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by Mark Driscoll
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Sun May 19, 2013
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Spurgeon's Sermon Notes: Spiritual Drought
Isaiah 5:6—“I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.”
The importance of spiritual rain
Rain is essential for growth of seed and fruit, and its withdrawal for a length of time is a terrible temporal judgment, especially in hot climates. The spiritual rain of the Holy Spirit's influence is essential to a spiritual life, in its beginning, growth, ripening, perfecting.
Its withdrawal is the last and most terrible of judgments (see whole verse).
It is especially a mark of anger for clouds to be overhead, and yet to drop no rain: to have the means of grace, but no grace with the means.
When spiritual rain is absent
- Ministers allowed to preach, but without power.
- Ordinances celebrated, but without the benediction of the Lord.
- Assemblies gathered, but the Lord not in the midst.
- The Word read, but with no application to the heart.
- Formality of prayer kept up, but no pleading with God.
- The Holy Ghost restrained, and grieved.
This has been the case full often, and may be again with any church or person if sin be tolerated after warning. Is it so in the present assembly, or with anyone here?
The clouds are forming, but still no rain
The clouds, ordained to rain, are commanded not to do so; commanded by God himself, with whom is the key of the rain; commanded altogether to withhold their refreshing showers. There is no necessary connection between outward ordinances and grace; we may have clouds of the first, and no drops of the second.
- No conversions, for these are by the Spirit.
- No restorations of backsliders. Withered plants are not revived when there is no rain.
- No refreshing of the weary: comfort and strength come not except by the dew of heaven.
- No spiritual activities. Lukewarmness reigns through routine unto death. The workers move like persons walking in their sleep.
- No holy joys, delights, triumphs.
As everything pines when there is no rain, so do all good things suffer when there is a spiritual drought.
Nothing can make up for it. Nothing can flourish without it.
Recognizing spiritual drought
A parched season spiritually has its own signs in the individual:
- The soul experiences no benefit under the Word.
- The man feels glutted with the gospel, and wearied with it.
- He begins to criticize, carp, cavil, and despise the Word.
- Soon he is apt to neglect the hearing of it.
- Or he hears and perverts the Word, either to boasting, to ridicule, to controversy, or to ill-living.
- It is a horrible thing when that which should be a savor of life unto life becomes a savor of death unto death, when even the clouds refuse to rain.
- Is it so with any one of us?
Preventing spiritual drought
Let us humbly use the means without putting our trust in them, and then let us:
- Confess our unworthiness. The Lord might justly have withheld his grace from us.
- Acknowledge our dependence upon the heavenly showers of spiritual influence.
- Pray incessantly, till, like Elijah, we bring down the rain.
- Look alone to Jesus. "He shall come down like rain."
- Value the least sign of grace, watching for it as the prophet did from the top of Carmel, till he saw the little cloud arise from the sea.
- Use the blessing more diligently when it returns, bringing forth fruit to God.
Let this act as an incentive to gratitude to those who are wet with showers of blessing. And as a warning to those who are losing their interest in the gatherings of the Sabbath.
Anecdotes and aphorisms
God's grace can save souls without any preaching: but all the preaching in the world cannot save souls without God's grace.—Benjamin Beddome
The hearer sometimes complains that there is no food for his soul; when the truth is that there is no soul for the food.—Joseph Parker
Every preacher must have felt that in certain places his labor is in vain. For some cause unknown to him, there is no response to his appeals, no fruit of his teaching. I knew a place from which Mr. Whitefield was chased away, and it was said of it that ever since there appeared to be a blight upon it; and indeed it seemed so. I have seen churches acting wrongly, and becoming withered from that time. On the other hand, we feel when there is dew about, and we know when there is a sound of abundance of rain. I have preached at times with the absolute certainty of success because a grace-shower was on saint and sinner, on preacher and people.
In a newspaper we met with the following:
"There was an old turnpike-man, on a quiet country road, whose habit was to shut his gate at night, and take his nap. One dark, wet midnight I knocked at his door, calling, 'Gate, gate!' 'Coming,' said the voice of the old man. Then I knocked again, and once more the voice replied, 'Coming.' This went on for some time, till at length I grew quite angry, and jumping off my horse, opened the door, and demanded why he cried 'Coming' for twenty minutes, and never came. 'Who is there?' said the old man, in a quiet, sleepy voice, rubbing his eyes. 'What d'ye want, sir?' Then awakening, 'Bless yer, sir, and ax yer pardon, I was asleep; I gets so used to hearing 'em knock, that I answer "coming" in my sleep, and take no more notice about it.'"
Thus may the ministry accomplish nothing because the habitual hearer remains in a deep sleep, out of which the Spirit of God alone can awaken him. When the secret influence from heaven ceases to speak to the heart, the best speaking to the ear avails little.