It is a wonderful thing to be burdened down with a passion for lost sinners. Mrs. E. G. White described the Spirit- filled burden bearer in the work of God "as a cart [that] is pressed that is full of sheaves." Amos 2:13. The idea is that the load is so heavy that the cart will collapse with its heavy load of sheaves unless the burden is lifted. The miracle is that God makes the true burden bearer strong by the process of carrying the burden for the lost. This burden is lifted, not by rest and in activity, but by unloading the heart's great concern for poor sinners in personal appeals for their salvation.
Closely associated with me in my minis try is a man who is a living example of this passion for the lost. The great passion of his life is to speak to sinners about their personal salvation. I have been with this brother in many different places, under many varying circumstances. He consistently takes an active interest in other people. I have been with him on railroad trains, roaring across the American continent eastward and westward; I have been with him on the streets of large American cities, and he is ever alert to introduce the subject of salvation to every man he meets. Even in out-of-the-way places he does not forget the ministry of reconciliation to which God has called him.
One day while we were taking pictures on the observation platform near the summit of the Washington Monument, I observed him speaking intently to one of the visitors about eternal things. The man seemed quite interested. On another occasion we were crossing the Hudson River on a ferry, going into Manhattan. We stepped out of our car onto the deck, and this brother soon engaged one of the passengers in conversation about his soul's salvation. His approach was different from that employed by many of our workers, and yet it was very much the same. When circumstances made it possible to do so, he would introduce himself and pleasantly open the conversation. He would then tact fully change the tenor of the remarks to spiritual things and eventually would ask the question, "Are you a Christian?" This generally led to a discussion about the different churches, and finally this dear brother would make it known that he was a Seventh-day Adventist minister.
He has made many contacts for Christ in this way. I have heard some people criticize him, but I have no criticism for men like that. He went about his work carefully but nonetheless zealously. The Adventist ministry ought to be filled today with men who are on the alert to speak a word for Christ. On the trains, on the boats, on the planes, in our cars, on the streets of the great cities, everywhere, are men and women who are looking wistfully to heaven for light. Winsomely we must draw them. Kindly we must beseech them to come to the Saviour.
The brother to whom I refer is an evangelist and recently baptized between four and five hundred people in four or five campaigns. He is now the administrator of a mission field. He wrote to me the other day that they are taking seriously their goal of doubling the membership of the mission, which now stands at three or four thou sand.
The Zeal for Souls
We must have this burden for souls, brethren, if the work is to be finished. The Spirit of Christ activating our own spirit must impel and compel us to more effectual witnessing. I like the spirit of Paul, who wrote to the church of Corinth, "I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved." 2 Cor. 12:15. Even though the objects of Paul's labors of love should love him less for his earnest appeals and self- sacrificing efforts, he would not cease his loving ministrations in their behalf. He re solved to gather warmth from their cold ness and set their hearts on fire if he could, melting the icy indifference of worldly interest and care with the love and kindness of God.
Was not Paul's spirit the same as Christ's? "The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up," Christ said. The passion for souls consumed Jesus. When He was but thirty-one or thirty-two years of age, He was taken for a man much older in years. By unselfish interest in others and the wholehearted purpose to minister and not to be ministered unto, He acquired wisdom, knowledge, and power far beyond His years.
Peter had this same spirit. His zeal never flagged until, crucified with his head down ward, he paid the last full measure of devotion to the Christ who died for him.
Pioneers of this message had the same passion for souls. James White had it; Ellen G. White had it; Stephen N. Haskell had it; J. N. Andrews had it; Joseph Bates had it. Most of these workers were qualified primarily because they possessed this great urge to take the message of salvation to the lost. Generally speaking, the pioneers of this message were people of humble talents and education. Our early ministers did not then usually have academic degrees. If they had depended upon education and genius for their success, they would have been failures. There was one thing they did have, however; that was a passion for souls, and because they had this, they succeeded.
The pioneers of this message consecrated themselves to God to be used as His Spirit dictated. What they had in their hands they freely turned over for the Master's use. Like the great leader of the Exodus movement, Moses, they were humble men, meek men, the meekest men in the world, educated in the stern and cruel realities of a hard existence.
You remember God said to Moses on the eve of Israel's deliverance from Egypt, "What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod." Ex. 4:2. Then the Lord said, "Take this rod in thine hand, wherewith thou shalt do signs." Verse 17. And with that simple rod Moses did signs and wonders. With it he delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage and performed many mighty miracles in the name of Jehovah. In a similar manner the pioneers of this movement wrought signs and wonders for God in the work of calling out a remnant from the world in these last days of time. Our business is to carry on to completion the work they began.
God Promises Success
Perhaps the most pointed promises that God has ever made to the soul winner are found in a thrilling passage of Scripture in the Old Testament. God assured Israel that if they were faithful in keeping His commandments, they would have remarkable success against their enemies on the field of battle.
"Ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before your sword. And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight: and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword. For I will have respect unto you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you. ... I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people." Lev. 26:7-12.
Now, here is a glorious promise. The enemies of the Lord were to fall before them, even though Israel was greatly outnumbered. Five men were to be stronger in the Spirit's power than one hundred men opposing them. On the same basis of calculation one faithful Israelite would be capable of chasing twenty Philistines. But notice, as the number of faithful soldiers increases, the number of enemies routed by the sword also increases. Five Israelites chase an hundred. But an hundred put ten thousand to flight. When the number of faithful soldiers increases to one hundred, then the ratio is one to one hundred and. not one to twenty. Here is an increase of 500 per cent a remarkable achievement.
What is the reason for this tremendous multiplication of power and blessing? First of all, it is Heaven's endorsement of Israel's faithfulness. Second, it is the stamp of Heaven's recognition placed upon growing numbers of faithful witnesses. The influence of the church increases as the number of faithful soul winners increases hence the importance of every man's catching the vision of the work and laying bare his shoulders to receive the burden for souls. Heaven's way of recognizing faithfulness is to multiply the resources that are consecrated to God. If the pastors and evangelists and conference workers are all soul winners, the church members will catch the vision and go to work for God too.
How God Uses the "Little" We Have
What do we have in our hands, brethren? What talents do we possess for service? With the simple means available and with consecrated hearts, God will do signs and wonders for us.
The poor widow had very little in her hands only two mites but she gave them to God. Those two mites were multiplied under the blessing of Heaven, and have done more to stimulate sacrifice in the church than any other single offering in the history of the world.
Do you remember the peasant boy with the five loaves and the two fishes? Not very much, was it? But when he surrendered his possessions to Christ for service, Christ honored the boy's gift and multiplied the loaves and the fishes until over five thou sand people had been fed.
What was it that Shamgar had in his hand? Nothing but an oxgoad. But with that oxgoad six hundred Philistines were slain. With a consecrated instrument in the hands of a consecrated man God wrought signs and wonders.
What was it that David had in his hand? Nothing but a slingshot and a few smooth stones from the creek. One deadly little missile made its way to the head of Goliath, dropping the giant in his tracks and quickly ending the dispute between Philistia and Israel. The great victory was wrought through the consecrated talents .of David, energized by the power of God.
"What do you have to offer, Gideon?" "Three hundred men, Lord." "What are you going to do with them?" "Whatever you -say, Lord, but we don't have much to work with, only a few pitchers and lamps and trumpets."
"All right, Gideon, with those three hundred men and those consecrated pitchers, lamps, and trumpets I will deliver you from the hand of the Midianites."
You know what happened. God wrought a great deliverance through the consecrated zeal of this small band of three hundred men.
A much larger work is to be done in our day than was accomplished by Israel of old and by the pioneers of the Advent Movement. A vastly more expansive work is to be wrought in our time than was realized by the apostles in the early Christian church, for all the world is to hear our message. Every creature is to be warned. Signs and wonders are to follow the believers. But, again, we cannot win souls without a passion for souls.
If our hearts are sterile and lifeless, without a living compassion and love for dying sinners, then we need to exercise repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We must then repent of this lethargy of the spirit, just as we would seek forgiveness for any sin against God, praying that the divine Spirit will lay upon our hearts a woe if we preach not the gospel of God.
A passion for souls! How much we each need it as we face the challenging task of doubling our membership! How earnestly we ought to pray for it as workers and apply ourselves to the business of finding it! Soon God will pour out upon His church the Holy Spirit in latter-rain power. The men who will receive this divine unction will be men with a passion for souls. We do not want to be left out when the "times of refreshing" fall upon the ministry of the church. God help us now to prepare ourselves for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit for the finishing of the work.