Light for Dark Days
James Smith, 1855
"Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows!" John 16:33
Every Christian should expect a daily cross —
something to try his graces,
something to render the promises necessary,
something to make the throne of grace desirable.
This he is promised in God's Word,
this all the saints have found,
this will be our portion to the end of our days.
Here on earth, we have no abiding city. Here we are but travelers and pilgrims, and must, therefore, expect that every day will furnish something new to make us hasten home.
This was David's experience. He had days of trouble — but
he had also troubles at other times. He would never have prayed as he did,
written as he did, or been useful as he has been — but for his trials. He
found . . .
the Lord to be faithful,
grace to be sufficient, and
deliverance in the most suitable season.
Hence he says, "In the day of my trouble, I will call upon you; for you will answer me" (Psalm 86:7).
In this Psalm, he displays . . .
strong assurance and deep humility,
clear knowledge of the Divine character, and
earnest prayer for the Lord's intervention.
God's favor manifested — leads us to pray for preservation. Trust in the Lord — is connected with ardent longings for mercy from the Lord.
The prayers of the Psalmist were perpetual. "I cry unto you all the day." He sought to be happy, and therefore, he went to the Lord with, "Rejoice the soul of your servant."
He pleads, "For you, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and plenteous in mercy unto all who call upon you." What sweet encouragement is here! In going to prayer, we go to a good God, a God of goodness: one who is "ready to forgive." I would wish to remember these three words whenever I go to prayer, or whenever tempted to despond. He has plenty of mercy, and therefore we need not fear going too often, or for too much. He has plenty of mercy, he is ready to forgive — but whom? It is not said the elect, the favorites of Heaven, or the saints, though this is true: but, for our encouragement, and to overcome our fears, it is said, "Unto all who call upon him." I may be sure that I call upon God — when I doubt my election, or question my saintship. Blessed be the Lord for considering our weakness, and thus providing for our comfort and satisfaction!
"In the day of my trouble, I will call upon you; for you will answer me."
Here isgloomy anticipation — a "day of trouble." The believer and trouble are seldom far apart, or long apart. We are born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards. Whichever way to look — we see a source of trouble!
If we look into the heart — its depravity, deceitfulness, and wickedness is a fruitful source of trouble. If we look to the different faculties of the soul — all combine to trouble us.
Our memories — how ready to receive, retain, and produce evil, even profanity — how backward to receive, keep, or produce what is spiritual and good. A text is soon forgotten, while anything which we would gladly forget, seems to be imprinted on the mind, and is produced in order to distress us. How often is this the case in prayer, under the means of grace, or when searching God's blessed Word.
The will — how perverse and untoward, how often does it run out after that which is carnal, forbidden of God, and injurious to us.
The affections-how easily affected with earthly things, and set upon what is vain and worldly.
The conscience — how weak, how hard, how often polluted.
If we turn from ourselves to our families — children dead in sin, and carnal, earthly minded relations — are causes of trouble.
If we look at the world, whether it smiles or frowns — it is an enemy to our God, and us, and a prolific source of trouble.
If we look at the church — what a source of trouble is this!
Instead of love — there is jealousy.
Instead of peace — there is conflict.
Instead of union — there is division.
Instead of brotherly kindness — there is envy.
Instead of charity — there is an unforgiving spirit.
If we look at the Lord Jesus, there is cause of
trouble there — when we reflect upon . . .
his amazing love,
his infinite compassion,
his tender mercy,
his sweet promises,
his kind invitations,
his glorious righteousness,
his precious blood,
his atoning death,
his all-prevalent intercession,
and his holy gospel;
and CONTRAST these with . . .
our hardness of heart,
our coldness of affection,
our neglect of communion,
our lack of zeal for his glory,
and numberless other evil things besides — it must fill a sincere mind with heartfelt trouble!
Here isa good purpose: "I will call upon you." The Lord kindly invites us to call upon him in trouble — and promises that he will deliver us. Every trouble, rightly understood, is an invitation from the Lord to call upon him. We are apt to get cold and indifferent — and then the Lord puts us into the furnace, which warms and quickens our devotions. Our best prayers have generally been offered up in times of trouble. In trouble, we feel that we must pray or sink. Oh, what a mercy to have a God to go to, in every trouble! A God who invites, promises, and will bless us!
The day of our trouble should be a day of special prayer.
Trouble burdens the heart — prayer eases it.
Trouble disturbs the heart — prayer quiets it.
Trouble perplexes the heart — prayer directs it.
May we always pray — but especially in troublous times. Yes, we will call upon God, and he will answer us.
Here issweet encouragement: "You will answer me." It is sweetly encouraging to know that God will listen to us, sympathize with us, and answer us, before we begin to pray. But this every believer may be persuaded of, for God is pledged to give him what he asks in the name of Jesus, or else what is far better for him.
But we may argue the certainty of the Lord's answering us:
First, from his mercy. The mercy of the Lord is
ever great towards his children — and it is tender mercy. Divine mercy has .
a quick ear,
a piercing eye,
a tender heart,
a full hand, and
a swift foot!
When mercy hears a poor sinner crying — she always attends, sympathizes with him, and answers. While God is merciful, plenteous in mercy, and delights in mercy — we need not fear an answer to our prayers. Mercy set him on promising, and mercy will see to the fulfillment of every promise he has made.
Secondly, from the relationship in which the Lord stands to us. Doubtless he is our FATHER. He does not wear the name — without possessing the nature; or employ the title — without filling the relationship. Oh, no, he feels for his Ephraims even in their backsliding state — and cannot turn from them when they come pleading before him! His language, when he sees a poor prodigal praying before him, is, "Is not Ephraim still my son, my darling child? I often have to punish him, but I still love him. That's why I long for him and surely will have mercy on him." Jeremiah 31:20
He refers us to ourselves in our corrupted and depraved state, and says, "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" Matthew 7:11
Thirdly, from his promises. He assures us
positively that he will answer. His own words are, "Call upon me in the day
of trouble, I WILL deliver you, and you shall glorify me." He is . . .
faithful to his Word,
unchangeable in his nature,
unalterable in his purpose,
the same yesterday, today, and forever.
What he spoke — he intended. What he has promised — he will do. Nothing can occur to cause him to alter his mind; for all that will occur was known to him before he gave his Word. He cannot falsify his Word, for he is the God of truth.
Jesus assures us, that whatever we ask the Father in his name — he will give it to us. Then, in the day of our trouble, let us ask in the name of Jesus, and God will answer us.
Fourthly, his invitation is a security that we shall have an answer. Jesus bids the weary and heavy laden — to come to him and find rest; if thirsting for the Spirit of holiness and happiness — to come unto him and drink; and he never could thus invite, if he intended to disappoint us. He is trustworthy, and waits to be gracious. If we plead his invitation he will acknowledge it as his, and deal with us according to the tenor of the same.
Fifthly, the numberless examples left on record in the Word, bear witness to the truth that God will answer us. They called upon him in trouble, they fled to him for support and relief — and not one of them was disappointed or ashamed. They all stand forth and say, "He is faithful to perform his gracious Word." If but one could be found that sought, cried, and looked unto him in vain — we might doubt; but all who sought the Lord were heard by him, and delivered from all their fears.
Sixthly, our own past experience corroborates the fact that "the Lord will hear me." We have often called and cried unto him — but never yet in vain. He always lent a ready ear to our complaints, and granted us our requests, or something better than was asked. Yes, we can witness for our God, that he will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer.
Penitent publicans are always heard — but proud pharisees are denied. Which are we? If believers in Jesus, we shall never find the Lord worse than his Word, or the future worse than the past. If tried — we shall be supported. Even if the furnace should be heated seven times hotter — still as our day so shall our strength be. We shall ever find the grace of Jesus sufficient, and his strength made perfect in our weakness. Look unto the generations of old, did ever any seek the Lord and were confounded? Or, did ever any call upon him in trouble, for grace to bear it, and to be sanctified by it, and were refused? Never one. Neither shall we be.
Why should my soul indulge complaints,
And yield to dark despair?
The lowest of my Father's saints
Are safe beneath his care!
Why should I thus desponding bow,
Or why with anguish bleed?
Though darkness veil my passage now,
Yet glory shall succeed.
A thousand promises are wrote
In characters of blood;
And those emphatic lines denote
The ever-faithful God.
Through those dear promises I range,
And, blessed be his name,
Though I, a feeble creature, change,
His love is still the same.
Why, then, should fears so far prevail,
When they my hopes accost?
My faith, though weak, can never fail,
Nor shall my hopes be lost!