The Progressive Life – By Elmer Shelhamer

Chapter 3

The Childhood State

“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.” — Rev. 2:11

Here we have the second stage in Christian development — the childhood state. Babies live in the realm of eating and sleeping, but children from two to ten years of age are in the period of stumbling, falling and getting up again. The principal thing we hear of them is not, “I want the milk bottle,” but, “I got hurt;” “Kiss it, mamma, kiss it;” “Johnny pushed me down, mamma;” “Willie threw sand in my face;” “I’ll not play marbles any more with Sammy!” Such is childhood.

It is a wonderful thing to be weaned. An unweaned child, especially one that is spoiled, can keep an entire house in an uproar. But I read of a better condition. Hear it: “Whom shall he teach knowledge, and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? Them that are weaned from the milk and drawn from the breast.” Friend, you can have this experience, where you will be a man of sound knowledge, able to understand deep truths.

Strange, and very sad, that many big children, yea, gray-haired ones, are so easily hurt; they live where their feelings are sticking out in every direction. Oh, that they would read and digest Psalm 119 :165, “Great peace have they which love thy law; and nothing shall offend them.” In other words, nothing shall get them “out of fix”. Is it not wonderful to find a person who was formerly very touchy and irritable, but who is now so fully saved that he never gets out of fix? He is like a cube; you can kick and tumble that cube over and over, and when you get through tumbling it it is always right side up.

Say, brother, it is impossible for you to act sour until you first feel sour; it is impossible for you to say a cutting word until you first nurse a sore feeling; it is impossible for you to break fellowship with the brethren until you first begin to justify yourself and condemn them. It is impossible for a girl or a boy to go astray until he first thinks along that line. Satan, no doubt, takes as much satisfaction in seeing a man entertain an unholy thought as when he, ten years later, falls into gross sin. For it is impossible down the line there to do an unseemly act unless previously there has been the entertaining of the unholy thought.

We read, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Do you hear? You are no better than your thoughts! No difference how nice and saintly you appear when in public and upon the platform, you are no better than your secret thoughts when nobody is looking at you.

Oh, what a place the Judgment will be. There men and women will get a higher reward for holy desires than holy actions! For sometimes one performs a good act or refrains from a bad one, largely to protect his reputation and standing with men. But when one repudiates every ignoble suggestion and substitutes that which is uplifting and benevolent, being inwardly conscious that no one sees or knows except the Omnipotent gaze, this is praiseworthy indeed. This is why some men grow tall and others shrink up — because of what goes on inside without the nearest friend suspecting the same.

The immortal Wesley said, “The ill usages and affronts and the losses and the crosses are better means to growth in grace than when everything is according to your liking.” Friend, have you learned this deep lesson? If so, instead of whining and seeking human sympathy why not rejoice that God has seen fit to permit a little suffering on your part that you may become more fully settled and rooted in God!

Hear me! You are to blame if you allow yourself to get “hurt” about anything. True, you will be cognizant of the fact when you are insulted and ostracized. Yes, you may feel deeply grieved. But I declare to you upon the authority of God’s Word that you can be so well saved that you refuse to take offense. Yea, grant that you were not to blame; grant that the other person was totally at fault ; yet the moment you allow yourself to become distant and critical towards the offender, you are to blame and certainly need more grace. If God commands you to love your enemies and pray for those who despitefully use you, do you not suppose He has grace sufficient to enable you to carry out that command? He certainly has!

Wesley said again, “Let all you think and say and do prove that you are little, and mean, and base in your own eyes.” Now, if you have such a small opinion of yourself, you will not feel hurt if others come to the same conclusion. Yes, no difference what they think or say, you could go further and say, “I know worse things about myself than you imagine. And since you did not tell all that might reflect upon me I consider myself fortunate and am still your friend.”

Oh, my dear brethren I have been preaching now nearly half a century, in many countries and for many religious movements, but the greatest hindrance I have ever found to a genuine revival is not drunkenness, whoredom, or gambling among the ungodly; but the chief thing that keeps God from coming upon a congregation with great power is professed Christians, who are touchy and irritable and out of harmony with each other. God of Heaven, give us a mighty revival once more and let it begin in the pulpit and around the front benches!

Do you remember reading in the history of Methodism that some years after the mighty revival in London and England, the annual conference was held in Fetter Lane Street? It was here that Mr. Wesley wept and pleaded with his brethren to cease their criticism one of another; to cease pulling for the best appointments; to seek a fresh baptism of love for lost men and one another. As a result, they all humbled themselves and confessed their heart wanderings, and once more the revival broke out and sped on as at the beginning. This goes down in the history of Methodism as the “Fetter Lane Confession.” Oh, that we might see it repeated in America and all around the world!

Yes, he that overcometh touchiness, peevishness, sensitiveness, stinginess, and a host of other things shall not be “hurt” of the second death. Certainly! If we are saved from being hurt here, it naturally follows that we will surely be saved from the horrors of the second death, hereafter.

“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes; but the Lord pondereth the hearts.” It is very easy for every man to declare that his own ways are right, but it is quite another thing for the Lord to ponder the hearts of men, and say, “I find no fault in him.”

Again we read, “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” Do you hear? If your ways please the Lord: your way of transacting business; your way of keeping your word; your way of paying your debts; your way of treating your neighbor; your way of treating an ignorant, stubborn servant; your way of befriending a poor tramp; your way of correcting your children; your way of respecting your parents; yea, when all your ways please the Lord, He will make even your enemies to respect you. And though their carnality may persecute you, yet down in their hearts they will feel condemned as they behold your chaste conversation, coupled with fear.

Is this too strong? Listen to the great Apostle: “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Hearken “For he that in these things –” What things? He who is rightly adjusted to God and men; he who is strictly righteous and peaceable and full of holy joy; he that in these things “serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.” Your fellow creatures, though wicked and ungodly, down in their hearts and at the bar of their own consciences, will approve of the spirit you show. They may not approve of your loud praying, shouting and plainness of dress, yet they will approve of the gentle spirit you manifest under all circumstances. But, on the other hand, if they can truthfully say that you manifested a bad spirit, it is high time you humbled yourself, apologized and sought a new experience of grace.

I believe it was Fenelon who said, “There is no surer proof that you need a reproof than the fact that you feel hurt when it comes.” Oh, to be so well saved that all is well and shrink are gone; so that when you are noticed and appreciated you will not swell out over it. On the other hand, when you are censured and depreciated you will not shrink up over it, but refer all your motives and actions to God who is the chief end of all things.

What are we trying to say? We are trying to say that a good case of saving grace will enable one to show a good spirit though you may not always feel sweet on the inside. Dear brethren, I fear we have made a great mistake in preaching a “second blessing” and while doing so, not making enough of the first blessing. We assume that nearly every one who comes to our altars, seeking holiness, is necessarily a proper candidate. A sad mistake! See, that seeker, adorned like the world; he has no joy and victory in his life; he is harsh and bitter in his spirit at home and toward his enemies; he has little or no relish for secret prayer and reading of the Word; he is a slave to the flesh or some unclean habit; he is out of harmony with his brethren and does not go the “second mile” to bring about a better feeling. All of this means that he needs to regain his lost ground if he ever were on top of everything.

“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” — Eph. 4:13