Many things happened across the world this week, but none of them in particular caught my attention. But a meditation from whom I am told was one of the great preachers of his time, Charles Spurgeon, certainly did. And then I recalled another one from one of my favourite theologians, Oswald Chambers - I read his highly acclaimed " My Utmost for His Highest" each night before retiring to bed. They both speak to the critically important issue of God's providence being provided during times of testing and trials. Periods which are not very welcome by some Christians schooled in the tradition of what some commentators call " cheap grace". In the sense that too many in some traditions expect to receive God's blessings without having to sacrifice much if anything at all, and which " theology" has no power to rescue a dying world. But which periods of suffering and persecutions and trials, for the early church, for example following Stephens' martyrdom, provided great opportunities for the spreading of the gospel.
Daily we see in my country, and across the world, about which the Pope called attention this week in the UK, the growing power of the secular - non religious, no faith in a transcendent being - thought on life. Often with devastating effects on family life, political life, business ethics, the behaviour of professionals and entertainers and the moral life in general of many nations.
So the power of the gospel to effect change in the world, flows more profoundly when, according to Spurgeon, and Chambers, we hear songs in the night. In the midst of trials.
SONGS IN THE NIGHT - CHARLES SPURGEON
Any man can sing in the day. When the cup is full, man draws inspiration from it. When wealth rolls in abundance around him, any man can praise the God who gives a plenteous harvest or sends home a loaded argosy....
It is easy to sing when we can read the notes by daylight, but he who is skillful who sings when there is not a ray of light to read by, who sings from his heart. No man can make a song in the night of himself, he may attempt it, but he will find that a song in the night must be divinely inspired. Let all things go well, I can weave songs fashioning them whenever I go out of the flowers that grow on my path, but put me in a desert, where no green thing grows, and wherewith shall I frame a hymn of praise to God?.....
No, it is not in man's power to sing when all is adverse.......Since our Maker gives songs in the night, let us wait for Him for music....Let us not remain song-less because affliction is upon us, but tune our lips to the melody of thanksgiving.
Powerful stuff, isn't it. Many in the secular world don't know this side of the faith. They have grown up on the controversies, " the hot button issues": the issues surrounding human sexuality and marriage, the abortion issue, the death penalty. Even more sadly, many Christians" rebuke sickness" as if from the Devil. Yes. But not all the time.
Have you ever heard songs in the night? Then tell someone about it, and in doing so the gospel of Christ's love for all mankind, and of His sufficiency for every human and national situation will spread.
Then we can make more sense of St. Paul's ( who heard songs the night) recommendation and assertion in the New Testament reading in my church for today which if followed to the letter, would pave the way for great peace in every country. And my country is so desparately in need of peace at this time.
" I urge, then, first of all, that requests, intercessions and thanksgiving be made for everyone --for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceable and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases the God our Savior, who wants all men to to be saved, and come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men". 1 Timothy 2:1-6
One God! And one mediator between God and man Christ Jesus. You cannot have a more controversial statement than that in today's multi-cultural age and and age of religious pluralism. What about the Muslim God? What about the Buddhists and the Rastas and.......?
Perhaps a meditation from another Saint of old who heard songs in the night might help. Or not. Depends on who you listen to when you undergo trials. When. Not if. For there is trouble for every human being under the sun.
JESUS CHRIST - THE MIDDLE WAY BLAISE PASCAL PSALM 51;1
The God of Christians is not a God who is simply the author of mathematical truths, or of the order the elements, as is the god of the pagans and of the Epicureans. Nor is he merely a God who providentially disposes the life and fortunes of men, to crown his worshipers with length of happy years. Such was the portion of the Jews. But the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, the God of the Christians, is a God of love and consolation, a God fills the souls and hearts of his own, a God who makes them feel their inward-ward wretchedness and his infinite mercy, who unites Himself to their inmost spirit, filling it with humility and joy, with confidence and love, rendering them incapable of any other than himself.
All who seek god apart from Jesus Christ, and who rest in nature, either find no light to satisfy them, or form for them selves a means of knowing God and serving Him without a mediator. Thus they fall either into atheism or into deism, two things which the Christian religion almost equally abhors.
The God of the Christians is a God who makes the soul perceive that he is her only good, that her only rest is in him, her only joy in loving him; who makes her at the same time abhor the obstacles which withhold her from loving him with all her strength. Her two hindrances, self-love and lust, are insupportable to her. This God makes her perceive that the root of self-love destroys her and that he alone can heal.
The knowledge of God without that of our wretchedness creates pride. The knowledge of our wretchedness without that of God creates despair. The knowledge of Jesus Christ is the middle way, because in him we find both God and our wretchedness.
But this kind of understanding only comes when you are prepared to hear songs in the night. Pray God that those who don't know Jesus and therefore are not aware of their wretchedness, or know well and are in despair, may find peace in Him because someone was willing to hear songs in the night - as did our Lord, and St Paul and Peter and all the early Saints, who like Jesus, " for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God." Hebrews 12:2 NIV. Perhaps we all have the wrong goal, or an insufficient vision, in front of us. May God help us to endure our trials and hear songs in the night so that others may be rescued.