An unswerving couple


file_idezww3ajlx57sjurdit7wvfdebvaxalTAKING ON THE WORLD:
The story of Francis and Edith Schaeffer
By Rachel Lane
Christian Focus. 173 pages. £5.99
ISBN 978 1 527 103 009
Buy online from Amazon

This easy-to-read book aimed at 8–14 year-olds gives us an overview of the lives of Francis and Edith Schaeffer, a couple who were pas-sionate about dedicating their lives to God and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.

While this book is aimed at young people, I found that I had a lot to learn about the Schaeffers, not least because I was relatively unfamiliar with their story, but also because of their unswerving commitment to Christ. If you are thinking of giving this book to a young person or reading it with them, or perhaps reading it yourself, here are a few reasons why I think that would be an excellent idea.

Firstly, the story is easy to read. The language in the book is straightforward and uncomplicated, which I think would encourage young readers to pick up the book regularly. For those who are more used to longer spells of reading, this could be easily read in three to four sittings. Sometimes those young in age can be put off reading Christian books by jargon or lack of narrative, but this book provides an easy-to-follow storyline and relatively easy language. There is even a timeline to follow in the back as well as some discussion questions to use with friends or parents.

Secondly, it is clear from the book that Francis and Edith are very ‘normal’ and ‘real’ people. Sometimes reading biographies of Christians of a different generation brings about feelings of ‘I’d never be able to do that’ or ‘that would never happen to me’. However, this book is good at portraying two people who are seeing God work in their lives under very ‘normal’ surroundings, at least to begin with. The part of the story about their courtship is very sweet and charming, and, despite describing the 1930s, doesn’t feel too old-fashioned or disconnected to the present day. Small interjections of detail amongst a general thread of story are really endearing, such as the possibility of Francis ending their relationship at the beginning of courtship, and Edith coping with the difficulties of morning sickness.

Thirdly, the story is very powerful. Francis’ conversion story is particularly striking. At the age of 18 he ‘accidentally’ takes home the wrong library book on Greek philosophy only to find that it sparked a strong urge to read the whole Bible, cover to cover, unbeknown to his parents or any of his friends. Francis telling his non-Christian parents that he had become a Christian and wasn’t going to follow the path they wanted for him towards a career in engineering is also compelling. As is how the family cope when Francis is away from home for months at a time, preaching across Europe. These all add to a compelling tale of the Lord leading this family where he wanted them to go.

Lastly, this story is excellent for teaching us about the need for a reliance upon the Lord in prayer. A verse which sums up the Schaeffer’s attitude to all circumstances is Philippians 4: 6: ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.’ The couple were unswerving in their dedication to God, despite the fact that at times they were unsure of the way forward.

They are fantastic examples of putting Jesus first in often difficult situations, something that we and the Christian youth of today must dwell on and learn from.

Ally Sullivan, teacher and mum of three, living in Oxford.

On ‘Evangelical Correctness’, Joshua Harris and loving Jesus


Tug of War

Have you heard about ‘evangelical correctness’? It’s a bit like political correctness – except this is the doctrinally-sound version, of course.

Whereas ‘political correctness’ has been defined as ‘avoiding language or behaviour that any particular group of people might feel is unkind or offensive’ we might define ‘evangelical correctness’ as ‘avoiding language or behaviour that an evangelical group might feel offends the party line’.

Examples are not hard to find. In some Reformed circles in previous generations, certain forms of dancing and music were deemed beyond the pale. Some would have viewed the cinema as being a wholly degenerate art form. We could cite similar instances in relation to use of Sundays, make-up, women’s attire, and so on.

Now we could debate the merits or otherwise of the biblical basis for some of those views. But that’s not the point. The point is that any issue, once established, can easily take on a totemic identity which, whether right or wrong, relevant or irrelevant, cannot be broached. In other words, it’s a form of groupthink.

Many years ago, I once made the error (apparently) of speaking about charismatic Christians in less than suitably condemnatory terms, as one might put it, with a senior Australian bishop at a conference. It quickly was made clear to me in the response that I had transgressed his party’s Evangelical Correctness. Yikes! In fact, he and I were probably using the words with different meanings and contexts, but there was no possibility, it seemed, of exploring that.

These things came to mind when pondering the sad case of Joshua Harris, the ‘young, restless and reformed’ leader in the US who at the time of writing has recently separated from his wife and announced that he is no longer a Christian. It’s heart-breaking – but he is not the first, of course, in that particular strand of Christianity or indeed elsewhere. The path from younger evangelicalism to older liberalism is a well-worn one both in the US and the UK.

I wonder if part of the issue is that too often ‘evangelical correctness’ trumps genuine evangelicalism. To adapt some words of John Stott, the person ‘confined or caged’ by the ‘strict traditions and conventions’ of evangelical correctness is ‘not at liberty to question these, or to explore alternative, equally faithful ways of applying Scripture to the modern age, for they cannot escape their cage’. I wonder how much freedom Harris felt he had to explore his genuine questions or whether they secretly built up until the dam burst.

Chris Wright, the Anglican clergyman and former principal of All Nations College, recounts a conversation with Stott in which he (Wright) lamented two groups which, on one particular issue, seemed bound by their own particular form of what I have called evangelical correctness. ‘I find I can’t agree fully with either side or simply toe a party line,’ Wright told Stott.

He then describes how Stott advised him, ‘Preserve your independence’ – ‘by which I think he meant that I should continue to think for myself, come to my own convictions from the Bible, and not just take sides in the typical tribal allegiances of evangelicalism … For if some would lament that the church is not evangelical enough, my complaint would be that evangelicals are often not biblical enough’.

And of course defending party lines can easily become more important than the most important thing – loving Jesus. Ideological vehemence can easily replace personal devotion to Christ, it would seem. We must always return to Jesus.

David Baker is Rector of East Dean Church

Maria Millis: The definition of an unsung saint


Anthony_Ashley-Cooper,_7th_Earl_of_Shaftesbury_by_John_Collier

Lord Shaftesbury. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

In a new series, Brian Maiden gives a short biography of some believers you may not have heard of…

Have you ever heard of Maria Millis? Probably not. But before I tell you about her, let me tell you about Lord Shaftesbury.

Anthony Ashley Cooper was born in 1801. His father was the Earl of Shaftesbury. His mother was the fourth daughter of Lady Ann Spencer, wife of the Duke of Marlborough. His aristocratic parents were often away from home and he was bullied by most of the servants. It was worse when his parents were at home because he was also bullied by them, both verbally and physically. His parents had no time for the Christian faith. He was sent away to school where he was bullied by both staff and fellow pupils. Later he was sent to Harrow school. When his father took him to the school, he told the tutor that he regularly knocked him down and that he should do the same. Throughout his life he struggled with depression, and this is usually put down to his unhappy childhood.

It was this man who in later life, as a leading Evangelical Christian layman, devoted himself to ‘the cause of the weak and those who had none to help them’. He would eventually be known as ‘the poor man’s earl’. Both as a Member of Parliament and later as a leading peer he tirelessly worked to help the factory workers, the children who worked naked in the coal mines (some of them aged six), or who were forced up chimneys as sweeps. He fought to develop universal education and served as founder and president of the Ragged School Union. It was Shaftesbury who, in spite of huge opposition, fought through the ‘Ten Hour Bill’ which limited the working hours of mill and factory workers. The first great cause which he took up was the cause of the mentally ill. ‘Lunatics’ were confined to dreadful institutions, notably Bedlam in London. To go and mock their antics was regarded as an amusing way to spend a Sunday afternoon. The young Ashley Cooper made his maiden speech on this issue and would speak passionately in support of improving lunatic asylums by law. For no less than 57 years, he was chairman of the Board of Commissioners whose job it was to inspect these institutions.

As an Evangelical Christian, Lord Shaftesbury knew that meeting the earthly needs of men and women was not enough, and that the greatest need of the poor and the rich was salvation through Christ. He therefore supported numerous evangelistic and missionary causes, serving on their councils and committees. This was the age of the great pioneer missionary movements, as well as societies like the London City Mission, the British and Foreign Bible Society, the Church Pastoral Aid Society. He was a founder and president of the CPAS, which existed to supply good clergy to Anglican parishes. He was a commissioner of the East India Company, and stressed the importance of taking the gospel to India. He campaigned successfully against the practice of burning widows on their husbands’ funeral pyres. His concern also extended to animals – he was vice-president of the RSPCA.

The list of causes, social and spiritual, to which Shaftesbury devoted his life and influence seems almost endless. He was the founder of the Shaftesbury Society, president of the BFBS, the Church’s Mission to the Jews, the London City Mission, the Mission to Seamen, the Open Air Mission, and the Young Men’s Christian Association. He was the vice-president or patron of many other societies.

He died in 1885. 196 missions, schools, societies, hospitals and funds, all of which had been his personal concern, sent representatives to a packed memorial service at Westminster Abbey. Thousands from the slums of London lined the streets as his hearse passed by.

So who was Maria Millis? She was an unmarried family servant when Shaftesbury was a boy. As I’ve already mentioned, his parents were notoriously neglectful and bullying and they taught him nothing about the gospel. Ashley was entrusted to the care of Maria Millis. Maria was an Evangelical Christian and she told him Bible stories and taught him to pray. Ashley described her throughout his life as the best friend he ever had. She died when he was away at school and he never found out where she had been buried.

Lord Shaftesbury never forgot what he had heard as a small boy from Maria Millis. Without her, he would probably have grown up an idle, unbelieving aristocrat like his parents. Maria died when Shaftesbury was just ten years of age. She would never know, in this life, of the results of her faithful witness. You don’t have to do anything spectacular for Jesus. Just do what you can where you can. One day you may be surprised by the results.

Brian Maiden is the retired pastor of Parr St Church, Kendal where he still serves as an elder.

Love and hope through the generations


9780857466617-l_270xGiven the seismic cultural, moral, sexual and social upheaval in Britain today, the author’s call to the older generation of Christians to model courage, wisdom, faith and prayer is both timely and vital – not least in passing on the ‘faith once delivered’ to children generally – and one’s grandchildren especially.

FAITHFUL GRANDPARENTS
By 
Anita Cleverly
Bible Reading Fellowship. 176 pages. £9.99
ISBN 978 0 857 466 617

Anita Cleverly has a lifetime of experience as a Christian mother and grandmother and in family ministry, which she ransacks to great effect. She writes with a light touch, interweaving gospel truths and scriptural wisdom with a sharp understanding of the complex challenges facing Christian parents today. All in all it makes for both an enjoyable and stimulating read.

In the opening insightful chapter on ‘21st-century Grandparents’, she quotes The Daily Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson, who has discovered that ‘two thirds of the nation’s grandparents – that’s 5million people – now provide regular childcare for their grandchildren’. The contact time with grandchildren in Britain today is at a very different level than was generally the case with previous generations. After the parent-child relationship, grandparents usually provide the second most important emotional influence in a child’s life. The opportunity and need is immense.

In the 11 chapters which follow, the whole landscape of grandparenting is explored and practical biblical wisdom and advice brought to bear on a whole raft of issues – the art of listening, storytelling the family history, seeking to reach the heart of the child with the gospel, the vital place and role of the church and church family,

Two chapters, one ‘A Grandparent’s Creed’ and the other ‘A Grandparent’s Prayers’, are outstanding and worth buying the book for. Taking the Apostles’ Creed and reflecting and meditating on each phrase in the context of the challenges facing children today in our oft-pernicious culture, is so helpful. Praying for and with grandchildren takes the focus to that which any Christian parent or grandparent wants for their offspring – that they grow to love and serve Christ all their days.

Addressing some of the cultural, social and sexual changes in a chapter entitled ‘Shifting Tectonic Plates’ brings a rootedness and contemporary awareness that is much needed in Christian thinking today. Pointing out that it is not all ‘gloom and doom’, that many of the changes in society have been for the good, is a welcome corrective that recognises ‘common grace’ has not yet left town! At the same time the author goes on to provide a thoughtful critique of the blatantly anti-God agenda that is so prevalent.

The light Charismatic influences and context from which the author writes mean that on occasion there are one or two things those in other traditions might not always go along with, or perhaps express in different ways. However, to major on these would be to lose the great benefit and blessing this delightful book provides

Reaching the Sikh with the gospel


gurudwara-621065_1920

Photograph: Jeevan – Pixabay

Although Sikhism is a major world reli-gion and the fourth largest UK religion, it is surprising that even in well-stocked Christian bookstores there is very little material in the way of reaching out to the Sikh community. Typically in the apologetic section there are many books regard-ing Islam, some on Hinduism and a few on Judaism and Buddhism, though little if anything on Sikhism.

In 1992 Josh McDowell and Don Stewart wrote ‘Sikhism is a religion all but unknown to Western civilization’1. Strangely, we are left with the same conclusion today.

Hindu / Muslim beginnings

Due to the geographical setting, religious upbringing and experiences of its founder Guru Nanak, one might initially assume that Sikhism is basically a combination of equal elements of Hinduism and Islam. It certainly does (to some degree) try to unify the two worldviews. After all, Guru Nanak (1469-1539) was raised a Hindu and was employed as an administrator working for a Muslim nobleman.

However, at around 30 years of age, Guru Nanak entered the river to bathe and subsequently arose to pronounce: ‘There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim.’ He then undertook a series of travels before establishing the first Sikh community in the Punjab region. The derivation of the word ‘Sikh’ originates from the Pali word ‘sikka’, meaning disciple. He chose one of his disciples to be the next Guru.

Accordingly, Sikhism is neither Hindu nor Islamic. Sikhism is monotheistic and Guru Nanak considered himself a mere teacher. In fact, Sikhs believe that everyone has direct access to God without a mediator. Nanak believed in reincarnation, but rejected the caste system. He also retained the doctrine of karma (though he refuted idolatry.) Nanak repudiated the scriptures, pilgrimage and asceticism of Hinduism.

In agreement with Islam, Nanak advocated: the sovereignty of a single absolute ruler, salvation through submission to God and careful reverence of the sacred scripture. Yet, in contrast to Islam, there is no judgment day.

Getting alongside Sikhs

The history of Sikhism in relation to other religions is complex and empathy is required. Firstly, there is the issue of Hinduism and Islamic doctrines and it is critical to recognise that Sikhs may be wary of being both colonialised and missionised. Fear of being stripped of their cultural identity is critical. Indeed there will inevitably be a great cost for a Sikh to trust in the Lord. It may well result in a polarisation from their family and community.

Accordingly, when having a Sikh round to visit, it is important to be hospitable and to listen attentively. Asking questions is important, as it demonstrates genuine interest rather than presumed opinions. When explaining the gospel, it is necessary to avoid using Christian jargon. For example grace is an important concept within Sikhism, although it is not the same idea as the biblical concept of unmerited favour. This is because their understanding of redemption is linked to karmic debt.2

Starting to share from Scripture

Having your Bible ready when you visit Sikhs is recommended, since they too treat their scriptures with great respect. So avoid carrying your Bible under your arm, or putting it in your pocket. Being careful not to use a Bible you have marked for personal study is also important.

Sikhism takes a keen interest in ascertaining truth and this would be a worthwhile line of enquiry to investigate. So you could explain that Jesus claimed that He is ‘the way the truth and the life’ (John 14:6).

Some Sikhs are keenly interested in evidence, so you could unpack the many infallible proofs that the Lord presented from Acts 1:3, or how Paul proved that Jesus was the Messiah from Acts 9:22, or the assurance God has given by raising Him from the dead (Acts 17:31).

Giving the good news to Sikhs

The aim of Sikhism is ultimately to break the cycle of rebirths and to achieve union with God by being devoted to him. As Christians we know that only Jesus can provide assurance of where we will go in the next life. For we have sinned. We can never attain Nirvana – our transgressions are not the same as karmic debt. Christ is the only one who can forgive our sins. He is the only one who has beaten death. He is the only one who has been raised to new life. Furthermore, the reigning Lord Jesus Christ can be known personally! He is the truth and promised that you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32).

Jon Taylor is an Evangelist/Liaison Officer for Messianic Testimony, an Associate for the Open Air Mission and a Researcher for the Reachout Trust.

Is waiting a waste of time?


waiting_aug19

‘Time is money’, or so we are told.

In the West we have turned time into a commodity. We talk of ‘spending time’, ‘making up for lost time’ and ‘wasting time’ – all conveying the sense that it is a currency we trade in. In such a context one of the big draws of mobile devices is that they are ‘time-saving’, there to make our lives more efficient (where efficiency is productivity/time). So any moment that you are waiting, and therefore not maximising your productivity, your hand reaches for your phone to check your messages, emails, Facebook or Instagram account. And what’s the problem with this, after all, isn’t God in favour of productivity? Aren’t we told in Ephesians 5:16 to ‘make the best use of time’? While there are of course many verses in Scripture to warn against laziness, one of the casualties of our pursuit of saving time is the art of waiting well. Notwithstanding the fact that much of our frantic activity is actually not very productive (for example there are numerous studies that show multitasking is actually not as efficient as working on one task at a time), waiting time is not a waste of time.

Here are four ways in which waiting, just waiting, without nervously checking messages, emails or social media on your phone, can be a blessing.

1. Waiting cultivates patience

Patience is one of the nine virtues of the fruit of the Spirit and a rare virtue today when we expect everything instantly. 1 Corinthians 13 famously reminds us that ‘love is patient’, Ephesians 4 calls us to be ‘patient, bearing with one another in love’, Romans 12 exhorts us to be ‘patient in affliction’. But how can we be patient, waiting on God and His timing, if we can’t wait. Why not try next time you are waiting for someone or something just to wait? Don’t think because you are not doing something that there is no benefit to you: you will be ingraining the virtue of patience.

2. Waiting gives space to meditate on Scripture

We are told that the blessed person is one who meditates on God’s word (Psalm 1:2) but if our phones are always filling every bit of space in the day then when will we do this? Why not use the next time you are waiting to bring to mind Scripture, perhaps from your daily reading or from the sermon on Sunday, and use the time to mull it over and reflect on its implications for your life?

3. Waiting enables us to be mindful of God’s presence

David wrote in Psalm 16:8 ‘I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken’. God is always with us by His Spirit, but one of the challenges we have is to be conscious of that and letting it shape our lives. Life can be busy and in the busyness it is easy to forget this foundational reality in our Christian walk. Waiting can be a great opportunity to press reset and remind ourselves that God is with us by His Spirit, to be attentive to Him and what He is doing in our lives.

4. Waiting provides space for others

Sociologists note that we live in a monochronic culture where time is seen as one continuum and great emphasis is placed on meetings starting and finishing ‘on time’.

While there is much that is good about this, polychronic societies (like African and Latin-American cultures) emphasise relationships over time. One of the ways we can soften the hard edges of our focus on being ‘on time’ is to make use of the gaps. Think of waiting at a bus stop or in a queue. Today most people will be on their phones and as with all decisions there is a cost, supremely the cost to the relationships you are not forming with those you are waiting with. Why not wait without looking down at your phone and engage in a conversation? Perhaps the Lord will use it to deepen a friendship, start a new relationship or to give you a context to share Christ with someone.

Getting over feeling awkward

As with anything that is new and unfamiliar, waiting will probably feel odd at first. Don’t let that put you off, you are just getting used to a new norm. You may feel awkward and find insecurities exposed, and it may highlight to you that you are actually a bit (or a lot) addicted to your device. That would be a good thing. Either way stick with just waiting and give yourself time to habituate a new virtue, remembering that in Scripture waiting is not just what we do until God gives us what we want, but waiting is often the process by which God makes us into what He wants.

Pete Nicholas is co-author of Virtually Human: Flourishing in a Digital age. For more resources visit www.virtuallyhuman.co.uk

The master weapon of discouragement


Mike Mellor discusses how to fight the blues in an era of social media ‘success’

Discouragement_Aug19

The overemphasis upon externals in our age affects us much more than we would care to admit.

The emphasis on image is enormous. The pressure – especially for preachers – to look and sound like the real deal is massive. We have the luminaries of the church coming to us via the Internet and through social media, and we rejoice in so much that is good – but we take a look at our paltry efforts, and slump. The means of encouragement can often be a double-edged sword. We are just not media material. How could we possibly have any impact when possessing ‘the perfect face for radio’, alongside fears that we struggle to impress even our own Sunday School kids?

Extraordinary

Yet, when we turn to scripture, church history and Christian biography, we are presented with an array of characters who make us feel almost normal.

If we look at the mighty leaders of the 18th century, we see the squint-eyed George Whitefield, and the dapper, diminutive John Wesley, of whom it was said: ‘He could fall out with his own shadow’. In the next century we see one of the greatest Welsh church-planters, Christmas Evans, who had a glass eye! It is reported that halfway through his sermon the socket would fill up with fluid, so he would remove his eye, wipe it with a handkerchief and pop it in again!

The ugly apostle

Then, of course, the great apostle Paul, according to tradition, was no oil painting. One ancient writer described him this way: ‘He was a man small of stature, with a bald head and crooked legs, in a good state of body, with eyebrows meeting, and nose somewhat crooked.’1

There were undoubtedly times when Paul would have heard the taunts of our cruel enemy whispering: ‘Just look at you. Who on earth would listen to you?’ He knew what it was to have ‘conflicts on the outside, fears within’ (2 Corinthians 7:5). In his letters to the church in Corinth we see him having to deal with the divisions that were driven by pride. Revealing the secret of his bold humility, he tells them: ‘I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes’ (1 Corinthians 4:3–5).

There was nothing of that brash ‘I couldn’t care what people think’ attitude about the apostle. He knew what it was to feel the pain of being misunderstood, accused and unappreciated, and we mustn’t think that somehow he was above having to do battle with discouragement. Far from it: there were plenty of reasons for him to want to quit. It must have been rather depressing, for example, for him to look at the church he had planted and see such dreadful behaviour – drunkenness at church meals, members suing other members, sexual immorality, some denying the resurrection – and on top of that to detect their boasting about how spiritually gifted they (the church in Corinth) were. But this man of God refused to allow himself to be overwhelmed by such displays of ice-throwing.

Victory in praise

There may well be occasions when a ‘spirit of heaviness’ comes upon us – perhaps due to pressing circumstances, or a ‘cloud’ may simply descend and remain for no apparent reason. At such times we need to look to Him who came ‘to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair [‘heaviness’, KJV]’ (Isaiah 61:2–3).

Whilst seeking to avoid a ‘silver bullet’ mentality in coping with such experiences, we have to admit that there often is inexplicable power and release to be found in God-focused praise.

Praise decentralises self

Praise lifts us away from ourselves and our circumstances and concentrates our thoughts upon Him. Praise honours God, therefore God honours praise. Note how often in the Psalms the writer moves from lamenting to praising. In Psalm 31, for example, David seems to find sweet release from the burdens that weigh upon him and the snares that encompass him. We were created for worship, not worry; therefore, our souls thrive in gladness, not gloom.

Let us beware of being a slave to our feelings. ‘But I don’t feel like it!’, we so often object. However, our feelings have nothing to do with it. We must praise God! Praise is a sacred duty and privilege – a ‘sacrifice’ we are to offer ‘continually’ (Hebrews 13:15). God always expects His redeemed people to bring Him praise and thanksgiving. ‘I tell you’, said Jesus, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out’ (Luke 19:40).

Praise is a mighty weapon

In 2 Chronicles 20 we see the armies of Moab and Ammon making war against Israel. King Jehoshaphat calls on the people to seek God, and word is sent back: ‘The battle is not yours, but God’s … stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you’ (vv.15,17). As the people ‘began to sing and praise’ God, He dealt with the enemies that threatened to oppress them (v.22). Praise was an essential ingredient in their victory, and victories are still won and dark powers can still be put to flight when God is praised. He is able to break the chains that bind us, remove the dark cloak of heaviness and give us the oil of joy in place of gloom and mourning.

Does sadness fill my mind? A solace here I find, May Jesus Christ be praised! Or fades my earthly bliss? My comfort still is this, May Jesus Christ be praised! . . . The powers of darkness fear When this sweet chant they hear: May Jesus Christ be praised! 2

Music may be a help to us

CH Spurgeon, preaching on the text ‘Now bring me a minstrel’ (2 Kings 3:15), spoke of the effect music can have in bringing relief in times of darkness and oppression. Elisha was passing through a particularly difficult period: ‘The prophet’s spirits were depressed.’ Spurgeon then spoke of this being a common human experience, and how God has provided a means of relief through music: ‘Our minds are disarranged, the machinery is out of order, the sail is furled, the pipe is blocked up, the whole soul is out of gear … “Bring me a minstrel,” said the prophet, for his mind was easily moved by that charming art. Music and song soothed and calmed, and cheered him … Among our own helps singing holds a chief place; as saith the apostle: “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” ’

Spurgeon continued: ‘Note how he connects it with peace in his epistle to the Colossians: “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts … ” ’3

We need all the help we can get, so, to assist you in your praise, use a good hymnbook (what could be better than the Psalms!) or worship recordings. Praise God, no matter how hard your heart feels or how oppressed your spirit may be.

We do not lose heart

Standing like bookends at the beginning and end of Paul’s great chapter on ministry in 2 Corinthians 4 is the phrase ‘we do not lose heart’ (vv.1,16). It is clear that he was often tempted to lose heart, but he tells us that the great motivation that kept him going like an express train, in season and out of season, was his eternal hope in Jesus Christ. He then spurs on those who share in that hope by concluding: ‘So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal’ (v.18). Thomas Brooks said: ‘Hope can see heaven through the thickest clouds.’4

This article is an extract from Ice and Fire by Mike Mellor, recently published by Day One, ISBN 978 1 846 256 462, £9.00, and is used with permission.

FOOTNOTES

1. Acts of Paul 3:3, in E Hennecke and W Schneemelcher, New Testament Apocrypha, Vol. 2 (trans. and ed. RM Wilson)
2. ‘When Morning Gilds the Skies’, translated by Edward Caswall.
3. Charles Haddon Spurgeon sermon, ‘The Minstrel’, 7 August 1881, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 27, The Spurgeon Centre
4. In John Blanchard, Gathered Gold, Evangelical Press