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Suffering: An Answer to Prayer?

I have been reading an excellent book by the Puritan John Flavel (1630-1691), entitled Keeping the Heart. I've pasted below a little excerpt (help 6) from his list of 9 helps keep your heart amidst suffering:

It would much stay the heart under adversity to consider that God, by such humbling providences, may be accomplishing that for which you have long prayed and waited. And should you be troubled at that? Say, Christian, have you not many prayers pending before God upon such accounts as these: that He would keep you from sin; that He would reveal to you the emptiness and insufficiency of the creature; that He would kill and mortify your lusts; that your heart may never find rest in any enjoyment but Christ? Why, now by such humbling and impoverisheing strokes, God may be fulfilling your desire. Would you be kept from sin? Lo, He has hedged up your way with thorns. Would you see the creature's vanity? Your affliction is a fair glass in which to discover it; for the vanity of the creature is never so effectually and sensibly discovered as in our own experience of it. Would you have your corruptions mortified? This is the way; now God away the food and fuel that maintained them. For as prosperity begat and fed them, so adversity, when sanctified, is a means to kill them. Would you have your heart rest nowhere but in the bosom of God? What better way can you imagine providence should take to accomplish your desire than by pulling from under your head that soft pillow of creature delights on which you rested before? And yet you fret at this, peevish child! How you exercise your Father's patience! If He delays in answering your prayers, you are ready to say He regards you not. If He does taht which really answers the scope and main end fo them, but no in the way you expected, you quarrel with HIm for that - as if, instead of answering, He were crossing all your hopes and aims. Is this ingenuous? Is it not enough that God is so gracious to do what you desire, but you must be so impudent to expect He should do it in the way which you prescribe?

John Flavel
Keeping the Heart
pp 33-34 

O may I live in th

Bad News First...Then the Good News

"Francis Schaeffer was once asked the question, 'What would you do if you met a really modern man on a train and you had just an hour to talk to him about the gospel?' He replied, 'I've said over and over, I would spend 45-50 minutes on the negative, to really show him his dilemma---that he is morally dead---then I'd take 10-15 minutes to preach the Gospel. I believe that much of our evangelistic and personal work today is not clear simply because we are too anxious to get to the answer without having a man realize the real cause of his sickness, which is true moral guilt (and not just psychological guilt feelings) in the presence of God.' You will find as people begin to grasp the significance of God as creator and man as the sinful creature, you can explain in a direct and most powerful way who Christ is."

Will Metzger
Tell the Truth
p. 71 

HT: Reformed Voices

Keywords: evangelism_gospel

The Pastor and Evangelism

With all that you can do, your desires will not be fulfilled, for soul-winning is a pursuit which grows upon a man; the more he is rewarded with conversions the more eager he becomes to see greater numbers born unto God. Hence you will soon discover that you need help if many are to be brought in. The net soon becomes too heavy for one pair of hands to drag to shore when it is filled with fishes; and you fellow-helpers must be beckoned to your assistance. Great things are done by the Holy Spirit when a whole church is aroused to sacred energy...

Contemplate at the outset the possibility of having a church of soul-winners. Do not succumb to the usual idea that we can only gather a few useful workers, and that the rest of the community must inevitably be dead weight: It may possibly so happen, but do not set out with that notion or it will be verified. The usual need not be the universal; better things are possible than anything yet attained; set your aim high and spare no effort to reach it. Labor to gather a church alive for Jesus, every member energetic to the full, and the whole in incessant activity for the salvation of men. To this end there must be the best of preaching to feed the host into strength, continual prayer to bring down the power from on high, and the most heroic example on your own part to fire their zeal.

C.H. Spurgeon
Cited by Mark Dever
The Gospel and Personal Evangelism
p. 177

What is the Good News? (Mark Dever)

The good news is that the one and only God, who is holy, made us in his image to know him. But we sinned and cut ourselves off from him. In his great love, God became a man in Jesus, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross, thus fulfilling the law himself and taking on himself the punishment for the sins of all those who would ever turn and trust in him. He rose again from the dead, showing that God accepted Christ's sacrifice and that God's wrath against us had been exhausted. He now calls us to repent of our sins and trust in Christ alone for our forgiveness. If we repent of our sins and trust in Christ, we are born again into a new life, an eternal life with God.

Now that's good news!

Mark Dever
The Gospel and Personal Evangelism
p 43

Broadus on Reading

I think that young men should be specially exhorted to read old books. If you have a friend in the ministry who is growing old, urge him to read mainly new books, that he may freshen his mind and keep in sympathy with his surroundings. "But must not young men keep abreast of the age?" Certainly, only the first thing is to get abreast of the age, and in order to this, they must go back to where the age came from, and join there the great procession of its moving thought.

John Broadus
Lectures on the History of Preaching (amazon / logos digital)
230-231

HT: Founders Ministry 

Make Careful Choice of the Books Which You Read

Don Piper makes the list, John Piper doesn't. A look over the top 50 Christian authors gives a good indication of what Christians are reading. I can't help but to call to mind the Spanish dicho (saying): Por eso estamos como estamos (That's why we are how we are).

Reflecting on this list also reminds me of a Richard Baxter quote I recently read on Challies.com:

“Make careful choice of the books which you read: let the holy scriptures ever have the pre-eminence, and, next to them, those solid, lively, heavenly treatises which best expound and apply the scriptures, and next, credible histories, especially of the Church … but take heed of false teachers who would corrupt your understandings.”

Challies comments with discernment:

For every good book, there are five or ten (or, more likely, far more) that are fit only for the trash. Much of what is published under the banner of “Christian” is anything but. Be careful what you read, for a book can lead you astray as easily as it can lead you closer to the Lord. Find mature believers who can guide you to books and authors that will edify you.