There are a good number of good books on my bookshelf that fall into one of the following four categories…
There are those that I have read in vain; those I have started to read some time ago but have never completed; those I have never read but intend to read…one day; and then there are those books I have purchased in vain – either consciously (or sub-consciously) never having had any intention of reading them but felt that the virtue of owning them would somehow compensate for this.
In the last six months, I find myself drawn to a growing number of books in those four categories. There are books that I now feel not only ready to read, but desperate to read. It’s fair to say that most (but not all) of the authors of these books are now with the Lord and have been for some centuries. I’m not reading these books to expand my mind or my knowledge – at least not, primarily. If I had approached these books some years ago, chances are that’s all I approached them for: to increase my knowledge of ‘what’ I believe and ‘why’ I believe but without that real desire to increase my intimacy with my God.
Among those books are the journals of a 17th century follower of Jesus, whose name was Jonathan Edwards. Arguably he ought to have a much greater description and introduction but his many titles can sometimes distract from the fact that this man knew and experienced and shared and revelled in the great love of His sin-defeating, Holy-wrath appeasing, death-defeating, living Saviour, Shepherd and King, Jesus Christ. What blesses me most about this man is not so much his own godly greatness but the source of it; the Greatness of His Saviour who is the same today as He was then.
Jonathan Edwards was a very gifted preacher. He wrote a lot and preached a lot. I am presently in the process of reading through one of his sermons on Romans 3:19 which runs seventeen pages long! But he also had a gift of saying things concisely and effectively. This morning I read this quote from one of his journals:
Let everything have the value now which it will have upon a sick bed: and frequently, in my pursuits of whatever kind, let this question come into my mind, ‘How much shall I value this upon my death-bed?’
If all the church of Christ let those thirty-nine words precede every ambition and every decision and every action what great awakenings – in our homes, in our neighbourhoods, in our communities, in our cities, in our countries, in our world – might we behold in this century?
Having been at the sick and death-bed of my wife, I have known what Jonathan knew. I have felt what Jonathan felt; desired what he desired. I might not have been able to articulate it as concisely with words, but this has been the language and longing of my heart and my soul.
What is also and sadly true for me is that as time and space separate me from that death-bed, so I often feel the appeal of that desire ebb and flow between heaven and earth.
Therefore, I thank the Lord Jesus for the work He has given me to do. I thank the Lord Jesus for every challenge and every discouragement and every difficulty and every disappointment and every frustration and every cloud of adversity; I thank the Lord for the dark nights and the empty house; I thank the Lord for the hard work of life without my best earthly friend. Thank You, Jesus that the closer I am to my bed of loneliness, weakness, sickness and death, the closer I am to you.
This evening, a dear brother and kindred spirit sent me these precious words of Jonathan Edwards:
“To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Better than fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of any, or all earthly friends. These are but shadows; but the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams; but God is the sun. These are but streams; but God is the fountain. These are but drops, but God is the ocean.”
In His Arms,