“To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne.” – Revelation 3:21
In His first mandate upon the morn of man’s creation the Lord said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth.”
The Lord came into the world to gain dominion over the forces that stood in the way of man’s regeneration; so He came to conquer, and it is written of Him, “Who is this that cometh from Edom… travelling in the greatness of his strength?”
We are born for dominion. We live to gain it. We die to enter upon it. Ever since man was created he has been striving to gain dominion.
There is a striking contrast between man – in his own person so weak and defenceless – upon the one hand, and upon the other the earth with its giant forests, its swamps, its rivers with their floods, its lakes and seas with their mighty waves, its mountains and deep canyons, and its savage life of both sea and land. Unaided, man could neither follow the birds in their flight nor the fish in the sea, nor cope with the beasts of the earth; yet in the beginning he was bidden, in regard to the earth and the life upon it, to subdue it and to have dominion. Great forces were to be subdued. But equal ones would be called into action – not the forces of the beasts, of the earth, or of the sea, or of nature in general, but the power of mind over matter.
The immensity of the dominion to be gained is a token of the possibilities of the mind, the vastness of the undeveloped faculties of the human being.
Every power of nature that is subdued adds a new and even greater one to the human mind. Gaining dominion over the earth calls into action powers that are within our reach and makes them our own. It is a great work that man is called upon to do in the world external to himself. It is equally a great work that he is called upon to accomplish within himself. And as he has subdued and gained dominion, he has found nature his servant and a capable servant. To his dominion she surrenders not only the fish, the fowl, and the beasts but her laws and hidden forces.
What are the forces by which we have gained the dominion as it is this day? It is not by the strength of man’s arm, nor of tools, nor of machines. It is by the power of knowledge.
This conquest that is going on over the earth illustrates that greater victory that may be acquired over an even greater world of greater forces. We wrestle, as the Apostle declares, against the principalities and powers of an unseen world, against darkness and spiritual wickedness; and the conquest being gained over nature is a promise of the power that shall be given us in the struggle against the allurements of sin and the enticements of evil. It is evidence of final conquest. It says to us, Knowledge is power, by knowledge is dominion gained, make knowledge your own, appropriate its power; to know nature is to conquer it, to know self is to subdue it, to know God is eternal life.
Men may look upon labor as a curse and call those fortunate who escape it, but no one ever gained knowledge without labor. We may be listless to the appeal of knowledge, but without it man never gained dominion over the birds or the beasts or the fish. We may be indifferent to the claims of spiritual instruction, but without knowledge of the Divine law no man will ever gain the conquest over sorrow or despair or sin or self.
Over against the natural faculties of the mind the natural world is set, bidding us to action, calling forth our powers. Over against morality and spiritual-mindedness is set the world of ignorance and sin, calling us to bring to bear our spiritual powers and to gain a spiritual victory.
Sometimes we come into states of sorrow and despair. Evils seem stronger than we can overcome and our despair darker than any light can illumine. Those in such affliction need sympathy, but if we are to help them we must give them more than sympathy. We must be able to bring to them the redeeming powers that are gained only by a similar conquest in ourselves. This is a law of compensation that cannot be escaped. If there is no toil, there is no rest. If there is no cross, there is no crown. If there is no temptation, there is no victory. Toil is not given for toil, but for the attainment of strength that endures.
Temptations are allowed to come, not to torment us, but that by overcoming them we may gain peace. The battle of life, with its struggles, is not for its wounds and pains, but for a final conquest of sin and self, gained by so overcoming wrong desires that they have no longer any power over us.
The trials that come upon us are never meaningless. A humored and pampered child will lack the strength of developed manhood. The Lord does not make the mistake of a foolish, indulgent parent. We criticize those who grant their children all their desires. The Lord deals with His children in a wisdom that sees the end from the beginning and searches out the soul’s highest good. He does not want us to come into the spiritual world maimed or blind. He knows that we do not want to. So short is this life compared to eternity, and so much depends upon what we accomplish here that we should make every effort to learn the lessons of life before the opportunity is lost forever.
If we lack strength, the Lord permits toil to make us strong. If we are impatient, he permits trial to establish a patience that will endure. If we are self-willed, He allows our desires to fail that we may become resigned. If we love a thing of earth too much, He takes it away, lest we become idolatrous. If evil desire is too strong, He may permit disease to weaken and restrain. If we love the world too much, He allows our joys in it to come to nothing that we may look for the love that is everlasting. If we are weak in faith, He leads us into experiences that may strengthen it. If we are ungrateful, He may take away much so that we may be grateful for little. If we love evil, He may permit its effects to come upon us that we may learn its true nature and turn from it.
He knows where we are weak, and, just as the visible world of nature draws forth the faculties of man by his seeking dominion over it, so the Lord permits the power of the invisible world – fear, weakness, faithlessness, and sin – to draw forth the saving virtues. He governs so as to make us strong where we are weak, pure where we are defiled, happy where we are sad, holy where we are unholy. He wants to make us all perfect and to prepare us for the greater fullness of His presence. In His sight no toil or pain or temptation or sorrow is meaningless. They all lead us onward from strength to strength, that finally we may be established in the presence of the Lord.
This life is related to life in the future world. Here we lay the foundations on which the future is built. We cannot ask other than that the Lord’s will be done, not ours. We cannot claim better than He will give, for He gives only the best. His life is our example.
It is nobler to pray for strength and faith and grace to endure than that trial be escaped. It is a higher prayer that asks for light and help to walk in the path of duty than that which requests that duties be lessened. We should have always in mind what we would most desire when life here is finished.
When we come into the light of the spiritual world and our books of life are opened, we shall see that our lot was just that which gave us the best chance to attain our highest possible spiritual development, was just that which, if improved as the Word teaches, will do the most for us in the eternal life.
Let us remember that the Lord’s view of success is not always the same as the world’s view. Some whom the world calls prosperous the Lord sees as having miserably failed, and some whom the world calls poor the Lord sees as rich and fed with the best of food. The Lord is God of the earth as well as of heaven. His laws are the laws of natural as well as of spiritual success, and the keeping of them puts us in the stream of His providence. He allows us to enter the battle that we may gain the conquest over error, sin, and self, and sit upon the throne that subdues and averts all evil, the throne of a redeemed life. He puts us in the vast world of toil, grief, and pain, and says, “Have dominion.” “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne.”