. Inquiries were made, and it was found that the light was burning brightly all the night. What dimmed the light and made it as though it were not to the straining eyes of the captain on the bridge was a cloud of myriads of little flies. “While thy servant was busy here and there, the man was gone.” What things escape us in our unending busyness! Peace and joy, and the power of self-control, and the serenity that ought to mark the Christian. And sometimes that is lost, which to lose is the tragedy of tragedies — the sense and certainty of love divine. Preoccupied, it fades out of our heaven. The comfort and the calm of it are gone. The light is there “forever, ever shining,” but the cloud of flies has blotted out the light. Nobody knew better than the apostle did, in the cares that came upon him dally, the separating power of things present.
Through Christ We Overcome the Separating Power of Things Present
Of spiritual victory over present things, the one perfect example is our Lord. It is He who affords to us a perfect picture of untiring labor and unruffled calm. He gained the conquest over things to come. When Calvary was coming, He was joyous. He set His face steadily towards Jerusalem where the bitter cross was waiting Him. But, wonderful though that victory was over everything the future had in store, there was another that was not less wonderful. Never doubting the love of God to Him, certain of it in His darkest hour, through broken days, through never-ending calls when there was not leisure so much as to eat, not only did He master things to come, but He did what is often far more difficult —He mastered the separating power of things present. Do not forget He did all that for us. His victories were all achieved for us. In a deep sense we do not win our victories: we appropriate the victories of Christ. That is why the apostle in another place says, “All things are yours —things present, or things to come — and ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.”