Asking Without Receiving

On commenting on 2 Corinthians 12:8, John Calvin meditates on Paul not receiving his prayer request.

Here is the August 24 Reading excerpt from the book 365 Days with Calvin: A Unique Collection of 365 Readings from the Writings of John Calvin (356 Days with)

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Asking without Receiving
For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 2 Corinthians 12:8
suggested further reading: Mark 14:32–42

It may seem from this text that Paul has not prayed in faith, for we read everywhere in Scripture that we shall obtain whatever we ask in faith. Paul prays, and does not obtain what he asks for.

I address this problem by saying that as there are different ways of asking, so there are different ways of obtaining. We ask in simple terms for those things for which we have an express promise. For example, we ask for the perfecting of God’s kingdom, the hallowing of his name (Matt. 6:9), the remission of our sins, and everything that is advantageous to us. But when we think that the kingdom of God can, indeed, must be advanced in this particular manner or in that, and what is necessary for the hallowing of his name, we are often mistaken in our opinion.

In like manner, we often commit a serious mistake about asking for what tends to promote our own welfare. We ask for things confidently and without reservation, while we do not have the right to prescribe the means for receiving them. If, however, we specify the means, we always have an implied condition, even though we don’t express it.

Paul was not ignorant about this. Hence, as to the object of his prayer, there can be no doubt that he was heard, though he met with a refusal as to the express form of that answer. By this we are admonished not to give way to despondency in thinking our prayers are lost labor when God does not gratify or comply with our wishes. Rather, we must be satisfied with his grace in not forsaking us. For the reason why God sometimes mercifully refuses to give his own people what in his wrath he grants to the wicked is that he better foresees what is expedient for us than our understanding is able to apprehend.

for meditation: Even with the knowledge that God knows best, it is difficult to submit to his will when our prayers seem to go unanswered. We must pray for the grace to will what God wills and to leave it to his wisdom how he brings his will about. Are you trusting him with all your current concerns?

Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin: A Unique Collection of 365 Readings from the Writings of John Calvin (356 Days with)(page 255). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

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On Writing

I was browsing thru my library and then I saw an old copy of Stephen King’s On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft.

The flap of the book says this:

“If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.”
 
In 1999, Stephen King began to write about his craft–and his life. By midyear, a widely reported accident jeopardized the survival of both. And in his months of recovery, the link between writing and living became more crucial than ever.

Rarely has a book on writing been so clear, so useful, and so revealing. On Writing begins with a mesmerizing account of King’s childhood and his uncannily early focus on writing to tell a story. A series of vivid memories from adolescence, college, and the struggling years that led up to his first novel,Carrie, will afford readers a fresh and often very funny perspective on the formation of a writer. King next turns to the basic tools of his trade–how to sharpen and multiply them through use, and how the writer must always have them close at hand. He takes the reader through crucial aspects of the writer’s art and life, offering practical and inspiring advice on everything from plot and character development to work habits and rejection.

Serialized in the New Yorker to vivid acclaim, On Writing culminates with a profoundly moving account of how King’s overwhelming need to write spurred him toward recovery, and brought him back to his life.

Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower–and entertain–everyone who reads it.

I decided to read it. Fiction can sometimes be salvation. In a recent blog by Russell Moore, he says:

I think fiction is good, necessary, and God-glorifying. I teach my theology students to read good fiction for the sake of their preaching, if for no other reason. Those without the imagination to read fiction usually lack the imagination to hear the rhythm and contours of Scripture, much less to peer into the mysteries of the human heart.

I heartfully agree. There is something in fiction that is liberating. Also, as an ever-failing aspiring writer that I am, creative writing is closest to creation. Sort of being a god of sorts. The only problem when you write is that, you later realize that you are as ruined as the characters you set.

And so goes the little theology to it.

God’s People in the Furnace

On commenting on “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” Isaiah 48:10, Charles Spurgeon shares comfort to those who have been elected.

Here is the August 12 Reading excerpt from the book, 365 Days with C H Spurgeon, Volume 1: A Unique Collection of 365 Daily Readings from Sermons Preached by Charles Haddon Spurgeon from His New Park Street Pulpit

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God’s People in the Furnace

“I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.”
Isaiah 48:10
suggested further reading: Isaiah 43:1–7

Beloved, the first thing I will give you is the comfort of the text itself—election. Comfort yourself with this thought: God says, “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” “The fire is hot, but he has chosen me; the furnace burns, but he has chosen me; these coals are hot, I do not love the place, but he has chosen me.” Ah! It comes like a soft gale assuaging the fury of the flame. It is like some gentle wind fanning the cheeks; yes, this one thought arrays us in fireproof armour, against which the heat has no power. “Let affliction come—God has chosen me. Poverty, you may come in at the door—God is in the house already, and he has chosen me. Sickness, you may come, but I will have this by my side for a balsam—God has chosen me. Whatever it is, I know that he has chosen me.” The next comfort is that you have the Son of man with you in the furnace. In that silent bedchamber of yours, there sits by your side one whom you have not seen, but whom you love; and often when you know it not, he makes your bed in your affliction, and smooths your pillow for you. You are in poverty; but in that lonely house of yours that has nothing to cover its bare walls, where you sleep on a miserable straw mattress, you know that the Lord of life and glory is a frequent visitor; he often treads those bare floors, and putting his hands upon those walls he consecrates them! If you were in a palace he might not come there. He loves to come into these desolate places that he may visit you. The Son of man is with you, Christian.

Are Adversities in Life Punishments from God?

On commenting on Romans 8:35, John Calvin meditates whether adversities are God’s punishments on us.

Here is the August 5 Reading excerpt from the book 365 Days with Calvin: A Unique Collection of 365 Readings from the Writings of John Calvin (356 Days with)

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Shining in Affliction

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Romans 8:35

Those who are persuaded of God’s kindness toward them are able to stand firm in the heaviest afflictions. But people are also harassed by afflictions in no small degree for various reasons; some interpret afflictions as tokens of God’s wrath, while some think afflictions prove they are forsaken by God. Some see no end to trials and neglect to meditate on a better life. When the mind is purged from such mistakes, it becomes calm and quietly rests.

The meaning of this text is that, whatever happens, we ought to stand firm in believing that God, who having once embraced us in love, never ceases to care for us. The apostle does not simply say that nothing can tear God away from loving us, but that the knowledge and lively sense of God’s love is so vigorous in our hearts that it shines in the darkness of afflictions. For as clouds may obscure the clear brightness of the sun, yet do not yet wholly deprive us of its light, so God sends forth through the darkness of adversities the rays of his favor lest temptations should overwhelm us with despair. Indeed, our faith, supported by God’s promises, as if by wings, makes its way upward to heaven through all intervening obstacles.

It is true that adversities are tokens of God’s wrath when viewed in themselves, but when pardon and reconciliation precede them, we may be assured that though God chastises us, he never forgets his mercy. Adversity reminds us of what we have deserved, yet it also testifies that our salvation is the object of God’s care, which he extends to us while he leads us to repentance.

Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin: A Unique Collection of 365 Readings from the Writings of John Calvin (356 Days with)(page 236). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

Why Is This Happening to Me?

I was looking at the books in my library and in a random pick, I came across the lines,

When things seem to be going wrong in our lives, our enemy likes to plant a second joy-killing question: Why is this happening to me? It may be a health issue, a family problem, or some other disappointment, but the struggle makes you wonder why God would allow such a thing to happen to you.

God wants you to know that your suffering is not meaningless. It will produce perseverance, character, and hope. God will use the hardest things in your life to achieve something of infinite value. God can make the points of greatest pain in your life the place in which He creates a remarkable resemblance of Jesus Christ in you.

If you have understood that the whole of this life is a preparation for eternity, this will not be disappointing to you. God’s purpose is not just that you will be in glory, but that glory will be in you.

If you can see that, then you will be able to rejoice in God even through the hardest days of your life. You may look up to God through your tears, but you will be able to say, “Thank You that this is not the end, but only a painful passage on the way to all You are preparing for me.”

Smith, C. S. (2002). Unlocking the Bible Story Vol.4 Chicago, IL: Moody Press. page 50

He was actually commenting on Romans 5.

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. (vv. 3–4)

A great and wonderful read in the middle of a rough day.

What Happens When We Can’t Pray

Have you ever been in so much trouble, you bothered not to pray because you are ever so convinced that the Lord grows tired of listening to you? Richard Sibbes in my recent reading gave a balm to my troubled soul.

A Christian complains he cannot pray. `Oh, I am troubled with so many distracting thoughts, and never more than now!’ But has he put into your heart a desire to pray? Then he will hear the desires of his own Spirit in you. `We know not what we should pray for as we ought’ (nor how to do anything else as we ought), but the Spirit helps our infirmities with `groanings which cannot be uttered’ (Rom. 8:26), which are not hid from God. `My groaning is not hid from thee’ (Psa. 38:9). God can pick sense out of a confused prayer. These desires cry louder in his ears than your sins. Sometimes a Christian has such confused thoughts that he can say nothing but, as a child, cries, `O Father’, not able to express what he needs, like Moses at the Red Sea. These stirrings of spirit touch the heart of God and melt him into compassion towards us, when they come from the Spirit of adoption, and from a striving to be better.

And so are you struggling and making means so much to make your prayers formal and eloquent when you are in grief, or pain or trouble? The venerable Richard Sibbes gives this thought to us:

`Oh, but is it possible’, thinks the misgiving heart, `that so holy a God should accept such a prayer?’ Yes, he will accept that which is his own, and pardon that which is ours. Jonah prayed in the fish’s belly (Jon. 2:1), being burdened with the guilt of sin, yet God heard him. .. But look at the promises: `Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee’ (Psa. 50:15). `Ask, and it shall be given you’ (Matt. 7:7) and others like these. God accepts our prayers, though weak, because we are his own children, and they come from his own Spirit; because they are according to his own will; and because they are offered in Christ’s mediation, and he takes them, and mingles them with his own incense (Rev. 8:3).

The Bruised Reed and Smoking Flax

by Richard Sibbes.