41rGK03Bz3L[1]James S. Stewart (1896-1990) was ranked as the best preacher of the twentieth century by Preaching Magazine in 1999. A minister of the Church of Scotland and professor of New Testament Language, Literature and Theology at the University of Edinburgh he authored many books on preaching. When rereading The Wind of the Spirit I underlined these gems.

The will of God is not something to be accepted and borne – it is something to be asserted, something to be done. And Amen is not always a sigh – it is sometimes a shout:

My God, my Father, make me strong,

When tasks of life seem hard and long,

To greet them with this triumph song:

Thy will be done!”

On religious comfort as sentimental escapism.

“Certainly there is a way of trying to comfort that is weak and enervating and sentimental. It blurs the moral issues, turns religion into a cushion against the hard facts of life, employs the drug of fantasy. It camouflages the cross, and romanticizes the tragic element in life. It uses consolatory phrases to hypnotise the troubled mind into a condition of torpid tranquility. The comforts of belief and faith are treated as a kind of spiritual medicine, the peace of God as the perfect tranquilliser. But this coddling, vapid comfort does not even remotely resemble what Paul is talking about here. His word is one of the most virile, non-sentimental words in the New Testament.”

What does it mean to lose the Spirit (Psalm 51:11)? This. To be unresponsive to the still small voice, insensitive to the living God, and weary of the irksomeness of Christ – this is what it means to lose the Spirit. To grow skeptical about faith, disillusioned about hope, cynical about love – this is to lose the Spirit. To feel that the struggle between good and evil is not worth the battle; to find your spiritual zest and idealism smothered by the dust and dreariness of life, replaced by moral lassitude and inertia and debility; to stop caring for religion, to find prayer weariness and belief a sham, to record as the final verdict on it all ‘Vanity and vexation of spirit and a striving wind’ -this is to lose the Spirit. Well may we cry – ‘Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me!'”