Some time ago I heard about a man who lived in Murfreesboro, Arkansas. His home was on a little piece of land situated on a rocky mountainside. He and his wife and children lived in an old log cabin lacking most of the modern-day facilities. The impoverished rocky soil made it difficult to raise even food enough for the family.
One day a man drove up to the little cabin in a big, shiny black limousine. After a few opening remarks he said, "How much would you take for your place?"
"Why," the man answered, "it is not for sale."
"But," the man in the big limousine continued, "just suppose you did want to sell it, what sort of price would you put on it?"
The answer was, "Oh, I would ask far more than you or anyone else would be willing to pay for such a miserable, poor piece of land as this."
"Well," the man persisted, "how much would you take?"
The reply was, "You wouldn't pay me five hundred dollars for a place like this, and no one else would either."
The man answered, "You come to the courthouse tomorrow morning, and I will give you five hundred dollars in cash."
The owner couldn't believe his ears. The next day he was at the courthouse. The papers were signed, and after the title had been changed and the place no longer be longed to the original owner, the mountaineer asked this man: "Why did you, a smart city man, pay such a ridiculous price for this worthless piece of land?"
The new owner then said: "Your little place is the only spot in North America where diamonds can be found. I now own the land, you no longer own it. You sold a valuable piece altogether too cheap."
Our Most Important Work
I am fearful that oftentimes we as ministers are undervaluating the priceless thing we have, present truth, and we are bartering it for far too cheap a price.
There are many, many activities that we, as part of a world movement, must promote and foster. Is it possible that we often allow these things, important as they are, to take the place of the principal responsibilities of a minister's calling? The task of proclaiming present truth is the beautiful work of drawing men and women from the world and preparing them for the great Second Advent and a place in God's kingdom. Ours is a work of reconciliation the sweetest task, the most precious work, to which man could possibly be called.
"And all things are of God,-who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation. . . . Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." 2 Cor. 5:18-20.
Do we sometimes allow this priceless gift that has been entrusted to us, the ministry of reconciliation, of standing in Christ's stead, beseeching men and women to accept deliverance through Him, to take second place to some of the many and varied activities of the movement? I do not wish to be misunderstood, for I am wholeheartedly in favor of all our denominational goals and efforts, but let us make sure that they are never allowed to overshadow the precious work of reconciliation.
No monarch sitting on his throne ever occupied so exalted a position as do God's ministers of righteousness. We stand in the place of the King of all the universe. He carries a royal decree from God Himself, and therefore He speaks with the authority of His Father, and we as His ambassadors speak with the authority of the One who is our king.
We read in The Desire of Ages, page 291:
"Jesus had called His disciples that He might send them forth as His witnesses, to declare to the world what they had seen and heard of Him. Their office was the most important to which human beings had ever been called, and was second only to that of Christ Himself." (Italics supplied.)
On page 297 we find:
"He who called the fishermen of Galilee is still calling men to His service. . . . He invites us to come under the divine instruction, that, uniting with Christ, we may work the works of God."
Putting First Things First
Is there not a danger of our unconsciously selling our time and labors far too cheaply? I am not advocating that we lessen our activity in behalf of the denominational program, but that we put first things first. Let us keep our eyes steadfastly fixed upon the "high and holy calling" to which we have been called. In Gospel Workers, page 13, we read:
"In Christ's stead they are to beseech men and women to be reconciled to God; and they can ful fill their mission only as they receive wisdom and power from above."
Another statement, from Special Testimonies, Series A, No. 8, pages 24, 25:
"Will our brethren bear in mind that we are living amid the perils of the last days?. . . Let dis courses be short, spiritual, elevated. Let the preacher be full of the word of the Lord. Let every man who enters the pulpit know that he has angels from heaven in his audience. And when these angels empty from themselves the golden oil of truth into the heart of him who is teaching the word, then the application of the truth will be a solemn, serious matter. ... A man may lavish all the treasures of his learning, he may exhaust the moral energies of his nature, and yet accomplish nothing, because he himself has not received the golden oil from the heavenly messengers. . . . The tidings of joy and hope must come from heaven. Learn, O learn of Jesus what it means to abide in Christ. If the Christian minister receives the golden oil, he has life; and where there is life, there is no stagnation, no dwarfed experience. There is constant growth to the full stature of Christ Jesus. If we have a deep, growing experience in heavenly things, we walk with the Lord, as did Enoch." (Italics supplied.)
This, my brethren, is the type of ministry to which God is calling you and me, and if we enter into such an experience, if we receive the golden oil that the angels from heaven are emptying from their hearts into ours, then there will be "no stagnation, no dwarfed experience."
That great expanse of territory lying along the headwaters of the Amazon and Orinoco rivers in Venezuela and Colombia is known as the llanos. At certain seasons of the year the low, flat country is flooded with water, which becomes sluggish and stagnant. The people living in those low lands earnestly hope and pray for a storm to come that will stir the old stagnant water. As a result of the stirring, the waters become agitated and purified and start flowing to the great rivers, eventually reaching the sea. And so, my friends, we must be stirred, stirred mightily by the Spirit and power of God and by the importance of the truth that we are teaching, that we may never become stagnant pools, but rather life-giving springs of living water, adding new hope and spiritual strength to those to whom we minister.
You will recall the experience of the disciples at Pentecost. We read in Acts 2:1-4:
"And when the day of Pentecost was fully come they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance."
A Wonderful Prayer
Some years ago I read a recorded prayer offered by Spurgeon, that great man of God. After quoting the preceding verses, Spurgeon prayed as follows:
"O God, send us the Holy Ghost in this fashion. Give us both the breath of spiritual life and the fire of unconquerable zeal, till nation after nation shall yield to the sway of Jesus. O Thou, who art our God, answer us by fire, we pray Thee. Answer us both by wind and fire, and then we shall see Thee to be God indeed. The kingdom comes not and the work is flagging. O that Thou wouldst send the wind and the fire! Thou wilt do this when we are all of one accord, all believing, all expecting, all prepared by prayer. Lord, bring us to this wait ing state! Oh for a sweep of the wind that will set the seas in motion, and make us ironclad Brethren, now lying so quietly at anchor, to roll from stem to stern! Oh for the fire to fall again fire which shall affect the most stolid! Oh, that such fire might first sit upon the disciples, and then fall on all around! O Spirit of God, Thou art ready to work with us today even as Thou didst then. Stay not, we beseech Thee, but work at once. Break down every barrier that hinders the incoming of Thy might! Overturn, overturn, O sacred Wind! Consume all obstacles, O Heavenly Fire! Give us now both hearts of flame and tongues of fire to preach Thy reconciliating Word for Jesus' sake! Amen."
Are we ready to pray such a prayer? Are we courageous enough to ask for such an experience?
Here are statements from the pen of Mrs. E. G. White:
"God calls for men of undaunted courage, men full of hope and faith and trust, who rejoice in the thought of the final triumph, refusing to be hindered by obstacles." Review and Herald, Feb. 18, 1904.
"We are in great need of large-hearted, level headed men, men whose daily life shows plainly that they have been with Jesus, and have learned of Him, men who, when called to bear burdens, do not complain, but move cheerfully forward, singing, yes, making melody in their hearts to the Lord." Ibid., March 24, 1904.
"The work of God demands true, staunch, whole hearted, spiritual-minded men who are in earnest, and who have a clear understanding of what is truth, men who are not fashioned after a worldly mold. . . . Men are needed who acknowledge Christ as their Master; who realize, as did Elijah and Jeremiah, that they hold their commission from God, and that they are accountable to Him for the use they make of the talents entrusted to them. Men are needed who can speak intelligently of the sacredness and importance of the truth, men who can point their fellow men to the needs of the present hour, men who have an inspiring message to bear against perverted principles, and who watch for souls as they that must give an account." Ibid., June 30, 1904.
Our eyes, my co-workers, must be fixed upon the great and high calling to which God has called us. We must never lose sight of the goal that He has set before us. We must not be like the man plowing the field who, wanting his furrows to be straight, fixed his eyes upon an object on the other side of the field. The horses started to pull, and he plowed a long time. At last he realized that he had been plowing in a semicircle. What was the trouble? He had had his eyes fixed upon a moving object, and as a result his furrows were not straight. My friends, the truth of God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. If we fix our eyes upon that marvelous truth and upon the One who is the center of that truth, Christ Himself, and refuse to be side tracked by any other attraction, refuse to allow our time to be taken up with the many things on every hand, but look steadfastly to "Him, then our furrows will be straight and our work will be approved of God.
I consider it a great privilege to have a part in this glorious work of reconciliation, and my prayer is (as I know yours is) that we as ministers may prove to be true as steel true to the message, true to the high calling, true to the confidence that God has in us. Let us make first things first. Let us not barter too cheaply the wonderful gift that God has placed in our hands the ministry of reconciliation.