I struggled over which "thought" to send out this week. I came across two in different books I was reading, and both were superb -- though covering totally different topics. Yet, after debating, I decided to go with the more antiquated one.
A dear friend (thank you Steve!) gave me the gift of a book not long ago. But it wasn't just any book. The book was about 2 inches wide and 2 and 1/2 inches tall and 1/2 inch thick and was published by the American Tract Society in 1846, by "The Rev. John Scudder," a missionary living in Madras, India. It is entitled "Provision for Passing Over Jordan." We might call it "Spiritual Insights for Believers as They Pass Through This World." It's age makes it a bit fragile, and thus I must handle it with care, but it is filled with much spiritual wisdom. This selection is just a small taste of that wisdom. Enjoy! (Some of the language has been updated.)
"I pray for sanctification; and when I pray, I make no reservations as to the means by which this is to be brought about. In order to effect my sanctification, my heavenly Father commences a course of discipline with me -- the only course by which my prayer can be consistently answered. He exposes me to various trials from my own heart and from others, or he sends bodily afflictions upon me. No sooner, however, does He do this, than I rebel against His treatment, and murmur at my hard lot -- murmur because He has been answering my prayer!
O my soul, what a mark this is of your utter sinfulness and pollution. Forgive all my past murmurings, and grant that these sins may never again find a place in my heart. Help me to keep in mind that every trial, every affliction, every pain which I experience, is a love-token sent by You -- sent for my sanctification...
It is much easier for an earthly father to caress his children when they do well, than to chastise them when they need his discipline. But his chastisements are greater expressions of his love, than are his caresses; and the reason is, because it is so painful to inflict the one and so pleasant to impart the other. [What parent does not know this?] So it is with your heavenly Father. It is much easier for him to caress you than to chastise you, but it is a greater mark of his love when he does chastise you, than when he caresses you.
O that this thought might, through grace, constrain me to cry out: 'Welcome trials, welcome afflictions, welcome pains, as the choicest blessings which can be mingled in my earthly cup. Welcome any thing -- welcome every thing, which may lead me to my Saviour.' "
As you read this thought I'm sure that some of you (maybe many of you?) reacted at the thought that God, in answer to our prayers to grow in godliness (or sanctification), would as His direct response to them, "expose" us to trials, or "send" bodily afflictions upon us.
Modern people prefer the softened language that says He "allows it" or that He "permits it," often trying to remove from Him any direct involvement in them -- even the involvement of sovereignly approving them.
Most people I speak with are no longer sure that God is the All-powerful One, or that He sovereignly rules over all that transpires in both creation and history. And as a result, it has become all too easy to disassociate God entirely from the struggles, hardships, trials and difficulties that come our way -- some going so far as to suggest He couldn't stop them even if He wanted to.
I find a similar response when I bring up Job chapters 1-2, where God gives Satan permission to buffet Job -- sovereignly dictating how far Satan may go and may not go, in that buffeting (or sanctifying) process -- almost as if His ordaining it is an expression of the delight and confidence he has in His servant Job. Better yet, an expression of God's unquestioned confidence in the power of His own grace to sustain His servant through whatever trial He may ordain for him, no matter how severe that trial may be.
Although the involvement secondary causes (including Satan) can never be denied, Scripture affirms that God is sovereign even over those secondary things (including Satan), and that He does, therefore, ultimately govern what does or does not come into our lives -- showing us that Rev.
Scudder did know his Bible.
Scudder did know his Bible.
As much as I may bicker and squirm and complain when trials come, I know from the Scriptures that my Sovereign God oversees all -- and thus if it comes my way, it comes my way for my good, as "a love-token sent by Him -- sent for my sanctification..."
As time passes I always see this clearly -- though when I'm in the midst of the struggle and feeling the heat of the affliction, I can have a hard time affirming it. I am not good at suffering, and thus have not gotten to the point that I can say, "Welcome trials" or "Welcome afflictions." Yet I know that if I trusted my heavenly Father as I should, and knew the depths of the love He holds in His heart for me, I would... and you would too!