The Tragedy of Stagnation
When a man ceases to grow, he begins to stagnate, his vision shrinks, his mental outlook shrivels, his ideas become sluggish, his initiative dwindles, and he eases down. Lack of results discourages him. He is a defeated man, and ultimately an unneeded and unwanted man. Unless we individually and personally take ourselves resolutely in hand, we shall in our program of pressure and insistent go, unavoidably prepare ourselves for admission to this most unenviable class. Many are sacrificing their future usefulness to the cause through their present programs. It is a tragically short-sighted policy, but it is undeniably operative, especially in middle age. We shall someday reap the sad harvest of our sowing unless we change.
It is perilous to fill every hour of the day, and part of the night, with routine toil without the requisite time for intensive Bible study and prayer and intellectual development,— reading, studying, informing, preparing, researching for enlarged service. There is danger that not a few will be shelved at the very time ripened experience and consistent preparation would have fitted them for the greatest usefulness, for no matter how capable the younger man, nothing can take the place of experience, and one should do his greatest work after sixty.
Every forward-looking worker in this cause owes it to himself, to his conference, to the cause at large, and to His God to give the most in this larger way. There are too many still in life's prime who are involuntarily inactive chiefly because they failed right at this pivotal point. The times demand an informed, studious, progressive ministry; a prayerful, Biblical, spiritual ministry; an alert, resourceful, growing ministry. Therefore, Association Member, " study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." 2 Tim. 2: 15. Thus shall we help to avoid the tragedy of an unprofitable ministry.
L. E. F.
Be Ye Therefore Perfect
Since the work of every individual laborer is soon to be weighed in the balances of heaven, we cannot too carefully keep ever before us God's own standard of judgment. All about us men are lowering the true moral and spiritual standards or substituting human ideas and opinions, and our only safety lies in knowing the requirements of our Master.
"God will accept only those who are determined to aim high. He places every human agent under obligation to do his best. Moral perfection is required of all. Never should we lower the standard of righteousness in order to accommodate inherited or cultivated tendencies to wrong-doing. We need to understand that imperfection of character is sin. All righteous attributes of character dwell in God as a perfect, harmonious whole, and everyone who receives Christ as a personal Saviour is privileged to possess these attributes." — "Christ's Object Lessons," pp. 332, 333, edition 1923.
" Be ye therefore perfect," is the standard of Scripture. How many times we have wondered what these words mean. Perhaps we have regarded the expression as an isolated statement that must be understood or explained away by various other scriptures. But it does not appear so isolated when we place it beside other injunctions on the same subject. Note a few:
"Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Matt. 5:48.
"That we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus." Col. 1:28.
"And this also we wish, even your perfection." " Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace." 2 Cor. 13:9, 11.
" Always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God." Col. 4:12.
" Let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." James 1:4.
" Behold, one came and said unto Him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow Me." Matt. 19:16-21.
"Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." 2 Cor. 7:1.
"By one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified." Heb. 10:14.
"The disciple is not above his Master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his Master." Luke 6:40.
"If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body." James 3:2.
"Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect." 1 Cor. 2:6.
"That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." 2 Tim. 3:17.
"Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you." Phil. 3:16.
Many others might be added to these fourteen in which God sets forth His ideal for His people. We are exhorted to be pure, " even as He is pure; " " righteous, even as He is righteous; " holy, for He is holy, and " to be conformed to the image of His Son." How could the Lord more explicitly and positively set forth His standard for those who are admitted into His heavenly kingdom?
The question of supreme importance is, How am I to attain this perfection, to reach this holy standard which God requires? The answer to this question is the very essence of the gospel. It is righteousness by faith. "' In His borrowed goodness good,' we may be perfect in our sphere, even as God is perfect in His."—"Mount of Blessing," p. 118.
There is great danger in making excuse for sin. A brother told me that he was greatly troubled in regard to his temper, He had prayed and struggled and tried to gain the victory, but would still give way at times to violent anger. He went to a minister about it for help, but the minister told him not to worry; that Moses lost his temper too, and yet the Lord accepted him; and David committed a great sin, and the Lord forgave him. So if he did his best, the Lord would take him through all right, The danger in this lies in the fact that there is an element of truth in it, as well as one of error. Of course God does not forever reject a man because he falls once. He may fall a thousand times, and be forgiven. But God did not excuse Moses for sinning.
"The burdens placed upon Moses were very great; few men will ever be so severely tried as he was; yet this was not allowed to excuse his sin. God has made ample provision for His people; and if they rely upon His strength, they will never become the sport of circumstances. The strongest temptation cannot excuse sin. However great the pressure brought to bear upon the soul, transgression is our own act. It is not in the power of earth or hell to compel any one to do evil. Satan attacks us at our weak points, but we need not be overcome. However severe or unexpected the assault, God has provided help for us, and in His strength we may conquer." —"Patriarchs and Prophets," p. 421.
To make the sins of Moses or David or anyone else an excuse for our continuance in sin is simply a weak surrender. It is an expression of our willingness to remain in slavery to the power of sin, and that in the light of God's provision for victory. Yes, more, it is presumption.
" God's ideal for His children is higher than the highest human thought can reach. Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.' This command is a promise. The plan of redemption contemplates our complete recovery from the power of Satan. Christ always separates the contrite soul from sin. He came to destroy the works of the devil, and He has made provision that the Holy Spirit shall be imparted to every repentant soul, to keep him from sinning.
"The tempter's agency is not to be accounted an excuse for one wrong act. Satan is jubilant when he hears the professed followers of Christ making excuses for their deformity of character. It is these excuses that lead to sin. There is no excuse for sinning. A holy temper, a Christlike life, is accessible to every repenting, believing child of God.
" The ideal of Christian character is Christlikeness. As the Son of man was perfect in His life, so His followers are to be perfect in their life."" The Desire of Ages," p. 311.