The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.
I. THE ATTITUDE OF THE PIOUS SOUL. He who is graphically described in these verses:
1. Seeks God. For we are not called upon to be utterly passive; we are not led to expect that blessings will come to us without any exertion upon our part. To seek God in our daily life, in the order of his providence, in the pages of his Word, is a reasonable and profitable exercise.
2. Hopes for his salvation. And why not? Has not the Most High revealed himself as a Saviour? And is not salvation the blessing we most urgently need?
3. Quietly waits for it. This beautiful expression implies that the word of promise is believed, and that without doubting the soul expects its fulfilment. A rebuke to those who think that seeking God is accompanied with noise and excitement.
II. THE REWARD OF THE PIOUS SOUL.
1. There is what may be called the reflex influence of waiting, The expectant seeker and suppliant finds the very posture he is led to assume good and profitable. "In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength."
2. The Lord is actually good unto such as wait for him. He is pledged to this. His servants have ever found this to be the case. For the expectation honours him from whom the blessing is expected. The patient are delivered from their troubles, and to those who seek the Lord his glory is unveiled. - T.
1. Illustrate this by the case of sorrow. "The heart knoweth its own bitterness," and none knoweth it beside. Sorrow is not to be painted or described, or quite imagined. When it is heard of, it is known to be serious; when it is felt, it is found to be misery. It is often a choice heart which is thus chosen for sorrows. When the sorrow is godly, borne well by the soul which bends under it, then it brings a true turning from the past: a living faith in the promises is itself a very close communion with Christ. After such a trial we go softly all our days; so softly that we can hear those voices, unheard or unheeded before, which tell us "the Lord is good unto them that wait for Him."
The Lord is good unto them that wait for Him.I. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN WAITING FOR GOD.
1. God has work for us, and we should be ready to do it.
2. There are blessings to bestow, and we should be waiting to receive them. The fountain is flowing; let us go out and drink of it. God blesses His people not according to their worth, but according to their wants; and in proportion as you feel your parchedness, and look that it may be allayed, so will be the shower that descends from these clouds which are big with mercies.
3. In waiting for God we should wait His time. For as to certain services which He requires and rewards which He bestows, there is need that we exercise patience. He who is conscious that he deserves nothing, and that he needs much, will feel as if God were not exacting anything unreasonable in making him wait. He who knows how much is promised, and how certainly it will be granted in proper season, will be delighted to wait.
4. Waiting for God implies sire and expectation. We are longing for the blessings, as you see the husbandman looking over the whole sky for the coming shower to refresh his crops, or for the signs of dry weather to enable him to gather in his grain; as you have seen the mother in her eagerness, or the father, saying less, but not less earnest, looking out for a son or daughter who has been for years in a foreign clime, but who has promised to be at home at such a time. How is every object in the dim distance examined! how is every sound listened to! and, "Why is he so long in coming? why tarry the wheels of his chariot?" Ah, if we were longing for spiritual blessings in this spirit, they would come, assuredly come; and our faith would insure them, and our eagerness would hasten them: for "He that shall come will come, and will not tarry."
II. HOW THE LORD ENCOURAGES THEM THAT WAIT FOR HIM.
1. It is a good thing in itself thus to wait when God so requires it. It braces and invigorates the soul, and enables it to use the means to procure the expected benefit!
2. It is good to wait, inasmuch as in waiting we receive many valuable lessons. A pupil or apprentice puts himself under a master, who promises to teach him a certain branch of knowledge. Now, it is possible that, in fulfilment of his engagement, the master may just set the learner to work, and point out service after service for him. Would the scholar be thereby justified in charging his master with a breach of promise, and saying to him, "You promised to give me instruction and skill, and you set me instead to work and toil"? We see at once that if such a spirit were cherished by the pupil, it would indicate not only that he is ignorant of the branch of knowledge he wishes to learn, but that he is labouring under a more deplorable ignorance, — that he is ignorant of his own ignorance; for it is in the very act of waiting on that master, and doing the work which he prescribes, that he is to attain the skill he is seeking. It is the same in the school of Christ.
3. The blessing is larger because we have waited for it. Why is it that man, when he has an arduous work to do, must do it when he can, and hasten to perform it? How is it that when he makes a promise he must be ready to execute it when he can, and not wait till, as he supposes, some more favourable opportunity may present itself? Plainly because his power is limited, because his time on the earth is uncertain, and if he let one opportunity slip, another may never present itself. But no such weakness is laid on the High and Holy One who "inhabiteth eternity," and with whom "one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." He can allow opportunity after opportunity, to pass away, till at last the "fit time," "the set time," "the fulness of times," comes. All is order and beneficence amidst so much complexity and seeming irregularity. Everything is happening at its most appropriate time, amid so much apparent delay and procrastination. While nothing lingers beyond its time, nothing hastens to a premature conclusion. God delays the blessing only that it may be larger when it comes. His counsels ripen slowly, that the ear may be fuller, that the fruit may be richer and mellower. How is it that the river, which rose in so small a fountain among the rugged hills, now sweeps along so magnificently among fertile plains? It is because in its lengthened and circuitous course it has gathered contributions on either side, receiving a new stream from every valley which it passed. Thus it is that the stream of God's bounty is made to turn and wind, only that it may receive contributions from every quarter as it sweeps along, and flow at length more largely into the bosom. Hence it is that the royal munificence of His bounty knows no limits at last. Thus it is that He is good to them that wait for Him.
I. Generally, IN THE COMBINATION OF THESE TERMS EACH EXPRESSES THE PERFECTION OF ALL PRAYER AS IT IS EITHER THE ACTIVE SEEKING OF GOD OR THE PASSIVE WAITING FOR HIM; IN OTHER WORDS, WHAT MAN DOES AND WHAT HE MUST EXPECT GOD TO DO IN THE WHOLE BUSINESS OF DEVOTION. All communion with God requires this. Seeking suggests at once the idea of the soul's activity: making God the Unknown, the Unfound, the Unseen, the Hidden, the Distant, or, better still, the Waiting God, its one great object. The spirit in man goes out, as the Scripture says, after Him, on an infinite quest; and its restless cry m, O that I knew where I might find Him, that I might come even to His seat!" Alas, He is hidden from us in our natural state by a thick veil: not by distance, but by worse than distance, by a cloud of thicker than Egyptian darkness, by a veil which our sins and His justice have woven. But that veil has been rent in Christ. We know where we may find Him, where His seat is: on the mercy seat, which is the Cross. Now, the testimony is: "He is good to the soul that seeketh Him." But that seeking must be a waiting also. God m near at hand as well as afar off. Not only are we brought nigh by the blood of Jesus, but He also is brought nigh: and in a very different sense from that in which He is "nigh to every one of us." The waiting soul lays hold on that great truth, and calmly expects His revelation of Himself. In that posture the wings of the seeking spirit are folded again, its voice is stilled to silence, and it thinks rather than cries: "O when will He come unto me!" No seeking will find until He make Himself present. "The Lord is good to those that wait for Him." There is a set time for His manifestation of Himself. The seeker after God must also, in the very act of seeking, be a waiter upon Him. In the former, man does his part: in the latter, God acts alone. It will be plain, then, that the two terms express one and too same prayer throughout the whole history of devotion; from the moment when the first glimpse of God lights up the desire, through all the acts of special supplication and all the habits of communion with Deity, up to the full possession of God in the beatific vision. All our communion with heaven from beginning to end is the union of our activity with patient dependence on the Divine fidelity to His promise. And this communion is the communion of the Holy Spirit: the New Testament secret, which we must put into an Old Testament text. He, from above, lights up the energy of seeking in our souls; and He, from above, reveals the Eternal God to our souls. But my present point is only this: that the whole business of the religious life, which is, in one word, the finding God, His goodness, and His salvation, is the union of our intense activity and of our most passive expectation. In the seeking of God you have a great work yourselves to do: in the waiting you acknowledge His absolute supremacy in your salvation.
II. AGAIN, THE SEEKING STANDS HERE AND EVERYWHERE FOR THE PLEADING BOLDNESS OF PRAYER, WHICH REQUIRES TO BE QUALIFIED BY ITS WAITING HUMILITY. Nothing is more certain than that the petitioner who brings his request to God is permitted to come with boldness. He is pledged by His immutable word and oath to do for us all that is contained in the covenant. It is wonderful how we are encouraged to plead by God's own name and honour! In every way we are told to remember that our humility must not forget its rights. Every prayer, from beginning to end, has in it the strength of the voice, the irresistible voice, of Jesus. And this idea is in the word "seek" as generally used in Scripture; as may be noted where "calling" is connected with it. So, our Lord makes the seeking an advancement on the process of asking; the knocking of bold importunity or shamelessness, in fact, being its highest character. He always encourages in every petitioner what may be called an undaunted, resolute, and bold spirit of appeal to heaven. Now, it is obvious that this requires to be carefully guarded that boldness must be humble boldness, and must wait before God humbly pondering its own unworthiness. The seeker must learn that, after all that Christ has done to give him right of approach, the fact of his own utter vileness as respects himself remains, and will remain throughout eternity. Now, the waiting spirit is not simply the spirit that is content to tarry, but one that knows why the delay is appointed. Read it here. It is good to bear the yoke. It is good to taste of "the wormwood and the gall" before we think of the "cup of salvation." The lesson of penitence must be thoroughly learnt; the lesson of impotence. Waiting is self-examination. Here is the secret of the Divine delay and the deferred hope. It is not that He delighteth not in mercy, that He forgets to be gracious. But it is the eternal law of the covenant of grace that salvation is given only to those who profoundly feel their need, their unworthiness, and their utter helplessness: I do not say that they be reduced to despair; for that is not the waiting, but the ceasing to wait. Hence, the combination of these is the perfection of acceptable prayer: the Scripture terms it "humble boldness." Boldness is sure that the blessing is there, and is the confidence of faith; humility can hardly be persuaded that the point of personal preparation is fully come. The union is the achievement of the Holy Ghost; groanings that seek, but use an unuttered language. Now you must apply this to your ease as a penitent seeker of salvation: indeed, it is to your case as such that all this specially applies. You have come to know that you have one sole business before you: to acquaint yourself with God being the one thing needful. Before you think of anything else in heaven or earth, that supreme matter must be settled: on that your eternal destiny depends. Now, you have to seek in the prayer of confession, pleading the promises ratified in Christ, and urging your plea day and night continually. But you must wait as knowing that pardon is a deliberate act of God, to be attested by the Holy Ghost, when all the conditions are perfect. When your seeking and waiting are both one in the perfection of entire self-renunciation and simple faith, God will certainly show Himself good; but not till then. Here is the secret of the Divine delay. On the other hand, though you merit not that God should look at you, much less that He should embrace and love you as a child, your seeking must be imperfect if you cannot rejoice in,, His mercy. You need to be aroused. "Be of good courage: rise, He calleth thee. Always be sure of this, that "The Lord is good unto them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeketh Him."
III. Once more, THE TWO TERMS SIGNIFY THE FERVOUR AND EARNESTNESS OF PRAYER JOINED TO PERSISTENCY IN THAT FERVOUR; AND THE RARE COMBINATION OF THESE GIVES THE HIGHEST CHARACTER TO THE TONE OF OUR DEVOTION. In almost every instance in which the seeking is commanded, it is connected with the idea of intense ardour. This is the spirit of devotion generally into which our acceptance introduces us. The man has become a man of God, which is, in other words, a man of prayer. "I — prayer": the whole being is one active desire for the gifts of God and for God Himself; and whether we regard the value of the gifts or the infinitely greater value of the God who gives, it is obvious that the undivided soul must be engaged in the seeking. "Then shall ye find Me when ye seek Me with your whole heart." It is the continuing instant in prayer. It is the concentration of every faculty in its utmost strength on seeking spiritual good as hid treasure. But spiritual good is God Himself. There is literally no limit to the degree in which the desire after God may kindle the human spirit. The waiting habit is as constantly commended to us as the seeking: first, as the test of real earnestness, and, secondly, as its stimulant.
1. It is its test. There is a vehemence which deserves not to be called earnestness: clamorous indeed and excited for a season, but cooling very soon under the withering influence of delay, if, indeed, its own excitement does not consume it. There is nothing which we need to have more deeply impressed on our minds than this, that strong desires, lively feelings, and the rush of superficial ardour are not themselves evidences of the indwelling of the true spirit of prayer. They may coexist with a very slight feeling of humility and with a very inadequate sense of the value of what we ask for. But the sure test is the necessity of waiting: this God knows how to apply. We apply it very often to each other. We wait to see what will come of the vehemence of our fellows; and too often we find that it is only "the crackling of thorns." Continuance is the infallible test. Blessed is that deep fervour of spirit which no time changes; which no delay can dull.
2. But waiting is also the stimulant to seeking. And doubtless that is the secret of the discipline of the Holy Ghost. The perfection of the spirit of prayer is the permanence of strong and deep emotion in all devotional exercises. This is what St. Paul calls "continuing instant in prayer": "instant," that is, ardent and vehement; "continuing" instant, that is, keeping up that blessed glow at all times and under all circumstances. Now, the injunction to wait simply means this. We are to make it our study to keep up this ardour. And how is that done but by feeding our desire in the pondering which studies our own weakness and keeps alive the intense longing by considering our impotence without heavenly grace? There is, indeed, a waiting which itself defeats this end: which indolently acquiesces in the Divine delay; leaves all to the set time of grace; and folds its wings too closely. But the true waiting of the spirit of prayer only feeds desire, and gives it strength and permanence. The soul that meditates much upon the greatness of the blessing sought spends no waiting time in vain. Let us mark the combination as it is enforced and exemplified in Scripture, and apply it to ourselves. There is nothing which our Lord has more constantly and affectingly taught us than this. Almost all His lessons pointed "to this end"; that men must pray always and not faint, though "God bear long with us." But He always impresses the combination as such. The man whom we remember in His parable sought and waited; but his waiting only rendered him desperately importunate and "shameless." See how the Master of prayer applies His own parable with a difference: every one who asks receives, but the reserved mysteries of blessing are for those who wait and knock at the innermost gate of heaven. So in that parable of real life. How did the Lord keep the Syro-Phoenician waiting! And why? She asked and received something, though we see it not; she sought and found something, strength to knock; she knocked at the door of His heart, and it opened to her. The entire history of devotion in Scripture illustrates this combination. We see how the earlier and the later saints showed forth the spirit of prayer which was in them; ardently seeking always and always patiently waiting. From Abraham, and Job, and Jacob, that night-long wrestler with the angel, and Hannah, and Samuel, and David, and Daniel, and our Jeremiah, down to the Great Exemplar and those whom He taught to pray, we see the utmost intensity of seeking desire combined with the tranquil waiting of silent awe and patient expectation. Their intensity is not measured by the multitude of pleading cries; for it rather tends always to few words, again and again repeated, and even towards the limit of perfect speechlessness. With deepening fervour they wait, and their groanings become unutterable; their transports of desire are prolonged, and perfected into the most passive tarrying for God. Be determined, therefore, to cherish at all costs this sacred spirit of prayer. Learn it of our Master's precepts, and learn it of His example. But remember here two things of great importance. First, that the lesson of this union is to be practised in the inner man of the heart. There is the true place of prayer, where all the sacred arts of devotion are to be learnt. There alone can we "pray without ceasing," seek without interruption, and wait without leaving the Divine presence. There we may have ardour without vehemence, waiting without indolence: the combination which belongs rather to the spirit and frame and tone of devotion than to its direct acts. Therefore, preserve your spirit by all means in that posture and condition: whatever it costs you. And, secondly, keep it ever in view that the Holy Ghost is your teacher. He is the Spirit of intercession within us. And if you always let Him guide you, the great lesson shall be learnt. He will prompt you to such earnestness, and stimulate you to such deepening fervours, as you cannot now conceive; and yet keep you in so tranquil a spirit that the groanings shall not be uttered.
IV. WE MAY NOW PROFITABLY APPLY OUR TWO WORDS TO THE CONFIDENCE AND SUBMISSION OF PRAYER AS IT HAS TO DO WITH THE SEEKING AND WAITING FOR SPECIAL BLESSINGS. This is a further stage in our present subject: it is not now the general union of seeking and waiting as belonging to all prayer, to the prayer that seeks salvation, to the spirit of prayer in the regenerate: but as specifically concerned with the individual requests of our religious life. Throughout Scripture we are exhorted to seek everything we need from God. Our wants are endless. For everything God will be inquired of; the permission is as broad as the care of life: "be careful for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known." Here the seeking is the seeking unto the Lord as an oracle; as to a hand forever stretched out: as to an inexhaustible treasury. But we must not misunderstand this. Our confidence is simply the making known our requests with certain faith that they are heard: no more. Then submission comes in. We must blend waiting with our seeking; and leave to God the whether, the when, and the how of His granting. He may not bestow what we ask in some cases; and there is no true prayer which does not leave to His supreme wisdom and Jove the decision as to the propriety of granting its request. Now, the confidence of prayer is only required to wait in this sense when it is asking the innumerable good things which we think to be good, but which are directly connected with our providential allotment. We wait only to know His will. He may have His own methods of granting our requests. This applies to both orders of blessing. And this is the supreme lesson we have to learn. We pray in confidence that our prayer is heard; but the method of Divine answer demands our waiting. Let us now see this gracious combination in its effects. The perfect union of confidence and submission will have a most happy influence on our life of prayer, as it is a life of supplication. It will dispose and enable us to pray for temporal good and earthly deliverances with entire submissiveness to the will of God: confident that we are heard, but leaving the answer to His wisdom. The illustrations of this are endless; but let the context suffice now. The seeking and waiting to which Jeremiah referred was the seeking for deliverance from sore temporal troubles blended with the pure resignation of waiting which accepted the denial of God. We need not ask what the keen trial was which in this chapter pours out its exceeding bitter cry. Jeremiah is a typical man of sorrows: and these lamentations are the lamentations of humanity. He was in his meditation taught the blessedness of simply giving the case up to God. The very waiting is good: "It is good that a man quietly wait." It teaches thankfulness that matters are not worse: "This I recall to my mind. It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed." Sometimes the earthly good is granted. But what was true of providential interposition is also true of the delay of granting many most important spiritual requests. We must plead for them, and yet learn in waiting the reason why they are withheld. In other words, they are granted in an indirect manner, and in the discipline of graces more valuable than the gifts themselves. This refers especially to the petitioning for special manifestations of favour which are very often denied, but strangely granted even in the denial no, St. Paul had not the thorn removed; but a glorious manifestation of Divine strength was made perfect in his weakness. By waiting upon God for any great blessing, we discipline the waiting graces: trust, hope, faith, reverence, obedience, humility, submission. These, though we seek them not, are precious results of waiting. There is, however, a combination of seeking and waiting which rises to the pitch of assured hope of immediate bestowment. The seeking and waiting are one in the present faith. This cannot be doubted with the Lord's words in our mind. If this were not added, we should be unjust to the covenant. The Great Teacher of prayer does not make faith always its own reward. There are blessings which He makes unconditionally ours; if we seek and wait in assurance that they are ours. Now, in all these cases, He by His Spirit prompts us to believe that they are given and must be given "Believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." Of what blessings is such a large word spoken? Of such certainly as concern the honour of our Lord in our present salvation. These blessings are not to be waited for so much as demanded.
V. Lastly, THE COMBINATION OF WHICH SO MUCH HAS BEEN SAID FORMS IN ITS HIGHEST PERFECTION THE DEVOTIONAL STATE OF THE SOUL, IN WHICH BOTH THE SEEKING AND THE WAITING GO BEYOND THEIR FORMER MEANINGS AND BLEND INTO THE HABIT RATHER THAN THE ACT OF COMMUNION WITH GOD. Remember that this is not a state which leaves behind the outgoings of seeking and waiting in express supplications; it includes all that has been spoken of; but it superadds something of much importance to the higher spiritual life. In the state of soul I refer to, God Himself is an ever-present internal Reality, neither to be actively sought nor passively waited for: the spirit lives in God; it is purely filled with a desire that needs no words, and is always sensible of His influence without needing to tarry for it. In such devotion the seeking is the silent aspiration that is ever deepening towards infinity; and the petitioner rather waits on the Lord than waits for Him. The soul has returned to its rest. It dwells in God and God in it: and the consequence of that mutual indwelling speaks for itself. That must in the nature of things be the tranquillity of perfect waiting: it must be in the nature of things the ardour of ceaseless longing. But it must be the aspiration of every one of us to reach that perfectness of union with God in which seeking and waiting are one. The Triune God will come and "make His abode with us." Thus shall we live where all seeking and waiting are one in abiding communion with the Supreme Good. It has been said that such habitual silent communion with God does not supersede the acts and habits of formal worship: it graciously pervades them all. We must be on our guard against an exaggeration of this deep truth which reckons it the perfection of the devout estate to be free from every desire, and to keep every feeling and impulse of the heart under such restraint as to be absolutely dead and quiet before God, indifferent about everything that is His or from Him, and intent only upon possessing Himself. Whether this is the perfection of heaven, we know not; it is not the perfection of earth. We must not set such an unauthorised and impracticable standard before us. If we follow this high and tranquil spirit of devotion into the public ordinances, or rather, if we are so happy as to carry it into them, we shall feel how good it is to pray for ourselves and for others, seeking earnestly what the Lord waits to give, But our seeking will be one with the waiting: which ponders the Divine perfections, worshipping Him while we are asking His gifts. The whole service will be an act of seeking and waiting combined: all adoration and praise, while all is seeking and prayer. If we retire with it into secret, what is its effect there but such a combination of active petition and passive meditation as makes the peculiar blessedness of closet devotion? There the laws are very free; no rules are laid down in Scripture; the Spirit bloweth where it listeth. There the seeking and waiting are or may be blended in a most gracious way. Sometimes the soul united to God is drawn out in vehement requests which will not be denied; happy are you when this is the case. But at such times, even when you are praying, "with strong crying and tears," you must be, you will be, waiting to be heard "in that you fear" with humble reverence. Finally, this habitual union of waiting and seeking in the presence of God makes the whole of life one constant preparation for the final fulfilment of the promise of the text. After all, the highest reaches of devotion below are only the seeking of what cannot be fully found on earth, the waiting for what heaven alone can reveal This is the very blessedness of the seeking waiting life, that its object is too good for time. The end is not yet: however perfect may be the destruction of sin and the peace of God in the soul. Make it the great law of your earthly existence that it shall be ruled by this boundless expectation. Expect much in this world, but not too much. Render to earth wilt belongs to earth, and to heaven what belongs to heaven.
(W. B. Pope, D. D.)
2. Take, again, the case of ill-health. At first, when the health has failed, life seems to have lost its meaning. All occupations have to be changed, new and unknown expedients adopted. The patient groans in weariness, "Surely against me is he turned. He turneth His hand against me all the day." But in silent watchings and long dreary hours gleams of comfort gradually enter the soul, till at last it is found; weakness has been a sort of watchtower, with an outlook heavenward, and after many longings, many sighs and prayers, we have seen and felt on the sick bed that "the Lord is good unto them that wait for Him, unto the soul that seeketh Him."
3. We might take other and frequently recurring cases in the anxiety of business — the feeling that one has a too heavy work to do, that one is bound to a career which is not congenial, has to do what one is not adapted for, or placed where one is not best placed, that one has not the necessary means, openings, or conditions of success, no certainties in the future, no prospect of really advancing, or eventually holding one's own, that one cannot get one's family well out in life, that if we are taken away we know not what will become of them. How many have to watch for bad tidings which are already pluming the wing for a heavy flight, to sit about with a sinking heart where they would long to be near to help! When such trial is upon us, our heart complains with the unreasoning sincerity of suffering, "Thou hast remove a my sore far off from peace; I forget prosperity." We forget prosperity in trial, as we forget the Giver of good gifts in prosperity; we do not regard what we had or what is left to us; we see that, and only that, which is taken away. Then the school hour begins, and the lessons, at first irksome, are settled down to at last. The Christian comes to a more patient docile waiting upon God, a remembrance mat man does not live by bread alone; that the hand which clothes the flower and feeds the bird will not forget us; that our issues are with Him, and that, if our prosperity has grown poor, Jesus was poorer; that our true riches lie hid in His. salvation.
4. Take the case of the besetting sin, known, deplored, wrestled with, yet besetting still; a thorn in the spirit, buffeting and laying low — the contrasting shadow of our better self following us year after year along life's road — a breach in the battlements of the inner life, where the enemy at his will cometh in as a flood. Wait; bear on; by and by your infirmity will heal up, and the Lord will so lift the load that in a day you may be free from it forever.
5. Or, take the trial of religious doubt — the shadow of the intellect projected on the page, discord in the ear, and therefore the music out of tune. Why does not the system which has satisfied the most gifted satisfy us? Why does not the path where the most gracious have walked secure give me some ease? I wish to do service, but there again intrudes upon me the irritating problem. My difficulty is nothing to another; his difficulty is none to me; yet. there we are, both in difficulties alike. "So all these things worketh God oftentimes with man," and His object is still the same: to bring back his soul from the pit to be enlightened with the light of the living.
(T. P. Crosse, D. C. L.)
(H. W. Beecher.)
I. DESCRIBE A SEEKING SOUL.
1. He is under a sense of need, — a need which he could hardly describe, but which, nevertheless, weighs very heavily upon him. He wants something very great, but he hardly knows what it is. He feels guilty, and He wants pardon. He feels sinful, and he wants renewing. He feels everything that he ought not to be, and he wants to be changed, to be made a new man.
2. This seeker, also, is one who, though he does not know it, has a measure of faith, for he believes, deep down in his heart, that if he could once get to God, all would be well with him.
3. Further, this seeker sometimes seeks very unwisely. When a soul wants God, and wants salvation, it will begin to seek the Lord by its own doings, by its own feelings, by its own strange eccentricities, perhaps. Some of you think that you must have a remarkable dream, others expect an angelic vision, some are waiting to hear a very extraordinary sermon, and to feel very singular emotions. This is the nature of seekers, that they often seek in a very unwise way; but still, they do seek; and it is a mercy that they do seek, for "the Lord is good to the soul that seeketh Him."
4. I will tell you what true seekers do when they act wisely. I notice that they often get alone. When a stag is wounded, it delights to hide in the recesses of the forest, that it may bleed and die alone; and when God has shot His arrow of conviction into a human heart, one of the first signs of the wounding is that the man likes to get alone.
5. I will tell you another thing about the true seeker. You will find that he begins to bring out his Bible, that much-neglected book.
6. And as, perhaps, in his study of the Scriptures he meets with difficulties, you will find that this seeking young man is anxious to go and hear the Word preached; for the Word rightly preached has a warmth about it, and a vividness, which are not always so manifest to the seeker in his reading of the Word.
7. And there is another sign of the true seeker that I always love to see; he 1ikes to get into godly company.
8. There is another mark of a seeker that is better still: "Behold, he prayeth." Possibly, he used to repeat a form of prayer; but he has given that up, and now he talks to God straight out of his heart, and asks for what he really wants; and he not only does that morning and evening, but he is praying during most of the day.
9. I think there will be one more mark that you will see upon a sincere seeker: he will quit all that is evil as much as possible, and he will seek after that which is good, and especially, he will seek after faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. You will see him now trying to believe, very much like a little child tries to take his first steps in walking alone. If, poor trembling seeker, your faith should bring you no comfort, because it is so weak, yet keep on trusting to Christ.
II. ASSURE THE SEEKING SOUL THAT THE LORD IS GOOD TO HIM. "The Lord is good to the soul that seeketh Him."
1. It is good of Him to have set you seeking at all. He might have left you in your sins as He has left so many thousands of your fellow men.
2. God is also good to the seeker in giving him some gleams of comfort. Did you say that you had been seeking the Lord for months? Well, how is it that you have kept on seeking! I think it must be because you have sometimes had a few rays of light.
3. I think that He is also good in not letting us rest short of Himself. Often, the surgeon, when he has a bad case, will not let the wound heal. "No, not yet," says he; "if that wound heals too soon, there will be more mischief coming from it." So he lets in his lancet again, and cuts out a bit of proud flesh; and our Lord will not let us close up the wound that sin hath made lest it be but a sorry healing that will end in a worse wound than before.
4. But He is much better to them that seek Him than you have ever imagined, for He has given such rich promises to seekers. Oh, the blessed invitations of Christ!
5. He is also good to seekers because He has made the way of salvation so plain. A man with an intellect not much above that of an idiot may understand this Gospel, and enjoy it, while a man with the greatest mental powers cannot understand it any better; nay, he cannot understand it at all, unless the Spirit of God shall reveal it to him.
6. Then, once more, is it not very good of the Lord in being found of seekers in due time?
III. But, lest I weary any seeker where I want to win him, I shall close by FURTHER CHEERING HIM ON IN HIS SEEKING.
1. Friend, be of good comfort, Christ is seeking you. You are drawing nearer to each other every hour, and it will not be long before your arms are about His neck, and His arms about yours; you will be rejoicing in Him, and He will be rejoicing over you.
2. It may not be long before you find the Saviour; it may, indeed, be so little a while, that, before the clock strikes again, you will have found Him.
3. And mark you this, when the blessing comes, it will be worth waiting for. The joy and peace through believing which come from Christ are a wonderful offset against the tears and sorrows that we have endured while we have been seeking Him.
4. This is my closing thought: thou hast no need to go about seeking Christ any longer. Thou hast no need to wait even five minutes ere thou findest Him, for it is written, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life." Dost thou know what it is to believe on Him, to trust Him? Do so now. "It would be a great venture," says one. Then venture on Him. "Would He save me?" Try Him. You have heard, I dare say, of the African who came over to England. Before he came, the missionary told him that sometimes it was so cold in England that the water grew hard, and men could walk on it. Now, the man had heard a great many things that were not true which he had believed; but this, he said, he never would believe. It was "one great big lie; for nobody ever could walk on water." When he woke up, one December morning, and the stream was frozen over, he still said that he would not believe it. Even when his friend went on the ice, and stood there, and said, "Now you can see that what I told you was true; this is water, yet it is hard, and it bears me up," the African would not believe it, till his friend said to him, "Come along," and he gave him a pull, and dragged him on the ice, and then he said, "Yes, it is true, for it bears me up."
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
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