Counsel and Help
by J. R. Miller, 1907
January 1. True Religion is
The religion of Christ teaches the most beautiful
courtesy. We are not to seek to be ministered unto—but to minister; not to
get distinction and praise—but to live quietly. One godly man said, that of
all natural emblems, he would choose for his life the dew. It
makes no noise, seeks no praise, writes no record—but is content to sink
away and be lost in the flowers and blades of grass, to be remembered only
in the new beauty and sweetness it imparts to nature. Those who always
demand that they shall be recognized, and their name attached to everything
they do—have not learned the mind of Christ so well as those who are content
to have Christ honored, to do good to others, and to be remembered only in
the new blessing and good which they leave in other lives.
January 2. Seeing with Kind Eyes
We should seek for the best and the noblest in everyone
we meet, and then strive to call it out. One who was asked how to cultivate
this charm of character replies: "Look at everything through kindly eyes."
If we do this there will be no more envy, no more jealousy, no more
censoriousness, no more uncharitableness. Having pure, generous love in our
heart, we shall find in every other life something beautiful, at least
something that through the kindly nourishing of our love—may grow into
beauty. Thus we shall really call on every nature for its best.
January 3. Light in Darkness
Joy brightens a life. It shines in the face like
sunlight. It makes the eyes sparkle. But what is this joy, which is a fruit
of the Spirit? Anybody can be joyous when all things go well, when health is
good, and business is prosperous, and the cup of love runs over, and the
circle of friends is unbroken. The joy which the Holy Spirit gives, lives on
in the heart when all earthly sources of gladness have failed. It hides like
a rainbow in the bosom of the darkest cloud.
January 4. The Secret of
Everyone carries in himself, the sources of his own
happiness or wretchedness. Circumstances have really very little to do with
our felicity. It matters little in the determination of one's degree of
enjoyment whether he lives in a cottage or a palace. It is the state of the
heart, after all, which in largest measure gives the color to our skies, and
the tone to the music we hear. A happy heart sees rainbows and brilliance
everywhere, even in darkest clouds, and hears sweet strains of song even
amid the loudest wailing of the storm. But a sad heart, unhappy and
discontented, sees spots in the brightest day, specks in the rarest fruits,
and hears discords and jarring notes in the heavenliest music, and something
with which to find fault in the most perfect of God's works.
January 5. The Ministry of Joy
Joyfulness is everywhere commanded as a Christian duty.
Discontent is a most detestable fault. Morbidness is a sin. Fretfulness
grieves God. It tells of unbelief within the heart. It destroys the soul's
peace. It disfigures the beauty of Christian character. It not only makes us
soured and unhappy in our own hearts—but its influence on others is harmful.
We have no right to project the gloom of our discontent over any other life.
Our ministry is to be ever toward joy. There is nothing so depressing in its
effect upon others, as morbidness. Hence, for the sake of those among whom
we live, and upon whose lives we are forever unconsciously either casting
shadows or pouring sunshine, we should seek to learn this Christian art of
January 6. The Renewed Life
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Romans 12:2. If we are
Christians, we are not of this world--we belong to the kingdom of heaven. It
is very easy for us, being in the world, to become of it, to let our
lives grow like the world. But this is not the way to make ourselves a
living sacrifice to God. "It is not conformity that we need," says Bushnell;
"it is not being able to beat the world in its own way; but it is to stand
apart and above it, and to produce the impression of a holy
and separate life. This alone is safety and success."
Instead, then, of conforming to the world, taking the
world's color—our duty is to seek to be transformed into the heavenly life.
The word "transformed" means to be transfigured, that is, to become bright
and shining in our life. The secret of it is given in the words, "the
renewing of your minds." The candle is to be lighted within our hearts and
minds—that its beams may shine out through our life, making it glow!
January 7. Sowing Seeds of Love
Every kindness we do to another in the name of Christ is
the sowing of a good seed unto the Spirit. Every deed of love, every act of
unselfishness, every self denial—all the things we do to help, to comfort,
or to bless others—are seeds which we sow unto the Spirit. "In due season we
shall reap." For a time it may not appear that any good or blessing comes
from an act of love or a word of kindness spoken. But the seed
does not perish; it has in it an immortal germ.
January 8. Christian Service
It is possible to live a very laborious life filled with
intense activities—and yet never, from youth to old age, do one deed which
Christ accepts as service. It is possible even to live a life of what is
called religious service, full of what are regarded as sacred
duties, and yet never in one thing truly serve Christ. The heart
may never have been given to Him at all. Or the motives may have been
wrong. That which makes any act distinctively a Christian act—is that
it is done in the name of Christ, and to please Him!
January 9. Comfort in Loneliness
Loneliness is one of the most pathetic of human
experiences. The yearning for companionship is one of the deepest of all
yearnings. The religion of Christ has something to meet every human need;
what is its blessing for loneliness? We may turn to the Master's own life
for answer to our question. He met all the experiences that ever
become ours, and He found for Himself, the best there is to be found in the
divine love to meet His experiences. Thus He showed us what we
may find in our times of need, and how we may find it.
January 10. Ministering Spirits
Sometimes it is poverty which stands begging at our
gate—and financial help is needed. But a thousand times more frequently it
is not money—but something else more precious, which we must give. It may be
loving sympathy. Sorrow is before us. Another's heart is breaking. Money
would be of no use; it would be only a bitter mockery. But we can hold to
the sufferer's lips a cup filled out of our own heart, which will give new
strength. Or it is the anguish of a life struggle, a human Gethsemane,
beside which we are called to watch. We can give no actual aid—the soul must
fight its battles alone; but we can be as the angel who ministered in our
Lord's Gethsemane, imparting strength and helping the weary struggler to win
January 11. In Chains for Christ
"I am in chains for Christ." Philippians 1:13. Paul
teaches us by example, how to wear chains for Christ. He counted it a
glory. It was that chained hand which wrote the Epistle to the
Philippians, the most cheerful and joyous of the Apostle's letters. Paul's
sweetest songs came from his prison!
We shall not likely have the privilege of wearing
literal chains for Christ—but there are many hindrances and limitations and
hardships in every Christian life, which are really chains upon us.
Sickness sometimes shuts us in. Poverty binds the hands of
many. Household cares keep many a woman in chains. Few Christians are
absolutely free to do what their hearts prompt them to do for Christ. We
should study Paul, and gather the lesson of rejoicing, of cheerfulness, of
contentment, of usefulness. Paul's prison life was not idle. He continually
sent out blessings, from his place of captivity. The influence poured out
into all the world. "I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to
me has actually resulted in the advancement of the gospel!" Philippians 1:12
January 12. The Beauty of
The beauty of Christ in a human life, is not
merely a heavenly yearning. It is intensely practical. It is more than
religious sentimentality, more than devout feeling, and more than holy
aspiration. True spiritual longing draws the whole life upward with it. True
holiness does not unfit people for living well in this world. It has
its visions of Christ—but it brings them down to brighten its daily path and
to become inspirations to beautiful living. It has its joyful emotions—but
they become impulses to self denial and patient work for the Master.
January 13. Christ Everywhere
We ought to learn that Jesus is in every providence which
comes to us. He does not come in the sunshine only. Quite as
frequently it is in the storm that He draws near. It is our duty as
Christians to train ourselves to see Christ in each event. Then whether it
is sorrow or joy which knocks at our door—we shall give it like loving
welcome, knowing that Jesus Himself is veiled in whatever form it is which
enters. Then we shall find that when we welcome Him in the somber garments
of pain--He has always a rich blessing for our lives!
January 14. The Soul's Need of
There are some people who claim that they can pray and
commune with God just as well in one, place as in another. They do their
praying while they walk about and while they work. They see no use in
getting alone with God, to pray. Surely, if anyone could pray well in a
crowd, or while engaged in work—Jesus could. No doubt He did hold communion
with His Father even in His busiest hours—but this did not meet all the
needs and longings of His soul. He left the crowd, left even His own
disciples, and retired into places where no eye but God's could see Him,
where no human footfall or voice could interrupt the quiet of His soul, and
where He would be absolutely alone. Surely if Jesus required such
conditions in praying—we do too. We need to find a place for prayer,
in which nothing can intrude to break the continuity of though or devotion.
"But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to
your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward
you." Matthew 6:6
January 15. Christlike Love
If we love others as Christ loves them, we will seek
always to please them. We will never speak derogatively to any. We will
never manifest pride, vanity or self conceit in our fellowship with those
about us. There is a way of criticizing and reproving, which is offensive
and harsh. Love gives us no right to judge and condemn. It does not
authorize us to watch for the faults of others—or to treat them
censoriously. If we have love in our hearts we will seek to save others from
sin, to restrain them from wrong doing—but we will do even these services in
privacy and love, so as to win and not to lose those we reprove. Humility
will mark our every word and act. We will always be gentle and kind,
speaking in love when we must say anything unpleasant, or anything which
will give pain.
January 16. A Sincere Conscience
If only we get the full force of the truth of Christ's
death, as Paul got it, it will give us double inspiration for a true and
holy life. It will stand on the one hand—as a warning angel with
drawn sword to turn us back from the way to sin and death. While on the
other hand—it will woo us with ineffable tenderness and
persuasiveness toward the gates of heaven and everlasting life.
We need to learn how to live conscientiously. We should
train ourselves to do it, by hard discipline, until at length we shall
unconsciously obey every gentlest impulse of conscience. A true conscience
keeps itself void of offence, both toward God and men. Some people are
devout toward God, and yet selfish and mean toward men. Others are
philanthropic and benevolent toward men, and yet pay no homage, no love, no
service to God. Both these are wrong ways of living. If we love God—we will
love our brother also. If we love our brother truly—we will love God also.
January 17. A Living Savior
We are in the habit of saying that Christ saved us by
dying for us on the Cross. In an important sense this is true. We never
could have been saved, if He had not died for us. But we are actually saved
by our relation to a living, loving, personal Savior—into whose hands we
commit all the interests of our lives—and who becomes our friend, our
helper, our keeper, our burden bearer—our all in all. Christian faith is not
merely laying our sins on the Lamb of God and trusting to His one great
sacrifice: it is the laying of ourselves on the living, loving heart of one
whose friendship becomes thenceforward the sweetest joy of our lives. "I no
longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh, I
live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."
January 18. The Need of
We are apt to be heedless of the feelings of others—to
forget how many hearts are sore and carry heavy burdens. We have no sympathy
with infirmity—because we do not know from experience what it means. We are
not gentle toward sorrow—because our own hearts never have been ploughed. We
must walk in the deep valleys ourselves—and then we can be guides to other
bleeding souls. We must feel the strain, and carry the burden, and endure
the struggle ourselves—and then we can be touched, and can give help to
others in life's sore stress and poignant need. "For we do not have a high
priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been
tested in every way as we are." Hebrews 4:15
January 19. The Power of the
The tongue's power to do good is simply incalculable. It
can impart valuable knowledge; it can speak words which will shine like
lamps in darkened hearts; it can pronounce kind sentences which will comfort
sorrow, or cheer despondency; it can breathe thoughts which will arouse,
inspire, and quicken heedless souls, and even whisper the divine secret of
the life-giving Gospel, to those who are dead. What good we could do with
our tongues, if we would use them to the full limit of their power for good,
no one can compute! "The tongue has the power of life and death!" Proverbs
January 20. Sins of Omission
"We have left undone those things which we ought to have
done; and we have done those things which we ought not to have done."
Perhaps we do not often think of it, however, as really sinful—not to do
things. We admit that it is wrong to treat another unkindly—but do we
understand that it is wrong also, not to show the kindness we had the
opportunity to show? We know it is sinful to speak a harsh or bitter word to
another—but do we always remember that it is a sin, not to say the word of
cheer or comfort we had the opportunity to say, and which our neighbor so
much needed and longed to hear? If we must give account for idle
words, we must also give account for idle silences.
January 21. Humble Service
There is a beautiful story of two brothers who lived in
Switzerland. One day they were crossing a lake near their home, and came to
a crack in the ice which the smaller boy could not leap over. The older one
then laid himself down across the crack, making a bridge of his body, and
his brother climbed over on him. There is need all the while for human
bridges over difficult gaps and crevices, and let no one say that this
is asking too much, even of love. We remember that the Master said, "I am
the way"—He laid His precious life down as a bridge across the great
impassable chasm between sin and heaven—that men might walk over on Him,
from death to life. If it was fit that the Master should make of
Himself such a bridge—can any service we may be called to do in
helping others—be too costly, too humbling?
January 22. The Uses of
It is often in sorrow, that our lives are taught their
sweetest songs. There is a story of a German baron who stretched wires from
tower to tower of his castle, to make a great Aeolian harp. Then he waited
and listened to hear the music from it. For a time the air was still and no
sound was heard. The wires hung silent in the air. After a while came gentle
breezes, and the harp sang softly. At length came the stern winter winds,
strong and storm-like in their forces. Then the wires gave forth majestic
music which was heard near and far. Just so, there are human lives that
never, in the calm of quiet days—yield the music which is in them.
When the breezes of common care sweep over them—they give out soft
melodies of song. But it is only when the storms of adversity blow
upon them—that they answer in notes of noble victoriousness. It takes severe
trouble to bring out the best that is in them.
January 23. Giving is Better
We are apt to complain if our friends do not return as
deep, rich, and constant love—as we give them. We feel hurt at any evidence
of the ebbing of love in them—when they fail us in some way, when we think
they have not been altogether faithful and unselfish, or when they have been
thoughtless and ungentle toward us. But Christ saw in "His own" a very
feeble return for His deep love for them—a most inadequate requital of all
His wondrous goodness and grace. They were wavering, weak, and unfaithful.
They were ungentle. Yet He continued to love them—in spite of all that He
found beautiful and unworthy in them. And this is the friendship He would
teach His disciples.
January 24. We Can
Do—What We Must Do
When duty calls, we must have nothing whatever to do,
with hindrances and difficulties. It is ours only to obey, even though
obedience seems impossible. "I can do all things through Christ who
strengthens me." God waits to come to us—with divine help. He will not come
while we sit still in idleness and fear; but the moment we begin to try to
obey His voice—His power begins to flow into our heart. Then, as we go on,
He works in us and with us. He prepares the way for us. The obstacle
gives way—to the pressure of our feet. The gate opens—when we
put the key of faith into the lock. The river sinks away—as we tread
the edge of its waters. The mountains are leveled—as we move on. We
pass to the radiant heights which beckon us, and possess our land flowing
with milk and honey, in whose hills are rich treasures.
January 25. No Reward Without
Nothing beautiful or worthy in any department of life,
was ever achieved or attained without toil. "Wherever a great is done, there
also has been Gethsemane." The lovely works of human creation which
people linger before with admiring wonder, have all cost a great price.
Someone's heart's blood has gone into every great picture,
into every stanza of sweet song, into every paragraph which
inspires men. It has been noted that the root of the word bless, is
the word for blood. We can bless another in deep and true ways—only
by giving of our life blood. Anything which will do real good, can be
wrought only in tears and suffering.
January 26. Work—the Healer
God does not desire us to waste our life in tears. We are
to put our grief into new energy of service. Sorrow should make us more
reverent, more earnest, and more helpful to others. God's work should never
be allowed to suffer, while we stop to weep. The fires must still be kept
burning on the altar, and the worship must go on. The work in the household,
in the school, in the shop, in the field—must be taken up again—and the
sooner the better!
January 27. Heaven Within Us
"The Kingdom of Heaven is within you," said the
Master. It is not something which grows up by a man, alongside
the man's natural life, and apart from it. It is a new principle
which is brought into his life, whose function it is to infuse itself
into all parts of his nature, permeating all his being, expelling whatever
is not beautiful or worthy, and itself becoming the man's real life. "Christ
lives in me," said Paul, "I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me
and gave himself for me!"
January 28. Say The Kind Word
It is right to praise people when they do well. Hearty,
cheerful, sincere commendation is always fitting. It is good in homes.
Approval encourages and stimulates to better service in the future. It is
good for teachers to commend their pupils who are doing what they can. It is
proper for ministers to speak in commendation of their congregations when
they have shown fidelity and earnestness. Our Lord gave us the example when
He commended Mary, saying, "She has done what she could." Too many people
seem afraid ever to say a kindly word to others about what they have done.
When a person dies there is no lack of commendation; but what does the dead
man care for such words? Many a time along his years, when he was weary and
overburdened, if the thousandth part of the kindly things now spoken by his
coffin had been spoken in his ear—he would have been cheered and
strengthened by the commendation.
January 29. The Hearing Ear
It has been said, that we have two ears and only one
mouth—to teach us that we should hear twice as much as we speak.
We miss a great deal by not being good listeners. God's creation is
full of sweet music—bird songs, the chirping of insects, the sweet melodies
of all nature, the breathing of the wind through the trees, the murmur of
the waters; and yet some people never hear one melodious sound as they go
through the fields and forests!
God is ever speaking in our ears—in conscience, in His
word, in the gentle voice of His Spirit; but many of us miss all this
wonderful divine speech. We ought to train ourselves to listen, to be "swift
to hear." Truth comes to us from all sides. Unless we go about listening, we
may miss many a valuable lesson, turning away unawares—many an angel who
comes from God with a message for us!
January 30. Life's Purpose
Think what life is—and what is life's purpose. It is not
merely getting through this world in the best way we can. We are not here to
make a living—but to make a life—to grow, to do God's will, to leave at
least one spot of the world a little brighter and better. Every step of the
passage from birth to death is through perils and antagonisms. Yet we have
the assurance that even life, with all it holds of danger and conflict,
cannot separate us from the love of God; that in all these things we may be
more than conquerors through Him that loved us.
January 31. Our Task of Healing
The world is full of sorrow—which needs comfort. It is
full of bruised and broken lives—which need healing. It is full of weary and
heavy laden people—who need hope and cheer. If Jesus were here on earth
again, He would Himself give out blessings which would meet all these needs
and cravings. He is here in the lives of His followers! And if we who
bear Christ's name fail to give to men in our measure what Christ would give
if He were here again in person—we fail Christ and disappoint Him. His heart
yearns to give out comfort, cheer, love, and strength to all who need it.
And if we are not fruitful branches ministering to earth's hungry ones—what
He would pass through us to them—we grieve Him, and those go hungry still,
uncomforted, unhelped, unblessed—who might have been made to rejoice if we
had done our part.