“Just as a parent disciplines a child, the LORD your God disciplines you for your own good.” Deuteronomy 8:5. “I have refined you in the furnace of suffering.” Isaiah 48:10. I can truly say of everything I have ever tasted in this world of God’s mercy, (and my path has been remarkably strewn with divine lovingkindness), I feel more grateful to God for the bodily pain I have suffered, and for all the trials of diverse sorts I have endured, than I do for anything else. I am sure I have derived more real benefit, and permanent strength, and growth in grace, and every precious thing–from the furnace of suffering, than I have ever derived from prosperity. I know not how to quite express my meaning, but even depression of spirit and deep sadness have a particular charm within them, which laughter in vain may emulate. “It is good for me that I have been afflicted!” Psalm 119:71. Ponder and consider the much gratitude you owe to God for His chastening rod. Dwell much in your heart upon what God evidently regards as one of His distinguishing blessings. Do not lightly pass over, what God would have you consider. Count the cross and the rod to be doubly worthy of your deepest thought. “Heed the rod and Him who has appointed it.” Micah 6:9. Remember that whenever you are chastened, you are not chastened as a slave master smites his victim, nor as a judge orders the criminal to be lashed; but as a tender father chastens his son. Your chastisement is a sign of sonship, it is a token of love! It is intended for your good. Accept it, therefore, in the spirit of sonship, and “Do not despise the chastening of the Lord, neither faint when you are corrected by Him.” It is the Lord your God who chastens you! If He were not your God, He might let you alone! If He had not chosen you to be His own, He would not take such care of you! If He had not given Himself to be your treasure, He might not be so diligent in weaning you from all other treasures! But because you are His, He will withdraw your love away from this poor world. Perhaps He will take one child after another from you, that all the love that was lavished on the children might flow towards Himself. Perhaps He will leave you a widow, that the love that ran in the channel of a husband may run altogether to Himself. Perhaps he will take away your riches, that the consolation you derived from them may be all derived from Him. Perhaps He will smite you, and then lay you on His own bosom, faint and helpless, that you may derive a strength and a joy from close and near fellowship with Himself, which you would never have had if it had not been that these other joys were removed. Bless God for your chastenings! Let the sweetest note of your music be to Him who, as a loving father, chastens His children for their good. “For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son He receives.” Hebrews 12:6. (Charles Spurgeon)
“The Lord does whatever pleases Him, throughout all heaven and earth, and on the seas and in their depths.” Psalm 135:6. How blessed that elementary truth: “The Lord reigns!” To know that there is no chance or accident with God; that He decrees the fall of a sparrow; the destruction of an atom; the annihilation of a world! The Almighty is not like Baal, “asleep.” “He who keeps Israel” can never for a moment “slumber.” Man proposes, but God disposes. “You, Lord have done it!” is the history of every event, past, present and to come. “The plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations!” Psalm 33:11. His purposes none can change. His counsels none can resist. “He stands alone, and who can oppose Him? He does whatever He pleases!” Job 23:13. “My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please!” Isaiah 46:10. Believer, how cheering to know that all that befalls you is thus ordered in the eternal purpose of a Covenant God! Every minute circumstance of your lot; appointing the bounds of your habitation; meting out every drop in the cup of life; arranging what by you is called its “vicissitudes;” decreeing all its trials; and at last, as the great Proprietor of life, revoking the lease of existence when its allotted term has expired! How it should keep the mind from its guilty proneness to brood and fret over second causes, were this grand but simple truth ever realized–that all that befalls us are integral parts in a stupendous plan of wisdom; that there is no crossing or thwarting the designs and dealings of God. “He does all things well!” “Our God is in heaven; He does whatever pleases Him.” Psalm 115:3.
“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns!” Revelation 19:6. (John MacDuff, “The Night Watches”)
Whatever trials you have, my dear brother, Christ is all in all to meet them. Are you poor? He will make you rich in your poverty by His consoling presence. Are you sick? He will make your bed in your sickness, and so will make your sick-bed better than the walks of health. Are you persecuted? If it is for His sake, you may even leap for joy. Are you oppressed? Remember how He also was oppressed and afflicted; and you will have fellowship with Him in his sufferings. Amidst all the vicissitudes of this present life, Christ is all that the believer needs to bear him up and bear him through. No wave can sink the man who clings to this lifebuoy; he shall swim to glory on it! Jesus is all I need! Jesus is the living water to quench my thirst, the heavenly bread to satisfy my hunger, the snow-white robe to cover me, the sure refuge in times of trouble, the happy home of my soul, my food and my medicine, my solace and my song, my light and my delight. The believer can say, “Christ is mine!” No emperor is half as rich as the beggar that has Christ! He who has Christ, being a pauper, has all things. And he who has not Christ, possessing a thousand worlds, possesses nothing for real happiness and joy! Oh, the blessedness of the man who can say, “Christ is mine!” (Charles Spurgeon, “Christ Is All”)
“And the Lord God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah’s head, shading him from the sun. This eased some of his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the gourd. But God also prepared a worm! When the morning rose the next day, it smote the gourd so that it soon died and withered away.” Jonah 4:6-7. There is surely great comfort in the thought that the bounds of our life are divinely appointed. Our lots in life, our occupations, our positions, our dwellings, what the fatalist calls ‘our destinies’, what heathen mythology attributed to ‘the Fates’; all this is marked out by Him who “sees the end from the beginning.” It is He who takes us to our sweet shelters of prosperity, with their sparkling brooks of joy. It is He who, when He sees fit, sends the worm. Oh, it is our comfort to know, in this mysterious, raveled, varied life of ours, that the Great Craftsman has the threads of our existence in His own hands; weaving the complex pattern, evolving good out of evil, and order out of confusion. (John MacDuff, “The Prophet of Fire” 1877)
Those who set up a fictitious worship, merely worship and adore their own delirious fancies; indeed, they would never dare so to trifle with God, had they not previously fashioned Him after their own childish conceits. . . No religion is genuine that is not in accordance with truth. . .[God] calls Himself jealous because He cannot bear a partner. He declares that He will vindicate His majesty and glory, if any transfer it either to the creatures or to graven images; and that not by a simple punishment of brief duration, but one exceeding to the third and fourth generation of such as imitate the impiety of their progenitors. In like manner, He declares His constant mercy and kindness to remote posterity to those who love Him, and keep His Law. The Lord very frequently addresses us in the character of a husband; the union by which He connects us with Himself, when He receives us into the bosom of the Church, having some resemblance to that of holy wedlock, because founded on mutual faith. As He performs all of the offices of a true and faithful husband, so He stipulates for love and conjugal chastity from us; that is, that we do not prostitute our souls to satan, to be defiled with carnal lusts. Hence, when He rebukes the Jews for their apostasy, He complains they have cast off chastity, and polluted themselves with adultery. Therefore, as the purer and chaster the husband is, the more grievously he is offended when he sees his wife inclining to a rival; so the Lord, who has bethrothed us to Himself in truth, declares that He burns with the hottest jealousy whenever, neglecting the purity of His holy marriage, we defile ourselves with abominable lusts, and especially when the worship of his Deity, which ought to have been most carefully kept unimpaired, is transferred to another. (John Calvin)
“You are absolutely beautiful, My beloved! There is no spot in you!” Song of Solomon 4:7. The Lord’s admiration of His Church is very astonishing, and His description of her beauty is very glowing. She is not merely beautiful–but “absolutely beautiful.” He views her in Himself, washed in His sin-atoning blood, and clothed in His meritorious righteousness–thus He considers her to be full of loveliness and beauty. No wonder that such is the case–since it is but His own perfect excellency that He admires; for the holiness, glory, and perfection of His Church–are His own glorious garments on the back of His own well-beloved spouse! Nor is the Church barely lovely, she is superlatively so. Her Lord styles her the “most beautiful of women.” Song of Solomon 1:8. She has a real worth and excellence which cannot be rivaled by all the nobility and royalty of the world. If Jesus could exchange His elect bride for all the angels in Heaven–He would not, for He puts her first and foremost, “most beautiful of women.” She far outshines the stars! Nor is this an opinion which He is ashamed of, for He invites all men to hear it. He sets a “behold” before it, a special note of exclamation, inviting and arresting attention. “Behold! How beautiful you are, My beloved, how beautiful!” (Song of Solomon 4:1). His opinion He publishes abroad even now, and one day from the throne of His glory He will avow the truth of it before the assembled universe. “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with Me!” will be His solemn affirmation of the loveliness of His elect! “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless!” Ephesians 5:25-27. “The king is enthralled by your beauty!” Psalm 45:11. (Charles Spurgeon)
Prayer is beyond any question the highest activity of the human soul. Man is at his greatest and highest when upon his knees he comes face to face with God. . . When a man is speaking to God he is at his very acme. It is the highest activity of the human soul, and therefore it is at the same time the ultimate test of a man’s true spiritual condition. There is nothing that tells the truth about us as Christian people so much as our prayer life. Everything we do in the Christian life is easier than prayer. It is not so difficult to give alms–the natural man knows something about that, and you can have a true spirit of philanthropy in people who are not Christian at all. Some seem to be born with a generous nature and spirit, and to such almsgiving is not essentially difficult. The same applies also to the question of self-discipline–refraining from certain things and taking up particular duties and tasks. God knows it is very much easier to preach like this from a pulpit than it is to pray. Prayer is undoubtedly the ultimate test, because a man can speak to others with greater ease than he can speak to God. Ultimately, therefore, a man discovers the real condition of his spiritual life when he examines himself in private, when he is alone with God. (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount)