Have you ever passed or seen a nearby police car and in that moment you look down to see that you’ve been riding the gas peddle more heavily than you ought? Then on the same trip, your path crosses another police car or one turns onto the street behind you and, hopefully, you find yourself grateful that the first car caused you to adjust your pace down before this second close encounter. I usually see that as grace in my life.
I’m wondering if the same early-alert for my benefit is not being offered me by Charles Spurgeon. Anyway, it’s caught my attention. Spurgeon discusses first the “delightful and profitable occupation” of reading Christian biographies. However, it is not only the great heroes of faith in which God is at work. Spurgeon directs us to look also to our own lives and “forget not all His benefits” (Psalm 103:2).
“Ought we not to look upon our own history as being at least as full of God, as full of His goodness and of His truth, as much a proof of His faithfulness and veracity, as the lives of any of the saints who have gone before? We do our Lord an injustice when we suppose that He wrought all His mighty acts, and showed Himself strong for those in the early time, but doth not perform wonders or lay bare His arm for the saints who are now upon the earth. Let us review our own lives. Surely in these we may discover some happy incidents, refreshing to ourselves and glorifying to our God. Have you had no deliverances? Have you passed through no rivers, supported by the divine presence? Have you walked through no fires unharmed? Have you had no manifestations? Have you had no choice favours? The God who gave Solomon the desire of his heart, hath He never listened to you and answered your requests? That God of lavish bounty of whom David sang, “Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things,” hath He never satiated you with fatness? Have you never been made to lie down in green pastures? Have you never been led by the still waters? Surely the goodness of God has been the same to us as to the saints of old.”
Curiously (or Providentially), I am finding Spurgeon’s challenge to take inventory and “not forget” echoed on a few fronts. I’m reading in Deuteronomy these days. It’s Moses’ swan song really. He condenses the previous 40 years into a single history to both remind and encourage Israel who are now on the doorstep of Canaan, the promised land. “Forget not” (4:9, 4:23, 6:12, 8:11, 8:14, 8:19, 9:7) and “remember” (5:15, 7:18, 8:2, 8:18, 15:15, 16:3, 16:12, 24:18, 24:22) are major themes that keep running through the book of Deuteronomy. In Moses’ instructions to the Jewish nation, I am reminded again to forget not. Moses first reminds the Israelites of the singularity of Yahweh, but then gives this sobering warning:
“Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life (Deut. 4:7-10).
I want to heed this message because it is coming to me from a third source also as I am reading through Paul E. Miller’s book “A Praying Life.” In his chapters on cynicism (a trait, I confess, I recognize all too well), Miller challenges the cynic to a watchful optimism and to “trust that God sees what I see. In fact he sees beyond what I see. He sees the whole story and is completely trustworthy to be at work on a grand scale, in the minutia, and even in my own life” (p.84). Miller would have me, the cynic, be on the lookout for those in whom God is working, a reminder that Aslan’s on the move not only on the world’s stage, but in the very details of my life. In response to this awareness, Miller directs the believer to cultivate a thankful spirit:
“Now years later, I still begin my [morning] prayer times by reflecting… I drift through the previous day and watch God at work. Nothing undercuts cynicism more than a spirit of thankfulness. You begin to realize that your whole life is a gift” (p.89).
This resonates with me as Dana and I have been reminded again and again during the past 5-7 years in which our family’s manufacturing business has been reeling from the effects of the housing crisis. The verses that convicted us early on in this trial were also from Deuteronomy – 28:47-48. These verses were given as a warning to Israel of the lack to come, if they did not serve the Lord their God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity. Knowing I am the child of this same Yahweh, I discern His heart from these verses—it is pleasing to Him when we respond in joy and gladness when He brings us abundance. To do this at all well, I must train myself to note and recite the litany of the Lord’s work in my life, His goodness, truth, faithfulness, and veracity, as Spurgeon puts it.
This is easier said than done for us creatures of clay. How many of us upon reading Spurgeon’s questions or in wanting to praise God in our own prayer closets come up blank? How can that possibly be? The Lord works daily in our lives, personally on our behalf and that of our families, yet we come up blank when trying to enumerate his goodnesses in our lives? I am ashamed to even write it. But I write with purpose: to remind myself of my infinite tendencies to forget and to challenge myself to keep my eyes peeled and to not only articulate, but also write down the steady stream of graces I receive from the hand of my careful and faithful Father.
Spurgeon concludes with a reminder that our “remembering” is to the greater glory of God:
“Let us, then, weave His mercies into a song. Let us take the pure gold of thankfulness, and the jewels of praise and make them into another crown for the head of Jesus. Let our souls give forth music as sweet and as exhilarating as came from David’s harp, while we praise the Lord whose mercy endureth for ever.”