With amazement we often study towering saints of old that wrought great influence to the glory of God. How was it that they were able to move men and mountains in often short lifetimes? John MacArthur has, by far, been my greatest influence and in 17 years I have virtually memorised 400 GTY sermons. In this extract from the 2009 series Brick by Brick, John answers this question which should leave us ourselves to ponder: Am I ignitable? The following is from John MacArthur’s sermon Brick by Brick, Part 3.
C.T. Studd who possessed so much of the world’s goods and gave it all away to go as a missionary wrote: ‘Some want to live within the sound of Church or Chapel bell, I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of Hell.’ I like that spirit. And that’s what he did.
John Wesley was a man of zeal. He said: ‘Give me a hundred men who love God with all their heart and fear nothing but sin and I will move the world.’ He did.
Jim Elliott, martyr of Equator was really a remarkable young man. And one day he was reading in Hebrews chapter 1 verse 7 and he read, ‘He maketh His ministers a flame of fire.’ And the day that he read that he wrote in his diary these words: ‘Am I ignitable? God, deliver me from the dread asbestos of other things.’ Isn’t that good? ‘Saturate me with the oil of the Spirit that I may be a flame. But flame is transient and often short-lived, canst Thou bear this, my soul, short life? In me there dwells the spirit of the great short-lived whose zeal for God’s house consumed Him. Make me Thy fuel, flame of God.’ That’s a great statement. He said: ‘A flame is what I want to be but a flame doesn’t burn very long, and if that’s the way it has to be, that’s the way I want it.’
And he identified himself with another who lived a very short life whose flame was very brief, our Lord Jesus Christ – and his was brief. That last line that he wrote in his diary that day, ‘Make me Thy fuel, flame of God,‘ he got from a poem and that poem was written by Amy Carmichael, it’s a marvellous poem. I won’t read it all to you but just the last stanza:
‘Give me a love that leads the way
the faith that nothing can dismay
the hope no disappointments tire
the passion that will burn like fire
let me not sink to be a clod
make me Thy fuel, flame of God.’
Every disciple, I suppose, would like to be like this one, that Bishop Riley, that great man of God describes. Listen to his words: ‘A zealous man is pre-eminently a man of one thing. It is not enough to say that he is earnest, hearty, uncompromising, thorough going, wholehearted, fervent in spirit. He sees only one thing, he cares for one thing, he lives for one thing, he is swallowed up in one thing and that one thing is to please God. Whether he lives or whether he dies, whether he has health or whether he has sickness, whether he is rich or whether he is poor, whether he pleases man, or whether he gives offense, whether he is thought wise, or whether he is thought foolish, whether he gets blame or whether he gets praise, whether he gets honour or whether he gets shame, for all this the zealous man cares nothing at all. He burns for one thing and that one thing is to please God and to advance God’s glory. If he is consumed in the very burning, he cares not for it. He is content. He feels that like a lamp he is made to burn and if consumed in burning, he has but done the work for which God appointed him. Such and one will always find a sphere for his zeal. If he cannot preach and work and give money, he will cry and sigh and pray,’
That’s a zealous man. That’s a man who is fervent in spirit serving the Lord, a disciplined life.
Paul was like that. Paul has always been my model of a disciplined life. Remarkable. If there was a principle, he lived by it, that’s all. If there was a divine pattern, he followed it. He was a man of one thing, to please God.
Someone has tried to capture the fervency of Paul in quite a unique sketch. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard this, this is fascinating. The writer says this:
‘He is a man without the care of making friends, without the hope or desire of worldly good, without the apprehension of worldly loss, without the care of life, without the fear of death. He is a man of no rank, country or condition, a man of one thought, the Gospel of Christ. A man of one purpose, the glory of God. A fool and content to be reckoned a fool for Christ. Let him be called enthusiast, fanatic, babbler or any other outlandish nondescript the world may choose to denominate him. But let him still be nondescript. As soon as they call him traitor, householder, citizen, man of wealth, man of the world, man of learning, or even man of common sense, it is all over with his character. He must speak or he must die and though he should die he will speak. He has no rest but hastens over land and sea, over rocks and trackless deserts. He cries aloud and spares not and will not be hindered. In the prisons he lifts up his voice. In the tempest of the ocean he is not silent. Before awful councils and throned kings he witnesses on behalf of the truth. Nothing can quench his voice but death and even in the article of death before the knife has severed his head from his body, he speaks, he prays, he testifies, he confesses.’
That’s quite a testimony, isn’t it? And he’s right. If you call Paul enthusiast, fanatic, babbler, or anything like that, that doesn’t bother him. But if you say of him, ‘Oh, he’s a citizen, he’s a man of wealth, he’s a man of the world, he’s a man of learning’ and so forth, he’s very bothered because he doesn’t want to be known as that. He’s a man of one thing, a fervent man!
John MacArthur, Brick by Brick, Part 3, Romans 12:13