Editor's Letters

by T. Austin-Sparks

May-June 1957

Beloved friends,

So many of you have been praying much for us over these past months of far-flung ministries, and I feel it is due to you to let you know how wonderfully the Lord has answered your prayers. It has indeed been a time of tremendous demands and opportunities, but, once again, we have a glowing testimony to the Lord's faithfulness and mercy. It is quite impossible to give a full account of these first three months of the year in the Far East, and we feel reticent in speaking about it at all lest, on the one hand, our motives should be misunderstood and, on the other hand, Satan should react to injury. It is not boasting, but just giving you occasion to glorify God.

'Spontaneous expansion' is a term which has gained currency in the realm of Christian enterprise. It is a fascinating idea and captivates the imagination. It is the one thing more than any other which is desired and sought. The defining of it may result in conflicting conceptions and interpretations. To be absolutely true to the very words, surely it means that kind of expansion and growth which cannot be attributed - in the first place - to human effort, organization, machinery, institutions, publicity, propaganda, business acumen, financial support, etc., but is just the organic expression of life, and that, in this connection, the mighty life of the Holy Spirit. In spite of rocks, storms, blasts, and many inimical and opposing forces, human and satanic, it just goes on expanding, multiplying, increasing, and growing. Without noise, display, or demonstration, the greatest and most persistent opposition is made as though it did not exist - in the long run and ultimate issue. There is "the hiding of his power" so that, while very great difficulties and opposition are overcome, it is never as by an earthquake, cataclysm, or display. The power of the Spirit is so great that He never has to call attention to it, and even those most closely related are left wondering as to what He has done and how He did it.

It is a wonderful thing to be in the way of these 'goings of God'. In our own case and this ministry the history of these past thirty years has been very much like that. There could not have been less of the natural factors and features which men would regard as essential to the growth which has so silently taken place; from something so small and local to something which has reached literally to the ends of the earth and into all nations; something to which people of God, servants of God, in so many different places and connections, bear testimony as to its spiritual helpfulness. On the other hand, we have wondered whether anything could have more opposition in every form, human and satanic.

But this is not about ourselves. We have just returned from a further three months in the Far East, and there, once more, we have beheld "the wonderful works of God". Day after day in continuous sessions we have been privileged to minister to some five hundred and more hand-picked and specially selected Christian (Chinese) workers; and night after night to about 2,000 to 2,500 believers and workers. We have, in addition, spent a whole week in visiting assemblies in many places, sometimes three or four in a day, where the believers, radiant in Christ, awaited our arrival and eagerly devoured the ministry. All this work and these assemblies - ranging in numbers from one to sixteen hundred - have 'spontaneously' arisen and are spontaneously growing. A principle and maxim of the servant of God who was His instrument in the beginning of this work - even when it was growing very greatly - was 'Try to keep things small. Never try to make the work big. If it is of God it will grow in spite of everything. We must fill the trenches with water. If it is not of God we do not want it.' That principle is held to and enunciated today. I refrain from giving many details or even a general presentation of this work, for publicity is dangerous. Our range of ministry was the Philippines, Formosa, and Hong Kong, but the work reaches wider ranges.

No work or believers could have had greater opposition, or have been made to suffer more than those related to this work. Politically, spiritually, and - grievous to say - from Christian bodies, it has suffered almost unbelievably, but on it goes by the momentum of inherent spiritual life, by the power of the Spirit of Life.

If the secrets are sought, we would say unhesitatingly and with deep knowledge that they are four.

1. The deep inward work of the Cross in the life of the believers, individually and collectively.
2. The sovereignty and government of the Holy Spirit in all direction and government.
3. A true and clear conception and expression of the Church as the Body of Christ, a spiritual organism on heavenly ground.
4. "The fellowship of his sufferings", a counting of all things as loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, a life of sacrifice and abandon to His interests and glory.

If the question is asked 'Is there no organization in such a great work?', we say at once, Yes, there is, and it is as near perfect as anything we have known. But, there is a difference. The 'organization' (if you must use that word) never produced or preceded the work or the life. It is just the order into which life must be directed to prevent confusion. A garden full and overflowing with living organisms requires direction and control to make it beautiful, but you do not begin with your controls and then try - by means of them - to get life. When someone referred to the order in their work and used the word "organization", a leading responsible brother just quietly said 'But we are not conscious of the "organization", we are only conscious of that which makes it necessary'.

Well, it is a joy in these times to be in that which has ever been our vision and prayer, albeit fraught with such cost, a work for which the Spirit of God takes responsibility. May it be preserved unsullied and unspoiled.

We do most deeply thank all of you for the faithful prayer-support and encompassing during these weeks of such heavy demands, physically and spiritually, and we are so happy to say - 'You have not prayed in vain'!

Within a few days of our return we were launched into the Easter conference at Honor Oak. This was a time marked by the presence and blessing of the Lord in a very real way. The numbers were larger than ever. A considerable number of countries were represented. In addition to friends from various parts of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, there were those from Germany, Holland, Denmark, France, Finland, Switzerland, India, China, etc.

The Lord led us to circle round the question of Isaiah 53:1, "To whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?" Through the eleven meetings we considered the various applications of the Cross which secure and provide the ground upon which the arm of the Lord can be revealed.

When we came to the end we felt that, in a very real way, that arm had been revealed to us over that season, and we were living in the good of its fulfilment in the case of God's Beloved Son, the suffering, but now exalted Servant of Jehovah. Surely the great need of our time is a new revealing of that mighty arm, and, just as surely, if God has His ground, He will reveal it. We have seen that to be true in these recent months.

Again, warm thanks for all your prayer and fellowship.

Yours in the grace of our Lord Jesus,

In keeping with T. Austin-Sparks' wishes that what was freely received should be freely given and not sold for profit, and that his messages be reproduced word for word, we ask if you choose to share these messages with others, to please respect his wishes and offer them freely - free of any changes, free of any charge (except necessary distribution costs) and with this statement included.