Peace Sought but Not Found: Why?

I was reading Spurgeon recently and in a section of one of his sermons he took up the very practical pastoral question as to why some who are to some degree anxious about their souls can never seem to find peace. They seem to be concerned at times and enquiring after salvation but never obtaining. Most of us who are pastors have probably met with situations like this from time to time. Here is a summary of some of the reasons Spurgeon mentions for this condition. Of course, other reasons could be given but I list these with quotes from Spurgeon under each point:

1. Unbelief

“In most cases unbelief is the damning sin. You will not believe God’s word. You reject the testimony of God concerning his Son Jesus, and thus put away from you eternal life. You say, ‘I cannot believe.’ But that will not do, for you know that God is true; and if God be true how dare you say that you cannot believe Him? If, when I stated solemnly a fact, you told me, ‘I cannot believe,’ I should understand you to mean that I am a liar. And when you say, ‘I cannot believe God,” do you not know that the English of such an expression is this—you make God a liar by refusing to believe on His Son? This unbelief is sin enough—sin enough to destroy you forever…May God help you to roll it away by saying, ‘I will believe; I must believe. God must be true; the blood of his dear Son must be able to wash away sin. I will trust in it now!’”

2. Impenitence

“Are you hardened about your sin? Do you refuse to quit it? Is there no sorrow in your heart to think that you have broken the divine law, and have lived forgetful of your God?…he who will not own his sin and forsake it is wedded to his own destruction. May God soften your heart, and help you at once to repent of sin!”

3. Pride

“Are you too big a man to become a Christian? Are you too respectable, too wealthy, too polite? Are you too deep a thinker? Do you know too much? You could not go and sit down with the humble people who, like little children, believe what God tells them. No, no; you have too much brain for that: have you?….You read reviews, and you like a little dash of skepticism in your literature. You could not possibly listen to Jesus when he says, ‘Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.’ You do not care for such old-fashioned doctrine, for you are too much of a philosopher..One’s pride may carry him far if he is a great fool; but let him not suffer his pride to carry him into hell, for it certainly will never carry him out again”

4. Secret, hidden sin

“I have been frequently puzzled to know why certain persons cannot attain peace. Do what we may with them they appear to have a tide of disquiet for ever ebbing and flowing and casting up mire and dirt. They have seemed to be in a fair way to salvation, and yet they have never reached it: they have been one day near and the next far off. In one or two instances I have not discovered the reason why the gospel never succeeded with them, till they were dead. When they were gone the sad truth was revealed which accounted for all their uneasiness…There was a secret which, if it had been known, would have made their character abhorrent to those who in ignorance respected them. Does any man here carry about with him a guilty secret? Does he persevere in shameful acts which he labors to conceal? How can a man hope for peace while he wars with the laws of morality? What rest can there be while solemn vows are broken, and the purest of relationships are treated with despite? Nay, while there is any uncleanness about a man, or about a woman, there cannot be peace with God: such sins must be given up…Would you for a moment insinuate that the Lord Jesus died to allow you to sin and yet escape its penalty?”

Submitted by Jeffery Smith

A Lesson In God’s Ways by Jeffery Smith

1 Sam. 16:6-7, “So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him!’ But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for a man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

These are words spoken by the Lord to the prophet Samuel on the occasion of the anointing of the shepherd boy David to be the next king of Israel. Samuel was certain that Eliab must be the chosen one as he was so impressive to behold. David was the last of Jesse’s eight sons that anyone, including his father, had thought of and yet he was the one that God had chosen. There are several lessons that we can learn from this event.

First of all, we are reminded that the ways of God’s are often contrary to our conventional ways of thinking or of doing things. We’ve all heard the little saying, “God works in mysterious ways.” We see that here in this account. God’s ways are often mysterious and surprising, but they are always wonderful and good for his people and for his glory. For example, He often chooses very unlikely instruments to be the means of his blessing. Here is David the shepherd boy, from the little country village of Bethlehem. The one his father never even considered when Samuel asked to see his sons. Though he was ruddy of complexion and goodly to look at it, he was too young, too boyish, too melancholy and meditative, and too inexperienced in the ways of the world. Who would have ever thought? But there are qualities in that young man, qualities that God had put there and that only God could see. How astonished Jesse and his other sons must have been to see Samuel pouring the holy oil upon this young stripling. But this is often God’s way. He often chooses very unlikely instruments to be the means of his blessing.

There is Ruth the widowed Moabitess. She who must beg from Boaz’s servants becomes their master and his wife. This woman from the pagan race of Moab becomes the honored great grandmother of the one God had chosen to rule his people. Our Lord’s apostles are taken from common fisherman and hated tax gatherers. The great reformer of the sixteenth century Martin Luther, is found in a poor miner’s cottage. Whitefield is taken from his mother’s Tavern. Then, of course, we see this in the life experience of our blessed Lord himself. His mother Mary is a young virgin from a despised little town of Nazareth. Her husband is a common carpenter. Jesus is born in a lowly manger, despised and rejected of men. He is crucified on a Roman cross, but from that cross he is exalted to the right hand of the Father, where he rules and reigns until all of his enemies are made his footstool.

Secondly, we learn from this passage the danger of relying upon human wisdom when it comes to the work of God. Here we see how easily even a man of God like Samuel can be fooled by appearances, by impressions. Israel had made many foolish choices in the past. But here at this crucial moment in the nation’s history, when so much hangs in the balance, the godly Samuel is on the scene. Surely the future of God’s kingdom can be trusted to this faithful prophet of God. But even Samuel came within a hair’s breadth of making a terrible mistake; a mistake that would have brought an even worse disaster to the nation. Here we are reminded that God’s kingdom is only safe with Him. Only God’s wisdom is adequate for directing the work of His kingdom. Human wisdom is not to be trusted, when it comes to the things of God. We must always with much prayer look to God in a humble spirit of dependence and let His word alone be our guide.

Thirdly, here in this passage we are reminded that it is the state of our hearts that is the real measure of our true character. “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” The state of our hearts is the real measure of our true character. This doesn’t mean that our actions and words don’t matter. However, actions and words can deceive. What matters most is the state of our hearts.

Now if God looks at our hearts we need to look at our hearts. Your true character and mine is not what other people see. It’s what God sees and knows us to be in our hearts. So let us be reminded that in our pursuit of holiness and likeness to our Savior we must not be content with that which is merely outward. We must be concerned with the inward man. We must be concerned with the realm of our affections and desires, our attitudes and feelings, our likes and our dislikes. In the work of mortifying remaining sin we must not be content with lopping off the limbs and the fruits that break forth. We must go down to the roots. In the cultivation of positive Christ-like virtues we must not be content with a mere outward conformity to the will of our Father. We must seek to cultivate those inward graces of love, kindness, gentleness, patience, joy, and all of those inward fruits of the Spirit. We must make it our practice to regularly examine our hearts. Acquaint yourself with your heart. Cry to God about your heart. “Lord, you say that you look not only upon the outward appearance, but upon the heart. Therefore I too will look at my heart.”

However, as one the Puritans has put it so well, remember that as you keep one eye on your heart, keep the other eye on Christ. We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. If we confess our sins, including the sins of our hearts, He is faithful and just to forgive. And as we look to Him, and apply ourselves to the means of grace, He is able, by the Spirit, to give us grace to be more and more like Him, not merely on the outside but on the inside.