Prayer: The Forerunner of Mercy – Spurgeon

Image result for spurgeon quotes on prayer

“Thus saith the Lord God; I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them.” -Ezekiel 36:37

Prayer is the forerunner of mercy. Turn to sacred history, and you will find that scarcely ever did a great mercy come to this world unheralded by supplication. You have found this true in your own personal experience. God has given you many an unsolicited favour, but still great prayer has always been the prelude of great mercy with you. When you first found peace through the blood of the cross, you had been praying much, and earnestly interceding with God that He would remove your doubts, and deliver you from your distresses. Your assurance was the result of prayer. When at any time you have had high and rapturous joys, you have been obliged to look upon them as answers to your prayers. When you have had great deliverances out of sore troubles, and mighty helps in great dangers, you have been able to say, “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”

Prayer is always the preface to blessing. It goes before the blessing as the blessing’s shadow. When the sunlight of God’s mercies rises upon our necessities, it casts the shadow of prayer far down upon the plain. Or, to use another illustration, when God piles up a hill of mercies, He Himself shines behind them, and He casts on our spirits the shadow of prayer, so that we may rest certain, if we are much in prayer, our pleadings are the shadows of mercy. Prayer is thus connected with the blessing to show us the value of it. If we had the blessings without asking for them, we should think them common things; but prayer makes our mercies more precious than diamonds. The things we ask for are precious, but we do not realize their preciousness until we have sought for them earnestly.

“Prayer makes the darken’d cloud withdraw;

Prayer climbs the ladder Jacob saw;

Gives exercise to faith and love;

Brings every blessing from above.”

-Charles Spurgeon-

Advertisements

Faith in College: 7 Ways to Stay Strong

Image result for faith in college

(The following is a quote from Greg L. Bahnsen’s book Pushing the Antithesis)

A busy academic and social schedule in college can easily pull the Christian away from God’s Word. But remember: you cannot defend God and His Word if you are not sanctified (set apart) for Him by means of contact with His Word. Too many Christian Students drift away from the faith in college because they have not been prepared for the spiritual and apologetic battles they will face. Dr. Gary North once wrote an article advertising a Christian college. The article showed a dejected father who had sent his son off to a secular college. It stated: “I spent $40,000 to send my son to hell.”

Seven Practices Christians Must Do in College.

1. Frequently remind yourself of the nature of spiritual warfare. In order to prepare yourself for your college classes, at the beginning of each semester you should re-read the biblical passages that demonstrate the active antagonism of the unbelieving world against your Christian faith. You must not forget the nature of the unbeliever’s challenge to your holistic (all encompassing) faith.

2. Diligently seek to evaluate everything you are being taught from a principled Christian perspective. After classes each day, jot down comments on the contradictions to the Christian faith which you encountered. Keep them in a notebook. Writing things down is the best secret to a good memory. Reflect on biblical answers to these supposed contradictions.

3. Develop small Bible study and accountability groups with other Christian students on campus. A part of defending the faith involves promoting its defense even among believers. As a Christian in fellowship with other Christians, you should urge fellow believers to realize their spiritual obligation to defend the faith before and unbelieving world.

4. Seek out any Christian campus ministries that are strongly committed to the Bible and are developing the Christian life. Attend their meetings and involve yourself in their ministries.

5. Find a good church in the area of your college. Commit yourself to attend church regularly. As Christians, we must not be “forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another” (Heb. 10:25).

6. Where possible use class assignments to present the Christian perspective on issues. We would recommend that you avoid narrow testimonial types of papers. You should rather discretely develop worldview oriented themes that work basic Christian principles into the picture. In-your-face testimonials might be an affront to your professor and may appear to be a challenge to him. But working out your biblical principles might alert him to the philosophical implications of Christianity and will certainly help you flesh out your own understanding. You must be about “making the most of your time” while in college . . . You will certainly not find your professors assigning papers that encourage your Christian faith. But you must seek the opportunities—when they are allowed.

7. As a well-rounded Christian seeking to glorify Christ, you must approach your academic studies in a mature and diligent fashion. Your are both paying hard-earned money for a college education and spending your God-given time in college; make the most of your investment. Do not cut corners in your studies or simply try to “get by.” Christ calls you to excellence. Some students are naturally lazy, others suffer from voluntary inertia. Do not allow your educational experience to inadvertently teach you to be intellectually lazy. Such laziness is disloyalty to Christ.

-Greg L. Bahnsen; Pushing the Antithesis

On Church Growth Without Personal Holiness

Though there are some significant problems in the church growth movement, we should all be for church growth. In fact, it seems almost impossible for a church to be fulfilling the great commission without some kind of growth taking place. We are to go out and make disciples. When they come in, they too are to grow to the place where they go out and make more disciples.

Many times, though, it seems to come down to, “if we get this program going, more people will show up,” and sometimes this is true, but it really is amazing what we can accomplish in the power of the flesh. It is true that nothing happens outside the providence of God, and even kings have their authority because He establishes them, but this is not the same as God’s Spirit moving on the congregation in a sanctifying way.

The idea of common grace and saving grace applies not only to individuals but churches also. A church can grow in number and wealth if it has the right marketing plan, along with a number of other useful strategies, but this does not necessarily mean anything spiritual is happening there.

A church where the congregants live worldly lives for the entire week is not really growing, even if it is getting more numbers in on a regular basis. We cannot call it church growth when the majority of a local church is involved in much of the same worldly lifestyle as the rest of society. If we, as congregants, spend our week chasing after self-glory, personal peace, affluence, and we let the Word of God sit unread with no real prayer life, it doesn’t matter how big the church is.

In fact, this seems to be a problem in many small non-growing churches as well. The people come on Sunday and see low attendance and wonder why the pastor isn’t bringing in more people with his sermons.  Yet there is no real desire for personal holiness in their lives. After spending the entire week with no real thoughts on Godliness, they attend church and expect something to happen, but when we spend a good portion of our time doing things God hates, and not doing the things He loves, we shouldn’t expect much to happen at our church. We are the church, not just the pastor.

It seems that real church growth will not occur when there is no desire for personal holiness in the lives of its people. On the contrary, when there is a hunger for righteousness, and progress is being made in personal holiness, church growth has already begun. We don’t need more programs that will bring more people in to be just like everybody else in the world. We need individuals in the church to grow in Godliness, and as this happens, we will not need programs to bring in the people. The church will grow because the people will be bringing them in, and more programs will be developed to accompany the need for the people who are coming in desiring to know Christ and be more like Him.

So maybe this was a bit of a complaint, but it wasn’t really against the church growth movement. It was against the idea that personal holiness can be neglected, while church growth is to be expected, and this can happen in churches with big marketing plans, and some without them.

As we grow to be more like Christ
And by the world, we are less enticed,
In our hearts, God’s Spirit’s moving,
Then of our growth, He is approving.

D. Eaton

The Deeps

Lord Jesus, give me a deeper repentance, a horror of sin, a dread of its approach. Help me chastely to flee it and jealously to resolve that my heart shall be Thine alone.

Give me a deeper trust, that I may lose myself to find myself in Thee, the ground of my rest, the spring of my being. Give me a deeper knowledge of Thyself as saviour, master, lord, and king. Give me deeper power in private prayer, more sweetness in Thy Word, more steadfast grip on its truth. Give me deeper holiness in speech, thought, action, and let me not seek moral virtue apart from Thee.

Plough deep in me, great Lord, heavenly husbandman, that my being may be a tilled field, the roots of grace spreading far and wide, until Thou alone art seen in me, Thy beauty golden like summer harvest, Thy fruitfulness as autumn plenty.

I have no master but Thee, no law but Thy will, no delight but Thyself, no wealth but that Thou givest, no good but that Thou blessest, no peace but that Thou bestowest. I am nothing but that Thou makest me. I have nothing but that I receive from Thee. I can be nothing but that grace adorns me. Quarry me deep, dear Lord, and then fill me to overflowing with living water.

The Valley of Vision

Our Quiet Times Are Rarely As They Appear

 

quiet-times

If someone were to walk by, they would see a man at rest on the Lord’s day. He is sitting on the front porch 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 he can to stay on task and stay focused on the word. There is a 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, ones that turn his eyes from things above and diverts 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 peace.

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. Worries at work, cares at home, financial burdens, and concerns for others weigh him down.

The outside world cannot see it, but this internal war is raging. Yet, there is something deeper still going on. Something even the man himself cannot see. At this very moment, the eyes of the Lord are looking to and fro throughout the earth to be strong on behalf of those who put their trust in him, and the Father has locked his eyes on his 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 that the man be taken out of the world, but that he be kept from the evil one. The Savior is praying that the man will be set apart from the world and that he will be sanctified in the truth: the very word of God he is holding in his hands.

As he sits and reads, engage 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 it is by being comforted by God in times of difficulty that we are taught to comfort others. Something he longs to do.

It is here that the Spirit reminds him that 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 not until our weakness is exposed that the treasure begins to shine forth. 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 and 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. There is an intimacy with his Savior that reminds him that the weight of his troubles cannot compare to the weight of glory that lies ahead. That night, he sets his a 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.

D. Eaton

Other Posts From The Fight of Faith

16 Lessons on Pursuing Holiness

Not that I have already attained, but in my desire to press on, I recently taught a class called Holiness: Seeking the Savior’s Likeness at Bethel Grace Baptist Church. If you are interested, you can listen to the lessons at the links below. Simply click on the link to play, or right-click to download the mp3.

 

Broken and Blessed

No matter how much I strained and struggled there was no relief. I could not win the fight. At the time, none of it made any sense. What or who was I even struggling against?  All I saw was wave after wave crashing upon me, which were driven by the dark skies overhead. I fought and fought but to no avail. At first, I was determined, but the battle continued, the night was long, and my strength was spent.

It was lonely. No matter how many people came to encourage me and let me know they were concerned, they could not take this burden from me. When you face a time like this, you do everything you can to be as light of a load as possible on your loved ones, so even though they carry some of the weight, there is a portion of it that you always have to bear alone.

I continued to fight, but the battle seemed unending. I fought to subdue it until it broke me. Its accuracy was so perfect that it struck right where I thought I was strong. My strength was vanquished, and I was no longer able to contend, but in my brokenness, something happened. I recognized the hand that was heavy upon me.

Just like the story of Jacob wrestling with God, we can sometimes be left alone for a long night of combat, but when it comes to the story of Jacob, we often fail to see the full picture. That event is often explained as Jacob wrestling God to get a blessing from Him. It is said that through his persistence, Jacob prevailed and was blessed. This understanding is why this event is often seen as a picture of our need to prevail in prayer, and I believe that is a truth that can be drawn from this time in Jacob’s life. However, I believe there is something more.

This night of wrestling is not primarily about Jacob getting something out of God. This contest is about God getting something out of Jacob. Remember, Jacob did not go looking for the struggle. God came to Him, and for a while, Jacob had no idea what was going on. Here is the point that is often missed. During the fight, Jacob had a complete reversal and went from striving against God to clinging to Him, and that is where the blessing was given.

When dark providences hit our life, we often fight and struggle in our own strength against the powers that confront us, but once in a while, through the sovereignty of God, we are shown our weakness, and we find ourselves broken. For the believer, it is during those moments that we stop striving against God and start clinging to Him because we find our strength to be nothing, and learn that without Him we are doomed.

This reversal is precisely what happened when we came to know the Lord. The conviction of sin began to lay heavy upon us, and we did everything in our power to resist it. We tried leaning on our morality, philosophies, and the suppression of our guilt but the heavy hand of God upon our sinfulness was more than we could handle. At that moment, we turned to our pursuer and found a hand ready to bless us. Just like Jacob, our names were changed from deceiver to Israel, Prince of God. The Lord came to us, fought against our sinfulness and self-reliance and then delivered us.

I am not sure what you may have faced in the past, or what you might be suffering right now, but if you see yourself clinging more to Jesus because of it, it is a work of God. He has come to bless you. After we face a time like this, we are changed. We have come to understand our weakness, as well as God’s strength. Jacob’s realization came when God touched his hip and put it out of joint. That was the moment his strength failed, and he realized who he was fighting. Because of that encounter, Jacob walked with a limp for the rest of his life.

Some may have looked at Jacob and mockingly asked, “Is this the mighty man of God I’ve heard about? He can’t even walk correctly.” Likewise, because of some of the battles you have faced, you may have disfigurements that are still evident to the world, and some may ridicule you for them. But if what caused those scars in your life, caused you to walk closer with your Lord, those who know your Savior will recognize them, not as flaws, but as the fingerprints of our gracious God.

So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. -Genesis 32:30-31

D. Eaton

 

 

Every Fear Must Bow

You, O Lord, are my refuge and strength. No matter what fears assail me, they cannot stand before you. Whether my anxieties are based on reality or the result of my doubting heart, you are the calmer of my soul. There is no darkness your light cannot penetrate.

You are my peace. Every fear finds its defeat in you because none of them can overshadow your glory. There is no anxiety which can maintain its strength in the presence of your might. There is no cunning that can stand in the light of your wisdom and knowledge.

One day your Majesty will be acknowledged by all. Not only will every knee bow and every tongue confess that you are Lord, but, for all who come to you in faith, every sickness must heal, every broken heart must mend, every need must be met, and every loneliness must find its true companion. All of this is possible because no stain of sin can resist the cleansing power of your cross.

Nothing can touch you, O Lord, and my life is hidden in you. You are my helper, the upholder of my life. I give you thanks and praise in the midst of a dark and troubled land. May my worship be like a lighthouse calling to ships on a dangerous sea to find their rest in your harbor.

Calm my soul, O Lord. Let me look in triumph upon every fear. Let your peace, which passes understanding, rule in my heart. Hide me in the shadow of your wing. My soul clings to you, and your right hand upholds me.

O my Strength, I will watch for you, for you, O God, are my fortress. Psalm 59:9

D. Eaton (with help from the Psalms)

3 Reflections on Sickness and the Christian Life

Being laid up for three days gives you some time to think about your frailty. Day one was enough in itself, but when you expect to get better on day two, and it gets worse, it starts to lower your spirits.  Today, the third day, is the first day I have had enough strength to sit up and write, and I am even finding this exhausting. I only have a flu virus. I’m sure if anyone reading this has battled, or is battling, cancer or some other serious disease, they are shaking their head saying, “you have no idea.” I’m sure you could teach me more than I could you, but I will put my thoughts here regardless, in case someone finds them edifying. Here are three thoughts that have been going through my mind as I have been laid up.

1. Sin is Serious  

There would be no sickness if it were not for sin. The reason we have to deal with any of it is because we live in a fallen world. Let me be clear, I am not saying that anytime someone gets sick it is a result of some sin they have committed. What I am saying is that because sin has entered our world, there is sickness in general. I’ve seen sickness ravage the lives of some of my friends. I saw it once in a friend whose life was taken by a virus, that, for the last several weeks of his life, he lost all control of his body. Up until a couple of months earlier, he was physically fit and running every day.  I saw it in another friend who lost his life to cancer. These two examples are enough to show us that sickness is serious, and though I do not believe these two friends were suffering because of any particular sin in their lives, they were suffering because sin has ravaged our world.

What does this say to me? It says sin is dangerous in any form. We often play around with it like it is a tame pet, but in reality, it is a deceptive brutal killer. Every time I play around with sin, I am playing with the very thing that brought not only sickness but death into the world. We must stop taking it lightly.

2. We Are Not Our Own

This life is not our own. This is true for everyone, but for the Christian, it is true in two senses. First, it is true for everyone in the sense that life is a gift, and tomorrow is promised to no one. We should never take our health for granted. None of us know when our last day of feeling good may be. It can happen overnight, all of the things we take for granted can be taken away. We live in a culture that hates to be reminded of this. We often try to hide sickness and death-keeping it as far away from us as possible. Being mindful of our frailty, however, is a valuable thing. Even David cried out, “O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! ( Psalm 39:4)” He wanted to be reminded that his life is a vapor: here today and gone tomorrow. There is a grace in knowing this, as it keeps our vision clear.  We must redeem the time. Our sinful hearts are pulling us in so many directions it is easy to get lost: to lose our center. So many things are vying for our attention, and much of it is vanity.

Once you are laid out on your back, you quickly realize just how unimportant many of the things you are pursuing are. Even if you know that your life is in no real danger, the questions still come. “What if this were it? What if my days of health were behind me? Was I spending it on what mattered?” The interesting thing about these questions is you would think the answers would make you speed up. Instead, they challenge you to slow down. So much of what we are chasing is vanity, and we don’t need to work so hard to have other people be impressed with us. We do not need to put on so many masks to make people believe we are something that we are not. In the end, none of that will matter. Our lives are not our own, and as much as we think we are, we are not in control of when or how it will end.

For the believer, there is a second sense in which our lives are not our own. We have been bought with at price: the cross of Jesus. Let that cost sink in for a moment. Remember what your Savior suffered to save you. Even knowing this, we rarely sacrifice our time for Him. As Thomas Watson put it, “Christ went more willingly to the cross than we do to the throne of grace.” We are so busy chasing the things that we think will bring us glory and pleasure that we have little time for the One who really can. We have hardly any time for the Word of God and even less time for prayer. The pursuit of holiness is rarely as enticing as chasing status in this world, and they are often opposed to one another, so it is impossible to go after both. The fact that we have little time for God tends to show us where our treasure is.

3. Suffering is Crucial to our Spiritual Health

The first two reflections leave me with one final thought on the role of Suffering in the Christian life. Suffering is essential to our spiritual health. If our Savior, who had no sin, had to suffer in this fallen world, how do we, who have sinful hearts think we will escape it. We should neither seek affliction nor run from it. As one theologian once said, “It will find us,” but when it does, it wakes us from our slumber. We are naturally drowsy and need to be frequently awakened. Not only do we begin to see the power of sin in these times, but we are also awakened to the suffering of others. It is not until we are comforted by the Lord in our times of suffering that we will be truly able to comfort others.

It is all coming to an end one day, and our health has not been promised to us. What are we doing with the time we have? I for one do not want to find myself on my deathbed saying, “I wish I would have spent more time living for my Savior, in His word, in prayer, and showing a suffering world that Jesus is the answer.” Sin, in general, and, in particular, is our greatest problem, and He bore it on the cross. He has even defeated death by rising again, and though we are sown perishable, we will be raised imperishable. I will live for Him. Everything else will be vanity on the last day, for the things of this world are passing away.

I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. – Philippians 3:8

D. Eaton

A Fear That Makes You Fearless

There is a fear that will make you fearless. Many of God’s great saints have gone through times which shook them with such terrible fear that they felt paralyzed, but it is in those times that they learned that Christ is everything. Facing dark nights, when we feel that God has forsaken us, has a way of breaking all that encumbers the heart and turns its focus to the only one who can help. These are the times of spiritual depression when we look and see our sinful hearts in all their depravity. It is here where the fear of God takes on a whole new meaning. When we go through a time like this, there is nothing that we will not surrender to God, because we finally see how hopeless we are without Him. It is in these times that we offer our boldest prayers. We are willing to cry, “Lord, take everything from me if I am not in your will, my reputation, my job, even my family if necessary. There is only one thing that will redeem me from this pit, and that is to know I am right with you.” Spurgeon said, “If a man is in this position you can lay the wealth of India at his feet and he’ll say take it away, what use is that to me.”

When a person goes through a time like this and comes out on the other side, that person has been changed, and many times the Lord left everything intact, the reputation, the job, and the family, but at the same time, He has taken it from him. The fears that once tormented are gone because this person has seen the greatest truth: without Christ we have nothing and with Him we have everything. They also learn that they belong to Him, and even when it seems He is against us, He is for us. This newly found freedom emboldens the man do and say things that he once could not because of his fears. It gives him the ability to take a stand for Christ no matter what the cost. We see this in John Bunyan spending years in prison without denying Christ, or Luther standing before the powers of Rome declaring, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” They had been through times where their sins tormented them, and during those times, they saw the worthlessness of everything in measure to Christ. As a result, they now look at the fears of this world as nothing in comparison.

There is a great picture of this in the movie “The Four Feathers”. The main character is in a group of military friends who are told they will be going to battle. The main character is afraid, so he resigns. From this, four of his closest friends each gives him a feather signifying that he is a coward. Seeing the result of his decision he heads off to Saudi Arabia to find this group and redeem his cowardly act. The things he faces make going to war pale in comparison. In the midst of his ordeal, a man says to him “why did you not go to war?” His reply is “I was afraid”. The man who asked the question began to laugh out loud and says “you, scared? I found you half dead in the middle of the desert by yourself.” To which he responds, “it’s a different kind of fear.”

It’s a different kind of fear to fear the Lord. Not the kind of fear that will cause you to run away, but a fear that will cause you to run to Him and stand strong. In finding this fear, the chains of fear begin to break. Praise God for causing our hearts to fear and for delivering us from it.

When I cling to earthly things
Within my heart, fear pulls the strings
Lord, all these things, take if you must
For in your Love, I’ll place my trust.

Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

D. Eaton