ODG #6- Peter Marshall

Prayer
Our Father in Heaven, give us the long view of our work and our world.
Help us to see that it is better to fail in a cause that will ultimately succeed than to succeed in a cause that will ultimately fail. ….
May Thy will be done here, and may Thy programme be carried out, above party and personality, beyond time and circumstance, for the good of America and the peace of the world. Through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

I am growing more and more aware that all too often we preachers aim at nothing and hit it.
From THE REAL THING

Some Things I Know

Every man in public life
every speaker who takes the rostrum
every preacher who mounts the pulpit has certain reticences.

The modern preacher, particularly, hesitates to inject personalities into his preaching.
He is reticent about using illustrations out of his own experience or that of his congregation.

But the apostolic preachers and writers observed no such restraints.
Their sermons were full of their own experiences.

“What we have seen and heard, declare we unto you”, they said.
They never tired of telling what the Lord had done for them . . .
what they had been before . . .
what they were now . . .
and in the simple telling, there was power—sheer power.

This power that had made them different, they said, was available to anyone who would believe.
Sins could be forgiven; Christ could come into human life
to change natures and dispositions . . .
to change moods and temperaments . . .
to banish fear and worry . . .
to remove shame and guilt . . .
to provide a new dynamic, a new purpose in life . . ,
a new joy and a peace that nothing could destroy.

It was exciting news.
People listened to it.
They did not always agree with the apostles, or like what they said. Sometimes there were riots, and bloodshed.
Riots … or regenerations.
Never . . . just apathy or indifference.

We modern Christians are remarkably frank about some things and strangely reticent about others.
The trouble is that we are frank about the things that were
better left unspoken or are too trivial to matter,
and silent about the only things worth discussing and
sharing.

We do not seem to have any great faith these days—
in God and His power …
in His ability to salvage wrecked lives . . .
to change human nature . . .
to take away our mood of futility . . .
to guide our decisions …
We seem to have little faith in the availability of the Holy Spirit—the Helper—in our daily lives.

We have no great convictions
no great passions
no great causes.

Two World Wars have convinced us that there really is not anything worth dying for, and we are not sure that there is anything worth living for.

Perhaps it is because of this desperate need for a new dynamic in human life that, more than ever before, we need the testimony of those who have made spiritual discoveries.
Lately I have had a feeling of compulsion to tell a bit of my own story and the convictions growing out of it.
I do not know why it was laid on my heart to do so I do not need to know.
For did not Christ say, “Go home and tell thy friends what great things the Lord hath done for thee”?

When a person can say, “I know Whom I have believed” …
when he can say: “I know that prayer changes things”, he has done more to instill faith in other hearts than all the arguments since the world began.

What do I know out of the crucible of my own experience ?

I know that Christ is alive,
and personal
and real, and closer than we think.
I have met Him.
I have felt His presence.

I have seen the changes He can make in me . . .
in lifting a mood,
in taking away despair or frustration or hopelessness,
in breaking down my stubborn will,
in melting my pride,
in getting me to do the right thing when I preferred to do the wrong thing.

I know that I now belong to Him.
I am His child.
I know that I am a Christian.

Now upon this point, there need be, and indeed can be no doubt or hesitation.
One either is a Christian—or one is not.
One either is a believer—or one is not.
There is no middle ground of compromise or indecision.

When someone asks you if you are married, there is no hedging or uncertainty.
You either are—or you are not.
You are in no doubt concerning your citizenship.
You either are a citizen of the land in which you live, or you are not
There is no possibility of equivocation.

So, it is not humility or piety to say that you are
“trying to be a Christian” . . .
or that you “hope you are a Christian”.
You either are—or you are not.

Either you have given your life to Christ and asked Him to be your Master, or you are still trying to run your life
Either you have promised to obey Christ in all things or self, ego, is still at the centre and at the helm.
It is one or the other.

I know that Christ has “taken me on”—that I am now His child and His responsibility, and that He will make all the changes necessary in me, now and through eternity, until I am what He wants me to be.

I know that without Him I am absolutely helpless to do what I know I ought to do, to change my own character,
or my habits
or my disposition.
But I also know that He can change them.
He can help me to overcome any weakness or failure by getting to the root of the trouble.

He may dig deep,
and there may have to be some spiritual surgery.
For instance—maybe in looking at ourselves and life, we come to the conclusion that we ought to be different at some point.

We long to be a little kinder to people.
We know that we should be more tolerant,
more understanding,
more interested in other people
and their problems.

Perhaps we have a fiery temper that breaks out like forked lightning, and we say and do things of which we are afterwards ashamed.
So we pray for more grace, for more patience, more understanding.
But that’s not the real trouble.
It lies deeper than that.

What we really need is for Christ to perform some spiritual surgery on us; to cut away the stubborn pride which makes us want to domineer other people and order them about. Secretly we want to be dictators and bullies.
It is this ego which must be cut away.

But although I have never been more aware of my own inadequacies, I have never been so aware of the adequacy of Christ.
He can do with me what I cannot do, and change what I am unable to change—and He will.

The only thing which delays this, is my own unwillingness to be changed.
There is in each of us just enough self-will to make us think as we repeat the Lord’s Prayer:
“Thy will be done—(in other people)
Thy kingdom come—(but not just yet).”

I know that Christ is interested in every detail of my daily life and of yours.
And why not?
If He has numbered the hairs of our heads . . .
if He notes the sparrow’s fall . . .
shall He not care about what we do every day and how we do it?

Most of us simply refuse to believe how practical God is.

He is ready to tell us what to say in an important conversation.
He is ready to help us make the right decision in a difficult choice.
He is ready to guide the hand of the surgeon, and the scissors of the housewife.
He is ready to give new strength to the tired servant standing over the kitchen sink.

. . . .

I know that God is interested in the practical details of our daily lives, for the Bible is filled with assurance and illustrations.
Furthermore, so many people have found these promises to be true—and can say, as I say, that God can be trusted.

I have been out of work because of strikes and depressions.
I know what it is to be unemployed and to look for a job.
I know what it is to be without a home in a strange land.
I know what it is to have no money at all, for I have walked down Broadway, looking for work, with two cents in my pocket.

Yes, I have at times been without many things, but never without the One Who cared.
All through my life, God has supplied all my needs, richly, generously, far beyond anything I could have asked or dreamed. I know that God wants and expects us. His children, to ask Him
for guidance,
for protection
and for help
in a hundred details every day.

I know that He is far more willing to do things for us than we are to ask Him.
And that is the great mystery—why, knowing what we do about God’s power and God’s willingness to help, why we keep on struggling ourselves . . .
trying to work out things our own way, when He could save us all the anxiety, do it better and easier.

I believe our pretended, pathetic self-sufficiency saddens God.
He longs to help us, but we won’t let Him. We refuse to ask Him.

I know that when I take time to talk to God and to obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit—those little nudges on the inside—I feel alive . . .
and life is joyous and a great adventure.
I know that when I neglect these things, I begin to feel tired, and half-dead. I become miserable,
irritable,
full of frustration.

My work becomes complicated and a great burden, instead of a joy.

I know that it is to my immediate self-interest to obey Jesus—both what He has told me to do as it is written in the New Testament, and what He tells me to do day by day through the Holy Spirit.

I have no spectacular story to tell, but I do know that more than once my life has been spared, when others around me have been taken.
I have felt in my own experience the invisible messengers of God, and I believe in the presence and in the ministry of guardian angels.

When the clock strikes for me, I shall go—not one moment early, and not one moment late.
Until then, there is nothing to fear.
I know that the promises of God are true,
for they have been fulfilled in my own life, time and time
again.

Jesus still teaches
and guides
and protects
and heals
and comforts
and still wins our complete trust and our love.

These things I know.
And in my story, Peter Marshall is not glorified, but the Lord. As a matter of fact, as I think back over the evidences of the Lord’s guidance in my own life, I feel ashamed that my faith is not a more radiant, contagious thing.

God’s hand has very evidently been upon me, and I should be a better man because of it.

Surely if God has done so much for me, how much more will he do for you?
If His goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life, will they not also follow you?
Should you not be encouraged to believe that these same things and many more can happen to you?
These days of doubts
and fears
suspicions
and unbeliefs call for a positive faith
and a steady witness.

The situation in which we find ourselves in our national life and as individuals demands a clear note and a confident faith. We need people who are willing to stand up and be counted people who are not afraid to say, “Yes, I am a Christian”.

Yet we Christians have almost lost the art of religious conversation. We have not mastered the art of leaving behind all pious terminology and speaking naturally and spontaneously about the things we most surely believe.
We are not to argue about Christianity; that is the most futile
the most useless
and the most devastating of our temptations.
We cannot prove the things of the spirit by reason . . .
not because they are unreasonable—but because they are beyond reason.

The things of the spirit are matters of perception—not of
proof.
As Paul tells us in his First Corinthians’ letter, “ . . . the things of the spirit of God … are spiritually discerned”.
(1st Corinthians 2:14)

We do not argue, for example, about beauty in music
in art
or in poetry.
We recognize that in these realms, beauty is either appreciated or it is not.

Can you imagine a musician trying to prove by argument that a piece of music is glorious?
Does the poet argue for his sonnet?
Or the artist for his picture?

We cannot prove the inspiration of the Bible by argument,
nor the efficacy of prayer
nor the reality of God’s guidance
nor the power of God to change people’s lives.

No—we must not argue about Christianity.
Christ does not expect us to.

All He asks us to do is to tell what we know, what we have experienced.
He will do the rest.

Why are we so reluctant to tell even our friends, those whom we know best, about Christ and to talk to them about spiritual things . . .
to discuss with them how to find God’s will for their lives . . .
to help them to cultivate a prayer life?
Why are we so reluctant?

Perhaps it is because we are embarrassed to talk about spiritual things.
We are afraid of ridicule.
We do not yet understand how normal a thing it is to know God and to live our daily lives in fellowship with Him.
Many of us lack the fortitude to stand by our convictions. We permit a few secular pagans in our office to silence us entirely.

Most of us, I think, are silenced by reason of the fact that there are some things wrong in our own lives, and if we were to say too much about spiritual things we would be hypocrites, and our friends know it . . . and we know that they know it . . . and so we say nothing.

Therefore, it seems to me that before we can do what Christ asks us to do, we will have to set right some things that are wrong.
And then we will have something to say, and it will be so real to us and so terribly important that nothing else will matter.
We will go to our friends as Jesus told us, and we will tell them what we know of Him . . . what He has done for us . . .
how He answered our prayers about this matter . . • and how we reached a decision that was not only the right one, but the happiest one for all concerned . . .

And we will tell them how we found His guidance
and how our own lives have been changed . . .

There is only one way to learn the art of religious conversation and that is to try it.
You can’t learn to fish by studying a book.
You never swim until you get into the water.

“Go home to thy friends and tell them.”
That’s what Christ wants you to do.
He wants them to know that He is as adequate for life in our day as He was nineteen hundred years ago.

Suppose for a moment—suppose He is counting on you to tell them?

Prayer
God our Father, history and experience have given us so many evidences of Thy guidance to nations and to individuals that we should not doubt Thy power or Thy willingness to direct us. Give us the faith to believe that when God wants us to do or not to do any particular thing, God finds a way of letting us know it.
May we not make it more difficult for Thee to guide us, but be willing to be led of Thee, that Thy will may be done in us and through us for the good of America and all mankind.
This we ask in Jesus’ name. amen.