“For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:5
There is a blessed proportion. The Ruler of Providence bears a pair of scales-in this side he puts his people’s trials, and in that he puts their consolations. When the scale of trial is nearly empty, you will always find the scale of consolation in nearly the same condition; and when the scale of trials is full, you will find the scale of consolation just as heavy. When the black clouds gather most, the light is the more brightly revealed to us. When the night lowers and the tempest is coming on, the Heavenly Captain is always closest to his crew. It is a blessed thing, that when we are most cast down, then it is that we are most lifted up by the consolations of the Spirit. One reason is, because trials make more room for consolation. Great hearts can only be made by great troubles. The spade of trouble digs the reservoir of comfort deeper, and makes more room for consolation. God comes into our heart-he finds it full-he begins to break our comforts and to make it empty; then there is more room for grace. The humbler a man lies, the more comfort he will always have, because he will be more fitted to receive it. Another reason why we are often most happy in our troubles, is this-then we have the closest dealings with God. When the barn is full, man can live without God: when the purse is bursting with gold, we try to do without so much prayer. But once take our gourds away, and we want our God; once cleanse the idols out of the house, then we are compelled to honour Jehovah. “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.” There is no cry so good as that which comes from the bottom of the mountains; no prayer half so hearty as that which comes up from the depths of the soul, through deep trials and afflictions. Hence they bring us to God, and we are happier; for nearness to God is happiness. Come, troubled believer, fret not over your heavy troubles, for they are the heralds of weighty mercies.
Believer, look back through all thine experience, and think of the way whereby the Lord thy God has led thee in the wilderness, and how he hath fed and clothed thee every day-how he hath borne with thine ill manners-how he hath put up with all thy murmurings, and all thy longings after the flesh-pots of Egypt-how he has opened the rock to supply thee, and fed thee with manna that came down from heaven. Think of how his grace has been sufficient for thee in all thy troubles-how his blood has been a pardon to thee in all thy sins-how his rod and his staff have comforted thee. When thou hast thus looked back upon the love of the Lord, then let faith survey his love in the future, for remember that Christ’s covenant and blood have something more in them than the past. He who has loved thee and pardoned thee, shall never cease to love and pardon. He is Alpha, and he shall be Omega also: he is first, and he shall be last. Therefore, bethink thee, when thou shalt pass through the valley of the shadow of death, thou needest fear no evil, for he is with thee. When thou shalt stand in the cold floods of Jordan, thou needest not fear, for death cannot separate thee from his love; and when thou shalt come into the mysteries of eternity thou needest not tremble, “For I am persuaded, that neither death; nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Now, soul, is not thy love refreshed? Does not this make thee love Jesus? Doth not a flight through illimitable plains of the ether of love inflame thy heart and compel thee to delight thyself in the Lord thy God? Surely as we meditate on “the love of the Lord,” our hearts burn within us, and we long to love him more.
The power and appropriateness of Spurgeon’s “Morning and Evening” has been astonishing. Let me share another for encouragement:
Tell me where you lost the company of a Christ, and I will tell you the most likely place to find him. Have you lost Christ in the closet by restraining prayer? Then it is there you must seek and find him. Did you lose Christ by sin? You will find Christ in no other way but by the giving up of the sin, and seeking by the Holy Spirit to mortify the member in which the lust doth dwell. Did you lose Christ by neglecting the Scriptures? You must find Christ in the Scriptures. It is a true proverb, “Look for a thing where you dropped it, it is there.” So look for Christ where you lost him, for he has not gone away. But it is hard work to go back for Christ. Bunyan tells us, the pilgrim found the piece of the road back to the Arbour of Ease, where he lost his roll, the hardest he had ever travelled. Twenty miles onward is easier than to go one mile back for the lost evidence.
Take care, then, when you find your Master, to cling close to him. But how is it you have lost him? One would have thought you would never have parted with such a precious friend, whose presence is so sweet, whose words are so comforting, and whose company is so dear to you! How is it that you did not watch him every moment for fear of losing sight of him? Yet, since you have let him go, what a mercy that you are seeking him, even though you mournfully groan, “O that I knew where I might find him!” Go on seeking, for it is dangerous to be without thy Lord. Without Christ you are like a sheep without its shepherd; like a tree without water at its roots; like a sere leaf in the tempest-not bound to the tree of life. With thine whole heart seek him, and he will be found of thee: only give thyself thoroughly up to the search, and verily, thou shalt yet discover him to thy joy and gladness.
“Beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.”
— Matthew 14:30
Sinking times are praying times with the Lord’s servants. Peter neglected prayer at starting upon his venturous journey, but when he began to sink his danger made him a suppliant, and his cry though late was not too late. In our hours of bodily pain and mental anguish, we find ourselves as naturally driven to prayer as the wreck is driven upon the shore by the waves. The fox hides to its hole for protection; the bird flies to the wood for shelter; and even so the tried believer hastens to the mercy seat for safety. Heaven’s great harbour of refuge is All-prayer; thousands of weather-beaten vessels have found a haven there, and the moment a storm comes on, it is wise for us to make for it with all sail.
Short prayers are long enough. There were but three words in the petition which Peter gasped out, but they were sufficient for his purpose. Not length but strength is desirable. A sense of need is a mighty teacher of brevity. If our prayers had less of the tail feathers of pride and more wing they would be all the better. Verbiage is to devotion as chaff to the wheat. Precious things lie in small compass, and all that is real prayer in many a long address might have been uttered in a petition as short as that of Peter.
Our extremities are the Lord’s opportunities. Immediately a keen sense of danger forces an anxious cry from us the ear of Jesus hears, and with him ear and heart go together, and the hand does not long linger. At the last moment we appeal to our Master, but his swift hand makes up for our delays by instant and effectual action. Are we nearly engulfed by the boisterous waters of affliction? Let us then lift up our souls unto our Saviour, and we may rest assured that he will not suffer us to perish. When we can do nothing Jesus can do all things; let us enlist his powerful aid upon our side, and all will be well.
Posted in Scripture
There is something strangely moving about watching a snowman go to extraordinary lengths to procure a hat and gloves for his beloved snowwife. Of course said blandly like that it sounds unimpressive but the makers of the John Lewis advert for this Christmas have captured beautifully the idea that love can drive us to perform acts of great bravery and sacrifice for others. In a similar way if I merely talk about Christmas being the celebration of Jesus come to earth it can sound like a divine sightseeing tour or something of supreme indifference. But nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus not only gives up the splendour of heaven, he not only endures hardship , rejection and ultimately death at the hands of his creation, he does it because love was his goal. As a christian I increasingly find the self giving love of Christ to be something that profoundly moves me. My best friend comes into this world to find me and save me. My best friend endures all kinds of rejection, abuse and danger because he loves me. And yes that will change the way I behave towards others but first of all it must change the way I think about him.
2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. (ESV)
Watch the ad and think of what lengths Christ has gone to for you.
While reading through the Ten Commandments again yesterday I was struck at God’s description of himself as jealous. Of course we baulk at that because it seems so wrong that God could display something as ugly as jealousy. But jealously is not always wrong, in fact in some contexts jealousy must be right. A husband or wife is right to jealously guard the uniqueness of their relationship with their spouse and in a similar way because God wants the very best of us so he jealously guards his relationship with us. It is not because he doesn’t want us to have joy but rather he doesn’t want us to have send best.
Interestingly the reading from Spurgeon picked up on the same idea:
“God is jealous.”
Your Lord is very jealous of your love, O believer. Did he choose you? He cannot bear that you should choose another. Did he buy you with his own blood? He cannot endure that you should think that you are your own, or that you belong to this world. He loved you with such a love that he would not stop in heaven without you; he would sooner die than you should perish, and he cannot endure that anything should stand between your heart’s love and himself. He is very jealous of your trust. He will not permit you to trust in an arm of flesh. He cannot bear that you should hew out broken cisterns, when the overflowing fountain is always free to you. When we lean upon him, he is glad, but when we transfer our dependence to another, when we rely upon our own wisdom, or the wisdom of a friend-worst of all, when we trust in any works of our own, he is displeased, and will chasten us that he may bring us to himself. He is also very jealous of our company. There should be no one with whom we converse so much as with Jesus. To abide in him only, this is true love; but to commune with the world, to find sufficient solace in our carnal comforts, to prefer even the society of our fellow Christians to secret intercourse with him, this is grievous to our jealous Lord. He would fain have us abide in him, and enjoy constant fellowship with himself; and many of the trials which he sends us are for the purpose of weaning our hearts from the creature, and fixing them more closely upon himself. Let this jealousy which would keep us near to Christ be also a comfort to us, for if he loves us so much as to care thus about our love we may be sure that he will suffer nothing to harm us, and will protect us from all our enemies. Oh that we may have grace this day to keep our hearts in sacred chastity for our Beloved alone, with sacred jealousy shutting our eyes to all the fascinations of the world!
This may strike you as somewhat of strange post but I’ve been thinking about my love of gadgets and what it is that drives it.
Since my earliest memories of TV are watching and loving Star Trek I confess that there may be a subconscious desire to possess a “tricorder” a sort of multi-function device that could help me analyse and understand the world. The idea that you could carry around a little computer that held vast quantities of data and sensors to “see” was very compelling.
Of course the huge slab of valves and gears that Mr Spock carried around has been blown into oblivion by the extraordinary technological advances in just my lifetime and my phone is thousands of times more powerful than the computers that sent men to the moon.
My phone allows me to write blogs, connect through Facebook, read thousands of books, take pictures, record HD video, listen to sermons, carry my entire music collection, watch movies, send texts, connect to a virtually infinite amount of information via the internet and most remarkable of all I can even make phone calls with it.
But still God has supplied me with a computer that is vastly more powerful has more sensitive input systems and is even self repairing. The human brain and our senses allow us to see and appreciate and interact with this amazing world He has made. Its not that I’m ungrateful for the advances in technology but I am aware that in my amazement for what we build I can forget just how amazing what God has built is.
Psalm 139:14 ESV
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.