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TEXT: II Corinthians 2:11
SUBJECT: Precious Remedies #15
Our midweek study is a book by Thomas Brooks called "Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices". Brooks was an English Puritan, born in 1608. He wrote to expose Satan's clever ways and to help us overcome them by grace.
At the moment, we're in Part III of the Book--"The devices Satan has to keep souls in a sad, doubting, and questioning condition". In other words, how he keeps us from the assurance of salvation.
The "device" we'll take up tonight is
"Satan suggests to the soul that it is not [saved] because it cannot rejoice in Christ as it once did".
What does he mean by this? He tells us:
"Satan says--`You knew a time when your heart rejoiced in Christ; it was full of joy and comfort. But now, how you are fallen in joy and comfort! Therefore, you are not saved; you deceived yourself when you thought you were, for if you were, your joy and comfort would have continued'"
You have to give the devil his due! Much of what he says is true. The early Christian life is often marked by stirring of great joy. Every believer knows a time when he joyed in Christ; when he "danced before the Lord with all his might". But many of us no longer feel the joys and comforts we once had. We deplore our backslidings and lukewarmness. But, does this mean that we're not saved? Does a lack of joy prove reprobation? Satan says it does. Thomas Brooks knows better.
He reminds us, firstly, that
"Salvation and the joy of salvation are not the same thing".
The obvious verse to cite is Psalm 51:12. There, David pleads "Restore to me the joy of Your salvation". The king is a saved man, of course. But, after falling into gross sin and not repenting for months, he lost his joy. No one is more candid than he; no one ever confessed his sins more fully, yet he nowhere says--or implies--that he lost his God or his soul. And so, if salvation and its joy are not one and the same, it is possible to lose one without the other.
David was not the only one to know this. Others in the Bible did; famous names in Church History, too. For example:
William Cowper. He was a holy man, given to bouts of deep depression and anxiety for his soul. Once, he wrote
"Where is the blessedness I knew
When first I saw the Lord?
Where is the soul-refreshing view
of Jesus and His Word?
What peaceful hours I then enjoyed,
How sweet their memory still!
But now I find an aching void
the world can never fill".
By faith, this dear man "saw the Lord" and "enjoyed peaceful hours" in His fellowship. But now, he can't find the Lord and bewails an "aching void" in his soul.
It is possible, then, to lose your joy in Christ without losing Christ.
A second "remedy" is recall that
"Many believers have felt the same way you do".
Says the Puritan,
"One day you shall have them praising and rejoicing, the next day, mourning and weeping. One day you shall have them singing, `The Lord is our Portion', the next day sighing, `Why are you cast down, O our souls?`".
This is very helpful. It's good to know saved people have felt this way. Why? Because they felt this way...and they were saved! Therefore, one can feel this way--joyless, comfortless and without peace--and still belong to God.
A third "remedy" is to remember
"Joy is not the only trait a believer needs".
"Joy" is both a "fruit of the Spirit" and a Christian duty. But joy is not everything. The believer needs other graces, too. He needs faith, patience, courage, and hope. These things are often perfected where "joy" is absent. That's why The Preacher must say,
"It is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting."
He doesn't mean "all the time", of course. For "to everything, there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven". There is
"A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance".
And so, when Satan says, "You're not saved; if you were, you'd be overflowing with joy every minute of the day", just remind him that God has other things for you too. If you doubt this, just think of the example of our Savior,
"Made perfect (i.e., fully matured) Through the things that He suffered".
A fourth "remedy" is to remember
"Joy may be lost through perfectly innocent causes".
Let's face it: Sometimes we lose our joy as a result of sin. Peter is a good example of this--denying the Lord three times, he "goes out and weeps bitterly". The disciples lost their joy, at times, through unbelief. David through stubbornness. The Galatians from listening to heresy. A lack of prayer, Bible-reading, and meditation will make you lose your joy in Christ. And so on.
But not every loss of joy is the result of sin. There are physical reasons for it. When Elijah flees into the wilderness, we're tempted to say, "Coward, get back to your post!" But when the angel finds him, he offers: food, rest, and friendship.
There are Divine reasons for it, too. Job was stripped of his joy! What was the reason? His "friends" knew--because he was a hypocrite, because God was chastening him, and so on. Were they right? God said
"You have not spoken of Me what is right!"
Job didn't lose his joy due to anything in himself, but due to something in God. Robert Asty, another Puritan, wrote
"The LORD is pleased to act as a Sovereign in the sealing and assuring, and comforting of His people".
As a "Sovereign", the Lord may take our joy from us. Not because we're unsaved; not because we've quenched His Spirit; not because we need discipline, but because "He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth".
The fifth "remedy" is to remember
"God will restore your joy in His good time".
We have a promise: "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning". The promised "joy" may come to you, literally, "in the morning". Or that "morning" may be delayed for many years. Who knows? It may be pushed back to the Resurrection.
But whenever it comes, it will come. When it comes, it will more than make up for the unhappiness you now feel. For now, you're "walking through the valley of the shadow of death", but the trip's not over yet. Some day, you'll arrive home and then, your "cup [will] run over". With "a joy unspeakable and full of glory". And a "peace that passes understanding".
The last "remedy" is also the best. Keep this in mind--even if you lack joy, peace, comfort, and assurance,
"What the believer has is much more than what he doesn't have".
On this point, Brooks is at his best. To quote him at length
"Your union with Christ, your communion with Christ, your sonship, your saintship, your heirship, are far better than the comforts you have lost...Though the bag of silver be lost, the box of jewels remains".
Peace of mind is a wonderful thing, but "peace with God" is better. Who has that? Everyone who believes in Christ. A heart full of joy is great, but the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is better. Who has that? Everyone who believes in Christ. A "hope of glory" is precious, "glory" is better. Who will have that? Everyone who believes in Christ.
Close and Appeal
Thomas Brooks didn't write these things to fill pages or to win a name for himself. He wrote them for our good. And, blessed by God's Spirit, they can do us good. So much good. But only if they're applied.
Does anyone here feel he's not saved because he lacks joy, peace, and comfort? If so, let him remember, that salvation is not in these things--though they're wonderful to have. It is in Christ. If you trust Him, you are saved. If you know this, you'll find the blessedness you now lack and so want.
God give it to you--and me--for Christ's sake. Amen.
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