Grace Gems for January 2012

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A new year!

(Arthur Pink)

"Go forward!" Exodus 14:15

Is not this a timely word for each of us as we enter into, and journey through, a new year?

We need to clearly realize that there is no such thing as remaining stationary in the spiritual life. If we do not progress — we inevitably retrograde. How that solemn fact should search our hearts!

Christian friend, your history this year will be either one of going forward — or backsliding. This new year will mark either an increased fruitfulness in your soul and life, to the glory of Him whose name you bear — or increased leanness and barrenness, to His reproach. It will witness either a growing in grace — or a decline in your spirituality. It will record either an increased love for the Word, use of the Throne of Grace, strictness of walk and closer communion with Christ — or a growing coldness and a following of Him afar off!

"Go forward!" Exodus 14:15

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We might have begun this year in Hell!

(James Smith, "The First Day of the Year" 1865)

What a mercy that we have been spared until now. How many have been cut down during the last year. We might have begun this year in Hell. Oh, if we had! How dreadful the thought!

But many who did begin the last year as we begin this — are in Hell now. They little thought that it would be so — but there they are, and now there is no redemption, there is no way of escape. They are shut up in hopeless despair. Their doom is forever fixed.

And why are we spared? To go on in sin? To abuse the mercy that has been shown to us? To aggravate our woe? Oh, no! We are spared that we may escape from the wrath to come, that we may secure the pardon of our sins, and that we may be happy both in this world and in that which is to come.

This is the first day of the year, and what is our first thought? What shall we fix our thoughts upon?
Let us think of past mercies — and past sins;
let us think of present duty — and present danger;
let us think of future probabilities — and certainties.

Let us think of our state before God — what is it?
Are we pardoned — or condemned?
Are we sons of God — or children of wrath?
Are we reconciled to God — or living at enmity with God?

Do we ever . . .
  speak to Him in prayer,
  look to Him in faith,
  walk with Him in love,
  work for Him with pleasure, or
  long to be with Him in glory?

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What a mercy — to be out of Hell!

(James Smith, "The Believer's Companion in Seasons of Affliction and Trouble" 1842)

"Because of the Lord's mercies, we are not consumed — for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness!" Lamentations 3:22-23

You are sometimes tempted to think that your lot is hard, and that your trials are greater than others — but do not think thus. Rather think, "But for the mercy of God — I would have been in Hell this moment, lifting up my eyes in torments; and in the agony of despair, cursing my God and King! It is all of mercy, that I am not now in the flames of Hell, surrounded by infuriated devils, and assailed on every hand by the groans of the damned, and the dreadful cursings of the lost!"

HELL! Who shall attempt to describe what is wrapped up in that fearful word? Yet all that it contains was your righteous desert; and but for sovereign mercy — must have been your eternal portion!

What a mercy — to be out of Hell!
Yes, even though you are now in the sorest trials, in the greatest pains!

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What is man — that You are mindful of him?

(Hugh Brown, "Altogether Lovely!" 1897)

"What is man — that You are mindful of him?" Psalm 8:4

What is man?

Where did he come from?

Where does his pathway lead?

Man was once the crowning piece of God's workmanship, made in His own image, and given dominion over the works of His hands!

Alas! We now only know man . . .
  in his fallen state — not as God created him,
  with the crown fallen from his head,
  as a rebel against his Maker,
  as the slave of sin,
  as a willing subject of Satan,
  in his weakness,
  compassed with infirmity,
  the prey of many diseases,
  as "of few days, and full of trouble,"
  as a bearer of burdens,
  with a heritage of sorrow!

So fearfully and wonderfully is man made — 
  so great — and yet so little;
  so noble — yet so base;
  a feeble spark of life — yet having an eternal destiny!

We now only know man . . .
  in his sinfulness,
  with a "heart deceitful above all things — and desperately wicked,"
  torn by conflicting passions,
  in the vile bondage of iniquity,
  sin reigning within and without,
  making the earth a habitation of cruelty!

For though sometimes in his youth, life may seem bright while he eagerly hunts after pleasure — how soon the flowers fade, the bubble bursts — and he is left with emptiness in his heart and learns by sad experience the truth of God’s Word: "Truly, every man at his best estate is altogether vanity!"

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They must be burned into us with the hot iron of affliction!

(Charles Spurgeon)

"Before I was afflicted I went astray — but now I obey Your Word." Psalm 119:67

"It was good for me to be afflicted — so that I might learn Your decrees." Psalm 119:71

Most of the great truths of God have to be learned through trials! They must be burned into us with the hot iron of affliction, otherwise we shall not truly receive them.

"I know, O Lord, that Your laws are righteous — and in faithfulness You have afflicted me." Psalm 119:75

"God disciplines us for our good — that we may share in His holiness!" Hebrews 12:10

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In that hand which was once nailed to the cross for your redemption!

(James Smith, "The Believer's Companion in Seasons of Affliction and Trouble" 1842)

"The Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes every one He accepts as a son." Hebrews 12:6

Afflicted Christian, you are perhaps tempted to think that God cannot love you — or He would not so deeply try you. But the reverse is the case — if He did not love you, He might perhaps refuse to try you. But because He loves you, and is a Father to you — therefore He corrects you.

All of the Lord's children need correction! Many of them will not grow without very severe discipline — consequently your heavenly Father says, "I will melt them, and try them." "I will turn My hand upon you — and will purge away your dross."

Look to the generations of old, and see if the Lord's people in every age have not been an afflicted people. Look at Job, at the prophets, at Lazarus; God tenderly loved them — and yet how severely He tried them. He has commanded an earthly parent to chasten his son, and not to let his soul spare for his crying — and by this rule He also proceeds. He chastens us — that He may not destroy us. There is infinite mercy in your present trial — as dreadful as it may appear to you. There was an absolute necessity for it — for He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve His redeemed children.

He takes pleasure in the spiritual prosperity of His people — and therefore He uses means to promote it. He has received you as a son, and He is now . . .
  using His paternal authority;
  manifesting His infinite wisdom;
  fulfilling His gracious covenant;
  making good His precious promises;
  and displaying His unutterable love!

Every one who is . . .
  adopted into His family;
  quickened by His grace;
  and united to Jesus —
is made to pass under the rod, and prove the truth of the Scripture which says, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous — but the Lord delivers him out of them all."

He chastens you, not for His own pleasure or gratification, but for your profit — that you might be a partaker of His holiness. What a gracious design is this — every way worthy of God. It affords full proof of His infinite wisdom, care, and love!

Think within yourself:
I could not do without this affliction;
it is sent in love;
it is intended to do me good;
it is a proof that I am a child of God
 — and you will then think rightly.

Do not despise the chastening of the Lord, by thinking that you could have done as well without it; or that there was no necessity for it. Depend upon it, you must either be . . .
  pained — or ruined;
  tried — or injured;
  corrected — or lost.

Do not faint when the Lord rebukes you. He has promised you, that as your day is — so shall your strength be. He says to you, "Do not fear — for I am with you; do not be afraid — for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand!" Isaiah 41:10. Precious promise of a faithful God! He made it in love. He has not forgotten it — no, He intends to make it good. Yes, He is now making it good to you — as tried and afflicted as you are.

The rod which afflicts you, is in the hand of Jesus! In that hand which was once nailed to the cross for your redemption! In the hand of that Friend who loves at all times; and who is a Brother born for adversity. Will Jesus who suffered, bled, and died to redeem you — ever hurt you? Surely not! His heart is too tender! His love is too great! "He will not break the bruised reed — and He will not quench the smoking flax!" He will bind up the broken heart, and comfort the sorrowful spirit.

You say, "He is sorely trying me!" True — but He is only making you fit to partake of the inheritance of the saints in light. They are . . .
  loving strokes,
  valuable trials,
  blessed afflictions!
As sharp they may be — short they must be.

Humble yourself then under the mighty hand of God;
mourn before Him;
surrender all to Him;
plead with Him;
justify Him — and . . .
   the rod will soon fall from His hand,
   the scourging will soon be over, and
   peaceable fruits of righteousness will make their appearance.

Look up to your God, and say:

Submissive to Your will, my God,
I all to you resign;
I bow before Your chastening rod,
And mourn, but not repine!

Why should my foolish heart complain,
When wisdom, truth, and love,
Direct the stroke, inflict the pain,
And point to joys above?

How short are all my sufferings here!
How needful every cross!
Away then, my unbelieving fear,
Nor call my gain, my loss.

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Your present affliction

(James Smith, "The Believer's Companion in Seasons of Affliction and Trouble" 1842)

"God is love!" 1 John 4:8

Believer, the author of your present affliction, is Jehovah (Amos 3:6); it comes at the command of the Lord Almighty, who is excellent in counsel and wonderful in working. But though He afflicts you, His heart is not, and cannot be turned against you — for He has revealed Himself in His Word, as LOVE. He does not merely tell you that He loves you, but that He is LOVE ITSELF — infinite, eternal, unchangeable love! Fury has no place in Him; His anger is turned away from you, by the sacrifice of Jesus.

Your present affliction flows from His love; though occasioned by your sin — or called for by the circumstances in which you are placed. For He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve His redeemed children without cause. But while He puts you to pain, while He lays His rod upon you — He loves you with an inconceivable love! There is nothing but love in His heart toward you! Every affliction is absolutely necessary, and could not be dispensed with. He will never fail you nor forsake you — and therefore He lays His rod upon you. The discipline may be sharp — but the design is truly gracious. He seeks the good of your immortal soul; and designs only your welfare — even your sanctification. He intends to . . .
  remind you of your follies,
  bring you to reflection, and
  lead you back to Himself from whom you have wandered.
Or else He intends to prevent your falling into some real evils, to which you were fast hastening. He intends, in a word . . .
  to conform you to Jesus;
  to answer your prayers; and
  to show you, your absolute need of His presence, power, and love.

It was Divine love which chose the trial. It was Divine love which sent it. And the God of love is waiting to hear your confessions, your prayers, and your complaints.

Believe that He is love; believe that your sickness flows from love; and entreat Him to sanctify it — and then remove it. But seek its sanctification before its removal.

Sanctified afflictions are among our choicest blessings! They . . .
  wean our hearts from earth,
  direct our affections above, and
  give energy and fervor to our prayers.
Many have had to say, "It is good for me, that I have been afflicted! Before I was afflicted I went astray — but now I keep Your precepts."

The Lord watches over you in love; while you are in this furnace — He is about your bed. Do not forget that the God of love is present with you — present to . . .
  hear your groanings,
  number your pains,
  mark your tears,
  listen to your prayers,
  and bless you indeed.
You may not have the comfort of His presence — but you have the benefit of it. Endeavor to realize that God is with you — with you as a kind and gracious Father, watching over you to do you good.

By this affliction, He calls you . . .
  to self-examination;
  to surrender yourself afresh to Him;
  to seek your happiness alone in Him;
  to cast all your cares upon Him;
  to make known your request to Him!
He says, "I will be very gracious unto you at the voice of your cry. When I hear you — I will answer you." His eye is fixed upon you for good! He is full of compassion, and plenteous in mercy unto all who call upon Him in truth. Call then upon the Lord, in this day of trouble; He will deliver you — and you shall glorify Him.

"The Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes every one He accepts as a son." Hebrews 12:6

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Delighting in God!

(James Smith, "The Believer's Companion in Seasons of Affliction and Trouble" 1842)

"Delight yourself in the Lord — and He shall give you the desires of your heart!"
Psalm 37:4

Delighting in worldly things — effectually prevents our delighting in God. Therefore it is often the case, that the Lord strips us of these things, or incapacitates us to enjoy them — in order to bring us back to delight in Himself.

He delights in His people — and He desires that His people to delight in Him. In order to accomplish this, He has revealed Himself in the most amiable characters, as . . .
  a Husband;
  a Friend;
  a Brother;
  a Savior;
  a Shepherd, and so forth —
all on purpose to endear Himself to us!

Surely if our hearts were right — we would delight in Him on account of . . .
  His glorious perfections;
  His unalterable love;
  the perfect atonement made for our sins;
  the promises made for our comfort and encouragement;
  the gift of the Holy Spirit;
  the communion we are urged to hold with Himself;
  and the glorious paradise of blessedness set before us — where we shall forever . . .
    view the unfolding of His glories,
    enjoy the riches of His grace, and
    drink of the river of His pleasures!

Sick Christian, Jesus bids you to delight in Him!
Delight in Him as your Savior, Friend, and Brother!
Delight in His person and glories!
Delight in His perfect work!
Delight in His glorious fullness!
Delight in your salvation in Him, union to Him, and claim upon Him.
Oh, delight in Jesus!
You will have no permanent peace or solid satisfaction — but as you are delight in Him, and rejoice in Him, saying, "You are my portion, O Lord!"

He who delights in God has the desires of His heart — because they are in accordance with the purpose, promise, and pleasure of God.

The mind is thrown into the mold of God's mind, and the soul cries from its inmost recesses, "Not my will — but may Your will be done!" Its pleasures are spiritual, permanent, and satisfactory. The desire for earthly things becomes very contracted — a little of the things of this poor world will satisfy a soul that is delighting in Jehovah.

Delighting in God always produces resignation and holy contentment. Whatever they have — they enjoy it as the undeserved gift of God; and they feel obligated and thankful for all. They would rather be conformed to God's will — than have their own will. They know that His appointments are best — because they are infinitely wise, holy, and gracious. They can say, "I trust in You, O Lord, for You are my God! My times are in Your hand!" They find that godliness with contentment is great gain; and say with one of old, "The little that a righteous man has — is better than the riches of many wicked!" "Better a little with the fear of the Lord — than great treasure with turmoil."

The presence, the promise, and the smile of God — are to them inestimably valuable; but other things are not so important. They seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness — and all other necessary things are added unto them. They live at the fountain — when all the streams are dried up! They delight in God — when creatures fade and wither!

O Lord! I would delight in Thee,
And on Your care depend;
To You in every trouble flee,
My best, my only Friend!

No good in creatures can be found,
But may be found in Thee;
I must have all things and abound,
While God is God to me!

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What a solemn charge is here!

(James Smith, "The Believer's Companion in Seasons of Affliction and Trouble" 1842)

"You have become weary of Me!" Isaiah 43:22

What a solemn charge is here!
And yet who can plead, 'Not guilty'?

To be wearied of man — weak, vain, fickle, changing man — is no wonder; but to be weary of God is truly astonishing! How does this charge set forth the deep and awful depravity of human nature. Yet you yourself have known times when you have felt, and manifested this weariness!

Note your too frequent neglect of public worship; or your deadness, indifference, or wanderings therein!

Note your backwardness to draw near to God in private; or the short time which satisfies you to be found upon your knees before Him!

Note your seldom opened Bible, or the lack of interest in its contents; the reluctance with which you sometimes take it up, and the readiness with which you lay it down!

Surely these things, rightly interpreted, say, "You have become weary of Me!"

If your weariness arises from physical weakness — it is infirmity.
But if weariness arises from disinclination — it is a shameful sin! And can it be, that we have been weary of our God . . .
   whom angels always delight to obey;
   whose service is perfect freedom,
   whose smile is Heaven — and whose frown is Hell?
Oh yes — we have too frequently been weary of God!
Let us confess it with shame, contrition, and remorse!
Let us not attempt to excuse so fearful a crime — but let us come afresh to that precious blood which cleanses from all sin.

One hope remains — yes, there I'll cling;
I'll crouch beneath my Savior's wing!
I'll clasp His cross; and kneeling there,
Even me, redeeming love may spare!

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Without supplies of grace from Christ

(James Smith, "The Believer's Companion in Seasons of Affliction and Trouble" 1842)

Jehovah is emphatically called . . .
   the God of all grace,
   the Father of mercies,
   the God of all comfort,
   the God of peace,
   the God of hope,
   the God of salvation.
All of these titles are full of comfort, and are calculated to inspire our souls with love, gratitude, and pleasure.

"And God is able to make all grace abound to you — so that in all things at all times, having all that you need — you will abound in every good work!" 2 Corinthians 9:8

All grace dwells in God — and flows freely from Him. He is glorified in the communications of His grace to the most unworthy. You have received a little — He is able to make all of His grace abound toward you. The aboundings of His grace will produce . . .
   strong faith,
   great patience,
   deep humility,
   holy contentment,
   ardent love,
   joyful hope,
   warm zeal,
   Scriptural courage,
   and spiritual fortitude.

It is divine grace which . . .
   first quickened us to feel our lost state;
   led us to Jesus;
   gives us a good hope;
   conquers our corruptions;
   enables us to act for the Lord's glory.

In reference to all these things — you feel miserably deficient; you cannot produce them. But God can make His grace abound to you. He can give you a sufficiency of grace . . .
   to support you under every trial,
   to strengthen you under every burden,
   to qualify you for every duty, and
   to fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

You have perhaps set about doing good works — and have found yourself unable to perform them. You feel ashamed of what you have done; you have condemned yourself, and perhaps have given way to fear and despondency. Good works can only be performed through grace received from the Lord.

Without God's grace — the wisest miscarry.
With grace — the most simple succeed!

We can only serve God rightly — when we serve Him with His own grace.

You are not sufficient of yourself so much as to think a good thought! Without supplies of grace from Christ — you can do nothing to please Him. 

There is no good work, but you may perform it — if you receive God's grace!

There is no sin, but you may fall into — if you trust to yourself, and neglect the supplies of grace.

God invites you to His throne of grace. He promises you a supply. He is able to make all grace to abound toward you. He is the God of all grace — and until He changes in His nature, forfeits His word, or refuses to give — you have no ground of complaint or despondency.

Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
'Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home!

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You will soon end your tedious, tiresome journey!

(James Smith, "The Believer's Companion in Seasons of Affliction and Trouble" 1842)

"All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth!" Hebrews 11:13

Every believer is a pilgrim. He is traveling to his Father's house! He is presently a stranger in a strange land, surrounded by temptations, trials, and foes. His journey lies through a great and terrible wilderness. Therefore he must not expect a very smooth path, or many comfortable accommodations. He will have much to grieve and distress him. His heart will be often burdened with grief, and filled with sorrow — tears are common to the Christian. He feels the unsuitableness of the things of time to his spirit, profession, and aim. And therefore he confesses, "I am a stranger and a pilgrim — as all my fathers were!" Psalm 39:12

Weariness and painfulness are his portion now — but a rest remains for him! It is a glorious rest. It embraces and includes all that the believer has prayed for — or can desire!
It waits for him at the end of his journey,
it was prepared for him from the foundation of the world,
it is now promised to him in the faithful word, and
it will be bestowed upon him when he has fought the good fight, and finished his course.

Everything at present may appear gloomy and distressing; but ahead of you, believer, everything is glorious, magnificent, and blessed! Press on then — fight the good fight of faith. Travel on in the strength of Jesus! You are going home — and you have a glorious home to go to!

The minute after you have entered your rest — you will forget all the fatigue, all the dangers, and all the difficulties of the way! You will perhaps be filled with wonder, that you should ever have allowed such trifles to vex you, or such little trials to discourage you — with such a glorious end before you.

Fellow-pilgrim, expect trouble — but also expect mercy to help you in time of need! Expect to feel your circumstances to be trying — but also expect your Savior's strength to be perfected in your weakness! You will soon end your tedious, tiresome journey — and enter into the joy of your Lord!

Never forget you are now a pilgrim — a stranger — only a sojourner here in this poor world. Here you have no continuing city — but you seek for one to come.

Nothing can make this poor world your rest — it will always be a wilderness to you. Be content then, to wait until you get home! There you shall enjoy — and always enjoy, all your desires! There will not be one unfulfilled want, wish, or desire there! All will be satisfied — all will be full. In a little while — you will see the portal of your Father's house, and hear Him say, "Come in, you who are blessed of the Lord, tarry no longer outside! Come, dwell forever with Me!"

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What an ocean of glory is here!

(James Smith, "The Believer's Companion in Seasons of Affliction and Trouble" 1842)

"Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory!" Romans 8:17

The spiritual mind is like a bird locked up in a cage, while burdened with a body of sin and death. We cannot do the things that we desire — so we long, pant, and pray for liberty.

Liberty, glorious liberty is before us!

Perfect and entire freedom from all sin — and temptation to sin!

Every corruption will be slain, and completely rooted out of body and soul!

No dark clouds of ignorance will any more hover over the understanding.

No sinful or selfish principles will any more influence the will.

No corroding guilt will again obtain a place in the conscience.

No unworthy objects will be presented, or have power to captivate any of the affections.

No profane or forbidden subjects will any more be found in the memory.

Reason will be correctly informed. "Now we know in part, and prophesy in part — but then shall we know even as also we are known."

Holiness will enter into the very nature of body and soul!

We shall be separated completely and forever, from everything that is painful, defiling, or injurious — and united closely and forever to all that is holy, happy, and beneficial.

Tried believer! What an ocean of glory is here! Adam's paradise was nothing compared to this!

All things are yours!

God is yours!

Heaven is yours!

The glory of Jesus is yours!

Your end will be glorious — though your present situation is painful and distressing. You will soon be delivered . . .
  from every fear,
  from every foe,
  from every impediment, and
  from evil in every shape and form!

"No eye has seen,
 no ear has heard, and
 no mind has imagined —
 what God has prepared for those who love Him!"
    1 Corinthians 2:9

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Surely there was no more royal moment in all of Christ's life!

(J.R. Miller, "Daily Bible Readings in the Life of Christ" 1890)

"Today shall you be with Me in paradise!" Luke 23:43

This was the second saying of the Savior on the cross. Something touched the heart of one of the robbers — may it not have been the Savior's prayer for His murderers? He became penitent in his dying hour, and cried to Jesus for mercy: "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." Quickly from the lips of the dying Redeemer came the gracious response, "Today shall you be with Me in paradise!" The words are full of meaning, of which only broken hints can here be given.

Though in the agony of death — Jesus could yet give life to a dead soul. Though draining the dregs of the cup of woe — He could give a cup of blessedness to a penitent sinner. Though His hand was nailed to the cross — it yet carried the key of paradise, and opened the gate to allow a repentant soul to enter. Surely there was no more royal moment in all of Christ's life, than this!

The promise itself tells us what death is for the believer. "Today shall you be with Me!" There is no long, dark passage, therefore, through which the freed soul must go to reach blessedness. There is no "purgatory" in which it must punished for its sins for long years — before it can enter Heaven. At once, the redeemed spirit goes into the presence of Christ!

Paul teaches us the same truth when he describes death as departing to be with Christ; and says that to be absent from the body — is to be at home with the Lord. That same day, said Jesus — this penitent would be in paradise! We ought not then, to be afraid to die — if we are Christ's redeemed and holy ones.

The words tell us also, what Heaven's blessedness really consists of. "You shall be with Me." Being with Christ — is glory! No sweeter, more blessed Heaven can be conceived of!

We know but little about Heaven as a place — where it is, what it is like; but this much we know — that there we shall be with Christ! Is not that enough to know?

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Troubles, troubles, troubles!

(James Smith, "The Believer's Companion in Seasons of Affliction and Trouble" 1842) 

"Call upon Me in the day of trouble! I will deliver you — and you shall glorify Me!" Psalm 50:15

Believer, in this portion of the divine Word, you will discover:
   1. your present portion — trouble;
   2. your constant privilege — prayer;
   3. your future prospect — deliverance.

1. Your present portion is TROUBLE. You must expect trouble, and will certainly be deceived if you expect to escape it. Sin is the parent of trouble — and our sin-cursed earth its fruitful soil. Trouble springs up all around us, and appears in an almost infinite variety of forms.

Every connection we form,
every character we bear,
every office we fill, and
every relation we sustain —
is a fruitful source of trouble!

We shall have . . .
   trouble in mind,
   trouble in circumstances,
   trouble in body;
   trouble from almost every quarter!

This poor world is not our rest — for it is polluted!
This poor world is not our home — for we are poor pilgrims!
This poor world is not our country — for we are strangers and aliens!

Every day has its peculiar troubles. Often when we look for a certain comfort — we only find peculiar distress and vexation! Everything declares, "Happiness is not in me!" You may look on the right hand — but you will find no permanent peace; and on the left hand — disappointment awaits you. Only in Jesus is . . .
   solid peace,
   holy satisfaction, and
   permanent comfort to be found.

If we could rightly interpret the various voices around us, we would find them all saying, "Go to Jesus! Abide in Jesus! Derive all from Jesus — or be wretched, miserable, and disappointed!"

In youth, manhood, and old age — trouble and tribulation is the Christian's lot. Our God feeds us with the heritage of Jacob our father; but if we carefully read his history, we shall find that some very bitter herbs grew on it:
   Joseph is lost,
   Rachel dies,
   Simeon is imprisoned,
   Benjamin must go,
   Simeon and Levi slay the Shechemites — 
   and all these things appear against him!

Just so with us, troubles and trials follow each other, at times, almost like Job's messengers, treading on each other's heels, and we are almost overwhelmed! But,

2. Your constant privilege is PRAYER — to visit the throne of grace, and wait upon our God. He says, "Call upon Me in the day of trouble!" Troubles . . .
   furnish us with messages to our Father's throne,
   quicken us in our supplications, and
   oblige us to entreat His favor!

His throne of grace is always accessible, and His ear is always open; but in times of trouble, He especially invites us to draw near. He says:
Call upon Me in trouble, call for whatever you need!
Are you perplexed — then call for wisdom;
are you weak — then call for strength;
are you guilty — then call for pardon;
are you miserable — then call for comfort;
are you in darkness — then call for light;
are you in bondage — then call for freedom and relief.

Call upon Me, for I am always on the throne of grace!

Call upon Me, for I am glad to see you!

Call upon Me, for I am ready to help you!

Call upon Me, for I wait to be gracious unto you!

Call upon Me — upon Me first, before you run to others!

Call upon Me — and you will have no occasion to go anywhere else, for I have all that you can possibly need.

Call upon Me freely — without reserve.

Call upon Me boldly — without fear.

Call upon Me importunately — without doubt!

The promise encourages us,
the invitation allures us — but
trouble impels us to call upon our God!

Our troubles are frequently the instruments the Holy Spirit employs to carry on His sacred work in our hearts. By troubles, He . . .
   empties us of self,
   weans us from the world, and
   endears Jesus and His salvation to us!

Oh, believer, make use of your privilege in every time of trouble — and fully expect what Your God has promised!

3. Your future prospect is DELIVERANCE. The prospect is opened up, "I will deliver you — and you shall glorify Me!" Here God comes under engagement to deliver His calling child. Can we, then, be too confident, or expect deliverance with too much assurance? Surely not! Only let us beware lest we dictate to God as to time, means, or manner of deliverance — and then we cannot be too certain. He will deliver, and in such a way as to . . .
   put honor on your faith,
   pour confusion on your unbelief, and
   secure the glory to His blessed self!

God's delivering mercies are all brought forth on jubilee days — for the deliverances which He affords, proclaim a jubilee in the soul.

"I WILL!" — this promise is . . .
   more durable than earth,
   more stable as the pillars of Heaven,
   and as changeless as the nature of Jehovah.

"I will DELIVER!" — this is at once . . .
   the food, warrant, and plea of faith;
   the lattice through which hope directs the eye, and
   the prime argument which the soul uses before God.

"I will deliver YOU!" This is the laying of God's hand on His needy child.

My poor brother — are you in trouble? Are you calling upon God? The Lord says, "I will deliver YOU!" You are the person God had in His eye and in His heart — when He caused this precious portion to be penned. Take up the language, and say, "He will deliver ME!" And you, being delivered, proving God to be faithful, realizing the power of prayer, and enjoying delivering mercy — shall, though Satan will try to hinder, and unbelief would gladly shut your mouth — you shall glorify Me!

How truly blessed, how pleasant, how satisfactory is this! Every believer must say: "It is just as I would have it! I get all the mercy — and God gets all the glory!"

Brethren in Jesus . . .
   expect your portion — troubles,
   prize your privilege — prayer, and
   look forward to your prospect — deliverance!

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Salvation is by free grace alone!

(James Smith, "The Believer's Companion in Seasons of Affliction and Trouble" 1842)

"By grace you are saved!" Ephesians 2:8

Salvation is by free grace alone! In eternity past, the Lord fixed upon the objects whom He intended to deliver from sin, Satan, and the curse — and whom He designed to raise to holiness, happiness, and honor. He assigns no reason but His sovereign good pleasure: "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion!"

He chose His people out of the vast mass — and recorded their names in the book of life. He gave them to our dear and adorable Immanuel — to be His care, charge, and bride. He appointed them to life, sonship, and conformity to Jesus — and all of free grace!

Grace scatters blessings upon millions — but never utters a curse against any. She provides salvation for her objects — but is in no sense the cause of the damnation of the rest. Her language is SAVE; but never DESTROY.

Sovereign grace, rightly viewed — embodies everything that is sweet, pleasant, charming, and delightful. It is . . .
  as free as the summer breeze,
  as pure as the sun's bright ray,
  and as pleasant as the morning light!

All who know it — love it,
all who have seen it — admire it,
and all who enjoy it — adore it!

Grace finds . . .
  a depth for our sins,
  a fountain for our needs,
  a covering for our persons, and
  a Heaven for our eternal habitation.

Oh that Heaven would coin language sufficiently grand, and furnish ideas sufficiently noble — to speak of the glories of sovereign grace, or to show forth half its praise!

Salvation, then, . . .
  originates in the free grace of God,
  flows in the channel of the Redeemer's blood, and
  aims at the glorification of Jehovah in all His perfections.

Salvation was . . .
  planned in eternity,
  executed in time, and
  shall be realized and enjoyed until eternity can end!

Salvation is . . .
  divine in its contrivance, execution, and application;
  holy in its character, tendency, and design;
  and free in its bestowment and operations.

Salvation is of God, by grace, to holiness — forever!

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

There is an end to all your troubles, trials, and temptations

(James Smith, "The Believer's Companion in Seasons of Affliction and Trouble" 1842)

"Surely there is an end; and your expectation shall not be cut off." Proverbs 23:18

Christian! There is an end to all your troubles, trials, and temptations — you will survive them all, and rise superior to them.

There is an end to all your enemies, and their designs to injure you. They will either be converted to friends, or be everlastingly destroyed from the presence of the Lord, and the glory of His power.

There is an end to all your disappointments and vexations — you will soon be disappointed for the last time, and shall know vexation no more.

There is an end to your sickness — it is not eternal. Your pains are of short duration — but your pleasures shall forever flow!

Oh, think of this and be grateful! Your expectation of being forever . . .
  freed from sin,
  delivered from Satan,
  raised above the world,
  placed beyond the reach of sorrow,
  and of being forever with the Lord
 — shall not be cut off!

Your troubles are confined to this howling wilderness — but can never enter the paradise into which you will shortly dwell. There will be an end of all you complain of, mourn over, or seek deliverance from. There will be a beginning — but no end, to all that you ardently desire, long, and pray for! Jesus will soon complete His redemption, by eradicating sin, sickness, and sorrow — and by raising His saints incorruptible, and perfectly conformed to Himself!

Look beyond your present sufferings — and anticipate the glory that is to be revealed.

Time will soon fade away before the unfading glories of eternity!

Time bounds your trials — but only eternity bounds your possessions, pleasures, and glories!

Grace will be swallowed up in glory forever!

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

He was crushed for our iniquities!

(J.C. Ryle, "Coming Events and Present Duties")

"But He was pierced for our transgressions,
 He was crushed for our iniquities.
 The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him,
 and by His wounds we are healed!" Isaiah 53:5

Let us live as if every allowed sin, was . . .
   one more thorn in Christ's head,
   one more nail in His feet,
   one more spear in His side!

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

A woman who had lived a sinful life

(J.C. Ryle, "Coming Events and Present Duties")

"When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house; she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind Him at His feet weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them." Luke 7:37-38

We can never be too well acquainted with our own sinfulness and vileness. The spring of all humility, thankfulness, grateful love to Christ, and close walk with God — is real, thorough, Scriptural knowledge of the wickedness of our own hearts. The soul that loves much — is the soul that feels its sin-debt is great, and that much has been forgiven. 

"Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven — for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little." Luke 7:47

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Let me try to draw a picture of Biblical holiness

(J.C. Ryle, "Holiness, Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots")

"Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord!"  Hebrews 12:14

Are we holy? Shall we see the Lord?

In this hurrying, bustling world — let us stand still for a few minutes and consider the matter of holiness. It is a solemn thing to hear the Word of God saying, "Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord!"

A man may go great lengths in religion — and yet never reach true holiness.

What is true practical holiness?
It is not knowledge — Balaam had that.
It is not great profession — Judas Iscariot had that.
It is not doing many things — Herod had that.
It is not zeal for certain matters in religion — Jehu had that.
It is not morality and outward respectability of conduct — the rich young ruler had that.
It is not taking pleasure in hearing preachers — the Jews in Ezekiel's time had that.
It is not keeping company with godly people — Joab and Gehazi and Demas had that.

Yet none of these were holy people! These things alone, are not holiness. A man may have any one of them — and yet never see the Lord!

Let me try to draw a picture of Biblical holiness, that we may see it clearly before the eyes of our minds.

1. Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture.

2. A holy man will endeavor to shun every known sin, and to keep every known commandment.

3. A holy man will strive to be like our Lord Jesus Christ.

4. A holy man will follow after meekness, patience, gentleness, patience, kind tempers, and government of his tongue.

5. A holy man will follow after temperance and self-denial.

6. A holy man will follow after love and brotherly kindness.

7. A holy man will follow after a spirit of mercy and benevolence towards others.

8. A holy man will follow after purity of heart.

9. A holy man will follow after the fear of God.

10. A holy man will follow after humility.

11. A holy man will follow after faithfulness in all the duties and relations in life.

12. Last — but not least, a holy man will follow after spiritual-mindedness.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~


(J.C. Ryle, "Holiness, Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots")

A holy man will strive to be like our Lord Jesus Christ. He will not only live the life of faith in Him, and draw from Him all his daily peace and strength — but he will also labor to be conformed to His image (Romans 8:29). It will be his aim . . .
  to bear with and forgive others — even as Christ forgave us;
  to be unselfish — even as Christ pleased not Himself;
  to walk in love — even as Christ loved us;
  to be lowly-minded and humble — even as Christ humbled Himself.

A holy man will remember . . .
that Christ would continually deny Himself in order to minister to others;
that He was meek and patient under undeserved insults;
that He thought more of godly poor men, than of kings;
that He was full of love and compassion to sinners;
that He was bold and uncompromising in denouncing sin;
that He sought not the praise of men, when He might have had it;
that He went about doing good;
that He was separate from worldly people;
that He continued instant in prayer;
that He would not let even His nearest relations stand in His way, when God's work was to be done.

All these things, a holy man will try to remember. By them, he will endeavor to shape his course in life.

He will lay to heart the saying of John: "He who says he abides in Christ, ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked" (1 John 2:6); and the saying of Peter, that "Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example that you should follow His steps" (1 Peter 2:21).

Happy is he who has learned to make Christ his "all," both for salvation and example! Much time would be saved, and much sin prevented — if men would oftener ask themselves the question: "What would Jesus have said and done — if He were in my place?"

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Growth in grace

(J.C. Ryle, "Growth in Grace" 1879)

"Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" 2 Peter 3:18

When I speak of growth in grace, I only mean an increase in the degree, size, strength, vigor and power — of the graces which the Holy Spirit plants in a believer's heart. I hold that every one of those graces admits of growth, progress and increase. I hold that repentance, faith, hope, love, humility, zeal, courage and the like — may be . . .
  little — or great,
  strong — or weak,
  vigorous — or feeble, and
may vary greatly in the same person at different periods of his life.

When I speak of a man growing in grace, I mean simply that . . .
  his sense of sin is becoming deeper,
  his faith is becoming stronger,
  his hope is becoming brighter,
  his love is becoming more extensive,
  his spiritual-mindedness is becoming more marked,
  he feels more of the power of godliness in his own heart — and he manifests more of it in his life.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

One mark of growth in grace

(J.C. Ryle, "Growth in Grace" 1879)

"Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" 2 Peter 3:18

One mark of growth in grace, is increased HUMILITY. The man whose soul is growing, feels his own sinfulness and unworthiness more every year.

He is ready to say with Job, "I am vile!"

And with Abraham, "I am dust and ashes!"

And with Jacob, "I am not worthy of the least of all Your mercies!"

And with David, "I am a worm!"

And with Isaiah, "I am a man of unclean lips!"

And with Peter, "I am a sinful man, O Lord!"

The nearer the Christian draws to God, and the more he sees of God's holiness and perfections — the more thoroughly is he sensible of his own countless sins and imperfections. The further he journeys in the way to Heaven — the more he understands what Paul meant when he says,
  "I am not already perfect!"
  "I am not fit to be called an apostle!"
  "I am less than the least of all the saints!"
  "I am the chief of sinners!"

The riper the Christian is for glory, the more, like the ripe corn — he hangs down his head with humility. The brighter and clearer his gospel light — the more he sees of the shortcomings and infirmities of his own heart. When first converted, he would tell you he saw but little of them — compared to what he sees now.

Would anyone know whether he is growing in grace? Be sure that you look within for increased humility.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Another mark of growth in grace

(J.C. Ryle, "Growth in Grace" 1879)

Another mark of growth in grace, is increased spirituality of taste and mind. The man whose soul is growing, takes more interest in spiritual things every year.

He does not neglect his duty in the world. He discharges faithfully, diligently and conscientiously — every relation of life, whether at home or abroad. But the things he loves best, are spiritual things.

The amusements and recreations of the world, have a continually decreasing place in his heart. He does not condemn them as downright sinful — he only feels that they have a constantly diminishing hold on his own affections — and gradually seem smaller and more trifling in his eyes. Spiritual companions, spiritual occupations, spiritual conversation — are of ever-increasing value to him. Would anyone know if he is growing in grace? Then let him look within for increasing spirituality of taste.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Another mark of growth in grace

(J.C. Ryle, "Growth in Grace" 1879)

Another mark of growth in grace
, is increase in LOVE to others. The man whose soul is growing, is more full of love every year — of love to all men — but especially of love towards the brethren.

His love will show itself actively — in a growing disposition to do kindnesses, to take trouble for others, to be good-natured to everybody, to be generous, sympathizing, thoughtful, tender-hearted and considerate.

His love will show itself passively — in a growing disposition to be meek and patient towards all men, to put up with provocation and not stand upon his rights, to bear and forbear much rather than quarrel. A growing soul will try to put the best construction on other people's conduct; and to believe all things and hope all things, even to the end. There is no surer mark of backsliding and falling off in grace — than an increasing disposition to find fault, pick holes, and see weak points in others. Would anyone know if he is growing in grace? Then let him look within for increasing love to others.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

A cheap, easy Christianity

(J.C. Ryle, "The Cost!")

"Any of you who does not give up everything he has, cannot be My disciple." Luke 14:33

What does it cost to be a Christian?

I grant freely that it costs little to be a mere outward Christian. A man has only got to attend a place of worship twice on Sunday, and to be tolerably moral during the week — and he has gone as far as thousands around him ever go in religion. All this is cheap and easy work — it entails no self-denial or self-sacrifice. If this is saving Christianity and will take us to Heaven when we die — we must alter the description of the way of life, and write, "Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to Heaven!"

But it does cost something to be a real Christian, according to the standard of the Bible. There are . . .
  enemies to be overcome,
  battles to be fought,
  sacrifices to be made,
  an Egypt to be forsaken,
  a wilderness to be passed through,
  a cross to be carried,
  a race to be run.
Conversion is not putting a man in a soft armchair, and taking him pleasantly to Heaven. It is the beginning of a mighty conflict, in which it costs much to win the victory. Hence arises the unspeakable importance of "counting the cost."

True Christianity will cost a man . . .
  his self-righteousness,
  his sins,
  his love of ease, and
  the favor of the world.

A religion which costs nothing — is worth nothing!

A cheap, easy Christianity, without a cross — will prove in the end a useless Christianity, without a crown!

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Personal intimacy with the Lord Jesus

(J.C. Ryle, "Growth in Grace" 1879)

Regular and habitual communion with the Lord Jesus, is absolutely essential to growth in grace! I mean that daily habit of communion between the believer and his Savior, which can only be carried on by faith, prayer and meditation.

It is a habit, I fear, of which many believers know little. It is possible to have "union" with Christ — and yet to have little "communion" with Him. Communion . . .
  between the Bridegroom — and His bride,
  between the Head — and His members,
  between the Physician — and His patients,
  between the Advocate — and His clients,
  between the Shepherd — and His sheep,
  between the Master — and His scholars.
Communion implies a habit of daily application for things needed, and of daily pouring out and unburdening our hearts and minds. It is getting close to Him and laying hold on Him with confidence — as a loving, personal Friend.

Now I believe that no man will ever grow in grace, who does not know something experimentally of the habit of communion. We must seek to have personal intimacy with the Lord Jesus, and to deal with Him as a man deals with a loving friend. We must realize what it is . . .
  to turn to Him first in every need,
  to talk to Him about every difficulty,
  to consult Him about every step,
  to spread before Him all our sorrows,
  to get Him to share in all our joys,
  to do all as in His sight, and
  to go through every day leaning on, and looking to Him!

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

True Christianity is a fight!

(J.C. Ryle, "The Fight!")

"Fight the good fight of faith." 1 Timothy 6:12

True Christianity is a fight!

True Christianity! Let us mind that word "true." There is a vast quantity of religion current in the world which is not true, genuine Christianity. There are thousands of men and women who go to churches and chapels every Sunday and call themselves Christians. They make a "profession" of faith in Christ. Their names are in the baptismal register. They are reckoned Christians while they live. They are married with a Christian marriage service. They mean to be buried as Christians when they die.

But you never see any "fight" about their religion! Of spiritual strife and exertion and conflict and self-denial and watching and warring — they know literally nothing at all. Such Christianity may satisfy man, and those who say anything against it may be thought very hard and uncharitable; but it certainly is not the Christianity of the Bible. It is not the religion which the Lord Jesus founded, and His apostles preached. It is not the religion which produces real holiness. True Christianity is "a fight!"

The principal fight of the Christian is with . . .
  the world,
  the flesh, and
  the devil.
These are his never-dying foes! These are the three chief enemies against whom he must wage war. With a corrupt heart, a busy devil and an ensnaring world — he must either "fight" or be lost!

To be at peace with the world, the flesh and the devil — is to be at enmity with God and in the broad way that leads to destruction! We have no choice or option. We must either fight — or be lost!

It is a fight of universal necessity. No rank or class or age can plead exemption, or escape the battle — all alike must carry arms and go to war.
All have by nature a heart full of pride, unbelief, sloth, worldliness and sin!
All are living in a world beset with snares, traps and pitfalls for the soul.
All have near them a busy, restless, malicious devil.
All, from the queen in her palace down to the pauper in the workhouse — all must fight, if they would be saved.

We may take comfort about our souls, if we know anything of an inward fight and conflict. It is the invariable companion of genuine Christian holiness.

The saddest symptom about many so-called Christians, is the utter absence of anything like conflict and fight in their Christianity. They eat, they drink, they dress, they work, they amuse themselves, they get money, they spend money, they go through a scanty round of formal religious services once or twice every week. But of the great spiritual warfare — its watchings and strugglings, its agonies and anxieties, its battles and contests — of all this they appear to know nothing at all.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

It is not the man who hides himself in a cave

(J.C. Ryle, "The Fight!")

True sanctification does not consist in retirement from our place in life, and the renunciation of our social duties. In every age it has been a snare with many, to take up this line in the pursuit of holiness. Hundreds of hermits have buried themselves in some wilderness, and thousands of men and women have shut themselves up within the walls of monasteries and convents — under the vain idea that by so doing, they would escape sin and become eminently holy.

They have forgotten that no bolts and bars can keep out the devil; and that, wherever we go, we carry that root of all evil our own hearts.

True holiness does not make a Christian evade difficulties — but face and overcome them. Christ would have His people show that His grace is not a mere hot-house plant, which can only thrive under shelter — but a strong, hardy thing which can flourish in every relation of life. It is doing our duty, in that state to which God has called us — like salt in the midst of corruption, and light in the midst of darkness — which is a primary element in sanctification.

It is not the man who hides himself in a cave — but the man who glorifies God in the family and in the street, in business and in trade — who is the Scriptural type of a sanctified man.

  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Dim or indistinct views of sin

(J.C. Ryle, "Holiness, Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots" 1879)

He who wishes to attain right views about Christian holiness — must begin by examining the vast and solemn subject of sin. He must dig down very low — if he would build high. A mistake here is most mischievous. Wrong views about holiness — are generally traceable to wrong views about human corruption.

The plain truth is, that a right understanding of SIN lies at the root of all saving Christianity. Without it, such doctrines as justification, conversion, sanctification, are "words and names" which convey no meaning to the mind.

The first thing, therefore, that God does when He makes anyone a new creature in Christ, is to send light into his heart and show him that he is a guilty sinner!

Dim or indistinct views of sin are the origin of most of the errors, heresies and false doctrines of the present day! If a man does not realize the dangerous nature of his soul's disease — you cannot wonder if he is content with false or imperfect remedies. I believe that one of the chief needs of the contemporary church has been, and is — clearer, fuller teaching about sin!