“Thus saith the LORD, Ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren the children of Israel: return every man to his house; for this thing is from me.”
—I Kings 12:24
Preface: The article, “This Thing Is From Me,” was written by Bro. Norman Woodworth and appeared in the July 1949 issue of “The Dawn.” He also gave it in discourse form on numerous occasions, and it has doubtless been heard or read by thousands of brethren over the last six-plus decades. Several years ago, a PowerPoint version of Bro. Woodworth’s discourse, using a recording of his voice as the audio portion, was presented at the Bible Students General Convention. Most importantly, however, is the fact that this subject is vitally important to every consecrated child of God, and hence timeless. Its presentation here—as if the Lord is speaking to us directly—is also powerfully effective and personal. We are pleased to present this special message once again, unchanged from its original inclusion in the July 1949 Dawn magazine, and pray that it will be a blessing to our readers.
THESE ARE THE words of the Lord to King Rehoboam, and they express a viewpoint pertaining to God’s dealings with his people which we should endeavor always to keep in mind. Rehoboam was a new king in Israel, having succeeded his father, Solomon, to the throne. Representatives of ten of the tribes interviewed the new king and demanded that burdens imposed upon them by Solomon now be lifted; but after due consideration Rehoboam decided not to yield to their demands. Then the ten tribes rebelled and asked Jeroboam to reign over them.
Acting hastily, Rehoboam assembled an army of 180,000 soldiers, with which he was determined to put down the rebellion and by force of arms compel the revolting tribes to be subject to his rulership. The Lord intervened to prevent the carrying out of this plan, sending instructions to the king to this effect with the explanation, “This thing is from me.”—I Kings 12:24
Probably Rehoboam never understood just why the Lord had permitted this breach in the solidarity of the nation; nor is it essential that we understand it now in order to derive the important implications of this message which the Lord sent to this ruler over his typical people. What had happened seemed all wrong to Rehoboam and so much out of keeping with his judgment of the Lord’s will that he was confident he would be divinely blessed in his plan forcibly to reunite the nation; but he was wrong—“This thing is from me,” said the Lord.
Statements such as this, made by the Lord to his people, should bring home to us with blessed reality the fact that everything which concerns us is of even greater concern to the Lord—that he is just as interested in our personal welfare as we, and eminently more qualified to know what is best for us. This, too, is the reassuring lesson which Jesus gives us, saying, “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.”—Luke 12:6,7
The Apostle Paul expresses the same reassuring thought when he tells us that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord and who are called in keeping with the divine purpose. (Rom. 8:28) The apostle knew this because of the many promises of God indicating his love and care for his people. He knew it also because, by the eye of faith, he was able to discern that even his greatest trials had often resulted in the richest of blessings from the Lord—blessings which could never have been enjoyed had it not been for the trying circumstances which conveyed them to him.
Our faith in God and in his overruling providences in our lives as Christians should enable us all to realize that nothing can come to us except by divine permission, and that many times our most painful experiences are actually by his appointment. If we can but have confidence that this is so, our every joy will be a deeper joy, and our burdens and sorrows will be borne with greater fortitude; for we will know that our all-wise Heavenly Father sees exactly what we need for our training in order that we may be made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.
With reference to the Lord’s feelings toward his typical people, Israel, the prophet declared, “He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye”; and surely our Heavenly Father is equally concerned over spiritual Israel and therefore enters into and shares our every experience, whether of joy or of sorrow. (Zech. 2:8) Of his ancient people, the Lord also said, “Thou wast precious in my sight.” (Isa. 43:4) Can we doubt that the same is true of us? Is not the Lord, through his Word, whispering these same reassurances of his love to us, and should not this enhance the value of our every experience, as daily we seek to carry out our covenant with him by sacrifice?
Do we have temptations? Well, the Lord knows about them. He does not lead us into temptations, for God tempteth no man. (James 1:13) Nevertheless, he knows about our temptations and permits them; and we have the assurance that when they become too great he will provide a way of escape—perhaps not our way, but a way which will be much better suited to our eternal welfare than any of our own choosing could possibly be. (I Cor. 10:13) So, at such times, the Lord might very well be saying to us:
“I want you to know that, when the enemy comes in like a flood, this thing is from me and that I have permitted it in order that you might realize more fully your own weaknesses and learn to depend more confidently upon my grace to help in your every time of need. (Heb. 4:16) I want you to learn that your safety as a New Creature in Christ depends upon your looking to me for strength; for while I want you to do the best you can to fight off all the enemies which assail you as a New Creature, I want you to realize also that the battle is not won by those who think they are strong apart from me, but by those who look to me to do their fighting for them.”
To have faith that God’s hand is in all our affairs, it is essential to keep in mind that he is training us for the great work of the future and for that high position of joint heirship with his Son, King Jesus. One of the necessary lessons to learn in order to be qualified for this exalted office is that of humility, and it may be that the Lord will use very commonplace experiences to teach us humility. To those of us who need such an experience, the Lord may be saying:
“Are your surroundings in life such as are humiliating to bear? Has your lot been cast with people who do not appreciate you or understand you, people who never consider your preferences or your tastes, and who are always putting you in the background and themselves in front? Do not blame your associations; this thing is from me. I am with you in all your humiliations, helping you to bear them and, from them, to learn the needed lessons. I am training you to be a ruler, to exercise tremendous responsibility; but I want you to do it for my glory, not for your own. So, first of all, it will be necessary for you to come to the place where you will be glad to say from the heart, ‘O! to be nothing, nothing.’ So remember, dear child of mine, you are not in your present environment by accident; it is from me, for I knew that only under such circumstances can you be properly trained for kingdom glory.”
Again, to some of us the Lord may be saying: “Are you in financial difficulties? Are you finding it more and more difficult to ‘make both ends meet’? This thing, too, is from me, for I want you to put your trust more fully in me and to realize that I know exactly what is best for you. I realize that it may be embarrassing at times not to have all the money you think you need. You would like to make a better showing among your friends, perhaps even among the brethren; but has it ever occurred to you that under my training and direction, and if you keep close to me, you may get into the kingdom before some who are able to make a better showing in the flesh? Of course, I do not want you to feel superior to others just because you are poor; for then you would not be learning the lesson I am endeavoring to teach you, which is that of trust in me and in my ability to provide all your needs, and a joyful acquiescence in your lot in life which I am permitting; for this thing is from me.”
Are we passing through a nighttime of sorrow, due to the loss of some beloved one, or to circumstances which seemingly no one can understand? Again we hear the Lord saying:
“This thing is from me. I have permitted earthly comforters to fail you in order that you might learn to look to me for consolation. Perhaps you have not realized—but I have—that as long as you had all your dear ones with you and your trusted friends were always able to console you in your trials, you did not think of me very often. But at one time you made a covenant with me, and I accepted you into my family. You have been very dear to me. I have wanted to do more for you, to bless you more richly; but you were getting along so well, your life was so filled with your friends, and you were so satisfied with your successes that I was largely shut out of your thoughts and ways. You didn’t realize your need of me. I do not rejoice in your trials; but I know, and you will learn, that in turning to me you will find comfort and solace beyond anything your earthly friends could possibly furnish. I want you to know that I am your everlasting portion, and I want you to draw nigh to me in order that I might draw nigh unto you.”—James 4:8
Has someone circulated falsehoods about us, belittling our abilities, perhaps, or even misrepresenting our characters? The Lord permits these experiences also, for they are among the “all things” which, by his overruling, are working together for our good. From this standpoint, therefore, he might very well be saying:
“Leave those who misrepresent you to me. I will deal with them according to their responsibility in the matter. There is a lesson in this experience, a lesson which I want you to learn. It is another way in which you can learn the much needed lesson of Christlike humility. In this experience, ‘Consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.’ (Heb. 12:3) When Jesus was contradicted, yes, even when he was reviled while hanging on the cross, he reviled not again, committing himself rather into my care and keeping; and this is what I want you to do.”
Even though we have covenanted to do the Heavenly Father’s will, we sometimes go along from day to day making our own plans, and neglecting to take into consideration whether or not our plans are in harmony with his will. Of course, we want him to bless the plans we make, and if he does not, then we wonder why. Again, let us hear the voice of the Lord, for he may be saying to us:
“Have your plans been all upset? This thing is from me. It was well that you asked me to bless your plans, but in your consecration to me you expressed your determination to do my will, to follow the plans that I would make for you. I have been ready at all times to direct your steps, but often you have not given me an opportunity to do so, and now that your own arrangements are not working out so well, I want you to know the reason and to try to do the better way; that is, to consult me with respect to every detail of your life. I can assure you that when you do this, my blessing will make you rich—rich in peace and joy, and in the realization that I am ever by your side and that I will withhold no good thing from you as long as you walk uprightly.”—Ps. 84:11
All of the Lord’s people are, at one time or another, burdened with responsibility and loaded down with care. We are prone to worry about the outcome of this experience or the result of that effort. Under this burden of care, we are apt to wonder why we do not have the joy and peace in the Lord that once enriched our lives. And then, despite all our care and worry, something goes wrong, and we are crushed in spirit. In our distress we turn to the Lord and through his Word hear him say:
“This thing is from me. I have been telling you right along that you should cast all your care upon me, for I am abundantly able to take the responsibility for the successful outcome of every service I ask you to render for me. (I Pet. 5:7) Not only do I want you to ascertain my will with respect to all the affairs of your consecrated life, but in doing this, also to let me be responsible for the outcome. Then you will have peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, for you will know that on account of my almighty power and infinite wisdom there will be no situation too difficult for me to handle. Even so, the outcome of your every experience and the result of your every effort to serve me may not be as you would desire; but you can be confident that, under the overruling of my providence, all things will work together for your good and for my glory.”
Every truly consecrated child of God is alert to serve him and his people in any and every way possible. Those who do not desire to be active in his service may very well doubt the genuineness of their consecration. However, for many the opportunities of service often seem quite limited. We long to do more for the Lord than we are doing or have the opportunity to do. It may be through lack of physical strength; it may be due to obligations toward those for whom the Lord expects us to care; it may be financial inability, or other handicaps. Do we, then, wonder why it is that, although our hearts long to do much in the Lord’s service, we are deprived of the opportunity? In this experience also, the Lord may very well be saying to us:
“This thing is from me. I know of your desire to do some great work for me, and yet I have permitted you to be laid aside on a bed of weakness and pain, for there is a lesson in this which is most essential for you to learn. Deep down in your heart, why are you so anxious to be busy in my service? Is your motive entirely that of love for me, for the brethren, and for all who may be blessed at your hands through the ministry of the Truth? It is well that you examine yourself very carefully along this line. And there is no better time to do this than while you are laid aside from active service. If there is the slightest trace in your heart of a motive that is not unselfish and pure, prosperity in my service would be very injurious to you; and I love you too much to permit you to be injured.”
“And then, in order for me to bless you in my service, it is essential that you lean upon me for strength and look to me for guidance. This experience of waiting which you are now having will help you to realize your own weakness and your great need of me. My strength will be made perfect in your weakness, but only if you realize your weakness. (II Cor. 12:9) When you come to the point where you tremble when you think of self and realize how very little you can do for me in your own strength, then I will be able to use you for doing great things for me—if not this side of the veil, then surely when I have exalted you to glory to live and reign with my beloved Son.”
“And if, in my providence, it takes all your time and strength and means to meet your responsibilities toward those depending upon you, this thing is from me, too. If you discharge your responsibilities as unto me, I will accept your service as though it were done directly in my vineyard. I know that in your heart you want to render direct service to me, and that is proper. I delight in that attitude and will be very near to you and bless you. But keep alert; it may be that the time will come when I will open the way for you to serve me in more direct ways. Watch and pray lest you settle down into a life of worldly indifference simply because at present you are deprived of the privilege of working directly for me.”
“If, in your case, it is a matter of wishing that you had large sums of money you could devote to my service, I appreciate that; but what are you doing with that little bit you do have? I have been saying over and over again to my people that those who are faithful in that which is least will be faithful also in that which is much. (Luke 16:10) After all, dear child of mine, my most important consideration for you is that you prove faithful; and you can do that with a few pennies just as well as though you possessed a large fortune which could be devoted to my service. You doubtless have read what my beloved Son said about the widow who cast her only two mites into the treasury of the Temple. The fact that you have only mites to use in my service is my providence for you. This thing is from me! I am watching to see if you will be like that widow.”—Mark 12:42-44; Luke 21:1-4
The Lord’s providences over his people are truly marvelous. Frequently, those who have had little or no opportunity for service suddenly find that glorious privileges in the harvest open up before them. Those who have had small opportunities may be granted larger ones. Those incapacitated by illness may recover. Family responsibilities may lessen. Some who possess little of this world’s goods may acquire more which they can use for the Lord. These changes of circumstances should also be accepted as coming from the Lord; so again we hear him saying to us:
“This thing is from me. You have profited as a New Creature by your past position in life, and now I have answered your prayers for greater opportunities of service. But it is well to remember that you will need my help now more than ever before; for, in the use of these larger privileges of service, there may be a tendency for you to develop a feeling of self-sufficiency. When you were weak and ill, you felt your need of me; but now that you are strong and well, you need me more than ever; so do not now neglect to acknowledge me in all your ways, and look to me to direct your path and give you strength to walk in it.”
“The service which you rendered to those dependent upon you was important, but now that you are serving me directly you will need my guidance and blessing even more than before, for the simple reason that you will be handling the holy things of my Word and plan. And if you may now have more money to spend for me, take heed lest you come to feel that your money should buy you special privileges of honor and authority among my people. Watch also lest you rest in the thought that your money is all I want. Above everything else, from you—as from all my children—I want the affection of your heart. I want you to keep close to me and to be very attentive to all of my instructions. I want you to tremble at my Word, not in fear of what I might do to you, but because you are anxious lest a promise being left you of entering into a full rest of faith in the doing of my will, you should even seem to come short of it.”—Heb. 4:1
“So, dear consecrated child of mine, since you have agreed to acknowledge me in all your ways (Prov. 3:6), remember that I am directing you in all things. There is not a single experience that comes into your life of which I am not aware, but have either permitted it or ordered it because I knew that it would be for your good as a child and heir of mine and a joint-heir with my beloved Son, Jesus. (Rom. 8:16,17) Never doubt my interest in you, nor my ability to care for you. As each new blessing comes to you, as trials weigh down upon you, keep your ears attuned for my reassuring message. This thing is from me, the God of your salvation, the God of mercy and abundant grace, who daily lifts up his countenance upon thee to give thee peace.”—Num. 6:24-26
“I am your Father, too, your Heavenly Father, and everything that concerns you, my child, concerns me. My love is yours for your comfort and joy. My infinite wisdom is yours to direct all your steps. My almighty power is pledged to your support, to help you over all the rough places in your heavenly journey, to defend you against all your foes, and to strengthen you in all your weaknesses. And remember, dear child of mine, that I will withhold no good thing from you, and that I always give my very best to those who leave the choice with me. (Ps. 84:11) Blessed are all they who put their trust in me.”—Ps. 2:12; 34:8
Reassuring indeed are the Lord’s words, as he talks to us out of the Scriptures. Perhaps one of the important lessons we should learn from his messages is that when we fellowship with him, it is best that we have little to say ourselves. If it is important that all the world keep silent before him, it is even more so for us, his children. (Zech. 2:13) Our Heavenly Father is, however, pleased for us to express our devotion to, and love for, him, to reiterate our longing desire to please him, and to keep near to him. How appropriate that we should say:
Sun of my soul, my Father dear,
I know no night when thou art near.
O! may no earthborn cloud arise
To hide thee from thy servant’s eyes.
Shield of my soul, though tempests rage,
And ’gainst me hosts of foes engage,
My refuge and my fortress thou,
Before thee every foe must bow.
Thy grace and glory thou dost give
To those who near thee ever live;
And no good thing dost thou withhold
From sheep which stray not from thy fold.
Thy choicest treasure, e’en thy Son,
Thy well-beloved and only one,
Freely thou gavest once for me,
From sin and death to set me free.
Yea, thou who sparedst not thy Son,
Whose sacrifice our ransom won,
Shalt, with him, all things freely give;
He lives, a pledge that we shall live.