Category Archives: Courage

“Death cannot deprive us of our best Friend” by Jonathan Edwards

“Now, Madam, let us consider what suitable provision God has made for our consolation under all our afflictions in giving us a Redeemer of such glory and such love, especially when it is considered what were the ends of that great manifestation of His beauty and love in His death.

He suffered that we might be delivered.

His soul was exceeding sorrowful even unto death, to take away the sting of sorrow and that we might have everlasting consolation.

He was oppressed and afflicted that we might be supported.

He was overwhelmed in the darkness of death and of Hell, that we might have the light of life.

He was cast into the furnace of God’s wrath, that we might swim in the rivers of pleasure.

His heart was overwhelmed in a flood of sorrow and anguish, that our hearts might be filled and overwhelmed with a flood of eternal joy.

And now let it be considered what circumstances our Redeemer now is in. He was dead but is alive, and He lives forevermore.

Death may deprive of dear friends, but it can’t deprive us of this, our best Friend.

And we have this Friend, this mighty Redeemer, to go to under all affliction, who is not one that can’t be touched with the feeling of our afflictions, He having suffered far greater sorrows than we ever have done.

And if we are vitally united to Him, the union can never be broken; it will remain when we die and when heaven and earth are dissolved.

Therefore, in this we may be confident, we need not fear though the earth be removed. In Him we may triumph with everlasting joy.

Even when storms and tempests arise we may have resort to Him who is an hiding place from the wind and a covert from the tempest.

When we are thirsty, we may come to Him who is as rivers of waters in a dry place. When we are weary, we may go to Him who is as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.

Having found Him who is as the apple tree among the trees of the wood, we may sit under His shadow with great delight and His fruit may be sweet to our taste.

Christ told his disciples that in the world they should have trouble, but says He, ‘In Me ye shall have peace.’

If we are united to Him, our souls will be like a tree planted by a river that never dieth. He will be their light in darkness and their morning star that is a bright harbinger of day.

And in a little while, He will arise on our souls as the sun in full glory. And our sun shall no more go down, and there shall be no interposing cloud, no veil on His face or on our hearts, but the Lord shall be our everlasting light and our Redeemer, our glory.

That this glorious Redeemer would manifest His glory and love to you, and apply the little that has been said of these things to your consolation in all your affliction, and abundantly reward your generous favors, as when I was at Kittery, is the fervent prayer of, Madam,

Your Ladyship’s most obliged and affectionate friend,

And most humble servant,

Jonathan Edwards”

–Jonathan Edwards, “136. To Lady Mary Pepperrell,” Letters and Personal Writings, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 16, Ed. George S. Claghorn (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 418-419. Edwards wrote this letter from Stockbridge, on November 28, 1751, to comfort a grieving mother on the loss of her son.

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“The way of the cross is the Savior’s way” by D.A. Carson

“The way of the cross is the Savior’s way. Those who claim all the blessings of the new heaven and the new earth in the present time frame have not come to grips with New Testament eschatology.

True, the age to come has dawned, and the Holy Spirit himself is the down payment of future bliss; but it does not follow that all material blessings, prosperity, and freedom from opposition are rightfully ours now.

Even John, who of New Testament writers is most inclined to focus attention on the already-inaugurated features of the age to come, makes it clear that the Christian can in this age expect hatred, persecution, and even violence.

Perhaps this chapter, taken by itself, might prove depressing to some. It is helpful to remember that the biblical passage being expounded, John 15:17–16:4, does not stand in isolation. It is the counterpoint to intimacy with Jesus Christ and rich fruitbearing in the spiritual life.

To know Jesus is to have eternal life; and this is worth everything. In ultimate terms, the acclaim of the world is worth nothing. That is why the dark brush strokes of this passage, 15:17–16:4, far from fostering gloom and defeat, engender instead holy courage and spiritual resolve.

Meditation on these verses forges men and women of God with vision and a stamina whose roots reach into eternity. It calls forth a William Tyndale, who while constantly fleeing his persecutors worked at the translation of the Bible into English. Through betrayal, disappointment, and fear, he struggled on until he was captured and burned at the stake. His dying cry revealed his eternal perspective: ‘Lord, open the King of England’s eyes!’

In a similar vein, William Borden prepared for missionary service in the Muslim world. Born to wealth, he poured his money and his example into missions. After the best of training at Yale University and Princeton Seminary, he arrived in Egypt to work with Samuel Zwemer. Almost immediately he contracted a terminal case of cerebral meningitis. His dying testimony did not falter: ‘No reserve; no retreat; no regrets.’

C.T. Studd, born to privilege, gifted athletically, and trained at Eton and Cambridge, turned his back on wealth and served Christ for decades against unimaginable odds, first in China and then in Africa. He penned the words:

Some want to live within the sound
of church or chapel bell;
I want to build a rescue shop
within a yard of hell.

This is the passion we need: a passion that looks at the mountainous difficulties and exults that we are on the winning side. By all means, let us face the worst: Christ has told us these things so we will not go astray.”

–D.A. Carson, The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus: An Exposition of John 14–17 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 130-132.

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“As if he thought every one was going to heaven” by J.C. Ryle

“The clergyman who ascends his pulpit every Sunday, and addresses his congregation as if he thought every one was going to heaven, is surely not doing his duty to God or man. His preaching is flatly contradictory to the parable of the sower.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 1: 254. Ryle is commenting on Luke 8:4-15.

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“Hitherto the Lord hath helped us” by Charles Spurgeon

“‘Hitherto the Lord hath helped us.’ (1 Samuel 7:12)

Were we a hundred when first I addressed you? What hosts of empty pews, what a miserable handful of hearers. With the staff we crossed that Jordan.

But God has multiplied the people and multiplied the joy, till we have become not only two bands but many bands; and many this day are gathering to hear the gospel preached by the sons of this church, begotten of us, and sent forth by us to minister the word of life in many towns and villages throughout these three kingdoms.

Glory be unto God, this cannot be man’s work. What effort made by the unaided strength of man will equal this which has been accomplished by God. Let the name of the Lord, therefore, be inscribed upon the pillar of the memorial. I am always very jealous about this matter.

If we do not as a Church and a congregation, if we do not as individuals, always give God the glory, it is utterly impossible that God should work by us. Many wonders I have seen, but I never saw yet a man who arrogated the honour of his work to himself, whom God did not leave sooner or later.

Nebuchadnezzar said, ‘Behold this great Babylon that I have built.’ Behold that poor lunatic whose hair has grown like eagle’s feathers, and his nails like bird’s claws—that is Nebuchadnezzar.

And that must be you, and that must be me, each in our own way, unless we are content always to give all the glory unto God. Surely, brethren, we shall be a stench in the nostrils of the Most High, an offence, even like carrion, before the Lord of Hosts, if we arrogate to ourselves any honour.

What doth God send his saints for? That they may be demigods? Did God make men strong that they may exalt themselves into His throne? What, doth the King of kings crown you with mercies that you may pretend to lord it over Him?

What, doth He dignify you that you may usurp the prerogatives of His throne? No; you must come with all the favours and honours that God has put upon you, and creep to the foot of His throne and say, What am I, and what is my father’s house that thou hast remembered me. ‘Hitherto the Lord hath helped us.’

I said this text might be read three ways. We have read it once by laying stress upon the centre word. Now it ought to be read looking backward. The word ‘hitherto’ seems like a hand pointing in that direction.

Look back, look back. Twenty years—thirty—forty—fifty—sixty—seventy—eighty—’hitherto!’ say that each of you. Through poverty—through wealth—through sickness—through health—at home—abroad—on the land—on the sea—in honour—in dishonour—in perplexity—in joy—in trial—in triumph—in prayer—in temptation—hitherto.

Put the whole together. I like sometimes to look down a long avenue of trees. It is very delightful to gaze from end to end of the long vista, a sort of leafy temple with its branching pillars and its arches of leaves.

Cannot you look down the long aisles of your years, look at the green boughs of mercy overhead, and the strong pillars of loving-kindness and faithfulness which bear your joys? Are there no birds in yonder branches singing? Surely, there must be many.

And the bright sunshine and the blue sky are yonder; and if you turn round in the far distance, you may see heaven’s brightness and a throne of gold. ‘Hitherto! hitherto!’

Then the text may be read a third way,—looking forward. For when a man gets up to a certain mark and writes ‘hitherto,’ he looks back upon much that is past, but ‘hitherto’ is not the end, there is yet a distance to be traversed.

More trials, more joys; more temptations, more triumphs; more prayers, more answers; more toils, more strength; more fights, more victories; more slanders, more comforts; more lions and bears to be fought, more tearings of the lion for God’s Davids; more deep waters, more high mountains; more troops of devils, more hosts of angels yet.

And then come sickness, old age, disease, death. Is it over now? No, no, no!

We will raise one stone more when we get into the river, we will shout Ebenezer there: ‘hitherto the Lord hath helped us,’ for there is more to come. An awakening in His likeness, climbing of starry spheres, harps, songs, palms, white raiment, the face of Jesus, the society of saints, the glory of God, the fullness of eternity, the infinity of bliss.

Yes, as sure as God has helped so far as today, He will help us to the close. ‘I will never leave thee, I will never forsake thee; I have been with thee, and I will be with thee to the end.’

Courage, brethren, then. And as we pile the stones, saying, ‘Hitherto the Lord hath helped us,’ let us just gird up the loins of our mind, and be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be revealed in us, for as it has been, so it shall be world without end.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “Ebenezer!” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons (vol. 9; London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1863), 166–167. Spurgeon preached this sermon on 1 Samuel 7:12 on March 15, 1863, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, England.

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“Bloodless, boneless, tasteless, colourless, lukewarm, undogmatic Christianity” by J.C. Ryle

“The times require at our hands distinct and decided views of Christian doctrine. I cannot withhold my conviction that the professing Church of the nineteenth century is as much damaged by laxity and indistinctness about matters of doctrine within, as it is by skeptics and unbelievers without.

Myriads of professing Christians now-a-days seem utterly unable to distinguish things that differ. Like people afflicted with colour-blindness, they are incapable of discerning what is true and what is false, what is sound and what is unsound.

If a preacher of religion is only clever and eloquent and earnest, they appear to think he is all right, however strange and heterogeneous his sermons may be. They are destitute of spiritual sense, apparently, and cannot detect error.

Popery or Protestantism, an atonement or no atonement, a personal Holy Ghost or no Holy Ghost, future punishment or no future punishment, High Church or Low Church or Broad Church, Trinitarianism, Arianism, or Unitarianism, nothing comes amiss to them: they can swallow all, if they cannot digest it!

Carried away by a fancied liberality and charity, they seem to think everybody is right and nobody is wrong, every clergyman is sound and none are unsound, everybody is going to be saved and nobody going to be lost.

Their religion is made up of negatives; and the only positive thing about them is, that they dislike distinctness, and think all extreme and decided and positive views are very naughty and very wrong!

These people live in a kind of mist or fog. They see nothing clearly, and do not know what they believe. They have not made up their minds about any great point in the Gospel, and seem content to be honorary members of all schools of thought.

For their lives they could not tell you what they think is truth about justification, or regeneration, or sanctification, or the Lord’s Supper, or baptism, or faith, or conversion, or inspiration, or the future state. They are eaten up with a morbid dread of CONTROVERSY and an ignorant dislike of PARTY SPIRIT.

And yet they really cannot define what they mean by these phrases. The only point you can make out is that they admire earnestness and cleverness and charity, and cannot believe that any clever, earnest, charitable man can ever be in the wrong!

And so they live on undecided; and too often undecided they drift down to the grave, without comfort in their religion, and, I am afraid, often without hope.
The explanation of this boneless, nerveless, jelly-fish condition of soul is not difficult to find.

To begin with, the heart of man is naturally in the dark about religion,—has no intuitive sense of truth,—and really NEEDS instruction and illumination. Besides this, the natural heart in most men hates exertion in religion, and cordially dislikes patient painstaking inquiry.

Above all, the natural heart generally likes the praise of others, shrinks from collision, and loves to be thought charitable and liberal. The whole result is that a kind of broad religious “agnosticism” just suits an immense number of people, and specially suits young persons.

They are content to shovel aside all disputed points as rubbish, and if you charge them with indecision, they will tell you,—“I do not pretend to understand controversy; I decline to examine controverted points. I daresay it is all the same in the long run.”

Who does not know that such people swarm and abound everywhere? Now I do beseech all who read this paper to beware of this undecided state of mind in religion. It is a pestilence which walketh in darkness, and a destruction that killeth in noon-day.

It is a lazy, idle frame of soul, which, doubtless, saves men the trouble of thought and investigation; but it is a frame of soul for which there is no warrant in the Bible, nor yet in the Articles or Prayer-book of the Church of England.

For your own soul’s sake dare to make up your mind what you believe, and dare to have positive distinct views of truth and error. Never, never be afraid to hold decided doctrinal opinions.

And let no fear of man and no morbid dread of being thought party-spirited, narrow, or controversial, make you rest contented with a bloodless, boneless, tasteless, colourless, lukewarm, undogmatic Christianity.

Mark what I say. If you want to do good in these times, you must throw aside indecision, and take up a distinct, sharply-cut, doctrinal religion. If you believe little, those to whom you try to do good will believe nothing.

The victories of Christianity, wherever they have been won, have been won by distinct doctrinal theology:

  • by telling men roundly of Christ’s vicarious death and sacrifice
  • by showing them Christ’s substitution on the cross, and His precious blood
  • by teaching them justification by faith, and bidding them believe on a crucified Saviour
  • by preaching ruin by sin, redemption by Christ, regeneration by the Spirit
  • by lifting up the brazen serpent
  • by telling men to look and live,—to believe, repent, and be converted.

This,—this is the only teaching which for eighteen centuries God has honoured with success, and is honouring at the present day both at home and abroad.

Let the clever advocates of a broad and undogmatic theology,—the preachers of the Gospel of earnestness, and sincerity and cold morality,—let them, I say, show us at this day any English village or parish, or city, or town, or district, which has been evangelized without ‘dogma,’ by their principles.

They cannot do it, and they never will. Christianity without distinct doctrine is a powerless thing. It may be beautiful to some minds, but it is childless and barren. There is no getting over facts. The good that is done in the earth may be comparatively small.

Evil may abound, and ignorant impatience may murmur, and cry out that Christianity has failed. But, depend on it, if we want to ‘do good’ and shake the world, we must fight with the old apostolic weapons, and stick to ‘dogma.’ No dogma, no fruits! No positive Evangelical doctrine, no evangelization!”

–J.C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots (London: William Hunt and Company, 1889), 416–419.

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“What are arrows for but to shoot?” by Jim Elliot

“I do not wonder that you were saddened at the word of my going to South America. This is nothing else than what the Lord Jesus warned us of when He told the disciples that they must become so infatuated with the kingdom and following Him that all other allegiances must become as though they were not.

And He never excluded the family tie. In fact, those loves which we regard as closest, He told us must become as hate in comparison with our desires to uphold His cause. Grieve not, then, if your sons seem to desert you, but rejoice, rather, seeing the will of God done gladly.

Remember how the Psalmist described children? He said that they were as a heritage from the Lord, and that every man should be happy who had his quiver full of them. And what is a quiver full of but arrows?

And what are arrows for but to shoot? So, with the strong arms of prayer, draw the bowstring back and let the arrows fly–all of them, straight at the Enemy’s hosts.

‘Give of thy sons to bear the message glorious, Give of they wealth to speed them on their way, Pour out thy soul for them in prayer victorious, And all thou spendest Jesus will repay.'”

–Jim Elliot, in Elisabeth Elliot, Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1958/2008), 182-183. Elliot wrote these words to his parents after telling them he was going to the mission field. He was martyred in Ecuador on January 8, 1956.

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“This is what it means to be a king” by C.S. Lewis

As was certain to happen sooner or later, King Lune said it was time for young people to be in bed. “And tomorrow, Cor,” he added, “shalt come over all the castle with me and see the estate, and mark all its strength and weakness: for it will be thine to guard when I’m gone.”

“But Corin will be the King then, Father,” said Cor.

“Nay, lad,” said King Lune, “thou art my heir. The crown comes to thee.”

“But I don’t want it,” said Cor. “I’d far rather–”

“‘Tis no question what thou wantest, Cor, nor I either. ‘Tis in the course of law.”

“But if we’re twins we must be the same age.”

“Nay,” said the King with a laugh. “One must come first. Art Corin’s elder by full twenty minutes. And his better too, let’s hope, though that’s no great mastery.” And he looked at Corin with a twinkle in his eyes.

“But, Father, couldn’t you make whichever you like to be the next King?”

“No. The King’s under the law, for it’s the law makes him a king. Hast no more power to start away from thy crown than any sentry from his post.”

“Oh dear,” said Cor. “I don’t want to at all. And Corin– I am most dreadfully sorry. I never dreamed my turning up was going to chisel you out of your kingdom.”

“Hurrah! Hurrah!” said Corin. “I shan’t have to be king. I shan’t have to be king. I’ll always be a prince. It’s princes have all the fun.”

“And that’s truer than thy brother knows, Cor,” said King Lune. “For this is what it means to be a king: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there’s hunger in the land (as must be now and then in bad years) to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land.”

–C.S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy in The Chronicles of Narnia (New York: HarperCollins, 1954/1994), 309-310.

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