- 24 August 2008
rather spiritually depressed and flat recently (Yes, that’s what I
said: it happens quite often, though arguably it should not);
feeling (to repeat) rather spiritually depressed and flat recently,
I happened to come across a reference to a book first published in
1965 and reprinted a number of times since, Spiritual Depression:
Its Causes and Cure, by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1965). I remembered a joking comment once made by a friend
that ‘many people have read that book and ended up very
depressed’, but decided to ignore it, found the book in BGST
Library and started reading. I am glad that I did.
was a noted preacher, for many years pastor of Westminster Chapel,
London. This book originated in a series of sermons he preached
there. The twenty-one chapters of this book are in fact little more
than transcripts of these sermons, preached on a variety of texts
mainly taken from the New Testament. The titles of the sermons
include: ‘The True Foundation’; ‘Mind, Heart and Will’;
‘Vain Regrets’; ‘Fear of the Future’; ‘Feelings’;
‘Where is Your Faith?’; ‘The Spirit of Bondage’; ‘Weary in
Well Doing’; ‘Discipline’; ‘Trials’; ‘In God’s
Gymnasium’; ‘Learning to be Content’.
suppose one of the attractions of these sermons for me is that they
are, in a sense, period pieces. Being in my sixth decade I find
myself drawn to Lloyd-Jones’ style and approach, which by now
unmistakably evokes a bygone period: a clear and detailed exposition
of the biblical texts in simple, dignified English (he quotes the
Bible in the AV), with a leavening of illustrations and anecdotes
but absolutely nothing in the way of crowd-pleasing gimmicks. At a
rough guess most of these sermons must have lasted 45–50 minutes
(no theological ‘quick fixes’ here), and I should imagine the
congregation’s attention was held from beginning to end. Would
that happen in most churches today?
laying aside the prejudices of the middle-aged (myself), this book
handles an issue of central importance to the life of the believer
and to the witness of the church, and it does so with great pastoral
and theological insight. Listen to the author as he sets out the
issues in the opening sermon (pp. 10, 11):
are large numbers of Christian people who give the impression of
being unhappy. They are cast down, their souls are ‘disquieted
within them’ [Ps. 42:5, 11], and it is because of that that I am
calling attention to the subject…. In a sense a depressed
Christian is a contradiction in terms, and he is a very poor
recommendation for the gospel. We are living in a pragmatic age.
People today are not primarily interested in Truth but they are
interested in results. The one question they ask is: Does it
work?” That last sentence applies to contemporary Singapore with
absolutely no need for updating!
believe this book cannot fail to benefit any Christian reader,
particularly a believer suffering from one or more of the spiritual
pathologies which the author analyses. I like the honesty and
realism of Lloyd-Jones’ approach: no attempt here to ‘massage’
the facts in order to give a more ‘upbeat’ presentation. I like
the diagnostic skill with which the author treats the different
aspects of his topic. (Lloyd-Jones was a doctor before he became a
pastor.) I like the author’s common-sense approach, which means
that he is perfectly willing to admit that there are ‘natural’
factors in depression such as temperament and over-work, and that
these may be as important as more overtly ‘spiritual’ factors.
Or hear him on ‘sins of the flesh’ (p. 173):
I find myself having to ask people this question – they come to me
about some problem or difficulty and they say: ‘I have been
praying about this’, and I say: ‘My friend, do you realize that
your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?’ That is the answer. I
say it again at the risk of being misunderstood, but such friends in
a way need to pray less and to think more. They must remind
themselves that their bodies are ‘the temples of the Holy Ghost
which dwelleth in us’. Prayer is always essential, but thought is
essential, too, because prayer can be just an escape mechanism,
almost at times a cry in the dark by people who are desperate and
defeated.” Less prayer and more thought? A true insight, and not
one I recall hearing recently in a sermon!
again, on ‘middle age’ (p. 192): “…I am perfectly convinced
that the most difficult period of all in life is the middle period.
There are compensations in youth and there are compensations in old
age which seem to be entirely lacking in this middle period. It is
something we all have to encounter. As we get older, our resilience
and our vigour tend to go and we are aware of a slowing down and a
slackening in our powers.” Now are you interested in reading
of all, though, I like this book for its theological solidity. It
constantly points the reader back to key biblical truths: to the
finished work of Christ on the cross; to the glory of God’s grace;
to the dignity and blessing of the Christian calling; to the hope of
heaven; and to the wiles of the devil, whose aim is to prevent us
fixing our minds on these truths. This book is nothing other than a
call to a wholehearted, biblically based spirituality. In that sense
is entirely contemporary, and I commend it to you.
Tony K. Y. Chan (Grad Dip CS 2008, Cum laude)
Koh Chin Kok (Grad Dip CS 2008)
Chapel speaker for 20 August will be one of this year’s Dip CS
graduate Pastor Lam Yuen Foong, do come and join us.
course schedule for Jan - May 2009 is now available on the website
for Bible Lands Study Tour is now open!!
2nd Fundraising Dinner
: 21 Nov 2008 (Friday)
the Dinner Organizing Committee 2008 plans for the coming event, we
covet your prayers & support.
God will bless this enterprise of the School.
the Faculty Board, the Council, the Alumni and staff will be
energised to work toward this project. We hope that each of us will
co-host one table or part thereof.
we look at the classic example of Nehemiah, the power of prayer is
very significant. In the fundraising matter, we hope all members
associated with the school will intercede before the Lord on
event of 2007 achieved a high level of success. So we continue to
look to God for His blessings.
that the invitation will be received with much encouragement. Even
before the news is flashed out to our constituencies, one of our
friends affirms us by taking up a table as a co-host.
pray for a good theme from the speaker Dr Daniel Block, Gunther H.
Knoedler Professor of Old Testament, Wheaton College, Chicago.
with all in the DOC,
Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore 088454. Tel: 62276815 Fax: 62276816