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Therefore we should pray for each other the way Jesus prays for us in John 17:17: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” There is no abiding joy without holiness, for the Scripture says, “Strive…for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). How important, then, is the truth that sanctifies! How crucial is the Word that breaks the power of counterfeit pleasures! And how vigilant we should be to light our paths and load our hearts with the Word of God! “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (v. 11; cf. v. 9).
The Testimony of the Lord Makes Wise the Simple Of course, the Bible does not answer every question about life. Not every fork in the road has a biblical arrow. We need wisdom to know the path of lasting joy.
But that, too, is a gift of Scripture: “The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.… The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Psalm 19:7–8; cf. 119:18). People whose minds are saturated with God’s Word and submissive to His thoughts have a wisdom that in eternity will prove superior to all the secular wisdom in the world: “Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gets understanding” (Proverbs 3:13, RSV).
Written That You Might Have Assurance Nevertheless, our perverted will and imperfect perceptions lead us time and again into foolish acts and harmful situations. The day this happens is not sweeter than the day before, and we need restoration and comfort. Where can we turn for comfort? We can follow the psalmist again: “This is my comfort in SCRIPTURE my affliction that thy promise gives me life.… When I think of thy ordinances from of old, I take comfort, O LORD” (Psalm 119:50, 52, RSV).
And when our failures and our afflictions threaten our assurance of faith, where do we turn to rebuild our confidence? John invites us to turn to the Word of God: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). The Bible is written to give us assurance of eternal life.
The Evil One Is Overcome by the Word of God Satan’s number-one objective is to destroy our joy of faith. We have one offensive weapon: the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). But what many Christians fail to realize is that we can’t draw the sword from someone else’s scabbard. If we don’t wear it, we can’t wield it. If the Word of God does not abide in us (John 15:7), we will reach for it in vain when the enemy strikes. But if we do wear it, if it lives within us, what mighty warriors we can be! “I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one” (1 John 2:14).
This has been the secret of God’s great spiritual warriors. They have saturated themselves with the Word of God. Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission, sustained himself through incredible hardships by a disciplined meditation on the Bible every day. Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor give us a
glimpse of this discipline:
It was not easy for Mr. Taylor in his changeful life, to make time for prayer and Bible study, but he knew that it was vital. Well do the writers remember traveling with him month after month in northern China, by cart and wheelbarrow with the poorest of inns at night.
Often with only one large room for coolies and travelers alike, they would screen off a corner for their father and another for themselves, with curtains of some sort; and then, after sleep at last had brought a measure of quiet, they would hear a match struck and see the flicker of candlelight which told that Mr. Taylor, however weary, was poring over
the little Bible in two volumes always at hand. From two to four A.M.
was the time he usually gave to prayer; the time he could be most sure of being undisturbed to wait upon God.3 The Sword of the Spirit is full of victory. But how few will give themselves to the deep and disciplined exercise of soul to take it up and wield it with joy and power!
An Earnest Exhortation So the Bible is the Word of God. And the Word of God is no trifle. It is the source of life and faith and power and hope and freedom and wisdom and comfort and assurance and victory over our greatest enemy. Is it any wonder then that those who knew best said, “The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart” (Psalm 19:8)? “I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word” (119:16). “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (v. 97). “Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart” (v. 111).
“Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name” (Jeremiah 15:16).
But are we to pursue this joy like Christian Hedonists? Are we to throw the kindling of God’s Word every day on the fire of joy? Indeed, we are! Not only every day, but day and night: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1–2). This delight is the very design of our Lord in speaking to us: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). Not to pursue our joy every day in the Word of God is to abandon the revealed will of God. It is sin.
Oh, that we might not treat the Bible as a trifle! If we do, we oppose ourselves and despise the saints who labored and suffered for the Word of God.
Think of the courage of Martin Luther as he stood before the secular and eccleDr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor, Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret (Chicago: Moody, n. d., orig. 1932), 235.
siastical rulers of his day, who had the power to banish and even to execute him for his views of the Word of God. The Archbishop of Trier poses Luther the question one last time: “Do you or do you not repudiate yours books and the errors which they contain?”
Since, then, Your Majesty and Your Lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me.4 Luther disappeared abruptly after the edict of his condemnation was
released. The great artist Albrecht Dürer reflected in his diary:
I know not whether he lives or is murdered, but in any case he has suffered for the Christian truth. If we lose this man, who has written more clearly than any other in centuries, may God grant his spirit to another.… O God, if Luther is dead, who will henceforth explain to us the gospel? What might he not have written for us in the next ten or twenty years?5 He was not dead. And he did keep writing—for another twenty-five years.
And along with many other bold Reformers, he recovered for us the Word of God from the bondage of ecclesiastical tradition. Oh, that we might wield it the way they did! For them it was such a mighty sword against the enemy!
Martin Luther knew as well as any man that every day with Jesus is not
4. Quoted in Roland Bainton, Here I Stand (New York: Mentor, 1950), 144.
5. Ibid., 149.
sweeter than the day before. And according to his biographer, Roland Bainton,
he wrote these famous lines in the year of his deepest depression:
And though this world, with devils filled, Should threaten to undo us, We will not fear, for God has willed His truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim, We tremble not for him— His rage we can endure,
For lo! His doom is sure:
One little word shall fell him.
TO WIELD IT, WE MUST WEAR ITBut if we intend to wield it, we must wear it. We must be like Ezra: “The good hand of his God was on him. For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statues and rules in Israel” (Ezra 7:9–10).
And we must get a heart like the saint who wrote the great love song to the law in Psalm 119: “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (v. 97).
Let us labor to memorize the Word of God—for worship and for warfare. If we do not carry it in our heads, we cannot savor it in our hearts or wield it in the Spirit. If you go out without the kindling of Christian Hedonism, the fire of Christian happiness will be quenched before midmorning.
HOW GEORGE MÜLLER STARTED HIS DAYI close this chapter with a testimony from a great man of prayer and faith.
George Müller (1805–1898) is famous for establishing orphanages in England and for joyfully depending on God for all his needs. How did he kindle this joy and faith? In 1841 he made a life-changing discovery. The testimony of this from his autobiography has proved to be of tremendous value in my life, and I
pray that it will also bear fruit in yours:
While I was staying at Nailsworth, it pleased the Lord to teach me a truth, irrespective of human instrumentality, as far as I know, the benefit of which I have not lost, though now…more than forty years have since passed away.
The point is this: I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord;
but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished. For I might seek to set the truth before the unconverted, I might seek to benefit believers, I might seek to relieve the distressed, I might in other ways seek to behave myself as it becomes a child of God in this world; and yet, not being happy in the Lord, and not being nourished and strengthened in my inner man day by day, all this might not be attended to in a right spirit.
Before this time my practice had been, at least for ten years previously, as an habitual thing, to give myself to prayer, after having dressed in the morning. Now I saw, that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditation on it, that thus my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, instructed; and that thus, whilst meditating, my heart might be brought into experimental, communion with the Lord.
I began therefore, to meditate on the New Testament, from the beginning, early in the morning.
The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words the Lord’s blessing upon His precious Word, was to begin to meditate on the Word of God; searching, as it were, into every verse, to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of the public ministry of the Word; not for the sake or preaching on what I had meditated upon; but for the sake of obtaining food for my own soul. The result I have found to be almost invariably this, that after a very few minutes my soul has been led to confession, or to thanksgiving, or to intercession, or to supplication; so
that though I did not, as it were, give myself to prayer, but to meditation, yet it turned almost immediately more or less into prayer.
When thus I have been for awhile making confession, or intercession, or supplication, or have given thanks, I go on to the next words or verse, turning all, as I go on, into prayer for myself or others, as the Word may lead to it; but still continually keeping before me, that food for my own soul is the object of my meditation. The result of this is, that there is always a good deal of confession, thanksgiving, supplication, or intercession mingled with my meditation, and that my inner man almost invariably is even sensibly nourished and strengthened and that by breakfast time, with rare exceptions, I am in a peaceful if not happy state of heart. Thus also the Lord is pleased to communicate unto me that which, very soon after, I have found to become food for other believers, though it was not for the sake of the public ministry of the Word that I gave myself to meditation, but for the profit of my own inner man.
The difference between my former practice and my present one is this. Formerly, when I rose, I began to pray as soon as possible, and generally spent all my time till breakfast in prayer, or almost all the time. At all events I almost invariably began with prayer.… But what was the result? I often spent a quarter of an hour, or half an hour, or even an hour on my knees, before being conscious to myself of having derived comfort, encouragement, humbling of soul, etc.; and often after having suffered much from wandering of mind for the first ten minutes, or a quarter of an hour, or even half an hour, I only then began really to pray.
I scarcely ever suffer now in this way. For my heart being nourished by the truth, being brought into experimental fellowship with God, I speak to my Father, and to my Friend (vile though I am, and unworthy of it!) about the things that He has brought before me in His precious Word.
It often now astonished me that I did not sooner see this. In no SCRIPTURE book did I ever read about it. No public ministry ever brought the matter before me. No private intercourse with a brother stirred me up to this matter. And yet now, since God has taught me this point, it is as plain to me as anything, that the first thing the child of God has to do morning by morning is to obtain food for his inner man.
As the outward man is not fit for work for any length of time, except we take food, and as this is one of the first things we do in the morning, so it should be with the inner man. We should take food for
that, as every one must allow. Now what is the food for the inner man: