Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. (Jeremiah 17:7)
The mercy of God is an ocean divine,
A boundless and fathomless flood;
Launch out in the deep, cut away the shoreline,
And be lost in the fullness of God.*
In 1978, as a non-Christian, I was invited along to a church where many in the congregation had deeply committed their lives to Jesus Christ. They had ‘cut away the shoreline’. They didn’t sit for hours watching TV as I did. They didn’t drink alcohol, as I did. They didn’t spend evenings ‘out on the town’, as I did! In-fact, they hardly did anything that I did! They had ‘cut away the shoreline’ and were following Jesus.
I felt my own life being challenged but it wasn’t a challenge I wanted to accept at first. I wanted to be a Christian, just not one that was ‘lost in the fulness of God’. I pictured myself on a beach, the ocean stretching out in front of me to the distant horizon. These Christians were swimming, way far out. I intended to venture in as far as my knees; that was as far as I would go. I thank God that He had other plans for me!
Like many others, my life for those few months could have been summed up in these words;
‘But many, alas! only stand on the shore,
And gaze on the ocean so wide;
They never have ventured its depths to explore,
Or to launch on the fathomless tide.’*
Maybe some reading this can identify with these feelings. Maybe you too are reluctant to ‘launch out, into the deep’ and ‘let the shoreline go’. Let me encourage you to think again and reconsider your life’s call.
Jeanne Guyon writes, ‘Be courageous. It is hard work to launch a large ship from her moorings, but when she is out in the open waters how easily she sails! When the self-nature has been conquered through perseverance, you will know great joy. You shall find yourself in the abundant waters of grace!
Friend, can I entice you to venture beyond the depth of your current experience with the Lord Jesus Christ? If you do, I can assure you, you won’t be disappointed.
‘Oh, let us launch out on this ocean so broad,
Where floods of salvation o’erflow;
Oh, let us be lost in the mercy of God,
Till the depths of His fullness we know.’*
*Launch Out- A B Simpson
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24)
What does it actually mean to take up your cross? What was Jesus referring to here?
Some people think that it means that you just have to put up with some situation or some person in life that you don’t like or that brings pain. However, as you are ‘putting up’, you are often full of self pity, sometimes angry, other times resentful. No, carrying your cross, definitely is not about ‘putting up’ but much more about ‘giving up’….and doing so willingly. It’s a call to absolute surrender. It’s about dying to self.
Let’s look at this more closely at this.
In Gethsemane, the shadow of the cross fell upon Jesus as he faced his situation in prayer. The horror of what he was about to suffer physically, mentally and spiritually broke upon Him. His Father was asking for full surrender. It was not enough that Jesus would ‘put up’ with what His Father was asking of Him; He had to willingly choose the opposite of what Adam and Eve chose in Eden. He said
...yet not my will, but yours be done. (Luke 22:42)
Jesus cut right across what fallen human nature would have dictated and chose God’s way, not man’s.
Madam Guyon describes the cross as “the affliction that God allows for us”. These circumstances cause pain and suffering, but these reveal to us our self pity, resentment, fear, stubbornness, pride, selfishness and wanting our own way. These situations give us an opportunity to die to self. It’s all about giving up our perceived ‘rights’ and submitting to His will. It also cuts right across our human nature.
But the story most certainly doesn’t end there. We read in Hebrews 12:2, ‘because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross.’ We must always remember that the cross was for a purpose. It was not meaningless suffering. After the cross came the resurrection!! Through the cross Jesus brought ‘many souls to glory’ (Hebrews 2:10). Through the cross, you and I have been set free from the penalty of sin and can experience something of eternal life here, while we are on earth.
Was it worth it for Jesus? Of course it was!!! And so it will be for those of you who follow Christ’s example; for those who not only ‘take up’ the cross, but embrace it knowing that it is actually the chariot upon which you will ride into freedom and into a deeper intimacy with Christ.
Is it worth it? Of course it is… a million times over.
“I have now concentrated all my prayers into one, and that one prayer is this, that I may die to self and live wholly to Him” C H Spurgeon.
The Lord your God is in your midst... He will create calm with His love. (Zephaniah 3:17)
In August 1979 I was admitted to hospital for what should have been a routine operation. Immediately after the operation, complications set in, some of which resulted in agonising pain. I had never known pain to that degree before, and thankfully never since. It was almost unbearable. On top of this, there was a danger I was developing pneumonia. The doctors had a plan to help prevent this it. It was called ‘physiotherapy’!! Well, how bad could that be? VERY BAD, I can assure you.
To add to my already excruciating pain, the physiotherapist, came to my bedside on a regular basis and inflicted more pain on top of what I was already experiencing. I dreaded her entrance. Every time she approached me, I wished her anywhere else in the world except at my bedside. I didn’t want her to pound my back. I certainly didn’t want to ‘cough’. I understand now that she wanted me to get well. She had my best interests at heart. The pain would bring healing. I just needed to trust her.
In Teen Challenge, men come to us who not only want freedom from addiction, but they want healing from other conditions that have plagued them, sometimes for decades. For some, there is deep seated emotional pain caused by traumatic childhood experiences. For others, there have been years of anxiety, stress and unhappiness caused by a multitude of circumstances.
Some of the healing can take place quite quickly and painlessly, but there are times where the healing involves a process which seems as painful as the condition itself. The men want healed, but they don’t like facing the pain that is sometimes necessary to bring healing.
It’s at times like this that they have to trust these words;
Will not the Judge of all the earth do right? (Genesis 18:25)
My physiotherapist didn’t want to hurt me, she wanted to heal me. In all His dealings with us, God wants to do a work in us that will bring healing and bring us closer to Himself. When this is painful, more painful than we think we can bear, we must hold on to that wonderful verse, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. Jeremiah 31:3. Thank God for a love that loves us to this degree.
Young children are often spontaneous in their reactions. They don’t sit around and carefully consider how they want others to view them. If they are upset about something, they will dissolve into floods of tears. If they are angry they will say what they are thinking; sometimes even lash out physically. Controlling emotions is something that children learn as they grow older. With it, we tend to lose something of the sense of spontaneity also.
However, spontaneity can be very revealing. We see a person’s true self. They have no time to think things out and modify their reactions. What you see is what they are.
The Apostle Peter retained a larger degree of spontaneity in his character than many people. As a result of this, we see Peter’s love for, and devotion to Christ shining clearly. These ‘signs of love’ are scattered throughout the gospels.
In Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 16:21-23), Jesus told his disciples for the first time that he would “suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Peter’s spontaneous reaction was, “Never, Lord!... This shall never happen to you!”. Although Peter was viewing the situation from man’s perspective rather than God’s and spoke unwisely, it revealed that Peter’s immediate instinct was to protect Jesus from this. He loved his Master.
Some time later, as Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, tensions were rising among the chief priests and Jewish rulers. They did not share Peter’s love for Jesus; they wanted him dead. We read in John’s gospel that an armed delegation was sent to arrest Jesus. This, to Peter, was unthinkable. He would protect Jesus. “Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear." (John 18:10-11).
Peter’s spontaneous action was another ‘sign of love’. Then, after His resurrection, Jesus showed Himself at various times and places to his disciples. One of these is in John’s gospel where, after having caught no fish, Jesus appears to Peter and some other disciples.
Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. (John 21:7)
Peter wasn’t content to be in the boat while his beloved Master stood on the shore. Here we have yet another ‘sign of love’. Doesn’t it warm our hearts when we see these ‘signs of love’ from this Galilean fisherman? How much more was Christ’s heart warmed?
Spurgeon once said:
Let me revel in this one thought: before God made the heavens and the earth, He set His love upon me.
Shall we each endeavour to live in such a way to set our love upon Him and let ‘signs of love’ flow from our lives to Him even as they did from Peter?
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Struthers Memorial Church is a registered Scottish Charity No. SC 006960 | Struthers Memorial Church is a company limited by guarantee incorporated in Scotland Company No SC335480 | Registered Office: 33 West Stewart Street, Greenock, PA15 1SH.