Faith of
Our Fathers

The Conflict
Over Vision

25 November 2022

Any vision we receive
from the Lord will
bring us into conflict, but
only then will that vision
become real to us

In these recent notes we have been considering T. Austin-Sparks’ pamphlet, “The Spoil of Battle” (1933). Brother Sparks states in that pamphlet:

It is by conflict, by battle, by grim and terrible warfare spiritually, that the moral excellencies of our triumphant Head are brought out in us.

In the section of the pamphlet entitled, “The Battle Over Revelation,” he shares how this principle applies to the light we receive from the Lord. Sparks gives the example of Joseph being put into prison while in Egypt, as related by the psalmist:

He sent a man before them,
Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
They afflicted his feet with fetters,
He himself was laid in irons;
Until the time that
His word came to pass,
The word of the LORD tested him.
— Psalm 105:17-19, NASB

As Sparks points out, these verses show us that it was not Joseph’s brothers, or the Egyptians, or his circumstances, that tried Joseph; rather, it was the word of the Lord itself that tried him. Joseph was being tested, over a long period of time, to see if he would be faithful to the vision he had received from the Lord.

And so it is with many of us in the churches today. At one time, even years ago, we surely did receive a heavenly vision of God’s desire, one that “wrecked us” for Christ and the church. But then over a long period of time it seems we lost the freshness of that vision, so that it is no longer so real to us as it once was. As Sparks says:

It seems that the first glory of it has gone and you are left asking all sorts of questions about it. You are cold, dead, dark; the thing has lost its grip and looking at it now from this standpoint, the standpoint of this experience, you wonder whether after all it was right or not.

But he then goes on to state:

The truth of God comes as from God, with all its Divine glory, beauty, strength, and we rejoice in that light for a season, and then we go into death with that very light; but in the battle, in the conflict, the death, the being searched, tried, tested, found out, and driven down to the place where, if that goes, we go, because it is our life, then the power of resurrection begins to operate and we come back with that thing stronger than ever, and in addition with spoils for building. We know the value of that thing as we had never proved it before, because we had never been into conflict with it, we had never tested that armor, never tried that sword; but now something of value has been given to it which we never knew until we went into the conflict with it. It does work that way with a revelation.

He speaks of saints who have gone through this experience:

They go into a time of awful conflict and darkness, full of questions as to whether or not, after all, the thing is true, is right. Now the Lord is putting the thing inside. Before it was very largely on the circumference; it was, in a sense, in a measure, objective; but now the Lord is planting the thing into them, and them into it. They will come through and say: “Before, it was something given to me but it belonged to someone else, now it is mine.” Thus they begin to build with the spoil resultant from the conflict.

J.N. Darby, in his Synopsis on Genesis 37-41, has a thought similar to Sparks regarding this matter of the conflict over vision. Psalm 105:18 in the NASB, used above, reads, Joseph “himself was laid in irons.” A more literal translation, however, is, “His soul came into irons” (Darby). And Darby indicates that, when Joseph’s soul entered into “irons,” that was when the iron entered into his soul.

Lord, grant us to be faithful to the vision you have committed to us, so we can stand with You, having “the spoil of battle” for Your building work today!

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— 26 November 2022 —