The Prayer of Jabez
C. H. Spurgeon
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“Oh, that you would bless me!”
[1 Chronicles 4:10]
We know very little about Jabez, except that he was more honorable than his brothers, and that he was called Jabez because his mother bore him with sorrow. It will sometimes happen that where there is the most sorrow in the experience, there will be the most pleasure in the outcome. Just as the angry storm gives way to the clear sunshine, so the night of weeping precedes the morning of joy. Sorrow is the messenger; gladness is the prince it ushers in. Cowper says: -
“The path of sorrow, and that path alone,
Leads to the place where sorrow is unknown.”
To a great extent we find that we must sow in tears before we can reap in joy. Many of our works for Christ have cost us tears. Difficulties and disappointments have wrung our soul with anguish. Yet those tasks that have cost us more than ordinary sorrow, have often turned out to be the most honorable of our undertakings. While our grief called the offspring of desire “Benoni,” the son of my sorrow, our faith has afterwards been able to give it a name of delight, “Benjamin,” the son of my right hand. You may expect a blessing in serving God if you are enabled to persevere under many discouragements. The ship often takes a long time coming home, because she has been detained enroute onloading an excess of cargo. Expect her freight to be all the more the better when she reaches the port.
More honorable than his brothers was the child whom his mother bore with sorrow. As for this Jabez, whose aim was so well directed, his fame so well known, his name forever preserved - he was above all, a man of prayer. The honor he enjoyed would not have been worth having if it had not been vigorously contested and justifiably won. His devotion was the key to his promotion. The best honors are those that come from God: the award of grace with the acknowledgment of service. When Jacob was given the name Israel, he received his rank and jurisdiction after a memorable night of prayer. Surely it was far more honorable to him than if it had been bestowed upon him as a flattering distinction by some earthly emperor. The best honor is that which a man gains in communion with the Most High. Jabez, we are told, was more honorable than his brothers, and his prayer is immediately recorded, as if to insinuate that he was also more prayerful than his brothers. We are told of the petitions in his prayer. All through the prayer it was very significant and instructive. We have only time to take one part of it - indeed, that one part may be said to comprehend the rest: “Oh, that you would bless me!” I recommend it as a prayer for each one of you, dear brothers and sisters; one which will be available at all times; a prayer to begin Christian life with, a prayer to end it with, a prayer which would always be appropriate in your joys or in your sorrows.
Oh that you, the God of Israel, the covenant God, would bless me!
The very substance of the prayer seems to lie in the intensity of the request. There are many varieties of blessing. Some are blessings in name only: they satisfy our wishes for the moment, but permanently disappoint our expectations. They delight the eye, but are dull in the taste. Others are mere temporary blessings: they perish as they are used. Though for awhile they delight the senses, they cannot satisfy the higher cravings of the soul. But, “Oh, that you would bless me!” I know that whoever God blesses shall be blessed. The good thing in the blessing is bestowed with the goodwill of the giver, and shall produce so much good fortune to the recipient that it may well be esteemed as a great blessing, for there is nothing comparable to it. Let the grace of God prompt it, let the choice of God appoint it, let the bounty of God confer it, and then the endowment shall be something very godlike; something worthy of the lips that pronounce the blessing, and truly to be desired by every one who seeks honor that is substantial and enduring. “Oh, that you would bless me!” Think it over, and you will see that there is a depth of meaning in the expression.
We may set this in contrast with human blessings: “Oh, that you would bless me!”
It is very pleasant to be blessed by our parents, and those respected friends whose blessings come from their hearts, and are backed up by their prayers. Many a poor man has had no other legacy to leave his children except his blessing, but the blessing of an honest, holy, Christian father is a rich treasure to his son. One might feel it would be a thing to be deplored through life if he had lost a parent’s blessing. We like to have it. The blessing of our spiritual parents is comforting. Though we do not believe in the blessings given by a Roman Catholic Priest, we do like to live in the love of those who were the means of bringing us to Christ, and from whose lips we were instructed in the things of God. And how very precious is the blessing of the poor! I am not surprised that Job treasured that up as a sweet thing. He said, “Whoever heard me spoke well of me.” If you have comforted the widow and the fatherless, and their thanks are returned to you in the form of a blessing, then it is a great reward. But, dear friends, even after all that parents, relatives, saints, and grateful persons can do in the way of blessing, it all falls far short of what we desire to have. O Lord, we want to have the blessings of our fellow-creatures, the blessings that come from their hearts; but, “Oh, that you would bless us!” for only you can bless with authority. Their blessings may be nothing but words, but yours are powerful and effective. They may often wish to do what they cannot do, and desire to give what they do not have at their own disposal, but your will is omnipotent. You created the world with only a word. O that such omnipotence would now give to me your blessing! Other blessings may bring us some small amount of joy, but in yours is life. Other blessings are mere specks in comparison with your blessing; for your blessing is the title “to an unfading eternal inheritance,” to “a kingdom that cannot be shaken.” David prayed, “With your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever.”
Perhaps in our verse today, Jabez may have put the blessing of God in contrast with the blessings of men.
Men will bless you when you do good in life. They will praise the man who is successful in business. Nothing succeeds like success. Nothing receives the approval of the general public as much as a man’s prosperity. Sadly! they do not weigh men’s actions in the balances of God’s Word, but on quite different scales. You will find those around you who will commend you if you are prosperous; or like Job’s friends, condemn you if you suffer adversity. Perhaps there may be some feature about their blessings that may please you, because you feel you deserve them. They commend you for your patriotism: you have been a patriot. They commend you for your generosity: you know you have been self-sacrificing. But in the end, what is there in the opinion of man? At a trial, the opinion of the policeman who stands in the court, or of the spectators who sit in the courthouse, amounts to nothing. The man who is being tried feels that the only thing that is of importance at all will be the verdict of the jury, and the sentence of the judge. So no matter what we do, it really is a small thing whether others praise or criticize us. Their blessings are not of any great value. But, “Oh, that God would bless us,” that He would say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Commend us for our feeble service, that through His grace, our heart has provided. That will indeed be a true blessing to us.
Men are sometimes extremely blessed by flattery.
People tell you that they never saw any one so well dressed, and that no voice could be so sweet as yours. Their whole mind is focused, not on you, but on what they can gain by using you. The race of flatterers is never extinct, though the flattered usually flatter themselves that flatterers really don’t exist. They believe that men flatter others, but it is all so obvious and transparent when heaped upon themselves, that they accept it with a great deal of self-complacency, as being perhaps a little exaggerated, but after all very close to the truth. We are not very quick to ignore the praises that others offer us; yet, if we were wise, we would take to heart those who criticize us; and we would always keep at arm’s length those who praise us, for those who criticize us to our face cannot possibly be trying to take advantage of us; but with regard to those who “loudly bless us early in the morning,” we may suspect, and be seldom wrong in the suspicion, that there is some other motive in the praise which they give to us than that which appears on the surface. Young man, are you placed in a position where God honors you? Beware of the flatterers. Or have you recently received a large inheritance? Do you have an abundance? There are always flies where there is honey. Beware of flattery. Young woman, are you lovely to look upon? There will be those around you that will have their designs, perhaps their evil designs, in praising your beauty. Beware of flatterers. Turn aside from all these who have honey on their tongue, hiding the poison of asps under it. Remember Solomon’s caution, “to avoid a person who talks too much,” a person full of flattery. Cry out to God, “Deliver me from all this vain adoration, which nauseates my soul.” Therefore, you will have all the more reason to fervently pray to God, “Oh, that you would bless me! Let me have your blessing, which never says more than it means; which never gives less than it promises.” If you then take the prayer of Jabez as being put in contrast with the blessings which come from men, you will see the force of his prayer.
But we may put it in another light, and compare the blessing Jabez craved with those blessings that are temporal and transient.
There are many gifts mercifully given to us by God for which we are compelled to be very grateful; but we must not treasure them too much. We may accept them with gratitude, but we must not make them our idols. When we have them we have a great need to cry out, “Oh, that you would bless me, and make these inferior blessings real blessings;” and if we have don’t have them, we should with greater intensity cry out, “Oh, that we may be rich in faith, and if not blessed with these external favors, may we be blessed spiritually, and then we will truly be blessed.”
Let us review some of these mercies, and just say a word or two about them.
One of the first cravings of men’s hearts is wealth.
So universal is the desire to gain wealth, that we could almost say it is a natural instinct. How many have thought that if they only possessed wealth that they would be very blessed! But there are ten thousand proofs that happiness does not consist in the abundance of man’s possessions. So many instances are so well known to all of us, that I need not quote any to show that riches are not a true blessing. They only appear to be a blessing, and in reality are not. Therefore, it has been well said, that when we see how much a man has we envy him; but if we could only see how little he enjoys that wealth we would pity him. Some that have had the easiest circumstances in life also have had the most troubled minds. Those who have acquired all they could ever wish for have been led by the possession of what they had to be discontented because they didn’t have more.
“Thus the miser starves amidst his store,
Broods over his gold, and griping still the more,
Sits sadly pining, and believes he’s poor.”
Nothing is clearer to any one who chooses to observe it, than that riches, are not the best thing in life that will cause all sorrows to fly away, and in whose presence is continual joy. Very often wealth flatters and deceives the owner. Delicacies are spread on his table, but his appetite fails, musicians await his bidding, but his ears are deaf to all the stanzas of music; he may take as many vacations as he pleases, but for him recreation has lost all its charms: or he is young, fortune has come to him by inheritance, and he pursues all kinds of pleasures until they become more tiresome than work, and indulgence becomes worse than drudgery. You know that riches make themselves wings; like the bird that roosted in the tree, they fly away. In sickness and times of depression these riches that once seemed to whisper, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry,” will prove themselves to be poor comforters. In death they even tend to make the pang of separation more acute, because there is the more to leave, the more to lose. We may well say, if we have wealth, “My God, do not cast me away with these empty shells; let me never make a god of silver and gold, or goods and property, estates and investments, which in your providence you have given to me. I beg that you would bless me. As for these worldly possessions, they will be my curse unless I have your grace with them.” And if you do not have wealth, and perhaps most of you will never have it, then say, “My Father, you have denied me this outward and seemingly good blessing, enrich me with your love, give me the gold of your favor, truly bless me; then allot to others whatever you will. My soul will wait upon your daily will for my life; bless me with true riches and I will be content.”
Another transient blessing which our poor humanity fondly covets and eagerly
pursues is fame.
In this respect we would be desirous to be more honorable than our brothers and sisters, and outstrip all our competitors. It seems natural to all of us to wish to make a name for ourselves, and gain some prominence in the circle we move in, and we wish to make that circle wider if we can. But here, as it is with riches, is the indisputable fact that the greatest fame does not bring with it any equal measure of gratification. Men, in seeking after notoriety or honor, have a degree of pleasure in the search which they do not always possess when they have gained their object. Some of the most famous men have also been the most wretched of the human race. If you have honor and fame, accept it; but let this be your prayer, “Oh God, that you would bless me! for what profit would it be, if my name were in a thousand mouths, if you would spit it out of your mouth? What does it matter, though my name was written on marble, if it was not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life? These blessings are only apparent blessings, blessings that mock me. Give me your blessing: then the honor which comes from you will make me truly blessed.” If you happen to have lived in obscurity, and have never been entered on the lists of honors among your fellowmen, be content to run your own course well and truly fulfill your own vocation. To lack fame is not the worst of evils; it is worse to have it like the snow, which whitens the ground in the morning, and disappears in the heat of the day. What does it matter to a dead man that men are talking about him? Get the true blessings from God!
There is another temporal blessing which wise men desire, and legitimately may wish for rather than the other two - the blessing of health.
Can we ever sufficiently value it? To trifle with such a blessing is the madness of folly. The highest praise that can be given about having good health would not be extravagant. He that has a healthy body is infinitely more blessed than he who is sickly, whatever his position in life may be. Yet if I have health, my bones are well set, and my muscles well strung, if I scarcely know an ache or pain, but can rise in the morning, and with elastic step go off to work, and go to bed at night, and sleep soundly all the night through, yet, my Lord, let me not glory in my strength! In a moment it may fail me. A few short weeks may reduce the strong man to a skeleton. A serious disease may set in; the cheek may turn pale with the shadow of death. Do not let the strong man glory in his strength. The Lord’s “pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor is his delight in the legs of a man.” And do not let us boast concerning these things. You that are in good health, say, “My God, Oh, that you would bless me! Give me a healthy soul. Heal me of my spiritual diseases. Lord God come, and purge out the leprosy that is in my heart by nature: make me healthy in the heavenly sense, that I may not be put aside among the unclean, but allowed to stand among the congregation of your saints. Bless my bodily health to me that I may rightly use it, spending the strength I have in your service and to your glory; otherwise, though blessed with health, I may not be truly blessed.”
Some of you, dear friends, do not possess the great treasure of health. Wearisome days and nights are appointed you. Your bones have become like an almanac, in which you note the changes of the weather. There is much about you that excites pity. But I pray that you may have the true blessing, and I know what that is. I can thoroughly sympathize with a sister that said to me the other day, “I had such nearness to God when I was sick, such full assurance, and such joy in the Lord, and I regret to say I have lost it now. I could almost wish to be sick again, if thereby I might have a renewal of communion with God.” I have oftentimes looked gratefully back to my sick bed. I am certain that I never grew in grace one half as much anywhere as I have on the bed of pain. It ought not to be so. Our joyous mercies ought to cause our spirits to thrive; but often times our griefs are more helpful than our joys. The pruning knife is better for some of us. Whatever you have to suffer, be it weakness, stiffness, pain, or anguish, may it come with divine presence, that this light and momentary trouble achieve for you an eternal glory, and thus you would be truly blessed.
I will only dwell upon one more temporal mercy, which is very precious - I mean the blessing of home.
I do not think any one can ever prize it too highly, or speak too well of it. What a blessing it is to have comfort of a living room, and the dear relationships that gather around the word “Home,” wife, children, father, brother, and sister! Why, there are no songs in any language that are more full of music than those dedicated to “Mother.” We hear a great deal about the German “Fatherland” - we like the sound. But the word, “Father,” is the whole of it. The word “land” is nothing: the “Father” is key to the music. There are many of us, I hope, blessed with a great many of these relationships. But don’t let us be content to comfort our souls with ties that must some day be severed. Let us ask, that over and above them, may come the real blessing. “I thank you, my God, for my earthly father; but oh, you be my Father, then I will be truly blessed. I thank you, my God, for a mother’s love; but please, you comfort my soul like a mother comforts, then I will be truly blessed. I thank you, Savior, for my marriage relationship; but you be the bridegroom of my soul. I thank you for the tie of brotherhood; but you be my brother born for adversity, bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh. The home you have given me I prize, and I thank you for it; but I would rather dwell in the house of the Lord forever, and be a child that never wanders from my Father’s house with its many rooms.” In this way you will be truly blessed. If not living under the fatherly care of the Almighty, even the blessing of a home, with all of its sweet familiar comforts, will not attain the blessing which Jabez desired for himself. But do I speak to anyone here that is separated from their friends and relatives? I know that some of you know of graves, where parts of your heart are buried, and the part that remains is bleeding with many wounds. Oh, that the Lord would truly bless you! Widow, your creator is your husband. Fatherless one, he has said, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” Oh, to find all your relationships made up in him, then you will be truly blessed!
I have perhaps taken too long a time in mentioning these temporary blessings, so let me set the text in another light. I trust we have had human blessings and temporary blessings, to fill our hearts with gladness, but not to pollute our hearts with worldliness, or to distract our attention from the things that belong to our everlasting welfare.
Let us proceed, thirdly, to speak of imaginary blessings. They do exist in the world. May God deliver us from them. “Oh, that you would bless me!”
Take the Pharisee. He stood in the Lord’s house, and he thought he had the Lord’s blessing, and it made him very bold, and he spoke with exaggerated self-complacency, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men,” and so on. He had the blessing, and he surely believed that he deserved it. He fasted twice a week, and gave a tenth of all he received. He felt he had done everything. His was the blessing of a quiet and contented conscience; he felt that he was a good, easy going man. He was an example to the community. It was a pity everybody did not live as he did; if they had, they would not have needed any police. Pilate might have dismissed his guards, and Herod his soldiers. He was just one of the most excellent persons that ever breathed. Yes; but he was not really blessed. This was nothing but his own arrogant conceit. He was nothing but a mere windbag, nothing more, and the blessing which he imagined had fallen on him, had never come. The poor tax collector, whom the Pharisee thought was wicked, went to his home justified before God rather than he. The blessing had not fallen on the man who thought he had it. Oh, let every one of us here feel the sting of this rebuke, and pray: “Great God, save us from ascribing to ourselves a righteousness which we do not possess. Save us from wrapping ourselves up in our own filthy rags, and believing that we have put on wedding garments. Please, bless me Father! Let me have the true righteousness. Let me have the true worthiness which you can accept-the righteousness that that comes through faith in Jesus Christ.”
Another form of this imaginary blessing is found in persons who would refuse to be thought self-righteous.
I hear them singing -
“I do believe, I will believe
That Jesus died for me,
And on his cross he shed his blood,
From sin to set me free.”
You believe it, you say. Well, but how do you know? Upon what authority do you gain your confidence? Who told you? “Oh, I believe it.” Yes, but we must be careful of what we believe. Have you any clear evidence of a special interest in the blood of Jesus? Can you give any spiritual reasons for believing that Christ has set you free from sin? I am afraid that some have a hope that has no foundation, like an anchor without the hook blade at the end, which catches in the ground - nothing to grab on with, nothing to lay hold of. They say they are saved, and they really believe that they are, and they think it is wicked to doubt it; but yet they have no reason to warrant their confidence. When the sons of Kohath carried the ark, and touched it with their hands, they did what was right; but when Uzzah touched it he died. There is a great difference between presumption and full assurance. Full assurance is reasonable: it is based on solid ground. Presumption takes things for granted, and with a bold face pronounces something to be its own to which it has no right whatever. Beware, I pray, beware of presuming that you are saved. If with your heart you do trust in Jesus, then you are saved; but if you merely say, “I trust in Jesus,” it does not save you. If your heart is renewed, if you hate the things that you once loved, and love the things that you once hated; if you have really repented; if there is a complete change of mind in you; if you are born again, then you have reason to rejoice: but if there is no real change, no inward godliness; if there is no love to God, no prayer, no work of the Holy Spirit, then your saying, “I am saved,” is nothing but your own assertion, and it may delude, but it will not deliver you. Our prayer ought to be, “Oh, that you would bless me, with real faith, with real salvation, with the trust in Jesus that is the essential of faith; not with the conceit that produces a lack of caution. God preserve us from imaginary blessings!”
I have met with persons who said, “I believe I am saved, because I have dreamed about it.” Or, “Because I read a verse of Scripture that applied to my own case. Or, the pastor said something in his sermon that made me feel saved.” Or, “Because I began weeping and became excited, and felt like I never felt before.” Oh! But nothing will stand the trial but this, “Do you renounce all confidence in everything but the finished work of Jesus, and do you come to Christ to be reconciled in him to God?” If you do not, then your dreams, and visions, and thoughts, are nothing but dreams, and visions, and thoughts, and will not serve you when you most need them. Pray that the Lord will truly bless you, for there is a great lack of truth in your profession of faith.
I am afraid that very often, that even those who are saved - saved for time and eternity - need this caution, and have a good reason to pray this prayer that they may learn to make a distinction between some things which they only think are spiritual blessings, versus others which are truly blessings. Let me show you what I mean.
Is it certainly a blessing to get an answer to your prayer in accordance to what you asked for. I always like to qualify my most earnest prayer with, “Not my will, but your will.” Not only should I always ask that, but I must always ask that, because otherwise I might ask for something which would be dangerous for me to receive. God might give it to me in anger, and
I might find a little sweetness in the answer to my prayer, but much pain in the grief it caused me. You remember how Israel in the desert asked for meat to eat, and God gave them quails; but while the meat was still in their mouths the wrath of God came upon them. Ask for the meat, if you like, but always add this: “Lord, if this is not a real blessing, do not give it to me. Oh, that you would truly bless me!”
I remember the old story of the woman whose son was sick - a little child near death’s door - and she begged the minister to pray for its life. He prayed very intently, but he added, “If it is your will, save this child.” The woman said, “I cannot bear that: I must have you pray that the child shall live. Do not put in any ifs or buts.” “Woman,” said the minister, “it may be that you will live to regret the day that you ever wished to set your will up against God’s will.” Twenty years later, she was carried away after fainting from watching her son, hanged on the gallows, as a felon. Although she had lived to see her child grow up to be a man, it would have been infinitely better for her had the child died, and infinitely wiser had she left it to God’s will. Do not be quite so sure, that an answer to prayer is any proof of divine love. It may leave much room for you to seek the Lord, saying, “Oh, that you would bless me!” So sometimes great excitement of spirit, liveliness of heart, even though it is religious joy, may not always be a blessing. We delight in it, and oh, sometimes when we have had gatherings for prayer here, the fire has burned, and our souls have glowed! We felt at the time how we could sing -
“My willing soul would stay
In such a frame as this,
And sit and sing herself away
To everlasting bliss.”
So far as that was a blessing, we are thankful for it; but I would not like to declare that such times of my enjoyments were the main proof of God’s favor; or that they were the chief signs of his blessing. Perhaps it would be a greater blessing to me to be broken in spirit, and laid low before the Lord at the present time. When you ask for the greatest joy, and pray to be on the mountain with Christ, remember it may be as much a blessing; yes a true blessing to be brought into the Valley of Humiliation, to be laid very low, and constrained to cry out in anguish, “Lord, save me, or I will perish!”
“If today he consents to bless us
With a sense of pardoned sin,
He may tomorrow distress us,
Make us feel the plague within,
All to make us
Sick of self, and fond of him.”
These variable experiences of ours may truly be blessings to us, when, had we been always rejoicing, we might have been like Moab, “…at rest from youth, like wine left on its dregs, not poured from one jar to another...” It is not healthy for those who have no changes in life; they do not fear God. Haven’t we, dear friends, sometimes envied those persons that are always calm and unruffled, and are never troubled in their minds? Well, there are Christians whose constancy of temper deserves to be emulated. And as for that calm repose, that unwavering assurance which comes from the Spirit of God, it is a very delightful attainment; but I am not sure that we ought to envy anybody’s lot because it is more tranquil or less exposed to storm and tempest than our own.
There is a danger of saying, “Peace, peace,” where there is no peace, and there is a calmness which arises from heartlessness. There are fools who deceive their own souls. “They have no doubts,” they say, but it is because they seldom search their hearts. They have no anxieties, because they do not have many activities or many pursuits to stir them up. Or it may be they have no pains, because they have no life. It is better to go to heaven, limping and maimed, than to go marching on in confidence down to hell. “Oh, that you would bless me!”
My God, I will envy no one of his gifts or his graces; much less of his inward disposition or his outward circumstances, if only you will “truly bless me.” I will not be comforted unless you comfort me, nor have any peace but Christ as my peace, nor any rest but the rest which comes from the sweet savor of the sacrifice of Christ. Christ shall be all in all, and none shall be anything to me except Christ himself. Oh, that we might always know that we are not to judge as to the manner of the blessing, but must leave it with God to give us what we should have, not the imaginary blessing, the superficial and apparent blessing, but the true blessing from God!
Equally too with regard to our work and service, I think our prayer should always be, “Oh that you would bless me!”
It is regrettable to see the work of some good men, though it is not ours to judge them, how very pretentious, but how very unreal it is. It is really shocking to think how some men pretend to build up a church in the course of two or three services. They will report, in the newspapers, that there were forty-three persons convicted of sin, and forty-six justified, and sometimes thirty-eight sanctified; I don’t know what other evidence besides their wonderful statistics they can give as to all that is accomplished. I have observed congregations that have been quickly gathered together, and great additions have been made to the church all of a sudden. And what has become of them? Where are those churches at the present moment? The dreariest deserts in Christendom are those places that were fertilized by the obvious manures of certain revivalists. The whole church seemed to have spent its strength in one rush and effort after something, and it ended in nothing at all. They built their wooden house, and piled up the hay, and made a steeple of stubble that seemed to reach to the heavens, and there fell one spark, and it all went up in smoke; and he that came to labor next time - the successor of the great builder - had to get the ashes swept away before he could do any good. The prayer of every one that serves God should be, “Oh that you would bless me!”
Plod on, plod on. If I only build one little piece of a building in my life, and nothing more, if it constructed with gold, silver, or precious stones, it would a good work for a man to do; of such precious stuff as that, to build even one little corner which will not show, is a worthy service. It will not be talked of much, but it will last. There is the point: it will last. “Establish the work of our hands for us-yes, establish the work of our hands.” If we are not builders in an established church, it is of little use to try at all. What God establishes will stand, but what men build without his establishment will certainly come to nothing. “Oh, that you would bless me!”
Sunday-school teacher, is this your prayer? Tract distributor, local preacher, whatever you may be, dear brother or sister, whatever your form of service, be sure to ask the Lord that you may not be one of those builders using fake mortar that only requires a certain amount of frost and weather to make it crumble to pieces. Be determined, that if you cannot build a cathedral, to build at least one part of the marvelous temple that God is building for eternity, which will outlast the stars.
I have one thing more to mention before I bring this sermon to a close. The blessings of God’s grace are true blessings, which in all seriousness we ought to seek after.
By these marks shall you know them. True blessings, are such blessings that come from the pierced hand; blessings that come from Calvary’s bloody tree, streaming from the Savior’s wounded side - your pardon, your acceptance, your spiritual life: the bread that is true food, the blood that is true drink - your oneness to Christ, and all that comes of it - these are the true blessings. Any blessing that comes as the result of the Spirit’s work in your soul is a true blessing; though it humbles you, though it strips you, though it kills you, it is a true blessing. Though the plow goes over and over your soul, and the deep plow blades cut into your very heart; though you are maimed and wounded, and left for dead, yet if the Spirit of God does it, it is a true blessing. If he convinces you of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, even though you have not up till now been brought to Christ, it is a true blessing. Anything that he does, accept it; do not be dubious of it; but pray that he may continue his blessed processes in your soul. Whatsoever leads you to God is a true blessing. Riches may not do it. There may be a golden wall between you and God. Health will not do it: even the strength and marrow of your bones may keep you at a distance from your God. But anything that draws you nearer to him is a true blessing. What if even it is a cross that raises you? Yet if it raises you to God it shall be a true blessing. Anything that reaches into eternity, with a preparation for the world to come, anything that we can carry across the river, the holy joy that is to blossom in those fields beyond the swelling flood, the pure cloudless love of the brotherhood which is to be the atmosphere of truth forever - anything of this kind that has the eternal immutable mark on it - is a true blessing. And anything which helps me to glorify God is a true blessing. If I am sick, and that helps me to praise him, it is a true blessing. If I am poor, and I can serve him better in poverty than in wealth, it is a true blessing. If I am treated with contempt, I will rejoice in that day and leap for joy, if it is for Christ’s sake - it is a true blessing. Yes, my faith shakes off the disguise, snatches the covering from the blessing, and counts it all joy in various trials for the sake of Jesus and for the reward that he has promised. “Oh, that we may be blessed!”
Now, I send you away with these three words:
“Search.” See whether the blessings are true blessings, and do not be satisfied unless you know that they are from God: signs of his grace, and an assurance of his saving purpose.
“Weigh” - that shall be the next word. Whatever you have, weigh it on the scale, and ascertain if it is a true blessing, conferring such grace upon you that causes you to abound in love, and to abound in every good word and work.
And lastly, “Pray.” So pray that this prayer may mingle with all your prayers, that whatsoever God grants or whatever he withholds from you may be truly blessed. Is it a joyful time for you? O that Christ may soften your joy, and prevent the intoxication of earthly blessedness from leading you aside from a close walk with him! In the night of sorrow, pray that he will truly bless you, lest the wormwood also intoxicate you and make you drunk, lest your afflictions should make you barely think of him. Pray for the blessing, which having, you are blissfully rich, or which lacking, you are poor and destitute, though plenty fills your store. “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” But “Oh, that you would bless me! Amen.
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