This is a powerful sermon by Charles Spurgeon sent to me by Nigel Carson.
2 Kings 3 : 6-20
We now proceed to note OUR DUTY as the prophet tells it to us. The prophet did not tell the kings that they were to procure the water—that, as we have already said, was out of their power—but he did say, “Make this valley full of ditches,” that when the water came there might be reservoirs to contain it. They who pass “through the valley of Baca are to make it a well”—that is their business. “The rain also fills the pools”—that is God’s business. If we expect to obtain the Holy Spirit’s blessing, we must prepare for His reception. “Make this valley full of trenches” is an order which is given me this morning for the members of this church; make ready for the Holy Spirit’s power; be prepared to receive that which He is about to give; each man in his place and each woman in her sphere, make the whole of this church full of trenches for the reception of the divine floods.
Before the Nile begins to rise, you see the Egyptians from either side of the banks making ready first the deep channel, and then the large reservoir, and afterwards the small canals, and then the minor pools, for unless these are ready the rising of the Nile will be of little value for the irrigation of the crops in future months; but when the Nile rises, then the water is received and made use of to fertilize the fields; and so, when the treasury of the Spirit is open by His powerful operations, each one of us should have his trench ready to receive the blessed flood which is not always at its height.
Have you ever noticed the traders by the river’s side? If they expect a barge of coals, or a vessel laden with other freight, the wharf is cleared to receive it. Have you not noticed the farmer just before the harvest-time—how the barn is emptied, or the brick yard is made ready for the stacks? Men will, when they expect a thing, prepare for the reception of it; and, if they expect more than usual, they say, “I will pull down my barns and build greater, that I may have where to bestow my goods.”
The text says to us, “Prepare for the Spirit of God.” Do not pray for it, and then fold your arms and say, “Well, perhaps He will work.” We ought to act as though we were certain He would work mightily—we must prepare in faith. Have you ever read that text, “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of yours habitations: spare not, lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes”? What for? “For you shall break forth on the right hand and on the left.” You are to enlarge your tent first, and then God will send those that will fill it.
But the most of people say, “Well, you know, of course, if God sends a blessing, we must then enlarge.” Yes, that is the way of unbelief, and the road to the curse. But the way of faith and the road to the blessing is this—God has promised it; we will get ready for it; God is engaged to bless, now let us be prepared to receive the blessing. Act not on the mere strength of what you have, but in expectation of that which you have asked. Act for God on the faith of what He will give, rather than on the faith of what you have as yet obtained. Count God’s notes of hand as cash; believe that, with God, a promise is as good as the fulfillment, and act when you have the promise as you would have acted if you had already seen the promise fulfilled!
Prepare for a blessing! Prepare largely! “Make this valley full of ditches,” not make one trench, but as many as possible. For God, when He works, works like a God. As a king gives not stintedly, like a beggar, so God, in His gifts, is not restrained. Giving will not impoverish Him, and withholding will not enrich Him. Expect great things from a great God! “Make this valley full of ditches.” Have a holy covetousness of the divine blessing. Never be satisfied with what God is doing in the conversion of souls; be grateful, but hunger after more. If He give ten souls, ask for a hundred; if He give a hundred, ask for a thousand; if a thousand, ask for ten thousand. Insatiable as the grave ought the Christian’s heart to be with regard to the glory of God! Here we may swallow the horseleech indeed, and say, “Give, give, give,” with greater vehemence every day, and yet shall not God chide us for the largeness or the importunity of our desires. Open your mouth wide, for God will fill it. “Make this valley full of ditches.”
Moreover, prepare at once—not dig trenches in a month’s time, but “make this valley full of ditches” now. Oh, that little word “now!” it is often the saving word to sinners, and to the Christian it is the quickening word. Tomorrow! Who shall tell how many souls it has destroyed, devouring them as the grave devours the slain! Alas, for the mischiefs of that demon word, tomorrow. And who shall say how many Christian churches have been deprived of blessed enlargements by the policy which said, “Wait a little!” Away with this horrible advice! Wait? Impossible! Death waits not! Hell makes no pause! Sin stays not its mad career! If the devil, and death, and hell would wait, we might have an excuse for loitering; but, meanwhile, “Forward!” must be our motto. Now, even now, my brothers and sisters, prepare for the blessing, for God is ready to give it when we are ready to receive it. When the valley is full of ditches, the ditches shall be filled: when the wells are made in the valley of Baca, then shall the pools be filled.
Furthermore, prepare actively. Ditch-making is laborious work; God is not to be served by child’s play, or sham work with no toil in it. When a valley is to be trenched throughout its whole length, all the host must give themselves to the effort, and none must shy from the toil. I believe with all my heart in the Spirit of God; but I do not believe in human idleness. Celestial power uses human effort. The Spirit of God usually works most where we work most. With regard to our own salvation, the meritorious part of that is finished for us; but still it is written, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;” and the reason given is, “For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” We work because God works; to loiter because God works is evil reasoning. Do not tell me that because God will fulfill His own purposes, therefore His people may go to sleep; for it was never His purpose to lull His people to slumber; but His great design is the education of an intelligent host of co-workers with Himself. The Lord has made us and ordained us that we, in our measure, may work together with Him. It is His office to bless our efforts, but it is at once our privilege and our duty for each one of us to yield ourselves as the instruments of the divine purpose.
I want every Christian here to feel that if the Lord is about to bless this church, or His church at large, there must be, on the part of every one of us, a shouldering of the spade, and a going forth to diligent, continuous, persevering service, in the name of the Master, according to His will. Give me a lazy church, and say nothing about the Spirit of God—the Spirit of God and lazy churches are a long way off from each other; but give me an earnest church and the Spirit of God, and who knows what may come of such a blessed union! Let but men be prepared to labor, and God is prepared to bless their labor, for is it not written, “Paul plants, and Apollos waters”— and what happens?—“God gives the increase.” He seldom denies the increase where there is a plantingPaul and a watering Apollos. Earnest efforts and believing dependence upon God are sure to be attended with a blessing. Let me, however, interpret these words, “Make this valley full of ditches,” a little more plainly and pointedly.
If we are to have a blessing from God, we are every one of us to have a trench ready to receive it. “Well, how shall I have mine ready?” one asks. My answer is, have large desires for a blessing—that is one trench you can all dig. Brothers and sisters, is it not true that some of you do not want a blessing? If the Lord should give you an unusual blessing, you would hardly thank Him—for you have never hungered and thirsted after it. There are some professors who do not want to be too thoroughly Christian; they are quite afraid of having too much of the Spirit of God; they are for ankle-deep religion; and they had rather not wade further into the stream lest they should be carried away by the current. It would be inconvenient to such persons to have much grace. Do not be afraid, you will not get it; in fact, it will be a question, before long, whether you have any at all. But if a true believer desires much grace, he shall have it.
Enlarge, then, your desires, my brothers and sisters; ask for much likeness to your Master, much fellowship with your divine Lord; ask for great faith; ask for clear hope; ask for intelligent views of the truth of God; ask for a burning sense of the value of those truths. “Ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you.” Do not stint yourselves, but “make the valley full of trenches.” If there is any attainment which has seemed to you up till now to be impossible, long after it. If it is any height of virtue, if it is any excellence of loveliness, or any eminence of grace, let your soul be enlarged. “I speak,” says Paul, “as unto my children” (so may I speak to many among you), “be you also enlarged.” “You are not straitened in the Lord, or in us, but you are straitened in your own heart.” Make the valley of your soul as full as possible of the reservoirs of longing desire for a blessing.
Next, add to these desires, faithful, vehement, and constant prayers. “You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss.” Make your heart full of prayer; and, my brothers and sisters you need not say that you have not subjects for supplication. If you have all you need yourselves, pray for others. Go to God for your children’s salvation. Oh, that our children might be God’s children! They counted the family of Curio happy, of old, because there were three orators in it, the grandsire, the father, and his son; but that is a far happier family where there are three generations of Christians; when the promise is made true, “Instead of the father, shall rise up the children”—when the holy cause descends as an heirloom from the father to the son, and from the son to the next generation, and the next! Pray for this, and be not content without it. Then plead for your servants, your kinsfolk, and your neighbors. Set your heart upon special cases; yearn over those cases; and when you see those converted, long after more, and make your valley full of new trenches, for this is a day of grace, an hour of blessing, and the Lord will give you according to your faith. Furthermore, if desires and prayers are good, yet activity is even more so.
Every Christian who wants to have a blessing for himself or for others, must set to work by active exertion, for this is the word, “Make this valley full of ditches.” If you cannot dig a deep trench, dig a shallow one; and if it cannot be as broad as you wish, let it be as wide as you can make it.