Text: "I put thee in remembrance That thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee." 2 Tim. I :6.
You, Class of 1942, have a gift, a professional gift, obtained through the opening providences of your heavenly Father and years of strenuous and persistent application on your part. Because of the emergency in which the world finds itself, this gift should bring wonderful returns both to those in need and to yourself. But far greater will be the returns both here and in the life eternal if your professional qualification is coupled with this other gift of which the text speaks.
The Greek word here translated gift is defined as "a special divine endowment conferred on a believer as an evidence of the experience of divine grace, and fitting him for the lifework or office to which he was called." The word translated "stir" comes from three root words which taken together literally mean "to rekindle a dormant fire." You have the picture of a party in the woods sleeping by the side of the campfire. It is late, and the burning logs have fallen apart. Someone awakens, and seeing the condition of the fire, gathers together the dying embers, throws more wood on, and soon the cheery flame reaches higher and higher. This is the picture Paul holds before Timothy as he faces the problems before him, and I want to hold the same idea before you as you enter upon a new phase of your life's task. I have therefore called you the rekindlers.
In giving you this title, I am wondering whether you sense the great responsibility falling to your lot. Do you realize that some sixteen years ago you fourteen young people with perhaps two hundred others started school in the first grade? Let this piece of alabaster represent the "rock whence ye are hewn." Isa. 51 :I. 'Within four years, twelve of this company had dropped out, according to the latest Government statistics on education. Only 164 finished the eighth grade, and you were among that number. Nine more then dropped their training, but you with 141 others went on to high school. Year by year the ranks thinned until only seventy-seven completed the twelfth grade.
Of this number, only twenty-eight went on to college, and again you fourteen were a part of that group. And now at the conclusion of four years of training beyond the high-school level you fourteen are the only ones left.
Have you thought of the responsibility that is yours because of the privileges that in God's mercy have been extended to you? The choice you have made for a motto indicates that you have realized and determined to accept, this responsibility, and resolve to be the rekindlers of lost hopes and ambitions. Your lives will touch the tragically long line of souls whose life fires are burning low. You take case histories and find lives that were once vibrant with new and exciting experiences, with obstacles easily surmounted. In the buoyancy of hope and confidence, they felt themselves riding the crest of the wave of success. Their friends were abundant and attentive. The present was bright with prospects ; material resources were plentiful, and their future as leaders seemed certain. In their overconfidence they gloried in their health, power, and ability. They paid little attention to the signboards by the side of the road, warning of curves, dangerous intersections, and rough by-passes. Their fires were burning brightly. But now as they stand before you, victims of the crisis, the fire is almost out. The glowing coals are scattered, and the wind is blowing the sparks out into the storm. Can you rekindle these fires ? Let us analyze the task before you.
Six Ways of Rekindling Hope
The text, Matthew 25 :34-40, from which you have chosen your motto, "Inasmuch," lists six ways in which you are to be the Rehindler. May we take them up point by point. "I was an hungered, and ye. gave Me meat." Fear of many sorts has stricken the heart low. The sick come to you faced with a hunger, not for physical food so much as for life's absolutes—faith, courage, trust, and an understanding of life's battles and experiences, both those that have gone, and those yet to come. You, as an angel of mercy, are to gather those dying embers together and make them feel again warmth and comfort after numbing days of sorrow, grief, and pain. But how can you perform this wondrous service unless like Moses you are able to say from the depths of your own experience : "He humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know ; that He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord"? Deut. 8 :3. Have you taken time to sit at the feet of the Master during these past sixteen years till you can know of a surety that "the young lions do lack and suffer hunger : but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing" ? Ps. 34:10. If so, then all unconsciously, as you minister to those under your care, will they see you have found in Christ the true "meat" ( John 6:48-55), and, following your lead, will partake of the bread from heaven, and exclaim with Jesus, "I have meat to eat that ye know not of." Then the fires of life's absolutes will again burn brightly in their hearts.
"I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink." Hardships, enmities, and dissertations perhaps have parched the lips of those you minister to, and they come to you realizing with a start that, like the woman at Jacob's well, they thirst for the water of life. They thirst for the "portion of salvation," that cleansing draught which is none other than the blood of Christ. So, far more than the technical ministry, which for years you have studied so hard to make efficient, there must be in you a well of water springing up into everlasting life. This spring cannot develop in a day—it comes from down deep in the soul. The daily annoyances, the heartaches, the misunderstandings, the long tedious hours of contact with every kind of temperament, the hard physical labor—have you allowed these to be tools in the hand of the Master Artisan to dig deep this fountain of refreshment, so deep, in fact, that those in your care will marvel and stoop also to drink? You may not know about it now, but later—oh, the joy of knowing that unconsciously you have been the means of bringing life and vigor again to hearts as dry as the desert sands.
"I was a stranger, and ye took Me in." They will come—those in this endless stream of wrecked souls—with the fires of friendship gone out. Fair weather friends have left behind lonely hearts, shattered hopes, and an awakening to the fact that they have all these years been following will-o'-the-wisps. Perhaps added physical suffering has caused a loneliness that is indescribable. As you know, with a large majority of people, sickness starts in their mental attitude, and today the hospitals are full of more or less psychopathic cases. In their misery they make you their confidant. You are the one to whom they open their hearts. You are the only one who knows the secrets of their lives. Do you ever betray their confidence, by discussing these secrets even with members of your own profession ? Or are you a member of the L. L. L.—Locked-Lip League
On this the day of your graduation, will you not in your heart ask God to make you fit to carry the responsibilities which these privileges have placed upon you ? The value of the personal sympathetic touch cannot be overestimated; neither can it be obtained overnight. It is a trait that must have grown throughout your entire training. What a blessing to be a rekindler of the fires of joyous companionship, and to make your associates feel that the burned-out fagots—the failures of the past—can be made to enrich the experiences of the future ! In rekindling their fires, you will be astonished how much brighter your own is burning !
"I was. . . naked, and ye clothed Me." Standing here and there in this long line you will find those who, all too late, realize the futility of their efforts at self-development and self-improvement apart from God. Our Edenic parents tried to seek ways and means of their own to improve their status, but awoke to a realization of their own nakedness. Patiently God furnished the guilty pair with garments, but such garments as would hold before them constantly the price necessary to redeem them. God has spoken through John the revelator to this last church concerning our nakedness, which the Spirit of prophecy says is self-righteousness, and says we do not even recognize it. Would it not be wonderful if in the days to come, you would discover that it was your white raiment—the righteousness of Christ, a garment of heavenly texture, that can be bought of Christ only for a life of willing obedience ("Testimonies," Vol. IV, p. 44)—that caused them to go to the shop to buy the same raiment for themselves !
"I was sick, and ye visited Me." They come to you sick of soul—a sickness such as Isaiah describes in his first chapter—full of bruises and wounds. They feel themselves veritably to be putrefying souls that can neither be bound up nor mollified with ointment. The efficiency of your medical treatment is to be expected, but oh, my dear friends, what an opportunity is yours to heal the soul bruises by the consistency of your lives ! A few days ago, I spent the week end attending the graduation exercises at the Boulder Sanitarium. I was sitting on the lawn beside the path leading up to the administration building when two patients passed by.
"Did you hear that whistle? That means their Sabbath has passed."
"They certainly have a wonderful religion !" "Yes, and the beauty of it is that they live it. Did you ever see a more consecrated person than that man, __________ ?" And the two passed out of hearing. Little did that individual know how he was being watched and the effect his earnest, open life was having on sin-sick souls. To be an efficient assistant to the physician is a wonderful thing, but oh the beauty of the nurse who adds to her professional qualifications the God-given talent of rekindling the light which "lighteth every man that cometh into the world"!
"I was in prison, and ye came unto Me." They will come to you, prisoners of the evil one, so bound by the chains of habit, so tightly bound, that the links cut into their very souls. And as if to taunt them, Satanic forces dangle before their minds the alternative of going still farther into sin or facing the shame and humiliation of exposure. Then you come—a veritable angel of light—even as Christ came to the woman having a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years.
Even as that soul heard the Master's voice, "Ought not this woman, . . . whom Satan bath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed ?" so may they hear your voice pleading on their behalf. Your words of comfort and courage, born of your own deep and abiding trust in God, will be keys to unlock their prison doors. To realize you are fighting for them, believing in them, praying for them, to see how you have full self-control even under the greatest provocations—all these things will make you the deliverer of their souls. And the beauty of it all is that you may not even realize you are just bubbling over like a spring, bringing refreshment to many a desert waste.
As I said before, let this piece of alabaster, just as we find it in Palestine, represent the rock from whence you were hewn some sixteen years ago, as you began your education. Let this beautiful alabaster vase represent you now, as you stand at one of the high places in your young lives. Various tools have been used to mold and perfect you. Your training as such, is completed. You stand graceful of form, perfect of finish, professionally equipped. But look ! I place this light within the vase and see ! What beauty—hidden beauty—is now revealed. Let this light represent the power of the Christian life within you that makes your service a hundred times more beautiful. Unaware of its enhanced distinction, it shines forth to all around, and its admirers marvel that a creator could make a thing so wonderful out of a rough stone like this one.
So we praise God for his lightbearers after sixteen years of polishing. Standing today on what appeared to you but a few years ago as the summit of life's preparedness, you look to see the mountain peaks of Christian perfection ahead of you touching the sky, beckoning you ever to climb higher. Think well of your responsibility and rekindle the fire which God has placed in your own hearts, for in so doing you shall rekindle many another, to rejoice with you in the beauty of the kingdom of heaven, prepared for you from the foundation of the world.