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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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.

The World Food Expo and the Grace of God

The Philippine World Food Expo ended today. There was food in every corner, in every size and shape, and taste. There were also various food machineries. And as usual, where there is food, there are people.  As I accompanied my wife in this sort of trips, I found myself contemplating on some spots I saw, especially the freebies. They made me think of grace.

It became apparent as I observed it that where there is a pack of people, there is free food. Of course, it is a World Food Expo and you would expect food. Not just food, but good food. After all, you pay a 100 peso entrance fee for it. Not that free food tastes are required for every booth, but you would expect that some would have free pageantry of their wares, mostly food.

And then I thought: I wish this is the same reaction to grace! Because grace is free! Take it!

I mean grace of the sort spoken by the Bible as saving grace. The sort of what the Reformers like Martin Luther called as the Sola Fide component of what they believe as the Five Solas.

The Bible says this:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
(Eph 2:8-9 ESV)

Salvation is a gift. It’s free. So why doesn’t this freebie sell so well?

Perhaps for the most of us, we don’t feel too hungry for something that claims that saves us. In a world filled with many gospel substitutes, there is so little place for the gospel that really satisfies the soul. We have a hunger but not for that. Our quest for our portions of money, fame, and fortune can really give us fillers for that hunger that we feel and yet deny. And yes, as I think about it, even food can be a filler for that hunger – that gnawing hunger of the soul.

We are all hungry. We are just trying to satisfy that hunger differently. The Reformers called the process of being made aware of that hunger as regeneration. And yet we all have that hunger, and as long as we are not regenerated as to what the hunger is all about, there would be fillers, because we are truly hungry.

Ah yes among the fillers, finally there is religion. Religion is satisfying because it makes us believe we can please God with our own abilities. Our prayers, our Bible-reading, our good works, our charity, our gifts to the church, our lending money to friends, our taking care of our children, our being good models and citizens, our contribution to the education and advancement of people, our good works:  all are going to be used by God as the grounds whether we would be saved. God would balance all those against our sins, and in the end, if the good outweighs the bad, you’re saved! You earned it!

You earned it! Wrong! Remember, the verse about it being a gift? A gift is not a gift if you earned it.

Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. (Eph 2:9 NLT)

But now, as I’m writing this, perhaps the reason why so many flock to this Free Taste stalls is that the goodie doesn’t really cost anything.

Free bread? Why not? Follow the man! Perhaps too, this is the common concept of grace today. What Dietrich Bonhoeffer callled cheap grace.

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. (Joh 6:26 ESV)

Salvation is free yes, but it’s not cheap. It was bought with a price. It would yield evidences, it would yield fruit.

Following Jesus isn’t cheap. It would cost you your life. It’s not a freebie thing without effects. It’s a kiss and at the same time it’s a kick that makes you move. It is never a dead meat.

Salvation is a freebie food. But it’s a food that would make you kick fences of sin in your backyard. It’s so potent because its ingredients are the flesh and blood of someone who said He is the Son of God. It’s beneficial effects are guaranteed.

It’s either that or the claim of any stall offering it as a freebie without its life-changing effects are fake. This is freebie food to change us – Food from Heaven that satisfies.

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.
Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.
(Joh 6:26-27 ESV)

Well, just to serve you a food for thought. Take it.

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.