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.”

12 Quotes From “The Autobiography Of Charles Spurgeon”

Charles Spurgeon lived exactly as he preached. What a delight that is! Check out my full book review of his Autobiography by clicking here. Also, be sure to check out my weekly Thursdays With Spurgeon series, where I share longer passages from this Prince of Preachers. 

“My soul hope for heaven lies in the full atonement made upon Calvary’s Cross for the ungodly. On that I firmly rely. I have not the shadow of a hope anywhere else.” 

“While my brief term on earth shall last, I should be the servant of Him who became the Servant of servants for me.” 

“For I am persuaded there are more delights in Christ, yea, more joy in one glimpse of His face than is to be found in all the praises of this harlot-world, and in all the delights that it can yield to us in its sunniest and brightest days.” 

“I have found, in my own spiritual life, that the more rules I lay down for myself, the more sins I commit. The habit of regular morning and evening prayer is one that is indispensable to a believer’s life, but the prescribing of the length of prayer, and the constrained remembrance of so many persons and subjects, may gender unto bondage and strangle prayer rather than assist it.” 

“There is nothing that more tends to strengthen the faith of the young believer than to hear the veteran Christian, covered with scars from the battle, testifying that the service of his Master is a happy service, and that, if he could have served any other master, he would not have done so, for His service is pleasant and His reward everlasting joy.” 

“I went to my chamber and told my little griefs into the ears of Jesus. They were great griefs to me then, though they are nothing now. When on my knees I just whispered them into the ear of Him who had loved me with an everlasting love, oh, it was so sweet! If I had told them to others, they would have told them again, but He, my blessed Confidant, knows all my secrets, and He never tells again.” 

“That God predestined, and yet that man is responsible, are two facts that few can see clearly. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory to each other. If, then, I find taught in one part of the Bible that everything is foreordained, that is true; and if I find, in another Scripture, that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true. And it is only my folly that leads me to imagine that these two truths can ever contradict each other.” 

“It was said of an old Greek philosopher that he wrote over his door, ‘None but the learned may enter here.’ But Christ writes over His door, ‘He who is simple, let him turn in hither.’” 

“I used to think, sometimes, that if they had degrees who deserved them, diplomas would often be transferred and given to those who hold the plow handle or work at the carpenter’s bench; for there is often more divinity in the little finger of a plowman than there is in the whole body of some of our modern divines. ‘Don’t they understand divinity?’ someone asks. Yes, in the letter of it, but as to the spirit and life of it, D.D. often means Doubly Destitute.” 😀

“When I came to New Park Street Chapel, it was but a mere handful of people to whom I first preached; yet I can never forget how earnestly they prayed. Sometimes they seemed to plead as though they could really see the Angel of the covenant present with them, and as if they must have a blessing from Him. More than once, we were all so awestruck with the solemnity of the meeting that we sat silent for some moments while the Lord’s power appeared to overshadow us. All I could do on such occasions was to pronounce the benediction and say, ‘Dear friends, we have had the Spirit of God here very manifestly tonight; let us go home and take care not to lose His gracious influences.’ Then down came the blessing; the house was filled with hearers, and many souls were saved. I always give all the glory to God, but I do not forget that He gave me the privilege of ministering from the first to a praying people.” 

“It is the extremity of unwisdom for a young man, fresh from college or from another charge, to suffer himself to be earwigged by a clique, and to be bribed by kindness and flattery to become a partisan, and so to ruin himself with one half of his people.” 

“It is of no use to rise before an assembly and hope to be inspired upon subjects of which one knows nothing. If anyone is so unwise, the result will be that, as he knows nothing, he will probably say it, and the people will not be edified. But 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.” 

Life In The Spirit Study Bible (book review)

I love to read, averaging about 30 books per year. In addition to books, I have a lot of news feeds that I check daily. But hands down, everything else comes in a distant second place to my number-one read: the Bible. 

I read the Bible for myself. I read the Bible to prepare my Sunday messages. I read the Bible to teach classes. I read the Bible to confirm or refute what I am reading in other books and news feeds. And with all that Bible reading, I have also gravitated toward my favorite study Bible—The Life In The Spirit Study Bible. 

At one time people referred to this Bible as “the fire Bible” because of the graphic on the front cover depicting the fire that fell on praying Christians at the Pentecost celebration immediately following Christ’s ascension into heaven. That fire still falls in my heart every time I read God’s Word!

The study notes in this Bible are fantastic! But don’t be deceived by the name: these are not study notes that focus on the Holy Spirit out of proportion; rather, the role of the Spirit is merely noted where others have ignored it. Far too many people don’t ponder very much about the Holy Spirit’s involvement, except for perhaps the Book of Acts and maybe Paul’s instruction on the operational gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians. The Life In The Spirit Study Bible simply seeks to make us aware of the Spirit’s involvement. 

In addition to the short commentary notes at the bottom of each page, there are several insightful and scholarly articles throughout this whole book that will make the Scripture come alive in new ways. 

This is my “preaching Bible” that I take with me for every sermon I deliver, which means it is the Bible I am diving deep into each day as I study. I cannot recommend this Bible to you highly enough. 

Growth Problems

…the number of disciples was increasing… (Acts 6:1).

Growth is a nice problem to have. But it is still a problem that needs to be addressed, or else the growth can implode an organization. 

In this instance, the early Christian church was growing rapidly and attempting to address the need for getting food to widows. Apparently, some of the widows were being overlooked in that food distribution. 

To start the ball rolling on solving this growth problem, the apostles gave some simple parameters: We will focus on preaching, the rest of you should select administrators to oversee the food ministry (vv. 2-4). The job description was pretty simple too—they must have a good reputation, be full of the Holy Spirit, be wise, and (this is implied) be willing to serve.

Notice the trust the church leaders placed in that congregation: 

  • seek out from among you
  • they chose
  • they set them [the candidates] before the apostles

The congregation was pleased by both the apostles’ plan and the level of trust that was conferred on them. It appears that seven men were the unanimous selection of both the congregation and the church leaders. 

After these men were installed in their new administrative roles, look at the results:

  • more preaching
  • more salvations
  • more inroads into the Jewish religious leadership sect
  • more people fed
  • more miracles performed
  • and more persecution from those threatened by the church’s rapid growth

It’s interesting to note that Luke uses the word added to talk about the church’s growth in chapters 1-5, but after this growth problem is successfully resolved, Luke stops using added and only uses multiplication terminology. 

When handled the right way, growth problems—or any problems, for that matter—lead to more growth. 

A mark of a godly leader is one who handles growth problems correctly. 

This is part 36 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

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)

Book Reviews From 2018

Thursdays With Oswald—Jeremiah 23

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

Jeremiah 23

[These are notes from Oswald Chambers’ lecture on Jeremiah 23.] 

     If the preaching of a servant of God does not make me brace myself up and watch my feet and my ways, one of two things is the reason—either the preacher is unreal, or I hate being better. At sometime or other all of us have had a detestation of being better. The rage produced by being faced with a life which in reality is better than our own, awakens either a desire to be like it, or else hatred without cause against that life. “They hated Me without a cause,” said Jesus. …  

     God makes His Word living by speaking it to you. There is a feeling of deep settled peace when the Holy Ghost brings a word, full of light and illumination, you know better than you can express, “The Lord said that to me.” …

     The Bible student must be careful to distinguish between the speculations of his own heart and the Word of God. … Be simple and obedient, and the Word of God will open to you as naturally as breathing. …  

     In reading God’s Word be careful of being guided by affinities instead of by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit makes us face facts for which we have no affinity. …

     Never ridicule the way in which people say God guides them; all you know is that God does not guide you like that, but never ridicule. 

From Notes On Jeremiah 

In this chapter of Jeremiah, God is contrasting true and false prophets. In order for us to distinguish the true from the false today, we must be students of God’s Word ourselves. Don’t get God’s Word solely from a man’s or woman’s preaching (although that does have its place), but be a student of the Word for yourself. 

God wants to speak to you through His Word. The same Holy Spirit that inspired the biblical authors wants to illuminate that Word to your specific life and situation. Get into the Word and let the Word get into you.  

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