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).

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).

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).

FEAR

“[D]on’t take the pressure of forethought upon yourself. It is not only wrong to worry, it is infidelity, because worrying means that we do not think that God can look after the practical details of our lives, and it is never anything else that worries us” Oswald Chambers (ref#7, May 23rd).

“Let not your heart faint. Do not fear or panic or be in dread, for the LORD your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory” (Deut 20:3-4 ESV).

“God tries our faith by adversity, it follows that no one truly confides in God but he who is armed with invincible constancy for resisting the fears with which he may be assailed” John Calvin (ref#164, Feb 11th).

“Sometimes fear does not subside and one must choose to do it afraid” Elizabeth Elliot.

“If we give way to foolish fear, we will dishonor our profession of faith and lead others to doubt the reality of godliness. We ought to be afraid of being afraid, lest we vex the Holy Spirit by foolish distrust” Charles Spurgeon (ref#34, April 22nd PM).

“All the poverty and pain in the world would be powerless if the evil of it did not enter into the soul and distress it.” Charles Spurgeon (ref#310, p163).

There are two kinds of fear: paralyzing fear and energizing fear. Paralyzing fear comes to people who have no relationship with GOD when they recognize His authority over them.

Without some comprehension of GOD everything we do is a self-help project. When we are not close to GOD we become comfortable with ourselves and go about our daily business of setting goals and evaluating ourselves. But energizing fear makes us cast aside our predetermined plans and make an all-out effort to stay close to GOD. Eugene Peterson (ref#58, p30).

No wonder CHRIST’s delight was the ‘fear of the LORD’ (Isa 11:3). As Son of Man, He needed His FATHER, minute by minute; His energized fear kept Him receiving miracle after miracle that filled Him with joy as well as moved Him through His earthly life accomplishing His FATHER’s will. Energizing fear, obedience, and joy come bundled together.

“[L]et us lift up our banner in his name, and press on through every discouragement” John Newton (ref#322, p182).

MY REFUGE FROM AFFLICTION

“We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be” C.S. Lewis

“Even though you’re a person of faith who has acquired some degree of biblical literacy and theological knowledge, there’s one thing you can be sure of—God will confuse you. Your theology will give you only a limited ability to exegete your experiences. The commands, principles, and case studies of Scripture will take you only so far in our quest to figure out your life. There will be moments when you simply don’t understand what is going on. In fact, you will face moments when what the God who has declared himself to be good brings into your life won’t seem good. You need to remind yourself again and again of his wise and loving control, not because that will immediately make your life make sense, but because it will give you rest and peace when life doesn’t seem to make any sense” Paul David Tripp (ref#190, Jan 14th).

“[W]hatever befalls us is according to his purpose, and therefore must be right and seasonable in itself, and shall in the issue be productive of good” John Newton (ref#322, p137).

“[God] will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD” (Mal 3:3 ESV).

“[H]e disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness” (Heb 12:10 ESV).

“Nothing teaches us the preciousness of the Creator as much as when we discover the emptiness of everything else” Charles Spurgeon (ref#34, Nov 19th PM).

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever” (Phil 4:19-20 ESV).

“[I]n all circumstances meditate on the mercy and fatherly goodness of God” John Calvin (ref#313, p43).

SUFFERING – WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE

“The heavenly Physician takes care of the well-being of all his patients; he gives some a milder medicine and purifies others by more shocking treatments, but he omits no one; for the whole world without exception, is ill” John Calvin (ref#313, p53-54).

“[Let] no one be moved by afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this” (1 Thes 3:3 ESV).

“God has appointed who shall suffer. Suffering comes not by chance but by the will and appointment of God. We are apt to forget God when affliction comes, and to think it strange that those that fear God should suffer (1 Pet 4:12). God has appointed when they shall suffer. The people of God, are not in the hands of their enemies, but in the hand of God. God has appointed where this, that, or the other good man shall suffer. Moses and Elias, when they appeared on the holy mount, told Jesus of the suffering which He should accomplish at Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the place assigned for Christ to suffer. God has appointed what kind of sufferings this or that saint shall undergo at this place, and at such a time. God said He would show Paul beforehand how great things he should suffer for His sake (Acts 9:16)” John Bunyan (ref#225, Oct 17th).

[God’s] eye is upon you; he has appointed bounds both to the degree and the duration of the trial; and he does and will afford you such supports, that you shall not be tried beyond what you are enabled to bear. I doubt not but your conflicts and sorrows will in due time terminate in praise and victory, and be sanctified to your fuller establishment in the truth” John Newton (ref#322, p167).

“Our sufferings as to the nature of them, are all written down in God’s book; and though the writing seems as unknown characters to us, yet God understands them very well” John Bunyan (ref#225, Oct 17th).

CHRIST TEACHES SUFFERING

“For us all—for you, tempted to interpret your afflictions as signals of wrath and your sins as seals of condemnation, your poverty as the mark of neglect, your seasons of darkness as token of desertion, and your doubts and fears as evidences of a false hope and of self-deception. For you, dear saint of God, Jesus was delivered up” Octavius Winslow (ref#135, Dec 14th).

“[L]et no Christian call into question God’s love when he is brought under painful afflictions and trials. God did not enrich Christ on earth with temporal prosperity. But He [gave] Him the Spirit without measure (Jon 3:34). Learn that spiritual blessings are the principal gifts of divine love” Arthur W. Pink (ref#253, p10).

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God” (1 Pet 4:1 ESV).

“Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps. 1 Peter 2:21 “Christ teaches us how to live, and He also teaches us how to suffer. Because we live in a world of suffering and we need to be taught how to suffer, He teaches us how to suffer. The cross teaches us how to suffer—not only how to live morally and ethically, but how to suffer. ‘The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ come to us all: people misunderstanding us, injustices done to us, the failure of trusted friends, people letting us down, disappointments, loneliness, physical pain” Martyn Lloyd-Jones (ref#189, April 30th).

“He that abides in Christ the Crucified One, learns to know what it is to be crucified with Him, and in Him to be indeed dead unto sin” Andrew Murray (ref#266, p199).

“He suffered for us; he calls us to be conformed to him in sufferings. He conquered in his own person, and he will make each of his members more than conquerors in due season” John Newton (ref#322, p182).

AFFLICTION – TO CHASTEN THE SOUL

“[T]he whole soul, wrapped up in carnal delights, seeks its happiness on this earth. To counteract this, the Lord by various and severe lessons of misery, teaches his children the vanity of the present life” John Calvin (ref#313, p68).

“Virtue is like precious odours, most fragrant when they are incensed or crushed; for prosperity doth best discover vice, but adversity doth best discover virtue” Lord Francis Bacon (ref#333, p123).

“We suffer a serious loss when we dwell so much in the region of present clouds, and so little in the meridian of future glory. We look too faintly beyond the midnight of time, into the daylight of eternity. We are slow of heart to believe all that is revealed of the bliss that awaits us, and do not sufficiently realize that in a little while—oh, how soon!—the day will break, the shadow will flee away, and we shall bathe our souls in heaven’s full, unclouded, endless light” Octavius Winslow (ref#135, Feb 2nd).

“Afflictions quicken us to prayer. They are useful, and in a degree necessary, to keep alive in us a conviction of the vanity and unsatisfying nature of the present world” John Newton (ref#322, p173).

“Trial is part of the education given in the school of Christ, to purify God’s children from the dross of earthliness. It is because God is leading His children that trying experiences come to them. Trials and obstacles are His chosen methods of discipline, and He is appointed conditions of success” Ellen G. White (ref#331, p524).

“All your heaven-blessed trials, all your sanctified temptations, all the covenant transactions of God with you in the way of afflictive providences, are designed only to fit you more perfectly for your inheritance” Octavius Winslow (ref#135, Feb 28th).

“[H]e does not afflict to destroy or ruin us, but rather to deliver us from the condemnation of the world” John Calvin (ref#313, p54).

KNOWING WE ARE DUST

“If we are truly [God’s] in this world, we are ready to come down and humble ourselves, to be misunderstood, to be laughed at and treated with scorn and derision, in a sense to be crucified—certainly in spirit, perhaps even in body” Martyn Lloyd-Jones (ref#332, p523).

“[E]ven the greatest saints, though realizing that they can only be strong in the grace of God, and not in themselves, are nevertheless more sure than they ought to be of their own bravery and persistence, unless [God] leads them by the trails of life into a deeper knowledge of themselves. This proud idea induced even David to say: “As for me, I said in my prosperity, ‘I shall never be moved.’ By your favor, O LORD, you made my mountain stand strong; you hid your face; I was dismayed” (Ps 30:6-7 ESV). Though in prosperity many saints have flattered themselves with perseverance and patience, yet they learned that they had deceived themselves when adversity broke down their resistance” John Calvin (ref#313, p48).

“God chooses to exercise his children with continual conflict, so that they may flee with alarm to hide themselves under his wings, where they may abide in peace” John Calvin (ref#164, March 30th).

“It is by feeling our utter insufficiency, either to perform duty or to withstand our enemies, that the Lord takes occasion to show us the suitableness, the sufficiency, the freeness, the unchangeableness of his power and grace” John Newton (ref#322, p182).

God’s Presence Makes Glad

When I can sit at Jesus’ feet,

And he anoints my head,

Such peace ensues, so calm and sweet,

I think my foes all dead.

My simple heart then fondly dreams,

It will see war no more;

Too firm to shrink my mountain seems,

And every storm blows o’er.

Then Jesus sends a trying hour,

This lurking pride to quell;

My dead foes rise with dreadful power,

And drag me down to hell.

Now faints my heart within me quite,

My mountain disappears;

All grace is vanished from my sight,

And faith seems lost in fears.

At length my Lord, with sweet surprise,

Returns to loose my bands,

Brings kind compassion in his eyes,

And pardon in his hands.

I drop my vile head in the dust,

And at my Lord’s feet fall;

His grace is now my song and boast,

And Christ my All in All.

     John Berridge (ref#224, Song #336)

COMING TO GOD AS BEGGARS

“[L]et me know how fleeting I am” (Ps 39:4 ESV)!

“To suppose mercy without supposing misery, or pity without calamity, is a contradiction. Men must be sensible that the law is against them and that the wrath of God abides. They must be sensible that they are not worthy that God should have mercy on them. They come to God as beggars” Jonathan Edwards (ref#229, p56).

“It becomes us to be humbled into the dust; yet our grief, though it cannot be too great, may be under a wrong direction; and if it leads us to impatience or distrust, it certainly is so” John Newton (ref#322, p180).

“[Oh, T]hat I may know and love thee above all things; and above all things loathe and abhor myself. Grant that I may be so ravished in the wonder and love of thee, that I may forget myself and all things, feel neither prosperity nor adversity, may not fear to suffer all the pains of this world. Oh! Let me find thee more inwardly and verily present with me than I am with myself” Herny Scougal (ref#321, p144).

“[W]e are naturally prone to attribute everything to our human flesh, unless we have, as it were, object lessons of our stupidity, we easily form an exaggerated notion of our strength, and we take for granted that, whatever hardships may happen, we will remain invincible” John Calvin (ref#313, p47).

God Our Refuge

Dear Refuge of my weary soul,

On thee, when sorrows rise,

On thee, when waves of trouble roll,

My fainting hope relies.

[To thee I tell each rising grief,

For thou alone canst heal’

Thy word can bring a sweet relief

For every pain I feel.]

But O! when gloomy doubts prevail,

I fear to call thee mine;

The springs of comfort seem to fail,

And all my hopes decline.

Yet, gracious God, where shall I flee?

Thou art my only trust;

And still my soul would cleave to thee,

Though prostrate in the dust.

[Hast thou not bid me seek thy face,

And shall I seek in vain?

And can the ear of sovereign grace

Be deaf when I complain?

No; still the ear of sovereign grace

Attends the mourner’s prayer;

O may I ever find access

To breathe my sorrows there!]

Thy mercy-seat is open still;

Here let my soul retreat;

With humble hope attend thy will,

And wait beneath thy feet.

A. Steele (ref#224, Song #136)