“I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” John 17:15
Suggested Further Reading: Philippians 1:19-26
We never have any encouragement to ask God to let us die. Christians are always wanting to die when they have any trouble or trial. You ask them why? “Because we would be with the Lord.” O yes, they want to be with the Lord, when troubles and temptations come upon them. But it is not because they are yearning to be with the Lord, it is because they desire to get rid of their troubles. They want to get home, not so much for the Saviour’s company, as to get out of the little hard work. They did not wish to go away when they were in quiet and prosperity. Like lazy fellows, as most of us are, when we get into a little labour we beg to go home. It is quite right sometimes that you should desire to depart, because you would not prove yourself to be a true Israelite if you did not want to go to Jerusalem. You may pray to be taken home out of the world, but Christ will not take up the petition. When your prayers come to the Lord, this little one may try to get amongst them, but Christ will say, “I do not know anything about you, ‘I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world.’” You may wish it sincerely, and really desire it, but you will not at present get your Master to pray with you. Instead, then, of crying, or wishing to be away from the battle, brace yourself up in the name of the Lord. Every wish to escape the fight is but a desertion of your Master.
For meditation: Elijah prayed it while he was afraid for his life (1 Kings 19:3,4)! But God had a different departure planned for him (2 Kings 2:11). Jonah prayed it twice when he was angry (Jonah 4:3,9) soon after begging God to deliver him from drowning (Jonah 2:2,7). What a good thing God rejects our foolish requests when we or they are outside his will. Paul had the mind of Christ on this matter.
Sermon no. 47
21 October (1855)