But some may say, “All this is most precious, but how may I attain unto it?” Of course, in the first place, we must have passed sentence on ourselves, must have condemned ourselves, and put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of our souls. Without this there can be no such thing as attaining to this more intimate knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is absolutely needful. But as I stated at the beginning, it appears to me there is referred to here a higher degree of acquaintance with the Lord Jesus Christ, more than that which is necessary for the salvation of our souls, in order that we may glorify God, live as becomes the children of God, and bear fruit abundantly, sixty-fold, and a hundred-fold. I just mention here, and have my beloved brethren and sisters in Christ ever thought of it, that we are not to be satisfied with bearing fruit thirty-fold, but actually fortyfold, forty-five-fold, fiftyfold; to press on; yea, if it might be, to attain to bearing sixty-five-fold, and if any of us have attained to this, then to aim at attaining seventy-fold, seventy-fivefold, eighty-fold; yea, to be satisfied short of nothing than to aim at one-hundred-fold. When the blessed Lord Jesus Christ brings this statement before us, He means what He says, that some bear in one and some in another degree. And why should we not advance to bear the higher and more glorious degrees, till the glorious consummation of one-hundredfold? We should never lose sight of the fact that the salvation of our soul is not the ultimate object that God has, but the glory of His name is intimately connected with our bearing fruit. Let us not think, that because we have now for a few years in some little measure left the world that we may take our ease, and now go on more quietly, but to press on, to press on, to press on, and to set before us nothing short of the prize, to bear a hundred-fold.
Let us take the text in its connection. How may I attain to this intimate knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ? In the 8th verse we read, “And I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord,” “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings.” Everything he desired to put aside and renounce, in order that he might know Him, and that increasingly he might become acquainted with Him. Therefore, beloved friends, the pleasures of this world are to be put aside—the fashion of this world to be laid down at the feet of Jesus, the riches of this world, the honour of this world, and all that the natural mind craves after, desires, finds gratification in—all to be laid down at the feet of Jesus, in order that we may be able to say with the apostle, “Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus.” So that we have for the remainder of our life but one single object. Not six, not five, not three, not two, but one single object—to live for God.
“I rise before the dawning of the morning, and cry for help; I hope in Your word.” Psalm 119:147
George Mueller (1805-1898) is famous for establishing orphanages in England and for joyfully depending on God for all his needs. How did he kindle this joy and faith? In 1841 he made a life-changing discovery. The testimony of this from his autobiography has proved to be of tremendous value in my life and I pray it will also bear fruit in yours:
While I was staying at Nailworth, it pleased the Lord to teach me a truth, irrespective of human instrumentality, as far as I know, the benefit of which I have not lost, though now...more than forty years have since passed away.
The point is this: I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished. For I might seek to set the truth before the unconverted, I might seek to benefit believers, I might seek to relieve the distressed, I might in other ways seek to behave myself as it becomes a child of God in this world; and yet, not being happy in the Lord and not being nourished and strengthened in my inner man day by day, all this might not be attended to in a right spirit.
Before this time my practice had been, at least for ten years previously, as an habitual thing, to give myself to prayer, after having dressed the morning. Now I saw, that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditation on it, that thus my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, instructed; and that thus, whilst meditation, my heart might be brought into experimental, communion with the Lord. I began therefore, to meditate on the New Testament, from the beginning, early in the morning.
The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words the Lord's blessing upon His precious Word, was to begin to meditate on the Word of God; searching, as it were, into every verse, to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of the public ministry of the Word; not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon; but for the sake of obtaining food for my own soul. The result I have found to be almost invariably this, that after a very few minutes my soul has been led to confession, or to thanksgiving, or to intercession, or to supplication; so that though I did not, as it were, give to prayer but to meditation, yet it turned almost immediately more or less to prayer.
When thus I have been for awhile making confession, or intercession, or supplication, or have given thanks, I go on to the next words or verse, turning all, as I go on, into prayer for myself or others, as the Word may lead to it; but still continually keeping before me that food for my own soul is the object of meditation. The result of this is, that there is always a good deal of confession, thanksgiving, supplication, or intercession mingled with my meditation, and that my inner man almost invariably is even sensibly nourished and strengthened and that by breakfast time, with rare exceptions, I am in a peaceful if not happy state of heart. Thus also the Lord is pleased to communicate unto me that which, very soon after, I have found to become food for other believers, though it was not for the sake of the public ministry of the Word that I have myself to meditation, but for the profit of my own inner man.
The difference between my former practice and my present one is this. Formerly, when I rose, I began to pray as soon as possible, and generally spent all my time till breakfast in prayer, or almost all the time. At all events I almost invariably began with prayer… But what was the result? I often spent a quarter of an hour, or half an hour, or even an hour on my knees, before being conscious to myself of having derived comfort, encouragement, humbling of soul, etc.; and often after having suffered much from wandering of mind for the first ten minutes, or a quarter of an hour, or even half an hour, I only then began really to pray.
I scarcely ever suffer now in this way. For my heart being nourished by the truth, being brought into experimental fellowship with God, I speak to my Father, and to my Friend (vile though I am, and unworthy of it!) about the things that He has brought before me in His precious Word.
It often now astonished me that I did not sooner see this. In no book did I ever read about it. No public ministry ever brought the matter before me. No private intercourse with a brother stirred me up to this matter. And yet now, since God has taught me this point, it is as plain to me as anything, that the first thing the child of God has to do morning-by-morning is to obtain food for his inner man.
As the outward man is not fit for work for any length of time, except we take food, and as this is one of the first things we do in the morning, so it should be with the inner man. We should take food for that, as every one must allow. Now what is the food for the inner man; not prayer, but the Word of God; and here again not the simple reading of the Word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts....
I dwell so particularly on this point because of the immense spiritual profit and refreshment I am conscious of having derived from it myself, and I affectionately and solemnly beseech all my fellow-believers to ponder this matter. By the blessing of God I ascribe to this mode the help and strength which I have had from God to pass in peace through deeper trials in various ways than I had ever had before; and after having now above forty years tried this way, I can most fully, in the fear of God, commend it. How different when the soul is refreshed and made happy early in the morning, from what it is when, without spiritual preparation, the service, the trials and the temptations of the day come upon one!