Concentrating All on the Ministry

FEATURES: Concentrating All on the Ministry

Truthfully they said, "Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee."

General Conference Vice-President

When the Lord called His disciples they left what they were doing and followed Him. Of the fishermen He called the rec ord says, "Straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him." Mark 1:18. There is no suggestion that the disciples now began dividing their time between following the Master and fishing. It was only when they became discouraged, and faith in their Master had failed, that the former fishermen returned to their fishing. The Lord's intention was that all their skills, all their time, and all their energies should henceforth be devoted to Heaven's high calling catching men for the kingdom of God. This was to be a full-time task. There was to be no time for anything else; they were not to be men of divided allegiance. Truthfully they said, "Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee."

In writing to his younger companion in the work, the apostle Paul makes a pathetic statement in 2 Timothy 4:10: "For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world." Here was a man of divided allegiance. He had heard and felt the force of the divine call to service, and had responded. But he had worldly interests that he could not entirely forsake. Just what these were we do not know. It is evident, however, that he did not become a man of a single purpose. Finally the lesser drew him away from the greater.

One of the all-too-successful devices of the enemy to neutralize the effectiveness and usefulness of a worker is to lead him to divide his attention. This division of time and attention between his spiritual calling and material interests has been the undoing of many workers who started out to wield a mighty influence in the cause of God. The apostle Paul was greatly concerned that Timothy, for whom he had a tender affection, should not become an en cumbered minister, one whose zeal and devotion to God's work should be tempered by love for material gain. Therefore he writes him the ringing words: "No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier." 2 Tim. 2:4. A commentator on this text says:

"The legionary soldiers, among the Romans, were not permitted to engage in husbandry, merchandise, mechanical employment, or anything that might be inconsistent with their calling. [Rome knew the value of soldiers fully dedicated to their calling.] Many canons, at different times, have been made to prevent ecclesiastics from intermeddling with secular employments. He who will preach the gospel thoroughly and wishes to give full proof of his ministry, has need to have no other work. He should be wholly in this thing, that his profiting may appear unto all." ADAM CLARKE.

The question of side lines does not ap pear to be a phenomenon limited to our day. This "intermeddling" on the part of ecclesiastics seems to have been a problem of the Christian church of earlier years. It is a sad spectacle at any time to see one who has taken upon him the spiritual armor of a soldier of Christ entangled with the affairs of this present life to the decided detriment of his spiritual warfare. The call of God is to a full-time task. Writing to Timothy in another place, the apostle says, after review ing his responsibility as a gospel worker, "Attend to these duties, let them absorb you, so that all men may note your progress. Watch yourself and watch your teaching; stick to your work; if you do that, you will save your hearers as well as yourself." 1 Tim. 4:15, 16, Moffatt.*

Not only God, but his hearers, expect the gospel worker to stick to his work. When he does not they are sure to note it and to be influenced by his conduct. People cannot understand how an Adventist worker can spend part of his time proclaiming the imminence of the Lord's coming and devote the remainder to preparing for an indefi nite and comfortable sojourn here in this world, that he has just said is doomed very soon to utter destruction!

It cannot be urged legitimately that the worker's income from the organization is insufficient and that he must supplement it by outside activity. With our wonderful plan for the support of workers, Seventh- day Adventist laborers have the least excuse of any for engaging in side lines. As far as I have been able to see, taking all factors into consideration, our workers in other lands are equally well cared for. Sister White wrote years ago, before our excellent plan of caring for -workers was as well developed as now:

"As regards temporal things, they [workers] have a better portion than their Lord, and better than His chosen disciples whom He sent forth to save perishing men." Testimonies, vol. 2, p. 345.

In volume 5, page 531, we read:

"Especially should the minister keep himself from every worldly entanglement and bind himself to the Source of all power, that he may represent correctly what it means to be a Christian. He should cut loose from everything that would in any way divert his mind from God and the great work for this time."

In the writings of the Spirit of prophecy there are many such references admonishing workers to cut loose from every activity that would invite their attention from the great work to which they have been called and to which they are to be fully dedicated. In volume 2, page 623, appears this statement written to a worker who found time to devote to outside interests:

"You are sacrificing your reputation and your influence to an avaricious spirit. God's precious cause is reproached because of this spirit that has taken hold of its ministers. You are blinded, and do not see how peculiarly offensive to God these things are. If you have decided to go in and get all of the world you can, do so; but do not do it under cover of preaching Christ. Your time is either devoted to the cause of God or it is not. Your own interest has been paramount. The time that you should devote to the cause of God is devoted too much to your own personal concerns, and you receive, from the treasury of God, means that you do not earn."

From Gospel Workers, pages 339, 340, the following excerpts are quoted:

"The energies of the minister are all needed for his high calling. His best powers belong to God. He should not engage in speculation, or in any other business that would turn him aside from his great work. 'No man that warreth,' Paul declared, entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please Him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.' Thus the apostle emphasized the minister's need of unreserved consecration to the Master's service.

"The minister who is wholly consecrated to God refuses to engage in business that would hinder him from giving himself fully to his sacred calling. . . . Satan presented this inducement to Christ, knowing that if He accepted it, the world would never be ransomed. And under different guises he presents the same temptation to God's ministers to-day, knowing that those who are beguiled by it will be false to their trust."

These statements from the pen of inspiration are clear and explicit. They need little comment. Men and women called to labor in this cause are to be workers of a single allegiance. If they do their work faithfully, there will not be time for side lines. With the apostle Paul they say, "This one thing I do." In the first verse of his letter to the church in Rome he explicitly states his obligation as he understands it in relation to Christ and His cause. Romans 1:1 (Good- speed) reads, "Paul, the slave of Jesus Christ, called as an apostle, set apart to declare God's good news." Paul was a full-time gospel worker. He gave his entire time to its proclamation, and believed that the gospel plan included provision for the support of him who was dedicated to it. He said, "They which preach the gospel should live of the gospel"; hence, he considered himself set apart from all else "to declare God's good news."

In our own Working Policy, adopted by the entire denomination, appears the following:

"1. Our conference and institutional workers shall refrain from all side lines of business and give them selves wholly to denominational work and the min istry of the gospel." Page 47.

A few months ago I attended the funeral service of one of our aged workers who had given over half a century of service to this cause. Sometime before his death he had been requested by the General Conference to fill out a certain questionnaire. One of the questions asked was, "What other activities have you engaged in besides denominational work? The reply was, "I've engaged in no work but the Lord's." What a wonderful declaration for an Adventist worker to make at the close of his earthly career! Such a one is surely the bond servant of Jesus Christ, separated unto the gospel of Christ. May we be such workers.



* From The Bible: A New Translation by James Moffatt, copyrighted 1922, 1935, 1950, by Harper & Brothers. Used by permission

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General Conference Vice-President

March 1952

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