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170

XLIX

PREPARING FOR THE MIRACLE

“And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me.”—John xi. 41.

THAT is a very strange and unusual order. Lazarus is still in the grave, and the thanksgiving precedes the miracle of resurrection. I thought that the thanksgiving would have arisen when the great deed had been wrought, and Lazarus was restored to life again. But Jesus gives thanks for what He is about to receive. The gratitude breaks forth before the bounty has arrived, in the assurance that it is most certainly on the way. The song of victory is sung before the battle has been fought. It is the sower who is singing the song of the harvest-home. It is thanksgiving before the miracle!

Now if we ever observed this order in our spiritual life we seem to have largely lost it. Sometimes, but I am afraid only very rarely, 171we gather for praise when the battle is over and we are surrounded by the visible spoils. We hold our thanksgiving service at the close of the campaign. We have counted our converts and we are ready to sing. But who thinks of sounding the silver trumpet before the mission begins, and of gathering a congregation for praise before a single convert is penitently knocking at the door? Who thinks of announcing a victory-psalm when the crusaders are just starting out for the field? Where can we hear the grateful song for the answer which has not yet been. received?

And after all, there is nothing strange, or forced, or unreasonable in the Master’s order. Praise is really the most vital preparatory ministry to the working of the miracle. Miracles of all kinds are wrought by spiritual power. Spiritual power is always proportioned to our faith. And what is there which is so productive and expressive of faith as a pæan of thanksgiving before the deed has been wrought? There is nothing like thanksgiving for opening out all the highways and byways of the soul. Thanksgiving converts all the avenues of the 172soul into channels of divine grace and power. Even prayer cannot make the soul receptive without praise. Whenever there is prayer without praise we “limit the Holy One of Israel,” and the consecrating power is restrained. The water of life is waiting, but the channels are choked.

What energy would possess our doings and our goings if we marched to our tasks in the triumphant spirit of assuring praise! The Lord Jesus addressed the dead Lazarus with lips that were glowing with praise. He passed from praise to deed. The lips that spake the great words, “Lazarus, come forth!” were laden with the song of assurance. If only we ministers gave our message after such a preparatory ministry, how we should wake the dead! And if all the servants of God went forth to attack hoary wrongs singing the praiseful song of victory the strongholds of iniquity would fall. Thanksgiving before the miracle, that is the order of Jesus.

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