THE REFINER’S FIRE – Job said “When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10-note) Gold is tested by fire. Saints are tested by adversity! None of God’s children enjoy the Refiner’s Fire, but all of us experience it to one degree or another, at one time or another. It may or may not always be a physical trial, but it is always a spiritual trial! And we often find ourselves with a gamut of emotions (anger, fear, despair, frustration, etc) and questions like “Why me?,” “Why now?,” etc. But as someone has said God takes us into His “darkroom” to develop our character (Ro 5:3-4-note). And so when you are in the darkness, hold on to what God has shown you in the light. As Corrie Ten Boom puts it “When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away your ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.” We need to remember that the darker the night, the brighter the stars. The hotter the fire, the purer the gold. Even as a gem cannot be polished without friction, neither can a saint be perfected without trials. The more a tree of righteousness is shaken by the wind, the deeper he or she becomes rooted in Christ Jesus. In the final analysis, affliction is the saint’s school of faith and trial is the school of trust. In light of the fact that faith-testing times can be faith-strengthening times, our great Teacher writes many a bright lesson on the blackboard of affliction, for some of life’s greatest lessons are learned in the school of affliction! “All God’s testings have a purpose, Someday you will see the light. All He asks is that you trust Him, Walk by faith and not by sight. (Zoller)
C H Spurgeon, who experienced many physical and spiritual trials, said that there is no education like adversity, testifying “I have derived more real benefit and permanent strength and growth in grace, and every precious thing, from the furnace of affliction, than I have ever derived from prosperity. Stars may be seen from the bottom of a deep well, when they cannot be discerned from the top of a mountain. So are many things learned in adversity which the prosperous man dreams not of. Troubles, like files, take away our rust; like furnaces, they consume our dross; like winnowing-fans they drive away the chaff, and we would have but little usefulness, if we had not been made to pass through the furnace. And in all our troubles we have found the character of God a comfort, for the Refiner is never very far from the mouth of the furnace when His gold is in the fire.” While God never promised we would miss the storms, He has promised we will make the harbor! As Wiersbe said “When God puts His own people into the furnace, He keeps His eye on the clock and His hand on the thermostat. He knows how long and how much.” He is not an arsonist, but a Refiner! “Though times be dark, the struggles grim, And cares rise like a flood, This sweet assurance holds to Him: My God is near and good.” (Hager)
At age 68 I am experiencing the most severe trial of my life (and faith) as my wife of 45 years is suffering from severe anorexia nervosa which is causing her to progressively withdraw from daily interactions with family and friends. And so as I was reading Spurgeon’s sermon on Job 23:10-note (“Whither Goest Thou?”), I was moved to share excerpts with you beloved, as I know many of you are undergoing trials which don’t seem to be either momentary or light! My prayer is that God’s Spirit will use these truths to fortify you in the fire you are experiencing so that when you come forth like pure gold, you might bring great glory to the Lamb of God, Christ Jesus. Amen
Spurgeon’s Sermon – “TRIALS are no evidence of being without God, since TRIALS come from God. Job says, “When He has tried me.” He sees God in his afflictions. The devil actually wrought the trouble; but the Lord not only permitted it, He had a design in it. Without the divine concurrence, none of his afflictions could have happened. It was God that tried Job, and it is God that tries us. No trouble comes to us without divine permission. All the “dogs of affliction” are muzzled until God sets them free. Nay, against none of the seed of Abraham can a dog move its tongue unless God permits. Troubles do not spring out of the ground like weeds that grow randomly, but they grow orderly as plants set in the garden. God appoints the weight and number of all our adversities. If He declares the number ten they cannot be eleven. If He wills that we bear a certain weight, no one can add half an ounce more. Since every trial comes from God, afflictions are no evidence that you are out of God’s way.
Besides, according to the text, these trials are tests: “When he hath tried me.” The trials that came to Job were made to be proofs that the patriarch was real and sincere. Did not the enemy say: “Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.” [Job 1:10-11]. The devil will have it that as dogs follow men for bones, so do we follow God for what we can get out of Him. The Lord lets the devil see that our love is not bought by temporal goods, that we are not mercenary followers, but loving children of the Lord, so that under dire suffering we exclaim, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (Job 13:15). By the endurance of grief our sincerity is made manifest, and it is proven that we are not mere pretenders, but true heirs of God. (Ro 8:17-note)
If you have met with TROUBLES, remember they will come to an end. The holy man in our text says, “WHEN He has tried me.” As much as to say, He will not always be doing it. There will come a time when He will have done trying me (1Pe 1:6-note, 1Pe 5:10-note). Beloved, put a stout heart to a steep hill and you will climb it before long. Put the ship in good trim for a storm, and though the winds may howl for a while, they will at length sob themselves asleep. There is a sea of glass for us after the sea of storms (Rev 4:6-note). Only have patience and the end will come. Many a man of God has lived through a hundred troubles when he thought one would kill him, and so will it be with you. You young believers, you that are bound for the kingdom, but have only lately started for it, be not amazed if you meet with conflicts (Phil 1:29-note, 2Ti 3:12-note). If you very soon meet with difficulties, be not surprised (1Pe 4:12-note). Let your trials be evidence to you rather that you are in the right, than that you are in the wrong way; “for what son is there whom his father does not chasten?” (Heb 12:7-8-note) He that will go to hell will find many to help him thither; but he that will go to heaven may have to cut his way through a host of adversaries (Acts 14:22). Pluck up courage (Jn 16:33). The rod is one of the tokens of the child of God. If thou were not God’s child you might be left unchastened; but inasmuch as you are dear to Him, He will whip you when you disobey. If you were only a bit of common clay God would not put you into the furnace; but as you are gold and He knows it, you must be refined. And to be refined it is needful that the fire should exercise its power upon you (1Pe 1:6-7-note). Because you are bound for heaven, you will meet with storms on your voyage to glory (1Th 3:2-4-note).
Have you confidence in God as to these storms? Can you say, in the language of the text, “When he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold”? If you are really trusting in Jesus, if He is everything to you, you may say this confidently, for you will find it true to the letter. If you have really given yourself up to be saved by grace, do not hesitate to believe that you will be found safe at the last (2Ti 4:18-note). Trust Christ for everlasting salvation: mark the word “everlasting.” (2Pe 1:11KJV) I thank God, that when I believed in His Son Jesus Christ, I laid hold upon final perseverance: I believed that where He had begun a good work He would carry it on and perfect it in the day of Christ (Php 1:6-note, 1Th 5:24-note). I believed in the Lord Jesus, not for a year or two, but for all the days of my life, and to eternity. I want your faith to have a “hand” of that kind, so that you grasp the Lord as your Savior to the uttermost (Heb 7:25KJV-note). I cannot tell what troubles may come, nor what temptations may arise; but I know in whose hands I am, and I am persuaded that He is able to preserve me (2Ti 1:12-note), so that when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. I go into the fire, but I shall not be burned up in it. “I shall come forth.” Like the three holy children, though the furnace be heated seven times hotter (Da 3:16-19-note), yet the Son of God will be with me in the furnace (Da 3:25KJV-note), and “I shall come forth” with not even the smell of fire upon me (Da 3:27-note). Yes, “I shall come forth,” and none can hinder me. It is good to begin with this holy confidence, and to let that confidence increase as you get nearer to the recompense of the reward (Jas 1:12-note, 2Co 4:17-note). Hath He not promised that we shall never perish (Jn 10:28)? Shall we not, therefore, come forth as gold?
This confidence is grounded on the Lord’s knowledge of us. “He knows the way that I take” (Job 23:10-note): therefore, “when he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” If something happened to us which the Lord had not foreseen and provided for, we might be in great peril. But He knows our way even to the end (Ps 1:6-note), and is prepared for its rough places. If some amazing calamity could come upon us which the Lord had not reckoned upon, we might well be afraid of being wrecked. But our Lord’s foreseeing eye hath swept the horizon and prepared us for all weathers. He knows where storms lurk and cyclones hide away; and He is at home in managing tempests and tornadoes. If His far-seeing eye has spied out for us a long sickness and a gradual and painful death, then He has prepared the means to bear us through (2Cor 12:9-10-note). If He has looked into the mysterious unknown of the apocalyptic Revelation, and seen unimaginable horrors and heart melting terrors, yet He has forestalled the necessity which He knows is coming. It is enough for us that our Father knows what things we have need of and “when he has tried us, we shall come forth as gold.” Amen.
Listen to the words of Cowper’s incomparable hymn
“God Moves in a Mysterious Way”
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
See Commentaries related to suffering…
1 Peter 6-7 Commentary
THE BIBLE & ILLUMINATION – To illuminate means to have something brightened with light and made clear to the eyes. Figuratively, illumination can mean to be be enlightened spiritually. Simply put, illumination in the spiritual sense is “turning on the light.” The Source of spiritual illumination is the Father, the Channel is the Holy Spirit and the supreme Goal is that He shine “in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2Cor 4:6-note) While some might say this is a bit too mystical, it is thoroughly Biblical. Indeed, illumination is something we should pray for even as Paul prayed for the saints at Ephesus asking that “the eyes of (their) heart (the core of one’s being) be enlightened, so that (they) may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints and what is the surpassing (Gk – exceedingly extraordinary) greatness of His power (dunamis – inherent supernatural power to to live a supernatural life = “Resurrection power” – Eph 1:20-note) toward us who believe.” (Eph 1:18-19-note) Paul was not praying for new revelation, but for spiritual illumination of truth they already knew. And that is our desperate need, every time we open the Book we should beg God: “Open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things from Your Law.” (Ps 119:18-note). As D L Moody said, Spirit led “study of God’s Word brings peace to the heart. In it, we find a light for every darkness, life in death, the promise of our Lord’s return, and the assurance of everlasting glory.” This begs a question – Every time you open the Book, do you ask the Author to open your heart to receive the truth? If you do, you can rest assured that with God’s Word as your map and His Spirit as your compass, you are sure to stay on course. “Oh, that Thy words, like the beams of the sun, may enter through the window of my understanding, and dispel the darkness of my mind!” (Spurgeon) “I scanned the Scriptures thoughtlessly—My haste had closed my ear; Then prayerfully I read once more—This time my heart could hear.” (Gustafson)
The Scriptures teach that the Holy Spirit and the Holy Word operate together. As Puritan Stephen Charnock wrote “The Word is the chariot of the Spirit, the Spirit the Guider of the Word.” Jesus promised His disciples that “when the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth.” (Jn 16:13) Hallelujah, He has come and now indwells all His children, Paul explaining that “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” (Ro 8:9-note) Paul also taught that “the natural (unregenerate) man cannot accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” (1Cor 2:14-note) In contrast believers have received “the Spirit Who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.” (1Cor 2:12-note) John wrote that we “have an anointing from the Holy One” (1Jn 2:20-note), going on to explain that “the anointing which you received from Him abides in you (the indwelling Spirit 1Cor 6:19-note), and you have no need for anyone to teach you.” (1Jn 2:27-note) John is not saying we don’t need teachers (Eph 4:11-note; Acts 13:1), but wants us to understand that each believer is capable and responsible to study the Word for themselves, because the Spirit Who inspired the Scriptures, has anointed and indwelt every believer. As Alexander Maclaren said “He who has the Holy Spirit in his heart and the Scriptures in his hands has all he needs.” O blessed holy book, the Bible, for there is no other book wherein the Author Who wrote it is always present with you, ever ready to explain what He wrote! Spurgeon agrees that “If you do not understand a book by a departed writer you are unable to ask him his meaning, but the Spirit, Who inspired Holy Scripture, lives forever, and He delights to open the Word to those who seek His instruction.”
Spurgeon reminds us that “God, by His Spirit, brings old truth home to the heart, gives new light to our eyes, and causes the Word to exercise new power over us.” Warren Wiersbe adds that “Illumination is the work of the Holy Spirit, and we must depend on Him to teach us new truths and to remind us of truths we may have forgotten (Jn 14:26b). When (we are) “in the Spirit,” (Rev 1:10-note) the Word comes forth with power and penetration. We experience what the little girl in London meant when she said to her mother, “Mother, is Mr. Spurgeon speaking to me?” The Word becomes personal….The blessing doesn’t come because we hear the Word; it comes because we do the Word. Anything else is pure deception. (Jas 1:22-note)” Indeed, it is better to live one verse of the Bible, than to recite an entire chapter. As Jesus taught “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” (Jn 13:17)
Order or Chaos? – Tony Evans observes that “In revelation, God discloses His truth. Through inspiration, He sees that it is recorded for us. And by the illumination of His Spirit, He enables us to understand and apply it. When you get all of this working in your life, you’re going to grow as a follower of Christ! (1Pe 2:2-note,2Pe 3:18-note) In Genesis 1:2 the Spirit hovered over “the surface of the waters.” In Genesis 1:3 God said, “Let there be light.” Light was not present until the Spirit of God hovered. Why is that important? When the Spirit of God hovers and the Word of God speaks, order comes out of chaos. That’s what happened in creation. The earth was “formless and void” before the Spirit and the light came (Ge 1:2). Does your life ever feel formless and void? Ever feel empty, chaotic in your life? Guess how you move from chaos to order? You do so when the holy Word is mixed with the hovering Spirit. That’s not just reading your Bible. That’s asking God to illumine what you read and submitting your heart to it. Then God’s Spirit brings order out of chaos.” The psalmist echoes this truth writing “The unfolding (unveiling giving understanding) of Thy Words gives light. It gives understanding to the simple.” (Ps 119:130) The Spirit’s illumining work is not to change the sense of the Scriptures, but to restore us to our senses!
Illuminated Bibles? – In a sermon on the Holy Spirit, Spurgeon asked “Do any of you have an illuminated Bible? “No,” says one, “I have a morocco Bible,” or “I have a marginal reference Bible.” Ah! that is all very well, but have you an illuminated Bible? “Yes, I have a large family Bible with pictures in it.” Yes, but have you an illuminated Bible? “I don’t understand what you mean by an illuminated Bible.” Well, it is the Christian man who has an illuminated Bible. He does not buy it illuminated originally, but when he reads it – “A glory gilds the sacred page, Majestic like the sun, Which gives a light to every page, It gives, but burrows (hides) none.” “There is nothing like reading an illuminated Bible, beloved. You may read to all eternity, and never learn anything by it, unless it is illuminated by the Spirit; and then the words shine forth like stars. The book seems made of gold leaf; every single letter glitters like a diamond. Oh! it is a blessed thing to read an illuminated Bible lit up by the radiance of the Holy Spirit. Hast thou read the Bible and studied it, my brother, and yet have thine eyes been unenlightened? Go and say, “O Lord, gild (overlay with gold) the Bible for me. I want an expounded Bible. Illuminate it; shine upon it; for I cannot read it to profit, unless Thou enlighten me.” Blind men may read the Bible with their fingers, but blind souls cannot. We want a light to read the Bible by; there is no reading it in the dark. Thus the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth, by suggesting ideas, by directing our thoughts, and by illuminating the Scriptures when we read them.” (See link to sermon below) “Open my eyes, that I may see, Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me; Place in my hands the wonderful key, That shall unclasp, and set me free.” (Scott)
Parakeet or Paraclete? - Jesus promised His disciples (and us) “the Helper (Gk – Paraclete), the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name and He will teach you all things.” (Jn 14:26) M R DeHaan tells the story of visiting a retired pastor who had a parakeet named Gibby who would say things like “Gibby is the prettiest bird in all the world” without any understanding of what he was actually saying. Many Christians go through the motions of Bible reading without the slightest idea of the true meaning of the text. It is better to read one verse in prayerful dependence on your “Paraclete (Helper), than to rattle off a whole book from memory like a parakeet! We would all do well to ask the question Philip asked the Ethiopian eunuch “Do (I) understand what (I) am reading?” (Acts 8:30) – “Ever-present, truest Friend; Ever near Thine aid to lend; Guide us as we search the Word, Make it both our shield and sword.”
Problem With the Signal? - Tony Evans writes that “Before cable television came into my neighborhood, I used a television antenna. I had a workman come out one time because I was having problems with my reception. He said, “Your signal is strong, but your antenna is not pointed in the right direction.” The Word of God is strong. There’s no problem with the “signal.” But our heart’s antenna is often not pointed in the right direction. A lot of us are fiddling with our lives trying to fix them when the problem is that our spiritual antenna is not pointed toward God. Therefore, we cannot pick up the Spirit’s signal.”
Travesty of Information without Illumination! – A seminary professor visiting the Holy Lands met a man who claimed to have memorized the entire Old Testament in Hebrew! Needless to say, the astonished professor asked for a demonstration. “Where shall we begin”? asked the man. The professor who was an avid student of the psalms replied “Psalm 1.” So for two hours the man effortlessly and flawlessly recited the Psalms from memory as the professor sat in stunned silence. When the demonstration was over, the professor discovered something even more astonishing about the man-he was an atheist! Here was a man who intellectually could go through the Scriptures, but without the Spirit’s illumination the Scriptures never once went through him! Richard Lenski commented that “For all spiritual things, our thinking abilities, however keen and sharp, are not sufficient. The Lord must control, guide, enlighten our understanding.” Many books can inform, but only a Spirit illuminated Bible can transform! (2Cor 3:18-note)
Intellect and Illumination – Paul understood our need to couple intellect and illumination exhorting Timothy to “Consider (seek to intellectually grasp the meaning = Our Responsibility) what I say, for the Lord (the Spirit) will give you understanding (God’s Promised Provision) in everything.” (2Ti 2:7-note) John Piper explains that “So many people swerve off the road to one side of this verse or the other. Some stress, “Think over what I say.” They emphasize the indispensable role of reason and thinking. And they minimize the decisive supernatural role of the Spirit in making the mind able to see and embrace the truth. Others stress the second half of the verse: “for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” They emphasize the futility of reason without the Spirit’s illumining work. But Paul will not be divided that way. (We must) embrace both human thinking and divine illumination. For Paul, it was not either-or but both-and. If God does not open our eyes, we will not see the wonder of the Word. We are not naturally able to see spiritual beauty. When we read the Bible without the help of the Holy Spirit, the glory of God in the teachings and events of the Bible is like the sun shining in the face of a blind man. (We must be) desperate for God and hungry for God, and this must set us to pleading and crying out to God for His help in reading the Bible. We must pray for it—“Open my eyes.” (Ps 119:18-note) And if we would stay alive in God and be real and authentic and intense in our love for Him, we must be desperate to have this enabling every day. So pray, pray, pray.” May we daily be like the psalmist who declared “I rise before dawn and cry for help. I wait for Your Words. O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.” (Ps 119:147, 97)
Tender Heart – Without a heart for God, we cannot hear God’s Word. Proper understanding of spiritual truth is not dependent on a keen intellect but on a tender heart, a heart that is “humble and contrite of spirit, and which trembles at My Word.” (Isa 66:2) We don’t as much need physical eyes to read the Bible, as we need the spiritual eyes of our heart enlightened to love the Author. The story is told of a poor, blind French girl who obtained a Braille copy of Mark and learned to read it with her fingers. But eventually her fingers became so calloused she could no longer distinguish letters and words. In desperation for the Word, she cut the calluses in an attempt to restore the sense of touch, but sadly the scarring had the opposite effect. Faced with the reality that she must give up her beloved Book, with weeping she pressed the Braille copy of Mark to her lips, lamenting “Farewell, farewell, sweet Word of my Heavenly Father!” To her surprise, she discovered that her lips were even more sensitive to touch than her fingers had been! And from that moment on she “read” the Bible with her lips, and doubtless offered praises like the psalmist who cried “Let my lips utter praise, for You teach me Your statutes.” (Ps 119:171)
May our prayer ever be…
Open My Eyes, That I May See
by Clara H Scott
Open my eyes, that I may see
Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unclasp, and set me free.
Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready, my God, Thy will to see:
Open my eyes, illumine me,
Open my ears, that I may hear
Voices of truth Thou sendest clear;
And while the wave notes fall on my ear,
Ev’rything false will disappear.
Open my mouth, and let me bear
Gladly the warm truth ev’rywhere;
Open my heart, and let me prepare
Love with Thy children thus to share.
Spurgeon’s Sermon The Holy Spirit Your Teacher
MORE IN DEPTH COMMENTARIES ON…
ARE YOU ENTANGLED? – In some of his last words to Timothy, Paul wrote that “No soldier in active service ENTANGLES himself in the affairs of everyday life (“civilian pursuits”), so that he may please the One Who enlisted him as a soldier.“ (2Ti 2:4-note)
What is the meaning of ENTANGLED? Webster says that to be ENTANGLED is to be interwoven, wrapped or twisted together in such a manner as not to be easily extricated (freed from what binds or hinders). The Greek word for ENTANGLE is EMPLEKO (en = in + pleko = to weave) which literally means to “weave in” and thus to intertwine or interconnect closely as by wrapping or twisting together. Empleko means “to be involuntarily interlaced to the point of immobility.” (BDAG) It was used in secular writings meaning “to ENTWINE one’s hand in another’s clothes, so as to hold him.” Empleko was used to describe a runner entangled in his long robe, which would hinder his ability to run in such a way so as to win (cp Heb 12:1-note, 1Cor 9:24-27-note). Figuratively empleko means to become so entwined in an activity that it interferes with other activities or objectives. The related noun (emploke) was used by Peter to describe the BRAIDING of hair (1Pe 3:3-note). The root verb (pleko) described “WEAVING a crown of thorns” for Jesus’ mock coronation (Mt 27:29). Can you begin to get a sense of why Paul warned soldiers of Christ to avoid becoming ENTANGLED “with the affairs of everyday life?” In the context of Paul’s exhortation, empleko depicts one who becomes so entangled that they are hindered, even controlled, and no longer free to function effectively as a Christian soldier. Clearly, “a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2Ti 2:3-note), enabled by the Spirit, must continually choose to focus on eternal priorities, not temporal peripherals, holding the temporal loosely and prizing the eternal passionately. As F B Meyer explains “The less encumbered we are, the more easily shall we be able to execute the least command of our Great Captain.” “Let worldly minds the world pursue, It has no charms for me; Once I admired its trifles too, But grace has set me free.” (John Newton)
ILLUSTRATION – In Brazil there grows a common plant which forest-dwellers call the matador or “murderer.” Its slender stem creeps along the ground, but no sooner does it meet a vigorous tree, than it sends out an entangling tentacle, which cleaves and climbs up the tree, at intervals sending out arm-like tendrils that further entangle the tree. As the “murderer” ascends, these ligatures grow larger and their clasp becomes tighter. Up and up the rogue vine climbs until the last loftiest spire is gained and fettered. Then, as if in triumph, the parasite shoots a huge, flowery head above the strangled summit, and there from the dead tree’s crown, scatters its seed to begin its entangling work again. In a similar way everyday affairs can subtly entangle soldiers of Christ, in effect neutralizing their effectiveness in the ongoing spiritual war with the world, the flesh and the devil. John Piper says when a Christian soldier’s “evenings and days off (begin to be) filled up with harmless, enjoyable diversions…the whole feel changes. The radical urgency fades. The wartime mentality shifts to a peacetime mentality. The lifestyle starts to get cushy. The all-consuming singleness of vision evaporates.” Spurgeon adds that “Many of God’s children are in this condition — entangled, surrounded, captive, held fast!” Are their any “matador vines” in your life that need to be eradicated?
INVOLVED VERSUS ENTANGLED – The word for entangle (empleko) was also used to describe sheep whose wool was caught in thorns. This word picture helps illustrate the main difference between getting INVOLVED and becoming ENTANGLED. Simply stated, one is entangled when he is not free to get loose! When the everyday affairs of this life hem us in so tightly that we cannot free ourselves to fulfill the call of Christ our Commander, then we have become ENTANGLED in the “thorns” of non-eternal pursuits! Indeed, you can be sure that you have become entangled when your possessions (or projects or passions) possess you! How easily this can happen in our increasingly materialistic, hedonistic, self-absorbed society! Before we realize it, our soul can be subtly seduced away from the path of discipleship until we find ourselves inextricably snagged by the “thorns” of popular philosophy, godless values of society or the “passing pleasures of sin.” (Heb 11:25-note) Solomon gives us a good antidote instructing us to “Guard (keep watch over [as you would a precious treasure]) your heart (your moral “control center”) with all vigilance and diligence, knowing that out of it flows the springs of life (as that which “determines the course of your life” -NLT).” (Pr 4:23-note) We need to continually “be alert and sober” (1Thes 5:6-note) and to meditate on those things which will still be standing long after the breath of God has swept all other non-eternal entities into oblivion, ever choosing to “set our mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth, for we have died and our life is hidden with Christ in God, and when Christ our life is revealed, then we also will be revealed with Him in glory.” (Col 3:2-4-note) Indeed, attachment to Christ is the secret of detachment from the world. “The nearer to heaven in hopes, the farther from earth in desires.” (Gurnall) As Calvin said “The mind of a Christian ought not to be filled with thoughts of earthly things or find satisfaction in them, for we ought to be living as if we might have to leave this world at any moment. If meditation on the heavenly life were the prevailing sentiment in our hearts, the world would have no influence in detaining us.” John Piper asks several probing questions we would all do well to ponder – “Do we live like our citizenship is in heaven and wait eagerly for the Savior to return (Php 3:20-note)? Do we feel like death would be more gain than loss (Php 1:21-note)? Are we so entangled with this world that leaving it is the worst thing we can think of?”
INVOLVED IN EVERYDAY AFFAIRS - In the Garden, Jesus prayed for us to be IN the world but not OF the world. (Jn 17:11, 14, 16) As Blanchard observed “Jesus did not ask that His Father take Christians out of the world, but that He take the world out of Christians.” (cp Jn 17:17, 19) Indeed, we are to live IN the world, but must not let the world live IN us. A boat in water is by design, but water in the boat is disaster! As Wiersbe explains “Identification with the world and its needs is one thing. Imitation of the world and its foolishness is quite another.” Clearly Paul is not advocating isolation FROM the world, for then we could no longer function as salt and light IN the world (Mt 5:13-16-note)! An excellent example of a good soldier of Christ who lived in but not of the world is seen in the life and legacy of Christian businessman R. G. LeTourneau, a philanthropist (founder of LeTourneau University, a Christian school) who was such salty salt and appealing light in the marketplace that his secular contemporaries referred to him as “God’s businessman!” May his tribe increase! “In this world but never of it, Help me, Lord, to live this day, Free from all that would entangle, Of the dazzle and array.” Amen (Graves)
PLEASING HIM – Our motivation for pursuing the unentangled life should be to “please Him.” (2Ti 2:4b-note), indeed, always making it “our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him” (2Cor 5:9-note), to Christ—not others, not ourselves. What passing pleasure in this present world can even begin to compare with the indescribable satisfaction of hearing those words, “Well done, My good and faithful servant” (Mt 25:21, Lk 19:17) from the lips of the One Who breathed eternity into existence (Jn 1:3)? Thomas Brooks reminds us “The stars which have least circuit are nearest the pole, and men whose earths are LEAST ENTANGLED with the world are always nearest to God and to the assurance of His favor.” “Now may the God of peace, Who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you with every good thing (God’s provision) to do His will (Our responsibility), working in us (by His indwelling Spirit) that which is PLEASING IN HIS SIGHT, through Jesus Christ, to Whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Heb 13:20-21-note) “Living for Jesus—O what rest!, Pleasing my Savior, I am blest. Only to live for Him alone, Doing His will till life is done!” (Weigele)
A GOOD SOLDIER – 2Timothy 2:4 was Jim Elliot’s life verse and it was this eternally focused mindset that prompted him to write those memorable words, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose,” an excellent summary of the “UNENTANGLED LIFE!” As Thomas Guthrie said “If you find yourself loving any pleasure better than your prayers, any book better than the Bible, any house better than the house of God, any table better than the Lord’s table, any person better than Christ, any indulgence better than the hope of heaven—take alarm!” (cp 1Jn 2:15-17-note) Jonathan Edwards, like Jim Elliot, understood Paul’s call to an UNENTANGLED LIFE and even as a young man sought to live his spiritual life with a radical single-mindedness – “Resolved, Never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body…but what tends to the glory of God. Resolved, Never, henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were any way my own, but entirely and altogether God’s. Resolved, That I will not give way to that listlessness which I find unbends and relaxes my mind from being fully and fixedly set on religion (Christ), whatever excuse I may have for it. Resolved, Never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.” Indeed, every soldier of Christ should ask of every earthly activity (even ostensibly good things) the simple question – “Will it entangle me?”
SUMMARY – Paul’s description of the Christian soldier who seeks to please his Lord could be summed up as ” Whole-Hearted, Single-Hearted, Undivided Heart, Single-Minded, Pure Heart,” in short a heart NOT ENTANGLED by the everyday affairs of life! Dawson Trotman, a man who was greatly used by God wrote to his thousands of disciples “We are not out to raise monuments to man’s creeds and accomplishments, but we are looking to GOD to raise up living stones – monuments to His grace – yielded young men and women whose eyes are SINGLED to His glory.” As Wiersbe says us, “David did not have a sinless heart, but he did have a SINGLE HEART; and this made him a man after God’s own heart.” (Acts 13:22) May our cry be that of David who asked the Lord “Give me an UNDIVIDED HEART to fear Your Name.” (Ps 86:11-note) Below is a song from Craig Smith which captures Paul’s call to every soldier of the Cross to be whole heartedly devoted to the Captain of our salvation (Heb 2:10KJV-note), so that we might stand before Him in that great day, pleasing in His sight.
Play this song
Over and over I hear it again
That the Father desires pure hearts.
Not to seek earthly treasure or the favor of men,
But to be found with pureness of heart.
Pure heart is what the Father desires,
Holy heart, purified by God’s holy fire,
Broken hearts, proven to be faithful and true,
Fashion in me a heart that’s thirsting for You.
Search every chamber, expose them to me
Create motives of honor and simplicity
May You find faithfulness, integrity,
In a heart that is worthy for Your eyes to see.
My only ambition is to stand before You
And find I was pleasing in Your sight
An obedient child of God, faithful and true,
Found with pureness of heart.
WRITTEN INDELIBLY IN BLOOD – On January 26, 2005, at 6:03AM PST, a southbound commuter train collided with a sport utility vehicle that had been abandoned on the tracks. The train derailed and stuck another train, causing eleven deaths and over 200 injuries. There was one story coming out of that accident that gripped Southern California. It involved a man who was on that train. Normally, he later said, he would not have taken the train, but he was called in early to work at an aerospace plant in Burbank. He was sitting upstairs in the double-decker car, asleep, when the wreck occurred. He recalled waking up to find himself trapped under the debris and covered with blood. He realized he had been badly injured, and with the blood oozing from his own body, he used his finger to write a note to his family, telling them that he loved them. That is what Christ did for us. Using His “precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless” (1Pe 1:19-note), He wrote a message of love in the “blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins,” the “blood of Jesus, God’s Son, (which) cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7-note) Sin can paralyze us, but Jesus “pardons all our sins” (Ps 103:3-note), having “released us from our sins by His blood” (Rev 1:5-note) and having “made peace through the blood of His Cross.” (Col 1:20-note) “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us.” (Ephesians 1:7-8-note). Like the man in the story, Jesus did not need to “take the train,” so to speak, (alluding to the Cross), but chose to do so out of love for us (Jn 3:16, Titus 3:4-note) and obedience to His Father’s will (Isa 53:10, 1Jn 4:10), declaring “not My will, but Thine be done” (Lk 22:42)
May this illustration of Christ’s love for each of us stir our hearts to ponder deeply “how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are.” (1 John 3:1-note)
Listen to the words of the great modern hymn “How Deep the Father’s Love” sung by Fernando Ortega.
PAUL’S CALENDAR – TODAY…THAT DAY – “For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know Whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until THAT DAY.” (2 Timothy 1:12)
“Someone has said that Paul’s calendar had only two days, “TODAY” and “THAT DAY.” The man who is ready for THAT DAY is ready for ANY DAY. But we need to wear our spiritual bifocals and see BOTH DAYS. Some of the saints are near-sighted. Some are far-sighted. Paul may have had trouble with his physical eyes, but he had no spiritual astigmatism. He had good bifocals; he saw the near and the far.
Do not busy yourself TODAY with “wood, hay, stubble,” and fail to build with “gold, silver, precious stones” against THAT DAY. For “THE DAY shall declare it,” and the works of some will go up in smoke!
On the other hand, do not so contemplate ETERNITY (THAT DAY) that you waste TODAY. Some people think they are Mystics when they are only Mistakes!” (Vance Havner)
“He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. TODAY, if you would hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Psalm 95:7-8)
Making the most of TODAY is the best way to be ready for THAT DAY.
TODAY let us rise and go to our work. Tomorrow, we shall rise and go to our reward! (R Fuller)
TODAY take a moment to sing Daniel Whittle’s great hymn to Him…
I know not why God’s wondrous grace,
To me He hath made known.
Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love,
Redeemed me for His own.
But I know Whom I have believed,
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against THAT DAY.
I know not how this saving faith
To me He did impart
Nor how believing in His Word
Wrought peace within my heart.
I know not when my Lord may come
At night or noonday fair,
Nor if I’ll walk the vale with Him,
Or meet Him in the air.
WHERE DOES GOD DWELL TODAY? – In the OT Solomon asked “Will God indeed DWELL with mankind on the earth?” (2Chr 6:18) In the NT Stephen made it clear that “the Most High does not DWELL in TEMPLES made with human hands” (Acts 7:48), quoting Isaiah 66:1 where Jehovah proclaimed “Heaven is My throne and earth is the footstool of my feet. What kind of SANCTUARY will you build for Me? Where will My RESTING PLACE be?” Arnot comments “While the universe is the only proper dwelling of God, there are places which, in condescension to our weakness, are especially designated HIS dwelling to signify that He especially manifests His presence there, is especially worshiped there, and bestows there special spiritual blessings, rich spiritual banquets.” The psalmist echoes this thought declaring “How lovely is Thy DWELLING PLACE, O LORD of hosts!” (Ps 84:11ESV-note) The prophetIsaiah provides a clue as to where God dwells today, declaring that “this is what the high and lofty One says–He Who lives forever, Whose Name is holy: ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also WITH HIM who is contrite (crushed, broken, humble) and lowly (bowed down) in spirit, In order to revive (cause to live) the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.” (Isaiah 57:15-note)
In the Upper Room Discourse Jesus answered the OT question, declaring to His disciples that “the Spirit of Truth…abides WITH you and will be IN you….In that day you shall know that I am IN My Father, and you IN Me, and I IN you.” (Jn 14:17, 20-note cp Jn 14:23-note) Spurgeon wrote “Mysterious triple union — Christ IN the Father, we IN Christ, and Christ IN us. This wondrous unity is a complete riddle to all who have never been taught by the Spirit of God.” Indeed, may the Spirit open the eyes of our heart (Eph 1:18-note) to ponder deeply and often, the truth that God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the omnipresent Triune God has chosen to TABERNACLE “forever” (Jn 14:16-note) not in buildings but IN BELIEVERS, a promise first fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost, when the Spirit came to REST on each disciple (cp Acts 2:1-4-note). O precious mysterious truth that believers today are God’s DWELLING PLACE, even His place of rest! Indeed, Paul explained that “the Spirit of God the Father (Who is also) the Spirit of Christ” now DWELLS IN EVERY believer. (Ro 8:9-note, cp 1Cor 12:13-note) adding that “Christ (is) IN us, the hope of glory (the absolute assurance we will be glorified like Christ-Ro 8:17-note) .” (Col 1:27-note, cp Gal 2:20-note) How marvelous is the revelation that every believer is “complete in Christ” and now possesses all of the triune God we will ever need for “life and godliness.” (Col 2:10-note, 2Pe 1:3-note) Which begs the question – how much of our heart does He possess? Or as someone has said, we have all of Jesus we will ever receive, but how much of us does He have? O, to be daily fully surrendered to the sweet indwelling “SPIRIT OF JESUS” (Acts 16:7-note, cp Php 1:19-note) and His life giving grace and power which enables us to live a God glorifying, supernatural life, life on a higher plane. O for “A heart resigned, submissive, meek, My great Redeemer’s throne, Where only Christ is heard to speak, Where Jesus reigns alone.” (C Wesley)
Writing to the saints in the sin saturated city of Corinth, Paul sought to motivate them to a higher, holier life asking “do you not know that your BODY is a TEMPLE (Gk = NAOS-word study = the inner Sanctuary, the Holy of holies! Pause and ponder this awesome truth!) of the Holy Spirit Who is (present tense – continually, permanently) IN you, Whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For (explaining why we are not our own) you have been bought with a price (“a price incalculable, stupendous, infinite” [Spurgeon], Christ’s “precious blood…unblemished, spotless”-1Pe 1:18-19-note, Acts 20:28-note, Titus 2:14-note, Rev 1:5-note). Therefore (because of WHO is in us and WHOSE we are) GLORIFY (not a suggestion but a command to give a proper opinion of and honor to) God in your BODY.” (1Cor 6:19-20-note) John Piperemphasizes that “The body in which you dwell is not yours to do with simply as you please. God bought your body from the curse of sin by the payment of his own Son (Gal 3:13-note), and now your body should serve one all-encompassing purpose: “Glorify, God in your body.” “I belong to Jesus; He has died for me; I am His and He is mine, Throughout eternity.” (M Fraser)
Olav Olavson was a free citizen of Sweden, but he found himself hard pressed for money and in desperation sold his body to the Karolinska Institute for medical research. A year later, he inherited a fortune, but when he tried to buy himself back the Institute refused to sell him the rights to his own body, and in a lawsuit retained possession, even collecting damages for two teeth that were extracted without permission! Before being purchased by Christ, we were obligated to obey our old master, Sin, but now that we have been “ransomed from the direst slave-master to the dearest Lord,” we do not have to live like Olav Olavson who could never free himself. Jesus to Whom we now belong promised that when “the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36-note), describing a freedom which is not the right to do as we please, but the power to do as we should! “Sudden expired the legal strife, ’Twas then I ceased to grieve; My second, real, living life, I then began to live.” (O, For A Thousand Tongues to Sing by Charles Wesley) (More classic version)
William Barclay explains that in the ancient Greek culture “There was one special way in which a Greek slave could obtain his freedom. He could scrape and save, perhaps for years, such little sums as he was able to earn; and, as he saved the money, he deposited it little by little in the temple of some god. When he had laboriously amassed his complete purchase price, he took his master to the temple where the money was deposited. There the priest paid over to the master the purchase price of freedom, and the man who had been a slave became the property of the god and therefore ‘free of all men’.” Beloved, if pagans would give themselves to a god which is really no god at all, how much more should we who are bought with the price of the precious blood of Christ, give our bodies wholly to Him Who is our rightful Owner and is very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father!
Harry Ironside asks “In light of the truth that our bodies are not our own but are Temples of the Living God, “Do we think as much of this truth as we should? Would we allow many things about which we are too often careless into God’s Holy Temple if this truth were continually before our mind? We think of a church building as a sanctuary set apart for the work of the Lord. We step in from the outside, and immediately our hat comes off, for we realize that we are in a holy place.” We shutter at the thought we would think or speak or act in a way that would desecrate, profane or pollute such a holy place. Even more let us ponder this, that our body is God’s SANCTUARY, His resting place, His holy (set apart) TEMPLE, in which His Holy Spirit dwells. How careful we ought to be not to grieve or quench that blessed One Who dwells within (Eph 4:30-note, 1Th 5:19-note), lest we fail to honor and glorify the Name of the Savior Who has sent His Spirit from the Father (Jn 15:26-note) to live forever in our body. Let us say the words over and over lest we forget or become indifferent to the truth that “My body is THE TEMPLE of the Holy Spirit. God Almighty DWELLS WITHIN my frail frame.” Spurgeon adds that “the most potent plea for sanctity (holiness) is not that ‘You were made (creation),’ but that ‘You were bought (redemption).'” Frequent meditation on this truth will temper our conscience with a still small voice, which speaks of the incomparable dignity of our bodies and the solemn responsibility we have to be holy as He is holy (1Pe 1:15-16-note), daily cleansing “ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2Cor 7:1-note) How might our lives be transformed, if we awoke each morning and as royal priests of His HOLY TEMPLE (1Pe 2:9-note) offered ourselves to Him as living and holy sacrifices, surrendering ourselves wholly to His holy will for us for that day? (Ro 12:1-2-note) Then all through the day, wherever we, His SANCTUARY, traversed, we could do so with an attitude of praise and worship, ever “lifting up holy hands in the SANCTUARY” (cf Ps 28:2-note, 1Ti 2:8) declaring in our heart, His throne, “You are awesome, O God, in Your SANCTUARY.” (Ps 68:35-note) Would this not change our lives? Where we go? (Ps 1:1-note) What we listen to? What we look at? (Ps 101:3-note) What we say? (Ps 141:3-note) “Our souls and bodies we resign; With joy we render Thee. Our all, no longer ours, but Thine, To all eternity.” (C Wesley)
Under the Old Covenant of Law, God provided a Temple for His people. Under the New Covenant of Grace, He redeemed a PEOPLE for His TEMPLE. “The Temple was the one place in all the land of Israel which was entirely dedicated to God’s use. It existed solely for His service, and from all profane purposes it was completely separated. God’s ownership was recognized in every detail of its construction and service—it was truly the House of God. So it is with all who are called now to be His TEMPLE.” (James Hastings) As Adrian Rogers said “Being saved is not just getting man out of Earth into heaven; it is getting God out of heaven into man!” Spurgeon asks “Does this not make a man outstanding? Have you never stood in awe of your own self? Have you thought enough about how your poor body is sanctified, dedicated, and elevated into a sacred condition by being set apart as the TEMPLE of the Holy God?” F B Meyer adds “Built from the dust of the earth, our bodies are rarer than the most glorious structures that ever the sun shone on, because they are meant to be the SHRINE and HOME of God!” Is this not amazing grace! Meyer goes on to remind us that “Jesus spoke of the TEMPLE (Gk = naos-note) of His Body (Jn 2:19-21-note) and if He was so zealous for His FATHER’S HOUSE that He drove out the unholy traffickers (Jn 2:14-16), and refused to allow a vessel to be carried through the courts, should we not be equally careful, we who are His FATHER’S HOUSE? We are the custodians of the DIVINE RESIDENCE, so let us be very careful that there be nothing to offend or trouble the Celestial Guest.” “May we make it our business, to the last day and hour of our lives, to glorify God with our bodies.” (Matthew Henry) “Let Him to Whom we now belong, His sovereign right assert, And take up every thankful song, And every loving heart.” (C Wesley)
A Puritan’s Prayer – “O Holy Trinity, three Persons and one God, inhabit me, a TEMPLE consecrated to Thy glory. When Thou art present, evil cannot abide. In Thy fellowship is fullness of joy. (Ps 16:11-note) Beneath Thy smile is peace of conscience. By Thy side no fears disturb, no apprehensions banish rest of mind. With Thee my heart shall bloom with fragrance. Make me meet (suitable), through repentance, for Thine indwelling. Nothing exceeds Thy power, Nothing is too great for Thee to do, Nothing too good for Thee to give. Infinite is Thy might, boundless Thy love, limitless Thy grace, glorious Thy saving Name. Amen” (The Valley of Vision – click left column for today’s devotional)
In light of the life transforming truth that we are God’s Holy Temple through which His Shekinah Glory now shines into a dark world, let us prayerfully sing Frances Havergal’s famous hymn…
Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.
Take my voice, and let me sing always, only, for my King.
Take my lips, and let them be filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect, and use every power as Thou shalt choose.
Take my will, and make it Thine; it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own; it shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.
PRAYER – Draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith…pray without ceasing…lift up your heart and hands toward God in heaven…call upon His Name…the Name of the LORD, the Everlasting God…praying and making confession…pouring out your heart before Him…being sober minded and self-controlled for the purpose of prayer…keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving…praying at all times in the Spirit…with all perseverance and petition for all the saints…not worrying about anything, but praying about everything….casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you…drawing near with confidence to the throne of grace, to receive mercy and find grace to help in the time of need…(from) the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, (to Whom) be the glory forever. Amen. (Heb 10:22, 1Th 5:17, Lam 3:41, 1Chr 16:8, Ge 21:33, Ezra 10:1, Ps 62:8, 1Pe 4:7, Col 4:2, Eph 6:18, Php 4:6, 1Pe 5:7, Heb 4:16, Ro 16:27)
C H Spurgeon encourages us to pray, reminding us that…
Prayer is the breath of God in man, returning whence it came.
Prayer is the lisping of the believing infant, the shout of the fighting believer, the requiem of the dying saint falling asleep in Jesus. It is the breath, the watchword, the comfort, the strength, the honour of a Christian.
Short prayers are long enough. There were but three words in the petition which Peter gasped out — “Lord, save me.” (Mt 14:30) — 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.
If any one should ask me for an abstract of the Christian religion, I should say it is in that one word prayer. If I should be asked, “What will take in the whole of Christian experience?” I should answer, “prayer.” A man must have been convinced of sin before he could pray; he must have had some hope that there was mercy for him before he could pray. All the Christian virtues are locked up in the word prayer. In troubling times our best communion with God will be carried on by supplication. Tell Him your case, search out His promise, and then plead it with holy boldness. This is the best, the surest, and the speediest way of relief.
If we had the blessings without asking for them, we should think them common things, but prayer makes the common pebbles of God’s temporal bounties more precious than diamonds. Spiritual prayer cuts the diamond and makes it glisten more. When you are wrestling like Jacob with the angel and are nearly thrown down, ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen your arm. Consider how the Holy Spirit is the chariot-wheel of prayer. Prayer may be the chariot, the desire may draw it forth, but the Spirit is the very wheel whereby it moves.
Prayer is in itself, apart from the answer which it brings, a great benefit to the Christian. As the runner gains strength for the race by daily exercise, so for the great race of life we acquire energy by the hallowed labour of prayer.
Prayer plumes the wings of God’s young eaglets, that they may learn to mount above the clouds.
Prayer girds the loins of God’s warriors, and sends them forth to combat with their sinews braced and their muscles firm. An earnest pleader comes out of their closet, even as the sun arises from the chambers of the east, rejoicing like a strong man to run the race.
Prayer is that uplifted hand of Moses which routs the Amalekites more than the sword of Joshua; it is the arrow shot from the chamber of the prophet foreboding defeat to the Syrians.
Prayer girds human weakness with divine strength, turns human folly into heavenly wisdom, and gives to troubled mortals the peace of God.
We know not what prayer cannot do!
Because God is the living God, He can hear; because He is a loving God, He will hear; because He is our covenant God, He has bound Himself to hear.
No care, but all prayer. No anxiety, but much joyful communion with God. Carry your desires to the Lord of your life, the guardian of your soul. Go to Him with two portions of prayer and one of fragrant praise. Do not pray doubtfully, but thankfully. Consider that you have your petitions, and therefore thank God for His grace. He is giving you grace; give Him thanks. Hide nothing. Allow no want to lie rankling in your bosom; “make known your requests.” Run not to man. Go only to your God, the Father of Jesus, Who loves you in Him. This shall bring you God’s own peace. You shall not be able to understand the peace which you shall enjoy. It will enfold you in its infinite embrace. Heart and mind through Christ Jesus shall be steeped in a sea of rest. Come life or death, poverty, pain, slander, you shall dwell in Jesus above every ruffling wind or darkening cloud. Will you not obey this dear command? (Php 4:6-7) Yes, Lord, I do believe Thee; but, I beseech Thee help mine unbelief.
Anything is a blessing which makes us pray. Indeed the very act of prayer is a blessing. To pray is, as it were, to bathe in a cool, swirling stream and so to escape from the heat of earth’s summer sun. To pray is to mount on eagle’s wings above the clouds and get into the clear heaven where God dwells. To pray is to enter the treasure-house of God and to gather riches out of an inexhaustible storehouse. To pray is to grasp heaven in one’s arms, to embrace the Deity within one’s soul, and to feel one’s body made a temple of the Holy Spirit. Apart from the answer, prayer in itself is a blessing. To pray, my friends, is to cast off your burdens. It is to tear away your rags; it is to shake off your diseases; it is to be filled with spiritual vigor; it is to reach the highest point of Christian health. God grant us to be much in the holy art of wrestling with God in prayer.
Prayer must not be our chance work, but our daily business, our habit and vocation. As artists give themselves to their models, and poets to their classical pursuits, so must we addict ourselves to prayer. We must be immersed in prayer as in our element, and so pray without ceasing. Lord, teach us so to pray that we may be more and more prevalent in supplication.
Let your thoughts be psalms, your prayers incense, and your breath praise.
So…Let us pray…
See Spurgeon’s Gems on Prayer…
CHRIST OUR SANCTUARY (Part 2) – A SANCTUARY is a consecrated place, a place of God’s “holy habitation” (Ps 68:5-note) set apart for His holy praise, a sacred place where His “strength and beauty” dwells (Ps 96:6-note), a “Rock of habitation to which we may continually come,” (Ps 71:3-note), a place to be revered (Lev 19:30-note, Lev 26:2), a place for His Name (to be honored)(2Chr 20:8), a quiet place to commune with Him in intimate fellowship, a place where “the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth” (Jn 4:23-24-note), a place to “find rest for our (weary and heavy laden) souls” (Mt 11:28-29-note), a “place (a Person) of Refuge from the raging wind and tempest” (Ps 55:8-note), a “Refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat.” (Isa 25:4, Isa 32:2)
In the New Covenant, the Lord Jesus Christ is our SANCTUARY and Place of REFUGE, for our “life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col 3:3-note) To use a modern expression, Christ is our “Safe House” in Whom “we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28) now and forever. “How blessed is the one whom Thou dost choose, and bring near to Thee, to dwell in Thy courts. We will be satisfied with the goodness of Thy HOUSE, Thy Holy TEMPLE.” (Ps 65:4-note) Spurgeon writes “Behold what manner of love and blessedness the Father has bestowed upon us (1Jn 3:1KJV-note) that we may dwell in His SANCTUARY (in Christ), and go no more out forever and ever. Amen. Blessed are those who dwell at home in Christ. May both writer and reader be such men and women.” David affirms “Surely goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our life, and we will dwell in the HOUSE of the LORD (His SANCTUARY) forever.” (Ps 23:6-note) As Spurgeon says those “twin guardian angels, goodness and mercy follow us always, the black days as well as the bright days, the days of fasting as well as the days of feasting, the dreary days of winter as well as the bright days of summer. Goodness supplies our needs, and mercy blots out our sins.” And so let us “Lift up our hearts!” May our praise come “to His Holy Dwelling” (2Chr 30:27), and may we never weary of crying “O God, You are awesome in Your SANCTUARY,” (Ps 68:35-note). “O LORD, I love the HABITATION of Your HOUSE (because I love You Lord) and the place where Your (Shekinah) glory dwells.” (Ps 26:8-note) Spurgeon exhorts us: “Oh, my soul, imitate the psalmist, and let all thy desires ascend towards the highest good; longing here to see God, and having no higher joy even in eternity.” “Whether He comes in the second watch, or even in the third,” may Christ find us like His disciples, “continually in (His) TEMPLE, praising God.” (Lk 24:53)
Isaiah 8:14-note says of the LORD “He shall become a SANCTUARY (Hebrew = midqash = a holy place),” a description the Rabbis interpret as Messianic, a premise substantiated by Peter’s Spirit inspired quotation of the second part of Isa 8:14 which he uses to describe Messiah as “a Stone of stumbling and a Rock of offense.” (1Pe 2:8-note) Indeed, Christ is to all men either a SANCTUARY or a STONE of stumbling! Spurgeon affirms that “Our Lord Jesus Christ is our SANCTUARY, the Place of SECURE REFUGE for every soul that flies to Him. The moment a sinner believes in Jesus, he is safe in Christ, and he remains safe in life, safe in death, safe in judgment, safe in eternity (Ro 5:9-10-note, 1Th 1:10-note, Jn 10:29-note).” Christ is our SANCTUARY into Whom we can flee for refuge in times of danger or distress (cf Pr 18:10-note). Indeed, “God is our Refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Heb = a tight place ~ intense inner turmoil as in Ps 25:17-note).” (Ps 46:1-note) As Spurgeon says “Christ alone is our all in all. All other refuges are refuges of lies, all other strength is weakness, for power belongs to God. And as God is all sufficient, His defense and might are equal to all our emergencies. He has been tried and proved by His people and never withdraws Himself from His afflicted. He is our Help, truly, effectually, constantly; He is present or near us, close at our side and ready for our comfort. He is more present than friend or relative can be, yea, more nearly present than even the trouble itself. To all this comforting truth is added the consideration that His assistance comes at the needed time. He is not as the swallows that leave us in the winter. He is a friend in need and a friend indeed. When it is very dark with us, let brave spirits say, “Come, let us sing the forty-sixth Psalm.” Remember God never promised us an easy time, but He does promise a safe arrival!
“Should all the hosts of death, And powers of hell unknown,
Put their most dreadful forms Of rage and malice on,
I shall be safe, for Christ displays
Superior power and guardian grace.”
Perhaps you find yourself in a condition much like that of the godly remnant of Judah, exiled in an idol filled land, feeling hopeless and helpless. Indeed, the faithful remnant were in great need of a good word of encouragement from the “God of hope.” (Ro 15:13-note) While they may have felt forsaken (like all of us from time to time), they were neither forsaken nor forgotten by God, “for He Himself said, ”I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” (Heb 13:5-note) And so in a time of spiritual darkness, the Lord God gave His people a “precious and magnificent” promise (2Pe 1:4-note) declaring “Although I have cast them far off among the heathen, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet will I be to them as a LITTLE SANCTUARY in the countries where they have come.” (Ezekiel 11:16KJV-note) Observe how Jehovah Who is the grand Object of worship, promises to also be the best Place of worship, Himself the Sanctuary, even in face of the destruction of the physical sanctuary in Jerusalem. Beloved, is this promise not applicable to all believers, for we too are living in an increasingly godless, Christ rejecting land, filled with idols, living as “aliens and strangers” (1Pe 1:1-note, 1Pe 2:11-note), longingly “looking for the city which has foundations” (Heb 11:10-note, Heb 11:16-note), our eternal habitation with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, “the place where His glory dwells” (Ps 26:8-note)? The Lord has “been our DWELLING PLACE in all generations, for we have made the LORD, our Refuge, the Most High, our Dwelling Place.” (Ps 90:1-note, Ps 91:9-note) Indeed our Jesus is for us a “Little Sanctuary” wherever we go, providing “times of refreshing which come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3:19).
Spurgeon adds that God’s promise to be a LITTLE SANCTUARY applies to all weary and heavy laden sojourners in Christ: “Banished from the public means of grace, we are not removed from the grace of the means. The Lord Who places His people where they feel as exiles, will Himself be with them, and be to them all that they could have had at home, in the place of their solemn assemblies. Take this to yourselves, O ye who are called to wander! God is to His people a Place of Refuge, David declaring “my Refuge is in God.” (Ps 62:7-note, Ps 73:28-note). We find SANCTUARY in Christ from every adversary. He is our Place of Worship too. He is with us as with Jacob when he slept in the open field, and rising, said, “Surely God was in this place.” (Ge 28:16) To us also He will be a SANCTUARY of Quiet, like the Holy of Holies, which was the noiseless abode of the Eternal. We shall be at rest from fear of evil (Ps 23:4-note, Ps 112:7-note). God Himself, in Christ Jesus, is the SANCTUARY of Mercy. The Ark of the Covenant is the Lord Jesus, and Aaron’s rod, the pot of manna, the tables of the law, all are in Christ our Sanctuary. In God we find the shrine of holiness and of communion. What more do we need? O Lord, fulfill this promise and be ever to us as a LITTLE SANCTUARY!” Amen
“Jesus, before Thy face we fall—
Our Lord, our Life, our Hope, our all!
For we have nowhere else to flee—
No SANCTUARY, Lord, but Thee!”
Spurgeon – “The Lord has ways of weaning us from the visible and the tangible, and bringing us to live upon the invisible and the real, in order to prepare us for that next stage, that better life, that higher place, where we shall really deal with eternal things only. God blows out our candles, and makes us find our light in Him, to prepare us for that place in which they need no candle, for the glory of God is their light; and where, strange to tell, they have no temple, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the SANCTUARY thereof(Rev 21:22-note, Rev 22:5-note). The holy leads to the holiest: living upon God here leads to living with God hereafter. Oh, that God would gradually lift us up above all the outward, above all the visible, and bring us more and more into the inward and unseen!” (From Spurgeon’s sermon on Ezekiel 11:16 – “A Little Sanctuary” – take time to read the entire sermon)
You are my Refuge (play)
You are my Sanctuary
When I feel afraid
You’re my Hiding Place
LIGHT AFTER DARKNESS – Perhaps you are going through dark times, even as I have been for many months, with still no end in sight. May your mind be renewed and the joy of your salvation be restored as you ponder Spurgeon’s query: “Why should we dread to descend into the dark shaft of affliction, if it leads us to the gold mine of bright spiritual experience? Why should we cry out if the sun of our prosperity goes down, and yet in the darkness of our adversity we are better able to count the starry promises with which the Faithful God has been pleased to gem the sky? Many of His promises are written in ‘invisible ink,’ which we cannot read till the fire of trouble brings out the characters.”
May the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the Light of the world (Php 1:19-note, Jn 8:12-note), shine His Word of Life (1Jn 1:1-note) into our hearts, reminding us of the truth that in our times of darkness, when we are suffering “multicolored” trials, we can still “greatly rejoice” as we recall to mind that the dark times “have come so that our faith, of greater worth than gold which perishes even though refined by fire, may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed, for indeed, momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison. God knows the way we take, and when He has tried us, we shall come forth as pure gold, for the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until the full day, (that glorious day) when He appears, and we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him just as He is.” (1Pe 1:6-7-note, 2Cor 4:17-note, Job 23:10-note, Pr 4:18-note, 1Jn 3:2-note).
Great Father of lights, Giver of every good and perfect gift, although You “send the darkness, and it becomes night, You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning. You turn my darkness into light.” (James 1:17-note, Ps 104:20-note, Ps 18:28-note) Dear Father, “let us see Your hand in the veiling of the sun, and never fear either natural or providential darkness, since both are of Your own making” and for our great good. (C H Spurgeon) Amen
In the darkness of night, Jesus is our steadfast Light.
As you play the beautiful piano rendition of Francis Havergal’s “Light Out of Darkness” and consider each accompanying image, may God’s Spirit enable you to see each of the Father’s promises as personally given to you…
Light after darkness, gain after loss,
Strength after weakness, crown after cross;
Sweet after bitter, hope after fears,
Home after wandering, praise after tears.
Sheaves after sowing, sun after rain,
Sight after mystery, peace after pain;
Joy after sorrow, calm after blast,
Rest after weariness, sweet rest at last.
Near after distant, gleam after gloom,
Love after loneliness, life after tomb;
After long agony, rapture of bliss,
Right was the pathway, leading to this
CHRIST OUR SANCTUARY (Part 1/2) – A SANCTUARY is a sacred place, a place set apart for a holy purpose, a place to commune with God in intimate fellowship, a place to worship Him “in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:24), a place to “find rest for our souls” (Mt 11:28-29-note), a “place of refuge from the raging wind and tempest” (Ps 55:6-note), and “a refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat.” (Isa 25:4) In the New Covenant, our Lord Jesus is our Sanctuary and place of refuge. To use a modern expression, Christ is our “Safe House” now and forever.
“How blessed is the one whom Thou dost choose, and bring near to Thee, to DWELL IN THY COURTS. We will be satisfied with the goodness of Thy house, Thy holy temple.” (Ps 65:4-note) “Thou wilt make known to me the path of life; In Thy presence is fullness of joy; In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever.” (Ps 16:11-note) “How blessed are those who DWELL IN THY HOUSE! They are ever praising Thee. Selah (Pause and Ponder)” (Ps 84:4-note) Indeed, “one day in Thy courts is better than a thousand elsewhere (Play song)” (Ps 84:10-note) for “the nearness of God is our good. We have made the Lord God our Refuge, that we may tell of all His works.” (Ps 73:28-note) David prayed “ONE THING I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may DWELL IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to meditate in His temple.” (Ps 27:4-note; cp Ps 23:6-note) May God grant us such a single minded passion for His presence! (cp Mary chose the “One Thing“, Lk 10:39, 42-note; Play Rich Mullins’ “One Thing”!)
And so Jesus depicted Himself as the true SANCTUARY where men could meet with God when He declared “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up….He was speaking of the temple of His body.” (Jn 2:19, 21) And Paul declared that in Christ “all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” (Col 2:9-note) And even as the Shekinah glory of old inhabited the Tabernacle and later the Temple, Jesus the divine Word (Jn 1:1-2) “became flesh, and dwelt (pitched His tabernacle) among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Jn 1:14) And when “Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, and the earth shook; and the rocks were split,” (Mt 27:50-51) giving all His beloved children “confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh.” (Heb 10:19-20-note) And so now we can “draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith” (Heb 10:22-note), a promise which is an answer to our Great High Priest’s earthly prayer that we “may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that THEY ALSO MAY BE IN US; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me.” (Jn 17:21) And because Christ is our Sanctuary we can be assured that “The LORD IS NEAR TO the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed (bruised, broken, oppressed) in spirit.” (Ps 34:18-note) “For thus says the One Who is high and lifted up, Who inhabits eternity, Whose name is Holy: “I DWELL (tabernacle) in the high and holy place, and ALSO WITH HIM who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite (crushed, discouraged, broken – do any of these descriptions apply to your life beloved?).” (Isa 57:15) And when all has been said and done, John describes a new heaven and new earth (Rev 21:1-note) which has “no temple in it, for the Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb, are its temple.” (Rev 21:22-note) O happy day, for in that glorious future day “In His temple everything says ‘Glory!'” (Ps 29:9-note)
Among the Israelites, the Sanctuary was the most retired part of the Temple, the Holy of holies (Latin = Sanctum sanctorum), the place where under the Old Covenant God had promised He would dwell in their midst (Ex 25:8) declaring “and there I will meet with you; and from above the Mercy Seat (Gk translation of Heb = hilasterion [study]), from between the two cherubim which are upon the Ark of the Testimony (covenant), I will speak to you.” (Ex 25:22). Under the New Covenant, Jesus became the fulfillment of the OT animal’s blood sprinkled on the Mercy Seat, by becoming “a propitiation (Hilasterion = satisfactory payment) in His blood” (Lev 16:14-note fulfilled in Ro 3:25-note,1Jn 2:2). And because of Christ’s finished work on the Cross (Jn 19:30-note), God through His Son’s fully atoning work now invites us to make Him our SANCTUARY, our SANCTUM SANCTORUM, our Place, or better our Person, of refuge to which we can flee in times of discouragement, danger or distress. Indeed, we as believers can say of Christ our Sanctuary “You have been our DWELLING PLACE (Heb = “Temple”) in all generations (Play song).” (Ps 90:1-note) for we were “in Him before the foundation of the world.” (Eph 1:4-note) By faith we “have made Jehovah (= Jesus – compare Jn 12:41NLT with Isa 6:1-5-note), our Refuge, even the Most High, our DWELLING PLACE.” (Ps 91:9-note) As Spurgeon said “My unmoving mansion of rest is my blessed Lord Jesus. Let prospects be blighted; let hopes be blasted; let joy be withered; let mildews destroy everything; I have lost nothing of what I have in Christ. He is “my strong Habitation whereunto I can continually resort.” I am a pilgrim in the world, but at home in my God. In the earth I wander, but in Christ (my Sanctuary) I dwell in a quiet Habitation.” Amen!
Herbert Lockyer adds “How good of God it is to promise Himself as a SANCTUARY! In the OT He provided a temple for His people; in the NT He has a redeemed people as His temple (1Cor 3:16, Eph 2:20-22-note)! But the wonder of wonders is that He also is our Temple. How consoling it is to know that amid all the turmoil of the street, busy cares of the home, hurry and confusion of our modern life, we have a “little sanctuary” (Ezek 11:16KJV-note) “closer than breathing, nearer than hands or feet.” No sanctuary ever surpassed the Temple Solomon built. For its marvel and magnificence it was incomparable, yet where is it today? But, blessed be Christ our Sanctuary, He abides forever (Ps 102:12-note, Heb 7:25-note). While it is fitting to gather in a house of worship, whether it be a simple or cathedral-like structure, the sphere makes little difference. Many dear shut-in ones cannot journey to a sanctuary of stone, yet hidden from earth’s eyes they can take advantage of Christ Who offers Himself as their Sanctuary. Blessed, is it not, to have a Person as well as a place we can draw nigh to?”
Praise Christ our Sanctuary as you listen to Kari Jobe’s spiritual song
DWELLING PLACE (click to play)
For in you I find my Dwelling Place
In You I find amazing grace
In You I find security
Jesus, You are all I need.
I am standing and not falling
Cause You’re ending what You’re starting
You won’t leave me or deceive me
Always hide, Lord, You guide me