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Monday, 9 May 2016

My utmost for His highest.

The heading to this post is also the title of a book of daily readings from the pen of Oswald Chambers - a Scots Baptist minister who was converted, in his mid-teens, under the ministry of Charles Spurgeon.  In 1915, shortly after his marriage, and the birth of a daughter, he volunteered to be a Chaplain to the Army.  He died on November 15th, 1917, in Egypt, as the result of a ruptured appendix - having suffered the extreme pain of appendicitis for three days before seeking medical attention, because he refused to take a hospital bed needed by wounded soldiers.

Physical Energy
The title of Chambers' best-known book is very similar to the motto that, I read recently, was adopted by the artist George F Watts - "My utmost for the Highest".  Possibly Watts' best-known sculpture - done in bronze - is that of a youth astride a horse, and which he entitled "Physical Energy". Apparently, in his preparations, he altered the the pose of the youth's head several times - from a straightforward upright position  to one in which the face of the young rider is no longer looking out upon the world but, rather, upwards towards God.

In Psalm 5:3 the shepherd-king of Israel, David, writes these words to the LORD: "...  in the morning will I address myself to Thee, and will look up." (J.N.Darby translation) - apparently similarly impressed with the need to set his sights on eternal things if he was to properly conduct himself in this present world.

It is said of another painter, the 17th-century portrait artist, Sir Peter Lely, that he made it a rule never to look at a bad work of art as he had discovered, from his own experience, that he would be disturbed and hindered in his own work, by the ugliness that he had seen.  As a result, his own brush would reflect the partially-warped complex that the unworthy scene had produced in his mind!

The same principle holds true in the pursuit and cultivation of inner purity.  It can be preserved only by refusing to look upon evil. If we fail to fix our attention on the Lord Jesus, and on heavenly things, our imaginations will be poisoned, and our old, carnal, nature stirred to improper action.

It would be good for all of us to make our own motto "My utmost for His highest". If we do, let us remember that nothing keeps the heart so pure, and the hands so busy, as the "upward look"!  There is an old chorus, much-loved by many of my generation, that goes like this: "Turn your eyes upon Jesus; look full in His wonderful face; and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace."    

The writer of the great Letter to Hebrew disciples of Jesus wrote: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith Who, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (Heb 12:1-2; emphasis added). 

David also wrote: "I sought the LORD, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. Look to Him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed." (Ps 34:4-5). 

Whatever the outlook, be sure to maintain the uplook!

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