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by C. H. Spurgeon
"Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink" (Ps.69:14).
Many rivers have on their banks deep deposits of mud, and if any person ignorantly or accidentally falls upon this soft mud he would, unless speedily pulled out, be sucked under until he was utterly swallowed up in the mire. Having no handhold or foot-hold, the more he laboured to extricate himself, the deeper he would descend. True believers are sometimes in deep mire, and in danger of being swallowed up. This was the condition of the Psalmist when he wrote this psalm. He felt that he was sinking and could not save himself, and therefore he cried out for deliverance.
1. The true believer may be in the mire.
The truest believer in the world may be brought into the deep mire of unbelief. Some of us who have preached the word for years, and have been the means of bringing faith in others have nevertheless been subject to most fearful and violent doubts as to the truth of the very gospel we have preached. Times may have occurred to the best of God's servants, when they have even doubted the existence of the God whom they have loved to serve, and when even the deity and reality of the Lord Jesus who has rescued them from sin by His precious blood has been under questioning. They would have been willing to die for those truths one day, and yet another day they are compelled because of strong temptation to sit down, and with the tears streaming from their eyes, to cry bitterly unto their Strong Helper, "O God, save me from this accursed unbelief which robs me of every comfort, takes the foundations away, and lays my glory in the dust! If the foundations be removed, what can the righteous do? O settle my soul upon Your word, and establish me in Your truth, O God of truth."
A believer may be quite settled in his belief of the gospel, and may never doubt the inspiration of Scripture, the atonement of Christ and all those precious truths which are commonly received among us, and yet, through sin or temptation or some other cause, he may not have a full assurance of his own security in those glorious and vital truths. A true believer in Christ, in fact, may often suspect himself to be a hypocrite when he is most sincere; to be a backslider when he is most diligently following the Lord; and he may set himself down as the chief of sinners, when the testimony of men and of God is that he is a perfect and an upright man, one who fears God and turns away from evil. Many a justified and accepted saint has had to moan under a deep sense of sin, "God be merciful to me, the sinner." True believers sometimes wonder whether they are God's people or not, whether their sins are forgiven or not. This is deep mire indeed.
In addition to this, at times, the Lord's chosen are brought into another kind of mire, which will never swallow them up, but which may be a very severe trial to them while they are in it. When the soul is alarmed about spiritual things, and then bodily or earthly troubles also come, then the sea is really rough. Certain Christians are frequently in trouble. Their whole life is a going out of one desperate situation into another. You have had many losses in business; you have had many disappointments or bereavements. There is consolation. You are one of a numerous family, for many of God's people pass through just such tribulation. Christ has said, "In the world you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." It is no sign that you are not a child of God because you feel the rod, but it is rather a token of your being one of the adopted, because you are made to pass under the rod of the covenant, and to utter the prayer of David, "Lord, save me from the deep mire, and let me not sink."
The blackest mire is that God's own people sometimes sink in the mire of inward corruption. There are times when believers have such a sight of the little hell within their own flesh that they are ready to despair of the possibility of their ever being completely sanctified and made to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. We little know what lies hidden in our deceitful flesh - envying, blasphemies, murders, lust: there is enough in the flesh of any man to make a full-grown devil, if grace did not restrain him. One day you may have had such enjoyments of the Lord's presence and yet another day you may have such a sight of self that you may wonder who would deliver you from the body of this death.
Remember that if you have the nature of God in you, you have also the nature of the old Adam. You are to be immortal, but you are reminded that you are mortal. You are one day to be raised in glory, but you are to remember, as long as you are here, that the time of glory is not come, because you drag about to your shame, weakness, dishonour and misery a body of sin and death. The best of God's children know this and the holier they are, the more likely they are to feel the conflict within.
It is painful to realise that the best of God's people sometimes fall into the mire of Satanic temptations. There is no knowing what suggestion Satan may thrust into the ear and into the soul of the greatest believer that heaven ever made. God may whisper in your ear one day, and Satan the next, and yet you may be a child of God on both occasions. Satan will suggest not merely little sins, but the foulest of sins to the best of God's chosen people. He will even venture to urge the man of God to destroy himself when under depression of spirit. It is a fearful thing to fight with Apollyon. We shall sing of it in heaven as one of the greatest and most marvellous mercies of God, that He delivered us out of the mouth of our cruel adversary.
Why is it that believers are allowed to fall into it?
They sometimes get into it through their own sin. It is a chastisement upon them. They were not faithful enough when they walked in the light, and, therefore, they are put into the darkness. The rod is never taken down from the shelf, except when it is absolutely wanted; and we are made to feel its pain, because we so greatly require it. God chastises us and He generally does it by permitting us to be filled with our own ways. We have to drink the powder of the idol calf which we have ourselves set up.
Our heavenly Father sends these troubles, or permits them to come, to test if our faith is worth anything at all. People who have a superficial godliness will wish to be preserved from temptations, because they cannot endure them. But the Christian counts it all joy when he faces diverse trials, knowing that they bring patience, experience and hope. It is a poor faith which can only trust God when friends are true, the body full of health, and the business profitable. True faith holds to the Lord's faithfulness, when friends are gone, when the body is sick, when our spirits are depressed, when we are driven from the enjoyment of assurances and cannot see the light of our Father's face. We believe in our Lord, because He is a God that cannot lie, faithful and true to His every word.
The Lord may also let his servants slip into the deep mire to glorify Himself, because He is never perhaps more glorified than in the faith of His own people. God glorifies Himself by permitting His people to be subjected to trials and by enabling them to endure the strain. The excellence of the Christian is brought out by the fire of trouble. The wisdom of the Great Workman and the glory of His skill and power are discovered by the trials through which His vessels of mercy are permitted to pass.
Again, trials are doubtless permitted to show the natural weakness of the creature, that no flesh may glory in the presence of God. We might have imagined that a great man was someone different from others, but when his weakness is seen, we discern clearly that it was grace rather than natural strength that distinguished him from the others. The man was but an earthen vessel in which God had put his precious treasure, and he makes the earthiness of the vessel manifest, that all men may see that the excellency of the power is not of us, but of God.
Perhaps another reason why God permits his people to sink for a time into deep depression is to make heaven sweeter when they enter its pearly gates. Who will know the peace of heaven but those who have experienced the warfare of earth and have endured conflicts with sin and the prince of the power of the air?
These are some of the reasons why God permits His people to sink for a while in the deep mire. But the question is raised whether these men who are thus tossed about by doubts and vexed with the great depravity of their hearts are truly God's people at that time. Certainly they are, because if they were not God's people they could not have felt the pain of the temptation. The man who lives in sin never feels the weight of it. Conflicts and pains such as those mentioned above are not possible to those without a spiritual life. Spiritual life is the first requisite for spiritual grief and spiritual contrition. Those who are children of God show it by the way in which they bear their trials. If they cannot shout "Victory," at least they bear it patiently. If they cannot sing unto God with their mouth, yet their hearts bless Him. There is a degree of light even in their worst darkness. If they get into the mire, they do not perish there. They cry for help when their woes surround them, and in the very nick of time when everything appears to be lost, their Heavenly Father hastens to their aid.
We can say most certainly that we know whom we have believed and that He is able to keep us until the last day. But the Christian life is one of stern conflict and battle. Though we do rejoice in the Lord always, yet there are times when it is a hard work which we cannot accomplish without the help of the Spirit, to keep our faith alive at all.
2. No one can deliver them but God
The Word of God itself cannot help them if not brought home by the Holy Spirit. You may be in such a condition that every promise seems to you as if it was changed into a threat. When you turn over the pages of the book once so full of comfort to you, it seems withered into a desert. Past sin accuses you and cries, "You cannot claim this word, because your sin has disqualified you." At such times, the preaching of the gospel appears to be without power for you. It is not the fault of the speaker, nor is it the fault of the Word, but you painfully feel that you are changed. This is a case in which it is only by the effective application of the Word to your heart by the Holy Spirit that you can be brought out of this deep mire.
At such times, other believers cannot aid you. Those around you can prove to you how foolish it is to be in such a state, and you can even see your folly for yourself, yet you lie there helpless to lift hand or foot. They tell you of the faithfulness of God; they remind you of the glorious future and point to the land beyond the skies; but you only sigh in despair. Why does our gracious God permit this? Perhaps it is because you have been living without depending on Him and now He is going to take away every thing upon which you have been in the habit of depending. The second reason may be that He wishes to drive you to Himself.
We can make ourselves satisfied with forms of religion. They have become idols for us because we have put them in God's place. Our Lord favours us with a famine in the land so that it may make us seek after the Saviour more. The best position for a Christian is to live wholly and directly on God's grace. When the wind comes and the storm blows, we shall see that the rickety structures which we build will give way and fall; but if we stand on the rock which never shakes, we cannot suffer loss. Do not think even for a moment that our standing is in our sanctification, our self denial, or our feelings, but know that we are saved because Christ on Calvary offered a full, free and effective atonement for every one who believes on Him. We are complete in him, having nothing of our own to trust to, but resting upon His merits.
When we are brought to this condition, then it is that God comes to help us. We are sure in our poverty to turn afresh to Him with new earnestness. We can bless God for the mire, and for our sinking in it, when it makes us cry out to God.
3, Prayer is the never failing resort
When you cannot use your sword or any other weapon, you may take to the weapon of all-prayer. It is a door which none can shut. Demons may surround you on all sides, but there is always one way open, and as long as that is clear, you will not fall into the enemy's hand. The gates of heaven are open night and day. God will welcome your prayer at any time and in every place in any condition of poverty, sickness, doubt, or even sin.
Prayer is never futile. You may not always get what you ask for, but you shall always have your real wants supplied. When God does not answer His children according to the letter, He does so according to the spirit. If you ask for silver will you be angry because He gives you gold? If you seek health, should you complain if instead He makes your sickness turn to the healing of spiritual problems? Was not Paul made richer when God gave him a thorn in the flesh, and yet gave him His strength?
If you are alive spiritually, although you are almost afraid to utter words once dear to you, if your soul still desires, pants, hungers and thirsts, that is the essential part of prayer. Sobs and looks are prayers. Though you say you cannot pray, you must pray, you cannot help praying if you are a Christian. Break through these nets of the devil which hold you in bondage, and begin with your whole soul to pray. Never mind what form your prayer takes, but do pray. Everything depends now on your prayer. If Satan can stop thy prayer, he has stripped you of your last resort, your last hope. Pray, if it costs you your life.
Thank God if you are not in such a condition. But remember that if you are not careful how you walk, if you become too confident in your own strength or goodness, God will bring you down, and make you cry out as sharply and as sorrowfully as David, "Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink." (Abridged)
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