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Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

I heard a sermon a few years ago on the radio relating many stories of men who rose to fame in Christian ministry only to end in defeat or humiliation.  The stories sobered me because you seldom hear “the rest of the story.”  The speaker shared statistics which indicated this is actually the more common outcome, rather than the exception.  I have been reading over the life of Solomon lately, and this sermon came back to mind.  We have no shortage of examples in scripture or in modern Christianity.

An interesting paradox in our Christian walk is that the greater a gift God gives His children, the more potential we find for the gift to become our bane instead of a blessing.   The first temptation is to love the gift more than the One who gave it, not realizing we have misplaced our highest devotion.  I believe this was Solomon’s downfall – his heart being drawn after the women in his life and passively following their spiritual desires at the expense of his love for the true God.  Sometimes the gifts and blessings of God overwhelm me, and the temptation is to focus all my energies on those things, especially my children and family.  But if we make an idol out of our career, house, family, church family or a charismatic leader, our love will quickly grow selfish, constricting, conditional, and even abusive, as we have cut ourselves off from the true Source of real love.  These idols are hard to see because we are supposed to love and nurture these things – but not more than we love God.  We often don’t realize we have crossed the line.   But others can often tell something is wrong, even if they don’t know why.

The other trap, especially in the area of ministry, is the feeding of our pride.  We mistakenly begin to ascribe to the sometimes subtle belief that our gifting originated in ourselves, not in God, or we may want to think He gave it to us because we are special in some way.  This describes the first evil found in our universe – when Satan became lifted up in his own beauty and aspired to sit on God’s throne himself.  We can never delude ourselves into believing anything good originates in us, and not lose the benefit of it in the end.  Solomon asked for wisdom in humility, telling God he was like a child who did not know how to go out or come in.  I wonder how long he remembered this was his natural state before God answered his prayer?

This is where we learn that the greater our revelation, the more we must be willing to suffer.  The great men and women of faith I admire the most, have suffered things I can only imagine. Why is this?  God’s mercy I believe, as Paul wrote:

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.   Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.   But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:7 -10

This is why we are instructed to not despise the correction of God.  He does it in love to protect us from ourselves.  Not every calamity comes for this reason.  Some obstacles we are called to stand and fight against in spiritual warfare, but we must have discernment to hear when He says to us, “My grace is sufficient.”

God’s giftings come with testing built in – to see if we will love Him the most, and walk in humility before Him.  But if this is not enough, the church turned institution developed an over-dependence on leadership not found in the New Testament.  This structure places men on platforms they should not have to stand on, and binds burdens on them which should be shared by other giftings designed to work together as.. a body…. maybe?   This damaging symbiosis weakens both the pastor and the flock.  One is taxed to the point of his flame being burned out while the flock becomes passive. They expect their leader to spoon feed them, inspire them,  hear from God for them, soothe their every wound, and do the work of building the church by reaching the lost.  Some enjoy being large and in charge I suppose, but I have known those who have crumbled.  They need intercessors urgently – especially those who truly have a heart for honest truth and obedience to the Spirit.  Spurgeon said his ministry was a result of fervent intercession by those called to pray for him and the body.  Once during the Israelite’s wilderness wanderings, God allowed the burden to fall on 70 other men to prophesy with Moses – to lighten his load.  Moses declared at that time he wished all of Israel would prophesy.  This is the reality of what we have in the New Covenant and of God pouring out His Spirit on all flesh!  Yes we need leaders most definitely – but they are not ordained to be our everything.

Burnout, giving in to temptations, being distracted from our First Love in idolatry – just a few reasons why we do not end well.  Paul spoke of running the race and seeking the prize at the end.  I don’t believe he meant striving to be saved, but striving to end with integrity and faith, glorifying Christ.  In Ecclesiastes it appears that Solomon gained the greatest wisdom in the end – realizing the vanity of this world and the importance of a singular focus on God Himself.  Yet the consequences of his disobedience played out in a sad story of a divided kingdom.  We are living in an age of divided families, friendships, and churches.  We are not ending well, and it is my greatest desire and prayer that our true focus may be restored – to the praise and glory of God alone.

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Thomas Boston as quoted in sermon notes by Charles Spurgeon.  1884

The sermon outline was “Where is the God of Elijah?”

1.  The God of Elijah gave him the sweet experience of keeping warm and lively in a very cold and dead generation; so that he was best when others were worst.

….. But where is the Lord God of Elijah in these dregs of time, wherein professors (believers) generally are carried away, with the stream of impiety, from all their liveliness and tenderness that aforetime have been among them, when the more wickedness sets up its head, the more piety is made to hide its head?  It is a sad evidence that God is gone from us, when the standard of wickedness makes advances, and that of shining holiness is retreating, and can hardly get hands to hold it up.

2.  The God of Elijah gave him the sweet experience of the power of prayer: James 5:17…

….. But where is the God of Elijah, while the trade with heaven by prayer is so very low?  Alas, for the dead, cold, and flat prayers that come from the lips of the professors (believers) at this day, so weak and languishing that they cannot reach heaven!

3.  The God of Elijah gave him the experience of the sweet fruits of dependence on the Lord, and of a little going far, with his blessing: I Kings 17:16

…..But where is the God of Elijah at this day, when what we have seems to be blown upon, that it goes in effect for nothing?  Our table is plentifully covered, yet our souls are starved; our goodness sometimes looks as a morning cloud, it blackens the face of the heavens, and promises a heavy shower, but so quickly proves as a little cloud, like unto a man’s hand, which is ready to go for nothing; yea, this generation is blinded by the means that have a natural tendency to give light.  Ah!  “Where is the God of Elijah?”

4.  The God of Elijah gave him the experience of a gracious boldness to face the most daring wickedness of the generation he lived in, though it was one of the worst.  This eminently  appeared in his encounter with Ahab: I Kings 18:1

…..But where is the God of Elijah now, while the iniquities of our day meet with such faint resistance, while a brave brow for the cause of God, a tongue to speak for him, and a heart to act, are so much wanting?  The wicked of the world, though they have an ill cause in hand, yet they pursue it boldly; but, alas!  the people of God shame their honest cause by their cowardice and faint appearing in it.  If God give us not another spirit, more fitted for such a day, we shall betray our trust, and bring the curse of the succeeding generation on us.

5.  The God of Elijah gave him the experience of a glorious and powerful manifestation of himself, in a solemn ordinance, even at the sacrifice on Mount Carmel, which was ushered in with the spirit of prayer in Elijah:  I Kings 18:37-39
…..But where is the God of Elijah when so little of the Spirit’s influences is found in ordinances, even solemn ordinances?  Here is the mantle, but where is the God of Elijah?  Here are the grave-clothes, in which sometimes the Lord was wrapt up, but where is he himself?  Communion days have sometimes been glorious days in Scotland, and sometimes the gospel hath done much good, so that ministers had almost as much to do to heal broken hearts as now to get hard hearts broken; but where now is the God of Elijah?

6.  The God of Elijah gave him the experience of being enabled to go far upon a meal:  I Kings 19:8

…..But where now are such experiences, while there is so little strength in the spiritual meals to which we now sit down?  This is a time wherein there is much need of such an experience; the Lord seems to be saying to his people, “Rise and eat, for the journey is long”; and what a hard journey some may have, ere they get another meal, who knows?  Oh, for more feeding power in the doctrine preached among us!

7. The God of Elijah gave him the experience of the Lord’s removing difficulties out of his way, when he himself could do nothing at them:  Jordan divided.  So Peter had the iron gate opened to him of its own accord:  for when the Lord takes the work in hand, were it never so desperate as to us, it will succeed well with him.  Sure we have need of this experience this day.  How is the case of many souls so embarrassed at this day that they cannot extricate themselves, by reason of long and continued departures from God, so that all they can do is that they are fleeing and going backward!  Ah! where is the God of Elijah, to dry up those devouring deeps?  Enemies have surrounded the church, and brought her to the brow of the hill, ready to cast her over; where is the God of Elijah, to make a way for her escape?

My Sermon Notes, Genesis to Proverbs, p. 88-90

Charles Spurgeon

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