Showing posts with label My reflections on sermons heard. Show all posts
Showing posts with label My reflections on sermons heard. Show all posts

Saturday, December 20, 2008

CH Spurgeon's sermon "Beloved and yet afflicted"

When I was very ill with bad and persistent asthmatic attacks some 6 years back (which led to a hospitalization and many Emergency treatments), I took 2 months no-pay leave to recuperate at home and sought appropriate medical help. I am still on long term medication and thank God that my condition has stabilised and I do not get asthmatic attacks anymore nowadays.

During those times, there were many Lord's day when I could not go to church due to asthmatic attacks. God in His mercies ministered much grace to me through His Words, Christian books and articles. I was greatly encouraged by many sermons and article I read that I designed a simple website Believers' Encouragement to put up these to share with other fellow Christians.

One of CH Spurgeon's sermon which the Lord used to encourage me and comfort me was entitled "Beloved, and yet afflicted". This comforting sermon reminded me that as God's beloved people, God sometimes allow us to go through time of sickness for His glory, our good and the good of His Church.

This sermon is continuing to encourage me as I seek to walk with our Lord daily and glorify Him despite chronic illnesses.

Hope this sermon will encourage you too. If you are experiencing chronic illness or going through very severe trials, know that our Lord is near to you and He has His purposes in allowing providence to be so. He can work a way for you and enable you to glorify Him. All things will work together for your good if you are one of those who loved God and are called according to His eternal purposes (Romans 8:28).

Beloved and yet afflicted. By CH Spurgeon

"Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick" (John 11:3)

That disciple whom Jesus loved is not at all backward to record that Jesus loved Lazarus too: there are no jealousies among those who are chosen by the Well-beloved. Jesus loved Mary, and Martha, and Lazarus: it is a happy thing where a whole family live in the love of Jesus. They were a favoured trio, and yet, as the serpent came into Paradise, so did sorrow enter their quiet household at Bethany. Lazarus was sick. They all felt that if Jesus were there disease would flee at his presence; what then should they do but let him know of their trial? Lazarus was near to death’s door, and so his tender sisters at once reported the fact to Jesus, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.” Many a time since then has that same message been sent to our Lord, for in full many a case he has chosen his people in the furnace of affliction. Of the Master it is said, “himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses,” and it is, therefore, no extraordinary thing for the members to be in this matter conformed to their Head.

.....We need not be astonished that the man whom the Lord loves is sick, for he is only a man. The love of Jesus does not separate us from the common necessities and infirmities of human life. Men of God are still men. The covenant of grace is not a charter of exemption from consumption, or rheumatism, or asthma. The bodily ills, which come upon us because of our flesh, will attend us to the tomb, for Paul saith, “we that are in this body do groan.”

.... Oftentimes this sickness of the Lord’s loved ones is for the good of others. Lazarus was permitted to be sick and to die, that by his death and resurrection the apostles might be benefitted. His sickness was “for the glory of God.” Throughout these nineteen hundred years which have succeeded Lazarus’ sickness all believers have been getting good out of it, and this afternoon we are all the better because he languished and died. The church and the world may derive immense advantage through the sorrows of good men: the ungodly may be awakened, the doubting may be convinced, the ungodly may be converted, the mourner may be comforted through our testimony in sickness; and if so, would we wish to avoid pain and weakness? Are we not quite willing that our friends should say of us also “Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick”?

....Jesus knows all about us, but it is a great relief to pour out our hearts before him. When John the Baptist’s broken-hearted disciples saw their leader beheaded, “they took up the body, and went and told Jesus.” They could not have done better. In all trouble send a message to Jesus, and do not keep your misery to yourself. In his case there is no need of reserve, there is no fear of his treating you with cold pride, or heartless indifference, or cruel treachery. He is a confident who never can betray us, a friend who never will refuse us.

.... Remember, too, that Jesus may give healing. It would not be wise to live by a supposed faith, and cast off the physician and his medicines, any more than to discharge the butcher, and the tailor, and expect to be fed and clothed by faith; but this would be far better than forgetting the Lord altogether, and trusting to man only. Healing for both body and soul must be sought from God. We make use of medicines, but these can do nothing apart from the Lord, “who healeth all our diseases.” We may tell Jesus about our aches and pains, and gradual declining, and hacking coughs. Some persons are afraid to go to God about their health: they pray for the pardon of sin, but dare not ask the Lord to remove a headache: and, yet, surely, if the hairs outside our head are all numbered by God it is not much more of a condescension for him to relieve throbs and pressures inside the head. Our big things must be very little to the great God, and our little things cannot be much less. It is a proof of the greatness of the mind of God that while ruling the heavens and the earth, he is not so absorbed by these great concerns as to be forgetful of the least pain or want of any one of his poor children. We may go to him about our failing breath, for he first gave us lungs and life. We may tell him about the eye which grows dim, and the ear which loses hearing, for he made them both. We may mention the swollen knee, and the gathering finger, the stiff neck, and the sprained foot, for he made all these our members, redeemed them all, and will raise them all from the grave. Go at once, and say, “Lord, behold he whom thou lovest is sick.”.... Read full article....

May God bless you with His love and mercies in many wonderful ways every day :)

Thank you for stopping by. Take care and may God grant you a very blessed weekend!

Recent Posts:

Thankful Thursday : Joyful reunion with an old friend

Thankful Thursday : Free Calendars 2009 and Bookmarks

Out of the Depths - Psalm 130

God is our refuge and strength - Psalm 46

How to recover from Clinical Depression

Causes of Clinical Depression

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Our Lord Jesus Christ laid down His life for us (3rd February 2008)

Thank God that today my church’s pastor, Pastor JJ Lim, preached a very heart searching and heart warming sermon on the seventh words of our Lord Jesus Christ when He was on the cross, “I commend my spirit” from Luke 23:46:

“And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.”

Pastor JJ has been leading my church through a study of the seven Words of our Lord Jesus Christ when He was on the cross.

These seventh words were:

1) Word of Forgiveness: “Father, forgive them: for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). This is a prayer shortly after He was nailed to the cross, showing forth His meekness.

2) Word of Salvation: “Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). These are the words of salvation to the penitent sinner - come with nothing in our hands, simply with faith in our heart.

3) Word of Affection: “Woman, behold thy son!” (John 19:26). These are words of affection, words that shows our Lord’s selflessness.

4) Word of Anguish: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). The Son of God bearing the sins of the world - the deep suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ on behalf of His people. He experienced as it was hell, as He saw the wrath of God against His people because of our sins.

5) Word of Suffering : “I thirst” (John 19:28). He suffered not just spiritually, but physically as well.

6) Word of Victory: “It is finished!” (John 19:30) His work of sacrifice is completed.

7) Word of Contentment: “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46).

Now as our Lord bowed His head to give up the ghost, He said these words in Luke 23:46 which summarizes our Lord’s mediatorial work as fulfilled in His role as our Prophet, Priest and King.

My Pastor reminded us that no one can lay down his life the way our Lord Jesus Christ did. There is in some way true that one can lay down his life for another. But none can do as what our Lord did. Our Lord did not commit suicide, He willingly gave up the ghost (soul/spirit) as the God-Man. He yielded/ delivered/handed over His soul/spirit to His Father. He was in full control. Our Lord laid down His life willingly and by His power. He laid down His life and take it up again at His resurrection.

John 10:11, 15, 17, 18
11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.

Pastor JJ encouraged us that we can trust our Lord Jesus Christ to lead us with His hands through all the changing scenes of life knowing that He is sovereign and in full control of all things. This is such a comforting thought to me as I considered afresh of how the Lord has led me through many trials and tribulations in my life. Truly, I can safely trust in Him no matter what He allows me to go through, as He is with me to bring me safely through it. I can trust in Him because He is God and in total control.

Pastor JJ reminded us that when our Lord laid down His life on the cross, the sacrifice of our Lord is accepted by God and the wrath of God against the sins of His people are quenched. And that is why our Lord uttered such comforting words, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit:”.

Our Lord must taste death so that we might be raised up together with Him, that we can be adopted into the family of God and enjoy His communion. By our Lord’s death on the cross, He shows us not only the way to life but of life. The redemptive works of Christ always speaks of the death of Christ.

Pastor JJ exhorted us that the death of our Lord Jesus Christ is also to set an example for us. God in John 15:13 tells us that “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Our Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated His love for us by laying down His life for us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). Pastor JJ said an important mark of a true believer is that he loves his brethren. He asked us to consider the following verses from the Bible:

“Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” 1 John 3:16

1 John 2:9-11
9 He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.
10 He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.
11 But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.

“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” 1 John 3:14-15

Today, my church commemorated our Lord Jesus Christ’s death on the cross to redeem us from sins and eternal condemnation, by partaking of the Lord’s Supper together. As we prepare to come to the Lord’s table, my Pastor exhorted us to examine our hearts to see if we are bearing grudges against any brethren. And if we do, to confess our sins and ask the Lord to forgive us, and we must resolve to forgive and be reconciled to this person. As we come together to the table, we are to come knowing that we do not deserved to be received as we have no righteousness of our own but we come in the name of our Lord, in His righteousness. May God teach us to be more like His Son, to be willing to lay down our life and humble ourselves for the sake of our brethren, so that we can have fellowship with God and His Son, that God may lead us to walk as Christian, walking as a soldier of Jesus Christ.

Thank God for this very encouraging message that Pastor JJ delivered to us. There are many more lessons which we can learn from this encouraging sermon which you can download from my church’s website when it is available in .mp3 format.

This reminder of our Lord’s great love for us by laying down His life for us is always a great encouragement to me. It never cease to amaze me of God’s love for sinners like us. As I consider my own sins, failures and weaknesses, and how I often failed the Lord despite His consistent love and patience, I am greatly moved to seek more of His grace to walk with Him afresh, and to love Him and His people more and more. I know that I cannot do it of myself. I need the Lord’s grace and strength.

To remember once again the deep sufferings He has gone through for us, together as a church, reminds me once again for the need to love our brethren irrespective of the differences in our personality or theological bias. Our Lord Jesus Christ laid down His life not only to save us but to set an example for us that we may learn to lay down our life for our brethren. This laying down of our life may not be literal most of the time. Few of us will be called to literally lay down our life for our Lord or our brethren. But we lay down our life for the Lord and our brethren when we esteem our Lord and His people better than ourselves. We lay down our life for our brethren when we willingly suffer losses for their sakes.

There is so much to learn afresh always of the love of God and His sovereignty. It is our strongest comfort and encouragement as we press on in our pilgrim journey. Though in this life we may have many challenges, sicknesses and tribulations but God enables us to walk joyfully in Him and to sing praises unto Him whenever He fills our hearts with His love. May God enable us to know the love of Christ in our hearts and remember His love in laying down His life for us so that we may live in Him, through Him and for Him.

Ephesians 3:14-19
14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

I am reminded of a hymn/poem I like very much, “The Love of God”. I like the way the love of God is being described as greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell. Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made, were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade, to write the love of God above, would drain the oceon dry, nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky! How true! The immeasurable depths and heights of God’s love! It has to be experienced to know what it means and even then we cannot fathom the whole of it.

It is interesting to note that this 3rd stan­za, which I like very much, had been found pen­ciled on the wall of a pa­tient’s room in an in­sane asy­lum af­ter he had been car­ried to his grave, the gen­er­al opin­ion was that this in­mate had writ­ten the epic in mo­ments of san­ity (quoted from Cyber Hymnal website).

The Love of God

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.

Chorus: O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

When years of time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men, who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Chorus: O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

Chorus: O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Romans 8:35-39
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Can you run away from God (29th January 2008)

Thank God that last Lord’s day 27 January 2008, Pastor Willy Ng (a visiting minister from Criswell Tabernacle) shared a very encouraging sermon from Jonah chapter 1 on “Can you run away from God?”.

Pastor Willy Ng said in Jonah 1:1-2, Jonah is described as a man who run away from God. Pastor Willy asked “Can you run away from God?”. Jonah tried to run away from God because he disagreed with God’s will, with what God was going to do in his life. God was calling Jonah to preach repentance to Nineveh, the ancient capital of the Assyrian empire which was known as a very cruel and wicked city, famous for torturing people in their captive. The children of Israel and Jonah hated the people of Nineveh and they have every right to do so because they were under great harassment by Nineveh. As Jonah believed in justice and punishment of sins, he believed that God should punish them. Therefore he disagreed with God’s will to preach repentance to them.

Pastor Willy said when we look at Singapore and around us, we sometimes get used to the things in our life even when they are immoral or sins eg abortion, homosexuality, etc. We become immune to these things. We think this world is ok. But God who created this world never meant it to be forever - there will be a day of judgement. This is a solemn reminder!

Jonah was called to Nineveh to preach repentance because God knows their sins. Pastor Willy reminded us that God knows our private struggles, our quarrels, our trying to run away from God’s will, etc. God is holy, He will not get used to sin. God looks at us and He knows our sins. Pastor Willy exhorted us not to hide our sins because our sins will eat us up one day. We have individual sins and family sins. God will punish sinners and call into account the way we live. God will judge the world. If the Lord will not be merciful, we will all die in our sins. Romans 3:23 said we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. We must repent and seek God’s forgiveness.

Pastor Willy asked a series of heart-searching questions. Is there someone in our life that we wish will never know the Lord or will go to Heaven? Is there someone we will not share the Word of God with because we hated him/her? God has placed these people in our lives not by coincidence, but so that we can tell them of the coming judgement and share of His forgiveness with them. We must submit to the will of God and obey His call to share the Gospel with them.

Our Lord set the best example for us when He humbly submit to His Father’s will to lay down His life on the cross for us. In the Garden of Gethsemane we read of His prayers unto His Father 3 times and His yielding to His Father’s will:

“O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Matthew 26:39

“He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.” Matthew 26:42

“And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.” Matthew 26:44

Pastor Willy mentioned many lessons we can learn from Jonah and other portions of Scriptures. You may want to download this sermon and listen to it when it is available on my church’s website for downloading.

In his conclusion, Pastor Willy asked whether do we obey God and submit to His sovereignty and will? He encouraged us to learn to submit to the will of God. God has a purpose in whatever He allows us to go through. God’s purposes will be fulfilled even if we can’t understand. God will give us the grace to endure. Pastor Willy encouraged us to hold the Bible dear to us, to read and pray, and especially to read the Bible more in our trials.

There are many lessons I am learning from Pastor Willy’s encouraging message. In particular, I am reminded afresh of God’s sovereignty and of His callings in our life. Sometimes we are called to serve Him in very difficult situations or in places/positions/vocations we do not wish to. Or we are put in a difficult family or church. I remember having to work at several places where I need to handle difficult situations and people. I have much struggles trying to fulfil my callings there. The reminder that God has placed me there for a purpose and that I was still to bear a good witness for our Lord drove me to my knees daily. I would not have been able to continue on without the Lord strengthening me and enabling me to persist despite how I feel. Sometimes I do failed Him miserably. Sometimes I also tried to run away just like Jonah. But I also found myself then in the “fish belly”. I learnt through those painful experiences that I cannot run away from God’s will.

I am still learning to humbly submit to God’s will in my life. It is sometimes difficult to understand why God allows me to go through certain experiences or why He puts me in a certain situation. In particular, I used to find it hard to understand why God allows me to go through so many episodes of severe depression when I have tried my best to seek Him and serve Him. My sole purpose in life is to live for God and serve Him. My life is meaningless if it is not lived for God. So in my many severe relapses of depression, I often wondered why.

Now after my diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, I finally understood that it is a medical condition just like diabetes and hypertension. So it can happen to anyone. Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to function. Different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through, the symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. Thank God that it can be managed and it is possible for me to live a life that is close to normal, and be more functional and useful for God, His people and the society.

No doubt relapses of clinical depression are very awful and painful beyond words, and I would not want to go through another extensive episode. It paralysed me and I was hardly able to function. I was like a dead man, a living corpse incapable of any right thoughts or feelings. And these usually lasted for 3 to 6 months or more, every day, every night - if without medical and other intervention. There is a cycle to it and one can recover without medication but it takes a very long time. And it is painful and difficult to endure until the cycle completed. Just like a broken leg will take months to heal, so does a broken mind.

Thank God that He preserved me through those very painful and difficult episodes, and delivered me time and again in my past 10 or so relapses in the last 20 years. Thank God that now with the availability of medical helps, regular exercise, Omega-3 fish oil supplements, etc etc it is now possible to either prevent relapses or shorten the relapses as I learn to recognize early symptoms and manage this condition.

The advantage of Bipolar Disorder is the hypomania episodes which alternates with clinical depression. These hypomania episodes too will last between 3 to 6 months or more. It is these hypomania episodes which enable me to be more creative and more productive for the Lord. Whenever I am well or hypomania, I think and talk faster than most people, feel deeper and love deeper than most people. I also will have more energy and ideas, and able to take on more projects or serve our Lord in more areas. It is due to this hypomania too that I am now able to develop this blog at this time. The disadvantage of the hypomania episodes is that I will tend to take on more projects or do more things than I can handle. And after several months of such over-straining, an episode of black and painful depression is sure to follow.

So this bipolar brain condition is not all bad, it has its advantages too. Just that I really need to learn how to manage it so that my down time will be lesser and I am more functional, and I can then live for the glory of God and continue to serve Him. I pray that through the prayerful application of His Words and all the available helps which I am learning to make use of, my extreme mood swings will be lesser and lesser, and I will be able to function more stably and more usefully for the Lord in the long run.

One advantage of the severe depression which I have gone through is that through these very painful experiences in my life, God is enabling me to treasure Him more and more each day, knowing that I live daily by His grace alone. Without Him, I can do nothing.

Through my deep and painful struggles with many relapses of depression, God is also enabling me to sympathize with others who are going through sufferings or trials, and to try and comfort them with the same comfort that God has comforted me. I feel very deeply for them in their sufferings even though I may not know exactly what they are going through. I feel especially for those who suffer from depression, bipolar, OCD and other brain conditions or physical illnesses. I thank God that He continues to work His purposes in our life for His glory and His people’s good. No matter what He allows us to go through or where He calls us to, His grace is sufficient for us and His purposes will be accomplished in His ways. And we can be persuaded that nothing shall ever separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:28-39)

Unto you therefore which believe He is precious (27 January 2008)

Thank God for 3 very encouraging messages which I heard recently in church. Elder Sim shared something very encouraging from 2 Chronicles, Pastor Willy Ng (a visiting minister from Criswell Tabernacle) shared a very encouraging sermon from Jonah “Can you run away from God?”, and RC Sproul’s Video Lectures on the General Epistles plus bro Moses’ sharing on the key verses and key thoughts were also very uplifting.

I took down some notes, and God willing, I hope to type them out in my next posts to remind myself of God’s encouragements and instructions, and also to share with you and other visitors of this site.

But something I heard today left a deep impression in my heart and I decided to pen down my thoughts and reflections here while they are still fresh. A brother-in-Christ, Moses, who is leading the Adult Bible Class in my church, shared at the end of our Class on some important points we can learn from a video lecture by RC Sproul. This brother mentioned towards the very end that what encourages him or enables him to press on in his life and pilgrim journey, despite all the difficulties he faces, is 1 Peter 2:7a “Unto you therefore which believe he is precious:”

I was much uplifted when Moses mentioned this verse as it is one of my favourite Bible verses! It has been my own personal experiences as well, that through all the difficulties and trials I have gone through or are going through, the preciousness of our Lord Jesus Christ to my soul because of what He had done on the cross for us, sustained and uplifted me as I journey on. Our Lord and His Words are precious to me and I believe to every true believer. Life is meaningless to me without God.

When I am well, I am someone who often find much encouragement and joy in my personal devotion and public worship. I am often uplifted by the Word of God and the reminder of His love, mercies and faithfulness. I enjoy worship and fellowship with our Lord Jesus Christ and His people. Through all the difficult challenges in my life, God’s love and faithfulness sustained me. Our Lord Jesus Christ is precious to my soul because He gave His life to redeem me from sins and eternal damnation. I am a great sinner and He is a great Saviour. His presence with me daily is my strength, and He gave me tokens of His love through all His providences and provisions in my life.

But during my relapses of severe clinical depression in the past years, which often lasted for some 3 to 6 months or sometimes more, what I found to be most unbearable was the inability to feel the preciousness of our Lord in my soul. During a severe relapse of depression, the chemical in my brain could not function properly and therefore not able to send appropriate messages to my mind. I could hardly read or concentrate, I couldn’t think, my thoughts and feelings are either flat or negative. At such time, I often feel like living in hell or I am a living corpse. Without the ability to read or understand God’s Words, without the ability to feel God’s presence and love for me, my life is meaningless.

I know that we are not to live by feelings but by the Word of God, by His Truths. We are to believe in our Lord Jesus Christ savingly, and to know and believe His Words, and live by them irrespective of our feelings. It is our consolation that God’s Words abideth even when our feelings are gone or fail to function properly! Thank God that His Truths abideth.

Yet, it is also a sweet token of God’s mercies to us when He gives us the grace not only to know our Lord Jesus Christ and His Truths in our mind but also to feel their preciousness in our souls. To know and feel God’s presence with us and His love for us is a little taste of heaven on earth. The Holy Spirit does bear witness with our souls that we are the children of God when He seals God’s love to our heart. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:” Romans 8:16. To be sensible of the preciousness of Christ is reviving to our souls.

Octavius Winslow wrote a very encouraging book “The Precious Things of God”. In Chapter 1, he wrote on The Preciousness of Christ. He wrote:

“A FELT conviction of the preciousness of the Saviour has ever been regarded by enlightened ministers of the gospel as constituting a scriptural and unmistakeable evidence of the existence of divine life in the soul; and in moments when neither time nor circumstances would admit of the close scrutiny of a theological creed, or a nice analysis of spiritual feelings and emotions, the one and simple inquiry upon which matter is made to hinge has been - “What is your experience of the worth of the Saviour? is Christ precious to your heart?” And the answer to this question has been to the examiner the test and the measure of the soul’s spiritual and vital change. And how proper that it should be so. In proportion as the Holy Spirit imparts a real, intelligent sense of personal sinfulness, there will be the heart’s appreciation of the value, sufficiency, and preciousness of the Lord Jesus. An enlightened and thorough conviction of the nature and aggravation of the disease, will enable a physician to form a just conception of the remedial process by which it may be arrested and cured…..

Thus, as the conviction of our lost and undone condition deepens, as sin’s “exceeding sinfulness” unveils, as the purity and extent of God’s law opens, as the utter hopelessness and impotence of self is forced upon the mind, the glory, the worth, the suitableness, and the preciousness of Jesus will, through the teaching of the Holy Spirit, present itself vividly to the mind and heart, as constituting the one only foundation and hope of the soul. The Bible recognises but two specific and distinctive characters - the SINNER - the SAVIOUR; and all others are but modifications of these. The saint is but the sinner converted, justified, pardoned, adopted, sanctified, saved, glorified. And all the official relations sustained by Christ in the economy of salvation are but so many varied and beautiful forms of the one Saviour, of whom it is said, “Neither is there salvation in any other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” Thus, then, as you feel your sinfulness, you will estimate the fitness and suitableness of the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour. There will be a perfect agreement between your consciousness of guilt and your believing apprehension of the excellence of the Atonement to meet your case.” Your sinnership and Christ’s Saviourship will harmonise and dovetail in exact and beautiful fitness and proportion. Oh, what a divine and blessed arrangement is this! With what grandeur, yet with what simplicity, does it invest the scheme of salvation! What solemnity, yet what hope, does it throw around the present and the future of the soul! It seems to fathom the lowest depth of my sinfulness, while it lifts me to the loftiest height of God’s grace.” (Excerpts taken from pages 1 to 3 of “The Precious Things of God” by Octavius Winslow, published in 1860, reprinted by Soli Deo Gloria in 1993)

C.H. Spurgeon preached a very encouraging message “Christ Precious to Believers” in 1859 from this same passage in 1 Peter 2:7 which you can read from The Spurgeon Archive. This is also one of my favourite sermons :-)

God calls servants, not heroes (sermon by Pastor Thomas Chong)

Last Lord’s day, 20 January 2008, a visiting minister, Pastor Thomas Chong from Providence Reformed Presbyterian Church preached a very encouraging message from the book of Judges chapters 6 to 7.

Pastor Thomas preached on the famous account of Gideon. His topic was “God calls servants, not heroes”. He spoke about Gideon’s fear when the Lord called him as he was from a poor family and least among his people. He was terribly conscious of his limitations and weaknesses. Pastor Thomas said our weaknesses always trouble us but he encouraged us that God has already taken into consideration our weaknesses when He calls us. He calls us despite of our limitations and weaknesses so that when a task is accomplished it is clearly seen that we are merely an instrument and it is He that works through us by His grace.

Pastor Thomas also spoke about Gideon’s obedience despite his fears. He said courage is not the absence of fear but courage is to go on despite of fears. Gideon had to order things aright in his own household. He had to bring down the altar of Baal but he feared his own people will get angry and so he did it by night. They were indeed very furious when they found out what he had done and they wanted to kill him but God protected him. From this portion, Pastor Chong exhorted us that if we want to be useful to God and be of a spiritual blessings to others, we must first order our life aright with God. Our obedience and our commitment to the Lord must come first.

Lastly, Pastor Thomas shared on the sufficiency of God. Gideon’s army were reduced from a huge number to a mere 300 to fight against the huge armies of the enemies. It was God Who specifically chose these 300 hundred men and the rest went home. From here we see the necessity of our weaknesses. The reason why God reduced Gideon’s army was to ensure that the victory is clearly His works and the Israelites cannot say that they are delivered by their own hands. The Israelites were to see their own weaknesses but God was to accomplish the victory for them. Pastor Thomas said we can learn that we are weak but God works nevertheless through weak vessels. He warned us of the danger of self-sufficiency and dependent upon self.

Pastor Thomas encouraged us to recognize that we are merely instruments in the hands of a mighty God, and it is the Lord using us, not we ourselves. And when God calls, though we sense our weaknesses and limitations, we must obey. God is committed to work and accomplish His purposes in and through us, when He calls us. We are all called to be servants, the Lord alone is our Hero. The cross is a symbol of weaknesses but our Lord was crucified on the cross. God used the symbol of weaknesses and turned it into a symbol of grace in His work of salvation and redemption. Salvation is all of grace. God taking our curse/our weaknesses to reflect the glory of His salvation! He challenged us by asking “What has God called you to do?” God calls servants, not heroes.

When the MP3 sermon is available for download 0n my church’s website, I highly recommend that you download it and listen to it, if you can. I am sure you will be greatly encouraged and challenged by the message. It is encouraging to see Pastor Thomas Chong himself serving our Lord so faithfully and cheerfully despite his great afflictions and struggles with cancer for many years. It is heart breaking to see him so frail and to know that he has been very ill, but also greatly heartened to see him pressing on in the Lord’s grace and strength. It is evident that in his weaknesses, the power and glory of God is shining forth. He is himself living out the very message that he shared with us. His testimony is an encouragement to many and it magnifies the Lord.

This sermon is a great encouragement to me and I believe to anyone who is conscious of his/her weaknesses. We desire to walk closer with the Lord and to serve Him all the days of our life. But we are sadly conscious of our limitations and weaknesses. When God calls us or open a door of service for us, we often shrink back. We wonder how are we going to serve the Lord considering our weaknesses or limitations. Or sometimes we find ourselves struggling in our service for the Lord and don’t know how to carry on. Our weaknesses and limitations trouble us daily. But here is the encouragement. God knows our weaknesses and limitations. When He calls us to serve Him, He has already taken these into considerations. Yet He is please to use us, so that we may know that we are merely instruments in the hands of a mighty God. When all is done, it will be clearly seen that it is all of the Lord, and God glorifies Himself through our work.

This is often the struggles especially of those who are afflicted with illnesses or disability. Mental illness in particular is a stigma in our societies. In the past, those who suffered from mental illness were confined in institutions or mental hospitals. Thank God for the discovery of medicine and other helps that make it possible for a patient with mental illness to live among the society, to function almost close to normal, and to contribute a little to the society.

And God knows our mental illness. He allows it out of His love and sovereignty. We may not always understand why, but we have no doubt of His love for us. He Who gave His only begotten son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to suffer and die on the cross for us to redeem us from sins and eternal condemnation, continues to demonstrate His love for us especially in our afflictions. We have found Him to be our refuge and strength. In our weaknesses, afflictions and trials, we have experienced His love and faithfulness in many wonderful ways, found His promises precious to souls, His presence and His Words comfort us, and His grace sufficient for us. For it is often in the darkest days in our life, that the mercies and faithfulness of God is most felt and experienced. It is then that we know by experience that He is our refuge and strength.

And despite our afflictions, weaknesses and limitations, God has a work for us to do. Our mental illness is our special calling through which we can be useful for the Lord and be a blessing to others. Through our illness and afflictions, we are sanctified and drawn closer to the Lord as we cast our cares upon Him and experience afresh His love and faithfulness. We experience much comfort from God through His Words and the love and kindness of His people. God comforts us so that we can comfort others with His comfort.

“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

It is sometimes very difficult to understand how a person who suffers from clinical depression or other mental illness feels or what they have to go through. Unless one has gone through it himself, it is almost impossible to imagine the pain, anguish and hopelessness this illness can bring at times. So it is hard for others to comfort such a person. True, ultimately it is God alone that can comfort us but God does usually uses means and human as instruments. When one is mentally ill, he can hardly feel God’s presence with him because depression has a way of numbing his brain and disabling it from functioning properly (what some people termed as chemical imbalance). The presence and encouragement of another person who has gone through the same deep water and experience the deliverance from God, can at times be very therapeutic and most comforting. Our presence can make a difference in another sufferer’s life even if we can hardly do anything besides being there and just assuring him that someone cares. He can be comforted that if a human being can care for him so much, how much more will God care for him? So God has a calling for us in our own afflictions. He calls us to comfort others with the same comfort that He has comforted us.

But whether it be mental illness or other afflictions or trials in others’ life, we are still called to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice. So even when others are going through other afflictions and trouble, we can also learn to comfort and encourage them with God’s comfort. As God has preserved and delivered us time and again from very painful and difficult experiences, we can bring hope and comfort to others by sharing God’s mercies and faithfulness to us, and encourage them to hope in God Whose mercies endureth forever. May God give us the grace and strength to serve Him in this unique calling of encouraging others so that He may be magnified and his saving grace made known and experienced by His suffering people.

I found great encouragement when I watch the series of videos by Dr. David P Murray on “Depression and the Christian.” These series of 6 very excellent messages are available on .pdf, .mp3 and video formats which can be downloaded from the website of Sermon Audio. You can also read the articles from my category on your right hand side under the heading “Depression and the Christian”.

In Message 1 “The Crisis”, Dr David P. Murray made the following observations:

“Like all affliction in the lives of Christians, mental illness should be viewed as a ‘talent’ (Matt.25:14ff) which can be invested in such a way that it brings benefit to us and others, as well as glory to God.

Dr James Dobson, the Christian psychologist, observed that ‘nothing is wasted in God’s economy.’ That “nothing” includes mental illness.

Mind over Mood, while not written from a Christian perspective, illustrates the possible ‘benefits’ of depression thus:

‘An oyster creates a pearl out of a grain of sand. The grain of sand is an irritant to the oyster. In response to the discomfort, the oyster creates a smooth, protective coating that encases the sand and provides relief. The result is a beautiful pearl. For an oyster, an irritant becomes the seed for something new. Similarly, Mind Over Mood will help you develop something valuable from your current discomfort. The skills taught in this book will help you feel better and will continue to have value in your life long after your original problems are gone.’

It is usually broken people that God uses most. In Passion and Purity, Elisabeth Elliot quoted Ruth Stull of Peru:

‘If my life is broken when given to Jesus it is because pieces will feed a multitude, while a loaf will satisfy only a little lad.’ “