Burn Out or Rust Out? Lessons From Spurgeon

This should inspire you greatly:

While it is true that all Christians are different, and while it is also true that our primary example to emulate is Christ himself and not other Christians, nonetheless we can take real encouragement by looking at the lives of other faithful believers.

There is a very real place for looking closely at the lives of current and past men and women of God, and for allowing them to fully inspire us to keep on keeping on with the Lord. Indeed, let me remind you how utterly invaluable it is for all Christians to both read biographies and autobiographies of great Christians, as well as to study church history.

I have often said that when I was a rather young Christian I was very much helped by reading plenty of books about great saints of God. Sometimes I would just borrow books from the church library, or buy my own. This is an excellent way to set your spiritual sights high.

When you read about these fantastic Christian giants, it spoils you for the ordinary. It sets the bar high. It makes you never want to settle for second best or for any sort of mediocrity in your life. That is what happened to me. It made me never want to just be an ordinary, run of the mill believer who never made any waves. It made me want to be like these terrific believers of the past.

So important is this matter of learning about other on-fire Christians, that some years ago I started a new category on my website called “Notable Christians”. With this piece included, there are now 108 articles in that section. Please check it out and be inspired and encouraged! billmuehlenberg.com/category/christianity/notable-christians/

One such super-saint that I have featured in this series, A. W. Tozer, was also fully aware of the value of biographies and autobiographies. As he once said, “Next to the Holy Scriptures, the greatest aid to the life of faith may be Christian biographies.”

He too longed to please God greatly, in part because he was challenged and spurred on by other great men and women of God. And of course most of these heroes of the faith had this characteristic: they were determined to burn out for Christ, and never rust out.

They fully intended to give their utmost for Christ and the Kingdom. They had no thoughts of retirement, or of just cruising along slowly as a believer. They knew there was so much that needed to be done, including so many fields that were white for harvest, as Jesus said (John 4:35), that they just kept at it on full throttle.

They knew that their eternal rest would come in the next life, and that in this life they needed to give their all for the Lord, since the Lord had given his all for them. So they were fully committed to pray all they could, preach all they could, work all they could, and minister all they could. Just relaxing and taking it easy was simply not part of their mindset.

There would be so many such champions that could be mentioned here who really did burn out for the Lord, be it a George Whitefield or a John Wesley or others. But here I want to again focus on someone I have so often written about in the past: the amazing Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon. In case you know little about him, here is just one of my articles on the man: billmuehlenberg.com/2010/12/30/notable-christians-c-h-spurgeon/

Here I want to finish this piece by simply sharing in full an article written about him four years ago. A terrific friend and encourager just moments ago sent me a link to the piece with a few excerpts from it, and I knew instantly that I had to share it here. A million thanks again John B.!

The piece is titled, “How Spurgeon Scheduled His Week” and comes from the Spurgeon Center website: www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/blog-entries/how-spurgeon-scheduled-his-week/

Here it is in its entirety. May it bless you, encourage you, and spur you on to never stop loving and serving our Lord to your full extent:

In fifty-seven years, Charles Spurgeon accomplished three lifetimes of work. Every week he preached four to ten times, read six meaty books, revised sermons for publication, lectured, edited a monthly magazine. In his spare time, he wrote about 150 books.

Spurgeon shepherded the largest Protestant megachurch in the world (he knew all 6,000 members by name), directed a theological college, ran an orphanage, and oversaw sixty-six Christian charities.   

“I wish it could be said of us that we wasted neither an hour of our time, nor an hour of other people’s time.”

Spurgeon was also a father and husband. He never sacrificed his family on the altar of ministry.

So how did the Prince of Preachers schedule his week? Here’s what Spurgeon’s daily organiser looked like (taken from his Autobiography):

Monday

Wake early, revise stenographer’s transcription of yesterday’s sermon
Write/dictate letters and personal correspondence
After lunch, complete revision of the first draft of sermon, then send to printer
5:30 pm – 7:00 pm, lead the prayer service at the Tabernacle
Conduct interviews for membership at the Tabernacle
Preach an optional late-night service

Tuesday

Wake early, revise second draft of sermon
11:00 am, complete revision of second draft, then send sermon to the printer
Write/dictate letters and personal correspondence
Lunch, research/write books, magazine articles, and other literary work
Afternoon, pastoral care/counseling at the Tabernacle
Evening, preside over Tabernacle societies and charities

Wednesday

Celebrate a much-needed mid-week Sabbath
Spend time with Susannah, Charles, and Thomas
Contemplate in garden or read in study
Relax   

Thursday  

Wake early, write/dictate letters and personal correspondence
Begin thinking about selecting a Scripture text for the evening sermon
Afternoon, write/edit books and other literary projects  
Complete the final revision of the sermon, then send to printer for publication/distribution
After dinner, begin sermon preparation for the evening service
6:00 pm – 7:00 pm, preach the evening service in the Lecture Hall of the Tabernacle

Friday

Wake early, prepare lecture on preaching for the students of the Pastors’ College
3:00 pm – 5:00pm, lecture for two hours at the College on Temple Street
Interview/mentor students afterwards
7:00 pm, attend business meeting at the Tabernacle

Saturday

Breakfast, then work with secretary on revising/editing books for publication
Resolve with secretary any outstanding projects for the week
Afternoon, entertain guests in garden if weather is favorable
6:00 pm, dismiss guests after dinner

“Now, dear friends, I must bid you good-bye and turn you out of this study; you know what a number of chickens I have to scratch for, and I want to give them a good meal tomorrow.”

10:00pm-12:00am, Prepare tomorrow’s sermon:

          Select Scripture text
          Ask wife to read the Scripture text aloud
          Mentally divide sermon into natural breaking points as she reads
          Scribble divisions onto a half sheet of paper in purple ink

Sunday

Wake early, ride carriage to the Tabernacle (15-20 minute journey)
Smoke one cigar “to the glory of God”
Arrive 30 minutes before the service
    
Worship service begins
          Call to worship/announcements
          Congregational singing from Our Own Hymn-Book (voices only, no organ)
          Read Scripture text while offering extemporaneous expositions on its context
          Begin preaching sermon (43-45 minutes, no longer)
          Drink chili-vinegar if throat becomes irritated
          Conclude service (no altar call, but “enquiry rooms” available)

Afternoon, greet visitors in the Pastor’s Vestry
Late afternoon, travel home to “Westwood” on Beulah Hill in Norwood
Begin sermon prep for the evening evangelistic service
Preach sermon at the Tabernacle
Travel home and retire for the week

A Final Word

David Livingstone, the missionary to Africa, once asked Spurgeon, “How can you accomplish so much in one day?”

“You forget, Mr. Livingstone,” Spurgeon replied, “there are two of us working.”

[1291 words]

5 Replies to “Burn Out or Rust Out? Lessons From Spurgeon”

  1. The Prince of Preachers, Charles H. Spurgeon (1834–1892), certainly set a high bar for Christians, as you rightly say, Bill.

    An indispensable ingredient of his ministry’s success is revealed in the following story:

    “Five young college students were spending a Sunday in London, so they went to hear the famed Charles Haddon Spurgeon preach. While waiting for the doors to open, the students were greeted by a man who asked, ‘Gentlemen, let me show you around. Would you like to see the heating plant of this church?’ They were not particularly interested, for it was a hot day in July. But they didn’t want to offend the stranger, so they consented. The young men were taken down a stairway, a door was quietly opened, and their guide whispered, ‘This is our heating plant.’ Surprised, the students saw 700 people bowed in prayer, seeking a blessing on the service that was soon to begin in the auditorium above. Softly closing the door, the gentleman then introduced himself. It was none other than Charles Spurgeon.”

  2. That is definitely inspiring. Unfortunately not all have of us have the same capabilities as Spurgeon. Perhaps one drawback of reading the biographies and autobiographies of great Christians may make a weak/disabled/average Christian with no exceptional talents or abilities feel or think that by comparison their efforts are worthless and useless to God and so it is no use trying. I know 1 Corinthians 12 v.17 very strongly implies otherwise, but people tend to judge their achievements by comparing them to others-especially those more talented or gifted than themselves. And of course breaking out of the comfort zone is challenging for anyone.

  3. Yes quite right Elaine. Which is exactly why I began this essay by saying every Christian is different. We are not all Spurgeons, nor can we or should we be. We should be just who God made us to be and do all we can for Christ and the Kingdom. The study of these great saints is meant to be an encouragement and an inspiration to us, not to drag us down or make us feel guilty.

  4. I think inadequacy is a normal human response because we always are trying to be better than someone else we always see ourselves in competition with others so when read the great deeds of past Saints it naturally make us feel inadequate but we aren’t competing with them but running our own race essentially we are competing against ourselves. They ran their race ours is different. We can’t let fallen human emotions drag us down and prevent us from finishing. My race is my own as your race is your own each of us is competing for a prize and each can win it. I may have very little to show for my race and you much but each of us will get the same prize. Right now I don’t feel I could hold my head high and speak to many people in heaven but when I get there it will be different. On earth I am used to going unnoticed and honestly would be uneasy being noticed in heaven for what little accomplishments I have but know that it won’t matter there.

    Only thing I disagree with is the cigar!

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