Let us look at the difference between Israel entering the land, and the man in Christ. Everything depended upon their act. They must go in and possess the land. True, God brought them in, but they had to act in order to possess, and those who went in without faith did not remain possessors.
Now the believer is united to Christ, and is in full title and ownership of the heavenly places before he enjoys any of it. True, as he accepts in faith the portion which grace has given him, the greater is his sense of possession and consequently of his enjoyment. In the one case the act was necessary in order to obtain possession; in the other, there was as much title before enjoying the possession, as there was consequent on possession.
If I only possess heaven in proportion to my act of faith, as was the case with Israel respecting Canaan, I have no right to possession but as I secure it; my sense of owning the land is only as I set foot on it. Hence I am necessarily anxious as to my progress; my possession depends on it. But with a believer now, he has full title before he lays hold of any of it, and every apprehension of his portion only stimulates him the more to advance, and to be in association with Him who is there.
It is the vastness of the blessing which he has in association with Christ, which makes him long to apprehend it more, as Paul says, “That I may apprehend that for which I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” It is the breadth and length, and depth and height, which occupy him who has Christ dwelling in his heart by faith. He does not depend on his own progress for assurance of possession, but he is so assured of the unsearchable riches of Christ, as his portion, that he dwells on it in faith; and thus, as the greatness of his possession is realized, he longs to enter still more into what he is sure is his.
We all know the tendency there is on our hearts, and often in proportion to our earnestness, to be in the line of attainment, instead of being simple recipients; and it is well for us to note the difference in state which the effort to attain produces, from that which grace or the acceptance of gift produces.
One who is in the former is never even; he is elated at any sense of his progress, and depressed if he becomes conscious of his losing ground, though generally he is too well pleased with his own engrossment of desire to advance, and obtain more. In the other, in proportion as the grace is simply held, there is great balance and evenness.
There is ever a sense of being far behind in enjoying the vastness of what has been conferred; and there is the greatest thankfulness for a sight of it, while with each new acquisition, there is the sense that “the draught which lulls our thirsting awakens our thirst anew.” The one is like a man making a fortune; while the other is exploring the vastness of the gift bestowed upon him; one necessarily is occupied with what he is doing; the other is praising the Lord for all that He has shared with him.
Surely the one with boundless resources in Christ, and with any fidelity of heart for Him, must surpass the most devoted heart that does not know its portion in its object. The Queen of Sheba is after all only an enraptured spectator, while the believer is united to Christ and participates with Him in His things: and surely the latter must, because of intuitive or intrinsic grace, surpass the former.
-J B Stoney