If you become a necessity to someone else’s life, you are out of God’s will. As a servant, your primary responsibility is to be a “friend of the bridegroom” (John 3:29). When you see a person who is close to grasping the claims of Jesus Christ, you know that your influence has been used in the right direction. And when you begin to see that person in the middle of a difficult and painful struggle, don’t try to prevent it, but pray that his difficulty will grow even ten times stronger, until no power on earth or in hell could hold him away from Jesus Christ. Over and over again, we try to be amateur providences in someone’s life. We are indeed amateurs, coming in and actually preventing God’s will and saying, “This person should not have to experience this difficulty.” Instead of being friends of the Bridegroom, our sympathy gets in the way. One day that person will say to us, “You are a thief; you stole my desire to follow Jesus, and because of you I lost sight of Him.”
Beware of rejoicing with someone over the wrong thing, but always look to rejoice over the right thing. “…the friend of the bridegroom…rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:29-30). This was spoken with joy, not with sadness— at last they were to see the Bridegroom! And John said this was his joy. It represents a stepping aside, an absolute removal of the servant, never to be thought of again.
Listen intently with your entire being until you hear the Bridegroom’s voice in the life of another person. And never give any thought to what devastation, difficulties, or sickness it will bring. Just rejoice with godly excitement that His voice has been heard. You may often have to watch Jesus Christ wreck a life before He saves it (see Matthew 10:34).
|MARCH 24, 2015
Going Nowhere or Getting Ready?
“Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them …” Joshua 1:2b (NIV)
I was poised to take the next step in my career and ministry. My three boys were getting older. Life was moving in a sweet groove. Finally, after years of childrearing I was ready to take my work to the next level. Then God stepped in with a shocking request that changed everything.
One minute I was sitting in a woman’s conference, enjoying the speaker’s story. The next, God was pounding on my heart to adopt from Africa. Surprised would be an understatement. Terrified was more like it. But the surety of the request was undeniable.
It took my husband about 60 seconds to agree, and then about six months for us to be certified. But just months after that, two little Liberian sisters (ages 8 and 11) walked into our hearts and homes, and my professional plans came to a halt.
Although we knew their needs would be great, we hadn’t fully understood the multiple wounds those years of deprivation would cause them. Nor the complicated issues we would face. But one thing was certain: My physical and emotional presence was required.
So I started to say “no” to other things. No to new opportunities. No to my old dreams. No to going where my heart thought I was finally headed. And “yes” to caring for my two daughters.
In my prayers, I clearly heard God say this time of stepping back would be three years. I think God didn’t want to overwhelm me, because it’s going on 10 now. And in the beginning, I thought for sure God had replaced my career and ministry dreams with His calling to care for two little girls. And I was completely fine with that.
What I know now, is that not only did God give me the assignment of raising my daughters, He also equipped me for a future I didn’t see coming.
God was taking me somewhere, only I couldn’t see where. And those years that felt like I was going nowhere in my career? They were years of preparation for what God had planned next.
In the Bible, God often told His people to get ready for what was coming next — even when they had no idea what that meant. In our key verse, the Israelites had left Egypt 40 years prior and were close to the land God had promised them. Yet it still must have looked impossible to get there. Not only was there a nation to conquer, but there was a swollen river before them. And yet God said, “Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them …” (Joshua 1:2b).
Getting ready takes on many forms. There’s the practical side of getting ready, like packing a tent. But getting ready for what God has planned next is often a spiritual task. The Israelites had to reaffirm their trust in God to do the impossible. They had to submit to His lead and not their own, and they definitely had to wait on God’s perfect timing.
And that’s what happened to me. God needed me to get ready for the next step in my life. In order to do that, I needed to become more dependent on His strength, and less on my abilities. My heart had to be stripped of any remnants of pride and judgment of others. I had to discover the power of the Name of Jesus in a way I’d never experienced from just reading about Him. All of this took time.
What I didn’t see 10 years ago were the doors of opportunity God would open from my home, allowing me to work around my family commitments. I didn’t see how the Internet would grow and allow ministry around the world. But God did.
God knew his plans for me 10 years ago, and they involved my getting ready.
Maybe you feel like your plans have come to a screeching halt. Do you think opportunities are passing you by that won’t come again?
Don’t despair. The Israelites didn’t see that God was about to do multiple miracles. All they were told was, “Get ready.” Maybe that’s just where God has you. If so, what’s coming next is going to be amazing. So get ready.
God Deals Well With Us
From: Streams in the Desert
And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the Lord which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee: Deliver me, I pray thee (Gen. 32:9, 11).
There are many healthy symptoms in that prayer. In some respects it may serve as a mould into which our own spirits may pour themselves, when melted in the fiery furnace of sorrow.
He began by quoting God’s promise: “Thou saidst.” He did so twice (9 and 12). Ah, he has got God in his power then! God puts Himself within our reach in His promises; and when we can say to Him, “Thou saidst,” He cannot say nay. He must do as He has said.
If Jacob was so particular for his oath’s sake, what will not our God be? Be sure in prayer, to get your feet well on a promise; it will give you purchase enough to force open the gates of heaven, and to take it by force.
–Practical Portions for the Prayer-life
Jesus desires that we shall be definite in our requests, and that we shall ask for some special thing. “What will ye that I shall do unto you?” is the question that He asks of every one who in affliction and trial comes to Him. Make your requests with definite earnestness if you would have definite answers. Aimlessness in prayer accounts for so many seemingly unanswered prayers. Be definite in your petition. Fill out your check for something definite, and it will be cashed at the bank of Heaven when presented in Jesus’ Name. Dare to be definite with God.
Miss Havergal has said: “Every year, I might almost say every day, that I live, I seem to see more clearly how all the rest and gladness and power of our Christian life hinges on one thing; and that is, taking God at His word, believing that He really means exactly what He says, and accepting the very words in which He reveals His goodness and grace, without substituting others or altering the precise modes and tenses which He has seen fit to use.”
Bring Christ’s Word–Christ’s promise, and Christ’s sacrifice–His blood, with thee, and not one of Heaven’s blessings can be denied thee.
The silver trumpet
“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”Isaiah1:18
Suggested Further Reading: Zechariah 3:1-6
When a man believes in Christ, he is in that moment, in God’s sight, as though he had never sinned in all his life. Nay, I will go further, he is that day in a better position than though he had never sinned; for if he had never sinned, he would have had the perfect righteousness of man; but by believing, he is made the righteousness of God in Christ. We had once a cloak that is taken away: when we believe, Christ gives us a robe; but it is an infinitely better one. We lost but a common garment, but he arrays us royally. Strangely indeed is that man clothed who believes in Jesus. Yon thief who is hanging on the cross, is black as hell: he believes, and he is as white as heaven’s own purity. Faith takes away all sin, through the precious blood of Jesus. When a man has once gone down into that sacred laver which is filled with Jesus’ blood, there “is no spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing,” left upon him. His sin has ceased to be; his iniquity is covered; his transgressions have been carried into the wilderness, and are gone. This is the most wonderful thing about the gospel. This does not take away part of our sin, but the whole of it; it does not remove it partially, but entirely; not for a little time, but for ever. “He that believeth on him is not condemned.” And though today you should have committed every crime in the world, yet the moment you believe in Jesus, you are saved; the Spirit of God shall dwell in you to keep you from sin in the future, and the blood of Christ shall plead for you, that sin shall never be laid to your charge.
For meditation: How Satan must hate the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ alone! Never give him the satisfaction of seeing you grow weary of it. “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1).
Sermon no. 366
24 March (1861)
Future punishment a fearful thing
‘It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.’ Hebrews 10:31
Suggested Further Reading: Romans 5:6–11
It is the highest benevolence to warn men of their danger, and to exhort them to escape from the wrath which will surely come upon them, for ‘It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.’ We feel that it must be a fearful thing to be punished for sin when you remember the atonement. It is our full belief as Christians, that, in order to pardon human sin, it was necessary that God himself should become incarnate, and that the Son of God should suffer excruciating pains, to which the dignity of his person added infinite weight. Brethren, if the wrath of God be a mere trifle, there was no need of a Saviour to deliver us; it were as well to have let so small a matter take its course; or, if the Saviour came merely to save us from a pinch or two, why is so much said in his praise? What need for heaven and earth to ring with the glories of him who would save us from a small mischief? But mark the word. As the sufferings of the Saviour were intense beyond all conception, and as no less a person than God himself must endure these sufferings for us, that must have been an awful, not to say infinite evil, from which there was no other way for us to escape except by the bleeding and dying of God’s dear Son. Think lightly of hell, and you will think lightly of the cross. Think little of the sufferings of lost souls, and you will soon think little of the Saviour who delivers you from them. God grant we may not live to see such a Christ-dishonouring theology dominant in our times.
For meditation: As Spurgeon feared, vital and inseparable biblical doctrines such as the atonement and eternal damnation have come under tremendous attack in recent years in favour of more sophisticated teaching which is more acceptable to human taste. The Bible contrasts the words of the holy prophets and the apostles of our Lord, with the words of ‘scoffers, walking after their own lusts’ (2 Peter 3:2–3). Beware of people who twist the Scriptures to suit themselves (2 Peter 3:16–17).
Sermon no. 682
24 March (1866)