A Broken-Up Piece from “The Bruised Reed”
Some are reluctant to do good because they feel their hearts rebelling,
and duties turn out badly. We should not avoid good actions
because of weaknesses attending them. Christ looks more
at the good in them which he means to cherish
than the ill in them which he means to abolish. ..
Though sin clings to what we do, yet let us do it, since
we have to deal with so good a Lord, and the more strife we meet with,
the more acceptance we shall have. Christ loves to taste
of the good fruits that come from us, even though
they will always be flavored with our old nature.
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 do not know
what to pray for as we ought” (nor how to do anything
else as we ought), but the Spirit helps
in our weakness with “groanings too deep for words”
which are not hid from God. “My sighing is not hidden from you”
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.
“Oh, but is it possible”, thinks the troubled 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, being burdened with the guilt of sin,
yet God heard him. Let not, therefore, weaknesses discourage us.
James takes away this objection . Some might object,
“If I were as holy as Elijah, then my prayers might be regarded.”
“But,” says he, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours.”
He had his passions as well as we, or do we think that God heard him
because he was without fault? Surely not. But look at the promises:
“Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver you”
“Ask, and it shall be given to you” 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
There is never a holy sigh, never a tear we shed, which is lost.
And as every grace increases by exercising it,
so does the grace of prayer. By prayer we learn to pray.
So, likewise, we should avoid a spirit of discouragement
in all other holy duties, since we have so gracious a Saviour.
Pray as we are able, hear as we are able,
strive as we are able, do as we are able,
according to the measure of grace received. God in Christ
will cast a gracious eye upon that which is his own.
Would Paul do nothing because he could not do the good that he would?
No, he “pressed on toward the goal”.
Let us not be cruel to ourselves when Christ is so gracious.
There is a certain meekness of spirit in which we give thanks to God
for any ability at all, and rest quiet with the measure of grace received,
seeing it is God’s good pleasure it should be so. He gives the will
and the deed, but this doesn’t keep us from further endeavors.
But when, with faithful endeavor, we come short
of what we would be, and short of what others are,
then know for our comfort, Christ will not quench
the flickering flame, and that sincerity and truth,
with effort towards growth, is our perfection.
What God says of Jeroboam’s son is comforting,
“He only shall come to the grave, because in him there is found
something pleasing to the LORD, the God of Israel”
though only “some good thing”.
“Lord, I believe”
with a weak faith, yet with faith;
love you with a faint love, yet with love;
endeavor in a feeble manner, yet endeavor.
A little fire is fire, though it smokes.
Since you have taken me into your covenant
to be yours from being an enemy,
will you cast me off for these weaknesses,
which, as they displease you, so
are they the grief of my own heart?
By Richard Sibbes, the complete text here
HT: Tim Challies