On May 25th, I began to ask the Lord for greater real spiritual prosperity among the saints, among whom I labour in Bristol, than there ever yet had been among them; and now I have to record to the praise of the Lord that truly He has answered this request; for, considering all things, at no period has there been more manifestation of grace and truth, and spiritual power among us, than there is now while I am writing this for the press (1845). Not that we have attained to what we might; we are far, very far from it; but the Lord has been very, very good to us, and we have most abundant cause for thanksgiving.
So far as I remember, I brought even the most minute circumstances concerning the Orphan-House before the Lord in my petitions, being conscious of my own weakness and ignorance.
There was, however, one point I never had prayed about, namely that the Lord would send children; for I naturally took it for granted that there would be plenty of applications.
The nearer, however, the day came which had been appointed for receiving applications, the more I had a secret consciousness, that the Lord might disappoint my natural expectations, and show me that I could not prosper in one single thing without Him.
The appointed time came, and not even one application was made. I had before this been repeatedly tried, whether I might not, after all, against the Lord’s mind, have engaged in the work.
This circumstance now led me to lie low before my God in prayer the whole of the evening, February 3, and to examine my heart once more as to all the motives concerning it; and being able, as formerly, to say, that His glory was my chief aim, i. e., that it might be seen that it is not a vain thing to trust in the living God,—and that my second aim was the spiritual welfare of the orphan-children,—and the third their bodily welfare; and still continuing in prayer, I was at last brought to this state, that I could say from my heart, that I should rejoice in God being glorified in this matter, though it were by bringing the whole to nothing.
But as still, after all, it seemed to me more tending to the glory of God, to establish and prosper the Orphan-House, I could then ask Him heartily, to send applications. I enjoyed now a peaceful state of heart concerning the subject, and was also more assured than ever that God would establish it.
The very next day, February 4, the first application was made, and since then 42 more have been made.”
That which I now considered the best mode of preparation for the public ministry of the word, no longer adopted from necessity, on account of want of time, but from deep conviction, and from the experience of God’s blessing upon it, both as it regards my own enjoyment, the benefit of the saints, and the conversion of sinners, is as follows:
First, I do not presume to know myself what is best for the hearers, and I therefore ask the Lord, in the first place, that he would graciously be pleased to teach me on what subject I shall speak, or what portion of his word I shall expound.
Now, sometimes it happens that, previous to my asking him, a subject or passage has been in my mind, on which it has appeared well for me to speak.
In that case, I ask the Lord whether I should speak on this subject or passage. If, after prayer, I feel persuaded that I should, I fix upon it, yet so that I would desire to leave myself open to the Lord to change it if he please.
Frequently, however, it occurs that I have no text or subject in my mind, before I give myself to prayer for the sake of ascertaining the Lord’s will concerning it.
In this case, I wait some time on my knees for an answer, trying to listen to the voice of the Spirit to direct me.
If, then, a passage or subject, whilst I am on my knees, or after I have finished praying for a text, is brought to my mind, I again ask the Lord, and that sometimes repeatedly, especially if, humanly speaking, the subject or text should be a peculiar one, whether it be his will that I should speak on such a subject or passage.
If, after prayer, my mind is peaceful about it, I take this to be the text, but still desire to leave myself open to the Lord for direction, should he please to alter it, or should I have been mistaken.
Frequently, also, in the third place, it happens that I not only have no text nor subject on my mind previous to my praying for guidance in this matter, but also I do not obtain one after once, or twice, or more times praying about it.
I used formerly at times to be much perplexed when this was the case, but, for more than twenty years, it has pleased the Lord, in general at least, to keep me in peace about it.
What I do is, to go on with my regular reading of the Scriptures, where I left off the last time, praying (whilst I read) for a text, now and then also laying aside my Bible for prayer, till I get one.
Thus it has happened that I have had to read five, ten, yea, twenty chapters, before it has pleased the Lord to give me a text; yea, many times I have even had to go to the place of meeting without one, and obtained it, perhaps, only a few minutes before I was going to speak; but I have never lacked the Lord’s assistance at the time of preaching, provided I had earnestly sought it in private.
The preacher cannot know the particular state of the various individuals who compose the congregation, nor what they require, but the Lord knows it; and if the preacher renounces his own wisdom, he will be assisted by the Lord; but if he will choose in his own wisdom, then let him not be surprised if he should see little benefit result from his labors.
June 25, 1834: These last three days I have had very little real communion with God, and have therefore been very weak spiritually, and have several times felt irritability of temper.
June 26, 1834: I was enabled, by the grace of God, to rise early, and I had nearly two hours in prayer before breakfast. I feel now this morning more comfortable.
Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.Psalm 55:17
April 21, 1832:
I would offer here a word of warning to believers. Often the work of the Lord itself may be a temptation to keep us from that communion with him which is so essential to the benefit of our own souls.
On the 19th I had left Dartmouth, conversed a good deal that day, preached in the evening, walked afterwards eight miles, had only about five hours’ sleep, travelled again the next day twenty-five miles, preached twice, and conversed very much besides, went to bed at eleven, and arose before five.
All this shows that my body and spirit required rest, and, therefore, however careless about the Lord’s work I might have appeared to my brethren, I ought to have had a great deal of quiet time for prayer and reading the word, especially as I had a long journey before me that day, and as I was going to Bristol, which in itself required much prayer.
Instead of this, I hurried to the prayer meeting, after a few minutes’ private prayer. But let none think that public prayer will make up for closet communion.
Then again, afterwards, when I ought to have withdrawn myself, as it were, by force, from the company of beloved brethren and sisters, and given my testimony for the Lord, (and, indeed, it would have been the best testimony I could have given them,) by telling them that I needed secret communion with the Lord, I did not do so, but spent the time, till the coach came, in conversation with them.
Now, however profitable in some respects it may have been made to those with whom I was on that morning, yet my own soul needed food; and not having had it, I was lean, and felt the effects of it the whole day; and hence I believe it came that I was dumb on the coach, and did not speak a word for Christ, nor give away a single tract, though I had my pockets full on purpose.
About the same time, also, my wife and I had grace given to us to take the Lord’s commandment, “Sell that ye have, and give alms,” Luke xii. 33, literally, and to carry it out. Our staff and support in this matter were Matthew vi. 19-34, John xiv. 13, 14. We leaned on the arm of the Lord Jesus. It is now twenty-five years since we set out in this way, and we do not in the least regret the step we then took. As I have written down how the Lord has been pleased to deal with us since, I shall be able to relate some facts concerning this matter, as far as they may tend to edification.
Nov. 18, 1830. Our money was reduced to about eight shillings. When I was praying with my wife in the morning, the Lord brought to my mind the state of our purse, and I was led to ask him for some money. About four hours after, a sister said to me, “Do you want any money?” “I told the brethren,” said I, “dear sister, when I gave up my salary, that I would for the future tell the Lord only about my wants.” She replied, “But he has told me to give you some money. About a fortnight ago, I asked him what I should do for him, and he told me to give you some money; and last Saturday it came again powerfully to my mind, and has not left me since, and I felt it so forcibly last night that I could not help speaking of it to brother P.” My heart rejoiced, seeing the Lord’s faithfulness, but I thought it better not to tell her about our circumstances, lest she should be influenced to give accordingly; and I also was assured that, if it were of the Lord, she could not but give. I therefore turned the conversation to other subjects, but when I left she gave me two guineas. We were full of joy on account of the goodness of the Lord. I would call upon the reader to admire the gentleness of the Lord, that he did not try our faith much at the commencement, but allowed us to see his willingness to help us, before he was pleased to try it more fully.
The next Wednesday I went to Exmouth, our money having then again been reduced to about nine shillings. I asked the Lord on Thursday, when at Exmouth, to be pleased to give me some money. On Friday morning, about eight o’clock, whilst in prayer, I was particularly led to ask again for money; and before I rose from my knees I had the fullest assurance that we should have the answer that very day. About nine o’clock I left the brother with whom I was staying, and he gave me half a sovereign, saying, “Take this for the expenses connected with your coming to us.” I did not expect to have my expenses paid, but I saw the Lord’s fatherly hand in sending me this money within one hour after my asking him for some. But even then I was so fully assured that the Lord would send more that very day, or had done so already, that, when I came home about twelve o’clock, I asked my wife whether she had received any letters. She told me she had received one the day before from a brother in Exeter, with three sovereigns. Thus even my prayer on the preceding day had been answered. The next day one of the brethren came and brought me four pounds, which was due to me of my former salary, but which I could never have expected, as I did not even know that this sum was due to me. Thus I received, within thirty hours, in answer to prayer, seven pounds ten shillings.
About Christmas, when our money was reduced to a few shillings, I asked the Lord for more; when, a few hours after, there was given to us a sovereign by a brother from Axminster. This brother had heard much against me, and was at last determined to hear for himself, and thus came to Teignmouth, a distance of forty miles; and having heard about our manner of living, gave us this money.
With this closes the year 1830. Throughout it the Lord richly supplied all my temporal wants, though at the commencement of it I had no certain human prospect for one single shilling: so that, even as it regards temporal things, I had not been in the smallest degree a loser in acting according to the dictates of my conscience; and as it regards spiritual things, the Lord had dealt bountifully with me, and had condescended to use me as an instrument in doing his work.
- I seek at the beginning to get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in regard to a given matter. Nine-tenths of the trouble with people generally is just here. Nine-tenths of the difficulties are overcome when our hearts are ready to do the Lord’s will, whatever it may be. When one is truly in this state, it is usually but a little way to the knowledge of what His will is.
- Having done this, I do not leave the result to feeling or simple impression. If so, I make myself liable to great delusions.
- I seek the Will of the Spirit of God through, or in connection with, the Word of God. The Spirit and the Word must be combined. If I look to the Spirit alone without the Word, I lay myself open to great delusions also. If the Holy Ghost guides us at all, He will do it according to the Scriptures and never contrary to them.
- Next I take into account providential circumstances. These often plainly indicate God’s Will in connection with His Word and Spirit.
- I ask God in prayer to reveal His Will to me aright.
- Thus, through prayer to God, the study of the Word, and reflection, I come to a deliberate judgment according to the best of my ability and knowledge, and if my mind is thus at peace, and continues so after two or three more petitions, I proceed accordingly. In trivial matters, and in transactions involving most important issues, I have found this method always effective.
So the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet: for his God gave him rest round about.II Chronicles 20:30
The context here is talking about political rest – there are times that God calls people to fight (Numbers 31:3), and there are times He calls people to rest.
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.Ecclesiastes 3:8
Sometimes God gives nations supernatural rest, and sometimes thru the work of its soldiers (2 Samuel 7:1).
On this Veterans Day, let’s be thankful for the sacrifice that our veterans have made, and thankful for the peace that God allow them to purchase that we enjoy.
Among Millennials, Christianity is now a minority position. Polling data is showing that most Millennials do not affiliate with Christianity, and we’re only a few years from most Millennials not affiliating with any religion. Skepticism is in vogue, but indifference even more so. If religion is so important, and if God really existed, wouldn’t He give us a clue?
He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.1 John 5:10
We have something better than just a clue – we have a God-given record!
Coincidentally less than half of Millennials crack open the Bible.
Let’s thank God for the Bible – but also, let’s read it!
If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.1 Peter 4:11
Perhaps you’ve noticed that we’ve been looking at the phrase “God giveth” in the Bible. It’s been helpful to see what things we can be grateful for that are the “gifts of God.”
Today, we see our ministry ability – is God-given. Not that it’s surprising. What can lowly man do for an omnipotent God? Not much. And since the very dust that we are made of (Genesis 2:7) is made by Him (John 1:3), are not the talents that we claim to have developed His gifts as well?
The challenge that I often see – is that I want to do something for God. I want to be a success for Him. I want to make a big impact for Him, and perhaps for people to know that I made a big impact for Him. The problem is the word “I.” I have no innate ability – all the ability I have to use for God, was given by Him. Yes I have a duty to be a good steward – but stewards / vilici aren’t supposed to get too much attention. In fact, bad things happened to Joseph when he started to get attention as the steward of Potiphar’s house (Genesis 39:7).
Jim Collins, author of Good to Great discusses “Level 5 Leadership” at the core of companies that surpassed their competitors and the economy as a whole. These leaders are a “powerful mixture of personal humility and indomitable will.”
The eleven good-to-great CEOs are some of the most remarkable CEOs of the century, given that only eleven companies from the Fortune 500 met the exacting standards for entry into this study. Yet, despite their remarkable results, almost no one ever remarked about them! … The good-to-great leaders never wanted to become larger-than-life heroes. They never aspired to be put on a pedestal or become unreachable icons. They were seemingly ordinary people quietly producing extraordinary results.https://www.jimcollins.com/concepts/level-five-leadership.html
In the book he mentions “servant leadership” but was afraid that would scare off his readers, so he calls it “Level 5.” But as students of the Bible, we would understand the term “servant leadership.” We’re not the hero. God is.
As we pray, let’s seek His help to direct he praise to where it belongs – with Him!