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.
Be assiduous in reading the Holy Scriptures. This is the fountain whence all knowledge in divinity must be derived. Therefore let not this treasure lie by you neglected. Every man of common understanding who can read, may, if he please, become well acquainted with the Scriptures. And what an excellent attainment would this be!
2. Study Scripture Deeply
Content not yourselves with only a cursory reading, without regarding the sense. This is an ill way of reading, to which, however, many accustom themselves all their days. When you read, observe what you read. Observe how things come in. Take notice of the drift of the discourse, and compare one scripture with another. For the Scripture, by the harmony of its different; parts, casts great light upon itself.—We are expressly directed by Christ, to search the Scriptures, which evidently intends something more than a mere cursory reading. And use means to find out the meaning of the Scripture. When you have it explained in the preaching of the word, take notice of it; and if at any time a scripture that you did not understand be cleared up to your satisfaction, mark it, lay it up, and if possible remember it.
3. Study Scripture with Help
Procure, and diligently use, other books which may help you to grow in this knowledge. There are many excellent books extant, which might greatly forward you in this knowledge, and afford you a very profitable and pleasant entertainment in your leisure hours. There is doubtless a great defect in many, that through a lothness to be at a little expense, they furnish themselves with no more helps of this nature. They have a few books indeed, which now and then on sabbath-days they read; but they have had them so long, and read them so often, that they are weary of them, and it is now become a dull story, a mere task to read them.
4. Study Scripture with Others
Improve conversation with others to this end. How much might persons promote each other’s knowledge in divine things, if they would improve conversation as they might; if men that are ignorant were not ashamed to show their ignorance, and were willing to learn of others; if those that have knowledge would communicate it, without pride and ostentation; and if all were more disposed to enter on such conversation as would be for their mutual edification and instruction.
5. Study Scripture for Spiritual Growth
Seek not to grow in knowledge chiefly for the sake of applause, and to enable you to dispute with others; but seek it for the benefit of your souls, and in order to practice.—If applause be your end, you will not be so likely to be led to the knowledge of the truth, but may justly, as often is the case of those who are proud of their knowledge, be led into error to your own perdition. This being your end, if you should obtain much rational knowledge, it would not be likely to be of any benefit to you, but would puff you up with pride: 1 Cor. viii. 1. ” Knowledge puffeth up.”
6. Study Scripture with Humility and Prayer
Seek to God, that he would direct you, and bless you, in this pursuit after knowledge. This is the apostle’s direction, James i. 5. ” If any man lack wisdom, let him ask it of God, who giveth to all liberally, and upbraideth not.” God is the fountain of all divine knowledge: Prov. ii. 6 “The Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.” Labour to be sensible of your own blindness and ignorance, and your need of the help of God, lest you be led into error, instead of true knowledge: 1 Cor. iii. 18. ” If any man would be wise, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.”
7. Study Scripture by Practicing What You Know
Practice according to what knowledge you have. This will be the way to know more. The psalmist warmly recommends this way of seeking knowledge in divine truth, from his own experience: Psal. cxix. 100. ” I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.” Christ also recommends the same: John vii. 17. “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”
We are a people clamoring to be heard. Everyone seems to have a grievance they want to air, and it seems someone else will be offended by those complaints which only compounds the outrage. When their voices are drowned by the flood of protests, many people will raise their pitch and resort to all kinds of deceptive strategies to get people to pay attention. Even journalists have degraded their profession by using misleading headlines to coax us into clicking their links. Contrary to Thoreau, many people are no longer living lives of quiet desperation, instead, they broadcast their desperation like a distorted siren. I suppose the world has always been this way; after all, there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Still, with the introduction of the internet and social media, it all seems amplified these days.
As the world continues shouting for attention, truth has fallen in the streets (Isaiah 59:14). Our culture has replaced reason with emotions. Instead of talking about issues, we voice our feelings, trumpet our offense, and label those who disagree with us as evil. Personal attacks rule the day. We judge people for their judging, unaware of our hypocrisy. In a world that believes truth is relative and autonomy is the highest value, anything and nothing can be stated as truth, and those who disagree will be labeled as bigots.
He who shouts the loudest is the winner. We shout on television, we shout on online, we shout with our pocketbooks, and more and more we seem to see people starting to shout with violent protests. Since we can no longer reason, anyone who believes in truth and threatens the dogma of relativism will be bullied. Might makes right is the only logical outcome in a culture that denies reality.
It should not surprise us that many people use the word “hate” like a bully uses his fists: to dominate and intimidate. If this culture does not like what you say, it will try to silence you with trigger warnings and accusations of micro-aggressions. They sneer, “We will not listen to reason because you were found wanting the moment you violated us by failing to celebrate our narrative. If you do not bow to secularism’s subjective dictates, we will beat you into submission with social pressure and slander if we can gain enough power.” They will work to destroy your good name and subject you to cancel culture. These days, he who shuns evil makes himself a prey (Isaiah 14:15).
Despite the noise of this fallen world, the word of God never fails. Truth does not bow to pressure because truth cannot be altered. The word of the Lord is firmly fixed in the heavens (Psalm 119:89). Though the light goes out into the world, and men love darkness rather than light (John 3:19), the word of the Lord will not return void (Isaiah 55:11).
The grass will wither, and the flower may fade, but the word of the Lord endures forever (Isaiah 40:8). It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of the law to fail (Luke 16:17). We, as His children, have not been born of corruptible seed, but incorruptible, we were born again through the word of God which lives and abides forever (1 Peter 1:23), and we have nothing to fear because our lives are hidden in him (Colossians 3:3).
Every word of God is pure, and he is a shield to those who put their trust in him. Those who add to his words, or take away words, he will rebuke, and they will be found to be liars (Proverbs 30:5–6). The word of God is the rock upon which we must build our lives, for all other ground is sinking sand (Matthew 7:24-27). As believers, we do not need to compete with the noise of the world by raising our voices and playing its games of desperation, but we must speak, whatever the consequences (Acts 4:20). We must speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
We have been commissioned by the Word of God himself, Jesus Christ, to go into all the world with his truth. It will not be our ingenuity or our volume that gives the word of God its strength. Its power is inherent. It is truth, and it will stand forever. It will be a light to our feet and a lamp unto our path (Psalm 119:105). If we abide in his word, we are truly his disciples, and we will know the truth, and the truth will set us free (John 8:31-32).
For Christians, temptations surround us to silence us. The enemy will whisper that scripture is dull and no one will listen to you. It will not earn you likes or shares so why bother. If you resist that warning, the threats will begin to be muttered reminding you that you will lose friends. You will become irrelevant. You will be labeled as narrow-minded, and the accusations will not be fair or truthful. The attacks on your character will be amplified to distortion, and they could leave you unemployable if you live our faith in public.
In light of all that, what will you do? At the end of the day, all Christians must answer the following question. Do I trust the word of God enough to continue speaking truth in a culture of noise?
The good times are to be expected, and the hard times are surprising and strange. Perhaps that unconscious assumption is causing us grief. Wendell Berry, in his book, Jayber Crow, describes the “old-timers” in a way that seems lost on many people today. He says: “As much as any of the old-timers, he regarded the Depression as not over and done with but merely absent for a while, like Halley’s comet.”
Though many wrongly interpret this disposition as fear, there is health in this way of thinking. For many of us, politicians have promised us the world, and we have believed them. We may indeed chuckle at the thought that a single person thinks they have that much influence, still, conservatives and liberals alike often feel that the state of our existence will continue to progress and that humanity will build its tower to heaven. This thinking, of course, is foolishness. There are good days and bad days ahead for all of us. Pandemics, economic collapse, and the threat of government overreach are nothing new. They have all happened in the past, and they will occur again in the future. Scripture itself tells us that when fiery trials come upon us, we should not think that something strange is happening to us (1 Pet. 4:12).
Bringing this to a more personal level, as long as our health is robust and our jobs feel secure, we think we can handle anything, but in the words of the late Rich Mullins, “We are not as strong as we think we are.” It does not take much for us to feel our weakness. The problem is that when our vulnerability is not apparent, a false sense of our competency begins to blind us.
For the Christian, hard times might not be the blight on our existence we think them to be. If we believe God’s word, which reminds us that God is working in our favor as much in the hard times as in the good, we have no reason to panic during the difficult days, as we are prone to do.
When I think, for example, about how quickly I am prone to forget about my daily dependence upon God through prayer, I thank the Lord for the days that knock me to my knees. I am much better off on my knees in prayer after taking a hit than walking confidently without Him. Charles Spurgeon said, “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.”
Maybe it is just me, but too many “good” days in a row, and I begin to forget that we are living in a fallen world. Even when evidence surrounds me, I deceive myself with a false sense of self-sufficiency, and it is not until life hits me with a reminder of my frailty that I am brought back to a favorable frame of mind. If this is true, then some of my “hard’ times are actually my good times, and some of my “good” times are my hard times. Some days it is abundantly clear how much I need Jesus. On the other days, I am delusional.
For the Christian, our eternal well-being is not bound up in the pleasures of this life. The scoffers will say this kind of talk reveals our deficiency, and they are right. I will boast all the more in my weakness. I contributed nothing to my salvation, and I have no strength of my own to contribute to the Christian life. I will praise God for the days I lay helpless at His feet because those days he has promised that in my weakness his strength will rest upon me. When the hard times hit, and we find ourselves entirely dependent upon our God, it is time to draw up under the wing of our Savior and start paying attention because his power is about to be revealed in his people.
What you are about to watch is Pastor Duggins’ final few minutes of his last sermon. He would die unexpectedly within the next couple hours. What you are witnessing is a faithful pastor going the distance amidst grief.
In 2 Timothy 4:5, Paul uses some of his final words to address Archippus with this warning/encouragement, “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” In the video, you saw every aspect of that verse on display.
First, pastor Duggins had been watchful. He knew his enemy was prowling around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. His enemy was not only trying to destroy him but his flock also. There is only one message that can overcome those dangers, and that is Gospel. It is easy to wander off into all kinds of topics that tickle the ear, and entertainment is what many people desire to hear, but Pastor Duggins preached the word.
He was also sober-minded. He did not let the condition of his broken heart pull him away from his calling. To answer his pain, he did not resort to worldly stimulants; he went to his Savior, who fortified him with the strength he needed.
He endured the suffering. Even amid grief, he did not lose faith in his Heavenly Father, and he did the work of an Evangelist. Through constant and faithful teaching, He pointed them to Jesus Christ, the resurrection and the life.
In all of that, he fulfilled his ministry. The idea of the word “fulfill” carries with it two thoughts. The first and most common is never to give up; preach the scriptures until the day you die, and this is what Pastor Duggins has done. However, there is a second idea in the word as well, and that is the idea of proving. It is only by patiently enduring afflictions, continually preaching the word, and never drifting away that a ministry validated. All these characteristics show pastor Duggins to be a good and faithful minister in Christ.
There is now no question about his faithfulness. He has run his course; he has finished the race. Shortly after he preached these words, he kneeled before Jesus, who said, “Well done good and faithful servant, enter into joy today.”
What about us? We never know when a gospel presentation will be our last. There is so much in this world working to pull us away, and, internally, we are prone to wander. Whatever your profession, our Lord has called all believers to be fishers of men. Be watchful of your enemy, be sober and diligent, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, and fulfill your ministry. The only way this will happen is by staying close to our Savior. Jesus, keep us near the cross.
Pastor Duggins, who was kept by the power of God through faith, has now entered that great cloud of witnesses. Since they surround us, let us lay aside every weight, and sin which easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
Well done Pastor Duggins. Your ministry continues to bear fruit even while you are present with the Lord. We cannot wait to join you and your beautiful wife and praise Jesus who accomplished it all, but for now, your example of faithfulness will encourage us all to stay the course and finish the race.
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.
If someone were to walk by, they would see a man at rest on the Lord’s day. He is sitting quietly, soaking up the sun on a beautiful spring day. The birds are singing, and a pleasant breeze is blowing. His posture is relaxed, and in his lap sits his Bible. In his hands are a highlighter and a pen. The pages of the black leather-bound book are open to 2 Corinthians; pages he has evidently read before because some of the highlights are of a different color than the highlighter he is holding. He is pouring over the words, frequently stopping to highlight and reread relevant phrases as he comes to them, and then jotting a few notes in his journal.
To many, it is a picture of serenity and peace: a moment of rest. There is, however, something deeper going on below the surface. There is an internal struggle raging. First, there is bodily fatigue. The body that appears relaxed is doing everything it can to stay on task and focus on the scriptures. The man has physical distress that keeps his body from finding the peace it desires.
Also inside, there is a sinful nature warring against the Spirit he is attempting to nourish. It is calling him away to other activities; activities of idleness that turn his eyes from things above and divert his attention to the pleasures of this world. He hears the sirens calling, and he is striving to resist them as he sits in what appears to be perfect tranquility.
Lastly, there are the doubts and fears, along with worries and pains he is looking to address. This time in the word is not a laid-back time of reflection. He is in a battle, searching for fuel for his faith. Employment anxieties, cares at home, financial burdens, and concerns for others weigh him down.
The outside world cannot see it, but this internal war is raging. However, there is something deeper still going on. Something even the man himself cannot see. As he reads, the eyes of the Lord look to and fro throughout the earth to be strong on behalf of those who put their trust in him, and the Father has locked eyes on his child and will not turn away.
At the same time, the Son is interceding on the man’s behalf. Jesus is not praying the man be taken out of the world, but that he be kept from the evil one. The Savior is praying that the man be set apart from the world and be sanctified in the truth; the word of God he is holding in his hands.
As he sits and reads, engaged in this battle of the ages, the Holy Spirit surrounds him and begins speaking to his heart. There is an invisible light emanating from the pages and entering through the windows of his soul. The Spirit draws his eyes to the following words.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
The Spirit uses this to illuminate two truths showing him that the battle has a purpose. First, this fight makes him rely not on himself but on God, who raises the dead. Second, he learns that by being comforted by God in times of difficulty, he is taught to comfort others. This is something he longs to do.
The Spirit then reminds him, through the scriptures, he has a treasure in this jar of clay, and like Gideon breaking the clay pots to show forth the light hidden within, it is in his brokenness that the treasure begins to be revealed. Though the man may be afflicted in every way, he is not crushed. He may be perplexed, but he is not drawn to despair. He may be struck down, but he will not be destroyed. The Lord has heard him in his distress, bowed the heavens, and came down. He sent out his arrows and scattered the enemy, and is drawing the man out of many waters.
The man, still feeling the effects of a distressed body, breathes a sigh of relief and finds himself sweetly resigned to the Lord’s will. His heart is moved to spend the evening in prayer, praising God and interceding on behalf of those he loves. His joyful intimacy with his Savior reminds him that the weight of his troubles cannot compare to the weight of glory that lies ahead. That night, he sets his Bible by his bed and closes his eyes to pray, and, once again, the heavens begin to move. Our quiet times are rarely as they appear.
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!