“Nothing in all the vast universe can come to pass otherwise than God has eternally purposed. Here is a foundation of faith. Here is a resting place for the intellect. Here is an anchor for the soul, both sure and steadfast. It is not blind fate, unbridled evil, man or Devil, but the Lord Almighty who is ruling the world, ruling it according to His own good pleasure and for His own eternal glory.“
We’re exhorted in scripture to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17), but have we stopped to think what it means when we persist in prayer? Brief thoughts from Hunter.
Persistence [in prayer] is an act of humility as well as an expression of faith. This attitude is diametrically opposite the popular notion that if we are importunate over a long enough period, God will eventually see the strength of our desire and respond.
That is manipulation. It says, “Look at me; Look at Me; LOOK AT ME!” while humility says, “I’m looking to you; I’m looking to You; I’m looking to YOU.” The point? Great faith in God always expresses itself in humble acknowledgment of dependency.
— W. Bingham Hunter, The God Who Hears
Do you sometimes think that if you just “do all the right things” and obey all of God’s commands to the best of your Spirit-driven ability, everything will be stable and calm in your life? Christ’s disciples experienced storms in spite of following His commands and so will we.
35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. [Mark 4:35-37 ESV]
In this passage of scripture, the disciples were obeying His command, yet they encountered the fiercest of storms…. In their distress, they cried out for Christ’s assistance.
38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” [Mark 4:38-39 ESV]
Christ may delay coming to us during our times of distress, but it is simply so our faith may be tested and strengthened. Gently rebuking His disciples, Christ asked,
40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” [Mark 4:40 ESV]
In effect, He was saying, “Why didn’t you face the storm victoriously and shout to the raging winds and rolling waves, ‘You cannot harm us, for Christ, the mighty Savior, is on board?”
Of course is it much easier to trust God when the sun is shining than to trust Him when the storm is raging around us. Yet we will never know our level of genuine faith until it is tested in a fierce storm….
If you are ever to be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power (Eph. 6:10), your strength will be born during a storm.
In his gospel account, Matthew recorded that when Christ looked upon the crowds of people, he “had compassion for them.” [Matt. 9:36] Charles Spurgeon noted in one of his sermons* that the original word denoting compassion “is expressive of the deepest emotion; a striving of the bowels—a yearning of the innermost nature with pity.”
David also wrote about the Lord’s compassion:
The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.
— Psalm 145:8-9 NIV
Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless.
— Henri Nouwen
Today as you take a few moments to refresh yourself after a long week, reflect on the compassion of Christ during His earthly ministry and in turn the compassion you can show others in His name.
*Whole sermon from Charles Spurgeon here: The Compassion of Jesus
For David, God was the center of his hope, the only reliable refuge, the surest strength he could find, and the truest object in which he could place his trust. We can learn from his exhortation and attitude toward God in prayer.
5 For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
6 He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
7 On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
8 Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us. Selah
— Psalm 62:5-8 ESV; boldface mine
“Human hearts are full of many things: joy, anger, peace, weariness, anxiety, strength, bitterness, trust. To pour out the heart means to pour out not just some but all of these contents before the Lord, the bad along with the good. Would we try to conceal our bitterness from God? Or conversely, would we cling greedily to our joy?
…In prayer, everything in the heart must be poured out to the Lord like a drink offering….True prayer does not consist in flowery language, nor in false humility, nor in pretending to possess any greater faith than we really have, but rather in simply trusting God enough to spill our guts to Him.”
— from The Gospel According to Job, Mike Mason
It is my earnest hope for you, believer, on this day and always, that you will have the same “God-ward” perspective as David and the knowledge that your Heavenly Father cares for all things in your life — nothing is too small, too big, too insignificant, too overwhelming for you to take to Him in prayer.
God means to make you more like Christ with a gaze toward heaven, not focused on comfort and the things of this world. Puritan John Flavel has some thoughts on this; take the time to read slowly and reflectively.
“Is it indeed for the saints’ advantage, to be weaned from love of and delight in ensnaring earthly vanities; to be quickened and urged forward with more haste to heaven; to have clearer discoveries of their own hearts; to be taught to pray more fervently, frequently, spiritually; to look and long for the rest to come, more ardently?
If these be for their advantage, experience teaches us that no condition is ordinarily blessed with such fruits as these, like an afflicted condition.
Is it well then to repine and droop because your Father consults the advantage of your soul rather than the gratification of your humors? Because he will bring you to heaven by a nearer way than you are willing to go? Is this a due requital of his love, who is pleased so much to concern himself in your welfare? Who does more for you than he will do for thousands in the world upon whom he will not lay a rod or dispense an affliction to them for their good? (Hosea 4:17).
But alas! We judge by sense and reckon things good or evil according to our present taste. Take heed that you overlook not the many precious mercies which the people of God enjoy amidst all their trouble. It is a pity that our tears on account of our troubles, should so blind our eyes, that we should not see our mercies. I will not insist upon the mercy of having your life given you “for a prey,” (Jeremiah 39:18); nor upon the many outward comforts which you enjoy, even above what were enjoyed by Christ and his precious servants, of whom the world was not worthy.
But what say you to pardon of sin; interest in Christ; the covenant of promise; and an eternity of happiness in the presence of God, after a few days are over?”
— from Keeping the Heart; Or the Saint Indeed, John Flavel (1627-1691)
Life is fleeting and passes away quickly. I pray that if only for a few moments today, you can see the light of heaven even through your tears, pain, grief, distraction, busyness, or struggles.
“So often people pray to be delivered from a problem, to be rescued from a situation, to be saved from a disaster, to be spared a sorrow, to be healed from a sickness, to be freed from a mental or physical agony. Sometimes, it is true, that deliverance comes; but far more often the answer is that we are given the strength which is not our strength to go through it, and to come out at the other side of it, not simply as a survivor, but with a faith that is strengthened and deepened and a mind and a life and a character which are purified and ennobled. Prayer does not provide a means of running away from the human situation; prayer provides a way of meeting the human situation.”
— from A Guide to Daily Prayer, William Barclay (1907-1978)
Some of life’s situations can knock us flat. Others we’d like to run away from. God wants us to seek Him, to hide in Him, to take refuge and strength from Him. I pray today for you as you’re in a difficult situation, maybe one you don’t understand, one that’s overwhelmed you, caused you grief, anxiety, sleepless nights…whatever it is, right this moment, I pray that you sense His nearness. He is with you. Take heart!
“How could we, without sufferings, manifest the nature and truth of the Christian graces! What place should we then have for patience, submission, meekness, forbearance, and a readiness to forgive, if we had nothing to try us, either from the hand of the Lord, or from the hand of men! A Christian without trials would be like a mill without wind or water; the contrivance and design of the wheel-work within would be unnoticed and unknown, without something to put it in motion from without.
Nor would our graces grow, unless they were called out to exercise; the difficulties we meet with not only prove, but strengthen, the graces of the spirit. If a person were always to sit still, without making use of legs or arms, he would probably wholly lose the power of moving his limbs at last. But by walking and working he becomes strong and active.
So, in a long course of ease, the powers of the new man would certainly languish; the soul would grow soft, indolent, cowardly, and faint; and therefore the Lord appoints His children such dispensations as make them strive and struggle, and pant; they must press through a crowd, swim against a stream, endure hardships, run, wrestle, and fight; and thus their strength grows in the using.
By these things, likewise, they are made more willing to leave the present world, to which we are prone to cleave too closely in our hearts when our path is very smooth.”
– excerpted from “The School of Suffering,” John Newton (1725-1807)
Lord, give us the insight to know that, in the midst of our sufferings, struggles, and trials, the things we don’t see as good, you are shaping us to be more like Christ, refining us as gold, creating in us the person you want to see, for your eternal glory. In Christ we pray, amen!
“If we do but seriously believe the truth of the gospel, and the truth of the life to come, the best things of this world will seem of small moment; and the worst things this world can inflict will seem but of small moment; and the worst things this world can inflict will appear too light to provoke us to impatience or discontent. He that hath everlasting glory in prospect, will have a mind full of contentment in the darkest condition here.
Our home, our country, is heaven, where there are no sorrows, nor fears, nor troubles: this world is the place of our travel and pilgrimage, and, at the best, our inn.”
— Sir Matthew Hale, (1609-1675)
Building 429 – “Where I Belong”
Believer, I pray that today you know in your heart this world is not your home. Fix your eyes upon God who each day you move closer to being with for eternity!
“Many people believe that the power of God in a person’s life should keep him from all trials and conflicts. However, the power of God actually brings conflict and struggles. You would think that Paul, during his great missionary journey to Rome, would have been kept by God’s sovereignty from the power of violent storms and of his enemies. Yet just the opposite was true. He endured one long, difficult struggle with the Jews who were persecuting him. He faced fierce winds, poisonous snakes, and all the powers of earth and of hell….and more!
Photo credit: wallpaperest.com
Does this sound like a God of infinite power? Yes, it is just like Him. And that is why Paul told us that once he took the Lord Jesus Christ as his life in his body, a severe conflict immediately arose. In fact, the conflict never ended. The pressure on Paul was persistent, but from the conflict he always emerged victorious through the strength of Jesus Christ.”
— from Streams in the Desert, L.B. Cowman
For your storms, your trials, your perplexities today, the things you wish you were not facing, for the heartbreaks and struggles of the recent or distant past, for the happenings in your life that you can’t yet understand…I pray for you to know the strength and presence of Jesus Christ. Take heart, He is with you, He will never leave you, He knows what you are going through, He will enable you to persevere by His grace.