A sermon on Ephesians 3:20-21, preached on a Communion Sabbath evening, April 7, 1844 at Milton Church, Glasgow, Scotland.
“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”
. . . Two things make us stinted in prayer — either little feeling of need, or little hope of supply. Two things make us very enlarged in prayer — deep feeling of need, and enlarged and strong hope of supply. Under the pressure of felt need, many are still much straitened. They feel indeed that they want much, but they have no expectation, or no settled and high expectation of getting much. They are shut up. They do pray; they cannot help it; a feeling of need makes them that they do ask. And they ask of God earnestly, but not amply: earnestly, because they feel need; but not amply, for they think He is a niggard. They have not correspondent faith to their feeling of want. They do not rightly believe in God as “giving to all liberally, and upbraiding not.” They are indeed humbled, and are content to be glad to pick up the crumbs that fall from the Master’s table, but they are doubtful if they shall even get a dog’s right to them. How much more is any measure of desire they might have for the children’s bread repressed by the thought, ‘Why, that we dare not ask.’
Now, dear friends, either we are to approach God on our own merits, or we are not. If we are to approach God on our own merits, I don’t know how little we should ask. I don’t know what we could pray for at all, unless to be cut off and sent to hell very speedily. Either we are to ask on our own merits, and then we can ask nothing unless we are to set about it, and pray down damnation on our own heads: or we are not to ask on our own merits, but on God’s rich mercy and Christ’s glorious merits; and if so — if I am not to ask anything for that — why., let me not disgrace that by asking little things upon it. I know not whether it be more dishonouring to God to disbelieve that He hears prayer at all, or to think that a little good may be extorted out of an unwilling God. Did you ever thus pray? Do you never prayer to God in the thought that He is very niggardly? You know that He has what you need, but it is very good; and you being very unworthy, you don’t think He will give it. If He give it, it will be a very small portion, and that forced out by your importunity. Well, no doubt it is better to deal with God as if He were the widow’s unjust judge, than not to pray at all; far better: He will forgive and He will grant — but I think it’s a burning shame for all that to think of Him as being the widow’s unjust judge.
How Paul prayed we have an example in the context. He was concerned about a certain matter, about the stability of the Ephesians as it might be affected by the tribulation to which he, the apostle of Christ, was subjected. He says, “Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you.” This was his desire; a generous desire, you see. The tribulation did not trouble him much so far as he had to bear them, but it gave him some concern as regarded the Ephesians. The tribulation was nothing to Paul, but the effect that the tribulation might have upon their minds was a great deal. His anxiety then was that they might not faint. Now the apostle Paul did not think that it was an easy thing to keep up the Ephesians under his tribulation. Many, in foolhardiness, are ready to make great martyr boastings, and they’ll go through fire and water for Christ, and though all men forsake Him they never will — they’re ready to die for Him. But Paul knew by the grace of Christ what human nature is a little better, and what human nature even in the saints of God is: and he knew that men are very ready to faint, not only when they feel the cross, but at the bare sight of it upon another man’s shoulders. When they saw an apostle who had come with the unsearchable riches of Christ, poor, oppressed, persecuted, forsaken, they would be tempted to say, ” Is this the blessedness whereof he spake?” Now the apostle thought there was much here to make the Ephesians faint, and yet he did not think that it was a necessary thing that the Ephesians should faint for all that. There was something which could support them, could keep them from fainting, but it was no little thing; it was a great thing, a divine thing, and therefore obtainable. For here is the difference between faith and unbelief. Whenever faith sees a thing in God’s hand, then faith says, ‘I have it;’ but when unbelief sees it, it says, ‘Ah! then I need never expect it.’ So soon as a thing is seen to be in God’s hand, such is the different estimate of faith and unbelief.
Paul had a good hope that the Ephesians would be supported, because he saw that their support lay with God; and this led him to have a good hope towards God, and to be very prayerful. “Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. For this cause I bow my knees.” That was all that Paul could do to hold up their hands, namely, “to bow the knees.” To keep them strong, all he could do was to go into a position of the greatest lowliness, poverty, and weakness. And he bowed that they might get strength — but how much strength? “I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.” That they might not faint at his tribulations he bowed his knees that God would strengthen them with might, strengthen them mightily with might, according to His glory, according to the riches of His glory. The Ephesians needed all this to keep them from fainting, not at their own cross, but even at Paul’s. And he asks this. He did not think they needed little, and he did not expect God to give little. He felt need widely and deeply: he believed in grace as widely and as deeply, and somewhat more. He had not learned to look upon sin as a little thing, small and in petty quality, but as abounding: but then he had learned to look upon grace as super-abounding. He had not conceived the Ephesians to be very strong people, but very weak people indeed, but then he bowed his knees in expectation of obtaining for them no less strength than “according to the riches of his glory to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.” What this would work is described in the following verses, on which we cannot enter; but through this strength they would be “able to comprehend, with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge,” and so, would not faint at his tribulation.
Now, you say, ‘This man knows how to pray.’ I daresay he does, a little better than either you or I: but he does not please himself. I daresay we wonder at what he thinks and asks, but is his thinking and his asking the bound of his desire? No! he grapples with something too great for even his thinking — with the almighty power of God to give blessings; and absorbed in this thought, he concludes his prayer with this doxology, “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask of think.” And he has both thought and asked a great deal for them, but it is of “him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask of think,” and “unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus, world without end. Amen.”
Let us attend, in the first place, to Him who is the object of this doxology; and then, if time permits, briefly to the doxology itself.
“Unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly.” You know who this is, we need not tell you — it is the God of all grace and consolation, the God who says, I know the thoughts that I think concerning you, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an end and an expectation, and an end beyond the expectation. Now we, in relation unto Him, we “ask and think.” We “ask” of Him, and we “think” what we shall ask of Him: we put our ingenuity to task , even the ingenuity of the renewed, and spiritual, and divinely-instructed mind. We have got a carte-blanche, a blank put into our hands by Christ — “Ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you,” Now we should think it a sad pity to get nothing, or to get little when we have thus a draft upon God for all. “Ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.” We ask, and we not barely “ask,” we “think.” Guided by the Word and Spirit of God, we think upon all things that could be good — good for us, good for others, good for our family, good for our congregation, good for our city and country, good for the church, good for the world, good for time, and good for eternity. We are always thinking — at least that’s what we should be doing when He says, :Ask what ye will” — thinking, What good thing shall we ask? and then we ask up to the point of out thinking. Whatever we think, we ask. No limit to our asking but our thinking. The moment we discover anything to be bad, we ask God to put that thing away: as soon as we find anything to be good, we ask God to grant that good thing. Yea, we study His very character and attributes that we may learn how far we shall “think,” that we may be able to “ask.” But then, God pity us if that was all the good we were to get! If we were to get no more than we should get be that, poor should we be after all. Ah! yes, all that’s to be got, but above all that, He is able to do: above, abundantly above, exceeding abundantly above, all that we ask or think — to do above it. When you go with all that you ask and all that you think, God says, ‘Poor soul, is that all you want? Is it only these bits of trifles? would that please you? Would you go away with that only?’ As Christ says, “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name.” That might please you to get; it won’t please God to give. You think He’s not willing to give so much: I tell you He’s not willing to give so little. Above it all, some little addition? Ah no! “abundantly above.” He not only hears and answers the prayer whatsoever ye ask, and gives a little more, good measure, pressed, and running over: no! an abundance over and above the asking: “abundantly above;” an immense quantity more: not that only, not merely an abundance, but an exceeding abundance; an abundance that passes, that surpasses, all ordinary idea of abundance. It’s not the usual abundance, but it is an exceeding, a surpassing abundance.
Yet remember that we do ask and do think. We come with our poor, scrimp, narrow-hearted petitions; we should give so little ourselves that we think of others (and we carry it on to the great God Himself), we think of others to be poor, miserly, wretched creatures. Perhaps if our hearts were opened by grace, we should give a little. If a man come and said, ‘Do this,’ we should say ‘We cannot do all that, but we will do something for you.’ We should do not as we were asked or thought of, but somewhat a great deal below it: and still we think we have some generosity: we should feel, and should do something. And so we think of God. He is gracious and merciful, and something may be got at His hands. The world will not believe that good is to be got at His hands at all. Believers with their little faith have rather better thoughts of God: He has some goodness, mercy, and grace; by importunity we shall get something out of Him; He will not disappoint the expectation of the poor entirely and for ever; and if we shall not get all we think and ask, still we shall get something. So it is we expect, but when we come, what does he give? All that’s asked? Of course, He’s wise, and good, and kind, and He reserves in the answering whether it be for His glory and their good, which are indissolubly united together; but it it be really a good thing, they will get up to the asking and thinking, but God would be ashamed to stop there. They might say, ‘Oh! how happy we are, and how much we have got! Everything we could ask or think!’ But whilst they would be filled with joy, God would be covered with shame. (I use the language “He is not ashamed to be called their God.”) God would be ashamed to let you away with that. ‘I’m not a little God, poor, niggardly; I have great plenty, and a great heart. I love a bountiful giver. I “give liberally, and I upbraid not.” Here, take all this — what is it! Ah, poor thing! that transcends thine asking and even thy thinking, but take it. “Try me now, if I will not open the windows of heaven, and shower down a blessing till there be not room to receive it.”‘
But you will say, ‘What shall I do with the thing that I cannot ask of think of, if God will give it?’ Why, so far as that may go, if He give me an additional power of mind to receive, I receive it. But if it transcend all communicated power of mind, I say, ‘Thank Thee, my God, for it. I know it is exceeding good, but I cannot understand it. Keep it amongst Thy treasures. My blessedness rests not in my intellect, but in Thy favour. And if Thou hast mysterious good in store, which I cannot understand, keep it, but keep it for me. Remember Thou hast given it to me. It may come, I shall be able to understand it better and appreciate it more. Meanwhile as Thou dost not make my asking or thinking the bounds of Thy gifts, neither shall I make my understanding the bounds of my receiving.’
Now Paul says only that He is “able” to do so — “Unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly;” but in respect of His ability, he glorifies Him with this doxology, “Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” And do you not think that it’s just as good when it is said that God is able, as if it had been said that God will? If that is doubted — whether we should take the declaration that God is able as just as good, and in fact importing that God will — let us turn and read together Rom. 11: 23. Speaking of the cut-off, unbelieving Israelites under the present dispensation, the apostle says, “And they also, if they abide not in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again.” Mark the argument: he says they shall be, because God is able to do it. And this implies that the good that God is able to do, that good God will do. “They shall be graffed in: for God in able to graff them in again.” The force of the argument lies in the unenunciated thought, that what God is able to do, that He will do. Now God “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.” And now, though you and I cannot reach it, we know what we are to aim at; we know where we are to point our desires, and prayers, and thoughts, and whither, since we cannot reach, we are ever more and more to approximate, and that is God’s ability. I shall never have asked too much, I shall never have thought too much, till I have asked beyond God’s ability, till I have thought beyond God’s ability. I shall never have asked up to the point form which I expect my good to come, till I have asked up to — and even that I never shall do — till I have asked and thought, thought and asked, up to God’s ability. Whatever God can do, that, in the name of Christ, may I ask Him to do, and depend that He will do. And as I cannot reach that in my asking or thinking, what have I to do then? Why, when in explicit prayer I have prayed up to the asking and thinking, I must take to the implicit prayer, saying, ‘Lord, I cannot ask further; but this is not the point I would be at. Thy power — here is the point. Here is my asking my thinking; but answer me, Lord, not according to that which I ask or think, but according to that which transcends it — according to thy power, thine ability. O Lord Jehovah, do me all the good thou canst; whatever blessings thou canst bestow, empty thy goodness on me, on mine, on thy Church, on the world.’
This ability is “according to the power that worketh in us.” He “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” It is not a bare abstraction of the omnipotence of God, but it is the omnipotence of God as working in the Church and in the people of God. It is not barely and simply intrinsic omnipotence. Mark what the apostle had said, “That ye be strengthened according to the riches of his glory — strengthened with all might.” The apostle speaks elsewhere of “the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.” Now we may be sure that the whole omnipotence of God was in that. Greater act never was done; greater act (we speak reverentially) never could be done. It was, on the footing of God’s omnipotence, the highest proof that He was able to subdue all things to Himself.
“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” “The exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe.” “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you?” And the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of God which is in you, is the omnipotent Jehovah. “Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.” It is the omnipotence of the indwelling God! Thou art poor and feeble; but the eternal Jehovah is not only near thee, with thee — He is in thee! in thee in all His almightiness. And the communion of the Holy Ghost includes in it — from the unity of essence, indeed, of the Person of the Godhead as well as the unity of purpose in the economy of redemption — thereby truly and really the presence and indwelling of the Triune; all the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and all the love of God, being wrapped up and contained in the communion of the Holy Ghost.
Now God, working according to His power in us, is “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.” The apostle was asking and thinking about stability, not about fainting — was thinking of strength in the inner man that Christ might dwell in the heart by faith; and he thinks of all that because God is able to do it, and according to the power wherewith He, the indwelling God, worketh. The Holy Ghost hath not left His omnipotence behind. He is not omnipotent in heaven, and impotent in thee, or partially powerful in thee. When He came to dwell in thy heart, He came in all His omnipotence, and there is He, as the Spirit of grace and of supplication, teaching thee both to think and ask. But then, even then, thou art but an evil creature. There are two things that keep down: first, we are sinful creatures, even believers; but, second, we are but feeble creatures. Suppose there were no opposition in us to the work of the Holy Ghost; suppose we were passive, yea, most willing, active recipients of divine grace, God is infinite in knowledge to teach, but we are but of finite capacity to learn, and a believer at every step learns but so much. But it was not to do up to that point that the Spirit of God came, but to do all the mighty things that are to be done, and more than the man knows. He comes in all His omnipotence to you, therefore He is able to do all this, not by anything more, but by the outputting, the exertion of the power which already worketh in us. But we see that God’s greatest work for a man is His work in the man — His greatest work. I am not speaking abstractly or antecedently to experience, but I am comparing the internal good which God does to a man with all the external good He does to him; and I say the internal good which God does to a man transcends the external good which, at least in this world, He does to a man. The principal thing God does for us, is what He does in us. “According to the power that worketh in us.” There is a power beyond that worketh for us, and that power works the universe for us. “All things work together for good to them that love God.” That’s God working the universe for us. But not less — in some respects greater — is God’s work in us. “He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.”
Now what is due to him who is able thus to do? What should be rendered to Him? “Unto Him be glory.” Is it not a gracious work? and in doing the glorious work, doth He not manifest the possession of glorious perfection? and for the glorious perfection possessed, and for the glorious work manifesting it and communicating holy blessedness to us in the manifestation, owe we not glory? Make Him glorious we cannot; but think how glorious He is, and tell how glorious He is, show that forth in lip and life by His gracious and mighty working, we may: and surely His character as set forth thus “able” demands it. “Unto Him be glory.” Once have I heard, yea twice, that glory belongeth unto Jehovah. “Thine,” saith Christ, teaching the disciples to pray, “Thine is the glory.” Not only is God glorious, but all glory belongs to Him,. No other hath a right to glory. Were an archangel to glory in His presence, the act would transmute him into a devil, and send him straight to hell! Glory is God’s prerogative alone. Many things are glorious because God hath given them glory and beauty. The sun is glorious, and the stars are glorious, and one star excelleth another star in glory. But they did not deck themselves with their own splendours; they feed not their own fires. Glory belongeth unto Jehovah. “Unto Him be glory.”
Dear friends, these are very instructive words of the apostle, “that no flesh should glory in His presence. For of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” Mark in the connexion, no flesh must glory before Him; he that glorieth let him glory in the Lord. The only way not to glory before Him is to glory in Him. Israel durst not say, ‘We are better people than other people, richer, or more learned, warlike, or moral.’ Israel had but one glory legitimately. “Their rock is not as our Rock,” might they say to all the nations, “even our enemies themselves being judges. The gods of the nations are dumb idols, the work of men’s hands. But our God is in the heavens; He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased.” Yes, there was no hurt in the Jew saying to all the nations of the world (I speak under that economy), ‘Ah! you may be a far better people than us in every way, but our God is a better God than all your gods taken together.’ He did not glory before God; he gloried in the Lord; he only announced God’s glory. And so the people of Christ — their profession is not of betterness, save of betterness bound upon them, desired and aimed at. Little and clothed with humility — a little unto the praise of divine grace — they may acknowledge sometimes that they differ, having been made to differ. But of this they can glory, ‘The God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ of a better God than all the worldlings know. Our Lord Jesus Christ is a glorious Lord, “the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely.” Whatever I be, my Saviour is a glorious one.’ Thus may we glory. “He that glorieth let him glory in the Lord,” not even in his relation unto God, but secondarily. “Of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us.” God was before the relation, for God constituted the relation. It is therefore not so much glorying even in our relation to Him, but simply in Himself, giving unto the Lord the kingdom, and the dominion, and the glory, and the power, for they are His.
‘Unto Him be glory in the church.” All should glorify God, but all will not: in the Church alone will God get glory. Most true it is that there is no salvation out of the Church; most true it is that there is no God known out of the Church, however men may have limited that and defined that wrong, constituting human and even corrupted societies (of which it may be doubted whether they are even a portion of the Church) as the Church: yet, taking the Scripture definition of the Church — the children of God through faith in Christ Jesus — there is no salvation but in the Church, and no glory given to God but in the Church. And if we pray that all nations and all individuals of the human race may glorify God, this is not praying that God’s glory may go beyond the Church, but that the bounds of God’s Church may be mightily enlarged, for all glory is in the Church to God because it is “by Jesus Christ.”
“To Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus.” It is “through Christ Jesus” that He is able, and that He is willing, and that He hath purposed and will do “exceeding abundantly above all the we ask or think;” it is through Christ Jesus that He manifests all the glory of His perfections in the highest degree, all the glory of His perfections as the God of grace and salvation, with all the reflected glory of the administration of the government of nature in subordination to grace; it is through Christ Jesus that He shines in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God. Gifts of exceeding transcending abundance come through Christ, and consequently what comes through Christ is in the Church; for it is through Christ, by the Spirit of Christ, to the members of Christ — the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, which makes free from the law of sin and death, lying at the very foundation of all these blessings. Through Christ, therefore, is all the glory to ascend to Him. He is the Mediator; and as all heaven’s bounties pass from the Father’s hand into His, so all earth’s service, all the Church’s service — for none on earth but the Church ever do or will serve Him — all the Church’s service, or all the world’s service (it comes to the same thin), all the service goes up unto God through the hands of Christ. He, receiving of the Father, showers down the blessings; He, receiving the thanksgivings from men, presents them unto the Father: and so, through Christ Jesus is kept up, through the Spirit of prayer keeping us “asking and thinking,” and the grace of God “doing exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” — thus in the reception of blessings the glory of God as well as His goodness, the glory of His goodness being seen, we ascribe honour, and blessing, and glory, with warm, adoring, and grateful hearts to the glorious God, manifested in the glorious blessings He confers on us by Christ Jesus: and thus divine admiration, divine gratitude, unitedly ascend through Jesus Christ: and thus God keeps up by Christ Jesus in the world a Church, and a glorifying of Himself in the Church.
“Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.” It was not in the days of primitive Christianity only that God was able, or God was willing, “to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.” The arm of the Lord is not shortened since Pentecost, that it cannot save. It was then and then only. The same glory is to God, and the same glory can only go up by the same riches of blessing coming down on the Church, the called according to God’s purpose, both Jews and Gentiles.
“Throughout all ages” — the stream of time rolls on — “world without end.” Throughout all the ages of time, nor terminating then — “throughout all ages, world without end.” For, shall the communion with God of blessing and praising only run on whilst this our globe spins round its axis, and while the days and nights of time are measured by the rising and setting of our sun? Throughout all ages it shall extend. “His name shall endure for ever; men shall be blessed in Him: all nations shall call Him blessed.” “I will make Thy name to be remembered in all generations.” But that song of glory is only sung now as preparatory; the redeemed from among men are but learning to sing it; many a false note they admingle with their melody: now poor and puny, for they are but learning the song: but then, as it shall be perpetuated in this school on this earth, which Christ hath visited and hath rendered a school of heaven, when this school of the earth shall end, then as adepts into the choir around the throne of God shall the redeemed from among men enter, to sing for ever with perfection of celestial music the song of Moses and the Lamb, “Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever.”
“Amen.” So be it. So it shall be. So let it be. God’s Amen declares it shall be so: let out Amen say, So let is be. “Let all the people say Amen. Praise ye the Lord.” Do you set to your seal that God is true? Is your hearty Amen from a heart filled with admiration, adoring admiration and gratitude? Or does your heart, pressed down with darkness and with care, and with anxiety, hold an Amen by the corner, which would burst forth — with which you are pent up — a silent Amen which your own consciousness can scarcely hear, yet an Amen! God hears it. God will bring it forth into distinctness! And now, in conclusion, what can we say, friends, but that the whole subject should teach us, as the whole service of the day, that we should ask and think, and think and ask, and ask and think, and press on to the exceeding greatness of the ability. Let us be ashamed of our stinted prayers with which we dishonour God’s rich grace. Let us ask that we may receive, that our joy may be full. For God gives, not to end by enriching us — that’s an immediate end, but the ultimate end is that He may be glorified. And let us not stop short of the ultimate end when enriched: but let us see to it, that when we have all-sufficiency in all things, thanksgiving may abound. “Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”
And to conclude. What wretched creatures are they who are far from the Lord Jehovah! who know not this God, who do not ask, who do not think, who know nothing of communion with Him, who get no blessings of salvation from Him, who give no ascription of glory to Him. Believers, you see you have a struggle to maintain with your poor sinful nature, and with your feebleness, which can ask no more, and think no more: you have a strife to maintain with that. Maintain it in the view of His power, of His ability to do exceeding abundantly. And now, if you can, look beyond your power if asking and thinking; surely you know there lies an infinity beyond that, and that’s filled with God’s, to you, unknown goodness. Now thank Him, not only for what you see, but give thanks because beyond your power to ask and think there lies an infinity of ability to bestow. Yea, and that power worketh in you, believer. Be ashamed to get little — get all things. Don’t be poor any more; don’t be poor when you have to do with Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that you ask or think. Get out of your poverty, not by fancying you are rich, but by coming and getting. “Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” Now you know yourselves you joy is not full yet. Well, if your joy is not full, your Saviour is not pleased. He’s not satisfied. That’s what is not satisfactory to Him. He wishes that your joy may be full. Now, if your joy is not full what are you doing? Ask — even with all your asking it won’t be full in this world, but it will be filling, and still Christ saying — “Ask, that it may be full.” He never sets a bound till your joy be full. Nay, He says you have not asked enough yet, if your joy be not full. Now you’re conscious that it is not full; then take your Saviour’s direction, “Ask, that ye may receive, that your joy may be full.” But give thanks — in everything give thanks. That’s one cause also why we get so little good. The prayers of the people of God are often of this kind — just exhort by feeling want, or mostly so. God is very gracious, and He give, but they were pressed on by want. It was spiritual selfishness, religious selfishness; their souls were selfish about salvation. You may know, or do you know, that there is such a thing as spiritual selfishness about one’s soul? That’s always in a man when he thinks more of his salvation than of the great end of his salvation — the glory of God in Christ thereby. However, he has asked, and God is a bountiful Giver, and, though the prayer is very selfich, God gives good. Then the man is relieved. But when he asks good, it’s not so much for God’s glory as for his own comfort. He comes and begs, and begs, and he gets: He is always begging from God, and always getting, and never says, “Thank you.” God will never put away His suppliants. He give them more than they ask: but that’s one cause why they get so little. Would they not get a great deal more if they were thankful for what they get? Now if I had a good friend who did me some good when I was in some distress, and I fall into another, and go to him and say, ‘Sir, I’m in misery again, and you will need to stretch forth your hand and help me again,” and I never thank him for what he did before, why suppose he did relieve me, I never should be a happy man. Besides, there is not a right moral relation between giver and receiver where there is not gratitude.
So, dear friends, always whatever God gives, if He should give but a very little thing, we are heirs of hell and should say, ‘O Lord! I thank thee for that: give me more.’ And the more you get always give glory; and come, and ask, and receive. And thus — prayer mixed with thanksgiving, and thanksgiving mixed with prayer — I cannot tell into what intimacy your communion with God might now grow.