REVIEWING ANSWERED PRAYERS.
After some time, read over the memorandum book, and you will find how again and again it has pleased God to answer your prayers; and perhaps regarding matters about which you little expected the answer to come; and soon you will find the wondrous effect of this on your heart, in increasing your love and gratitude to our heavenly Father. The more careful you are in marking what you ask, and what God has given, the more distinctly you will be able to trace how again and again it pleased God to answer your prayers, and more, you will be drawn out to God in love and gratitude. You will find precisely as the Psalmist found it when he says, “ I love the Lord, because He hath heard my voice and my supplications.”
THE EFFECTS OF THUS REVIEWING ANSWERED PRAYERS.
We ought to love God, even though we have not answers to our prayers; but all this will greatly increase our love; and it is not only once, but if we mark the hand of God, we shall soon find that we have scores and hundreds of answers to prayer. And thus we shall be led to love Him more and more for all he has done. And as we mark how we have been helped, and how gracious and bountiful our Father has been, and how He takes pleasure in listening to the supplications of His children; the heart will be filled increasingly with love and gratitude to Him.
Another affect of all this on the Psalmist: we find in the second verse, “Because He hath inclined His ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.” The more evidence we have of His power, and of His willingness to help us, the more our hearts should be determined to call upon the Lord. The more our prayers have been answered, the more should we be stirred up with new determination to ask yet greater things. We should be encouraged to come again and again, in order that He may incline His ear unto us.
Is this, my beloved friends, the case with us? Are those two points found in us, and can we say with the Psalmist, “I love Jehovah, because He hath heard my voice and my supplications?” And do our hearts say, “because He hath inclined His ear unto me, therefore will I call upon Him as long as I live”? Verily it should be so with us, if we are believers.
I wish, my beloved Christian friends, to direct your attention to two passages in connection with prayer. The first you will find in the commencement of Psalm 116., “I love the Lord, because He hath heard my voice and my supplications. Because He hath inclined His ear unto me, therefore will I call upon Him as long as I live.”
MAKING ANSWERS TO PRAYER.
The Psalmist states, that he loves Jehovah, because He hath heard his voice and his supplications. Now this cannot be the case with us, except we mark the hand of God, and except we observe that He hath heard our supplications, and that he hath answered our prayers. The Psalmist had marked the hand of God, and he says, “I love Jehovah, because He hath heard my voice.”
Very few of God’s dear children are aware how much this marking of the hand of God, with regard to answers to prayer, has to do with increased love to their heavenly Father. We are so apt to leave unnoticed the hand of God, and to pass over what God has been pleased to do in answer to our prayer.
I would particularly advise all, but especially the younger believers, to use a little book, in which they may note down on the one side the requests which they bring before God. There are certain matters which God has laid on our hearts, and we should note them down. It would be helpful to us to write, at such-and-such a time I began to pray for such-and-such a thing; and then to continue to pray with regard to this matter. If we do so, we shall find that sooner or later the prayer will be answered; and then let us mark on the opposite side, that it has, at such a time, pleased God to answer that prayer.
Lastly, “Praying always, with all prayer and supplication in the spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel.”
It is not necessary to dwell on this last part, as I have spoken on it again and again. Only this will I observe, that while all the other points which have been referred to are deeply important, yet they will not be successful unless they are coupled with prayer, constant and believing prayer; for if we should attend to all the other things, and put on the whole armour which God has provided for us, and yet not pray, we shall find how weak and helpless we are.
Why is this? Though we are the children of God we are in ourselves weak, and God will have us to recognise our helplessness in regard to Himself. Therefore, as opportunity and time allow, let us give ourselves to prayer. It is most important to have stated times for prayer, and not to leave it to certain impressions. If we leave it to feelings, you will find that you will be less and less inclined to prayer, and soon will be altogether without it; or, in other words, a poor miserable sinner, without help in the conflict. Have certain times for secret closet prayer, when by ourselves we pour out our souls before God.
In connection with this, let us, as heads of families, have regular family prayer, so that God shall be recognised in the family. As children of God we should also seek to meet with other children of God in prayer, such as prayer meetings. We ought to seek more and more opportunities of fellowship in prayer, as, for instance, in the daily prayer meeting in connection with this hall, when we have met day by day to spread out our wants before Him, and to seek His blessing on our united efforts for the Lord.
Now, my dear fellow believers, attend to these matters which we have been considering, putting on the whole armour of God, accompanied by prayer, and certain I am that you will be happy Christians, holy Christians, and useful Christians. That is what I would desire with regard to all my beloved brethren and sisters in Christ, that they all should be happy Christians; and that they cannot be, except they seek to act according to the mind of God. But acting thus, they will be holy children, and if they walk in His ways and walk with Him, they will also be useful children, as they will be living witnesses for God.
Not only so, but let them aim after being fruitful, bearing fruit thirty, forty, or fifty-fold, and, it may be, sixty-fold. Having attained to this, be not satisfied, but aim after sixty-five, or seventy-fold, and then it might be, and there is no reason that it should not be, a hundred-fold.
May God help us so to live as to bring praise, honour, and glory to His name while life is continued to us.
"And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:17).
All the other parts to which we have referred, were in order to protect us from assaults; that of a defensive character. Now, here is something to make an attack with—a weapon of an offensive character, with which to march against the enemy, and to make inroads on the powers of darkness.
Not only as the children of God are we to know our weakness, we are also to know and to act as those who have God on our side. One who is both able and willing to help us in time of need; and we should go right among the enemies, that we may pluck brands out of the fire, to the praise, and honour, and glory of God.
Beloved fellow Christians, it is the will of the Lord, that we should not only defend ourselves, but that we should also resolutely seek to win souls, and rescue poor sinner, from the snares of the devil, and bring them to the Lord Jesus Christ. For both of these ends there is nothing like the weapon used by our Saviour himself when tempted, “It is written”; that is, the use of the word of God.
And in order that we may be able to use it to good purpose, we must study it, as I observed last week, readily and prayerfully, with meditation, and with simple faith, and with self-application. Do not let us reason, but learn ever to take God at His word with child-like simplicity and when occasion arises bring it out against the devil. Then he will not be able to stand.
This word, the word of God is also to be used that we may win souls for Christ; and not only with reference to them, but with reference to our fellow-disciples, that we may strengthen their hands, and encourage their hearts against the powers of darkness. We can never make too much of the word of God, which must be in our hands as a sharp sword, “piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit.” It is the spiritual sword for the spiritual conflict.
"And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:17).
In the parallel passage in 1 Thessalonians v. 8, it is, “for an helmet, the hope of salvation.” So we have to understand it here, it is the hope of our salvation that is to be our helmet.
All these parts of the armour were of great importance to the Roman soldier; the girdle to bind, the breastplate to defend the vital parts, the boots to protect the feet, and enable them to march firmly, the shield to ward off blows; but although he had all these, there was yet wanting one thing—the iron helmet. Without it, how soon would his head, the most exposed and most tender part of his body, have been injured or hurt. Therefore, the Roman soldier was also protected in this part; his head was protected by the iron helmet.
Thus with the child of God; he has protection for his spiritually weak parts, and it is just this—the hope of salvation. While on earth, we go toiling amidst difficulties, and trials, and temptations. Often all things seem to be against us, and not only the world, but sometimes even the children of God turn their backs on us, and we are left alone, comparatively speaking. Yet, in the midst of it all, there is something unspeakably comforting in this, that makes the heart joyous. What is it? It is “the hope of salvation,” the joy of looking forward, and knowing that we shall be in heaven at last.
It is this that keeps us up. The way at times may be very dark, but then it is always a pilgrimage, which is day by day getting shorter as I get nearer home. The journey is over towards home—nearer, nearer home. It is this bright, blessed prospect of home, home, home—of complete deliverance from sin and temptation, through the blood of Christ Jesus, which strengtheneth us at such times.
To know that we shall be delivered from the old evil nature, to be brought into a state in which the will of God is carried out by us continually, that the mind of God shall be found in us, and that we shall be with the Lord Jesus Christ, who is now at the right hand of God, and shall be like Him—these are some of the bright, blessed prospects of the state to which we are going.
Therefore my beloved brethren and sisters, especially the younger ones, when temptation, trial, or difficulty come, and when all seems going against us here, remember that this is not our home, and that we must not expect to enjoy this present evil world. Then think of the Father’s house where there are many mansions, and the bright, blessed, and glorious prospect we have of that Father’s home, and you will find there is not a better lever to lift us above the world than just to contemplate heaven. Oh, make much of it! make much of it!
For fifty years I have know the Lord, and as grey hairs multiply, and as, little by little, I am nearer and nearer, the prospect becomes brighter and brighter; and during many years of sore conflict, trial, and affliction this has cheered are exceedingly: “I shall soon be home—soon be with my Lord.” Therefore make much of this hope, that, even as the helmet protected the Roman soldier, so the hope of salvation may protect you by the way.
Now one or two points regarding temporal matters, where faith is also of deep importance. Suppose one who has all his life earned his bread by toil. He gets on towards sixty, and presently will be past it. Now Satan begins to trouble him, and says. “You are getting old now; soon there will be nothing remaining for you but the union or the work-house.”
How wretched and miserable a child of God is made by this; but by using the shield of faith he will be able to quench it. “If my Father has cared for me when young, surely He will continue to care for me when old, and when sick, even as in the past. Or as He says in the Word, ‘I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.’” How quickly this temptation will be quenched. I have seen many of God’s dear children who were thus troubled.
One instance I remember distinctly, although it occurred many years ago. It was that of an aged widow, a child of God, who had lived very consistently. She had worked hard with her hands in youth, and now in her old age she began to say, I shall have to go to the workhouse. She had some money which she had saved of her past earnings, and she said, “When this is gone I can earn no more, and I shall have to go to the union.” I sought to comfort her; I reminded her how God had cared for her in the past, and how He had promised never to leave her nor forsake her; and that as surely as she was a child of God, so surely would He care for her; and that even some of His own children would be led to assist her.
But still the temptation continued, and what was the end of it? Her joy was marred completely for years; she was in deep trouble, simply by this one thought. Yet see how it came to pass at last. One by one the sovereigns were used, and at length it came to the last sovereign; one shilling of it was spent, when the Lord took her to Himself, and there was for her no such thing as the workhouse.
But see how she was losing her spiritual joy, and how her life and her communion with God were marred by this one fiery dart; whereas, if the shield of faith had been used, the devil would have been confounded, and her last days would have been in peace. Therefore, let us use this shield of faith, with the revelation God has been pleased to make of Himself, and we shall soon see the fiery darts of the devil quenched, and have joy.
They are called fiery darts, because they are so painful and so pernicious. We all know, in our own experience, the exceedingly painful nature of these fiery darts, and the only way to overcome them is by having the shield of faith. Exceedingly great temptations are often met with, which tend to make us distrust the love and power of our Father; and the only means of meeting these is by faith. The best way to illustrate the meaning of faith, as applied to these temptations, is just to give one or two instances.
For instance, here is a child of God: suppose that he has been regenerated, and for some time has fought manfully against the evil one, and the allurements of this world, But after a time, perhaps two or three years, he begins to be less watchful. What then? He goes back again, and begins to love this present world, and soon the temptation comes. “Well, I am afraid I shall not be successful, and after all I shall lose the battle.” You all know that a child of God may thus be tempted, and how wretched he will be, till he uses the shield of faith to quench this fiery dart of doubt and mistrust. How shall we use the shield of faith? It is stated regarding the children of God, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” This is true regarding all the children of God; and it is true regarding you. How quickly, when this is used with child-like simplicity, does it quench that fiery dart.
Or in the temptation which sometimes comes to the child of God, when he is tempted to think that he may, after all, be lost; how does the word of God suit this? Simply by believing what it declares, “None shall be able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand.” I am one of His sheep, and therefore I cannot be lost. How this will quench the fiery darts of the devil, and give us joy instead of sorrow!
“ABOVE ALL, TAKING THE SHIELD OF FAITH,
wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” As the words stand here in our translation, one or the other might suppose that those words “above all” indicate that it is of the first importance to have this shield of faith. Now I do not at all undervalue this shield of faith, but only to point out that this “above all” does not mean that it is of more importance than the other parts of the armour. The meaning of it is, “in addition to all;” that is, not leaving it out.
We have already observed the importance of faith, but this again brings it before us the deep importance of exercising faith; and this not only on this particular point, or on the other particular point, but our faith should be exercised on the whole revealed truth of God. In regard to all that He has said as to this world, or the world to come, as well as the first point, that of believing on His dear Son, whom He hath sent into the world. We have to aim after this, that we should increasingly and truly, and with child-like simplicity, seek to take God at His Word. That is exercising faith, which is here called the “shield of faith.”
Now in the case of the Roman soldiers, it was deeply important to be protected by the shield. You all know how important this shield was to ward off dangers, such as arrows and blows of the sword. But it was also of great service in warding off darts. So in the spiritual conflict this shield of faith is given, that the child of God should be able to stand against the fiery darts of the wicked—that is the wicked ones—the darts of Satan.
"And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace" (Eph. 6:15).
What is the meaning of this? I invited you last Tuesday evening, to meditate on these verses; you may have considered it, but now consider it again with me. What is the meaning of this—“your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace”?
These soldiers, of whom we have been speaking, did not go bare-footed into the battle; for if so, and it were man wrestling against man, how easily they might slip and fall down while fighting one against the other. Neither did they wear sandals, which would not have afforded full protection to the feet. The common thing amongst these soldiers was to wear strong boots.
Many of my friends may remember the name of one of the Roman emperors, Caligula, which means, “little boot.” He was called thus because he became a soldier when very young, and his feet were so small that none of the ordinary soldiers’ boots would suit him, and he had to have little boots made on purpose for him. I simply remind you of this to show that the common practice amongst the soldier was, to wear boots, in order that they might be the better helped with regard to their warfare.
Boots also were of especial importance, on account of marching. The roads at that time were rough and rugged, and thus these boots were of great service in the war, as they had to march in rank against the enemy. And so our spiritual boots protect us when on the rough march of life, as also in the hour of conflict. We, who are the children of God, have a provision made for us in this respect, and it is the gospel of peace which God has provided for us, that we may be able to march homewards through the rough paths of life, and even to stand in the hour of conflict.
What is this preparation of the gospel of peace? It means, we are the children of God, and we are no longer at enmity with God, but are at peace with Him. Our sins are forgiven in the Lord Jesus Christ. God is well pleased with us for Christ, His dear Son’s sake; and we, having no longer any fear, are at peace with God.
That is the preparation of the gospel of peace, with regard to our spiritual conflict and also with regard to our homeward march. Hold it fast; although thou art a poor, miserable sinner, yet thou art forgiven for Christ’s sake. ‘Through whom we have the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” Though I am a poor miserable sinner, yet the heart of the Father loves me, and I am on the road to heaven, where I shall certainly be at last.
Lot the child of God held fast this hope, and this persuasion of his so rarity, as given in the simple statement of the gospel, and by this he will be able to pursue his march heavenwards, and in the hour of conflict he will be able to stand manfully.
All this by having the preparation of the gospel of peace! How deeply important, then, to have clear views of God’s gospel, and that we should receive it simply as the gospel, and not in any way mix it up with our own doings or experience. Some would seem to act as if they are to do what they can, and, what they cannot, the Lord will do. Far be it from us to have such thoughts. He and He alone must do all for us. By His atoning death on the cross, He has borne the punishment due to us for our sins, sins which deserved punishment—and nothing but punishment—and has brought us to this blessed hope and trust that all our sins are forgiven; that God is well pleased with us for Christ’s sake, and that, sinners though we are, yet He now delights in us for His dear Son’s sake, and He is willing to help us in all our conflicts for Christ’s sake. Thus we experience that joy and peace, which will help us on the march to heaven, and in the hour of spiritual conflict. So then let us make much of this preparation of the gospel of peace, which is spiritually the protection of our foot, even as the old Roman soldiers were protected by their strong boots.
It is, then, deeply important to see that we are poor sinners, miserable and weak in ourselves, but that Jesus is our all and in all; not only thus at the beginning, but thus we must go on; not only two or three years, not even five, ten, or twenty years, and then trust in our own merits, but that we continue as long as we live to depend solely on the righteousness of Christ. It is not only at our conversion that this is so deeply important, when we are made new creatures and enter upon this warfare; but it is equally important at all times in our spiritual life. So that when the devil says—as he will say—“Do you expect to get to heaven, you miserable sinner? You do not deserve it; look at what you have done! No such thing; you need not expect it, you will not get there.” When he says that, what is the answer to be? “It is true that I have sinned; yet for Christ Jesus’ sake—poor miserable sinner as I am—in His righteousness, I shall yet be in heaven.” What is the result of this? You rise!
The devil seems to have you down, and seeks to give you your death blow; yet you rise! He seems to have obtained the mastery over you, and yet you rise again, because you trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and not in self, and you stand before God not in yourself, but in Christ. And though a poor miserable sinner, yet through Jesus, who makes you clean in His blood, you know you will get to heaven at last.
When you thus go to Christ, and take refuge in His righteousness, the devil is outwitted. Therefore remember particularly to have on this breastplate.
If the Roman soldier had not put on his breastplate how easily he would have been cut down when his breast was unprotected. So it is with us; it is important that we should put on “the breastplate of righteousness.”