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Loving Advice for Anxious Seekers

Written by: Spurgeon, C.H.    Posted on: 04/03/2003

Category: Sermons

Source: CCN

                                Loving Advice for Anxious Seekers

                                            A Sermon                                             (No. 735)                           Delivered on Lord's-day Morning, February 17th, 1866, by                                                   C. H. SPURGEON,                                     At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington

              "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and               it shall be given him."James 1:5.

          IF YOU ARE acquainted with the context, you will at once perceive that this verse has a special reference           to persons in trouble. Much-tempted and severely-tried saints are frequently at their wits' end, and though           they may be persuaded that in the end good will come out of all their afflictions, yet for the present they           may be so distracted as not to know what to do. How fitly spoken and how seasonable is this word of the           apostle, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God;" and such wisdom shall the Lord afford his afflicted sons,           that the trying of their faith shall produce patience, and they themselves shall count it all joy that they have fallen           in divers trials.               However, the promise is not to be limited to any one particular application, for the word, "If any of you," is so           wide, so extensive, that whatever may be our necessity, whatever the dilemma which perplexes us, this text           consoles us with the counsel, "If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God."               This text might be peculiarly comforting to some of you who are working for God. You cannot work long for           your heavenly Lord without perceiving that you need a greater wisdom than you own. Why, even in directing an           enquirer to the cross of Christ, simple work as that may seem to be, we shall often discover our own inability and           folly. In rebuking the backslider, in comforting the desponding, in restoring the fallen, in guiding the ignorant, we           shall need to be taught of God, or else we shall meet with more failures than successes. To every honest Christian           worker this text speaks with all the soft melody of an angel's whisper. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of           God." Thy lips shall overflow with knowledge, and thy tongue shall drop with words of wisdom, if thou wilt but           wait on God and hear him before thou speakest to thy fellow men. Thou shalt be made wise to win souls if thou           wilt learn to sit at the Master's feet, that he may teach thee the art which he followed when on earth, and follows           still.               But the class of persons who just now win my heart's warmest sympathies are those who are seeking the           Savior; and, as the text says, "If any of you," I thought I should be quite right in giving seekers a share in it. They           are seeking Christ, but they are in the dark: their soul desires Him, but it has little light, little guidance, and their cry           is. "O that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat!" I thought that this text might be as           the balm of Gilead to some of these unwise ones, who have found out all of a sudden their own sin and folly. I           thought it would say to them, "If you, poor si" Let us put ourselves, then, at once in order for this work of           comforting seekers, and may God, the Holy Ghost, make it effectual.               I. First, I shall call your attention to THE GREAT LACK OF MANY SEEKERS, NAMELY, WISDOM. This           lack occurs from divers reasons. Sometimes it is their pride which makes them fools. Like Naaman, they would           do some great thing if the prophet had bidden them, but they will not wash and be clean.               The natural heart rebels against the simplicity of the way of salvation. "What! am I to do nothing but simply           accept the righteousness already finished? Am I to leave off doing, and merely to look unto Him who was nailed to           the tree, and find all my salvation in Him? "Well, then," saith the proud heart, "I cannot understand it." It cannot           understand it because it doth not love it. Now, soul, if this be thy difficulty, and I believe, in nine cases out of ten,           a proud heart is at the root of all difficulty about the sinner's coming to Christif this it is which turns you aside           and makes you foolish, then go to God about it, and seek wisdom from Him. He will show you the folly of this           pride of yours, and teach you that simply to trust in Jesus is at once the safest and most suitable way of salvation.           He will make you see that if the way of salvation had been by doing, the method would not have suited you, for           what could you do? If it had been by feeling, it would not have suited you either, for what can your hard heart           feel? How can you make yourself tender of heart? But, seeing that it is by faith, it is therefore by grace. O that           you may be made wise enough to stoop and kiss the silver sceptre which is outstretched to you, to come and buy           this wine and milk, without money and without price, and accept with you whole heart, with intense joy, this           perfect righteousness, this finished salvation which Christ hath wrought out and brought in for every seeking soul.               Many persons also, are made foolish, so that they lack wisdom through their despair. Probably, nothing           makes a man seem so much like a maniac as the loss of hope. When the mariner feels that the vessel is sinking,           that the proud waves must soon overwhelm her, then he reels to and fro, and staggers like a drunken man,           because he is at his wits' end. Ah! poor heart, when thou seest the blackness of sin, I do not wonder that thou art           driven to despair; and when thy sins come howling behind thee, like so many ravenous wolves, all seeking to           devour thee, I do not marvel that thou shouldst be ready even to lay violent hands upon thyself. It is no strange           thing for men to be sorely tempted when they are under a sense of sin. And now thou knowest not what to do. If           thou couldst be calm and quiet, we could tell you plainly the way of peace, and you might understand that there is           no reason for despair, since Jesus died and rose again, and is "able to save to the uttermost them that come unto           God by him;" but you cannot give us a calm hearing, for you are distracted, and you think that this comfort applies           to everybody but you. You lack wisdom because you are in such a worry and turmoil. As John Bunyan used to           say, you are much troubled up and down in your thoughts. I pray you, then, ask wisdom of God, and even out of           the depths if you cry unto him, he will be pleased to instruct you and bring you out into a safe way.               No doubt many other persons lack wisdom because they are not instructed in gospel doctrine. It is wonderful           how Satan will plague many timid hearts with the doctrine of election. That doctrine, rightly understood, is full of           comfort; but, distorted and misrepresented, it often appears to be a bolt to shut sinners out from mercythe fact           being that it shuts none out, but shuts tens of thousands in. Why, the very doctrine of the atonement is not           understood by many, while they are under a sense of sin. If they could see that Christ took their sins and carried           their sorrows; if they could perceive the meaning of the word, "substitution," light might break in. The window of           the understanding is blocked up with ignorance, if we could but clean away the cobwebs and filth, then might the           light of the knowledge of Christ come streaming in, and they might rejoice in his salvation. Well, dear friends, if           you are be-mired and be-puzzled with difficult doctrine, the text comes to you and says, "If any man lacks           wisdom, let him ask of God."               Ignorance also of Christian experience is another cause for the lack of wisdom. I have seen many enquirers           who have told me what they have felt, and to them it was so amazing, that they half expected to see every           individual hair of my head stand upright while they told me their feelings; and when I said, "Oh! yes, yes, I have           felt just like that; that is the common way of most souls that come to Christ;" they have looked surprised beyond           measure. The very road which is most safe, you think to be most dangerous; and that which leads to Christ, you           fancy leads to hell. Little do you know the value of that stripping work which you so much dread. "Surely," say           you, "I am being stripped that I may be cast away;" whereas the Lord only strips those whom he intends           afterwards to clothe with the robe of his salvation. Those cuttings of the lancet are sharp, and you think that the           surgeon means to kill, but he intends to cure. When God is making you feel the burden of your guilt , you suppose           that now he has forgotten to be gracious, whereas it is now that he is gracious to you in very deed, and is using the           best means of making you understand and value his grace. The way of life is a new road to you, poor seeking           soul, and therefore you lack wisdom in it and make many mistakes about it. The text lovingly advises, "Ask of           God;" "Ask of God." Very likely, in addition to all this, which may well enough make you lack wisdom, there are           certain singularities in the action of providence towards you, which will fill you with dismay. Ever since you           have begun to think about the Lord Jesus, things have gone cross with you in the outward world. You have not           only trouble within, but, strange as you think it is, you have now trouble without: it partly arises from friends who           say you are madwould God they were bitten with the same madness!partly from circumstances over which           you can have no control. It is not at all unusual for God to make a complete shipwreck of that vessel in which his           people sail, although he fulfills his promise, that not a hair of their heads shall perish. I should not wonder if he           would cause two seas to meet around your barque, so that there should not be more than a few boards and broken           pieces of the ship left to you, but oh! if you have faith in Christ, he will certainly bring you safe to shore. It is not           at all an uncommon thing for the Lord to add to the inward scourgings of conscience the outward lashings of           affliction. These double scourgings are meant for proud, stubborn hearts, that they may be humbly brought to           Jesus' feet, for of us it may be said, in truth, as Solomon saith of the child, "Foolishness is bound in his heart; but           the rod of correction shall drive it far from him." God is thus, dear hearer, bringing folly out of you by the smarts           of his rod. It is written, "The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil," and therefore the Lord is making your           wounds to be black and blue, and I should not wonder if he will even let them putrefy, till you have to say with           Isaiah, "From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and           putrifying sores." Then it is that eternal mercy will take advantage of your dire extremity, and your deep distress           shall bring you to Christ who never would have been brought by any other means. To close this somewhat painful           picture. Many lack wisdom beause in addition to all their fears and their ignorance, they are fiercely attacked by           Satan. John Bunyan tells us of Apollyon, that he said, "No king will willingly lose his subjects." Of course, he will           not; and Apollyon, as he sees his subjects one after another desert him to enlist under the banner of King Jesus,           howls at his loses, and he leaves no stone unturned to keep souls back from mercy. Just at that critical momen           himself, "It is now or never. If I do not nip these buds, they will become flowers and fruits; but if I can bring in a           withering frost, I shall kill the young plant." The great enemy makes a dead set at anxious souls. He it is who digs           that Slough of Despond right in front of the wicket gate, and keeps the big dog to howl before the door, so that           poor trembling Mercy may go into a fainting fit, and find herself too weak to knock at the door. "Now," saith he to           all is servants, "shoot your arrows at that awakened soul; it is about to escape from me: empty your quivers, ye           soldiers of the pit; launch your hot temptations, ye fiends of hell! Sting that soul with infidel insinuations and           hideous blasphemies, for if I once lose it I have lost it forever; therefore, hold it, ye princes of the pit, hold it fast,           if ye can." Now, in such a plight as that, with your foolish heart, and the wicked world, and the evil one, and your           sins in dreadful alliance to destroy you, what could such a poor timid one as you do, if it were not for this precious           word, "If any of you"that must mean you"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all           men liberally, and upbraideth not"?               II. We shall now mention the second point in the text. THE PROPER PLACE OF A SEEKERS           RESORT"Let him ask of God."               My dear friends, bear me witness that it is my constant effort to teach you the spirituality of true religion, and           the necessity of our own hearts having personal dealings with the living God. Now, though this you have heard           thousands of times, I was about to say from me, yet, once again, I must remind you of it: the text says, "Let him           ask of God." Now, you perceive, that the man is directed at once to God, without any intermediate object, or           ceremony, or person. You are not told here to seek direction from good books; they may become very useful as           auxiliary helps, but the best of human books, if followed slavishly, will mislead. For instance, I am sure that           hundreds of persons have been kept in unnecessary bondage through that wonderful and admirable book,           "Doddridge's Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul." It has been the means of the conversion of hundreds; it           has been profitable to thousands more; but there is a point in which it fails, so that, if you slavishly follow it, you           may read the book through, and I undertake to say, you will not find comfort by following its exhortations. It fails,           as all human guides must, if we trust in them and forget the Great Shepard of Israel. When a man is really under           concern of soul, he is in a condition of considerable danger. Then it is that an artful false teacher may get hold of           him, and cozen him into heresy and unscriptural doctrine. Hence the text does not say, "If any man lacks wisdom,           let him ask his priest;" that is about the worst thing he can do; for he who sets himself up for a priest, is either a           deceiver or deceived. "Let him ask of God," that is the advice of the Scripture. We are all so ready to go to books,           to go to men, to go to ceremonies, to anything except God. Man will worship God with his eyes, and his arms, and           his knees, and his mouthwith anything but his heartand we are all of us anxious, more or less, until we are           renewed by grace, to get off the heart-worship of God. Juan de Valdey says, that, "Just as an ignorant man takes a           crucifix and says, 'This crucifix will help me to think of Christ,' so he bows before it and never does think of           Christ at all, but stops short at the crucifix; so," says he, "the learned man takes his book and says, 'This book will           teach me the mysteries of the kingdom,' but instead of giving his thoughts to the mysteries of godliness, he reads           his book mechanically and stops at the book, instead of meditating and diving into the truth." It is the action of the           mind that God accepts, not the motion of the body; it is the thought communing with him; it is the soul coming           into contact with the soul of God; it is the spirit-worship which the Lord accepts. Consequently, the text does not           say, "Let him ask books," nor "ask priests," but , "let him ask of God."               Above all, do not let the seeker ask of himself and follow his own imaginings and feelings. All human guides           are bad, but you yourself will be your own worst guide. "Let him ask of God." When a man can fairly and           honestly say, "I have bowed the knee unto the Lord God of Israel, and asked him, for Jesus' sake, to guide me           and to direct me by his Spirit, and then I turned to the Book of God, asking God to be my guide into the book," I           cannot believe but what such a man will soon obtain saving wisdom.               I beg to caution all of you against stopping short of really asking of God. I conjure you by the living God, do           not be satisfied with asking of me. I am no priest, except as all believers are priests, thank God. I wear no title of           ecclesiastical dominion. Be not content with asking my brethren, the deacons and elders: God has made many of           them wise in helping souls out of difficulties; do not be satisfied with the advice of any man, however godly and           holy, but go direct to the Lord God of heaven and earth, and say unto him, "Lord, teach thou me! Show me thy           way, O God! Teach me in thy truth!" You are not bidden to go to any second-hand source of wisdom, but to God           the only wise, who alone can direct you. "Let him ask of God."               Such advice as this must be good. You cannot suspect us of any interested motive in exhorting you to this. It           is your good which we seek, and not out own glory. It must be the best to go to head-quarters: you will surely be           lead aright if so you seek direction. Some say, Lo, here! others say, Lo, there! But if you go to God, and then with           his guidance study his word, you shall not fail of wisdom. How can you?               Moreover, remember that there is one blessed person of the divine Unity who makes it his especial office to           teach us! Hense, if you go to God for wisdom, you only go for that which it is his nature and his office to give.           The Holy Ghost is given to this end: "He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance,           whatsoever I have said unto you." When you go to God, you may say to him these words, "O Father, you have           been pleased to reveal to us the Holy Spirit, who is to lighten our darkness, and to remove our ignorance. Oh, let           that Spirit of thine dwell in me; I am willing to be taught by thy Spirit, through thy word, or through thy ministers,           but I come first to thee because I know that thy word and thy ministers, apart from thyself, cannot teach me           anything. O Lord, teach thou me." I do not mean by any word of mine to make you think little of ScriptureGod           forbid!nor little of those who may speak to you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, but I did mean to           make you look even at that Book, and at God's ministers, as being subservient to the Holy Ghost himself. Go to           him; ask him: for there in the Book is the letter that killeth; he, he alone can make you to know the living essence           and the quickening power of that word. Without the Holy Ghost, my dear hearer, you must still be as blind with           the light as you would have been without it. You will be as foolish after having been taught the gospel in the theory           of it, as you were before you knew it. Let the Holy Spirit, however, teach you, and you shall know all things that           are necessary for this life and godliness.               Thus, then, we have brought two points before you: the great lack of the seeker is "wisdom;" and the right           place to get that lack removed.               III. Thirdly, THE RIGHT MODE IN WHICH TO GO TO GOD. "Let him ask." Oh! That simple word, "Let           him ask""let him ask!" No form of asking is precribed, no words laid down, no method dictated, no hour set           apart, no rubric printed; but there it stands in gracious simplicity, "let him ask." He               who will not have mercy when it is to be had for the asking for, deserves to die without it. While I am thinking           of this word, before I plunge into its fullest meaning, I may well say, if God will give wisdom to the seeker only           because he asks for it, what shall I say of the folly which will not even ask to be made wise? May God forgive you           such folly for the past, and deliver you from it for the future.               The text says, "Let him ask," which is a method implying that ignorance is confessed. No man will ask           wisdom till he knows that he is ignorant. Come, dear hearer, confess your ignorance into the ear of God, who is as           present here as you are; say unto him, "Lord, I have discovered now that I am not so wise as I thought I was; I           am foolish and vain. Lord, teach thou me." Make a full confession, and this shall be a good beginning for prayer.               Asking has also in it the fact the God is believed in. We cannot ask of a person of whose existence we have           any doubt, and we will not ask of a person of whose hearing us we have serious suspicions. Who would stand in           the desert of Sahara and cry aloud, where there is no living ear to hear? Now, my dear hearer, thou believest that           there is a God. Ask, then! Dost thou not believe that he is here, that he will hear thy cry, that he will be pleased in           answer to thy cry to give thee what thou askest for? Now, if thou canst believe that there is a God, that he is here           and that he will hear thee, then confess thy ignorance, and ask him now to give thee the promised wisdom for           Jesus' sake.               There is in this method of approaching God by asking, also, a clear sight that salvation is by grace. It does           not say, "Let him buy of God, let him demand of God, let him earn from God." Oh! no"let him ask of God." It           is the beggar's word. The beggar asks an alms. You are to ask as the beggar asks of you in the street, and God will           give to you far more liberally than ye to the poor. You must confess that you have no merit of your own. If you           will not acknowledge that, neither will God hear your prayers; but come now with the acknowledgment of           ignorance, with the confession of sin, and believing that God is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him, and           he will even now give you the wisdom which saves the soul.               Observe here, what an acknowledgment of dependence there is. The man sees that he cannot find wisdom           anywhere else, but that it must come from God. He turns his eye to the only fountain, and leaves the broken           cisterns. Do this, dear hearer. I feel as if the text did not want any explanation from me, but only wanted carrying           out by you. Let him ask of God. I think I can hear fifty-thousand objections from different parts of the building.           One is saying, "But I don't understand, ask of God." If thou has made some difficulties for thyself, if thou art such           a fool as to be tying knots and wanting to get them untied before thou wilt believe in Jesus, then I have nothing to           say to thee, except it were, beware lest thou dost tie a knot that shall destroy thy soul; but if thou be troubled with           an honest objection, I say to thee now, in God's name, "Ask of God." You need not wait till you get home, you           need not stay till you have left that seat, but now, silently, in your soul, as Hannah did when she went up to the           tabernacle, breathe the prayer, "O God, teach thou me: lead me to the foot of the cross; help me to see Jesus; save           my soul this day; end the doubtful strife; answer these questions; bring me, as an humble seeker, to lie before the           footstool of thy sovereign mercy, and to receive pardon through the mediatorial sacrifice. "Let him askthat is           alllet him ask."               IV. Fourthly, the text has in it ABUNDANT ENCOURAGEMENT for such a seeker.               There are four encouagements here. "Let him ask of God, who giveth to all men." What a wide           statementWho "giveth to all men!" I will take it in its broadest extent. In natural things, God does give to all men           life, health, food, raiment. Who "maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good;" who causeth the rain to           descend upon the fields

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