A STRONG STAFF
James Smith, 1860
"He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think!" Ephesians 3:20
On looking forward—we often feel the need of a strong staff on which to lean—as the way is rough, we are weak, and the burden we have to carry is often heavy. I have just laid my hand upon one, which many years ago helped me along a rough road, and administered much comfort to my soul. It looks as fresh and as strong as the first time I handled it! I intend to use it again, and treat it as I would an old friend—trust it. And as I always like to divide my morsel, and lend my staff to anyone who needs it—I will set it before you, reader, that you may use and enjoy it too.
Here it is, as presented by the Apostle Paul, to his friends of old. He is speaking of their covenant God, and says, "He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think!" Ephesians 3:20. What do you say to that, fellow Christian? Is it not a most blessed view of our heavenly Father? It is intended for all the family. Let us therefore take it to ourselves, and with it in the hand of faith, look forward into the future.
We Shall NEED Much.This is an unquestionable fact. We are always more or less—in need, and every relationship, every connection, every engagement into which we enter, increases our needs.
We shall need much for OURSELVES—to make us holy, happy, and useful. Now we need to be holy in body, soul, and spirit; to resemble the Lord Jesus Christ in temper, disposition, and conduct, as much as possible. Through being holy—we need to be happy. Happy on our own account. Happy on account of those about us—that they may have a good, and correct opinion of our religion. Happy on the Savior's account, that he may be honored and magnified in us. Being happy, we need to be useful. Useful to sinners, in saving them. Useful to backsliders in restoring them. Useful to our fellow Christians in comforting, encouraging, and stimulating them. Now if we are to be made holy, happy, and useful—we must receive much grace from God, and experience much of the power of God—but he is "able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think!"
We shall need much for our FAMILIES—to convert, consecrate, and make them useful. We need each, and every member of our families, to be converted and constituted members of the family of God. We need our converted relations and dependents, to be wholly consecrated to God, and united with his people. And we need, each separately, and the whole collectively, to adorn the doctrines of God our Savior in all things.
We shall need much for the CHURCH—that it may be united, peaceful and prosperous. O how delightful it is to see the Lord's people living in union, walking in peace, and increasing in numbers daily! We shall need much for our congregations, that they may be enlarged, Christianized, and made exemplary. Few of our places of worship are crowded, multitudes who attend are not Christians, and some who are, do not adorn their profession. Now we need crowded places, the whole of the crowd brought to Christ, and all who are brought to Christ to present a lovely example of what real religion is to the world.
We need much for the TOWN in which we live, for we need a great awakening, a powerful revival of pure and undefiled religion, and that free grace should be glorified in our streets, lanes, and alleys.
We need much for the WORLD, for we need a host of holy missionaries, an open door to enter into every island and continent under heaven, and that the knowledge of the Lord may cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea.
But if our desires for ourselves, our families, churches, congregations, towns, and the world are gratified—we must receive much more from God than we ever have yet; and this is our encouragement, that he is "able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think!" How ever much we may need,
God Is Able to Do More.We are not straitened in him. There is nothing in his nature, purposes, predictions, promises, or acts—to cramp, discourage, or straiten us. He can do more than we need—more than we ask for—more than we desire—yes, more than we think! God's ability goes beyond our thoughts or conceptions! He is able to do more than he ever has done either in providence or grace. How much he did in his providence for Israel in general, for Elijah, and others, in particular—but he can do much more for us. How much he has done for his church in grace, at Pentecost, through the apostolic age, at the Reformation, and other times—but he is able to do much more. God has never gone to his uttermost yet. He has not done all he can do, all he has promised to do, all that it is in his heart to do! Blessed, forever blessed be his name, he is "able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think!"
Here then, is work for faith to believe this—so to
believe it as to influence the heart and conduct by it! Here is work
tor prayer—to ask in accordance with this representation. To open the
mouth wide. To ask for much. To ask and receive that we may be filled with
joy. Here is work for hope—to expect in some proportion to this
representation. To expect as from a God—a God whose wealth is infinite,
whose heart is love, and who is "able to do exceeding abundantly above all
that we ask or think!" What a reproof to those who ask little of God,
or expect little from God!
Here isCOMFORT for several classes:
Here is comfort for tried believers. However great, however peculiar, however long continued their trials; they need not faint, nor be discouraged, for God is able to make all grace abound toward them, and to do for them "exceeding and abundantly above all that they can ask or think!"
Here is comfort for discouraged seekers. Those who have been long seeking the Lord—but from some undiscovered cause, have not yet found him to their soul's satisfaction. Some idol is not dethroned. Some secret sin is not given up. Some mistake as to the nature and design of the gospel is made. Something is kept between the eye—and the cross. But here is encouragement even for such, to continue to seek, and expect to find, because God is "able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.'
Here is comfort for desperate characters. Giant sinners. Notorious transgressors. Awful drunkards, profane swearers, filthy prostitutes, wicked thieves, habitual liars, Corinthian sinners. Manassehs. Blasphemers. Equals to Saul of Tarsus, or the woman from whom Jesus cast out seven devils. However great the sinner, however desperate his case may appear, though no such sinner may ever have been saved before—yet there is no cause for fear, or ground for doubt, for God is "able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think!"
All sinners may find encouragement and comfort here. However much grace, mercy, merit, or power, their case may require—God has, and God can do, infinitely more! However much they may ask or desire, God can give abundantly more. However vast their conceptions of God's saving power, or saving grace may be—the reality goes far beyond their conceptions, for he is "able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think!"
Let us then, whenever we look back and feel discouraged on account of our failures, faults, and follies—whenever woe look within and perceive how much we need to make us what we ought to be, holy, harmless, and undefiled—or when we look forward, and think of the crosses we may have to carry, the foes we may have to face, and the difficulties we may have to overcome, —let us remember that our God is "able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think!"
Beloved, are you thinking of the swellings of Jordan, and thinking what shall I do then? How shall I endure the parting struggle, the mortal agony? Oh, how, how will it be with me then? Fix the eye of your mind on Jesus, trust alone in his precious atoning blood, believe the promises that God has made to you in his holy word, remember that he is the Father of mercies, the God of grace, the God of all comfort, and that he is "able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think!" This will banish your fears, inspire you with comfort, and make dying easy!