The Glory of the Groan
God can bring glory out of our groanings.
God started a revival with the preaching of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The people came to hear the preacher in the church instead of the preacher of the church having to go to them. They came to the New Park Baptist Church. They came to temporary meeting houses and music halls. They came to the Metropolitan Baptist Tabernacle, a facility that was constructed with 5,000 seats and had room for 1,000 standees—6,000 persons. Spurgeon filled it up on Sunday morning and Sunday night for 30 consecutive years. They came. They came to the Surrey Gardens Music Hall on October 19, 1856. Spurgeon would preach there for the first time and 10,000 people filled that place.
James Earl Massey calls preaching the burdensome joy. Gardner Calvin Taylor calls it the sweet torture of Sunday morning. But on that day, there was no joy; there was burden. There was no sweetness; there was torture. For in that crowd of 10,000 people, some mischief makers screamed out, "Fire, fire." A stampede ensued and seven people were left dead and 28 people were injured. This shadowed the life of Spurgeon, plunging him into a pit of depression out of which he would never emerge for the rest of his life, and has served as a symbol for the horror that can befall the very people of God.
On September 11, 2001, I stood up in my classroom to open up our days' work by calling for prayer requests. I was not prepared for what I would hear for I had not watched the news before I left home. I hadn't turned the radio on while I was making my way to school. "Dr. Smith, I think we ought to, in light of the most recent development, pray for our country. In light of the fact that a plane guided by terrorists has flown into one of the Twin Towers." Before that class ...
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Robert Smith Jr. is Associate Professor of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama.