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).

INWARD TRIALS

“[O]ur mind never rises seriously to desire and aspire after the future, until it has learned to despise the present life” John Calvin (ref#113, p465).

Prayer Answered by Crosses

I asked the Lord that I might grow

In faith, and love, and every grace;

Might more of His salvation know,

And seek, more earnestly, His face.

‘Twas He who taught me thus to pray,

And He, I trust, has answered prayer!

But it has been in such a way,

As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favored hour,

At once He’d answer my request;

And by His love’s constraining pow’r,

Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, He made me feel

The hidden evils of my heart;

And let the angry pow’rs of hell

Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with His own hand He seemed

Intent to aggravate my woe;

Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,

Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

Lord, why is this , I trembling cried,

Wilt Thou pursue Thy worm to death?

“‘Tis in this way, the Lord replied,

I answer prayer for grace and faith.

These inward trials I employ,

From self, and pride, to see thee free;

And break thy schemes of earthly joy,

That thou may’st find thy all in Me.”               John Newton (hymnary.org)

“[I]t is no small profit to be robbed of our blind selflove so that we become fully aware of our weakness” John Calvin (ref#313, p50).

GOD COMFORTS THE DISCONSOLATE

“God comforts the disconsolate—he has an infinite counterbalance of consolation, joy, and hope. Does He wound? It is to heal. Does He cause deep sorrow? It is to turn that sorrow into a deeper joy. Does He empty? It is to fill. Does He cast down? It is to lift up again. Such is the love that moves Him, such is the wisdom that guides him, and such too is the purpose secured in the Lord’s disciplinary conduct with His people” Octavius Winslow (ref#135, April 17th).

“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. It is true that we often cannot see the connection between the adversity and God’s purpose. It should be enough for us however, to know that He sees the connection and the end result He intends” Jerry Bridges (ref#192, p233).

“[T]he principle of true devotion is that God alone is the Guide and Ruler of all prosperity and adversity, and that he is never in undue haste, but that he distributes all good and evil with the most equal justice Ps 79:13” John Calvin (ref#313, p44).

“Jesus is the great physician. [A]ll his commands are meant to make us well and happy. If they have some painful side effects, that is not because the doctor is unkind or unwise. It is because the disease is so bad that severe medicines may be required. Every command from Jesus is meant for our good” John Piper (ref#220, p241).

“[S]aints thrive most internally, when they are most externally afflicted. Afflictions lift up the soul to more rich, clear, and full enjoyments of God. ‘Behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her’ (Hos 2:14), or rather, as the Hebrew has it, ‘I will earnestly or vehemently speak to her heart.’ God makes afflictions to be but inlets to the soul’s more sweet and full enjoyment of His blessed self” Thomas Brooks (ref#225, Dec 17th).

“I can’t impress this on you too strongly. God is looking over your shoulder” (2 Tim 4:1-2 MSG). “[A]ccept the hard times along with the good” (2 Tim 4:3-5 MSG). “[H]e’s an honest judge. He’ll do right not only by me, but by everyone eager for his coming” (2 Tim 4:6-8 MSG).

“Through your faithful prayers and the generous response of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, everything he wants to do in and through me will be done. [E]verything happening to me in this jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether I live or die” (Phil 1:18-21 MSG).

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).

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).

GOD’S COMFORT IN AFFLICTION

“No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it” (1 Cor 10:13 MSG).

“Tried soul, go to this unfailing spring of comfort. God speaks to you in it. It is the unsealing of the heart of Jesus; it is the still small voice of the Spirit. It speaks to you. It bids you ‘cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee’ (Ps 55:22). Call on Him in the day of trouble, and He will answer you (Ps 86:7). It assures you that, amid all your confusing cares, ‘He careth for you’ (1 Pet 5:7). It promises you that, for your difficult path, your ‘shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be’ (Deut 33:25)” Octavius Winslow (ref#135, Dec 13th).

“If [you are] journeying to the heavenly kingdom, [your] path lies through much tribulation. [I]f [your] sufferings abound, much more so do [your] consolations” Octavius Winslow (ref#135, Jan 28th).

“Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name” (Ps 33:20-21 ESV).

“[T]he more we are afflicted with adversity, the surer we are made of our fellowship with Christ” John Calvin (ref#113, p458).

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).

UNCOMFORTABLE GRACE

“There will always be mystery in your life. God will always surprise you with what he brings your way. You will always be confronted with the unplanned and the unexpected” Paul David Tripp (ref#190, Feb 18th).

“God has chosen to let you live in this fallen world because he plans to employ the difficulties of it to continue and complete his work in you. [W]e cry out for God’s grace and we get it—but not the grace that we’re looking for. We want the grace of relief or release. We get those in little pieces, but largely they are yet to come. What we all really need right now is the grace of transformation, the theology of uncomfortable grace” Paul Daivd Tripp (ref#190, March 8th).

“It must be our desire, therefore, if we want to be disciples of Christ, to fill our minds with such a great reverence for God and with such an unrestrained obedience that we may triumph over all contrary inclinations, and submit to his plan” John Calvin (ref#313, p63).

“May the Master take you by the hand and lead you along the path of God’s love and Christ’s endurance” (2 Thes 3:4-5 MSG).

“Whatever be the kind of tribulation with which we are afflicted, we may be trained to despise the present, and thereby stimulated to aspire to the further life” John Calvin (ref#113, p464).

“Before I was afflicted I went astray but now I keep your word” (Ps 119:67 ESV). “I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules” (Ps 119:106 ESV).

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).

IN AFFLICTION, LET THE REDEEMER BE GLORIFIED IN YOU

“Be watchful against everything that would mar the simplicity of your faith, and so dim the glory of Jesus; especially guard against the adoption of unlawful or doubtful measures intended to disentangle you from present difficulties” Octavius Winslow (ref#135, July 14th).

“We are quick to think that our hardships merit a time of peace and ease. But we can see from the apostles’ example that this is not the case at all. Submitting to hardships is so often difficult; let us pray for God’s grace so that we might be spurred on to new and radical obedience by the trials we face” John Calvin (ref#164, July 22nd).

“The believer should never fail to remember that the present is, by the appointment of God, his state of affliction. It is God’s ordained, revealed will that His covenant children here should be afflicted. When called by grace, they should never take into their account any other state. They become the disciples of the religion of the cross, become the followers of a crucified Lord, put on a yoke, and assume a burden: they must, then, expect the inward cross and the outward cross. To escape it is impossible. To pass to glory without it is to go by a way other than God’s ordering, and in the end to fail to arrive there. The gate is strait and the way is narrow that leads to life, and a man must become nothing if he would enter and be saved. He must deny himself; he must become a fool that he may be wise, and receive the sentence of death in himself that he should not trust in himself” Octavius Winslow (ref#135, June 29th).

“If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rest upon you” (1 Pet 4:14 ESV).

“In the face of opposition, envy, and prejudice [the apostles] went on with their work, ‘speaking boldly in the Lord’” Ellen G. White (ref#331, p177).

“Believer suffering for Christ, rejoice that you are counted worthy to suffer shame for His sake. What distinction is awarded you! What honor is put on you! What a favored opportunity you have to bring glory to His name; to illustrate His sustaining grace, upholding strength, almighty power, infinite wisdom, and comforting love! By the firm yet mild preservation of your principles, by the dignified yet gentle spirit of forbearance, by the uncompromising yet kind resistance to temptation, let the Redeemer by glorified in you” Octavius Winslow (ref#135, July 14th).