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
The following excerpt is from “Men Bewitched,” a sermon preached at some indeterminate time in the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London.
hen I was about fifteen or sixteen years of age, I wanted a Savior, and I heard the gospel preached by a poor man, who said in the name of Jesus—”Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.” It was very plain English, and I understood it, and obeyed it and found rest.
I owe all my happiness since then to the same plain doctrine.
Now, suppose that I were to say, “I have read a great many books, and there are a great many people willing to hear me. I really could not preach such a commonplace gospel as I did at the first. I must put it in a sophisticated way, so that none but the elite can understand me.”
I should be—what should I be? I should be a fool, writ large.
I should be worse than that, I should be a traitor to my God; for if I was saved by a simple gospel, then I am bound to preach that same simple gospel till I die, so that others too may be saved by it.
When I cease to preach salvation by faith in Jesus put me into a lunatic asylum, for you may be sure that my mind is gone.
About Charles Haddon Spurgeon – one of the greatest Christian thinkers of all time and undoubtedly the most celebrated preacher of the 19th century, began his ministry as a country-boy with only a year of formal education. But even without much training, his brilliant mind and depth of spiritual insight quickly became legendary throughout the world. During his lifetime Spurgeon is estimated to have preached, in person, to over ten million people. He published over 3,500 sermons, totaling between 20 and 25 million words and more than 38,000 pages. Today, over a century after his death, his sermons and devotional texts continue to challenge and touch Christians and non-Christians alike. It is no wonder that this country-boy became known as the “Prince of Preachers.”
Born on June 19, 1834 in Kelvedon, England, Spurgeon wouldn’t become a Christian until the age of fifteen. It happened one Sunday morning when a snowstorm kept him from reaching the church he usually attended. He ducked down a side street and stumbled across a small building with a sign that read, “Artillery Street Primitive Methodist Chapel.” Regardless of his own misgivings, he entered the small church and while listening to a Methodist layman comment on Isaiah 45:22, he “Saw at once the way of salvation!” Spurgeon immediately committed his life to Christ and became a zealous servant of God.
Desiring to share his new faith, Spurgeon began preaching. He preached his first sermon in 1851, at the age of sixteen, to a group of farmers and wives gathered in the village of Teversham. His text was 1 Peter 2:7, “Unto you therefore which believe he is precious.” Audiences were held spellbound by the young Spurgeon’s speaking power, and he was offered his first pastorate at the Baptist Chapel in Waterbeach when he was only seventeen. The church, which had about ten members when he arrived, was soon bursting at its doors with over four hundred in the congregation. His inspiring style had caught the interest of many, and soon after his twentieth birthday, the country-preacher was called to be the new pastor of the prominent New Park Street Baptist Church in London. New Park Street was a church that had formerly been pastored by such spiritual giants as Benjamin Keach, John Gill, and John Rippon.
In a day when preaching was considered not only a source of spiritual nourishment, but also of entertainment and political commentary, Spurgeon’s powerful and stimulating sermons drew enormous crowds. On a single night in London, preaching at the Crystal Palace, he preached to a congregation of 23, 654 without the use of a microphone! His sermons were published weekly in the “Penny Pulpit,” from 1855 until 1917, twenty-four years after his death. He published many religious books, including Lectures to My Students and Treasury of David, a seven-volume devotional-commentary on the Psalms. He also founded and served as president of the Pastor’s College in London, established the Stockwell Orphanages for boys and girls, and oversaw dozens of evangelistic and charitable enterprises. Spurgeon preached his final sermon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in June of 1891.
Spurgeon married Susannah Thompson in January of 1856 and late in the following year they had twin sons, Thomas and Charles. Unlike Spurgeon’s mother who had seventeen children, nine of whom died in childbirth, Charles and Susannah had only the two boys.
Charles Spurgeon died at the relatively young age of 57, in January of 1892. His funeral service was held a week later, on February ninth, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. Over 60,000 people waited in line to file past his casket.
Blessed Are The Persecuted! (Sometimes we feel like human lightning rods as displayed below!)
Charles Haddon Spurgeon remains one of the most colorful and gifted preachers in the history of the church. Any man who loves to preach and desires to cultivate the art and skill of communication must study Spurgeon. Before the man was 30 years old, he was the most popular preacher in England. The new Metropolitan Tabernacle was filled to overflowing every Lord’s Day as people came miles by horse and buggy to hear the gifted man handle the Word of God. They were challenged, encouraged, exhorted, fed, and built up in the Christian faith. He was truly a phenomenon.
As a result, he also became the object of great criticism by the press, by other pastors, by influential people in London, and by petty parishioners. The man, not always a model of quiet piety (to say the least), had numerous enemies. Normally, he handled the criticism fairly well . . . but finally, it began to get to him. He began to slump beneath the attacks. The persecution started to take a severe toll on his otherwise resilient spirit.
I am told that his wife, seeing the results of those verbal blows on her husband, decided to assist him in getting back on his feet and regaining his powerful stature in the pulpit.
She found in her Bible Matthew 5:10-12 and she printed the words of this passage on a large sheet of paper. Then she tacked that sheet to the ceiling of their bedroom, directly above Charles’s side of the bed! Every morning, every evening, when he would rest his enormous frame in his bed, the words were there to meet and to encourage him.
“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
The large sheet of paper remained fixed to the ceiling for an extended period of time until it had done the job. May Mrs. Spurgeon’s tribe increase! It is refreshing to think how a marriage partner can be such a vital channel of encouragement.
And it is also encouraging to see that we have no corner on the problem of persecution. Did you observe what Christ said? “In the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Servants, that statement will help us call a halt to the next pity-party we are tempted to throw for ourselves. We are not alone. Persecution has been going on for centuries.
Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll. Improving Your Serve: The Art of Unselfish Living. Nashville, Thomas Nelson, 1981, 117-18.
About the Author: In the summer of 1977, the sermons that Chuck Swindoll preached at the First Evangelical Free Church in Fullerton, California, were broadcast on twenty-seven stations in the United States. Listeners responded immediately to the lively message of this down-to-earth pastor who could communicate God’s truth in terms they could understand and apply to their lives. In 1979, the radio ministry of Insight for Living was officially born, beginning on just a handful of stations. Today, more than two thousand stations carry the program around the world in seven different languages.
Two passions have directed the life and ministry of Chuck Swindoll: an unwavering commitment to the practical communication and application of God’s Word and an untiring devotion to seeing lives transformed by God’s grace. Chuck has devoted more than four decades to these goals, and he models the contagious joy that springs from enthusiastically following Jesus Christ
While on the island of Okinawa during his tour of duty in the United States Marine Corps, Chuck recognized that the Lord was calling him to devote his life to the gospel ministry. With Cynthia, his partner in life for more than fifty-one years, Chuck has devoted himself to the challenge of communicating practical, biblical truth and its application in the context of God’s grace.
After being honorably discharged from the Marine Corps, Chuck enrolled in Dallas Theological Seminary [DTS]. Chuck’s course of study at DTS and the lifelong mentors he met there have permanently marked his life and the course of his ministry.
Chuck graduated magna cum laude from Dallas Theological Seminary in 1963 with three major honors:
- Harry A. Ironside Award for Expository Preaching
- Christian Education Award for the greatest achievement in the field of his academic major
- Faculty Award for the most outstanding graduate in the opinion of the faculty
Chuck has also received four honorary doctorate degrees in recognition of his outstanding contributions to ministry:
- Doctor of Divinity, Talbot Theological Seminary, 1977
- Doctor of Humane Letters, Taylor University, 1986
- Doctor of Laws, Pepperdine University, 1990
- Doctor of Literature, Dallas Baptist University, 1997
For more than forty years, Chuck’s pulpit ministry has emphasized the grace of God alongside an uncompromising commitment to practical, biblical truth and its application. He has served the following congregations in his pastoral ministry:
- Grace Bible Church, Dallas, Texas, Assistant Pastor, 1963–1965
- Waltham Evangelical Free Church, Waltham, Massachusetts, 1965–1967
- Irving Bible Church, Irving, Texas, 1967–1971
- First Evangelical Free Church, Fullerton, California, 1971–1994
- Stonebriar Community Church, Frisco, Texas. In October of 1998, Chuck founded Stonebriar Community Church, where he continues to serve as senior pastor.
As a pastor, Chuck has received the following awards:
- Clergyman of the Year, Religious Heritage of America, 1988
- Named one of the top twelve preachers in the nation by the Effective Preachers Program of Baylor University and George W. Truett Theological Seminary, 1997
Ranked second to Rev. Billy Graham in a 2009 survey which asked 800 Protestant pastors to name the living Christian preachers who most influenced them (survey conducted by LifeWay Research).
Chuck’s congregation extends far beyond the local church body. Through the Insight for Living broadcast, Chuck’s teaching is on the air in every major Christian radio market in all fifty states and through more than 2,100 outlets worldwide in numerous foreign languages, and it is also available to an exploding Webcast and podcast audience. While Chuck serves as chairman of the board, his wife, Cynthia, serves as president and chief executive officer of Insight for Living. They have directed its expansion to become one of the leading radio programs in Christian broadcasting. Their leadership has made Chuck’s messages accessible to 100 percent of the world’s population. Headquartered in Plano, Texas, Insight for Living now has a staff of over 125 employees. We also maintain offices in Melbourne for our Australian listeners, in Brasilia for our Brazilian listeners, in Vancouver for our Canadian listeners, and in London for our listeners in the United Kingdom.
As teacher on Insight for Living, Chuck has received the following awards:
- Program of the Year, National Religious Broadcasters, 1994
- Religious Broadcaster of the Year, National Religious Broadcasters, 1999
- Hall of Fame Award, National Religious Broadcasters, 2000
Chuck’s prolific writing ministry has blessed the body of Christ for over thirty years. Beginning with You and Your Child in 1977, Chuck has contributed more than seventy titles to a worldwide reading audience. His most popular books in the Christian Bookseller’s Association include: Strengthening Your Grip, Improving Your Serve, Dropping Your Guard, Living on the Ragged Edge, Living Above the Level of Mediocrity, The Grace Awakening, Simple Faith, Laugh Again, The Finishing Touch, Intimacy with the Almighty, Suddenly One Morning, The Mystery of God’s Will, Wisdom for the Way, The Darkness and the Dawn, A Life Well Lived, and the Great Lives from God’s Word series, which includes Joseph, David, Esther, Moses, Elijah, Paul, Job, Jesus: The Greatest Life of All, and his most recent addition, The Church Awakening: An Urgent Call for Renewal.
As a writer, Chuck has received the following awards:
- Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement Award, Evangelical Press Association, 1997
Twelve Gold Medallion Awards, more than any other Christian author to date
After serving as Dallas Theological Seminary’s fourth president for seven years (1994–2001), Chuck became the seminary’s chancellor in 2001. As the sixth-largest seminary in the world, DTS’s primary goal is to equip godly servant-leaders for the proclamation of God’s Word and the building up of the body of Christ worldwide, a mission Chuck wholeheartedly supports in his life and teaching. He continues to uphold the school’s motto, “Preach the Word,” as he serves in leadership at Dallas Theological Seminary, at Insight for Living, and at Stonebriar Community Church.
At the conclusion of T4G, a dear brother approached me to give me a copy of Spurgeon’s classic, The Soul Winner: Advice on Effective Evangelism. Perhaps he felt sorry for me because I didn’t have any Spurgeon quotes for my sermon. But I suspect, having gotten to know him and his wife a little, it was one of those loving gestures that so often occur in the brief exchanges God blesses us with at our churches and at conferences. Praise the Lord.
I’ve been reading the book slowly, enjoying Spurgeon’s unique gift and praying the Lord would make me a better evangelist. In God’s grace, I’m feeling fresh stirring and I’m praying the Lord would not stop until He gives me real fire.
From time to time, I’m hoping to reflect a little on The Soul Winner and I hope you’ll join me. We begin today with chapter 1, “What Is It to Win a Soul?”
That’s a foundational question, isn’t it? We have to be clear about the “it” before we can do “it.” And it’s important that we maintain a sense of the priority of evangelism. Spurgeon writes, “Soul-winning is the chief business of the Christian minister; indeed, it should be the main pursuit of every true believer” (p. 5). Amen. But what is soul winning?
What Soul-Winning Is Not
Spurgeon identifies three things soul-winning is not:
(1) “We do not regard it to be soul-sinning to steal members out of churches already established, and train them to utter our peculiar Shibboleth: we aim rather at bringing souls to Christ than at making converts to our synagogue.”
He continues, “We count it utter meanness to build up our own house with the ruins of our neighbors’ mansions” (p. 5). How often do we hear boasts of swelling numbers added to the ranks of the converted (or more often baptism and church membership) at the expense of neighboring fellowships? I agree with Mr. Spurgeon; that’s not soul-winning as much as its plain ol’ competition. I love Spurgeon’s charge:
There is such a thing as selfishness in our eagerness for the aggrandizement of our own party; and from this evil spirit may grace deliver us! The increase of the kingdom is more to be desired than the growth of a clan. We would do a great deal to make a Paedo-baptist brother into a Baptist, for we value our Lord’s ordinances; we should labor earnestly to raise a believer in salvation by free-will into a believer in salvation by grace, for we long to see all religious teaching built upon the solid rock of truth, and not upon the sand of imagination; but, at the same time, our grand object is not the revision of opinions, but the regeneration of our natures. We would bring men to Christ and not to our own peculiar views of Christianity. Our first care must be that the sheep should be gathered to the great Shepherd; there will be time enough afterwards to secure them for our various folds. To make proselytes is a suitable labor for Pharisees: to beget men unto God is the honorable aim of ministers of Christ. (p. 6)
(2) “We do not consider soul-winning to be accomplished by hurriedly inscribing more names upon our church-roll, in order to show a good increase at the end of the year” (p. 6). Here! Here!
(3) “Nor is it soul-winning, dear friends, merely to create excitement” (p. 9).
What Soul-Winning Is
Having dispelled the imitation acts, Spurgeon then turns to positively defining “soul-winning” as he sees it. He brings his students’ attention to three positive aspects of evangelism:
(1) ”I take it that one of its main operations consists in instructing a man that he may know the truth of God“ (p. 10).
To try to win a soul for Christ by keeping that soul in ignorance of any truth, is contrary to the mind of the Spirit; and to endeavor to save men by mere claptrap, or excitement, or oratorical display, is as foolish as to hope to hold an angel with a bird-lime, or lure a star with music. The best attraction is the gospel in its purity. The weapon with which the Lord conquers men is the truth as it is in Jesus. The gospel will be found equal to every emergency; an arrow, which can pierce the hardest heart, a balm which can heal the deadliest wound. Preach it, and preach nothing else. Rely implicitly upon the old, old gospel. You need no other nets when you fish for men; those your Master has given you are strong enough for the great fishes, and have meshes fine enough to hold the little ones. Spread these nets and no others, and you need not fear the fulfillment of His Word, “I will make you fishers of men.” (p. 13)
(2) “Secondly, to win a soul, it is necessary, not only to instruct our hearer, and make him know the truth, but to impress him so that he may feel it“ (p. 13).
A sinner has a heart as well as a head; a sinner has emotions as well as thoughts; and we must appeal to both. A sinner will never be converted until his emotions are stirred. Unless he feels sorrow for sin, and unless he has some measure of joy in the reception of the Word, you cannot have much hope of him. The Word must be like a strong wind sweeping through the whole heart, and swaying the whole man, even as a field of ripening corn waves in the summer breeze. Religion without emotion is religion without life. (p. 14)
You and I must continue to drive at men’s hearts till they are broken; and then we must keep on preaching Christ crucified till their hearts are bound up; and when this is accomplished, we must continue to proclaim the gospel till their whole nature is brought into subjection to the gospel of Christ. Even in these preliminaries you will be made to feel the need of the Holy Ghost to work with you, and by you; but this need will be still more evident when we advance a step further, and speak of the new birth itself in which the Holy Spirit works in a style and manner most divine. (p. 16)
(3) “Of all whom we would fain win for Jesus it is true, ‘Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ The Holy Spirit must work regeneration in the objects of our love, or they never can become possessors of eternal happiness” (p. 16).
According to Spurgeon, regeneration will be shown in:
(1) conviction of sin,
(2) the exhibition of a simple faith in Jesus Christ,
(3) unfeigned repentance of sin,
(4) a real change of life,
(5) true prayer, and
(6) a willingness to obey the Lord in all His commandments.
It’s funny, but many today would regard anything more than “a simple faith in Jesus Christ” as a telltale sign of legalism. But Mr. Spurgeon was no legalist. It’s more likely that our own day has so low a view of conversion–equating it only with “a public profession of faith”–that we’ve grown squeamish and downright afraid of insisting that regeneration must entail newness of life, a radical change, a friendly disposition toward God rather than a stubborn refusal (enmity). If we have any hesitancy at affirming the bulk of this list, might we be unaware of our slippery grip on the magnificence of the new birth? Might we be in danger of rushing to affirm “professions” while overlooking the fruit of conversion?
It hardly seems necessary to say that the problems Spurgeon identified are with us today, and were with the church during the apostolic era. The evidence of false converts–biblical, historical, and contemporary–is plentiful. And one could become discouraged, judgmental, contentious, or indifferent. But when the Lord of the harvest commands we pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers, we’re meant to understand that the Lord of the harvest plans on reaping and there’s no need for fainting! We should be encouraged because the problem of false converts simply means the unsaved have been brought near! We should be encouraged that the cotton has grown so high that by God’s grace we may pick without stooping! Brother, be encouraged to win souls!
So much more could be said, but Mr. Spurgeon should have the final word of exhortation:
You may say to yourself, at the close of a service, “Here is a splendid haul of fish!” Wait a bit. Remember our Savior’s words, “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind; which, when it was fully, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away.” Do not number your fishes before they are broiled; not count your converts before you have tested and tried them. This process may make your work somehow slow; but then, brethren, it will be sure.
Do your work steadily and well, so that those who come after you may not have to say that it was far more trouble to them to clear the church of those who ought never to have been admitted than it was to you to admit them. If God enables you to build three thousand bricks into His spiritual temple in one day, you may do it; but Peter has been the only bricklayer who has accomplished that feat up to the present.
“Do not go and paint the wooden wall as if it were solid stone; but let all you building be real, substantial, and true, for only this kind of work is worth the doing. Let all your building for God be like that of the apostle Paul According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:10-15; pp. 27-28).
Preach, Mr. Spurgeon! Preach!
About the Author: Thabiti Anyabwile is the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman in the Grand Cayman Islands and a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. In his own words, “I love the Lord because He first loved me. I love His people because He has given me a new heart. I have received God’s favor in the form of my wife, Kristie. And together we know His blessing through three children. I was once a Muslim, and by God’s grace I have been saved through faith in Jesus Christ. By God’s unfathomable grace I am a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in which I hope to serve Him until He returns or calls me home!”
He earned his B. A. and M. S. degrees in psychology from North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC. Before moving to minister in the Caribbean, he served with Dr. Mark Dever at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. He is married to Kristie and they have three children: Afiya, Eden, and Titus. As a native of Lexington, North Carolina, he has an affinity for Western-NC-BBQ. Thabiti writes regularly at Pure Church as part of The Gospel Coalition blog crew. He has also authored several books, The Gospel for Muslims: An Encouragement to Share Christ with Confidence (Thabiti converted to Christianity from Islam); Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons; Ephesians: God’s Big Plan for Christ’s New People; May We Meet in the Heavenly World: The Piety of Lemuel Haynes; What Is A Healthy Church Member?; The Decline of African American Theology: From Biblical Faith to Cultural Captivity; The Faithful Preacher: Recapturing the Vision of Three Pioneering African American Pastors. He has also contributing chapters to the following books: For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper; Holy, Holy, Holy: Proclaiming the Perfections of God; Proclaiming a Cross-Centered Theology; Glory Road: The Journeys of 10 African-Americans into Reformed Christianity; and John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine & Doxology.
The article above is adapted from http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabitianyabwile/2012/05/03/winning-souls-with-charles-spurgeon