PRAISE IN AFFLICTION

“Christians can rejoice even in the deepest distress. Although trouble may surround them, they still sing; and , like many birds, they sing best in their cages. Trouble does not necessarily bring consolation with it to the believer, but the presence of the Son of God in the fiery furnace with him fills his heart with joy” Charles Spurgeon (ref#34, July 2nd AM).

“If the afflictions we experience have a blessed end—our sanctification (Heb 12:11)—shouldn’t we learn to become thankful for them? Rather than simply enduring them with a stiff upper lip, we should be praising God that he did not leave us to ourselves” John Calvin (ref#164, March 26th).

He Keeps Me Singing

There’s within my heart a melody,

Jesus whispers sweet and low,

Fear not, I am with thee,

Peace be still, In all of life’s ebb and flow.

All my life was wrecked by sin and strife,

Discord filled my heart with pain,

Jesus swept across the broken strings,

Stirred the slumbering chords again.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus—Sweetest name I know,

Fills my every longing, Keeps me singing as I go.

Luther Burgess Bridgers (hymnary.org).

“You will yet climb Jacob’s ladder with the angels and behold Him who sits at the top of it—your covenant God. You will yet, amid the splendors of eternity, forget the trials of time—or only remember them to bless the God who led you through them and worked your lasting good by them. Come and sing in the midst of tribulation. Rejoice even while you are passing through the furnace of affliction. Make the wilderness blossom like the rose. Cause the desert to ring with your exulting joys. These light afflictions will soon be over; then, forever with the Lord, your bliss will never diminish” Charles Spurgeon (ref#34, July 21st PM).

ADVANTAGES OF COMBAT

“’There can be no victory where there is no combat” Richard Sibbes (ref#311, p118).

“[T]he spiritual government of Christ is so opposed. It limits the course of the will and casts a bridle on its wanderings. Everything natural resists what opposed it. Carnal men would like to bring Christ and the flesh together, and could be content, with some reservation, to submit to Christ. But Christ will be no underling to any base affection, and therefore where there is allowance of ourselves in any sinful lust, it is a sign the keys were never given up to Christ to rule us. It is no sign of a good condition to find all quiet with no opposition” Richard Sibbes (ref#311, p119-120).

“Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls” (Heb 12:1-3 MSG)!

“God’s way is not to take us out of the difficulties and trials, not to avoid them. His way is to enable us and to strengthen us, so that we can go through them with heads erect and undefeated, more than conquerors in them and over them. [Y]ou are fulfilling the glory of God even as you go through a trial” Martyn Lloyd-Jones (ref#189, March 16th).

“Plead with Him earnestly, and either He will remove the affliction, or remove the impatience” Thomas Watson (ref#333, p239).

“[W]e ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom 8:23 ESV).

“This groaning is universal among the saints. It is not the groan of murmuring or complaint; it is the note of desire rather than of distress” Charles Spurgeon (ref#34, Dec 4th PM).

“Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your commandments are my delight” (Ps 119:143 ESV). “I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words” (Ps 119:147 ESV).

“Faith triumphs in trial. When reason is thrust into the inner prison, with her feet secured in the stocks, faith makes the dungeon walls ring with her joyful notes. Faith pulls the black mask from the face of trouble and discovers the angel underneath” Charles Spurgeon (ref#34, Sept 12th PM).

WEANED FROM OUR OWN WILLS

“While we have such a depraved nature, and live in such a polluted world; while the roots of pride, vanity, self-dependence, self-seeking, are so strong within us, we need a variety of sharp dispensations to keep us from forgetting ourselves, and from cleaving to the dust” John Newton (ref#322, p187).

“Destruction is decreed, overflowing with righteousness” (Isa 10:22 ESV).

“It is indeed natural to us to wish and to plan, and it is merciful in the Lord to disappoint our plans and to cross our wishes. For we cannot be safe, much less happy, but in proportion as we are weaned from our own wills, and made simply desirous of being directed by his guidance. This truth (when we are enlightened by his word) is sufficiently familiar to the judgment; but we seldom learn to reduce it into practice, without being trained awhile in the school of disappointment. The schemes we form look so plausible and convenient, that when they are broken we are ready to say, What a pity! We try again, and with no better success: we are grieved, and perhaps angry, and plan out another, and so on: at length, in a course of time, experience and observation begin to convince us, that we are not more able than we are worthy to choose aright for ourselves” John Newton (ref#322, p187-188).

“[I]n the list of your griefs there is a saving clause. Somehow He will deliver you, and somewhere He will provide for you. If men do not feed you, ravens will’ if the earth does not yield wheat, heaven will drop manna. He can make your source of distress the channel of delight” Charles Spurgeon (ref#34, May 21st PM).

The Doubting Soul’s Soliloquy

O could I lift this heart of mine

Above these creature things,

I’d fly, and leave this world below,

As though on eagle’s wings.

[But ah! I feel no love at all,

Can neither praise nor pray;

O would the Lord but shine again,

And turn this night to day!]

But whither can I go to lodge

My sorrow and complaint?

Unless the Lord is pleased to shine,

I mope, I grieve, I faint.

I find my striving all in vain,

Unless my Lord is near;

My heart is hard; I’m such a wretch—

Can neither love nor fear.

I ask my soul this question then,

For here I would begin:

O do I feel a want of Christ

To save me from my sin?

The souls redeemed by precious blood

Are taught this lesson well;

‘Tis not of him that wills or runs,

But Christ who saves from hell.      

            D. Herbert (ref#224, song#676).

THE CROSS BEFORE THE CROWN

“In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him” (Ecc 7:14 ESV).

“There are some things that must be taken in order, and if we want to gain the second, we must secure the first. Heaven does not come first but second, and only by persevering to the end can we gain a share in it. The cross must be carried before the crown can be worn. We must follow our Lord in His humiliation, or we will never rest with Him in glory. [T]ake the difficult things for the sake of the sweet love of Jesus, which will compensate you for everything. In such a spirit, laboring and suffering, you will find that bitter things grow sweet, and hard things easy” Charles Spurgeon (ref#34, Nov 14th PM).

“Spiritually prosperous is the man who remains steadfast under trial, because after he has met the test and has been approved, he shall receive the crown” (James 1:12 Wuest).

“[A] Christian has his best things last, and, in this world, he receives his worst things first. But even his worst things are ‘afterward’ good things; harsh plowings yield joyful harvests. Even now he grows rich by his losses, he rises by his falls, he lives by dying, and he becomes full by being emptied. [T]he rest is not for today, nor the triumph for the present, but ‘afterward.’ Wait, O soul, and ‘let patience have her perfect work’ (James 1:4)” Charles Spurgeon (ref#34, May 18th PM).

“[W]e truly reap advantage from the discipline of the cross only, when we learn that this life, taken by itself, is full of unrest, trouble, and misery, and not really happy from any point of view; and that all its so-called blessings are uncertain, passing, vain, and mixed with endless adversity” John Calvin (ref#313, p69).

“[W]hen the house begins to shake, and the clay falls away, we see Christ through the openings; and between the rafters, the sunlight of heaven comes streaming in” Charles Spurgeon (ref#34, Nov 16th PM).

BENEFITS OF TRIALS

“Why did Jesus send his disciples into that storm? [Mark 6:45-52] He did it for the same reason he sometimes sends you into storms—because he knows that sometimes you need the storm in order to be able to see the glory. For the believer, peace is not to be found in ease of life. Real peace is only ever found in the presence, power, and grace of the Savior, the King, the Lamb, the I am. That peace is yours even when the storms of life take you beyond your natural ability, wisdom, and strength. You can live with hope and courage in the middle of what once would have produced discouragement and fear because you know you are never alone. The I am inhabits all situations, relationships and locations by his grace. He is in you. He is with you. He is for You. He is your hope” Paul David Tripp (ref#190, Feb 26th).

Welcome Cross

Trials must and will befall;

But with humble faith to see

Love inscribed upon them all,

This is happiness to me.

Trials make the promise sweet;

Trials give new life to prayer;

Trials bring me to his feet,

Lay me low and keep me there.

William Cowper (ref#224, song #282).

“You may be walking in darkness, or in light; you may be mourning in the valley, or rejoicing on the mount; now conquering, now foiled; now weeping, now rejoicing; yet it is still well with you as a pardoned, justified, saved sinner. Nothing can touch your interest in the Savior” Octavius Winslow (ref#135, Feb 27th).

“Awake, O north wind, and come, O south wind! Blow upon my garden, let its spices flow” (Song 4:16 ESV). “Anything is better than the dead calm of indifference. He makes both affliction and consolation draw forth the grateful fragrances of faith, love, patience, hope, resignation, joy, and the other fair flowers of the garden” Charles Spurgeon (ref#34, March 1st AM).

“Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever” (2 Cor 4:16-18 MSG).

“The straight way of the Lord is this: Not only has God changed me profoundly in this crucible of affliction, but He is also going to deliver me in His time and way” Bob Sorge (ref#197, p16).

“All outward distress, to a mind at peace, is but as the rattling of the hail upon the tiles to him that sits within at a sumptuous feast” Robert Leighton (ref#333, p188).

AFFLICTION IS DISGUISED BLESSINGS

“[So Paul] wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become” (2 Cor 12:7-10 MSG).

“When we see that you’re just as willing to endure the hard times as to enjoy the good times, we know you’re going to make it, no doubt about it” (2 Cor 1:6-7 MSG).

“[T]he love of God changes the aspect of everything! Afflictions are then seen to be ‘disguised blessings’; trials [as] proofs of divine faithfulness” Octavius Winslow (ref#256, p32).

“[M]y Lord Jesus has fully recompensed my sadness with His joyS, my losses with His own presence. I find it a sweet and rich thing to exchange my sorrows with Himself” Samuel Rutherford (ref#225, Dec 30th).

“In the middle of domestic trials, family changes, thwarted designs, and shattered hopes, God has made an everlasting covenant with you in the hands of Jesus, its Surety and Mediator. [U]ncertainty is a fundamental component of everything temporal. Let, then, the covenant be your comfort and your stay, your anchor in the storm” Octavius Winslow (ref#135, April 30th).

“Scripture praises the saints for their patience when they are severely afflicted by their adversities, but not broken and overcome by them; when they are bitterly distressed, but nevertheless filled with spiritual joy; when they are weighed down by anxiety and become exhausted, and yet leap for joy because of the divine consolation” John Calvin (ref#313, p61-62).

“[Y]our suffering, losses, and persecution will be a platform from which you can witness for Christ Jesus even more vigorously, and with greater power. Study your great Exemplar, and be filled with His Spirit” Charles Spurgeon (ref#34, Nov 7th PM).

FAITH IN SUFFERING

Discouragement focuses more on the broken glories of creation than it does on the restoring glories of God’s character, presence, and promises. [The Israelites heading for the promise land] had been promised a land of their own, but what they got was a place filled with people who didn’t want them there. What they saw as being in the way of God’s plan was actually part of his plan; what caused their faith to weaken was actually God’s tool to build their faith. He knows just how he will use what makes you afraid in order to build your faith. He is not surprised by the troubles you face, and he surely has no intention of leaving you to face those things on your own. He stands with you in power, glory, goodness, wisdom and grace. He can defeat what you can’t, and he intends these troubles to be not enemies that finish you but tools of grace that transform you” Paul David Tripp (ref#190, June 25th).

“[L]et those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator” (1 Pet 4:19 NASB).

“I did not know I was so unbelieving until the Lord tried my faith. I never imagined that I was so impatient, self-willed, and restless until God led me to wear the yoke and wait His will. I never supposed that my strength was so small until the Lord laid the burden on me. Little did I know how limited was my knowledge of Christ, how deficient was my acquaintance with divine truth, and how far my heart was from true prayer, until the affliction of my God set me examining my resources to meet it. Then I discovered how shallow was my experience, and how low and meager was my Christianity” Octavius Winslow (ref#135, Feb 26th).

“[It] would be a very sharp and trying experience to me to think that I have an affliction which God never sent me, that the bitter cup was never filled by his hand, that my trials were never measured out by him, not sent to me by his arrangement of their weight and quantity. If you drink of the river of affliction near its outfall, it is brackish and offensive to the taste, but if you will trace it to its source, where it rises at the foot of the throne of God, you will find its waters to be sweet and health-giving” Charles Spurgeon (“The Anguish and Agonies of Charles Spurgeon” [Christian History, Issue 29], p25).

“[W]here there is faith in the Lord Jesus, there is love; and where there is love, there is obedience; and where there is obedience, there is happiness; and where there is happiness, the soul can rejoice even in tribulation and sit and sing sweetly and merrily in adversity. [A]ll things in your history are for your good, and this calamity, this affliction, this loss, is among those things” Octavius Winslow (ref#135, Sept 21st).

“Rejoice in the LORD always; again I will say, rejoice. [B]y prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil 4:4, 6 ESV).

IN FAITH WE WAIT

“Faith listens neither to Presumption, nor to Despair, nor to Cowardice, nor to Hastiness, but it hears God say, ‘Stand still”; and immovable as a rock, it stands. ‘Stand still.’ Keep the posture of an upright man; ready for action, expecting further orders, cheerfully and patiently awaiting the directing voice. It will not be long before God will say to you, as distinctly as He told Moses to say it to the people of Israel, ‘Go forward’ (Exod. 14:15)” Charles Spurgeon (ref#34, July 24th AM).

In faith we wait. “For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness” (Gal 5:5 ESV).

So, instead of following the commandments of the law we wait—by just waiting we obtain righteousness. If you have never waited for righteousness, waiting sounds too simple but it is the hardest thing anyone does.

While we wait GOD orchestrates affliction upon affliction into our lives. Challenges, temptations, everyday uncomfortable situations—He presses us as much as we can take and even more, to the point He may have to come and save us (1 Cor 10:13).

We must live on faith that what is happening to us is good. We understand that our glorious FATHER afflicts in love for He must put an end to our self who loves unrighteousness—who loves to tote self above everything.

He makes us righteous by reminding us that He has put our old way of life to death. We learn to run to CHRIST who is the One who saves us from the overwhelming affliction. Our goal is to learn to depend entirely on CHRIST, shunning self.

And, our waiting for righteous is a constant; we never arrive—we never graduate out of affliction on this earth for our old self, at any moment, can rise up threatening to rule us again plummeting us back into unrighteousness by convincing us we can be righteous by following rules.

“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the over, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith” (Luke 12:27-28 ESV).

IN GRIEF, JESUS PITIES

“For all whom the Lord has chosen and received into the society of his saints, ought to prepare themselves for a life that is hard, difficult, laborious, and full of countless griefs. It is the will of their heavenly Father to try them in this manner that he may test them. He began with Christ his firstborn son and he pursues this manner with all his children” John Calvin (ref#313, p45).

“Christ is exceedingly ready to pity us. His arms are open to receive us. He delights to receive distressed souls who come to Him and to protect them. He would gather them as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings; it is a work that He exceedingly rejoices in because He delights in act of love, and pity, and mercy” Jonathan Edwards (ref#229, p106).

“And you that are mourning over those that have been lately taken from you, Jesus pities you. Jesus wept, he sympathizes with your tears. He will dry them and give you consolation. ‘He was moved with compassion.’” Charles Spurgeon.

“Christ, ‘is inclined from his own heart and affections to give us help and relief and he is inwardly moved during our sufferings and trials with a sense and fellow-feeling of them.’” (John Owen) If you are in Christ, you have a Friend who, in your sorrow, will never lob down a pep talk from heaven. He cannot bear to hold himself at a distance. Nothing can hold him back. His heart is too bound up with yours” Dane Ortlund (ref#382, p49-50).

“Grief never ends, but it changes. It is a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith, it is the price of love” Darcie Sims.

“Oh, what glory is brought to Jesus by a life of faith! Who can fully measure it? Taking to Him the corruption as it is discovered, the guilt as it rises, the grief as it is felt, the cross as it is experienced, the wound as it is received—indeed, simply following the example of John’s disciples, who, when their master was slain, took up his headless body, buried it, and then went and poured their grief in Jesus’ ear and laid their deep sorrow on His heart” Octavius Winslow (ref#135, July 14th).

“It is lawful to wish we were well; it is natural to groan, being burdened; but still [God] must and will take his own course with us; and, however dissatisfied with ourselves, we ought still to be thankful that he has begun his work in us, and to believe that he will also make an end. Therefore while we mourn, we should likewise rejoice; we should encourage ourselves to expect all that he has promised; and we should limit our expectations by his promises” John Newton (ref#322, p180).

“Honestly facing your lack of sovereignty over your own life produces either anxiety or relief. In all of those moments when life is out of your control, it is not out of his control” Paul David Tripp (ref#190, Mar 13th).

VALLEYS AND MOUNTAINTOPS

“[T]he LORD who goes with you will not leave you or forsake you” (Deut 31:6 ESV).

“Can you answer this question, believer? Can you find any reason why you are so often mourning instead of rejoicing? Why yield to gloomy apprehension? Who told you that the night would never end in day? Who told you that the sea of circumstances would ebb out until there was nothing left but long, muddy stretches of horrible poverty? Who told you that the ‘winter of your discontent’ would proceed from frost to frost; from snow, ice, and hail to deeper snow and an even worse blizzard of despair? Do you not know that day follows night, that flood comes after ebb, that spring and summer follow winter? Then hope! Always hope, for God will not fail you” Charles Spurgeon (ref#34, July 21st PM).

GOD understands quite well His children’s ups and downs. “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him”(Ps 42:11 ESV).

And how can we again praise Him? By GOD’s doings—the work of His hands in our midst (Isa 29:32). No matter why I’m in the valley my FATHER is gladly obligated to continually redeem because of His oaths and promises to our father Abraham.

However, once recognizing my residence in the pit I have a choice about how long I stay. GOD will lift me to that mountain top faster if I quickly admit my dependence on Him in contriteness.

“[B]eing fallen, in our risings up again, it is Christ that must do the work, by (1) removing, or (2) weakening, or (3) suspending opposite hindrances; and (4) by advancing the power of his grace in us, to a further degree than we had before we fell” Richard Sibbes (ref#311, p113-114).

“Let us permit him to advance our salvation by a diversity of methods and not refuse to be humbled, so that he may more abundantly display his glory. Above all, let us not avoid the cross of suffering, by which the Son of God himself was trained from his earliest infancy” John Calvin (ref#164, June 7th).