The Four "Alls"
Adapted from a Sermon by George Everard, 1882
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7
And my God will supply every need of yours (or all your needs) according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19
Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
These blessed verses of promise and encouragement have been a great help to believers throughout the ages. As the river in the garden parted into four streams, watering in every direction the plains of Eden — so these four promises, springing from the same Fountain of eternal love, seem to spread joy and fertility through all parts of the Church of Christ.
Or we might compare them to so many trees of life, standing in the street of our Zion, bearing fruit each month, and their leaves for the healing of the nations.
Or we might make another comparison: we might think of them as four mighty walls, or defensive towers , commanding every approach to John Bunyan’s city of "Mansoul," sweeping the whole plain of the Christians' foes and fears.
Unbelief is ever ready to creep in at every possible inlet, causing great harm to our spiritual life. Distressing doubts are ever ready to arise, weakening, unsettling, unhinging the soul. They hinder our work, and disturb our patience in the day of trial. They sap the foundations of our peace, and dim the light and joy that ought to reign within. But if we will use aright these four "alls," we may scatter these hinderers of our peace. We may run to them for safety and protection; and, doing so, we will be at rest. We will have an answer ready for the questionings of an unbelieving heart, and need not fear the fiery darts of the adversary.
We will be blessed forever, if through the power of the Holy Spirit we are protected in this way; for, in trusting in His sure word of promise, the Almighty God Himself is our Rock and our Defence.
But we must bear in the mind that only those in Christ have a right to take hold of and use these invaluable promises: "all the promises of God find their Yes in him." (2 Cor 1:20) It is in Him they stand firm, and only to those who are in Him by a living faith, do they belong. Many blessed invitations are for lost sinners — but the promises are only for believers. If you are in Christ, you may claim them as your own; you may run to any one of these strong towers whenever you have need of it. And there is no possible emergency in your future life, but that by means of one or other of them, if the good Spirit of God helps you, you may find a sure refuge.
In the first promise, you may find an answer to all the guilt or failure that troubles the conscience. "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin!" 1 John 1:7
In the second promise, you find an abundant supply provided and promised for all temporal and spiritual necessities. "And my God will supply every need of yours (or all your needs) according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19
In the third promise, you find a calm resting-place for all cares and anxieties. "Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7
In the fourth promise, you find the blessed outcome of all sorrow, suffering, and loss. "We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28
1. We learn the power of the cleansing blood.
"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin!" 1 John 1:7
The condition for cleansing here spoken of, is an essential ingredient in the benefit promised to the Christian, his peace and fellowship with God. For let a man be walking in the light, let a man be continually mindful of the Lord's presence, and be assured that His searching and all-loving eye is ever upon him — and what must be the result? Will he not discern more and more clearly his failures, his frequent omissions of duty, his falling short of the duty of supreme love to God, and of unselfish love to his fellow-man?
Will he not discern more the depth of evil in his own corrupt heart? Will he not be led to acknowledge and confess the sin that grieves him, and that he knows to be so hateful to God? And so he needs and finds the rich abundance of forgiving grace and mercy, through which he can rest in happy fellowship with his Father in Heaven.
The cleansing is "through the blood." The expression can only be understood in the light of the Jewish sacrifices. The life of the animal was given for the life of the offender: the blood shed — that is, the life given up — was the purifying of the worshiper from outward defilement. With us the blood of Christ — that is, His sacrifice on the cross — cleanses the conscience, and enables the believer to go free from all accusations of guilt.
This cleansing which is provided, is perfect, present, and continuous.
i) It is perfect.
By Christ “everyone who believes is freed from everything." (Acts 13:39) "blood ... cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7)
Believer, look back into the past; look deep into your memory; retrace the days of your youth. You recall hours which you would gladly erase from the history of your life. You can see before you dark scenes, it may be, which, like a terrible dream, will again and again come back to trouble you. You think of injury done to the souls of others by your influence. You bring back the five, or ten, or perhaps fifteen or twenty years in which your example was dead-against everything like the religion of Christ. Nor can you forget the duties neglected, the hurried prayers, the many acts of inconsistency, the permitted self-will and selfishness — since you first came to the Savior. But it is all gone. It is all freely and completely forgiven — it will never be counted against you. It has been put to the account of Christ, charged to Him in the great debt of human guilt; and since you have brought it to Him it is no longer your own, but His.
From all the sins in the past — sins of omission and sins of commission; sins in the secret of your own heart, or seen and known by the world; sins before conversion and since that time; sins against God and against man — from them all you are completely clean— since in honest acknowledgment of what you are and what you have done, you have brought them to the cross.
ii) But this cleansing is also present and continuous.
The full meaning of the passage is that "the blood of Christ is cleansing us from all sin."
A comparison has been made, that like a stone kept moment by moment under the stream of a fountain, so the soul of a believer, constantly trusting in the Savior, is continually being cleansed from anything that might defile it. We cannot too often remind ourselves of our need for this continuous cleansing. The more often we lean on the atoning blood, the stronger, the holier, the happier we will be. Any sin retained on the conscience creates distance and separation between the soul and God; and when this is the case, there is no security against any fall. Our safety is in keeping very near to God — and we can only do so as we trust in the sin-atoning blood.
Let us always remember this. Has there been a dark thought— some angry temper permitted to rise up? Run to the safety of the blood. Has unbelief for a season gained the upper hand, and murmuring thoughts filled the mind? Run for cleansing to the blood. Has a spirit of worldliness prevailed, so that the things of earth have shut out from your view the presence of the Savior? You need a fresh application to the blood of sprinkling. Yes, ever and always throughout the week and throughout the day — in the hour of secret communion with God, in the silent prayer offered in the moment — under the sense of some omission of duty which now you would perform, under the remembrance of some sinful word or thought which had before been forgotten — still trust in the Saviour's sin-atoning blood! Still rejoice in His love, because He has washed you from your sins in His sin-atoning blood! Still hope to the end for a place in the white-robed company of those who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
2. We move to a second of these glorious "alls," another of these towers of defence to which we may flee. "My God will supply every need of yours (or all your needs) according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus!" (Philippians 4:19)
We have here the "all" of supply — every possible need met and provided for. The Lord of earth and Heaven has such boundless treasures at His command, that it is impossible we can expect too much. Not all we wish, not all that we may think pleasant or desirable — but all that the only-wise God discerns to be truly needful and profitable for us — that will He give.
There are very many assurances in harmony with this word of the Apostle, that may strengthen our faith in this respect.
"Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing." (Ps 34:9, 10)
"The LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly." (Ps 84:11)
"He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Rom 8:32)
The supply assured to the believer consists of that which is needful for all that concerns our present life — and all that is essential for the support and growth of spiritual life in the soul.
As to this present life, God supplies our needs. And yet by withholding much that is for our comfort, humbles and tests His children. He often keeps them on very slender means. He permitted Israel in the wilderness to hunger and thirst, that He might do them good in the end.
Elijah was dependent on the ravens to bring him food, and afterwards on a widow who had but a little flour in a barrel and oil in a jug. Jesus Himself was hungry and thirsty, and had nowhere to lay His head. His chosen Apostle, through many years, was often "in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure." (2 Cor 11:27) And many of God's dearest children have been reduced to very hard and difficult circumstances.
What then have the people of God a right to expect?
Sometimes He may grant a rich abundance of temporal blessings. He did so in the case of Job, and Abraham, and Joseph, and Solomon, and many others.
Still more frequently He will give His children amply enough for their daily need. He blesses their basket and their store. He gives a sufficiency, so that they can live a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty.
Yet sometimes it is otherwise. He is training His children, and He puts them in the school of affliction. He sends them thorns and briars, sharp trials. And this not infrequently in the shape of need, or insufficient means for meeting the requirements of themselves or their families.
We must not complain if this is our lot! There is a purpose beneath it. There is love, though there is the lack of food or money.
"Behind a frowning Providence He hides a smiling face."
A soldier on foreign ground does not murmur because he has to rough it out, and perhaps for weeks has coarse and insufficient meals. Nor should you be surprised if this is your case. Now is the conflict — before long the war will be won, and you will be at rest in your Father's house.
And remember that you have treasure in the bank. In the promises of the covenant, all things are yours; therefore bear up patiently while you suffer these trials. "Be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Heb 13:5)
My God shall supply all your needs. This goes far beyond temporal blessings. It opens wide to us the treasures of divine grace — it tells me to go in and take all that my soul desires. We may imagine a cabinet with fifty or a hundred drawers and each of these labelled with some valuable article, and you are permitted to go in and open each drawer and take out what you will. It is so in God's house. Christ is the Treasury of all spiritual gifts and graces. In Him are found wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, peace, power, preserving grace, restoring grace, consolation in sorrow, and effectual help and support in every season of adversity. And by faith and prayer we are to go continually, and ask and receive abundantly, according to our need.
Do not limit God's free and rich supply of grace in Christ by the thought of your own unworthiness. It is not on account of any works or worthiness of yours — but for the sake of Christ's work and Christ's worthiness that God is ever willing to bestow on you all needful grace.
The Christian should also not limit the supply of grace and help, by dwelling on his poor measure of progress in past days. You have not been restrained by God, but by yourself. Take the believer who is most conscious of his own imperfections. Perhaps you have been many years on the highway to the heavenly kingdom, and yet you mourn that you have been so stationary. But why remain so? Enlarge your desires and expectations, and trust in the Lord. There is grace and blessing beyond all our utmost thoughts, ready to be poured down upon you. God can supply every need of yours; He can "make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work." (2 Cor 9:8)
By His own mighty power and grace, He can lift you up step by step into the very highest enjoyment of the privileges of His children. He can raise you higher and higher in devotion, in love, in heavenliness, in peace, in patience, in usefulness.
We may take a very simple illustration of this point, and yet it is very applicable. On the Rideau Canal, below Parliament Hill, we have a stately staircase of locks, by which large boats, are lifted up to a very much higher level than the river on which they had previously been moving. All the efforts of many men could scarcely elevate one vessel; and yet in the simplest way, by letting in water from the higher level, they rise gradually and surely, though almost imperceptibly, until they reach the desired level.
We seem taught by this a great and precious lesson. That which we can bring about by no power or efforts of our own, God can and will bring about for us by pouring down help and grace from above. But we must open the gate. Faith is just this opening the secret flood-gate by which the supply comes in.
Indifference, lack of desire, unbelief and doubt shut the gate, and keep us in a low condition; but longing, praying, believing, hoping, opens the gate, and brings the blessing down. We may in this way rise higher and higher — we may become more and more like Christ. In spite of all our burdens of inward corruption, of cares and anxieties, of duties and sorrows — we must still wait on the Lord. His grace is all-sufficient. He will make us all that which He would have us to be. He will gradually raise us above every sin and temptation, until we are in all respects fit for the inheritance of the saints in light.
3. We go on to a third of these strong towers, and one very helpful to the anxious and the burdened soul. "Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." 1 Peter 5 verse 7.
It has been said, that "Nature puts circumstances between us and God;" but that "Grace puts God between us and circumstances." Remembering Peter’s words may help you to do this. It may help you to bring God into everything — He can manage and care for you far better than you can for yourself. There is no load of anxiety for yourself or others, no dilemma in which you can be placed, no perplexities that can harass and bewilder you — but the Lord invites you cast on Him and leave it trustfully in His hands.
It may be the matter of your own health, or that of someone dear to you. It may be a matter of business, and have to do with debts which you cannot meet, or which others owe to you. It may have to do with the eccentricity and peculiarities of someone, who you cannot get along with. It may have to do with the ill-temper of a brother, or sister, or other relatives. It may be the conduct of those you employ, or of one in whose service you are engaged. It may be some annoyance from a petty cause, and yet which is practically a great inconvenience. It may be difficulties from those you have to work with in some sphere in the Master's vineyard. It may be something which requires you to act, and yet in every direction the way seems blocked. It may be something so peculiar, that you imagine no one else had ever the same cross to bear. Well, whatever it is, it is not by chance — but it is from the Lord. It comes from Him in the way of needful discipline — and it is to be brought to Him in faith and prayer.
The only way to obtain relief under the many cares that often trouble our path, is to cast them all on God. We must bring them to our Father — and leave them with Him! We must tell them out in the ear of our great High Priest — and have confidence enough in Him to know that He will not neglect that which we commit to Him.
Perhaps you have sometimes had some cause for anxiety, and you have placed it in the hand of a friend; and believing that he would give his attention and care to the matter, you have been at rest. But the friend has been too busy with his own concerns, ever to think of you or your affairs, or to make the needed effort; and after a few weeks you have awoke to the fact that the difficulty has now become twice as great as before, and far more hard to deal with! But it will not be so with the cares we leave with Christ. He will not forget them. He will not fail to bring His infinite wisdom to bear upon them. Though they may still be permitted to remain, He is ordering and arranging; and before long we will see that our confidence in Him has been abundantly rewarded.
"Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." This, this is our consolation. Christ is the Friend that cares for us, thinks upon us, hears every sigh and groan, marks every tear, knows every sorrow that weighs upon the mind.
Is this not a thought to encourage a believer at all times? — what a Friend have I in Christ! He is the Friend who is always near. Though banished far from home and family, Christ is always by my side. I cannot see Him, but I know that He is here. He has promised me, "I will never leave you nor forsake you," (Heb 13:5) and He will be as good as His word.
Then we may add another thought: Christ is kinder than the kindest. Could we gather together all the motions of kindness, pity, tender love, that have ever glowed in the heart . . .
of a mother toward her child,
of a bridegroom toward the bride,
of a brother to brother,
of a friend to friend—
all combined would be but as one tiny sunbeam, compared to that wondrous love which is in the heart of Christ for His redeemed people!
What amazing sympathy, gentleness, loving-kindness Christ daily shows his own, and which they know will never cease!
Another thought makes believers still more joyful in casting their care on Him: He is the Friend that can do everything for them. He can do for them infinitely more than all the world beside. There is no sphere where the help of Jesus will not suffice. He has power to order all the events of Providence, and to control the unruly wills and affections of sinful men. He can bring about that which they desire by means altogether unlikely or inadequate. He can still the tumult in their hearts, or in the sea of life that beats so wildly around them. In some shape, He can bring back the treasure which is lost, or give them such a view of His merciful dealings that they will no longer rebel or complain. And what comfort they have in remembering that He who cares for them is changeless in His faithfulness and love.
"Loving once, He loves forever!"
Therefore it is no unreasonable thing, believer, to cast all your cares on Him. His presence, His kindness, His effectual power, His unswerving faithfulness — is good reason for leaving all in His hand. Happiness it is to flee to this refuge and hiding-place! That every burden, every fear, every foreboding, every jot and tittle of life’s daily anxieties, may all be entrusted to His loving hand!
We have to consider yet one more of these buttresses of our Zion — one more of these mighty "alls" of promise and hope. We have had
the "all" of cleansing,
the "all" of supply,
the "all" of care cast upon the great Burden-Bearer.
4. To complete the whole, we have the "all" of life's numberless sorrows, fulfilling their purpose of love. "We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" Romans 8:28
We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that actual suffering, sorrow, and trial of various kinds is very frequently a Christian's lot. Sometimes the strain is simply fearful — the severity of the pain, or the peculiar bitterness of the trial, is altogether beyond description. And when this is the case for many months, or even years — it is a blessed fruit of grace if the soul can in any measure bend the knee to the blow, and cry "Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done." (Luke 22:42)
To enable the suffering, sorrow-stricken child of God to do this, we have the assurance that everything we endure now is a part of the Divine plan — it is fulfilling its mission primarily in conforming the soul to the image of the Savior.
In nature, the lightning's flash, the hurricane, the biting frost, the chilling east wind, the dark clouds, the dreary days of pelting rain — all have their fitting work to do.
So it is with the various afflictions, troubles, and distresses that come to the people of God. We may judge them to be evils, but they are blessings in disguise. If we could only interpret them aright, we would discover in each of them a token of heavenly love.
We must make no exceptions; we must fully take in the meaning of the "all things" of the Apostle. While we are endeavouring to walk before God and do His will, whatever in any shape befalls us, comes within this blessed assurance. From the fall of a leaf — to a devastating war; from a little discomfort in the home or in society — to a bereavement which seems to rob life of all its joy — we must believe that it all comes from the same merciful hand, and advances the same design of our sanctification and greater glory in the presence of the Lord. Sometimes we are disposed to think that some parts of the discipline might be spared, and if we could do so, we would cast many a cross aside; but it is a great mistake. We would only injure ourselves — we would mar the perfection of God's work in us.
Imagine a father bringing home a puzzle to his little boy. The child tries to put it together, but fails; so he is almost ready to break off an angle here, and a corner there, so as to make the pieces in some way fit together. But the father comes again, and shows the child his mistake, and how each part is needful to complete the puzzle.
Our lives are like that. We cannot understand why this or that sorrow is necessary. We are ready to question the Divine wisdom that has appointed it. But our Father will soon show it to us. He will point out where we have erred; He will perfect that which concerns us, and we will see clearly that not one day or hour of sorrow could have been spared. Meanwhile let us honor our Father by fully trusting Him.
In closing these remarks on these four precious words of Divine Scripture, it would be well, believer, if you could meditate on them every day. You might do well to have them displayed in some prominent place in your home— But, at least, by the enlightening power of the Holy Spirit, let them ever be engraved on the tablet of your heart. Think over them, pray over them, make use of one or another, as the circumstances of life or your spiritual experience call for it. Let them lead you to implicit faith and unlimited confidence in God.
What is it that comes between you and God? What is it that brings a distance, a separation of soul, between you and the Savior? Is it a sin, a need, a care, a trouble? Trace it out, and then see if there is not a remedy for it in one of these "alls."
Give no place to unbelieving fears. From one of these strong towers, point the gun that will slay them. "Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.” (Is 26:4) “Trust in him at all times, ... pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us." (Ps 62:8)
Then another practical lesson. Cultivate a spirit of joyful, thankful submission to all God's dealings. If such promises are yours, what have you to do with murmuring, complaining, and discontent? "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice." (Phil 4:4)
Let there be sunlight in your heart, and let there be sunshine in your expression. Let the people of this world see by your example, how much they lose of true happiness. Why should you not rejoice all the day long, and all the year long, if forgiveness is yours, and Christ is yours, and God's love is yours? Sins pardoned, needs supplied, cares borne, all things turned about for your eternal good — is there not here something that may well make your heart glad and rejoice?
And look beyond.
The journey's end is not far off.
The promises of God are very encouraging along the way, but what will be the joy and rest of the Father's house? "In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." (Ps 16:11)