Some time back I read an anonymous article which contained much food for serious thought. The title was "Fiddlin'." The writer had twenty-seven years of successful ministry to his credit, so his parishioners said. However, he had strong convictions that he was "fiddlin' and frittering" away his time. So he resigned his pastorate and started on an evangelistic crusade, going as his Master did to the highways and byways, seeking the lost. The writer lists his seeming church successes, which brought him distinction.
"I have kept congregations sweet and peaceful. I feel that I have been running around with a pacifier in one hand and a rattle in the other, comforting, counseling, appeasing, petting, and reclaiming to church services those members who had gone 'up the niff tree.' And because I can do this I am Successful.
"I have added membership to congregations. I have .met the nice, decent, respectable people of communities, and because of my personality and because of the prestige which has been held in the community by the church, they have united with it, and that, too, has been counted Success.
"I have been a money raiser. I have assembled money and paid for buildings. And because I can organize congregations for material accomplishment and inspire them to raise money, I am urged that my services should and must continue in this field.
"I have been a faithful supporter of all our missionary enterprises. Congregations for which I have ministered have universally increased their missionary interest and giving. This also is judged Success.
"But why continue? I have simply accomplished what other ministers have accomplished, and worked as others have worked. For myself, after all these years I am convinced that I have been simply Tiddlin"—carrying the piano stool while I might have been carrying the piano.
"For all the time in which I have been ministering to congregations, in every field, there have been thousands whom I did not try to reach. While I have wasted my time trying to keep Sister 'So and So' sweet and upon the supporting list of the church, there were hundreds of sinners whom I might have reached with the saving power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He 'went about doing good.' I have gone about pacifying and holding, petting and appeasing.
"I have preached the gospel lovingly, truly, completely. I have burned the midnight oil to search out the truth for them. I have prepared sermons for the nice, decent, respectable people, who I knew would come to the church. Had my audience been blessed with the presence of real sinners I would have had no message prepared for them. And yet Jesus came to save them, and commissioned me to preach His gospel to every creature. Jesus said 'Go preach the gospel.' Religion, as Jesus proclaimed it, has always been God searching after man ; not man searching after God. No, I have just been Tiddlin" while the devil's fire has been burning in the lives and souls of men whom Jesus died to save."—Religious Digest, September, 1941.
As I read this article, the content struck me with such force that I was compelled to take a retrospective view of my own ministry. This personal analysis astonished me.
Do we not spend much of our time—precious time, God-given time—sprinkling sugar on the sour, and pouring oil on the wounded? We work hard settling strife and petty quarrels. We hand out pacifiers and rattles to Dorcas and choir members, and do our best to unify the church members and keep things running smoothly. We promote Dorcas sales and worry over church school financial problems. We support and promote all church departments—and, of course, see that reports are in on time.
Yet after we have done all this (and this in itself is a colossal task), what have we really done! Have we not been just "fiddlin' "? All this is important—yes, very important. Sometimes I think we are quite like Martha of old—cumbered about with much serving of tables—while we should be like Mary, who "sat at Jesus' feet, and heard His word." (Luke 10:39, 40.) Martha was "careful and troubled about many things," but Mary chose the better part.
What is the essential work to which we have been called? The God of heaven has given unto us clear credentials which are conclusive in attestation. He said, "Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit." John 15 :16. The disciples knew the difference between essentials and nonessentials. They knew that God's ambassadors had no right to spend their time "just fiddlin'." They said, "It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Whereof, brethren, look ye out among you seven men ... whom we may appoint over this business. But we will• give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word." Acts 6:2-4.
The great and prime essential is clearly expressed by Christ, "Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business?" Heaven's business is clearly and definitely stated in the words of Paul: "To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself."
To Christ's ambassador there is no ambiguous objective. He is to preach, to teach, and to beseech men in Christ's stead to be reconciled to God. God "hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation." Yes, reconciling sinners to God is our business. It must be our great objective. It is the work to which we have been called. Everything else, however seemingly important, is just "fiddlin' " when viewed in the light of the great unfinished task.
We are told that nine million converts were made during the first three centuries of the Christian Era. How was this done? The answer comes to us in the words:
"Count that day lost whose low descending sun
Views from thy hand no worthy action done."
Action for God in reconciling sinners to God brought the victory. It gathered in the fruit. It built the church of God. Let us not "fiddle" around God's vineyard. Let us beseech men and women in Christ's stead to be reconciled to God.