03 June 2010

Thursday's Spurgeon

The following sermon was delivered on February 14, 1897:
"And the Lord God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd. But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered. And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live."—Jonah 4:6-8.
  I want to lay the stress especially upon these three sentences in my text,—
    "God prepared a gourd."
    "God prepared a worm."
    "God prepared a vehement east wind."
    The life of Jonah cannot be written without God; take God out of the prophet's history, and there is no history to write. This is equally true of each one of us. Apart from God, there is no life, nor thought, nor act, nor career of any man, however lowly or however high, Leave out God, and you cannot write the story of anyone's career. If you attempt it, it will be so ill-written that it shall be clearly perceived that you have tried to make bricks without straw, and that you have sought to fashion a potter's vessel without clay. I believe that, in a man's life, the great secret of strength, and holiness, and righteousness, is the acknowledgment of God. When a man has no fear of God before his eyes, there is no wonder that he should run to an excess of meanness, and even to an excess of riot. In proportion as the thought of God dominates the mind, we may expect to find a life that shall be true and really worth living; but in proportion as we forget God, we shall play the fool. It is the fool who says in his heart, "No God," and it is the fool who lives and acts as if there were no God.
In Jonah's life, we meet with God continually. The Lord bade the prophet go to Nineveh, but instead of going there, he took ship to go to Tarshish. Quick as thought, at the back of that announcement, we read, "But the Lord sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken." God hurled out the wind as if he had been throwing a thunderbolt after his servant who was seeking to escape from him, and there was such a terrible storm that the shipmen were compelled to cast Jonah overboard. Then we read, in the 17th verse of the first chapter, "The Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights." God began by preparing a storm, but he went on to prepare a fish. We do not know what fish it was, and it does not matter; it was one that God made on purpose, and it answered so well that Jonah lived in the fish's belly for three days and three nights, and then he was landed safely, a better man than when he went into the sea, though none too good even then.
In my text, we have God very conspicuous in the life of his servant Jonah; and I want to bring out this truth very prominently, that we may also see God in our lives in similar points to those in which he manifested himself to Jonah. So, we will notice, first, that God is in our comforts: "God prepared a gourd." Secondly, God is in our bereavements and losses; "God prepared a worm." Thirdly, God is in our heaviest trials: "God prepared a vehement east wind." Then, fourthly, what is not in the text in words, but is of the very essence of it, God prepared Jonah: and these three things—the gourd, the worm, and the east wind, were a part of his preparation, the means of making him a fitter and a better man for his Lord's service. He learned by the gourd, and he learned by the worm, and he learned by the vehement east wind; they were a sort of kindergarten school to which the childlike spirit of Jonah had to go. He needed to be taught as children in their infancy are taught by object-lessons, and things that they can see; so Jonah went to God's kindergarten, to learn from the gourd, and the worm, and the east wind, the lessons that he would not learn in any other way.
So, first, I remind you that GOD IS IN OUR COMFORTS: "God prepared a gourd." Everything of good that we enjoy, however little it may be, comes from God. [...]
The prophet next says that "God prepared a worm," which teaches us that GOD IS IN OUR BEREAVEMENTS AND LOSSES.
Jonah's great comfort was destroyed by a very little thing. It was only a worm, but that was enough to destroy the gourd. Oh! how soon may our earthly comforts be taken away from us! There is a little fluctuation in the markets, and the prosperous merchant becomes a bankrupt. A little red spot appears in the cheek of your fair child, and in a few weeks she is taken away by decline or consumption. A very little thing may soon destroy all your comforts, and make them to be like the withered leaves of Jonah's gourd.  [...]
Now, thirdly, "God prepared a vehement east wind," which teaches us that GOD IS IN OUR HEAVIEST TRIALS. Jonah could not escape the fury of the wind, especially when his gourd was withered. [...]
Yes, fierce troubles will come to us, and they may bring us no benefit in themselves. It is a popular notion that trials sanctify those who have to endure them; but by themselves they do not. It is a sanctified trial that sanctifies the tried one; but trial itself, alone and by itself, might make men even worse than they are. Here, for instance, is Jonah; his gourd is gone, and the sun's fierce heat beats upon him, and makes him faint; and even to the Lord himself he says that he does well to be angry, even unto death. The trial was not sanctified to him while he was in it; and it often happens that "nevertheless afterward" is the time in which trials benefit us: "No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby." You may have ten thousand trials, and yet be none the better for them unless you cry to God to sanctify every twig of the rod, and to make the fury of the east wind or the burning rays of the sun to be a blessing to you.
Now, lastly, I said that it was not in the text verbally, but it was there in spirit, that IN ALL THIS GOD WAS PREPARING HIS SERVANT.
Do you not see that God was teaching Jonah by the eye and by experience? Unless the Lord had put Jonah through this process, he could not so well have argued with his servant. 
Then, dear heart, with thy sore afflictions, God is preparing thee to be a comforter to others. Thou distressed and troubled one, God is training thee that thou mayest be a very Barnabas, the son of consolation, to the sons and daughters of affliction in times to come. I would suggest to some of you here who have to bear double trouble that God may be preparing you for double usefulness, or he may be working out of you some unusual form of evil which might not be driven out of you unless his Holy Spirit had used these mysterious methods with you to teach you more fully his mind.
I am probably speaking to some who are not yet converted to God. You have not yet believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, yet you have a world of troubles. You think that God is so angry with you that he means to destroy you, for ever since you have begun to think of divine things you have had nothing but trouble. You have lost one dear friend after another, you have yourself been very ill, and you often feel very low-spirited and sad, and you say to yourself, "Ah, I am doomed to perish!" Now, I do not come to that conclusion at all. On the contrary, I thank God for your trouble, for I think that, as God dealt with Jonah to teach him a lesson, he is dealing with you to bring you to himself. It was a good thing for Jonah when he had finished that quarrel with his God, for no good ever comes that way. What a blessed thing it would be for you also to finish your quarrel with God! Finish it soon, I beg you. How can you be reconciled to him? Only by the death of Jesus, for God has given his Son to die for sinners. That ought to end your quarrel with God. Remember that blessed verse, "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Turn to him, then. Let the God of love end your discussions, and end your questionings; may his blessed Spirit come and sanctify your troubles, and bring you to himself!
God bless you all, dear friends, for Jesus' sake! Amen.
I apologize that this entry was so lengthy, but I found this to be a wonderful sermon! You can read it in its entirety here.

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