“R. C. Sproul: A Life,” by Stephen J. Nichols
Nichols, one of Sproul’s successors, does a fantastic job at bringing the reader into the story of God’s grace through His servant R.C. Sproul. As you work through each page, it is as if you are listening to Sproul himself, sitting at the fire next to him and hearing his own story.
Down through the centuries, God has been pleased to raise up a long line of godly men who were ‘pillars of truth’ in their day. These men were identified as the “reformers” of their day in succeeding generations, calling men and women back to the Bible. Like the people in Nehemiah 8:1, they long to let the Bible loose and roar! As one scans the landscape of Church history, we find very quickly that most of these men were gripped by the truths of sovereign grace and emboldened to further the cause of Christ on the earth. Bishop J. C. Ryle identifies these men in the following manner:
“God stirred up and brought out [men] to do his work, without previous concert, scheme, or plan. They did his work in the old apostolic way by becoming the evangelists of their day. They taught one set of truths. They taught them in the same way, with fire, reality, earnestness, as men fully convinced of what they taught. They taught them in the same spirit, always loving, compassionate, and, like Paul, even weeping, but always bold, unflinching, and not fearing the face of man. And they taught them on the same plan, always acting on the aggressive; not waiting for sinners to come to them, but going after, and seeking sinners; not sitting idle till sinners offered to repent, but assaulting the high places of ungodliness like men storming a breach, and giving sinners to rest so long as they stuck to their sins.”
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Three Encouragements for a Courageous LifeBy Isaias Munoz — 2 years ago
Those who fear God have no need to fear anything else. And those who walk in the fear of the Lord walk in the path of God’s favor, one that chiefly promises life everlasting (Prov. 8:32-36). The world can neither tamper nor thwart what God has promised His people. Because eternal life is ours, we can boldly stand in our convictions.
No word better describes the prophet Daniel. Believers have long marveled at his willingness to boldly endure a night in the presence of hungry lions—knowing that death was a likely outcome—because he esteemed God over man.
There is a simple moral in Daniel’s story: stand for God, no matter the consequences.
And the application seems obvious. Have the same courage as the prophet. Don’t compromise your convictions, even if death is the result. Of course, following Daniel’s example isn’t always as simple. That kind of conviction can be costly, and oftentimes dangerous. Daniel-like courage can come at the price of life itself, and who is willing to pay that?
To understand why Daniel had such courage—and how we can as well—we need to understand that the fuel for Daniel’s courage was not his convictions. It was the God he served.
Obviously, Daniel was a man of conviction. However, he didn’t build those convictions himself. Instead, he saw the will and work of God in him and all around him.
True and experiential knowledge of who God is and what He’s doing transformed Daniel.
Our pagan society—our modern-day Babylon—is not all that different than the society of Daniel’s day. Twenty-first century believers have much in common with the people of God in the ancient world. We too are aliens in a foreign, pagan land. We too are asked to compromise our beliefs, pledge allegiance to men over God, and forsake our devotion to our Heavenly King. And if we are to share Daniel’s resolve, we must draw our courage from the same source he did. The stories we tell about this great man of God are less about the man and more about his God. Though the call to be courageous and faithful can be difficult, it is not impossible because it is not dependent on our strength. Our courage can be the same as Daniel’s because our God is his God.
In this article, I will share three encouragements for a courageous life that can anchor our gospel courage not in ourselves, but in the gracious and generous God who grants deep-rooted convictions and life-long faithfulness.
God Establishes Where We are Planted
The book of Daniel begins by describing the tragic fall of the Jewish people into the hands of the Babylonians (606-605 BC). The narrative describes a complete takeover by a king, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who believes he defeated Yahweh Himself when he transported “vessels of the house of God… to the house of his god, and the vessels into the treasury of his god” (Dan. 1:2).
Having seemingly stripped the Jewish people of their God, Nebuchadnezzar then asked and demanded whatever he wanted of them. He drafts the sons of Israel into his personal service (Dan. 1:3-5), and he educates these Hebrew boys in the customs and systems of Babylon. He even administers name changes that disassociate these men from their heritage and instead assimilate them into a new, pagan culture. Given those circumstances, Daniel would have had every reason to be broken, distressed, or indignant. But that is not the case because Daniel recognizes God’s providence in his life. Daniel 1:2 holds the key to Daniel’s courage in a hostile environment. It says the chaos, the loss of a home, the dominance of a foreign power, the need to assimilate to a new culture were ordained by God Himself. “The Lord handed Jehoiakim king of Judah over to him” (Dan. 1:2). What Nebuchadnezzar never imagined was that his conquest of God’s people fit perfectly into the will and purposes designed by God for His people.
The world did not slip out of God’s grasp in Daniel’s day. Neither has it today. In God’s wisdom, he always plants his people in fertile soil where they can live and minster with courage. What good is courage if it is unnecessary?
3 Reasons I’m Glad That God is Sovereign Over TragedyBy Jacob Crouch — 2 months ago
What a comfort to know that the God who orchestrates our injury is the One whose “understanding is beyond measure” (Psalm 147:5). I can know that the thing I so badly wish had not happened was executed with perfect wisdom and goodness. God knows me 50 years from now. His perfect understanding sees the state of my soul in eternity.
I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things.
The dictionary defines the word sovereign as, “having supreme rank, power, or authority.” The Bible speaks of God as the One who, “works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Eph 1:11), and the One who, “does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’ (Dan 4:35). Truly, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3).
This becomes an issue when we really begin to meditate on what it means that God does ALL that He pleases. “But what about suffering? What about pain? What about death and sickness and all the terrible things that happen on planet earth? Surely God is sovereign over the good, but not the bad things too?” The problem with that way of thinking is that the Bible doesn’t leave us with the option to think God is only somewhat sovereign. He does ALL that he pleases. He has total, unhindered sovereignty. Over the good and the bad. He makes well-being AND calamity. And God owns it: “I am the LORD, who does ALL these things” (Isa 45:7). He uses the stamp of His covenant name to establish that He is the doer of all of it.
I know there are some who find this difficult, but I want to give three reasons why I’m glad that God is sovereign over tragedy.
1. God loves me and cares for me
What a great assurance to know that my sovereign God is not ambivalent towards me. He “loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal 2:20). He did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for me (Rom 8:32). He cares for me (1 Peter 5:7).
What Does God Want from His People?By Al Gooderham — 10 months ago
How we think of God and what we think he expects of us are hugely important when it comes to how we serve him and especially how we respond when things don’t go the way we thought they would.
I wonder how you answer that question? What’s your instinctive first reaction?
What is God like? How you answered that first question ‘what does God want from his people’ is largely determined by how you answer that question. How you think of God. Is God a headmaster or boss setting challenging, or impossible, targets and demanding results? Or is he happy go lucky, chilled out and more of a people person than a target setter? How we think of God will determine what we think God wants from his people. What he expects of you at work, at home and in the community, at church and as a church.
How we think of God and what we think he expects of us are hugely important when it comes to how we serve him and especially how we respond when things don’t go the way we thought they would, or when things just seem slow. That’s when we can feel like we just need to work harder to produce. Or we feel like a failure. Or think of giving up.
I’m sure you’ve seen quiz shows where they stop the action and ask ‘What happens next’? Sometimes it’s helpful to do that with the Bible.
In 1 Kings 19 God’s people are ruled by evil King Ahab. They’ve been led to ignore God and worship Baal and other idols. God disciplines them by withholding rain for three years as he promised he would, but Israel won’t turn back to God. They won’t recognise the covenant curse, God calling them back through his discipline. They won’t repent. And so God, through Elijah calls for a showdown on Mount Carmel. In one lonely corner stands Elijah Yahweh’s prophet and in the other stand 450 prophets of Baal. It’s a battle over who is God, who is worthy of worship and loyalty and love and who isn’t. It’s last God standing, a display to once and for all stop the people wavering and call them to follow one God.
Each builds an altar, each puts wood on the altar, each puts an offering on the altar, but mustn’t light it. Instead of matches they’re to pray for a divine conflagration and the God who sends fire from heaven is the real God.
You can feel the tension can’t you. The priests of Baal go first. They pray, they plead, they shout, they cut themselves, they dance from morning till evening getting more and more agitated and frenzied as Elijah taunts them asking if Baal is busy, or travelling or if he’s dozed off. But despite all the activity, all the energy nothing happens. There’s no fire, not even a fizzle, because Baal isn’t God.
Then it’s Elijah’s turn and you wonder if he’s been out in the sun too long. He calls the people to him and rebuilds God’s altar, digs a large trench around it, sets up the wood, cutting up the bull but then, in an act of seemingly staggering stupidity he has 12 large jars of water poured all over it. Then finally, at the time of evening sacrifice, he prays to God asking that God would act “so these people will know that you, LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
And instantly, whoosh, the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, the soil, and all the water in the trench. And the people fall down and proclaim “The LORD – he is God! The LORD – he is God!” Then slaughter the 450 prophets of Baal, and Elijah prays and rain falls for the first time in 3 years.
Here’s the question; what happens next? Or rather what should happen next? Everything should change shouldn’t it? Ahab should lead the nation in national repentance, and chapter 19 should be the story of Ahab and Elijah leading God’s people to live in his land enjoying his rule as his people for his glory. Revival should break out, the nations see Israel basking in the joy of being God’s people and chapters 20 following should document the nations turning to God.
But that’s not what happens. No sooner has the smell of BBQ drifted away with the rain and any hope of revival is washed away too. (1 Kings 19v1-2) Ahab runs home and tells Jezebel everything Elijah had done. And how does she react? She isn’t repentant, she doesn’t weigh the evidence and think ‘Wow! I was wrong Baal isn’t God, Yahweh is the one true God, I’d better repent.’ No, she ignores all the evidence and sets out to kill Elijah as soon as she can.
That’s really helpful for us to see. Sometimes we’re naïve, we think repentance is the result of logic and argument – if I can just show someone who Jesus is, build a case and prove he’s the Messiah then they’ll repent and come to faith. That’s what our evangelistic courses are built on and why when we reach the end of them we’re a bit stuck as to what to do next with people who liked the course but haven’t trusted Jesus yet. And so we look around, send a few WhatsApps for recommended courses, and invite them on another course. Or perhaps we think it’s about seeing the miraculous, surely that will bring them to repent.