June 3rd 2018: Norman Rees

Norman Rees-May18II Corinthians 12: 1-10

Paul is one of the greatest, dearest men of God, yet he probably suffered more than any other Christian. He suffered for the Lord as He lived for Christ. He was very modest, not even referring to himself by name in this passage, but calling himself ‘a man in Christ.’

The Lord has ways of keeping us humble. Paul had a ‘thorn in the flesh’ (verse 7). He prayed to God three times to have it removed. His prayer is very earnest. We are not told what the thorn in the flesh was, but the Lord did not remove it. Instead, Paul was told, “My grace is sufficient for you, My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (II Corinthians 12:9). The emphasis is on ‘My.’ We have no grace of ourselves. Without the grace of God we wouldn’t be sitting here today, we wouldn’t have the strength to worship Him.

It’s a lovely day. The grace of God brings the weather, the water of the Spirit, the water of the gospel. It is easy to worship when all is well. However, when we go through trials God is in control. When we are not in trouble and trials, when the sun shines, we are not persecuted, our health is well, our bank balance is good, it is easy to be a Christian.

Sometimes Christians can slip into an easier road and can start to doubt what God has done. They may slip back into wordly things. We are in the world but not of the world. We need to glorify God. Jesus prayed, in John 17, we could be of use in the world.

Spurgeon urged us not to pray to be out of our troubles. Our citizenship is in heaven but Christ wants to keep us in the world that, even in times of trials, we can be a witness. His grace is sufficient. Jesus will not lose one of His sheep, bought with His precious blood. He has paid too high a price. He gives us eternal life.

When sickness and difficulties comes we ask, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ Paul asks the same questions. Sometimes, trials are sent to test our faith. We don’t know where to turn, everything seems to be against us. Don’t despair. It is easy to despair when we can’t see an answer to a problem. Jesus knows all our ways (Psalm 139). He knows everything. He understands us.

If we stand before God without Jesus standing with us as our Lord and Saviour, our Lord and advocate, we have no hope. God has brought us to this situation. When the devil brings doubt, look to Christ.

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea,
a great High Priest, whose name is Love
who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
my name is written on His heart;
I know that while in heav’n He stands
no tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair
and tells me of the guilt within,
upward I look, and see Him there
who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Saviour died,
my sinful soul is counted free,
for God the just is satisfied
to look on Him and pardon me.

Charitie Lees Bancroft

Problems may come. Paul boasts that he could suffer for Christ. He suffered because he simply preached the gospel of God, being beaten 195 times, imprisoned and much more. Yet he could still rely on God’s grace and strength. When you reach the end of your tether, remember God is at the other end, He will never leave or forsake you.

Jesus wants us to be closer to Him. Nothing that makes you pray more earnestly than if you’re suffering. Pray that you may seek His face and know His grace upon you. You’ll pass through your trials (Isaiah 43). He will give you grace to go through. The devil schemes, he will attack, but God’s strength redeems. The Lord allows Satan to go so far, but Jesus defeated the devil. “My grace is sufficient for you, My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (II Corinthians 12:9).

When you’re blessed of God you can seem so full of your own pride. Be full of Christ. We’re sometimes like vessels – full of ourselves. We need to be filled with grace. When we recognise we have nothing of ourselves, it brings us closer to Christ and we walk more closely with the Lord. Seek the Lord and ask Him to show you what He will do. The grace of the God, who made the world, can supply all our needs. If you are struggling, He wants us to recognise we are nothing of ourselves, that His grace is fully sufficient. Don’t worry about the problem, the future. Trust the Lord and you’ll find Him all sufficient. He has ways of sending storms in our life to get rid of what we don’t need. All we will ever need will be given to us by God.

April 2nd 2017: Matthew Maxwell-Carr

Looking at Christ produces radiance on the face because it brings rest on the heart. Just by looking at Christ rest comes immediately. A look at Christ does something to the heart and you’re not ashamed anymore because you don’t fear God will fail you or let you down. The biggest battle you and I face now is the battle with sin – the sin of all sins  is unbelief. It’s so natural to disbelieve and doubt because we’re sinners. Daily, how do we deal with this? Read the Bible? Pray? Look to Him is the answer, fix your eyes on Jesus Christ. He’s the answer to everything we need. A look at Jesus cures it all. This is what it means to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul directs us to the Holy Spirit, to walk in the Holy Spirit, to live by faith in Jesus Christ. He emits the Holy Spirit.

Paul says ‘the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.’ (Galations 5:22). These are all divine qualities. The Lord puts us all through trials and difficulties. The Lord wants us to have divine peace – peace in the midst of the storm. Keep your eyes on Jesus to have divine peace.

In Numbers 21: 4-9 we read  how the people were discouraged because they took their eyes off Christ, And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” (Numbers 21:5). When the Israelites took their eyes of Christ this affected their relationship with God and with Moses. Their ingratitude is seen in their complaining and worry. Can you identify with that? I can! ‘So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, and many of the people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD that He take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. Then the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.’ (Numbers 21: 6-8). Here we see the antidote to the problem. How does God deal with this? ‘… when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.’ (Numbers 21:9). The people had venom coursing through their bodies. The pole reminds us of Christ lifted up. Moses lifts the serpent up, those who look at it live. Look and live. That is the Christian life. Every look at Jesus Christ produces life. You are saved by faith alone, by resting in Jesus Christ. Look and you will live. It seems ridiculous to us that looking at a serpent could bring life, but that is the way of God.

2 Chronicles 12 is a chapter well worth reading. It is very encouraging. Here we see that to win victory all that was needed was praise. The people had tambourines out and were marching. The Lord Himself defeats the enemies – just because the people gave praise. We read in verse 5 that Jehoshaphat pleads to God because they are in difficulty. In verse 12 they cry out, ‘We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.’ Let the Lord move you by the Spirit. Trust in Him.

‘You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.’ (Isaiah 26:3). You, me – we don’t keep ourselves in peace, perfect peace is from the Lord. Our responsibility – ‘whose mind is stayed on you.’ Stay your mind on the Lord Jesus. Trust in Jesus every moment of your life.

‘Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’ (Matthew 11: 28-29). Rest isn’t our focus, peace isn’t our focus, our focus is Jesus. He will sort the rest and peace out. The human condition is unrest. Jesus Christ is the medicine.

‘But immediately Jesus spoke to them saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27). In our Christian life Jesus wants us to be fearless. As Jesus walked on the sea the storm raged. Peter experiences the supernatural, keeping his eyes on Jesus. Jesus was the focus. ‘So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.’ (Matthew 14:29). When Peter looked at Christ the power of the Holy Spirit supported Peter so he could do the supernatural. But then everything goes wrong, ‘But when he saw that the wind was boisterous he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”’ (Matthew 14:30). Peter saw the wind. He turned his eyes away from Jesus and this produced unrest in his heart. He cried out to the Lord to save him. He still had a little bit of faith. Even when we fail, Jesus still comes. ‘And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”’ (Matthew 14:31). Why do we doubt? Things get on top of us because we are fallen, sinners. Look at Jesus and He will conquer unbelief and unrest. He will sort everything out, we just need to look to Him.

Paul says whatever is not of faith is sin. Look to Jesus and H e will help you sort out all the rubbish. ‘I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.’ (Galations 2:20). This hits the nail on the head. The great apostle Paul lived his life by faith in the Son of God who loved him and gave His life for him. Look to Jesus.