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Graces in the Dark

Graces in the Dark

This morning’s Morning and Evening is a beautifully written reminder that trials serve a greater purpose in the exercise of our faith. Spurgeon provides striking illustrations of glowworms, stars, and soldiers. In each case, today’s thesis is simply this: real growth in grace is the result of sanctified trials.

At the center of this morning’s devotional, an interesting question is thrown onto the table.

It was only a little while ago that on your knees you were saying, “Lord, I fear I have no faith. Let me know that I have faith.” Were you not really, though perhaps unconsciously, praying for trials?

The answer to that one is easy. No, Charles, I wasn’t. That’s absurd. But then he answers the question with another question…

For how can you know that you have faith until your faith is exercised?

Oh… yeah… there is that. Thankfully we have a good and gracious Savior who sympathizes with our weakness. He will not give us more than we are able to bear, nor fail to redeem those who belong to Him. When the darkness comes, it is not because evil won the fight that day… Take heart! Even the darkness has its uses in the hands of a sovereign God.

Here is Alistair Begg’s paraphrase of the Spurgeon classic.

* * * * *

…you contend against me. — Job 10:2

Perhaps, weary soul, the Lord is doing this to develop your graces. There are some of your graces that would never be discovered if it were not for your trials. Do you not know that your faith never looks as good in summer as it does in winter? Love is too often like a glowworm, showing but little light unless it is surrounded by darkness.

Hope itself is like a star—not to be seen in the sunshine of prosperity, and only to be discovered in the night of adversity. Afflictions are often the black foils in which God sets the jewels of His children’s graces, to make them shine brighter. It was only a little while ago that on your knees you were saying, “Lord, I fear I have no faith. Let me know that I have faith.” Were you not really, though perhaps unconsciously, praying for trials? For how can you know that you have faith until your faith is exercised? Depend upon it—God often sends us trials so that our graces may be discovered and that we may be convinced of their existence. Besides, it is not merely discovery; real growth in grace is the result of sanctified trials.

God often takes away our comforts and our privileges in order to make us better Christians. He trains His soldiers not in tents of ease and luxury, but by turning them out and subjecting them to forced marches and hard service. He makes them ford through streams, and swim through rivers, and climb mountains, and walk many long miles with heavy backpacks of sorrow. Well, Christian, may this not account for the troubles through which you are passing? Is the Lord bringing out your graces and making them grow? Is it for this reason He contends with you?

Trials make the promise sweet;
Trials give new life to prayer;
Trials bring me to His feet,
Lay me low, and keep me there.

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Posted by on February 18, 2014 in Devotional

 

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Full and Forgetful

Full and Forgetful

This morning’s Morning and Evening puts an interesting twist on the call to contentment. Instead of encouraging the downtrodden to lift their heads and fill their eyes with Christ… today’s devotional addresses the dangers of having much.

The context is contentment. Paul provides his firsthand experience with the matter. Philippians 4:11-12 says,

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

He concludes with this famous phrase found in verse 13,

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Paul needed Christ’s strength to endure all things in every circumstance. The same is true for us. Whether we face plenty or hunger, abundance or need… we must cling to the cross of Christ. We can never afford to forget the mercy, grace, and goodness our Savior’s sacrifice has provided. Unfortunately, forgetfulness is easy when our bellies are full and our hands are blessed. As Spurgeon said so well,

Rest assured, it is harder to know how to be full than it is to know how to be hungry—so desperate is the tendency of human nature to pride and forgetfulness of God.

Let’s not cling to our treasures or trials. At all times, let us embrace the cross of Christ. We should be thankful for all things and give honor where honor is due.

Here is Alistair Begg’s paraphrase of the Spurgeon classic.

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…and I know how to abound. — Philippians 4:12

There are many who know “how to be brought low” who have not learned “how to abound.” When they are set upon the top of a pinnacle their heads grow dizzy, and they are ready to fall. The Christian disgraces his profession more often in prosperity than in adversity.

It is a dangerous thing to be prosperous. The crucible of adversity is a less severe trial for the Christian than the place of prosperity. What leanness of soul and neglect of spiritual things have been brought on through the very mercies and bounties of God!

Yet this is not a matter of necessity, for the apostle tells us that he knew how to abound. When he had much, he knew how to use it. Abundant grace enabled him to bear abundant prosperity. When he had a full sail he was loaded with much ballast, and so floated safely. It needs more than human skill to carry the brimming cup of earthly joy with a steady hand; yet Paul had learned that skill, for he declares, “In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger.”

It is a divine lesson to know how to be full, for the Israelites were full once, but while the food was still in their mouths, the wrath of God came upon them. Many have asked for mercies, that they might satisfy their own hearts’ lust. Fullness of bread has often made fullness of blood, and that has brought on emptiness of spirit.

When we have plenty of God’s providential mercies, it often happens that we have but little of God’s grace, and little gratitude for the blessings we have received. We are full, and we forget God: Satisfied with earth, we are content to do without heaven.

Rest assured, it is harder to know how to be full than it is to know how to be hungry—so desperate is the tendency of human nature to pride and forgetfulness of God. Take care that you ask in your prayers that God would teach you how to be full.

Let not the gifts Thy love bestows
Estrange our hearts from Thee.

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2014 in Devotional

 

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God Is Enough

John Piper is not a fan of the prosperity gospel.

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2013 in Video

 

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Tested Genuine

Tested Genuine

This morning’s Morning and Evening runs parallel to another devotional entry last month, Testing Our Faith. Trials play an important role in the Christian’s life. Nobody likes them, but everyone needs them.

How quickly do we turn to God for relief from our suffering? It is good that we do, but if that is all we do, we have missed the point of the trial. Does God hold the universe in His hand? Is He sovereign over every mountain and molecule? Does my situation fall under His jurisdiction? If so, how does this trial fit into His plan?

What are You teaching me? Where is the lesson? How is this trial molding me closer into the image of Christ? In what ways am I weak? How are You strong? Would You show me, Lord?

These are excellent questions to ask God in the midst of a storm. He is gracious and accomplished to use any trial for His glory and our good. We miss the glory in suffering when we fix our eyes on comfort instead of Christ.

Let’s test our focus when the next trial comes and join with Job in saying,

But He knows the way that I take;
when He has tried me, I shall come out as gold.1

Here is Alistair Begg’s paraphrase of the Spurgeon classic.

* * * * *

The tested genuineness of your faith…
— 1 Peter 1:7

Untested faith may be true faith, but it is sure to be small faith, and it is likely to remain little as long as it is without trials. Faith never prospers so well as when all things are against her: Tempests are her trainers, and bolts of lightning are her illuminators.

When a calm reigns on the sea, spread the sails as you will, the ship does not move to its harbor; for on a slumbering ocean the keel sleeps too. Let the winds rush and howl, and let the waters lift themselves, though the vessel may rock and her deck may be washed with waves and her mast may creak under the pressure of the full and swelling sail, it is then that she makes headway toward her desired haven.

No flowers are as lovely a blue as those that grow at the foot of the frozen glacier; no stars gleam as brightly as those that glisten in the midnight sky; no water tastes as sweet as that which springs up in the desert sand; and no faith is so precious as that which lives and triumphs in adversity.

Tested faith brings experience. You could not have believed your own weakness if you had not been compelled to pass through the rivers; and you would never have known God’s strength if you had not been supported in the flood. Faith increases in quality, assurance, and intensity the more it is exercised with tribulation. Faith is precious, and its trial is precious too.

Do not let this, however, discourage those who are young in faith. You will have trials enough without seeking them: The full portion will be measured out to you in due course.

Meanwhile, if you cannot yet claim the result of long experience, thank God for what grace you have; praise Him for that degree of holy confidence you have now attained: Walk according to that rule, and you will still have more and more of the blessing of God, until your faith will remove mountains and conquer impossibilities.

1 Job 23:10

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2013 in Devotional

 

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Perfect In Weakness

Perfect In Weakness

This morning’s Morning and Evening is a sobering reminder to rely on God’s strength… and His strength alone. He empties us out to fill us up.

Today’s devotional carries the sting of conviction. I easily fall into the trap of relying on my own strength and past experience to see me through the next set of trials. A “been there, done that” attitude is often my biggest hindrance. Thankfully, God loves us too much to leave us to ourselves.

Every believer knows Romans 8:28.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.

But what about the following verse?

For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.

God’s ultimate purpose in this passage is to conform us into the image of Christ. He doesn’t leave us to ourselves. He determines our future and molds us into the adopted brotherhood. The sting of conviction is a wonderful thing. It is one of God’s primary tools to personally and powerfully accomplish this goal. His power is made perfect in weakness, and we are made perfect in Him. That is why Paul could say with confidence, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

Here is Alistair Begg’s paraphrase of the Spurgeon classic.

* * * * *

For my power is made perfect in weakness.
— 2 Corinthians 12:9

A primary qualification for serving God with any amount of success, and for doing God’s work well and triumphantly, is a sense of our own weakness. When God’s warrior marches out to battle, strong in his own might, when he boasts, “I know that I will overcome-my own ability and my self-confidence will be enough for victory,” defeat is staring him in the face.

God will not enable the man who marches in his own strength. He who reckons on victory by such means has reckoned wrongly, for “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.”1

Those who go out to fight, boasting of their ability, will return with their banners trailing in the dust and their armor stained with disgrace. Those who serve God must serve Him in His own way and in His strength, or He will never accept their service. Whatever a man does, unaided by divine strength, God can never own. The mere fruits of the earth He casts away; He will only reap corn the seed of which was sown from heaven, watered by grace, and ripened by the sun of divine love.

God will empty out all that you have before He will put His own into you; He will first clean out your granaries before He will fill them with the finest of wheat. The river of God is full of water; but not one drop of it flows from earthly springs. God will have no strength used in His battles but the strength that He Himself imparts.

Are you mourning over your own weakness? Take courage, for there must be a consciousness of weakness before the Lord will give you victory. Your emptiness is but the preparation for your being filled, and you are being humbled to prepare you for being lifted up.

When I am weak then am I strong,
Grace is my shield and Christ my song.

1 Zechariah 4:6

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2013 in Devotional

 

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Testing Our Faith

Testing Our Faith

Once again, today’s Morning and Evening is fantastic. It reminded me of Job 2:10. Job had just lost his health and wealth. (Needless to say, he was not experiencing his best life now.) His wife encouraged him to curse God and die. Instead, this was his response…

But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

We often can’t see the big picture. This passage, Deuteronomy 8:11-16, Romans 8, James 1:2-4, and many others contend that the omnipotent God of everything can use anything to accomplish His great purposes. What are those purposes? His glory and our good. If Romans 8:31-39 is true, nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. His love is the anchor that holds our faith secure in trying times. He doesn’t hate us or merely allow bad things to happen. He often sends them to us for a myriad of reasons. Spurgeon touches on just a few. Here is Alistair Begg’s paraphrase of the Spurgeon classic.

* * * * *

Why have you dealt ill with your servant?
— Numbers 11:11

Our heavenly Father sends us frequent troubles to test our faith. If our faith is worth anything, it will stand the test. Gilt is afraid of fire, but gold is not: The imitation gem dreads being touched by the diamond, but the true jewel fears no test. It is a poor faith that can only trust God when friends are true, the body is healthy, and the business profitable; but it is true faith that rests in the Lord’s faithfulness when friends are gone, the body is ailing, spirits are depressed, and the light of our Father’s face is hidden. A faith that can say, in the deepest trouble, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him”1 is heaven-born faith.

The Lord afflicts His servants to glorify Himself, for He is greatly glorified in the graces of His people, who are His own handiwork. When “suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope,”2 the Lord is honored by these growing virtues. We would never know the music of the harp if the strings were left untouched, nor enjoy the juice of the grape if it were not trodden in the winepress, nor discover the sweet perfume of cinnamon if it were not pressed and beaten, nor feel the warmth of fire if the coals were not completely consumed. The wisdom and power of God are discovered by the trials through which His children are permitted to pass.

Present afflictions tend also to heighten future joy. There must be shade in the picture to bring out the beauty of the light. Could we be so supremely blessed in heaven if we had not known the curse of sin and the sorrow of earth? Will peace not be sweeter after conflict, and rest more welcome after labor? Will the recollection of past sufferings not serve to enhance the bliss of the glorified?

There are many other comfortable answers to the question with which we opened our brief meditation; let us think upon it all day long.

1Job 13:15 2Romans 5:3-4
 
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Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Devotional

 

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