I was reading through another Spurgeon sermon this evening and as he often does, Spurgeon places a chunk of text from a hymn in the midst of the sermon. This time it’s from John Newton’s I Asked The Lord, a hymn I was just listening to the other day and probably my favorite hymn text ever. It was certainly my theme song in 2013. <grin>
I’m very familiar with this old hymn thanks to the folks who produce the Indelible Grace albums – old hymn texts set to new and quite frankly, in my opinion, much better music.
All day today for some reason I’ve been under a kind of melancholy spirit, kinda down and depressed and out of sorts. Reading a bit of Spurgeon has put a spring back in my step a bit and lit a spark in my soul. I find myself now thanking God for the great heritage of material we have available to us today, thanks to people who preserved for the church old sermons, old hymns and other writings for our benefit. Like God’s Word, good Christian texts are as powerful and meaningful in 2014 as they were in the 1500s or 1800s.
People wonder if God answers prayers. He certainly does. But He almost never answers in the way we’d like Him to. You ask for something and the more precious the thing you request the more turbulence you can expect in seeing it granted. And yet, once the storm subsides and the waves recede we can look back and be thankful that He not only heard us, but was gracious enough to answer us – in His own way and in the way best for us.
Several neat things happen when prayer is answered. First and most importantly, we can KNOW He is there. That alone is great. Atheists and followers of evolutionary theory would tell us God doesn’t exist, but I’ve proven, at least in my own life, that He certainly does. Second, I think He answers in convoluted, stormy ways so that we don’t conclude that our will was simply done or that chance was the reason. I really thought I needed a job back last March and had I gotten one then, I could have chalked that up to my own abilities or skills. Instead, He caused a baking company to post a help wanted ad in November and guided me through a field of other candidates and finally, my prayers were answered. I would never have conducted things in such a manner. <grin>
For me, the most awesome thing is not receiving things, but rather simply the communication, the communion that goes on with the Living God. Lord, you can keep every material blessing under the sun from me, just let me talk, let me converse with you. That’s the thing! Nothing will put a smile on your face like coming to the realization that the creator of the universe is not only there, but He is keenly aware of your every need and He wants to talk with you. He created you to have fellowship with Him. Sin tore down all the phone lines like an ice storm, but Christ has restored communications.
Many times in 2013 I found myself wishing Christ were right in front of me so I could talk with Him, ask His advice, seek His counsel personally. Well, prayer is kinda like e-mail. Through prayer, He’s as “right here, right now” as He could ever be. He could come and stand in my living room and the results would not differ. The same answer would be given in His good time. The disciples and Paul actually had better communication with the Lord once he was gone from their presence physically, for He sent to us His Holy Spirit – a fiber optic cable if you will between us and the risen Christ.
So call on Him – operators are standing by 24/7. <grin>
13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. John 14:13-14
Grace and peace,
As thy days, so shall thy strength be
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, August 22, 1858, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens
Again, beloved, there is another thing which will very soon prove our weakness, if neither duty nor suffering will do it—namely, progress. You sit down to-morrow and you read the life of some eminent servant of God: perhaps the life of David Brainard, and how he gave up his life for his Master in the wilderness, or the heroic life of Henry Martin, and how he sacrificed all for Christ: and as you read you say within yourself, “I will endeavor to be like this man; I will seek to have his faith, his self denial, his love to never-dying souls” Try and get them, beloved, and you will soon find your own weakness. I have sometimes thought I would try to have more faith but I have found it very hard to keep as much as I had. I have thought, “I will love my Saviour more,” and it was right that I should strive to do so; but when I sought to love him more I found that perhaps I was going backward instead of forward. How often do we find out our weakness when God answers our prayers!
“I ask’d the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of his salvation know
And seek more earnestly his face.
I hop’d that in some favor’d hour
At once he’d answer my request,
And by his love’s constraining power,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.
Instead of this he made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart,
And let the angry power of hell
Assault my soul in every part.
‘Lord why is this?’ I trembling cried
‘Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?’
‘Tis in this way,’ the Lord replied;
‘I answer prayer for grace and faith.'”
That is, the Lord helps us to grow downward when we are only thinking about growing upward. Let any of you try to grow in grace, and seek to run the heavenly race, and make a little progress, and you will soon find, in such a slippery road as that which we have to travel, that it is very hard to go one step forward, though remarkably easy to go a great many steps backward.