Tag Archives: Isaac Watts

Grace to relinquish

Jesus said to them, ” I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.

(Matt 19.28&29)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy, he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.

(1 Pet.1:3-7)

We make promises to one another in marriage. We promise that we will conduct ourselves in particular ways, regardless of the situations in which we find ourselves, and also regardless of how we happen to feel on any given day. A marriage can only survive if the partners trust that – so far as is humanly possible – those promises will be kept. We have to believe that our spouse means to love us at our least lovable; to care for us in our weakness; to be loyal and discreet about our failures; to be for us even when we are against ourselves. Without that trust – in their words becoming motivations, attitudes and deeds – we cannot fully give ourselves to the relationship, but always hold back in self-defence. My trustworthiness is the gift I give to my husband, so that he knows my word is true, and can rest in it.

As followers of Jesus, we have also made promises before God – to enthrone Christ as Lord of our lives, to hold ourselves in readiness to serve him, to hold all his gifts to us on an open hand and continually offer them up to him to be used as he pleases for his purposes. We do not bargain with God when we become believers – we are not earning favour or salvation by our own love and service – but the magnitude of Christ’s saving work calls forth a response of whole-hearted dedication of our whole selves to him, and in our fervour we sing that he is all we need or desire in the world…. And then he offers us the opportunity to prove that our words were more than empty air, but represented the deepest truth about ourselves, and so often we hesitate.

What does that hesitation say about our trust in God? I think it says that we have a very low estimation of our Father’s abilities or desire to do what he promised. The bible is full of people who doubted God and tried to hold onto things, to manipulate situations in order to protect themselves and get their own preferred escape from trouble. How we struggle to believe that the dark valleys are necessary, are truly God’s path for us. How we rage against the loss of those things dearest to us, as if God were simply mean and liked to make us sad.

Friends, I am facing the end of a chapter in my life which has brought wonderful joys – good things for which I have thanked God over and over again. And now He asks me to relinquish these good things, to trust him for an unknown future, and to do this in such a way that He will be glorified in my life and witness. As I thought about this, I have been reminded of the words of saints of old. I have been rebuked and challenged by them to seek the grace of relinquishment for the sake of Christ, to follow cheerfully where He calls me. May God enable me to obey with readiness, thanksgiving and a spirit of trusting gladness, as I lay this place, this community and all the joy it represents on the altar as my sacrifice of praise.

Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small. Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life my all.

(Isaac Watts, 1674-1748)

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.

(Jim Elliott  1927-1956)

If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for him.

(CT Studd 1860-1931)