For all of you who are trusting in God and feel unworthy or inadequate to serve Him – and maybe feel like giving up. For all of you who are troubled; who perhaps feel like you’re not made of the same ‘stuff’ as some of the inspiring ‘super Christians’ in your church and don’t feel like you ever will be. I’ve believed in the lie too. J.C. Ryle (1816 – 1900), an evangelical writer and former Bishop of Liverpool, has a few words for you.
Extracts are taken from J.C. Ryle (1857) Expository Thoughts on Mark (out of copyright), accessible online at http://www.gracegems.org/Ryle/Mark.htm
[Last accessed 4th February 2013]
Corresponding Bible passage: Mark 1:29-31 (World English Bible):
“Immediately, when they had come out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. He came and took her by the hand, and raised her up. The fever left her, and she served them.”
The sin-sick soul is not merely cured, and then left to itself. It is also supplied with a new heart and a right spirit, and enabled so to live as to please God.
There is comfort here for all who are really serving Christ, and are yet cast down by a sense of their own infirmity. There are many in such case. They are oppressed by doubts and anxieties. They sometimes think they shall never reach heaven at all, but be cast away in the wilderness. Let them fear no longer. Their strength shall be according to their day. The difficulties they now fear shall vanish out of their path. The lion in the way which they now dread, shall prove to be chained. The same gracious hand which first touched and healed, shall uphold, strengthen, and lead them to the last. The Lord Jesus will never lose one of His sheep. Those whom He loves and pardons, He loves unto the end. Though sometimes cast down, they shall never be cast away. The healed soul shall always go on “serving the Lord”. Grace shall always lead to glory!
You might still have questions. That’s all very well, you might say, but what am I supposed to do when hard times actually hit and I’m in the thick of them? Why don’t the ‘super Christians’ seem to get spiritually shipwrecked, too? If this is you, read on. If it isn’t, read on anyway.
“We learn, in the second place, to what remedy a Christian ought to resort first, in time of trouble. He ought to follow the example of the friends of Simon’s mother-in-law. We read that when she “lay sick with a fever”, they “told Jesus about her”.
There is no remedy like this. Means are to be used diligently, without question, in any time of need. Doctors are to be sent for, in sickness. Lawyers are to be consulted when property or character needs defense. The help of friends is to be sought. But still, after all, the first thing to be done, is to cry to the Lord Jesus Christ for help. None can relieve us so effectually as he can. None is so compassionate, and so willing to relieve. When Jacob was in trouble he turned to his God first – “Deliver me, I beg you, from the hand of Esau.” (Gen 32:11.) When Hezekiah was in trouble, he first spread Sennacherib’s letter before the Lord – “I beseech you, save us out of his hand.” (2 Kings 19:19.) When Lazarus fell sick, his sisters sent immediately to Jesus. “Lord,” they said, “he whom you love is sick.” (John 11:2) Now let us do likewise. “Cast your burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain you.” “Casting all your cares upon Him.” “In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God.” (Psalm. 55:22; 1 Pet. 5:7; Phil. 4:6.)
Let us not only remember this rule, but practice it too. We live in a world of sin and sorrow. The days of darkness in a man’s life are many. It needs no prophet’s eye to foresee that we shall all shed many a tear, and feel many a heart-wrench, before we die. Let us be armed with a formula against despair, before our troubles come. Let us know what to do, when sickness, or bereavement, or cross, or loss, or disappointment breaks in upon us like an armed man. Let us do as they did in Simon’s house at Capernaum. Let us at once “tell Jesus”.
Are you really serving Christ? Do you want to be really serving Christ? Are you not sure whether you are or not? Step out in faith for Christ, trust Christ, and when it hurts, tell Christ. Keep on being led by Jesus and relying on Jesus and trusting in Jesus and crying out to Jesus. I find it a little odd that Ryle doesn’t mention, amongst the examples of godly men he gives, Jeremiah the ‘weeping prophet’, or King David the psalmist, or even the very Logos and Prince of Peace, praying to the Father in Gethsemane that he was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death”. These godly ones spared themselves no dignity before God. They found it hard. They didn’t just ‘tell’ Him that it hurt – they fell on their faces, wept, bawled and sweated blood. It is okay to do that. We aren’t failures because we find it hard. We just have to bring our needs before Jesus. Remember Luke 18:17: “Most certainly, I tell you, whoever doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a little child, he will in no way enter into it.” What do little children and Christians both do when they’re facing trouble? They cry out for help. That grounded, solid guy from church whose whole face radiates with joy, who is always delighted to see you and always happy to help; whose speech is always godly, and whose diary is full of appointments with the people he ministers to – how did he get like that? Possibly by believing in his forgiveness in Christ, knowing himself a child of God, stepping out boldly in faith, relying on God’s help, and crying out to Him when it hurt.