When the Spirit would glorify Jesus, He humbles you.
When He would glorify His fullness, He makes you feel your emptiness.
When He would bring you to rely on His strength, He convinces you of your weakness.
When He would magnify the comforts of Jesus, He makes you sensible of your misery.
When He would fix your heart on His Heaven, He makes you feel your deserved Hell.
When He would exalt His righteousness, you find that you are a poor, miserable sinner.
My friend, let nothing keep you from Jesus. Whatever you need, whatever you feel is wrong with you, may it bring you to the Savior’s fullness! Oh, that all things may help forward your acquaintance with Him, I except nothing, neither sin nor sorrow! I would carry all to Him as one great lump of sin, and receive all from Him, as the only storehouse of good for wretched sinners.
In this communion I desire to grow; for this I desire to live. Oh, that you and I may learn it more, and every day get nearer fellowship with our sweet Jesus, growing up into Him in all things.
You gave me health to use in your service, but I misused it to a wholly secular use. Now you have sent me a sickness for my correction. O let me not use this likewise to provoke you, by my impatience. I abused my health, and you have rightly dealt with me. O keep me now from abusing that also. And since the corruption of my nature distorts your favors to me, grant, O my God, that your all-prevailing grace may render your chastenings to be beneficial. If my heart has been in love with the world when I was in robust health, destroy my vigor to promote my salvation. Whether it be by weakness of or by zeal for your love, render me incapable of enjoying the worldly idols, that my delight may be only in you.
Blaise Pascal – A Prayer He Prayed During A Time of Sickness
Christianity has thus passed through many stages of its earthly life, and yet has hardly reached the period of full manhood in Christ Jesus. During this long succession of centuries it has outlived the destruction of Jerusalem, the dissolution of the Roman empire, fierce persecutions from without, and heretical corruptions from within, the barbarian invasion, the confusion of the dark ages, the papal tyranny, the shock of infidelity, the ravages of revolution, the attacks of enemies and the errors of friends, the rise and fall of proud kingdoms, empires, and republics, philosophical systems, and social organizations without number. And, behold, it still lives, and lives in greater strength and wider extent than ever; controlling the progress of civilization, and the destinies of the world; marching over the ruins of human wisdom and folly, ever forward and onward; spreading silently its heavenly blessings from generation to generation, and from country to country, to the ends of the earth.
It can never die; it will never see the decrepitude of old age; but, like its divine founder, it will live in the unfading freshness of self-renewing youth and the unbroken vigor of manhood to the end of time, and will outlive time itself. Single denominations and sects, human forms of doctrine, government, and worship, after having served their purpose, may disappear and go the way of all flesh; but the Church Universal of Christ, in her divine life and substance, is too strong for the gates of hell. She will only exchange her earthly garments for the festal dress of the Lamb’s Bride, and rise from the state of humiliation to the state of exaltation and glory. Then at the coming of Christ she will reap the final harvest of history, and as the church triumphant in heaven celebrate and enjoy the eternal sabbath of holiness and peace. This will be the endless end of history, as it was foreshadowed already at the beginning of its course in the holy rest of God after the completion of his work of creation.
Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. -Ephesians 3:8
The apostle Paul felt it a great privilege to be allowed to preach the gospel. He did not look upon his calling as a drudgery, but he entered upon it with intense delight. Yet while Paul was thus thankful for his office, his success in it greatly humbled him. The fuller a vessel becomes, the deeper it sinks in the water. Idlers may indulge a fond conceit of their abilities, because they are untried; but the earnest worker soon learns his own weakness.
If you seek humility, try hard work; if you would know your nothingness, attempt some great thing for Jesus. If you would feel how utterly powerless you are apart from the living God, attempt especially the great work of proclaiming the unsearchable riches of Christ, and you will know, as you never knew before, what a weak unworthy thing you are.
Although the apostle thus knew and confessed his weakness, he was never perplexed as to the subject of his ministry. From his first sermon to his last, Paul preached Christ, and nothing but Christ. He lifted up the cross, and extolled the Son of God who bled thereon. Follow his example in all your personal efforts to spread the glad tidings of salvation, and let “Christ and him crucified” be your ever recurring theme.
The Christian should be like those lovely spring flowers which, when the sun is shining, open their golden cups, as if saying, “Fill us with thy beams!” but when the sun is hidden behind a cloud, they close their cups and droop their heads. So should the Christian feel the sweet influence of Jesus; Jesus must be his sun, and he must be the flower which yields itself to the Sun of Righteousness. Oh! to speak of Christ alone, this is the subject which is both “seed for the sower, and bread for the eater.” This is the live coal for the lip of the speaker, and the master-key to the heart of the hearer.
When we look at the universe, we wonder at the magnificence. We stand in awe as the massive spheres move perfectly in their orbits. We stand amazed at the power of our sun and realize it pales in comparison to many other stars, let alone the vastness of it all.
There is, without a doubt, a glory announced by the universe that causes us all to marvel, but we must realize the glory that is declared is not the glory of the universe; it is the glory of God. The experience we have is true knowledge of the Lord Almighty. Now, we must not misunderstand this, the verse in the Psalm 19 does not say that the universe is God. In fact, it is clearly distinct from him in this passage, but the Glory that we are experiencing is our Father’s. “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made (Romans 1: 20).”
This is where the natural man steps in and attempts to suppress that truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). Many naturalists say it should be enough for us to marvel at this world and all its complexities without any appeal to God, and this is what we should expect them to say since the natural progression from trading the truth of God for a lie, is to begin worshiping the creation instead of the creator (Romans 1:25). This is exactly what they are doing when they ascribe the glory that belongs to God to creation itself.
As for believers, we have every reason to rejoice and praise our Father who made it all. All we need to do to get a glimpse of His splendor is slow down, look around, and with childlike wonder, recognize glory of God.
David thought it was over. His sin had been exposed, he had sought the Lord’s forgiveness, and it had been granted. A right spirit had been renewed, and a clean heart had been created. Then came the news that his child was gravely ill. As David was thrown to the floor in anguish, thoughts of his sin filled his mind. Months had passed, but now his sin had come out from hiding to remind him of his treachery against the God of the universe.
Years later another son of his rebels, and once again David is reminded of the sword that has been driven into his family because of what he had done. Another brutal reminder that he, at one point, thought he knew better than Lord of all creation. In his sinfulness, he desired something that the Lord had forbidden, but David ignored the law because he thought it would be better if things were done his way. Oh, but how that sin has haunted him. How many times he thought he was done with it. He had repented, he had been forgiven, but regardless, it seemed to pursue him. Though it had no hold on his life, and there was no possibility that his sin could exact its wages from him, due to the redemptive plan and work of God, it was not going to let him forget.
It seemed to sit in silence for extended periods of time just to make David comfortable. Then as he would be going about his day, there would be those moments when something, whether it was something he saw or something he heard, gave his sin an opportunity to spring upon him and cloak his day with darkness by taunting him of his failures and reminding him of his foolishness.
You see, one or two moments of sin do not simply last for a season. Many times, they have a way of coming back in little reminders which sink your spirits every now and again, and the fact that it comes on when you least expect it is what makes it all the more difficult. After it happens a few times, it can cause you to begin to look over your shoulder in preparation for it to happen again, until you feel it trying to stifle you in your Christian walk. It can even cause a hesitancy to desire spiritual growth because of what it might do when you reach new territory.
As it did with David, sin has a way of robbing us of peace and joy. It can weaken, embarrass, and grieve us years after the indiscretion. On top of all that, as the enemies of God hear about it, they begin to rejoice, mocking the God we love because of what we have done. If you are toying with sin or considering spurning God’s loving standards to feed your flesh, you might want to think twice because what you do could linger for years to come.
Now if this warning comes a bit too late and you already know from experience that all of this is true, you must remember that the haunting cannot ultimately hurt you. Bear in mind that our sovereign God, who has taken your sin and bore its wages on the cross, has promised never to lose His child, and has promised that all things will work together for the good of those who love Him: even the haunting effects of sin. Though they can be troubling and painful, He is using all things to accomplish His purposes in your life. He will finish the work he has started in you, and with a little wrestling, He can change your name from Jacob, the heel-catcher, and deceiver, to Israel, the prince of God.
Ultimately, David never forgot his sin, but that did not stop God from calling him “a man after His own heart.” As king of Israel, the Lord has used his example to show the world His love and forgiveness, and that the Lord can use anyone in a powerful way, even those with serious failures in their past. Sin can haunt the repentant believer all it wants, but ultimately it cannot separate them from God’s love. Even though the enemy naively believes that he is going to stifle them by it, the sovereign God is using it to conform them to the image of His Son. Let us never forget that it was the haunting effects of sin that God used in David life, which caused him to draw up under the wing of his Lord, and through it birthed several of his Psalms which were inspired by the Holy Spirit and considered the very Words of God.
In an extraordinary way, the Lord uses the haunting effects of sin to bring his child to the point where we will no longer be able to be haunted by them. By using them to conform us to His image, not only will we avoid sin in the future, but when the accuser rears his head, we will understand that all his work is in vain, and the more he tries to afflict us, the more we will grow. Then, before long, Satan will be looking over his shoulder, because greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world.
These are not words that describe a mere principle that worked within me; they described me. Though life coursed through my veins, I was spiritually dead, and death was to be the only wage I would merit. Not simply physical death, but eternal death. Flesh was the only word that could describe me. As in death, my eyes were closed and lifeless; I allowed no light to enter because I loved the darkness. Blackness permeated everything I was. Though my physical eyes could see, in rebellion they would not look upon light and life. All my actions, though I boasted of virtue, were done in darkness, and because of this I was harmful. I dangerous to myself and those around me, and none of it was accidental. In all of it, I was culpable for I had gone astray.
Broken, Injured. Restless. Fearful.
Of no merit of my own and entirely for His name’s sake, He called this wandering sheep and blotted out my iniquities with the blood of His sacrifice on the cross. I heard His voice, it gave me life, and light began to penetrate my soul. Though still somewhat harmful something had changed. Something old had passed away, and all things were becoming new. Yet, in it all, I was still broken. I had injured myself and those around me, and in restlessness and fear, I began to wonder if He would fulfill all He promised.
Guided. Nourished. Protected. Loved.
From a distance, I followed His voice learning that He would only lead me to places that would be to my advantage. In His leading, He began to feed my wounded soul with nourishment that could not be found in any other source. In my ignorance, I would wander from time to time, but He never failed to fend off the enemies of my soul with His rod. If necessary, He would even use His staff to chasten me. When my foolish legs began to wander, He did not hesitate to wound them. Then in my weakness, He would gather me up into His arms and keep me close to protect me from myself and my enemies while I would mend. In those times, I began to know Him better, and as He spoke to me using a name that was all my own, I knew I was loved.
Peace. Comfort. Fearless. Endless.
My Shepherd’s name is Jesus, and He restores my soul. I now lay down in peace wherever He leads me, and I shall not be in want. I am comforted by His rod and staff and long to be at my Shepherd’s side. No longer do I fear evil, for He is with me. His goodness and mercy will be with me all the days of my life, and my dwelling in the house of the Lord will be endless.
The following is an excerpt from a letter of John Berridge to a fellow minister who had recently injured himself in a bad fall.
I received your letter, and dare not say that I am sorry for your fall, nor indeed for any afflictions that God lays on His children; they are tokens of His fatherly love, and needful medicine for us. Rather would I pray that while God keeps you in the furnace, you may be still, and feel your dross and tin being purged away.
The Lord Jesus gives me a dose of this medicine most days; and I am never so well as when I am taking it, though I frequently make a crooked face at it. If your heart is as my heart, it will need many a bitter potion to cleanse and strengthen it! Afflictions have been to me some of my greatest mercies.
No lasting gain do I get, but in a furnace. Comforts of every kind make me either light or lofty, and swell me, though unperceivably, with self-sufficiency. Indeed, so much dross, native and acquired, is found in my heart, that I have constant need of a furnace. Jesus has selected a suitable furnace for me, not a hot and hasty one, which seems likely to harden and consume me–but one with a gentle and lingering heat, which melts my heart gradually, and lets out some of its dross. Though I cannot love the furnace, yet the longer I live, the more I see of its need and its use. A believer seldom walks steadily and brightly, unless he is well-furnaced.
“I have refined you, but not as silver is refined. Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of affliction!” Isaiah 48:10
May the Lord water your soul and your vineyard, and teach you to know nothing, and preach nothing but Jesus Christ!
When spring rolls in so does he, like a man just off the train fiddle on his back, whistlin’ down the track songs he stole from somebody. He’s weaving bluebird melodies with sparrow trills and warbler revelries,
on my backyard fence with much ado.
Like a boy at a coffee shop open mic guitar in hand and skinny jeans blue. Just hoping some star-eyed girl will laugh and smile, hair all curled.
Hawk calls and shrike squalls, notoriously chatty sittin’ in the leaves.
There is something about me that always wants to be in control. If I am sick, I want to outlearn the disease and overcome it. If relationships start to fail, I want to be able to charm them back to life. We all desire control. I think this is why we buy into so many fad diets promising snake-oil results. I do not say this as a judgment on eating right; it is a wise thing to do, but how much of it stems from the desire to bend reality to fit our ideals. If there is something I can do, then it is something I can control. “I am the master of my ship.” This desire to govern this world has even found its way into Christian circles. “If you can muster enough faith, all will go right. Positive thoughts create positive results.” The problem is, it is not true. We could do all of this, and it could still fall apart. We are not the masters our destinies.
The storm around me reminds me of this. I realize, with every peal of thunder, that I am not the center of the universe. When it comes to orchestrating the master plan for creation, I am no more special than the other 7 billion people on the planet. We all tend to live as if we are, but it is a delusion. You and I could come into contact with something in this fallen world that could end our lives within a matter of days, and there is nothing we could do about it.
Once we are gone, our co-workers would remember us and then replace us. Sure, they may even put up a picture for a few years to commemorate our contribution, but they would be able to continue without us. Our demise would most likely hit our family the hardest, but our children would move on with their lives just like we would want them to. Even the one we love, if the Lord wills, would find someone else to love and with whom to share the rest of their life.
I do not like to think about these things, but it is good. It reminds me that the world is not yet the way it should be, so I should not put my trust and hope in it. There is something eternal that deserves my devotion and attention. Something else should be my refuge.
Though the storm swells around me, I have found salvation in the cleft of the rock: Christ Jesus. All the sins that caused me to be fearful of God have been forgiven. The great and righteous judge of the universe has reconciled me to Himself through the cross. Yes, I, a sinner, am a friend of God. In fact, He calls me His child.
One of the problems is that we often interpret being a child of God to mean that we are now co-sovereigns with Him, but that is not the case. When the omnipotent God makes us His child, He does not stop being God. He does not hand us the reigns of the universe. Instead, He continues right on with His plan, and we should be grateful.
What tends to bother us, is that He still keeps much of his plan hidden. The hidden things belong to the Lord (Deuteronomy 29:29). His judgments and ways are past finding out, and none of us have been his counselor (Romans 11:34). He has not told us everything He is doing. He is operating in a fallen world in a multitude of ways that are unseen and unknown to us, but He has given us some revelation. One of the things revealed is that he will return and set all things right. We sometimes complain that He has not done it yet, but it is His patience that causes Him tarry (2 Peter 3:9). If it were not for His patience, none of us would be saved. The day He returns in glory will be a day of great trembling and delight for His child, but it will be a day of terror for those who do not know Him. Though we should desire His return, it is not something we should rush because he is still gathering his people.
Our salvation involves so much more than what we are currently experiencing, and even creation groans waiting for the sons of God to be revealed (Romans 8:19-23). Though we are to strive to give people a glimpse of glory in this life, it is only a dim reflection. We cannot place all our hope in what we are experiencing now. He has given us the Holy Spirit, and we know this is a guarantee of what is to come, but what we are experiencing now, in this life, is not the consummation of our salvation.
Everything could fall apart. The darkest things imaginable could happen, except one: that He would lose one of us who have been saved by faith and fail to complete the work He has begun in us. We will see Jesus face to face in all of His glory. One day, all believers will inhabit a place without sickness, without tears, and without death. A place where it can no longer come undone, but this is not it.
If we think that everything must fall into place right now for our salvation to be real and our faith to be true, we have a short-sighted view of both salvation and faith, and our understanding of God is too small. True faith will trust God even if He does not do what we want Him to do immediately. What He is doing is bigger and better than what we could ever imagine, even if we don’t fully understand it. One day the hidden things will be revealed, and we will stand in awestruck wonder at the wisdom of His plan. No matter how dark and painful it gets, children of God win in the end because we will stand in the presence of Jesus. It could all fall apart, and that’s OK. Deep and abiding faith in God has the ability to look at the worst possible scenario and still see our Lord’s goodness. From there, nothing we face can cause us to fear. God has not ceased being God, and he will be faithful to His promises. He is conforming us to his image and he will bring us home.
For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you. – Isaiah 54:10