A Plea for Self-sacrificing Service

Presentation at Boulder Medical Council, April, 1949.

By THEODORE R. FLAIZ, Secretary of the Medical Department, General Conference

The foundations of this Advent Movement were laid in sacrifice. The pioneers of this cause were men who counted no privation too great if only the gospel could thereby be preached.

This band of noble, self-sacrificing men and women, who gave birth to the movement of which you and I are now a part, could say with Paul, "Woe is me, if I preach not the gospel !" They founded our aggressive worldwide evan­gelistic movement, and we are now preaching the truth in nearly every land of earth. Men who with Paul could say, "This one thing I do," founded our publishing work, our Sabbath school work, and our great educational system. It was men who could say with Paul, "I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound," who laid the foundation of our medi­cal work. (Phil. 4:12.)

These men were one in labor, one in devo­tion, and one in sacrifice for a common pur­pose, that by all means Christ might be preached. Our ministers preached that sinners might come to know of their Saviour ; our pub­lishing men printed and sold books to carry the same story; the teachers and educators taught young people how best to carry the mes­sage; our pioneer physicians ministered to the sick and founded medical institutions to lead sufferers to the Great Physician. These gospel laborers all accepted the lot common to messen­gers of the cross since the days of Paul. No one expected more than the necessities of life. Remuneration was on the basis of actual re­quirements. It was in such times and in such circumstances that the great medical program of the Advent people flowered to its full bloom.

This united front, presented by our various departments, was a force which the evil one could not long tolerate, and in his councils plans were laid for the disruption of this unity. We are told by the Spirit of prophecy :

"I am alarmed at the outlook both for the Sanitar­ium and the publishing house at Battle Creek and our institutions generally. A spirit has been manifesting itself, and strengthening year by year in the institu­tions, that is of an entirely [different] character from that which the Lord has revealed in His Word should characterize the physicians and workers connected with our health institutions and the work of publishing.

The idea is entertained that the physicians at the Sanitarium and men in responsible positions in the publishing house are not under obligation to be con­trolled by self-denying, self-sacrificing principles of Christianity. But this idea has its origin in the councils of Satan. When physicians make manifest the fact that they think more of wages they are to receive than of the work of the institution, they show that they are not men to be depended upon as unselfish, godfearing, servants of Christ, faithful in doing the work of the Master."—Letter 41, 1890. (Dec. 24, 1890, to Dr. Kellogg.)

Instruction from the Spirit of prophecy fur­ther indicates clearly that the entry of this spirit into our physicians was the underlying cause of our tragic failure in Battle Creek.. Upon this point we read:

"In view of the large work that is to be done, our laborers should be willing to work for a reasonable wage. Even if you could obtain large wages, you should consider the example of Christ in coming to our world and living a life of self-denial. Just at this time it means very much what wages are demanded by the workers. If you require and receive a large wage, the door is thrown open for others to do the same.

"It was the demand for large wages among the workers at Battle Creek that helped to spoil the spirit of the work there. Two men led out in this movement, and they were joined by three or four others, and the result was a union in a course of action which, if followed by the majority would have destroyed one of the characteristic features of the work of this message. The cause of present truth was founded in self-denial and self-sacrifice. This selfish, grasping spirit is en­tirely opposed to its principles. It is like the deadly leprosy which in time will disease the whole body. I am afraid of it. We need to take heed lest we outgrow the simple, self-sacrificing spirit that marked our work in its early years."—Letter 370, 1907.

The decline of the spirit of selflessness in our medical work a generation ago led to our Battle Creek experience, or the nearly complete dis­integration of the medical program then under way. Do we see about us at the present time any indication that such an experience might possibly be repeated in our time? Please note the following trends.

1. Let us consider our institutional trend. Of our seventeen medical institutions in the North American Division, nine are not staffed by de­nominationally employed physicians. Eight are staffed by denominationally employed men, and of these only five are still on a plan comparable to our regular denominational plan of employ­ment and organization. A number of the pri­vately staffed institutions are in their present situation supposedly because of inability to obtain suitable staff. If true, what should we con­clude concerning the two thousand graduates of our medical school in America? Or are there other factors involved which should receive careful study?

2. What of our present inability to acquire the services of S.D.A. graduate nurses in adeq­uate numbers to staff our institutions at home and abroad?

3. What shall we say of the failure of our medical graduates to seek out areas here in the home country which could be regarded as mis­sion fields worthy of their high training? At the close of the war nine hundred of our doc­tors were in the State of California, and only 715 were to be found in all the rest of America and the world field. A survey as of June i of this year reveals over twelve hundred gradu­ates in the State of California, most of them within two hours' drive of the medical college, while only 690 remained in the rest of the world.

These are trends to which we can no longer close our eyes if we are to avoid serious neg­lect of duty. The question of physicians' sal­aries and the problems related thereto are but symptoms; they are not the disease. The Spirit of prophecy spoke very plainly of the trend away from self-sacriRcing devotion to the cause: "It is like the deadly leprosy which in time will disease the whole body." Brethren, that disease process is already at work. True, the demand for higher pay is spearheaded by our physicians, but as has been said, the disease not only is affecting the right arm but is ex­tending to the whole body. A continuation of our present attitude on this question will but tend to spread the process of deterioration. It has been suggested that a reaffirmation of, or return to, our denominational wage plan would wreck our medical institutions.

On the contrary, there are many of our loyal medical men in institutions here at home and in mission lands who would be greatly cheered and encouraged to see the Seventh-day Advent­ist denomination openly profess its confidence in our Christian physicians by a strong stand on this question, inviting these medical breth­ren to continue to stand with their ministerial, educational, and publishing house brethren in sacrificial service for finishing the work. Our present uncertainty is but an encouragement to the less-devoted, the less-consecrated element among our physicians, and is disheartening to those who would stand by us as fellow work­ers. If we feel that by continuing the present confusing course we are saving ourselves from serious troubles in the future, we would do well to note this warning given us from the Spirit of prophecy:

"If some one proposes something that is not in accordance with {the] self-sacrificing principles on which our work is based, let us remember that one stroke of God's hand can sweep away all seeming benefit because it was not to His name's glory."—Ms. 12, 5953. (Interview, Dec. 4, 1913.)

"Our institutions need not accept unconsecrated men and women, because they know not what better to do; for converted physicians will be raised up to take their place in the work. Unless the principles of divine truth control the physicians as they have not done hitherto, God will be dishonored, souls will be lost, and the institution established for the benefit of the sick and suffering will not meet the mind of the Spirit of God."—Letter 41, 1890.

If it be true—and I personally do not credit the idea—that we can no longer expect to hire our physicians on the original self-sacrificing missionary basis, why do we hire them at all? Do we expect that the atmosphere of a sani­tarium will be hallowed by the services of a man who will accept medical missionary work only if he is paid his price?

Are we to believe that the spiritual tone of our medical workers has dropped below that of our fellow Protestant Christian medical men who clear around the world accept a wage on a par with their ministerial brethren? No, by far the majority of our medical men, and cer­tainly those representing the greatest loyalty to our time-honored, self-sacrificing plan of service, will feel that if we here at this council fail to take at least the first steps toward repair of the breach in our denominational wage struc­ture, we will have fallen short of our duty.

Rather than speak of the dangers inherent in any disturbance of the status quo, should we not rather send forth a challenging clarion call to the physicians of this denomination, inviting them to stand by their ministerial brethren in bonds of Christian fellowship and service, to persevere in self-sacrifice with their fellow la­borers, till the Master comes to give the only rewards which are worthy of our efforts?

The desire of the field, if I can understand the plain words of my brethren, is for a strong stand on our basic principles. I wish to suggest that we carry to the council our united recom­mendation that the General Conference reaffirm the basic principles of its wage structure as ap­plies to physicians. That we commend our in­stitutions and doctors now on this plan, and that we urge upon our physicians not now on the denominational plan the desirability of join­ing their fellow physicians in a move to restore to its rightful place the medical missionary en­deavors of the Advent people.

 

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By THEODORE R. FLAIZ, Secretary of the Medical Department, General Conference

December 1949

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