The Love of Christ by Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Christ loved you before you loved him.
He loved you when there was nothing good in you.
He loved you though you insulted him, though you despised him and rebelled against him.
He has loved you right on, and never ceased to love you.
He has loved you in your backslidings and loved you out of them.
He has loved you in your sins, in your wickedness and folly.
His loving heart will still eternally the same, and shed his heart’s blood to prove his love for you.
He has given you what you need on earth, and provided for you an habitation in heaven.
Now, Christian, your religion claims from you, that you should love others, as your Master loved you.
How can you imitate him, unless you love too?
With you “un” kindness should be a strange anomaly. It is a gross contradiction to the spirit of your religion,
And if you do not love your neighbor, I cannot see how you can be a true follower of Jesus.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” – John 15:12-14
How To Read The Bible by Charles Haddon Spurgeon
(1) READ THE BIBLE WITH AN EARNEST DESIRE TO UNDERSTAND IT.
– Do not be content to just read the words of Scripture. Seek to grasp the message they contain.
(2) READ THE SCRIPTURES WITH A SIMPLE, CHILDLIKE FAITH AND HUMILITY.
– Believe what God reveals. Reason must bow to God’s revelation.
(3) READ THE WORD WITH A SPIRIT OF OBEDIENCE AND SELF-APPLICATION.
– Apply what God says to yourself and obey His will in all things.
(4) READ THE HOLY SCRIPTURES EVERY DAY.
– We quickly lose the nourishment and strength of yesterday’s bread. We must feed our souls daily upon the manna God has given us.
(5) READ THE WHOLE BIBLE AND READ IT IN AN ORDERLY WAY.
– “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable.” I know of know better way to read the Bible than to start at the beginning and read straight through to the end, a portion every day, comparing Scripture with Scripture.
(6) READ THE WORD OF GOD FAIRLY AND HONESTLY.
– As a general rule, any passage of Scripture means what it appears to mean. Interpret every passage in this simple manner, in its context.
(7) READ THE BIBLE WITH CHRIST CONSTANTLY IN VIEW.
– The whole Bible is about Him. Look for Him on every page. He is there. If you fail to see Him there, you need to read that page again.
About Charles Haddon Spurgeon:
C. H. Spurgeon was to nineteenth-century England what D. L Moody was to America. Although Spurgeon never attended theological school, by the age of twenty-one he was the most popular preacher in London.He preached to crowds of ten thousand at Exeter Hall and the Surrey Music Hall. Then when the Metropolitan Tabernacle was built, thousands gathered every Sunday for over forty years to hear his lively sermons.In addition to his regular pastoral duties, he founded Sunday schools, churches, an orphanage, and the Pastor’s College. He edited a monthly church magazine and promoted literature distribution.Sincerely and straightforwardly he denounced error both in the Church of England and among his own Baptists. An ardent evangelical, he deplored the trend of the day toward biblical criticism.
Dr. Larry J. Michael and C.H. Spurgeon on “The Medicine of Laughter”
Dr. Larry Michael is senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Clanton, Ala. He serves as an adjunct professor at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham. This article is an adaptation of writings from the upcoming book, Spurgeon on Leadership, Kregel Publications, scheduled for release October 2003.
Some years ago there was a documented case in the British Medical Journal about a man who laughed himself well. He actually had a terminal illness, and through the employment of laughter therapy, he allowed his body to successfully fight the disease.
While we may smilingly acknowledge the merit of such a case, for the most part, we find such an incident almost incredible. Can laughter really be that good for us? The Bible definitely supports such a notion.
The Bible advocates laughter
The writer of Ecclesiastes stated: “There’s a time to laugh, and a time to cry” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). We know that there are plenty of reasons to cry. Just a casual glance at our world, with its wars, hatred, violence and evil — makes us sad. Every day we see/hear on the news horrible accounts of hurting people who hurt others. We are grieved at the plight of so many persons who are living in darkness and have rejected the light of Christ. The stark reality of sin in our world is indeed sobering.
It’s not surprising that many of us as leaders may be more inclined toward sadness than to joy. Given the nature and demands of Christian leadership in an increasingly challenging world, one could cynically surmise that leaders may have more reason to be glum than glad these days. The pressures of our organizational responsibilities, and the accompanying stresses, can drag us down. Handling church conflict, losing someone special, helplessly seeing a marriage dissolve, experiencing personal betrayal, facing an unsuspected tragedy — all may give cause for tears.
To counter the sad times, the Scripture also advises that there is a time to laugh. Leaders need to know the balancing therapy of laughter. Toward that goal, we should fully embrace the joys of ministry — celebrating special moments with members, “high-fiving” family achievements, relishing the reaching of hard-earned goals, and savoring the blessing of spiritual growth. But those experiences may still fall short of the biblical pronouncement regarding laughter. C’mon, when was the last time you laughed so hard you cried?! Or, you actually had a good belly laugh?
Spurgeon’s great sense of humor
Many evangelicals know well the stern side of C. H. Spurgeon and his serious pursuit of the holy life. Indeed, his stands for righteous causes, and countering doctrinal error are often recounted. But many readers may not know that he was a man with a great sense of humor. Spurgeon knew the value of laughter and mirth. He virtually took to heart the word in Proverbs 17:22: “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”
Spurgeon laughed as often as he could. He laughed at the ironies of life, he laughed at comical incidents, he laughed at the amusing elements of nature. He sometimes laughed at his critics. He loved to share wholesome jokes with his friends and colleagues in ministry. He was known to tell humorous stories from the pulpit. William Williams, a fellow pastor who kept company with Spurgeon, was a near and dear friend in the latter years of Spurgeon’s life. He wrote:
What a bubbling fountain of humour Mr. Spurgeon had! I laughed more, I verily believe, when in his company than during all the rest of my life besides. He had the most fascinating gift of laughter . . . and he had also the greatest ability for making all who heard him laugh with him. When someone blamed him for saying humourous things in his sermons, he said, “He would not blame me if he only knew how many of them I keep back.” 1
Spurgeon considered humor such an integral part of his ministry that a whole chapter in his autobiography is devoted to it. Humor permeates his sermons and writings, often woven into the fabric of his messages. It’s one reason among many why he is still so readable today.
The therapy of laughter
Spurgeon knew the blessing of the treatment of humor. He often spoke of his illness in humorous terms: “I have had sharp pains,” he wrote to a friend, “but I am recovering. Only my back is broken, and I need a new vertebrae.” 2 Once, when he was feeling depressed, he spoke of the remedy of laughter:
The other evening I was riding home after a heavy day’s work. I felt wearied and sore depressed, when swiftly and suddenly that text came to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee.’ I reached home and looked it up in the original, and at last it came to me in this way. ‘My grace is sufficient for THEE.’ And I said, ‘I should think it is, Lord,’ and I burst out laughing. I never understood what the holy laughter of Abraham was till then. It seemed to make unbelief so absurd…O brethren, be great believers. Little faith will bring your souls to heaven, but great faith will bring heaven to your souls. 3
Some of Spurgeon’s humor even bordered on the cynical — like the time he was embroiled in the Baptismal Regeneration Controversy. When Spurgeon took on the Church of England clerics because of their belief in baptismal regeneration, he had a baptismal font installed in his back garden as a birdbath. He referred to it as “the spoils of war.” While the great “Prince of Preachers” may have gone over the top on that one, for the most part, his humor was balanced and appropriate.
Laughter a needful release
Laughter is an important release in a leader’s life. It is much-needed therapy for positions that are most often fraught with stress and the burdens of the day. Certainly there is a time to be sober as we face many tough situations in our lives and ministries. But, we need to learn how to experience the relief of laughter. Part of the problem is that too many of us take ourselves way too seriously. When we forget that God has a sense of humor, we need to do as one leader suggested — go look in the mirror!
Spurgeon knew the value of laughter and humor. Both in tough times and sick times, humor was a means for him to deal with his situation. It was a coping mechanism for him. There will always be seasons of sadness and joy for the conscientious leader. But, the leader who learns to balance the two, will learn the discipline of employing laughter and joy in his life. It could very well make a difference in his fulfillment and purpose in his service to the Lord.
Article adapted from Reformed Perspectives Magazine, Volume 9, Number 40, Septemeber 30 to October 6, 2007.
Notes: 1. William Williams, Personal Remembrances of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1895), 24; 2. Ibid, 231; 3. Ibid, 25.
“The Demon of Discouragement”
Charles Spurgeon often dealt with the problem of discouragement. He told his students:
“One crushing stroke has sometimes laid the minister very low. The brother most relied upon becomes a traitor. Judas lifts up his heel against the man who trusted him, and the preacher’s heart for the moment fails him. . . . Strife, also, and division, and slander, and foolish censures, have often laid holy men prostrate, and made them go ‘as with a sword in their bones.’ Hard words wound some delicate minds very keenly…. By experience the soul is hardened to the rough blows which are inevitable in our warfare; but at first these things utterly stagger us, and send us to our homes wrapped in a horror of great darkness….
“When troubles multiply, and discouragements follow each other in long succession, like Job’s messengers, then, too, amid the perturbation of soul occasioned by evil tidings, despondency despoils the heart of all its peace. Constant dropping wears away stones, and the bravest minds feel the fret of repeated afflictions. If a scanty cupboard is rendered a severer trial by the sickness of a wife or the loss of a child, and if ungenerous remarks of hearers are followed by the opposition of deacons and the coolness of members, then, like Jacob, we are apt to cry, ‘All these things are against me’… Accumulated distresses increase each other’s weight; they play into each other’s hands, and like bands of robbers, ruthlessly destroy our comfort. Wave upon wave is severe work for the strongest swimmer. The place where two seas meet strains the most seaworthy keel. If there were regulated pause between the buffetings of adversity, the spirit would stand prepared; but when they come suddenly and heavily, like the battering of great hailstones, the pilgrim may well be amazed. The last ounce is laid upon us, what wonder if we for awhile are ready to give up the ghost!” (Charles H. Spurgeon. Lectures to My Students. London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1969, 161-162).
Spurgeon, of course, was talking to ministers, but everyone can identify with his comments. One of the great problems with broken ropes is the inevitable discouragement which follows. How does one deal with the demon of discouragement? Let’s talk about it.
The Great Cloud of Witnesses
One of the keys to dealing with discouragement is found in Hebrews 12:1-3:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
The writer of Hebrews first suggests that we are surrounded by witnesses. The eleventh chapter of Hebrews lists a number of Old Testament characters who endured great suffering and who persevered through faith. Talk about broken ropes! The writer ends that chapter talking about people of God who were mocked and beaten, who were stoned, imprisoned, sawn in half, and who had no homes (see Heb. 11:36-39).
The twelfth chapter of Hebrews opens by saying that we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses; that is, “You are not by yourself. If your rope has broken, look at the broken ropes of others who have gone on to successfully complete their race. Be encouraged by them.”
The apostle Paul wrote the Christians in Corinth about the trials he and his friends had experienced-trials so great that they “despaired even of life” (2 Cor. 1:8). I wouldn’t wish that kind of hurt on anyone, but I’m glad Paul went through it. It makes me feel better about my own discouragement.
Discouragement, you see, is almost always marked by a feeling of aloneness. You feel that no one could possibly understand, no one could possibly have had the kind of troubles you have, no one could possibly be as discouraged as you are at the moment. It helps sometimes to remember that others have indeed shared the occasion of suffering.
An old spiritual says, “When I’ve done the best I can and my friends misunderstand, / Thou Who know-est all about me, stand by me.” But, you see, all of your friends don’t misunderstand. You just think they do. Discouragement is a part of living.
In the early part of the sixteenth century a man by the name of Thomas Bilney became convinced of the need for the Bible in the lives of believers. Because he was vocal about those convictions, he was burned at the stake in Norwich, England, in 1531. His story is not uncommon. Many people have burned at the stake because of their convictions.
Standing in the crowd on the day Bilney was executed was a young man named Hugh Latimer. A graduate of Cambridge, Latimer was so influenced by the life and death of Bilney that he committed his life to the propagation of Bilney’s faith. Later, Latimer became a bishop of the church. When “Bloody” Mary came to the throne, Hugh Latimer was among those who were tortured and killed. While he was burning at the stake, he turned to a fellow bishop and friend being executed with him and said, “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley. We shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace in England as, I trust, shall never be put out.”
I think of Bilney and Latimer when I get discouraged. They are a few of the witnesses who minister to me when my rope has broken. I have also asked God to give me enough grace to “keep on trucking” so that I may be a witness to others whose rope has broken.
The Demon of Guilt
The passage quoted from Hebrews 12 not only suggests that we have company, but also reminds us that we have been forgiven. The writer says, “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us.” I don’t know about you, but when I’m discouraged, the first thing I do is evaluate my sin-and I find a whole lot. Guilt, you see, is part of the demonic element in discouragement. How do you lay aside the weight and sin? You do it with confession, resting in the promise that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Discouragement hardly ever grows in the soil of forgiveness.
When I was in high school, a group of my friends and I had an all-night party. About three in the morning someone suggested that we go swimming in the pool of an exclusive club and hotel in town. It was very dark when we climbed the fence and approached the pool. We were having a good time until one of my friends jumped off the high diving board, sitting on an inner tube. When he hit the water, it sounded like a shotgun blast. Before we knew what was happening the lights started going on in the hotel, and the night watchman came out of his office with his gun and a flashlight. We ran.
As I was climbing over the fence and running to the car, I looked back over my shoulder to see my friend-the one who had jumped off the high diving board-trying to climb the fence holding on to the inner tube. “Bill,” I yelled back, “drop the inner tube or the sucker’s going to get you!”
Guilt is like that inner tube. If your rope has broken, you already have enough trouble without adding guilt to the pile. You’ve already seen that there is no absolute correlation between your sin and your broken ropes. So, don’t forget to throw away the inner tube. Examine your life, accept your forgiveness, and don’t keep carrying around the inner tube of guilt.
Power to Endure
The author of Hebrews says that we are empowered to endure our broken ropes by “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb.12:2). Hopelessness is the twin sister of discouragement. No Christian need ever feel hopeless, because we have the choice of looking to
Jesus rather than at our circumstances. Do you remember when Jesus told Peter to walk on the waves? At first the disciples thought Jesus was a ghost, but Jesus quickly told them who He was and settled their fears. Peter, evidently, still had some doubt that Jesus was who He said He was, so he made a simple request:
“Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. – Matthew 14:28-32
Peter’s problem was that he began to look at the waves instead of at Jesus. I don’t know about you, but if the waves had been big, I would have looked at them too. When waves are big, the danger is real, and we think about them to the exclusion of anything else. Some broken ropes are so devastating, it’s hard to look at anything except the broken rope. When you’re going through a divorce, when you have cancer, when you’re losing your children, others may easily say look at Jesus, but it’s very hard to do.
All of that granted, there is still a difference when Jesus is with us. Looking to Jesus may not be easy, and we can’t ignore the waves altogether. However, the point of Peter’s experience was not to show that waves exist or how big they get but to show that Jesus was there. He was there for Peter, and He is there for us.
One of the many nice things about my wife, Anna, is that she always puts little notes in and around the clothes I pack when I leave home for a speaking engagement. Anna knows that I get nervous in academic settings (I ran away from kindergarten, and I struggled through the next twenty years of education) and that I have a great desire to do well and to have people like me and a great fear of failure. As I was dressing before a lecture I was to give at Denver Seminary, I found a note in my shoe: “Just remember that nothing is going to happen today that Jesus can’t handle. ” That note reminded me about the One who owns me and for whom I speak. Because Anna helped me to focus on Jesus instead of myself and the situation, I felt a lot better.
“But you don’t understand,” you are saying. “My broken rope is a lot more than a little fear about speaking in a seminary. I am really going through a very difficult time. I’m so discouraged that I don’t think I can go on.”
Let me tell you something: The principle is the same
no matter what the circumstances. Either Jesus is there or He isn’t. Either Jesus does have something to do with your situation or He doesn’t. If He doesn’t, you have a whole lot bigger problem than discouragement. But the Scripture is clear about His involvement: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Focus on Him. It can make a big difference.
I want to remind you of four important items we often forget when we’re discouraged.
(1) Remember the Past
First, don’t forget the past. The past is the informer of the present. Not everything said by Job’s friends was wrong. A case in point is Bildad’s first speech to job:
“For inquire, please, of the former age, And consider the things discovered by their fathers; For we are but of yesterday, and know nothing, Because our days on earth are a shadow. Will they not teach you and tell you, And utter words from their heart?” (Job 8:8-10)
When you look at the history of God’s people, you see God’s faithfulness and love. When you look to your own past, you can also see God’s faithfulness and love.
God has been building memorials in your life from the time you were born. What’s a memorial? It’s a memory of times when God has been faithful. If He was faithful in the past, He won’t stop being faithful now or in the future.
If I had been standing on the side of the boat, watching Peter go under the waves, I would have shouted to him, “Hey Peter! You were walking. You were really walking on the water before you got so overwhelmed by the waves. You aren’t going to drown. Jesus won’t let you.” If I could have gotten Peter’s attention, maybe he would have climbed back up on the wave and ridden it to Jesus. Of course, he didn’t. That’s why Jesus reached down and pulled him out.
I’ll bet Peter recorded in his memory those waves and Jesus’ faithfulness on that day. I’ll bet Peter thought about it the rest of his life.
I keep a diary. I must admit that I don’t write in it very often. In fact, I don’t write in it unless one of my ropes has broken. The diary records not my life but those places in my life when I was hurt and discouraged. When I think I’ve finally gotten into a hole from which I will never escape, I get out the diary and read about the other times when I thought I was in the same place. Then, I remember that I got out of the hole. It may have hurt, but by God’s grace I got out of the hole. God always says to me on those occasions of diary reading, “Child, if I was faithful then, I will be faithful now.”
(2) Remember the Facts
Second, when you are discouraged, don’t forget the facts. Paul instructed the people at Ephesus how to stand in the midst of a
spiritual battle: “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth” (Eph. 6:13-14). Please note that Paul said we need to depend on truth for support; facts are the reality, not our feelings about the facts. One of the marks of discouragement is the “feeling” that God has gone away-that you aren’t important and that you’ve been kidding yourself about your relationship with Him. I heard the story of a man whose wife left him, children disowned him, and business failed. As he was walking down the street, he was hit by an automobile and left bruised and battered, a number of bones broken. In his agony he called out to God, “Why me? What have I done to deserve all of this?” He thought he heard a voice from heaven saying, “Sam, you haven’t done anything wrong. There is just something about you that ticks me off.” Discouragement can make you believe that you’ve offended God. Is that true? Of course not. God doesn’t act in that kind of capricious manner. How do I know that? Because the Bible is clear on the subject. When you were a teenager did you go to one of those Christian camps where there was a closing campfire? If you did, you’ll remember how you took a pine cone or a stick, which represented your sin, and you threw it in the fire. If you were like me, you then told God that from that point on you were going to be obedient and different. You were going to be God’s person. Those are good experiences, and I don’t want to say anything against them. But you can easily make promises of obedience sitting by a campfire in the mountains, with all your friends singing hymns about Jesus. When you come back home and your mother wants you to carry out the garbage, though, the promises aren’t so easy to keep. It took me a long time to recognize that feelings are changeable and a decision made on the basis of feelings, even a good one, probably would change. There is, of course, nothing wrong with decisions based on feelings except that those kinds of decisions hardly ever last unless they are reinforced with facts. If you are encouraged by certain feelings, you will be discouraged by others. If you are encouraged by facts, no matter how discouraged you become, the facts won’t change.
Someone has said, “Never doubt in the dark what God has taught you in the light.” That’s good advice. Some of my friends find great comfort in prayer and studying the Scriptures when they are going through a difficult time, but that isn’t the way it works for me. When my rope breaks, the Scriptures seem as dry as dust and my prayers never seem to get any further than my front teeth. I study the Scriptures and pray when
things are going reasonably well. Then, when the darkness comes, I remember the truth I discovered in the light, and I hang on to that with everything I’ve got.
In your dealing with discouragement, knowing Bible doctrine is essential because it gives you eternal truths, facts that are constant in spite of what your feelings are at any particular moment. Sometimes I don’t feel like a Christian; sometimes I feel that God could not possibly be a God of love; sometimes I feel that there could not possibly be any meaning in my broken rope; sometimes I feel that God has cast me aside and that my life has been wasted. But, you see, feelings are just that—feelings. They have no reality of their own. That is why I remember in the dark the truth that I learned in the light.
(3) Remember the Process
Third, when your rope is broken and you are discouraged, don’t forget that God works out His purpose in the process. The psalmist wrote: The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the LORD upholds him with His hand” (Psalm 37:23-24).
Let me tell you a secret. When you’re up, you think you’ll never be down, and when you’re down, you think you’ll never be up. But in the process of living you will go through times of success and joy and times of failure and discouragement.
In New England folks have a saying about the weather: If you don’t like it, just wait a couple of minutes and it will change. Discouragement is like that. It comes and it goes, so you need not assume that a state of discouragement, or encouragement for that matter, is permanent. When God decides that your broken rope has accomplished its purpose, He will fix the rope, and the discouragement will be fixed too.
My brother, Ron, spent a summer with us on Cape Cod to make some money to pay for his college education. He started out as a waiter because someone had told him that, with the big tips, he would make as much as two or three thousand dollars. That job lasted about two days. After numerous botched orders, broken plates, and angry customers, both Ron and his employer decided that Ron was not cut out to be a waiter. He then got a construction job. The construction contract ran out and he was laid off.
He came into my study one day and said, “Brother, this whole summer was a mistake. I should have stayed at home” I tried to encourage him, but in fact, I agreed with him. The summer hadn’t turned out the way either one of us had expected. But when I got home for dinner that evening, Ron was in a much better mood. I figured that he had found another job, but that wasn’t the case.
“Steve,” he told me, “I got to thinking this afternoon and decided that my life could change in the next five minutes. Why get discouraged?” He was right. The next day he got a job as a ranger on a golf course, and it was one of the best summer jobs he ever had.
Ron understood something we all ought to remember: the only thing that doesn’t change is the fact that change happens. Remember, every day the world rolls over on top of someone who was just sitting on top of it.
Let me repeat one of my favorite axioms: You can stand almost anything if you know it isn’t permanent. As a pastor, I am constantly amazed at the resilience of God’s people. The worst tragedy bringing the most terrible depression eventually dissipates
through the power of God’s grace. It doesn’t always fade quickly or easily, but it does fade away. Just accept your discouragement now as a part of God’s purpose, and be still until the light of understanding and grace shines.
(4) Look to the Future
Finally, when your rope has broken and you are discouraged, don’t forget the future. Paul wrote about what we can look forward to as believers:
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed-in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality …. then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory” (I Corinthians 15:51-54).
Richard Wurmbrand, who has dealt often with broken ropes, is a voice of hope in the midst of discouragement. He spent some fourteen years in communist prisons and is an example of a follower of Christ who, with hope and love, survived the worst that one man could do to another.
Wurmbrand, discussing the atheism of communism, spoke of the hope we have for the future. He suggested that if someone were to speak to an embryo, he or she might say that there was a wonderful life beyond the womb. If the embryo should answer the way an atheist would, it would say, “Don’t bother me with this kind of religious superstition. This is my world, and it’s the only one I know. I cannot see beyond it, and it is pure opiate to suggest that there is anything beyond.”
“But suppose,” Wurmbrand wrote,
this embryo could think with greater discernment than our academicians. It would say to itself: “Eyes develop in my head. To what purpose? There is nothing to see. Legs grow. I do not even have room to stretch them. Why should they grow? And why do arms and hands grow? I have to keep them folded over my breast. They embarrass me and my mother. My whole development in the womb is senseless unless there follows a life with light and color and many objects for my eyes to see. The place in which I’ll spend this other life must be large and varied. I will have to run in it. Therefore my legs grow. It will be a life of work and struggle. Therefore I grow arms and fists, which are of no use here” (Richard Wurmbrand. My Answer to Moscow Atheists. New Rochelle: Arlington House, 1975, 156-157).
Broken ropes and the accompanying discouragement remind us that this life isn’t the way it ought to be. Thirst may not prove there is water, and hunger may not prove there is food. But thirst and hunger are very good indicators that there is something somewhere to fulfill those needs, something for resolution and completion, pointing to the future and to a promise.
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:1-2). When your rope is broken and you are discouraged, remember the memorials God has given you in the past and look to the future with the confidence that He has prepared a place for you.
About the Author:
Dr. Steve Brown is one of the most sought after preachers and conference speakers in the country. Having had extensive radio experience before entering the ministry, he is now heard weekdays on the national radio program, Key Life, and one minute feature, “Think Spots”. Steve also hosts a weekly radio talk show, “Steve Brown, Etc.”. He served as the senior pastor of Key Biscayne Presbyterian Church for 17 years before joining the Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) faculty as Professor of Preaching. After teaching full time for almost two decades at RTS, Dr. Brown retired and is Emeritus Professor of Preaching but remains an Adjunct Professor of Preaching teaching occasional classes each year.
Dr. Brown is the author of many (16 and counting) books and also serves on the Board of the National Religious Broadcasters and Harvest USA (He earned his B.A. from High Point College; an S.T.B. from Boston University School of Theology; and an Litt.D. from King College). Steve is one of my favorite writers and speakers because he is authentic, a great story-teller, is a theologian in disguise, and really knows how to address the realities of how sinful humans can experience the amazing grace of God. The article above was adapted from Chapter 8 in his excellent book on surviving and thriving in a tough world: When Your Rope Breaks: Christ-centered advice on how to go on living—when making it through another day is the hardest thing in the world. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1988.
He Has Authored These Outstanding Books:
Three Free Sins: God’s Not Mad at You. New York: Simon and Schuster/ Howard Books, 2012.
A Scandalous Freedom. New York: Simon and Schuster/ Howard Books, 2009.
What Was I Thinking? Things I’ve learned Since I Knew It All. New York: Simon and Schuster/ Howard Books, 2006.
Follow the Wind: Our Lord, the Holy Spirit. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999.
Approaching God: How to Pray. New York: Howard, 1996.
Living Free: How to Live a Life of Radical Freedom and Infectious Joy. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994.
Born Free: How to Find Radical Freedom and Infectious Joy in an Authentic Faith. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993.
How To Talk So People Will Listen. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993.
If Jesus Has Come: Thoughts on the Incarnation for Skeptics, Christians and Skeptical Christians by a Former Skeptic. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992.
Jumping Hurdles, Hitting Glitches, Overcoming Setbacks. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1992.
No More Mr. Nice Guy! Saying Goodbye to “Doormat” Christianity. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991.
When Being Good Isn’t Good Enough. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1990.
Welcome to the Family: A Handbook for Living the Christian Life. Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell, 1990.
When Your Rope Breaks: Christ-centered advice on how to go on living—when making it through another day is the hardest thing in the world. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1988.
Heirs with the Prince. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1985.
If God is in Charge: Thoughts On The Nature of God For Skeptics, Christians, and Skeptical Christians. Grand Rapids: Baker 1983.
What we read affects us deeply, with long-term results. What books have influenced you the most? The following are the responses given to a survey of Christian leaders, sent out by R. Kent Hughes (*note that many of these leaders have entered into the presence of God).
Specific questions asked on the survey were:
(1) What are the five books, secular or sacred, which have influenced you the most?
(2) Of the spiritual/sacred books which have influenced you, which is your favorite?
(3) What is your favorite novel?
(4) What is your favorite biography?
JOHN W. ALEXANDER
(1) Charles Sheldon, In His Steps; H. B. Wright, The Will of God and a Man’s Life Work; H. J. Carnell, An Introduction to Christian Apologetics; William Manchester, American Caesar; Garth Lean, God’s Politician.
(2) H.J. Carnell, An Introduction to Christian Apologetics.
(3) Charles Dickens, David Copperfield.
(4) William Manchester, American Caesar
HUDSON T. ARMERDING
(1) The Bible; Calvin’s Institutes; J. I. Packer, Knowing God; J. O. Buswell, A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion; S. E. Morison, History of the U.S. Navy in World War Two.
(2) After the Bible, Calvin’s Institutes.
(3) Dostoyevski, Crime and Punishment and Ernest Gordon, Through the Valley of the Kwai.
(4) Pollock, Hudson Taylor.
JAMES M. BOICE
(1) John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (2 vols.); B. B. Warfield, Inspiration and Authority of the Bible; T. M. Lindsay, History of the Reformation (2 vols.); John Stott, Basic Christianity; Donald Grey Barnhouse, Romans (10 vols.- most recently issued in 4 vols.).
(2) Calvin’s Institutes.
(3) Ernest Hemingway, Over the River and into the Trees.
(4) Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield (2 vols).
(1) C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
(2) Calvin’s Institutes.
(3) J. Oliver Buswell, A Systematic Theology of Christian Religion.
(4) John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress.
(5) Sidney Greidanus, Sola Scriptura.
(1) Charles Colson, Loving God; Werner Jaegei Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture (3 vols.); Sir Robert Anderson, The Silence of God; David J. Hassel, City of Wisdom; Nathan Hatch, The Democritization of American Christianity.
(2) Charles Colson, Loving God.
(3) Mary Stewart’s novels: The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, The Last Enchantment (favorite).
(4) Charles Colson, Born Again.
(1 & 2) C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity; St. Augustine, Confessions; Armando Valladares, Against All Hope; Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago; Richard John Neuhaus, The Naked Public Square; Donald Bloesch, Crumbling Foundations; Harry Blamires, The Christian Mind; Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship; St. Augustine, The City of God; Jonathan Edwards, Treatise on Religious Affections; R. C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture; William Wilberforce, Real Christianity; Jacques Ellul, The Political Illusion and The Presence of the Kingdom; J. I. Packer, Knowing God; Paul Johnson, Modern Times; John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress.
(3) John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress.
(4) St. Augustine, Confessions
JAMES C. DOBSON
Rather than select several books which exceed all others in their impact on my life, I prefer to commend the authors whose collection of writings are most highly prized. This is easier because the best writers require several books to state their cases and leave their mark. First, I admire the memory of Dr. Francis Schaeffer and the anthology he left to us. Second, I have great appreciation for the writings of Chuck Colson. His best book, I believe, is Loving God. His life is a demonstration of its theme.
(1) Besides the Bible, which I would, of course, rank #1, E. M. Bounds, Power Through Prayer; George Muller, A Life of Trust; G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy; Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest; Robert E. Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism.
(2) Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest.
(3) C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce.
(4) Catherine Marshall, A Man Called Peter.
(1) Romano Guardini, The Lord; George MacDonald, Salted with Fire; Amy Carmichael, Toward Jerusalem; Janet Erskine Stuart, Life and Letters; Evelyn Underhill, The Mystery of Charity.
(2) Impossible to say.
(3) Sigrid Undeset, Kristin Lavransdatter.
(4) St. Augustine, Confessions.
LTG. HOWARD G. GRAVES
The Bible; Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest; Francis Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live?; J. I. Packer, Knowing God; James Stockdale, A Vietnam Experience, Ten Years of Reflection; Charles Swindoll, Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life.
(2) Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest.
(3) Herman Wouk’s series, Winds of War and Remembrance.
(4) The Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant.
HOWARD G. HENDRICKS
(1) C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.
(2) Adler Mortimer, How to Read a Book.
(3) Calvin’s Institutes.
(4) Lewis Sperry Chafer, He That Is Spiritual.
(5) A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God.
CARL F. H. HENRY
The Bible; James Orr, The Christian View of God and the World; John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion (this is all Dr. Henry provided).
DAVID M. HOWARD
(1) John Stott, The Baptism and Fulness of the Holy Spirit; Earle Cairns, Christianity Through the Centuries; Alexander Whyte, Bible Characters; Carolina Maria de Jesus, Child of the Dark; Dwight Eisenhower Crusade in Europe.
(2) Earle Cairns, Christianity Through the Centuries.
(3) Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina.
(4) Elisabeth Elliot, Shadow of the Almighty.
(1) Roger Kahn, The Boys of Summer.
(2) Charles Colson, How Now Shall We Live?
(3) Charles Colson, Born Again.
(4) Elisabeth Elliot, Shadow of the Almighty.
(5) Elisabeth Elliot, Through Gates of Splendor.
KENNETH S. KANTZER
(1) St. Augustine, The City of God; John Calvin, Institutes; Jonathan Edwards, The Distinguishing Marks of a Revival of the Spirit of God; James Orr, The Christian View of God and the World; Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina.
(2) St. Augustine, The City of God.
(3) Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina.
(4) Carl E H. Henry, The Confessions of a Theologian.
(1) Jacques Ellul, The Presence of the Kingdom; John Bright, The Kingdom of God; Alan Paton, Too Late the Phalarope; Carl Sandburg, Lincoln; C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity; Fyodor Dostoyevski, Crime and Punishment.
(2) Jacques Ellul, The Presence of the Kingdom.
(3) Alan Paton, Too Late the Phalarope.
(4) Carl Sandburg, Lincoln; see also Lee, Jefferson, Sadat, Wesley, Judson, Truman, Churchill.
DENNIS F. KINLAW
(1) Clarence Hall, Portrait of a Prophet: The Life of Samuel Logan Brengle; Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret; The Standard Sermons of John Wesley; Yehekel Kaufmann, The Religion of Israel; A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God.
(2) The Standard Sermons of John Wesley.
(3) Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.
(4) Clara H. Stuart, Latimer, Apostle to the English.
(1) John Calvin, Institutes; Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest; Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church; Matthew Henry, Commentary; Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression – Its Causes and Its Cure.
(2) Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest.
(4) Hudson Taylor, Spiritual Secrets.
(Most influential authors rather than most influential books)
(1) C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce; Mere Christianity; God in the Dock.
(2) A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God.
(3) J. I. Packer, Knowing God.
(4) St. Augustine, De Doctrina Christiana (On Christian Doctrine).
(5) Haddon Robinson, Biblical Preaching.
C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce; C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain; C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity; Charles Sheldon, In His Steps; Elisabeth Elliot, Through Gates of Splendor.
Elisabeth Elliot, Through Gates of Splendor.
Fyodor Dostoyevski, Brothers Karamazov.
Elisabeth Elliot, Through Gates of Splendor.
(1) Romans, John, Luke, 2 Timothy; C. S. Lewis, Miracles; Warfield, Inspiration and Authority of Scripture; Johnstone, Operation World; Pollock, Course of Time.
(2) Pollock, Course of Time.
(3) C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces; Tolkien, Lord of the Rings; many of Shakespeare’s plays.
(4) Robert McQuilkin, Always in Triumph.
(1) Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines; Bill Moyers, World of Ideas II; Virginia Stem Owens, If You Do Love Old Men; Larsen, Passions; Williams, Islam.
(2) Jean Pierre de Causade, The Sacrament of the Present Moment or Mother Teresa’s Life in the Spirit.
(3) War and Peace, Anna Karenina, anything by Dickens, Dostoyevski, Tolkien.
(4) Troyat’s Tolstoy or Massie’s Nicholas and Alexandra.
(1) C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity; C. S. Lewis, Perelandra; Paul Tourniet, The Meaning of Persons; Helmut Thielicke, The Waiting Father; Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ; Oswald Chambers books.
(2) C. S. Lewis, Perelandra.
(3) Fyodor Dostoyevski, Brothers Karamazov.
(4) William Manchester, The Last Lion.
STEPHEN F. OLFORD
(1) Alvin Toffler, Future Shock; Carl Henry, God, Revelation and Authority; Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ; A. J. Gordon, The Ministry of the Spirit; John Stott, The Cross of Christ.
(2) Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor, Hudson Taylor in the Early Years: The Growth of a Soul.
(3) Lloyd Douglas, The Robe and Lew Wallace, Ben Hur.
(4) Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor, Hudson Taylor in the Early Years: The Growth of a Soul.
J. I. PACKER
(1) John Calvin, Institutes; John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress; Goold, John Owen Works (Vols. 3, 6, 7); Richard Baxter, Reformed Pastor; Luther, Bondage of the Will.
(2) John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress.
(3) Fyodor Dostoyevski, The Brothers Karamazov.
(4) Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield (2 vols.).
(1) F. W. Krummacher, The Suffering Savior.
(2) Leonard Verduin, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren.
(3) Courtney Anderson, To the Golden Shore.
(4) Roland Bainton, Here I Stand.
(5) Francis Schaeffer, Escape from Reason.
EUGENE H. PETERSON
(1) Karl Barth, Epistle to the Romans; Fyodor Dostoyevski, The Idiot; Charles Williams, Descent of the Dove; Herman Melville, Moby Dick; George Herbert, Country Parson and the Temple.
(2) Karl Barth, Epistle to the Romans.
(3) Fyodor Dostoyevski, The Brothers Karamazov.
(4) Meriol Trevor, 2 volumes on Newman: The Pillar of the Cloud and Light in Winter.
C. WILLIAM POLLARD
(1) C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.
(2) C. S. Lewis, Surprised by joy.
(3) Francis Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live?
(4) Dorothy Sayers, The Mind of the Maker.
(5) Peter Drucker, Managing for Results and Managing for the Future.
W. H. Griffith Thomas, Christianity Is Christ; C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity; A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God; Dr. and Mrs. Hudson Taylor, Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret; D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression – Its Causes and Its Cure.
(1) Richard C. Halverson, Christian Maturity; H. Grady Davis, Design for Preaching; S. I. Hayakawa, Language in Thought and Action; Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative; C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.
(2) James Stuart, Heralds of God.
(3) Olov Hartman, Holy Masquerade.
(4) Stockford Brooks, Life and Letters of E W Robertson.
(1) Jonathan Edwards, Freedom of the Will; M. Luther, Bondage of the Will; J. Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion; James Collins, God and Modern Philosophy; William Simon, A Time for Truth; Ben Hogan, Power Golf.
(2) Martin Luther. Bondage of the Will because of its theological insight and its literary style.
(3) H. Melville, Moby Dick.
(4) W. Manchester, American Caesar.
CHARLES R. SWINDOLL
John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress; A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God; J. I. Packer, Knowing God; Elisabeth Elliot, Through Gates of Splendor; J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership; Charles H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students; Philip Yancey, Where Is God When It Hurts?
(1) The Bible; A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God; A. W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy; Elisabeth Elliot, Shadow of the Almighty; Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline.
(2) A.W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy.
(3) Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace.
(4) William Manchester, The Last Lion.
(1) A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God; Jill Morgan, Campbell Morgan, A Man and the Word; Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ; Henry David Thoreau, Walden; Phillips Brooks, Yale Lectures on Preaching.
(2) Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ.
(3) Herman Melville, Moby Dick.
(4) Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson.
OTHER THAN THE BIBLE, BOOKS MENTIONED MORE THAN ONCE
C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (10)
John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (8)
A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (6)
Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (5)
Fyodor Dostoyevski, Brothers Karamazov (5)
Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (5)
John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress (5)
Elisabeth Elliot, Shadow of the Almighty (4)
Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor, Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret (3)
Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (3)
C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (3)
J.I. Packer, Knowing God (3)
Charles Sheldon, In His Steps (2)
James Orr, The Christian View of God and the World (2)
William Manchester, American Caesar (2)
William Manchester, The Last Lion (2)
The Article/Listing of favorite books above was adapted from “Appendix C” in R. Kent Hughes. Disciplines of a Godly Man. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2001, p. 241.
A Summary of the Death of Death in the Death of Christ
The Father imposed His wrath due unto, and the Son underwent punishment for, either:
(1) All the sins of all men
(2) All the sins of some men
(3) Some of the sins of some men
In which case it may be said:
A) That if the last be true, all men have some sins to answer for, and son none are saved.
B) That if the second is true, then Christ, in their stead suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the whole world, and this is the truth.
C) But if the first be the case, why are not all men free from the punishment due unto their sins?
You answer, because of unbelief. I ask, Is this unbelief a sin, or is it not? If it be, then Christ suffered the punishment due unto it, or He did not. If He did, why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which He died? If He did not, He did not die for all their sins. – John Owen
If the death of Jesus is what the Bible says it is – a substitutionary sacrifice for sins, an actual and not a hypothetical redemption, whereby the sinner is really reconciled to God – then, obviously, it cannot be for every man in the world. For then everybody would be saved, and obviously they are not. One of two things is true: either the atonement is limited in its extent or it is limited in its nature or power. It cannot be unlimited in both. – Edwin Palmer
We are often told that we limit the atonement of Christ, because we say that Christ has not made satisfaction for all men, or all men would be saved. Now, our reply to this is, that, on the other hand, our opponents limit it: we do not. The Arminians say, Christ died for all men.
Ask them what they mean by it. Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of all men? They certainly, “No, certainly not.”
We ask them the next question: Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of any man in particular? They answer, “No.”
They are obliged to admit this, if they are consistent. They say, “No. Christ has died that any man may be saved if” — and then follow certain conditions of salvation.
Now who is it that limits the death of Christ? Why, you. You say that Christ did not die so as infallibly to secure the salvation of anybody.
We beg your pardon, when you say we limit Christ’s death; we say, “No, my dear sir, it is you that do it.”
We say Christ so died that He infallibly secured the salvation of a multitude that no man can number, who through Christ’s death not only may be saved and cannot by any possibility run the hazard of being anything but saved. You are welcome to your atonement; you may keep it. We will never renounce ours for the sake of it…
I would rather believe a limited atonement that is efficacious for all men for whom it was intended, than a universal atonement that is not efficacious for anybody, except the will of men be added to it.” – Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Calvary not merely made possible the salvation of those for whom Christ died; it ensured that they would be brought to faith and their salvation made actual. – J.I. Packer