“They gave him a cross, not guessing that he would make it a throne”

Recently I heard this quote from James Stewart. It is sensational! My favourite line is,

They gave him a cross, not guessing that he would make it a throne.

Here is the quote in full.

“It is a glorious phrase of the New Testament, that ‘he led captivity captive.’ 

The very triumphs of His foes, it means, he used for their defeat. He compelled their dark achievements to sub-serve his end, not theirs.

They nailed him to the tree, not knowing that by that very act they were bringing the world to his feet.

They gave him a cross, not guessing that he would make it a throne.

They flung him outside the gates to die, not knowing that in that very moment they were lifting up all the gates of the universe, to let the King of Glory come in.

They thought to root out his doctrines, not understanding that they were implanting imperishably in the hearts of men the very name they intended to destroy.

They thought they had defeated God with His back the wall, pinned and helpless and defeated: they did not know that it was God Himself who had tracked them down.

He did not conquer in spite of the dark mystery of evil. He conquered through it.”

James Stewart (1896–1990)

Come Holy Spirit?

Much praying about, to, or for the Holy Spirit seems, in my thinking, to be incredibly self seeking and indulgent.

Alister McGrath offers this translation of part an old liturgical sequence Veni Sancte Spiritus (“Come Holy Spirit”), which is usually thought of as the work of Stephen Langton (ca. 1150–1228).

Lava quod est sordidum, riga quod est aridum, sana quod est saucium. Flecte quod est rigidum, fove quod est frigidum, rege quod est devium.

McGrath translates it,

“Wash what is dirty;
refresh what is dry;
heal what is wounded;
bend what is stubborn;
melt what is frozen;
direct what is wandering.”


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It appears to me to be a prayer worthy of the Holy Spirit, and well worth our praying

A Powerful Request

I am re-reading Vance Christie’s excellent biography of Adoniram Judson, Devoted for Life.

Christie tells of the letter Judson sent to his future father-in-law asking for the hand of Ann Heseltine. This is part of that letter,

“I have to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daughter…to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure for a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life; …to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean…to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India…to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution and perhaps a violent death?”

It would be easy to focus on Judson but my thinking went to Ann’s father. What went through his mind, how did he pray? The book tells us that he left the final decision to Ann although I imagine there was a lot of passionate discussion helping her to decide.

In this life sacrifice is not necessarily easy, and requires that a price be paid. I thank God for people like Ann and her family who were prepared to make a great sacrifice for the Kingdom. May God grant us all that same spirit.

You need time in God’s presence to study and pray

For many years I have loved this quote about Hudson Taylor the famous missionary pioneer (I recently re-read it here),

To him, the secret of overcoming lay in daily, hourly fellowship with God; and this, he found, could only be maintained by secret prayer and feeding upon the Word through which He reveals Himself to the waiting soul. 

It was not easy for Mr Taylor to make time for prayer and Bible study, but he knew that it was vital. Well do the writers remember travelling with him month after month in northern China, by cart and wheelbarrow, with the poorest of inns at night. Often with only one large room for [laborers] and travelers alike, they would screen off a corner for their father and another for themselves, with curtains of some sort; and then, after sleep at last had brought a measure of quiet, they would hear a match struck and see the flicker of candlelight which told that Mr Taylor, however weary, was poring over his little Bible in two volumes always at hand. From two to four A.M. was the time he usually gave to prayer; the time when he could be most sure of being undisturbed to wait upon God. That flicker of candlelight has meant more to them than all they have read or heard on secret prayer; it meant reality, not preaching but practice.

The hardest part of a missionary career, Mr Taylor found, is to maintain regular, prayerful Bible study.Satan will always find you something to do, he would say, when you ought to be occupied about that, if it is only arranging a window blind. 

Howard Taylor, from, Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret.


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