This week's 'thoughts' come to you from four different authors -- J. C. Ryle, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Jean-Nicholas Grou and Morton Kelsey (I believe). The first two have to do with God's purpose in our struggles, difficulties and sufferings. The last two have to do with nurturing the health of our inward lives by finding consistent, ongoing contact with the God who is always there. Enjoy.
J. C. Ryle - "We live in such a fair and pleasant world -- we are surrounded with so much that is smiling and joyful -- that if we were not frequently obliged to taste of sickness and trial or disappointments, we should forget our heavenly home and pitch our tents here on the outskirts of Sodom.
Therefore it is that God's people pass through great tribulations; therefore it is they are often called upon to suffer the sting of affliction and anxiety, or weep over the grave of those whom they have loved as their own soul. It is their Father's hand that chasten's them, and it is thus that He weans their affection from the things below and fixes them on Himself. It is thus He trains them for eternity, and cuts the threads one by one that bind their wavering hearts to earth.
No doubt such chastening is grevious for the time, but still it brings many a hidden grace to light, and cuts down many a secret sprout of evil. We shall see those who have suffered most shining among the brightest stars in the assembly of heaven. The purest gold is that which has been longest in the refiner's furnace. The brightest diamond is often that which has required the most grinding and polishing. Yet our light affliction endureth but for a moment, and it works in us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (II Cor. 4:17)."
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones - "We have to be humbled. So [God] puts us in the fire of affliction, in the crucible of purification. God has only one object: to get rid of the dross and to refine the gold. But in our childishness we listen to the devil and we grumble and complain. 'Why is this happening to me? I am trying to be a good Christian; look at those other people.'
I trust that we shall never speak in that way again, thus falling victim to the wiles of the devil. Cannot you see that in all this, God, as your Father, is manifesting His love to you and revealing His great and gracious and glorious purpose with respect to you? He intends to make you perfect, 'without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing' (Eph. 5:27). But first he must rid you of very much rubbish."
Jean-Nicolas Grou - "We know in general that prayer is a religious act, but when it comes to actually praying, we easily forget that it is a supernatural act which is therefore beyond our own strength and can only be performed by the inspiration and help of grace. As St. Paul says: 'Not that we are competent to claim anything for ourselves, but our competency comes from God' (II Cor. 3:5)...
Why do people try so hard to enflame their imagination as if prayer depended on their own efforts, as if it were not necessary that God's action should govern and direct their prayer? Since prayer is a supernatural act, we must earnestly ask God to produce it in us, and then we must perform it tranquilly under his guidance. We must draw down divine grace... and then co-operate with it, without interfering with its effects. If God does not teach us, we shall never know thoroughly the nature of prayer...
Prayer is a wholly spiritual act, addressed to God who is the Supreme Spirit, the Spirit who sees all things and is present in all things. As St. Augustine says, 'God is closer to us than we are to ourselves.' Knowing this is the essence of prayer. The posture of our body and the words we use have little significance in themselves, and are only pleasing to God as they express the feelings of the heart. For it is the heart that prays, it is to the voice of the heart that God listens, and it is the heart that he answers... Why do we pray so much with our lips and so little with our heart?... Why do we not lay open our heart to God and beg him to put in it whatever is most pleasing to him? Who could call it a bad method [of prayer] if it springs from humility, from a deep sense of our own inability, and from a lively faith and trust in God? Such is the method suggested by the Holy Spirit to those souls who ask him to teach them how to pray."
The following 'thought' was scribbled on a note I found in my files (I believe it may be by Morton Kelsey) - "Unless the members of a church are finding some encounter of their own with God, their act of joining together for religious services usually becomes one more meaningless activity, merely the ritual indulgence of a nice habit.
One can sense the immense difference in a congregation where a considerable number of the people are finding consistent personal contact with God on their own, apart from the group.
The first step in finding such contact with God is learning to be alone and quiet. Most of modern life is a studied attempt to avoid ever being alone. Yet constant activity, without time for reflection and prayer, is spiritual suicide."
In the Bonds of Christian Affection,