It was a muggy day in May. My long hair was getting caught in the back of my chair again, and I was impatient for the bell to ring. The teacher was droning on and on about boring dates that I was sure would probably be on the test. I flipped through the textbook and the only thing that was really interesting was the pictures. Worn, tired and unsmiling faces. Why were they so grumpy? I wondered. Maybe because they had to sit through a boring class like this.
That was my introduction to history. Ironically enough, I discovered a love for it a few years later thanks to onr very excellent teacher, and went on to study it as one of my majors in university. What changed? I realized history was just a study of people in the past, and I love people. I love reading about how they lived, how they worked, how they died. History is all about stories. And I love stories.
It’s been many years since that dire history class, or any other class for that matter. But I still love reading about it here and there. Recently, I’ve started to think about something else in history I’ve never considered before – how did people in history worship? How did they live for the Lord? What did they learn? What can we learn from them?
I love Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was a church leader in Nazi Germany who fought against Hitler’s ideals and preached and taught the love of Christ in a very unsettling time. Eventually he was captured while working in the underground helping Jewish people flee Germany. He was eventually sent to a concentration camp and was sentenced to death one short month before Germany surrendered and the camps were liberated. After his death, his sermons and teachings were recorded and still have an impact on people today, 73 years later.
God loves human beings. God loves the world. Not an ideal human, but human beings as they are; not an ideal world, but the real world. What we find repulsive in their opposition to God, what we shrink back from with pain and hostility… this is for God the ground of unfathomable love. Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are. The Church is the Church only when it exists for others – not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell men of every calling what it means to live for Christ, to exist for others.
Bonhoffer’s words to his congregation in Nazi Germany can apply to so much today. What he spoke then encourages us now as we navigate through a world so confused and so lost that people just need Jesus.
Charles Spurgeon preached his first sermon nearly 100 years before Bonhoffer’s death in 1945. Spurgeon’s work as a pastor spurred revival and is so famous he became known as the Prince of Preachers. Yet Spurgeon was a humble man who taught boldly about coming to Christ and living a Christian life.
If any of you should ask me for an epitome of the Christian religion, I should say it is in that one word—prayer. If you believe in prayer at all, expect God to hear you. If you do not expect, you will not have. God will not hear you unless you believe He will hear you; but if you believe He will, He will be as good as your faith. To every soul that knows how to pray, to every soul that by faith comes to Jesus, the true mercy seat, divine sovereignty wears no dark and terrible aspect but is full of love.
Spurgeon’s words on prayer from nearly two hundred years ago still ring true.
George Müller was born thirty years before Spurgeon and was also a preacher. But Müller is better known for his work in caring for orphans and running an orphanage. Still, he had much to say about living in the Spirit.
I seek the Will of the Spirit of God through, or in connection with, the Word of God. The Spirit and the Word must be combined. If I look to the Spirit alone without the Word, I lay myself open to great delusions also.It is a common temptation of Satan to make us give up the reading of the Word and prayer when our enjoyment is gone; as if it were of no use to read the Scriptures when we do not enjoy them, and as if it were no use to pray when we have no spirit of prayer. To ascertain the Lord’s will, we ought to use scriptural means. Prayer, the word of God, and His Spirit should be united together. We should go to the Lord repeatedly in prayer, and ask Him to teach us by His Spirit through His word.
Müller’s words and life are a testimony to living with great faith. He prayed daily for three friends to come to faith in Christ. He only saw the fruit of that in one friend, and the other two followed after his death. He also demonstrated faith in God in his orphanage. One day, when there was no food in the cupboards, he had all the children come to the table. He thanked God for his provisions and the food they would receive, knowing he didn’t have anything to serve. When he was finished, a milk wagon broke down in front of the orphanage and a bread wagon shortly after. He truly lived on faith and was filled with the Spirit.
These three men of history show us one thing – the God of today is the same God as yesterday, and will be the same God tomorrow.
Lord, through all the generations You have been our home! Before the mountains were born, before You gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, You are God. Psalm 90:1&2
For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation. Psalm 100:5
Let this be recorded for future generations, so that a people not yet born will praise the Lord. Tell them the Lord looked down from His heavenly sanctuary. He looked down to Earth from heaven to hear the groand of the prisoners, to release those condemned to die. And so the Lord’s fame will be celebrated in Zion, His praises in Jerusalem, when multitudes gather together and kingdoms come to worship the Lord. Psalm 102: 18-22
God is a God of history. Through all time He remains the same. From beginning to the end. He sits enthroned on the praises of a thousand generations. And one day, He will bring us all together so we can praise His name as one.