I have greatly enjoyed reading E. A. Johnston’s biography of J. Sidlow Baxter, the much-loved British Bible teacher who had a world-wide ministry and who gave us many books, including the majestic (and massive) Explore the Book. Near the end of the biography, Johnston comments on the “secret” of Baxter’s vibrant, buoyant, effervescent Christian faith. Though he experienced many trials (especially in his later years), and though he sometimes struggled with despondency, he maintained a walk with Christ that grew deeper over his 90+ years. How did he do it? Baxter himself offers this as the guiding principle of his life:
What I give him, he takes.
What he takes, he cleanses.
What he cleanses, he fills.
What he fills, he uses.
In the last few days I have used this simple set of sentences as a guide to my own prayers. It is a powerful thing to give the Lord my dreams, my desires, my emotions, my lips, the words I speak, my thoughts, my plans, my relationships, my loved ones, my agenda, my sight, my hearing, the people I will meet during the day, and all the various parts of my life. What Baxter discovered has been true for me as well. What I give him by faith, he takes as his own. What he takes, he cleanses so that he might fill it with his Spirit. What he cleanses and fills, he uses for his glory. I recommend Baxter’s “secret” because it brings us back to the central truth that we are not our own, we belong wholly to Christ, and what we give to him, we will never regret. It’s the part we keep for ourselves that gets us in trouble.