I wonder if there is something that is missing in your life as a believer in Christ? As a minister of His Gospel? I wonder if that one missing thing might be the anointing of God?
“Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till He come and rain righteousness upon you.”(Hosea 10:12)
“When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.” (2 Kings 2:9)
I write to ministers of the Gospel. Yet even if you are not ordained this theological reflection is for you. There are principles here for every believer whatever one’s vocation may be. So I invite you to keep reading.
We lay much due importance on the diligence of our Biblical studies, homiletic and pastoral practice. That is good and right. But ask yourself if you are seeking God in prayer for His holy anointing of your ministry. Elisha sought a double portion of Elijah’s ministry. God told us to seek Him and we will find Him. The Lord invites us to come to Him for wisdom. He invites us to walk in His Spirit. We need His anointing. We need His blessed hand upon our lives in the way that He blessed the prophets and the apostles and the martyrs.
We study Calvin. But do we pray for the anointing that came upon that man of God? We marvel at Luther’s courage, but do we pray for it in our lives? We love to soak up the godly words of the English Puritans, but do we long for their holiness and actually plead with God in earnest prayer that He might bestow such God-besotted language on our tongues? We read Edwards for his brilliance, his pastoral wisdom in discerning between spiritual fruit and diabolical barnacles on a true work of God, but are we regularly pleading with Christ for that wisdom in our lives? We read of how Robert Murray M’Cheyne cultivated such holiness in his life that people were said to come under conviction of the Holy Spirit when they passed him on the street.
Do you seek the spirit of holiness to fall on you, dear pastor? Seminary student, when you read the bold, Bibline expository preaching of Charles Spurgeon do you just read to marvel, or do you read and crave the holy blessing on that man? Not for your glory, but for God’s glory and for the salvation of lost souls? We read Murray’s biography of “the Doctor” but would we fast before the living God to give us such an anointing as He gave Martyn Lloyd-Jones? We read Dallimore’s Whitefield and put it down in awe. But why not fall to our knees and plead for that anointing?
So much of our work today seems to me to be of the flesh. We must combine godliness with learning or we will miss the better part. Years ago, when I was preparing for ordination, I happened to also be on a trip to the University of Wales to begin my studies there. I flew into London, went to the Foreign Missions Club, and fell asleep having flown all night and studied along the way. I was awakened to learn that I had a train to catch at Victoria Station that would take me, by night, to Wales.
Having recently graduated from seminary, preparing for both ordination exams and for my first class at the University of Wales doctoral program, I felt compelled by God through prayer to go to the tomb of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. I have an English friend who tells me that he believes that idolatrous American clergymen make pilgrimages over to the UK in order to worship the bones of Spurgeon and other British heroes of the faith! I told him that I was not going to the tomb of Spurgeon, at Norwood Cemetery, to worship the Preacher’s bones, but his God. Was God any closer there? No. But “place” means something in a way that a name means something.
There in front of me lay the entombed remains of the Prince of Preachers and his godly helpmate Susannah. That man of God, anointed for ministry in a most unusual way by the Lord, shall come forth from his tomb as surely as Jesus came forth from His. Spurgeon shall sail into the heavens to be with Christ forever more in a new heaven and a new earth. I thought about his past, the thousands that he baptized, and of the volumes of his printed sermons that we have. I thought about his future as I sat there.
As the darkness and heavy fog of the west side of the Thames began to descend I realized I had a train to catch. The mist turned into rain. I knelt down at that place where he lay. I remembered the promises of God and the blessings that He had bestowed. I asked God right then and there to give me but a thread from the mantle of that man, for I could not wear any more than a thread.
I walked down from that high ground of the cemetery, caught a bus, and within minutes was being whisked away to study at the University of Wales in Lampeter. I will never forget that time. It seems like I am looking at another person in dream as I think about that young man kneeling in the rain by Spurgeon’s tomb in Norwood Cemetery in London. Yet as I write I can thank the Lord. I believe that God honored that prayer. Yet the answer will be known when I see souls safe in the arms of Jesus when He comes again (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20).
Since that unforgettable late afternoon in England I have renewed my plea to the Lord for His anointing at Kidderminster where Baxter preached, at St. Mary’s in Oxford where Wycliffe heralded the Gospel, at St. Giles where Knox trumpeted God’s grace, and in St. Peter’s where M’Cheyne lived the Gospel before his people. Most recently I stood with my wife and son in the cemetery at Northampton to remember the ministry of young David Brainerd. Again I asked for some small portion of the blessing of God that was on that man to be poured down on me. I am but a worm compared to Brainerd, but I would want to be a worm drenched in the oil of blessing that God poured out on that man than to preach without power from on high.
I know that just making a pilgrimage is of no spiritual value in and of itself. But being reminded of God’s blessing, His holy anointing on faithful ministers in the past, and crying out for some semblance of that blessing must surely be right. Recently, someone who read about how my Aunt Eva used to lay her hands on my head as a boy and plead for the anointing of the Holy Spirit, told me, “God honored her prayers and has sent His unction upon you.” Oh that He would!
Our Father is a good Father who will give His anointing to you. Study, show yourself approved, a workman worthy of the Word, but be a man of prayer, first and always. Seek to immerse yourself in the Word, and seek a supernatural blessing from the Living Word as you do. You will be blessed by that anointing, and many will know Jesus and grow because of His life in your ministry. There is no other way to minister. There is no other way to live.“He that has doctrinal knowledge and speculation only, without affection, never is engaged in the business of religion.” ― Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)