characteristic feature of reports of progress in our work is the attention that is called to the inadequacy of provision to meet the needs of the work, especially financial provision. No doubt more liberal financial provision would often be a great blessing to the work, but certain experiences have taught us that it is not always the chief need, for there are inadequacies for which no amount of money can compensate. Sometimes these cause one to feel that the description in Isaiah 28:20 applies : "For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it : and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it." It is far from comfortable to be in the situation described here when one is in need of rest on a cold night. It is a figure that well describes the mannei in which we often meet the needs and opportunities of our work. We are often short on vision and narrow in our views and plans, and the work consequently suffers.
We are a busy, self-sacrificing, and hardworking people, but what an amazing amount of our work contributes but little to the results which we profess to be achieving ! One reason for this is that many of our activities are not thoughtfully planned, nor executed with understanding. Better management could certainly make the resources at our command go farther and a far greater work could be undertaken and accomplished with the material resources we already have. The fundamental need then is not always for more funds, nor for more hastily constructed plans, concerning which we have pages and pages and books already, but for a few more effective plans based on clear thinking and sound experience. Our need is not for more money in proportion to obligations assumed, but for more intelligent use of funds at our command; not for more resolutions, but for foresight, insight, and understanding of possibilities, oppottunities, and essentials. Intelligent, constructive thinking is an outstanding need, difficult to supply and too rarely found.
What we need is capacity for clear seeing, conclusive thinking, and decisive action. Diligence and industry are essentials in service, but much of our busyness does not seem to contribute to our progress. It is a waste of energy and means. If those of us who are responsible under God for the promotion of our great cause are to be absorbed in a multiplicity of details for the mere sake of carrying on, what a tragedy it will be if we do not have the time, the strength, or the inclination for the real essentials. That which we do with much show will then be inadequate for the task we have been given to do. We need to see and understand "what Israel ought to do" in such a time as this. 1 Chron. 12:32.) Paul expresses it thus:
"And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment ; that ye may approve things that are excellent." Phil. 1:9, 10. Moffatt's translation reads : "In all manner of insight enabling you to have a sense of what is vital." Insight is one of our great needs.
Inadequacies and Limitations
But our inadequacies and limitations take many other forms. We are much limited in our power to achieve. We often refuse to launch into that which it seems impossible for flesh and blood to accomplish. Our faith is limited. Often we will not move unless we clearly see the way. Our love for the cause we profess to espouse is limited. Only rarely does it manifest itself as a passion. Often we look in vain for any real burden for the work. True love, whether for God or man, is but little demonstrated.
We are limited in spiritual discernment in many realms where it is essential that we have it.
Perhaps most of all our insight is limited.
We need insight into God's glorious purpose in the message we carry to the world. We need insight in everyday life if love for man, for God, and for service for Him is to do its perfect work. We need insight of our duty and of the essentials in the work today. It is easy to murmur and to criticize one another for our failures, but it is not easy to acquire and to develop insight which will turn defeat into success and give us more fruits for our labors and investments.
We need an experience like that of those disciples who were en route to Emmaus, bogged down in doubt and despair until they received insight from the words of the risen Christ which made their hearts burn and glow within them. We in these last mighty days when great insight, and foresight too, are needed for the closing work, will not experience the burning heart so necessary for achievement, unless we possess the enlightened mind so necessary for understanding and direction. For lack of such insight some are too easily discouraged, too ready to give up their part in the work. We meet unexpected situations, problems, and perplexities. Current events must be seen in the light of everlasting truth ; the luminous majesty of divine light must replace the dim flicker of our own human light. We need to share with one another such insights as we have, such understanding as God has given us.
There is no doubt that we have great insight of the meaning of "this time" through the prophecies that have been fulfilled and which are still being fulfilled. But even so we need to keep awake lest we be among those who "do not discern this time." Luke 12 :56. Conditions in the earth and the great facts of these times have been given much attention by students of prophecy among us, and we are not ignorant of the meaning of these things. However, there is need to consider also the quality of faith, the fiber of the Christianity that we profess, in relationship to world events, and the severe tests that these will impose on faith. These tests will assume many forms. Perhaps one may here be mentioned as an illustration.
In recent years a militant and ruthless totalitarianism has arisen, aiming to oppose and destroy much that Christianity has stood for. It often assumes the functions and prerogatives of God, and has infrequently attempted to destroy the idea of human individuality and conscience. It assumes the power to define what is right and wrong. It conscripts man—body, soul, and spirit. It replaces God's word with its own ungodly religio-political philosophy. It aims to destroy the source and goal of missionary activity both at home and abroad, and to replace Christianity with paganism. We need insight into the lurking dangers that would destroy our missions program. In view of the superhuman cunning and might with which this power operates, surely it behooves us to give ourselves with utter abandon to the finishing of our work quickly, lest we be found loitering when it is too late. We need a deepened insight into the times in which we live.
In view of all this, would it not seem that there is need of a deeper and keener insight into our mission policies, which involve much and have to do with multitudinous matters? Our complicated program, our departments of activities, our specialization, our many business enterprises, and other similar matters, most of which seem essential to the prosecution of our work, apparently tend at times to constitute a handicap, which may obscure the fundamentals of Christianity. We need to watch the mechanics of our work. The character of some activities, called gospel work, needs to be examined. By Christianity is meant Christian living—the exemplification of the principles of Christ in the daily life. We think we must emphasize the financial needs, but unless we be on guard against these other dangers, we may become so engrossed with the mechanics of the work that we fail to promote the development of sturdy Christians who will be able to stand the trials soon to come.
The Israelites needed visible and tangible forms and institutions to teach the great lesson of the plan of salvation, but these were often perverted to a wrong use, and became the object of worship and religious service rather than aids to true worship and service. We may feel secure from such dangers in our ranks, but the idea should be given thought and consideration. It is so much easier to establish departments in which we busy ourselves with routine work, so much more convenient to operate from well-equipped office rooms, so much more satisfying to pride and vanity to build up institutions, to buy and sell and deal with material requirements, than it is to be personal agents for the true spiritual rebirth of men and women lost in sin. Statistics, reports, and records showing increase and progress, tend to be such a cause for gratification that there is danger of losing sight of the standards of true Christian experience. The forms and institutions often replace the Spirit. There are, of course, glorious exceptions to this, but on the whole, does it not seem that the standards of Christian living, even of busy and responsible workers, as well as of lay members, are often far from God's ideal? We need insight into these matters, and into a mission policy that is in keeping with such a time as this and with such a message as this.
One questions at times whether the quality of Christianity which characterizes the church in various lands, stands any chance of enduring the trying experiences and tests of opposition by governments and the times of great general trouble just before us. Released from the shelter and support of our organized work, many do not stand even the comparatively mild tests of normal times. If and when the present, dreadful war comes to an end, it will be found that some in lands now undergoing trial by fire will have been firm to their faith in spite of dungeon, fire, and hell. That is the quality of Christianity that it is our business to develop. The attitude of some gospel workers toward sin and the victorious life is disappointing, and some who are responsible for the spiritual welfare of their people continue to wink at sin and wrongdoing. We need to translate into action the recommendations of the General Conference which deal with these matters, to make them a part of our working policies, and to make ourselves individually responsible for making such policies effective among the groups of which we have been made leaders.
We believe that we have a God-given organization. There is power in it which is needed for advancement of the work. But are there not grounds for assertions that are often made to the effect that some professed gospel workers carry on as high-pressure salesmen, publicity agents, and functionaries, for who-knows-what, unless it be to produce the appearance of great zeal, activity, and progress ? Of course we must have visible results, but may not some of that which we call results be mere sham? Has it not been so ? No charge is made that we are overorganized, but may it not be inquired whether there be not room and opportunity for some who now stand as department heads and as leaders of various organizations to participate to a greater degree in actual gospel work, to spend some time on the watchtowers, as it were? May there not be a real need for insight into some of these matters, and a sense of what is vital ?
Material resources may be limited, but our spiritual resources are unlimited. There are honest seekers for truth in all lands and in all ranks. There are no limits to our opportunities to search them out. From among these may be drawn honest members and faithful workers without number. There is no limit to the power of the message we are to proclaim. It is a message of victory and deliverance to all kindreds, tongues, and nations. The presence of God in the movement assures a glorious triumph. The present darkening prospects do not portend the end of our work, but rather a signal to advance with more determination and courage than ever before. Our greatest opportunities and our most significant days still lie before us, and our great missionary movement was never more relevant than now. But for all this we need "all manner of insight, enabling us to have a sense of what is vital."