Spiritual Foes and Perils

Spiritual Foes and Perils—No. 2

In the previous number of this article, seven nega­tive perils that beset the spiritual life of workers were presented—aimlessness, superficiality, hypocrisy, formality, spiritual Pride, sins of the tongue, and spiritual starvation. The author now presents the positive side, giving several constructive sugges­tions for victory over these besetting foes.

By W. R. BEACH, Secretary, Southern European Division

In the previous number of this article, seven nega­tive perils that beset the spiritual life of workers were presented—aimlessness, superficiality, hypoc­risy, formality, spiritual Pride, sins of the tongue, and spiritual starvation. The author now presents the positive side, giving several constructive sugges­tions for victory over these besetting foes.—Editor.

Let us turn now to the positive side of the subject, on which I prefer to dwell. Beset behind and before with perils arrayed against us in the conflict with evil, we can say like Paul: "A great door . . is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries." Like Paul's, our perils should constitute the drilling ground for strong character and triumphant faith, and should afford, within the range of our personal experience, evidences of Christ's conquering might. Thus will they open before us a great door. But if such is to be our experience, we must "put on the whole armor of God."

As the strategic cause of the worker's peril is spiritual starvation, so the feeding of his spiritual life is the strategic cause of victory over all besetting dangers. To preserve bodily health, the physical forces must be kept intact ; for at the moment of depletion, the body be­comes an easy prey to all maladies. Similarly, to triumph over sin-sickness, the spiritual powers must be constantly renewed and en­riched. Hence the following constructive sug­gestions:

1. First, let me urge that each worker make generous and farsighted plans for the main­tenance and development of his spiritual life_ Generally our plans, if we have any, are nig­gardly, miserly, and mean. How unworthy they are of our inexhaustible resources, of our high and holy calling, of the undescribable needs of men to whom we are to minister, of the great days in which we are living, and of the stupendous issues and opportunities which are challenging us! Most of us give the impression of living spiritually from hand to mouth, snatching here and there a little en­richment from one source and another. Days drift by, and then under the influence of an­other circumstance, coming from some unex­pected quarter, we receive a fresh impulse Godward. But this does not take the place of forward-looking, orderly, comprehensive plan­ning for the symmetrical, consistent develop­ment of our spiritual sensibilities and powers. We must be prepared for the day of trial.

2. I believe every worker should observe an occasional quiet day for the express purpose of finding out where he actually is spiritually, and discerning whither he is tending. At such mo­ments of retreat he should review and revise plans and practices for furthering his spiritual growth and usefulness. Past successes and failures should be reviewed, and the underly­ing principles and reasons carefully examined. Breaking away entirely from the presence of men, he should shut himself in alone with God and His truth for self-examination, prolonged reflection, communion, and resolution. In reading Hannay's "Memoirs of Doctor Chal­mers," you will discover that for years this great preacher of Scotland followed the prac­tice of spending a day each month in this vital manner. That explains the secret of his shak­ing the great city of Glasgow.

3. Let the Morning Watch be faithfully ob­served at all costs. This means beginning each day with God in the meditative reading of a Scripture text, a page from a devotional work, a poem, and engaging in prayer and being silent with God. This should be done every day, and not every other day. John Wesley wrote on the flyleaf of his Bible the words: "Live today." We might well place beneath them: "Begin the day alone with God." The worker who heeds both injunctions cannot drift far away from His Lord. All must fight for their prayer life. The more sacred and potential a spiritual practice or observance is, the more our spiritual enemies seek to rob us of it. David said: "I give myself unto prayer." Psalms 109 :4. He gave not simply his tongue, but his consciousness, his whole attention, his personality, himself, to this important spiritual exercise.

We also need to learn the lesson which the Quakers have to teach us. It is' their custom after audible prayer, as well as under other circumstances, to listen to what God has to say to them. "My soul, be thou silent unto God." We do well to remember that prayer is not monologue, but dialogue. Too often our prayers are limited to what is suggested by the words : "Hear, Lord, for Thy servant speaketh." But we should include the prayer, "Speak, Lord; for Thy servant heareth." In a daily season of prayer, rightly planned and under­stood, we should seek audience with our Master, make known our needs, bare our hearts, and receive our marching orders for the day. Then, rising from our knees, we can go forth as men really "sent from God."

5. Again, the worker who would not fall before his spiritual adversaries must be a constant, personal witness bearer for Christ. This should be true whether he is engaged directly in evangelistic endeavor, or in administrative, departmental, or institutional activities. To those engaged in these fields of labor let me say that nothing will stimulate you more, with reference to your religious thinking and spiritual experience, than to try to present Christ to someone who does not wish to accept Him or to a worldling who has no time for such things. How it searches one's heart and motives ! How it sends us to our Bible and to our knees with a sense of our limitations in the great conflict with evil!

But even the evangelist can become pro­fessionalized, merely a machine or an engine driver. He can consider souls anonymously or impersonally, and look upon the salvation of souls as a business. But to succeed, he must identify himself with individual men—sinful men, struggling men, lonely and neglected men, men and women wandering in the mazes of sorrow and sin. He must strive, as a simple, redeemed child of God, to relate men rightly to Christ and His divine program for the last days. If he does not take this attitude, for­mality and professionalism will shortly claim him for their own.

6. And finally, if we are to win out over our perils, we must preserve a right attitude toward temptation. We must have an attitude of uncompromising warfare. Our lives must be a challenge, and not a truce. Every Christian is tempted, and temptations multiply as responsibilities are placed upon him. Temptations mul­tiply as we advance in spirituality. There is a large meaning in that phrase about the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (See Eph. 6:12, A.R.V.) Notice it is not an isolated enemy here and there, but hosts and armies. However, the secret of consistent vic­tory is a simple one. Each temptation and fall before our enemies begins with a thought. Yielding to temptation begins in permitting the mind to waver, being inconstant in one's trust in God. (See "Mount of Blessing," page 136.)

A fall always follows an inconstant, com­promising attitude in a moment of wavering.

The secret of victory, then, lies in meeting every temptation and peril with unflinching steadfastness to truth, in being constant in our trust in God and uncompromising in our of­fensive for right.

All this suggests the need of realizing in our personal experience what the psalmist was able to say: "I have set the Lord always before rue." If we are to escape the perils to our heavenly calling, we ourselves must walk constantly before God. When He is at our right hand, we shall not fall, but our mind will be joyful, and our soul will have perfect security.


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By W. R. BEACH, Secretary, Southern European Division

March 1939

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