IF THEY MADE IT, YOU CAN TOO – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Last Sunday we looked at the marriage of the great German Reformer Martin Luther and his wife, Katie. Both of them were hardheaded but by the grace of God in their life, they became a model couple for generations to come. This morning we go to the second message in the series – WHEN THERE IS A THORN IN THE FLESH.
Romans 13:8-10 8 Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Overall Background: We’re basing this series on Romans 13:9 and 10 – “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. The first statement is a command to be obeyed but the second statement is the test whether the command was truly obeyed. Anyone can say – “Sure, I love my neighbor.” But the test is “If you say you love somebody, do they feel safe with you?” Let me turn that around: “If you say that someone loves you, do you feel safe with him or her?” In this series we’re not talking about just any neighbor but our nearest neighbor, which should be our spouse. The question is – “Do they feel safe with you? Do you feel safe with them?” They may know your deepest secret and yet your secret is safe. They may know your greatest weakness and yet it never becomes a weapon in his hand or mouth. That’s Real Love.
This morning we are looking at the marriage of Charles and Susie Spurgeon.
Now, who were they? If you’ve heard me preach for a while, I’m sure you’ve heard the name Charles Spurgeon. Let me tell you a few things about this man:
– Although there have been many great preachers in history – Charles Spurgeon still holds the title “Prince of Preachers.”
– When he came to the New Park Street Church, London, in 1854, they had only 200 some members. Under Spurgeon’s 38 years of ministry, they added about 14,000 members.
– At one time he had as many 12,000 in audience, with 10,000 waiting outside.
– On several occasions Spurgeon would ask his audience not to attend the next Sunday’s service so that others could have an opportunity to find a seat. Once, the audience vacated so that the people waiting outside could come in and the building was immediately packed again.
– Charles Spurgeon was a soul winner like no other. Once he was testing the acoustics in a large building and he shouted – “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” – and a man working in the rafters got saved. Once a woman read a piece of paper that was used to wrap some butter. It was Spurgeon’s sermon and she was saved.
– His sermons went everywhere. In 1865, Spurgeon’s sermons sold as many as 25,000 copies per week. Even to this day, he is the most widely read preacher of all times.
– He missed the opportunity to go to college but started a college that is still there to this day. He was a brilliant man who had about 12,000 volumes in his library and read 6 books a week and could tell you what he read and where he read at any time.
– Spurgeon insisted that the new building of the church should reflect Greek architecture because the NT was written in Greek. That’s why most churches have Greek columns in the front, even ours!
– I can go on and on.
What many people do not know was that he was married to Susannah or Sussie Spurgeon and both of them had a thorn in the flesh and yet they made it by the grace of God and became a model for many. Let’s look at them.
I. IT WAS NOT LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT.
Charles Spurgeon had been very successful in a small town out in the country called Waterbeach. Then he got a call to come to London’s New Park Street Church for a trial sermon. He showed up in Victorian London. It was obvious that he had no fashion sense. He was definitely no Beau Brummell or British Dandy. When Sussie saw him the first time, she didn’t care much for him. She was the daughter of a successful merchant and very much into proper manners and customs. She wanted a preacher with some style and class. Charles was just a country boy, a country preacher. His hair was everywhere. He had a huge blue handkerchief with white polka dots in his front pocket. All she could see was the handkerchief. But then God began working on Sussie’s life. She had been saved but was backsliding. Charles’ preaching opened her heart once again to God.
Long story short – the leaders invited Charles to come to be their pastor and even gave him a dozen white pocket-handkerchiefs. After coming as the pastor, Charles and Sussie began to spend sometime together. He encouraged her in her spiritual walk. They would take long walks and talk about the things of God. A year later Charles actually baptized her and the year after they were married and later had 2 twin boys.
Application: Many people’s understanding of love is directed by Hollywood. It is unrealistic, superficial and filled with fantasy. Instead of starting on a spiritual level, many relationships go directly to the physical levels. I’m not saying that romance is wrong but for a Christian young man or a young woman the first test should be – is the other person a Christian. 2 Corinthians 6:14 “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. Meaning: Don’t just look at the outward but focus on the inward.
II. IT WAS PATIENCE AND PRAYER THAT GOT THEM THROUGH TOUGH TIMES.
It was no secret that God had His hands on Charles Spurgeon. Very quickly the church began to grow. The ministry expanded. Charles had a lot on him. Several times Sussie would walk into the vestry and Charles wouldn’t even recognize her. He would stand up and greet her with a hand shake and a “How are you?” At first she was upset but then she knew what he was facing. One time before they were married, he even left her in a crowded place and forgot about her. She had to make her way through the crowd to find a seat. It made her so mad that she left the place and went to her parent’s home, hoping to find some sympathy. Instead, her mom wisely explained to her not to be selfish and hinder the ministry for her future husband.
But all this was the least of their worries. As the church began to grow, they decision was made to expand the building and rent Exeter Hall, which was a large public auditorium that could seat about 5000 people. This was unheard of in Victorian England! How could you meet in a public place for church service! One newspaper said – “the place is jammed to suffocation. All his discourses are redolent of bad taste, are vulgar and theatrical.” Another said, “All the most solemn mysteries of our holy religion are by him rudely, roughly, and impiously handled.” Charles pretended that it didn’t bother him but it did. He couldn’t sleep at nights. Listen to what he said – “Down on my knees have I often fallen, with the hot sweat rising from my brow under some fresh slander poured upon me; in an agony of grief my heart has been well-nigh broken…” Sussie said, “My heart alternatively sorrowed over him and flamed with indignation against his detractors.”
They moved into the new building but it was too small again. Once again they had to expand. This time they had to meet in the much bigger Surrey Music Hall. This was a Theater! Once again he was criticized and slandered but more people kept coming. One night some instigators decided to cause trouble and someone screamed “Fire!” “The galleries are collapsing!” There was a mad rush – a stampede – to the doors. Charles tried to quiet the audience and kept preaching. Once again someone yelled fire and as he turned from the pulpit, he collapsed. He had a breakdown. He had to be taken out the side door and brought him home. In Sussie’s own words – “I wanted to be alone, that I might cry to God in this hour of darkness and death! When my beloved was brought home he looked a wreck of his former self-an hour’s agony of mind had changed his whole appearance and bearing. The night that ensued was one of weeping and wailing and indescribable sorrow. He refused to be comforted. I thought the morning would never break; and when it did come it brought no relief.” 7 people died and many were seriously injured.
These were some very difficult days for them. A few days later, they were walking together in the garden and it suddenly hit Charles that it was not about him but about Jesus Christ. Why was he so worried! He missed only one week and was back in the pulpit.
Let me remind you – Anytime something good happens, the enemy is not happy. He will do everything he can tear down homes and marriages and relationships. When both turn towards God instead of turning on each other, there is incredible strength that comes.
Listen to 1 Corinthians 13:4, 7 4 Love suffers long and is kind…7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Sadly, many of us are always expecting the other person to understand us. Whether in the church ministry or your own life, sometimes it can get rough. Sometimes it feels like the attacks will never stop. Sometimes you feel like you can’t go on. What a blessing to have a companion who understands your pain and bears with you.
III. IT WAS WEAKNESS THAT POURED MORE GRACE ON THEM.
The new building was finally finished. They changed the name to “The Metropolitan Tabernacle.” Charles writing ministry began to grow. Sussie even started a book fund to assist preachers who didn’t have money for books. They even started a college for preachers and an orphanage. Charles’s had more and more speaking engagements and Sussie would go with him. It seemed like everything was going great but then in 1868, at the age of 36, Sussie became terribly sick. She was in constant pain. She even had a major surgery that helped the pain but ultimately became a semi invalid. She could not travel with him anymore.
A year later, Charles’s health also took a turn for the worse. At the age of 35, he had a severe form of rheumatoid arthritis, which was especially bad during the cold and damp winters. He also had gout. Once he wrote to his congregation – “I have been brought very low, my flesh has been tortured with pain, and my spirit has been prostrate with depression…With some difficulty, I write these lines in my bed, mingling them with the groans of pain and the songs of hope.” Charles did get better but he continued to have health issues.
But, there was something much worse in his life. It was Depression, something that was triggered on the night of his collapse. Listen to how he described it – “My spirits were sunken so low that I could weep by the hour like a child, and yet I knew not what I wept for.” At times he was away from the pulpit for three weeks at a time. Many times Sussie would sit by his bedside and read to him. He would feel better but few weeks or months later the heaviness would return. Even Sussie struggled with depression.
At age 57 his body could not take it any more. As he lay on his deathbed, Sussie was with him. He called for her and she responded with “Tirshatha” – Governor in the Old Testament. He said – “Oh wifey, I have had such a blessed time with the Lord.” No bitterness and no doubt, just gratefulness.
They understood that God had allowed a thorn in the flesh in their lives to keep them from being puffed up. They understood 2 Cor. 12:8-10 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Over 100,000 people came to the funeral.
Charles and Sussie are a model couple for generations to come. It was not love at first sight. It was filled with criticism, controversy, and pain but it was lifted with mutual love and understanding.
Is there some weakness in your life, some thorn in the flesh? God has allowed it to be there for your good. Don’t be angry. Don’t run. Don’t lose hope. Give it back to Him and see what He will do in your life.