Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24
We are great strangers to the cross. When it comes to pass we either despise the discipline of the Lord, or else we faint by it. If affliction is moderate we are apt to despise it, but if the rod fetches blood, presently it is intolerable, and we begin to faint, and cry out in our passion, ‘Was ever sorrow like my sorrow?’ Sufferings have obtained an ill name in the world, but God’s rod and love may stand together. God teaches his people in afflictions. He teaches us to feel compassion toward others who are suffering. We are prone to be insensitive toward others who are suffering when we are at ease in Zion. He also teaches us to prize our outward mercies and comforts more, and yet to dote upon them less. We are to be more thankful for them, but less ensnared by them. Next, God teaches us self-denial and obedient submission to his will. In our prosperity we are full of our own wills, and usually give God counsel as if we could tell God how it might have been better. We dispute our cross, when we should take it up. By bearing a little we learn to bear more. The bullock unaccustomed to the yoke is impatient. After he is accustomed to labour, he willingly puts his neck under the yoke. God works out by degrees the delicate spirit we learned in our prosperity. One way or another, God works his children into a sweat, obedient frame. At length, God brings his children to subscribe: ‘What God wills, when God wills, how God wills; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ Finally, we can learn humility and meekness of spirit. Pride naturally runs in our veins, and it is nourished by ease and prosperity. By trouble we come to know our own heart. God seeks to develop meekness in his people by affliction, then save them from affliction.
Sinclair Ferguson has publicly stated that no one has had a greater spiritual impact on his life than William Still! William Still was the minister of Gilcomston South Church, Aberdeen, from 1945 to 1997. While his name may not feature in the official annals of the Church of Scotland, it is doubtful whether any other individual in his Church during the latter half of the twentieth century had such a profound or widespread influence. For over fifty years Mr. Still pioneered a single-minded commitment to expository preaching and congregational prayer which made Gilcomston a beacon of Reformed and evangelical Christianity in Scotland.
A man whose very life breathed the grace and love of God, no one who ever met him, received his counsel, or sat under his ministry, could have escaped the sheer Christlikeness of Mr. Still’s life. In the early days of his ministry he wrote: “There is no part of me, or of my life, that I will withhold from the work that God has called me to.”
It was one of the marks of his evident commitment to the service of Christ that he devoted himself to the pastoral care of his people, providing them with daily Bible reading notes that would feed their souls and prepare them for works of service. The “Notes”, which appeared in the monthly “Congregational Record,” soon became highly sought after across Scotland, the United Kingdom, and even to the far-flung corners of the world, increasing in many a love for and commitment to the Word of God.
Drawn from every book in the Bible, this selection, edited and arranged by David C. Searle, will take the reader through the year with William Still. These pages will explain what it means to live under the authority of Scripture, to exalt the glorious Person of Christ, and to rejoice in the wonder of the gospel.