Thursdays With Spurgeon—God’s Part, Our Part

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

God’s Part, Our Part

     The lesson is clear to all: The wind turns mills that men make. It fills sails that human hands have spread. And the Spirit blesses human effort, crowns with success our labors, establishes the work of our hands upon us, and teaches us all through that ‘the hand of the diligent makes rich’ (Proverbs 10:4). And ‘if anybody will not work, neither shall he eat’ (2 Thessalonians 3:10). … 

     Let us do our part faithfully, spread every sail, make all as perfect as human skill and wisdom can direct, and then in patient continuance in well-doing await the Spirit’s propitious gales, neither murmuring because He tarries nor being taken unawares when He comes upon us in His sovereign pleasure to do that which seems good in His sight.

From The Holy Spirit Compared To The Wind 

We cannot do what only God can do, and God will not do what we are supposed to do. It is the Holy Spirit who can help us keep those two thoughts clear. 

It’s wrong to say, “God only helps those who help themselves.” But it’s equally as wrong to say, “I don’t need to do anything except wait for God.” In example after example in the Bible we see people doing their part while at the same time believing for God to do something miraculous:

We don’t take matters into our own hands, but neither do we sit idle waiting for something miraculous to happen. We plant, and water, and tend, and then God brings the harvest.

Stand Up For God’s Word

…Josiah read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant… (2 Kings 23:2).

The leader must go first.
The leader must go big.
The leader must be visible.
The leader must be consistent.

This is the only way to affect real change.

Josiah did this extremely well. In fact, he did it better than any other king!

Josiah called all the people together and read “in their hearing” God’s word. Then he made it his own and took a public stand to confirm it (v. 3). Josiah went first, and “then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant.” 

The rest of Josiah’s reign is punctuated by telltale phrases like:

  • in accordance with the Word of the Lord
  • as it is written in this book of the covenant
  • fulfilled the requirements of the law

Here’s one of the most amazing things to me: Josiah’s wholehearted obedience to God ends up fulfilling perfectly a 300-year-old prophecy that God gave through a prophet of Judah (v. 16; 1 Kings 13:1-3).

A mark of a godly leader is his public alignment with God’s Word.

When the leader goes public and then wholeheartedly follows through on his commitment to God, others will follow his lead. May all of us be that kind of pacesetting leader. 

This is part 51 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here. 

Check All The Boxes

Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders … [and] consulted the young men… (1 Kings 12:6, 8). 

As King Rehoboam ascended Israel’s throne, the people met with him to ask if there could be a change in policies. They stated that Rehoboam’s father, King Solomon, had worked them hard building God’s temple and Solomon’s palace. They asked for a bit of reprieve. 

Rehoboam took this suggestion to both the elders who had consulted his father, as well as to his friends that were his own age. 

Sometimes the older generation wants to stick with “the way we’ve always done things” because it appears tried and true; they are usually hesitant to make any changes.

Sometimes the younger generation wants to change nearly everything because they think there must be a better way; they are usually anxious to make changes. 

So when the elders suggested a change from Solomon’s policies, Rehoboam should have taken notice. “This is not typical for the elders to suggest a change, so perhaps I should ponder this more closely.” For the young leaders to suggest a change was typical for their generation, so Rehoboam should have expected that. 

Also notice that the elders’ advice was toward servant leadership, while the young men’s advice was toward more top-down, heavy-handed leadership. Although there is no record of either Rehoboam nor his advisers seeking God’s counsel, the elders’ advice is clearly more in line with God’s heart. God spoke through Moses about how He carried (or served) His people (Exodus 19:4), so a reprieve from hard labor would have been more God-honoring. 

Sadly, Rehoboam rejected the advice of the elders, making the working conditions even harsher for the people of Israel. This terrible decision had disastrous consequences, as Israel was henceforth split into two nations: Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Rehoboam missed the cues from both the older and younger generations, as well as God’s own example, that could have preserved a united nation. 

For our decision making today we have the additional example of Jesus who came not to be served but to serve others, and who gave us a similar servant-hearted command (Mark 10:45; John 13:12–17). 

When God-fearing people are facing a key decision, here are three important things to consider: 

  1. Are the seasoned, God-fearing elders advocating a change? 
  2. Will this decision help me better serve the people I lead? 
  3. Is this decision exemplifying Christ’s servant-leadership? 

This is so important—I need a “YES” in all three boxes if I am going to move forward! 

If any box is unchecked, I need to seriously re-evaluate making a change.

Miracle Of Miracles

…Lord, the God of Israel, there is no God like You… (1 Kings 8:23).

Yahweh is unique. He isn’t #1 in the categories that men use to rank things—He embodies the categories; He is in those categories all by Himself. He has no peer, He has no rival. He is the I AM. 

This seemingly unapproachable God approaches us—miracle of miracles! He makes a covenant of love, and He keeps that covenant. He makes promises, and He fulfills all those promises. He is the Judge, and yet He provides for the atonement and total restoration of the guilty sinner. He knows every human heart (v. 39) and every human sin (v. 46), and yet He does not abandon, but saves!

Miracle of miracles! He is the one who gives to me a heart that wants to walk in obedience to Him…

  • …so that He can keep all of His promises that are reserved for those who walk in obedience to Him
  • …so that all the peoples of the earth may see and know “that the LORD is God and that there is no other” (v. 60)

Miracle of miracles! The unique I AM wants me to be in a relationship with Him. The One who is complete in Himself wants me to be in this blessed completeness with Him forever! How could I ever say no to such an invitation?! How could I ever refrain from telling others about this invitation?!

God loves me and He has done everything necessary for me to be in an eternal relationship with Him—miracle of miracles indeed!

When Your Walking Is Your Praying

Have you ever been in the right place at the right time to experience something wonderful? Maybe you got to meet someone important, or you got the job, or you got the money, or you got to ride in that fancy car. 

Some will call you “lucky” or say you “caught a break,” but both of those statements imply that something unexpected happened to you. 

Is it still “lucky” to be in the right place at the right time if you knew ahead of time that it was coming? For praying Christians, to be in the right place at the right time when we are expecting God to provide is called “an answer to prayer.” 

David prayed, “In the morning, Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait expectantly” (Psalm 5:3). The Aramaic word for prayer means “to set a trap.” If we pray, and we live in expectation, then it isn’t luck when we’re in the right place at the right time, but it’s a “trap” that caught the answer to our prayer. 

Our daily walking can be our daily praying, as long as we’re walking in faith in the direction God pointed us. 

One man who—literally!—walked this principle out was Elisha.

Before we look at Elisha’s expectant, prayerful walking, let’s look at his prayer request—

When they reached the other side, Elijah said to Elisha, “What can I do for you before I’m taken from you? Ask anything.” Elisha said, “Your life repeated in my life. I want to be a holy man just like you (2 Kings 2:9 MSG).

Elisha was essentially asking to be like Elijah’s firstborn son, to be his spiritual heir. This was the original promise God gave when He told Elijah to anoint Elisha as his successor (1 Kings 19:16). From that point onward, Elisha steadily walked in expectation of God answering this prayer. 

Elisha wouldn’t stay in a place of military victory, or in a significantly spiritual place, or even in a place surrounded by godly leaders. Elisha wouldn’t be held back by a lucrative family business, or the warning words of friends or his spiritual mentor, or even the seemingly uncrossable Jordan River. He kept on walking (see 2 Kings 2:1-15).

He kept on walking.

He kept on walking until “suddenly” God showed up and answered his prayer. 

But was it really “suddenly”? Elisha knew it was coming. He believed what God had promised. He clung to it even when Elijah told him he had asked “a difficult thing.” Elisha kept on walking until he was in the right place at the right time to receive all that God had planned. 

If you have prayed in faith, start walking. Settling anywhere else is robbing yourself of a blessing and robbing God of glory. 

Just keep walking! And let your walking be your praying. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t settle. Don’t stop eagerly expecting that the next step you took could be the “suddenly” you’ve been waiting for. Just keep walking!

Join me this Sunday as we learn a valuable lesson from another bold pray-er from the Bible. 

Yea Or Nay

“One of the greatest curses of the modern evangelical movement, in my opinion, is that we are somehow becoming ‘popular.’ Just as soon as you become popular, something goes out of your life, or more accurately, something has gone out of your life before you get popular.

“Historically, the Christian had to be emphatic. He had two words: yea or nay. When God was talking to him, he said yes, and when the devil was talking to him he said no. When God said, ‘Do this,’ he said, ‘Yes, Lord.’ When sinners tempted him to stray, he said an emphatic no.

“The trouble with us now is that we are double-minded. That is why we are weak. Scripture speaks of the double-minded man. He is ‘unstable in all his ways’ (James 1:8). Elijah illustrated this when he said, ‘How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow Him: but if Baal, then follow him’ (1 Kings 18:21). We need to be on one side or the other. Wholly committed to our high calling in Christ Jesus.” —A.W. Tozer, in The Wisdom Of God

How NOT To Make A Decision

Adonijah thought he was the obvious heir to the throne so he stated what he believed, “I will be king” (1 Kings 1:5). 

On what evidence did Adonijah base his claim? 

  1. All of his friends said he would make a great king
  2. His father (the king) had always given him everything he wanted
  3. He was handsome and popular
  4. A couple members of the king’s court supported him
  5. No one had ever told him “no” 

While all of this sounded good, Adonijah overlooked some vital points. Like…

  1. …more men backed his brother Solomon to be king than backed him
  2. …his father had the decisive and definitive say in who would be king, and he chose Solomon
  3. …God had chosen Solomon to be king

It’s tempting for us to read the popular sentiment of the moment, or to listen to the cheering voices around us, or even to think that our plans are wise and well thought-out. But this is NOT the right way to make a decision.

Instead, we need to humbly consider three things that are external:

  1. The unbiased, wise counsel of others
  2. The buy-in of key stakeholders
  3. God’s clear “yes”

If these three things are in alignment, you cannot go wrong!

How Guys Unintentionally Sabotage Their Relationships

There is a relationship killer that seems to be particularly hard for men. It’s hard because men’s brains are designed in a way that sometimes prohibits them from even seeing this issue.

Bill & Pam Farrel wrote a book called Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti. The Farrels identify how men tend to compartmentalize their lives. That is, guys can be so absorbed in one “box” in their life that they are completely oblivious to the other boxes. For instance, when a man is at work he seldom thinks about the other areas of his life (his wife, his kids, the bills that need to be paid, what he’s going to have for lunch).

In addition, men’s brains are also designed to stay in those boxes where things can be quickly fixed. A guy likes fixing things, so the boxes where he can do something and see an immediate result is a box he’s going to keep going back to again and again.

Here’s the trouble… Relationships don’t fit in nice, neat boxes. Neither are relationships something that can be “fixed.” And relationships are never, ever fixed or improved quickly.

So if a guy isn’t aware of these things, he can be unintentionally sabotaging the relationships around him.

King David illustrated this in his unintentional lack of involvement in three of his sons’ lives—

  • Amnon pursued an unhealthy relationship with his step-sister. David got mad but never did anything about it (2 Samuel 13:21).
  • Absalom got revenge for what Amnon did and then fled the country. When David finally allowed him to return to Israel, they never met to resolve what went wrong (2 Samuel 14:28).
  • Adonijah wanted to be king after David, but the Bible says, “His father had never interfered with him by asking, ‘Why do you behave as you do?’” (1 Kings 1:6).

Dave Wills wrote, “We all tend to craft a self-focused view of the world where we emerge as either a hero or a victim in every scene. We’re never the villains in the story. The truth is, though, that we’ve all been the bad guy more often than we’d like to admit. A life of love requires that we look in the mirror and give an honest and humble self-assessment.”

The way to defeat this relationship killer is to become aware of it through humble self-assessment. David learned this truth and shared his prayer with us: “Search me, O God. Show me any areas in my life where I am off-track” (Psalm 139:23-24).

In response to this prayer, the Holy Spirit must have showed David how he had unintentionally starved his relationships with Amnon, Absalom, and Adonijah, because he became highly involved in his son Solomon’s life.

So much so that as Solomon talked to his children about how they should live, he also told them where he had learned how to do this—his father taught him (Proverbs 4:1-4).

Guys, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been unintentionally in another box. It doesn’t matter how strained the relationship may have become. If you will humbly ask God to search you, reveal to you where you’ve messed up, and ask Him to help you get better … your relationships WILL begin to improve!

Don’t wait another day to pray that “Search me” prayer!

This Is My Doing

This is My doing“My child, I have a message for you today. Let me whisper it in your ear so any storm clouds that may arise will shine with glory, and the rough places you may have to walk will be made smooth. It is only four words, but let them sink into your inner being, and use them as a pillow to rest your weary head: this is My doing [1 Kings 12:24].

Have you ever realized that whatever concerns you concerns Me too? For whoever touches you touches the apple of My eye [Zechariah 2:8]. You are precious and honored in My sight [Isaiah 43:4]. Therefore it is My special delight to teach you. I want you to learn when temptations attack you, and the enemy comes in like a pent-up flood [Isaiah 59:15], that this is My doing and that your weakness needs My strength, and your safety lies in letting Me fight for you.

Are you in difficult circumstances, surrounded by people who do not understand you, never ask your opinion, and always push you aside? This is my doing. I am the God of circumstances. You did not come to this place by accident—you are exactly where I meant for you to be. Have you not asked Me to make you humble? Then see that I have placed you in the perfect school where this lesson is taught. Your circumstances and the people around you are only being used to accomplish My will.

Are you having problems with money, finding it hard to make ends meet? This is My doing, for I am the one who keeps your finances, and I want you to learn to depend upon Me. My supply is limitless and I will meet all your needs [Philippians 4:19]. I want you to prove My promises so that no one may say you did not trust the Lord your God [Deuteronomy 1:32].

Are you experiencing a time of sorrow? This is my doing. I am a Man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering [Isaiah 53:3]. I have allowed your earthly comforters to fail you, so that by turning to Me you may receive eternal encouragement and good hope [2 Thessalonians 2:16].

Have you longed to do some great work for Me but instead have been set aside on a bed of sickness and pain? This is my doing. You were so busy I could not get your attention, and I wanted to teach you some of My deepest truths. They also serve who only stand and wait. In fact, some of My greatest workers are those physically unable to serve, but who have learned to wield the powerful weapon of prayer.” —Your loving Heavenly Father (as recorded by Laura A. Barter Snow)

Success Is Going

King David is one of the most well-known characters in the Old Testament. Such incredible stories are told about him that his life can be summed up in one phrase that occurs four times in Scripture—The Lord gave David victory everywhere he went (2 Samuel 8:6, 14; 1 Chronicles 18:6, 13).

When David was faced with a challenge or an enemy, he threw himself fully into meeting the enemy head-on, and he was always successful. There is no record of David ever being defeated in battle. If he went out, he won.

Aha, keyword alert—The Lord gave David victory everywhere he WENT.

The only times David was defeated was when he stood still:

• When his son Absalom killed another of David’s sons, Amnon, David didn’t do anything. Even when Absalom returned from exile, David stayed home and didn’t reconcile with his son (2 Samuel 13-15).

• David’s son Adonijah behaved inappropriately and eventually rebelled against David, too. But David “never interfered with him by asking, ‘Why do you behave as you do?’” (1 Kings 1:6).

• David lusted after and then committed adultery with Bathsheba when, “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, Joab led out the armed forces. … But David remained in Jerusalem” (1 Chronicles 20:1).

• David angered God by ordering that a census be taken of all of the men eligible for military service in Israel. “So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, ‘Go and count…” (1 Chronicles 21:2). In other words, David stayed while others went.

Solomon correctly noted, “The path of life leads upward for the wise to keep him from going down to the grave” (Proverbs 15:24). There are only two directions: forward (or up) OR backward (or down). There is no standing still.

The Lord gave David victory everywhere he WENT, not everywhere he stood still. To stand still is to begin to go backward.

Is there a battle you need to fight? Is there a challenge you’ve been avoiding? Is there something you need to complete? Are you waiting for something to happen? Are you content just to stand still?

Stop standing still and start going! If you are following God, He will give you victory everywhere you go.

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