First of all, holiness is not necessarily a state in which there is perpetual, rapturous joy. Isaiah 53:3 tells us that Jesus was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief,” and Paul tells us that he had continual sorrow and great heaviness because of the rejection of Jesus by his kinsmen after the flesh.
Joy is the normal state of the holy man, but it may be mingled with sorrow and grief and perplexities and heaviness on account of many temptations. The low water mark, however, in the experience of a holy person is one of perfect peace—the high water mark is up in the third heaven somewhere. However, this third heaven experience is not likely to be constantly maintained. Jesus and the disciples had to come down off the Mount of Transfiguration and go to casting out devils, and Paul returned from the third heaven to be attacked by Satan, stoned, whipped and imprisoned by men.
Holiness is not a state of freedom from temptation.
This is a world of trial, of conflict with principalities and powers, darkness and terrible evil. The holy soul who is in the forefront of the conflict may expect the fiercest assaults of the devil and the heaviest, most perplexing and prolonged temptations. Our blessed Lord was tried and tempted for 40 days and 40 nights by the devil, and the servant must not be surprised if he is as his Master.
Paul tells us that Jesus was tempted at all points as we are, and that He is able to sympathize with us when we are tempted. It is no sin to be tempted. In fact, the Apostle James tells us to rejoice when we are subjected to all kinds of temptations, for the resulting trial of our faith will produce in us strength and force of holy character, so that we shall be lacking nothing (James 1:2-4).
Holiness is not a state of freedom from weakness.
It does not produce a perfect head, but a perfect heart! The saints have always been surrounded with weaknesses that have proved a source of great trial, but when patiently endured for His dear sake, such travail has also proved a source of great blessing. Paul had a thorn in the flesh, an infirmity, a messenger of Satan to attack him. Possibly it was weak eyes, for he was once stoned and dragged out of the city and left for dead, and in writing to the Galatians, he says they would have plucked out their eyes and given them to him had it been possible. Or it may have been a stammering tongue, for he tells us he was accounted rude of speech. Anyway, it was a weakness which he longed to be rid of, doubtless feeling that it interfered with his usefulness, and three times he prayed to the Lord for deliverance, but instead of getting the prayed-for deliverance, the Lord said to him, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Then Paul cried out, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). In the Epistle to the Hebrews 4;15, we are told that Jesus was “touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” We may be faulty in memory, in judgment, in understanding; we may have many weaknesses of body and mind, but God looks upon the purity of the heart, the singleness of the eye and the loyalty of our affection, and if He does not find us faulty there, He counts us perfect men and women. It is not in the mere natural perfection that the power and glory of God are manifested, but rather in goodness, purity, love, humility and longsuffering shining forth through weaknesses of the flesh and imperfections of mind.
Holiness is not a state of freedom from suffering.
The saints of all ages have been chosen “in the furnace of affliction’ (Isaiah 48:10). Job, Jeremiah, Daniel, Paul and the mighty army of martyrs have, and shall always, come up through great difficulty. It is not God’s purpose to take us to heaven on flowery beds of ease, clothe us in purple and fine linen and keep a lollipop in our mouths all the time. That would not develop strength of character nor cultivate simplicity and purity of heart. Nor in that case could we really know Jesus and the fellowship of His sufferings. It is in the furnace of fire, the lion’s den and the dungeon cell that He most freely reveals Himself to His people.
Other things being equal, the holy man is less liable to suffering than the sinner. He does not run into the same excesses that the sinner does. He is free from the pride, the temper, the jealousy, the soaring ambitions and selfishness that plunge so many sinners into terrible affliction and ruin. And yet he must not presume that he will get through the world without heavy trials, hard temptations and suffering. Job was a perfect man, but he lost all his property and his children and in a day was made a childless beggar, but he proved his perfection by giving God glory. Then when his wife bade him curse God and die, he said unto her, “Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10). And when his three friends were undermining his faith, he looked up from off his ash heap, and out of his awful sorrow, desolation and fierce pain he cried out, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).
Joseph is one of the few men in the Bible against whom nothing is recorded, but like Daniel, his very holiness and righteousness led to the terrible trials endured in Egypt. And so it may be, and is, with saints today. But while we may be afflicted, we can comfort ourselves with David’s assurance, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19). A friend of mine said he would rather have a thousand afflictions and be delivered out of them all, than have half a dozen and get stuck in the midst of them.
Holiness is not a state in which there is no further development.
When the heart is purified it develops more rapidly than ever before. Spiritual development comes through the revelation of Jesus Christ in the heart, and the holy soul is in a condition to receive such revelations constantly. And since the finite can never exhaust the infi- nite, these revelations will continue forever and prove an increasing and never ending source of development. It would be as wise to say that a sick child would grow no more when he recovers, or that corn would grow no more when the weeds were destroyed, as to say that a soul will cease to grow when it is made holy.
Holiness is not a state from which we cannot fall.
Paul tells us that we stand by faith (Romans 11:16-22), and he says, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (I Corinthians 10:12). It is an unscriptural and dangerous doctrine that there is any state of grace in this world from which we cannot fall. Probation does not end the moment we believe in Jesus, but rather the moment we quit the body. It is only those who endure to the end who shall be saved. While here, we are in the enemy’s country and must watch and pray and examine ourselves daily, and keep ourselves in the love of God, lest we fall from His grace and shipwreck our faith. But while we may fall, thank God holiness is a state from which we need not fall. In fact, it is a state which Paul calls “this grace wherein we stand” (Romans 5:2).
Some have asked the question, “How can a holy soul be tempted, or how can it fall?” I will ask the question, how could the angels fall? And how could Adam just fresh from the hands of his Maker in whose image he was made, fall? And I will ask the more startling question still, how could Jesus, the blessed incarnate God Himself, be tempted? We have our five senses and various bodily appetites, none of which are in themselves sinful, but each of which may become an avenue by which the holy soul may be solicited to evil. Each must be regulated by the Word of God and dominated by the love of Jesus, if we wish to keep a holy heart, and “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (Colossians 4:12).
Finally, holiness is a state of conformity to the divine nature. God is love, and there is a sense in which a holy man can be said to be love. His is like God, not in God’s natural perfection of power, wisdom, knowledge and omnipresence but in patience, humility, self-control, purity of heart and love. As the drop out of the ocean is like the ocean, not in its bigness, but in its essence, so is the holy soul like God. As the branch is like the vine, not in its self-sufficiency, but in its nature, its sap, fruitfulness, its beauty, so is he that is holy like God.
This unspeakable blessing is provided for us by our compassionate Heavenly Father through the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and is received through a complete renunciation of all sin, a total consecration to all the known will of God, persistent prayer and childlike faith. I obtained this crowning blessing of the gospel through the conscious incoming of the Holy Spirit when I believed, after weeks of earnest seeking. Bless God! He still abides with me and my peace and joy increase and abound. Many have been my afflictions, and fierce and perplexing and prolonged have been my temptations, but with a daredevil faith I have pressed on, claiming victory through the Blood, testifying to what I claimed by faith and proving day by day this grace to be sufficient while the path shines more and more unto the perfect day. Glory be to God forever!
By Commissioner Samuel Logan Brengle