Jesus knew that an attitude of heedlessness, of carelessness, on the part of the flock at the time of His coming would be fatal. In Matthew 24: 40, 41, we read: "Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left." In these vivid and awful pictures the Master seeks to impress upon us the truth that in the day of His coming, association will not save us, even association with the righteous. Nor will it avail to be found busy, even with thought and energy engaged in worthy occupations, if we are careless of the things of heavenly import. Any attitude of heedlessness now is fatal. The Master implores His men to be alert, watchful. Especially is it important that this message be heeded by those who have the guardianship of His church at the very time of His coming.
Not only must the leaders be watchful for the church, not only must they labor constantly to have its members ready for the coming of the Lord, but they must be ready, themselves. This is enjoined in the solemn admonition, "Be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh." And only such leadership—leadership that is ready—can properly care for and guard the church. Therefore what God requires of the church as a condition preparatory to His coming, He requires in a special degree of the leaders whom He has called to exercise guardianship over the church. We must be ready for the moment of Christ's appearing, and we must do all in our power to lead the church into a condition of readiness.
It means something to be ready to meet the Lord. For centuries the Jews had looked forward to the coming of the Messiah as their hope of deliverance. But they were not ready; their spiritual enlightenment was so feeble that they were unable to recognize Christ when He came. In consequence of this, though He came unto His own, His own received Him not. What fatal unreadiness! Yet we stand in danger of making the same mistake, as is shown in the following statement from the Spirit of prophecy:
"I have been shown that self-glorification was becoming common among Seventh-day Adventists, and that unless the pride of man should be abased and Christ exalted, we should, as a people, be in no better condition to receive Christ at His second coming than were the Jewish people to receive Him at His first advent."—"Special Testimonies," Series B, No. 10, p. 26.
That statement sets before us our condition, and points out our danger. Surely we must call upon God to lift us from the dead level of inefficiency and unwatchfulness and unreadiness in which we find ourselves, and renew again His Spirit within our hearts, and fill us with spiritual courage, so that we may lead the people in the way that He has marked out for them.
We are all familiar with the closing words of Matthew's Gospel, the farewell words of our Lord to His disciples: "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations. . . . And, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." How often we have meditated upon these words, and found courage in the thought that the power spoken of is given for the purpose of proclaiming the gospel to all the world.
It is right, of course, that we shall continue so to understand them. But like other statements of the Scriptures, the meaning of this one is exceeding broad. The following sentences from the Spirit of prophecy suggest a more personal application:
" 'All power,' He says, 'is given unto Me.' Matt. 28: 18. And this He gives to all who will follow Him. They may demonstrate to the world the power that there is in the religion of Christ for the conquest of self."—"Special Testimonies," Series B, No. 4, p. 24.
Again, we would remind ourselves that in these closing words of Matthew the Saviour is speaking to those whom He selects for leadership in His church. All power has been given to Him; and He gives it to us, His leaders, for a special purpose,—"the conquest of self." And when we have received that power, and it has done its perfect work, we shall go to the world with positive truth, and there will be neither interruption of its power nor obscuration of its clear light, by self.
Meat in Due Season
But what will the leader who is ready be doing when Christ comes? We are not left in doubt on that point. The faithful and wise servant has been made a ruler over the household for a special purpose, "to give them meat in due season."
Notice the three steps: The leader is to watch; he is to be ready; he is to feed the flock. Are we doing that? We are doing some of it; we are not -so -slack an-d" so utterly wrong that we are doing nothing at all. Nevertheless a definite change must be brought about in us as leaders if we feed the flock of God acceptably. We must spend more time in prayer. We must ourselves have the spiritual food to give to the people; and we frequently do not have it because we are not in communion with God as we need to be.
Giving the household "meat in due season" seems a simple thing to do. Yet it is the one thing that Jesus mentions as occupying the time and attention of the faithful leader when He comes! And the word is, "Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord when He cometh shall find so doing."
We have accepted the responsibilities of leadership in the church; we have stepped under burdens that no man can carry unless he is continually helped by the Lord. Yet too often we are trying to carry the load in our own way and according to our own plans. That we fall far short in our efforts we sorrowfully know, and we mourn the unprepared condition of the church. We are hoping for a change, looking for a change, praying for a change. But how will this change come? It will come when the pride of man is abased, self-exaltation is swept away, and the divine love and tenderness and humility of the Master rule our lives. This change is needed to make us faithful watchmen and guardians of the flock intrusted to our care,—ready ourselves, and fit to help others get ready to meet the Lord.
When God's watchmen permit the Holy Spirit to make them ready for their returning Master, they will discover that the promised power is being applied through them in helping to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. May He indeed help us, each one in his place, to be faithful in bearing responsibility and in guarding and feeding the household of faith!
Washington, D. C.