Thursdays With Spurgeon—Following The Prompting

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.

Following The Prompting

     I once while preaching at New Park Street Chapel. I had passed happily through all the early parts of divine service on the Sabbath evening and was giving out the hymn before the sermon. I opened the Bible to find the text, which I had carefully studied as the topic of discourse, when, on the opposite page, another passage of Scripture sprang upon me like a lion from a thicket with vastly more power then I had felt when considering the text that I had chosen. The people were singing and I was sighing. I was in a strait between two, and my mind hung as in the balances. I was naturally desirous to run in the track that I had carefully planned, but the other text would take no refusal and seemed to tug at my skirts, crying, “No, no, you must preach from me! God would have you follow me.” I deliberated within myself as to my duty, for I would neither be fanatical nor unbelieving, and at last I thought within myself, Well, I should like to preach the sermon that I have prepared, and it is a great risk to run to strike out a new line of thought, but as this text constrains me, it may be of the Lord, and therefore I will venture upon it, come what may.

     I had brought myself into great difficulty by obeying what I thought to be a divine impulse, and I felt comparatively easy about it, believing that God would help me and knowing that I could at least close the service should there be nothing more to be said. I had no need to deliberate, for in one moment we were in total darkness. The gas had gone out…. Having no manuscript, I could speak just as well in the dark as in the light…. When the lamps were lit again, I saw before me an audience as rapt and subdued as ever a man beheld in his life. … Thus, providence befriended me. I cast myself upon God, and His arrangements quenched the light at the proper time for me. Some may ridicule, but I adore; others may even censure, but I rejoice.

From The Autobiography of Charles Spurgeon

God can speak to pastors as clearly in his or her sermon preparation time as He can in the very moments before the sermon begins. The key is our obedience to follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit. 

Spurgeon would never advocate that preachers “wing it” every time they step into the pulpit. His own life showed a man of diligent study of the Scripture. But neither would Spurgeon say that preachers have to stick to their prepared remarks no matter what. What I think he would say is: Trust God when you’re studying for a sermon, and trust God when you’re delivering a sermon. Allow the Spirit to change your course at any moment. 

Is this a bit nerve-wracking? Spurgeon would say, “Yes, only when deliberating whether to strike out on the new course.” But notice how once he obeyed that prompting, he felt completely at ease.

Spurgeon also reminds us, “I do not see why a man cannot speak extemporaneously upon a subject that he fully understands. Any tradesman, well versed in his line of business, could explain it without needing to retire for meditation, and surely I ought to be equally familiar with the first principles of our holy faith. I ought not to feel at a loss when called upon to speak upon topics that constitute the daily bread of my soul.”

9 Quotes From “Shepherding God’s Flock”

T.M. Moore has given pastors a phenomenal training resource in Shepherding God’s Flock. Please be sure to check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“The work of church leaders today—and especially of that class of leaders called elders, with which this study is concerned—has been shaped and conditioned more by the temper of our times than by the teaching of God’s Word.” 

“According to Paul, any church that does not have in place elders—and other leaders working with them—who are functioning as shepherds is a church that is not in order.… A church without a strong ministry of shepherding is a flock without genuine pastoral care, oversight, and equipping. It may be very active, even happy, and may be ‘growing’ in what some consider impressive ways. But without shepherding as the framework and integrating dynamic, such a church will always be something less than what God intends.” 

“Where the work of shepherding is being faithfully pursued, the gospel goes forth with power, lost sheep are located, and the flocks of God grow as He adds new souls to the fold.” 

“Where faithful shepherds are at work, the Lord’s sheep will be well fed. Both milk and the meat of the Word will be their daily diet, according to the needs and callings of each. Well-fed sheep are healthy, strong, and fruitful in their own contributions.” 

“The work of shepherding begins in relationships of mutual love and trust, spiritual friendships where sheep and shepherd know, love, and care about one another.” 

“Only when the people feel known and loved, and only when they know and love those who are called to lead them—only then will they be willing to follow where the shepherds of the church are seeking to take them.” 

“In the Christian life, people tend to live up to or achieve, not the level of their abilities, for their abilities are virtually limitless, given the presence of the indwelling Spirit of God. Rather, they tend to live up to the level of their vision—of what they see for their lives in Christ. Unless we are leading them into God’s vision for their lives, the people of God will settle for something less than the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” 

“When temptation arises we can follow one of two courses. Either we will fall through temptation into sin, or we will grow through temptation into a higher stage of sanctification. … The shepherd’s task is twofold: first, he must help the Lord’s sheep to recognize temptation, by grounding them firmly in the law and Word of God; second, he must equip and encourage them in finding the way of escape from temptation, so that they may grow as the Lord intends.” 

“Jesus’ approach to bearing witness was thus energetic, proactive, continuous, compassionate, and pioneering. Should we expect anything less from the shepherds He has left to bring other lost sheep into His fold?”

Shepherding God’s Flock (book review)

T.M. Moore founded the Fellowship of Ailbe, a ministry patterned after the example of the Irish Christians who kept the spread of the Gospel alive during history’s dark times. A key component of the Fellowship’s ministry is the equipping of pastors for their tasks, and Shepherding God’s Flock masterfully lays out the role of pastors like few other resources. 

Throughout the Scriptures, God uses the picture of a shepherd caring for his sheep as a consistent image of how God cares for His people, and how He desires for pastors/elders to care for those under their care as well. God has stern warnings for shepherd-leaders who misuse or abuse their positions, but He also showers His blessings on those shepherd-leaders whose hearts beat with God’s heart. David talked lovingly of the Lord being our Shepherd, Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd, and the Apostle Peter called for elders in the church to shepherd the flock under their care. 

Shepherding God’s Flock helps pastors work through the practicalities of their shepherding role. And I do mean work through these concepts. This book is as much a workbook as it is a textbook. T.M. Moore gives valuable insights for pastors, but he intersperses penetrating discussion questions throughout his teaching. You will also need to keep your Bible handy while reading Shepherding because Moore will send you to passage after passage to undergird the principles he is teaching. 

I can’t recommend this book highly enough to both current pastors and those preparing to enter into pastoral ministry. It would probably be a good idea for lead pastors to read this book alongside their elder/deacon boards. 

As Moore notes in his closing words, “Shepherding is the work God has chosen for the care and nurture of His flocks. We’ve neglected this ministry for too long. Let us resolve to bring the work of shepherding to bear on the task of building Christ’s Church.” 

To that, I add my hearty “Amen!”

Poetry Saturday—Let Not My Words

Let not my words fall to the ground, O Lord, 
like Onan’s wasted, self-indulgent seed.
Let mine convey Your ever-fruitful Word,

and let them be far-flung, and gladly heard 
or read according to each person’s need.
Let not my words fall to the ground, O Lord,

like some discarded, useless, broken shard.
Let many take them up, and as they read, 
let my words bear Your ever-fruitful Word;

and in the chambers of men’s souls, deep bored, 
let them embed and germinate with speed.
Let not my words fall to the ground, O Lord,

but draw them from Your scabbard with Your Sword, 
and both together for Your glory wield.
Let mine with Yours be ever fruitful, Lord. 

This calling, this vocation, let me heed
with diligence and faithfulness, I plead.
Let not my words fall to the ground, O Lord,
but let them prove Your ever-fruitful Word. —T.M. Moore (based on 1 Samuel 3:19)

15 Quotes On Prayer From J.C. Ryle

In my current Bible reading time, I am reading J.C. Ryle’s Expository Thoughts On The Gospels as a read-along companion with my Bible. Bishop Ryle correctly feels the weight and effectiveness of prayer in the life of a Christian. Here are some of his quotes regarding prayer. 

“If afflictions drive us nearer to Christ, the Bible, and prayer, they are positive blessings.” 

“It is not for us to prescribe either the time or the way in which our requests are to be answered.… Let us rather ‘continue in prayer,’ ‘watch unto prayer,’ ‘pray always and not faint.’” 

“Why is it that there is so much apparent religious working and yet so little result in positive conversions to God—so many sermons, and so few souls saved—so much machinery, and so little effect produced—so much running here and there and yet so few brought to Christ? Why is all this? The reply is short and simple: there is not enough private prayer. The cause of Christ does not need less working, but it does need among the workers more praying. … The most successful workmen in the Lord’s vineyard are those who are, like their Master, often and much upon their knees.” 

“If we would have good ministers we must remember our Lord’s example and pray for them. Their work is heavy. Their responsibility is enormous. Their strength is small. Let us see that we support them and hold up their hands by our prayers.” 

“Let us bear these rules in mind every Sunday morning before we go to hear the Word of God preached. Let us not rush into God’s presence careless, reckless, and unprepared, as if it mattered not in what way such work was done. Let us carry with us faith, reverence, and prayer. If these three are our companions, we shall hear with profit and return with praise.” 

“Let a petition for more faith form a part of all our daily prayers. As ever we would have peace, and calmness, and quietness of spirit, let us often say, ‘Lord, increase our faith.’” 

“Let us strive and pray that the same mind may be in us which was in our blessed Master. Like Him, let us be willing to go anywhere, do anything, suffer anything when the path of duty is clear and the voice of God calls. Let us set our faces steadfastly to our work when our work is plainly marked out, and drink our bitter cups patiently when they come from a Father’s hand.” 

“We must seek to have knowledge as well as zeal. Zeal without knowledge is an army without a general, and a ship without a rudder. We must pray that we may understand how to make a right application of Scripture.”

“Prayer is one of the best and most powerful means of helping forward the cause of Christ in the world. … Not all believers have money to give to missions. Very few have great intellectual gifts or extensive influence among men. But all believers can pray for the success of the Gospel—and they ought to pray for it daily.” 

“Prayer is one of the principal weapons which the minister of the Gospel ought to use. To be a true successor of the apostles, he must give himself to prayer as well as to the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:4). He must not only use the sword of the Spirit, but pray always, with all prayer and supplication (Ephesians 6:17, 18). This is the way to win a blessing on his own ministry. This, above all, is the way to procure helpers to carry on Christ’s work.” 

“Daily bread and daily mercy are by far the first and principal things that mortal man needs. He is the rich man who possesses them. He is the wise man who is not ashamed to pray for them every day.” 

“Nothing that concerns God’s people is too little for Him to manage or for them to bring before Him in prayer.”

“‘He spoke a parable to this end: that men ought always to pray, and not to give up.’ These words, be it remembered, are closely connected with the solemn doctrine of the second advent, with which the preceding chapter concludes. It is prayer without fainting during the long weary intervals between the first and second advents which Jesus is urging His disciples to keep up.” 

“Let us often pray that we may have wisdom from above in order to answer rightly when perplexing questions are put to us. The servant of Christ must expect a portion like his Master. He must count it no strange thing if the wicked and worldly-minded endeavor to entangle him in his talk, and to provoke him to speak unadvisedly with his lips.” 

“Whatever other means of relief we use, let us pray. The first Friend we should turn to ought to be God. The first message we should send ought to be to the throne of grace.” 

Book Reviews From 2018

Covenants To God

Christmas Evans tells us in his diary that one Sunday afternoon he was traveling a very lonely road to attend an appointment, and he was convicted of a cold heart. He wrote,

“I tethered my horse and went to a sequestered spot, where I walked to and fro in an agony as I reviewed my life. I waited three hours before God, broken with sorrow, until there broke over me a sweet sense of His forgiving love. I received from God a new baptism of the Holy Ghost.

“As the sun was westering, I went back to the road, found my horse, mounted it and went to my appointment. On the following day I preached with such new power to a vast concourse of people gathered on the hillside, that a revival broke out that day and spread through all Wales.”

Christmas went on to write 13 covenants to God. You can read all 13 of them by clicking here, but here are six of them that especially resonated with me—

V. O Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, take for the sake of Thy cruel death, my time, and strength and the gifts and talents I possess; which, with a full purpose of heart, I consecrate to Thy glory in the building up of Thy Church in the world, for Thou art worthy of the hearts and talents of all men.

VI. I desire Thee, my great High Priest, to confirm, by Thy power from Thy High Court, my usefulness as a preacher, and my piety as a Christian, as two gardens nigh to each other; that sin may not have a place in my heart to becloud my confidence in Thy righteousness, and that I may not be left to any foolish act that may occasion my gifts to wither, and I be rendered useless before my life ends…. 

VIII. … Grant that I may experience the power of Thy Word before I deliver it, as Moses felt the power of his own rod, before he saw it on the land and waters of Egypt. Grant this, for the sake of Thine infinitely precious blood, O Jesus, my hope, and my all in all.

IX. Search me now, and lead me into plain paths of judgment. Let me discover in this life what I am before Thee, that I may not find myself of another character when I am shown in the light of the immortal world, and open my eyes to all the brightness of eternity…. 

X. Grant me strength to depend upon Thee for food and raiment, and to make known my requests…. 

XII. Grant, O blessed Lord, that nothing may grow and be matured in me to occasion Thee to cast me off from the service of the sanctuary, like the sons of Eli; and for the sake of the Thine unbounded merit, let not my days be longer than my usefulness…. (emphasis mine)

If you want to do great things for God—if you want Him to do great things through you—then you must be wholly committed to Him. Perhaps Christmas Evans’ covenant statements will help you draft your own, or adopt a couple of his, to consecrate yourself to God’s service. 

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