Courage for the Crisis
JAMES E. CHASE Associate Secretary, General Conference Radio and Television Department
Nothing could stop the early Christian church in its great crusade for Christ. Not poverty they bore it cheerfully. Not persecution they smiled at their persecutors and prayed for them. Not prisons the Christians sang at midnight and won the hearts of their captors. Not even death they faced it unflinchingly. What was the source of this unbounded courage? It was an outgrowth of the inner moral reinforcements resulting from lives completely dedicated to God.
Note the courage in Paul's testimony regarding the early Christians: "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed" (2 Cor. 4:8, 9). That they recognized the source of their courage is evident from reading verse 16: "For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day." That was and still is the prescription for fearful hearts.
Look at the bold God-fearing heroes of the past. Were they not men who were "as true to duty as the needle to the pole"? Were they not men who, at their best, hated nothing but sin and loved nothing but righteousness; men who were not afraid to look the devil in the face and call him a devil; men who feared to trust their own sinful selves and thus trusted Jesus completely?
Take Joshua for instance. Entrusted with the responsibility of leading Israel into Ca naan, he permitted God to give him the characteristics of greatness that were necessary for success. "Courageous, resolute, and persevering, prompt, incorruptible, unmindful of selfish interests in his care for those committed to his charge, and, above all, inspired by a living faith in God, such was the character of the man divinely chosen to con duct the armies of Israel in their entrance upon the promised land." Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 481.
Whence came his holy boldness and other great characteristics? They were the result of daily dethroning self and enthroning the Lord. In his heart reigned an undefeated and unconquerable King. No wonder Joshua was courageous! "God cannot use men who, in time of peril, when the strength, courage, and influence of all are needed, are afraid to take a firm stand for the right. He calls for men who will do faithful battle against wrong, warring against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. It is to such as these that He will speak the words: 'Well done, good and faithful servant; . . . enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.'" Prophets and Kings, p. 142.
Contagion of Courage
One of the choicest souls in the New Testament is Barnabas a name that means "son of consolation," or "son of encouragement." To shake hands with him was to be "lifted up," to be charged with courage. To hear his ringing, cheerful voice was to gain a new lease on life. His solid faith in God, his strong confidence in the church, his hatred of sin and love of righteousness, made him a positive, dynamic character. His presence spread optimism, faith, courage, boldness. The "son of consolation" we need more like him! Discouragement pleases Satan, saddens the angels, dishonors God, disheartens associates, weakens the soul, and brings reproach upon the church. But holy courage terrifies Satan, makes the angels rejoice, honors God, fills associates with boldness, strengthens the soul, and builds up the cause of God.
Courage is contagious! And in this hour when the hearts of the men of the world are failing them for fear, and certain church members tempt the Lord by saying, "Is the Lord among us or not?" there needs to be a real epidemic of courage among ministers. Let it spread throughout our ranks and infect our laymen also.
Think of David. In one respect he be longs to a very special class: "But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God" (1 Sam. 30:6). It is one thing to be a Barnabas to inspire courage in others. But it is far greater to be able to encourage oneself. David did just that. The battle had gone against him. Friends had forsaken him. Associates had lost confidence in him. "But David encouraged himself," not by blaming others, nor by magnifying the difficulty of the situation. He faced the issue squarely and "encouraged himself in the Lord."
Confidence in the Brethren
The spirit that characterized Mrs. E. G. White's life and labors during the closing years of her ministry is beautifully epitomized by one of her copyists, who wrote to her son, W. C. White, on December 23, 1914: "I do not find her discouraged . . . over the general outlook throughout the harvest field where her brethren are laboring. She seems to have strong faith in God's power to overrule, and to bring to pass His eternal purpose through the efforts of those whom He has called to act a part in His great work. . . . "Faith in God's power to sustain her through the many weaknesses attendant on old age; faith in the precious promises of God's word; faith in her brethren who bear the burden of the work; faith in the final triumph of the third angel's message, this is the full faith your mother seems to enjoy every day and every hour. ... A faith such as this would inspire any one who could witness it." Quoted in Life Sketches, pp. 436, 437.
If we can say, "Blessed is the courage bringer," even more blessed is the person who can encourage himself, as did David in his plight, as did Mrs. White during her long life of service. Sometimes others fail us and friends forsake us. Brethren may unintentionally be unsympathetic. Then, in deed, is the man called "blessed" who can encourage himself in the Lord his God just when commendations have been turned into condemnations and "hurrahs" into hisses.
God never fails. "My strength is made perfect in weakness." With Christ ruling from the throne of our hearts, we can testify along with the early church: "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed."
Love on Trial
MARJORIE LEWIS LLOYD Bible Instructor, Northern California Conference
I wonder what would happen if all the modern Peters, shepherds commissioned to feed the sheep, should be called one by one into the presence of the Saviour and asked the heartsearching question, "Lovest thou me?"
If the credentials of ministers and Bible instructors expired every four years, to be renewed only after examination, not before a conference committee, but before Him who reads the heart, what would be the result?
Our love is on trial before God. Do we pass Peter's examination? Peter's test was not an easy one. It involved so much. The Saviour did not stop with the question, "Lovest thou me?" He reached down into the inner recesses of Peter's heart when He asked, "Lovest thou me more than these?"
Today the Saviour might put it this way: "Peter, do you still feel that you are a more devoted, more spiritual preacher than your fellow workers? Do you really love Me, Peter? Or is your love tainted with a love of self, a desire to be first? Do you really long to be filled with My Spirit? Or is it be honest, Peter a desire to be recognized as a Spirit-filled man?" Not so easy, after all. And the second page of Peter's questionnaire is no less difficult than the first. "Feed my sheep." Simple words that go so deep! For no shepherd can truly feed the sheep unless he first loves them. He may pour out a quota of information every Sabbath morning. But the food is totally indigestible without love. And love is one thing that modern science cannot synthesize.
And so, Peter, do you love the sheep? Do you love them because they are lost and need to be found, because they need to be kept safe in the fold? Or do you love the sheep because of what they can do for you, for your reputation as a shepherd?
These questions need thought, and prayer, and the deepest of heart searching. How can we answer them casually when they are the hardest questions God could ask us? Do we love God? Do we love the people? Or do we love ourselves?
The Law of Love
What a striking similarity we find in Peter's examination and that great eternal law before which we all are judged! Did not the Master express it also in terms of love to God and love to man? Peter, do you have any other gods? Do houses, or automobiles, or anything else come between you and your God? Do you have any graven images? Are you, like Nebuchadnezzar, building a great image in your heart in which you are supreme? Do you require your church members and those who work with you to help build this image of popularity with their praise? Are you unhappy when another minister is commended, jealous when he succeeds, almost angry when you see in him the reflection of the Master's character?
Peter, have you taken the name of God in vain? Have you taken lightly the call to the ministry? Or can one see in your very face that you regard the ministry as a most sacred calling? Could your own daughter say of your sermon, "It seemed that God was speaking to me, not Daddy"? Are you a Sabbathkeeper? As a minister, you know that the seal of God will never be placed upon hearts that are not trans formed into His image. How much of the image of Jesus is reflected in your life, and in mine? How much do men see in us of the patience, the understanding, the forgiveness, the tenderness, the constant, unchanging love of the Master? Page two, Peter. Do you honor your father and mother?
How about the fathers and mothers in Israel? How about those who no longer can contribute to the church, either in money or in time? Does your hand shake on Sabbath morning betray your in sincerity? Do you push them along with the handshake, fearful that they might take a moment of your time? Or does the warmth of your friendship help them to know that God loves and needs them still? "Thou shall not kill." Are you an u converted Peter, quick to cut off another's ear? Or are you a converted disciple, every where saying, "Such as I have give I thee"? Is yours a saving, healing influence, or a destroying one?
Is the atmosphere about you permeated with the Master's love? Or is it saturated with the evil aroma of criticism, tearing down, eagerness to destroy everything that you yourself have not built? And the seventh, Peter. If you really love the sheep, have you given them the price less gift of a shepherd they can respect? Stealing in the ministry? Are you careful always to protect the good name of your fellow ministers? Do you steadfastly refuse to pass on the rumor that might steal away your brother's good name, even though it may be true, and even though that brother may have wronged you? Or are you a person of quick and changing prejudices, critical of your brother's theology, his methods, his life, his wife, his personality, his nationality, his spirituality until your family and those closest to you can find scarcely a worker left in whom you have not destroyed their confidence? Number nine, Peter. Are you bearing false witness? Are you classing your church members as unstable, neurotic, lacking in spirituality and doing it for personal, trivial reasons? Do you think of prospective members as poor material because their economic level is not like yours?
Do you accuse members and visitors of not loving the Lord because they do not participate in every activity you promote? Have you a right to bear false witness against these who may have hearts as true as yours? Or the other extreme. Do you praise the church, or your fellow workers, in such glowing, unequivocal terms that they have a right to question your sincerity? Oh, for more solid, middle-of-the-road, honest Peters with confidence in their fellow work ers, their witness always true, always fair, always sincere, coming from a heart conscious that its words are being recorded in heaven! Self-centered Motives And Peter, you covet only the best gifts, I know. But why do you covet- them? You plead for the latter rain. Do you want it to fall now, anywhere, everywhere, so we can go home? Or do you daydream about what men would say, what the back page of the Review would say, if the latter rain should start with you? Do you picture yourself with the gift of healing, the wondering crowds about you? How wonderful the latter rain would be if it should start with you on trial before God. If it passes the test, we may soon go home. If it fails "Only those who have withstood temptation in the strength of the Mighty One will be permitted to act a part in preaching it [the third angel's message] when it shall have swelled into the loud cry." Review and Herald, Nov. 19, 1908.
Peter, Andrew, James, John, Lydia all of us must meet successfully the temptations wrapped up with popularity, success, records, write-ups, and the rest. When God comes to Simon Peter's name, He will not send angels down to one or two conference offices to look over his reports. The number of sermons may not count, or the originality of his methods. God will not come into a meeting of some union conference committee and ask what kind of man he is, what his record is. The all-important questions will be these: What sort of love has he? Does he love God? Does he love the people?
More important than records will be the hours he spent far into the night with the alcoholic who needed help, the times he took the sick to the hospital without be grudging the minutes or the hours, the patience in his voice when a sinner fallen seven times called once more to him for help. God will remember the Bible studies given to those already baptized, whose numbers wouldn't count on his report. God will remember the hours of decision as he knelt beside some sinning soul, conscious that only the Spirit of God could lead him to decide for the Saviour.
God will remember the clear, unhindered channel through which He could speak, the life unmarred by flippant words, the undivided heart ever humble in the consciousness of a most sacred calling. God will remember the prayers of men like Moses, caring not to be made a great nation, caring only that their people may be written in the book And Thine be the glory!
The Infinite Resources o£ the Christian Worker—Part II
Ordinary Men Transformed Into Extraordinary Soul Winners
CARLYLE B. HAYNES Secretary, War Services and Industrial Relations
The apostles of our Lord were ordinary men as we are, men of trade, peasants, fishermen. They were without superior gifts, average men, with little learning, nothing to make them stand out from the crowd.
They were made into extraordinary men by the Holy Spirit, as we may be. They be came skillful and proficient in dealing with the profoundest facts of life. They were made able to stir the deepest emotions of men's souls. They dared to challenge the highest earthly authorities. They even rebuked, in some instances, the very laws of nature. They became marvelously successful winners of souls.
And all this was true because by the Holy Spirit their own powers were heightened and enlarged so that they were able to measure up to any need that confronted them. In addition, they became channels through which the mighty power and energy of the Godhead passed directly to needy men and difficult situations and impossible problems. It is my opinion that the hour has fully come for a renewed emphasis to be put upon the Bible teaching concerning the Holy Spirit. The conditions we face, and that our people and our cause face, in our social, economic, moral, and religious lives, cannot be met and solved in the wisdom and ability of man.
We need not seek to solve them in this manner while the infinitude of wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit is available to us. All our mighty efforts in organization, and advertising, and man power, and preaching, are without value, quite futile, if they are done in the energy of the flesh, without the presence and aid of the Holy Spirit. It is no use to preach if we are destitute of the Spirit, and such preaching accomplishes nothing. This we have been solemnly told in these words: "The Holy Spirit was the highest of all gifts that He [Jesus] could solicit from His Father for the exaltation of His people. . . . The preaching of the word will be of no avail without the continual presence and aid of the Holy Spirit.
This is the only effectual teacher of divine truth. Only when the truth is accompanied to the heart by the Spirit, will it quicken the conscience or transform the life. One might be able to present the letter of the word of God, he might be familiar with all its commands and promises; but unless the Holy Spirit sets home the truth, no souls will fall on the Rock and be broken. No amount of education, no advantages, however great, can make one a channel of light without the co-operation of the Spirit of God. The sowing of the gospel seed will not be a success unless the seed is quickened into life by the dew of heaven." The Desire of Ages, pp. 671, 672. I have no disposition to discount the skills, the abilities, the advantages, o£ men, both natural and acquired. We are to recognize, however, that all these things, lifted as they may be to the very highest level, are insufficient, altogether inadequate, to accomplish the saving purpose of God in the human heart.
The very highest acquirements of education and training fall short of being able to effectively preach God's Word. Excellent as these qualities and talents are, they are useless in the work of God when not surrendered to, working with, and accompanied by, the gift of the Divine Spirit. All these gifts and talents and acquirements are made useful only as the Spirit of God employs them for His own purposes. Then, and only then, is the full purpose of God achieved in the work of winning souls. "The Holy Spirit, the representative of Himself, is the greatest of all gifts. All 'good things' are comprised in this. T
he Creator Himself can give us nothing greater, nothing better." Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 189. Unfortunately, however, it has been the tendency of Christian workers, during all the centuries, to turn their eyes and hearts away from the Spirit, and reach out for and employ some gift, or ability, or talent, or acquirement of their own. It is our tend ency now. We come to use, and then to rely on for success in our sacred work, the energies of the flesh, turning away from our real and only source of power, the Spirit. The result is always inevitable and always the same. The work of God languishes and becomes crippled. It is no longer the work of God. It becomes the work of men. "The promise of the Spirit is not appreciated as it should be.
Its fulfillment is not realized as it might be. It is the absence of the Spirit that makes the gospel ministry so powerless. Learning, talents, eloquence, every natural or acquired endowment, may be possessed; but without the presence of the Spirit of God, no heart will be touched, no sinner be won to Christ. On the other hand, if they are connected with Christ, if the gifts of the Spirit are theirs, the poorest and most ignorant of His disciples will have a power that will tell upon hearts. God makes them the channel for the outworking of the highest influence in the universe." Christ's Object Lessons, p. 328. A Thrilling Story In all my reading I have come across no more thrilling story in all human history than that of the conflict and conquest of the establishment of the Christian church in the world. Beginning with a few followers, Jesus inaugurated a movement that soon came to be the most powerful influence for God in all the world. When He left His cause in the hands of others, He had gathered about 120 into a company or congregation that was known as the church at Jerusalem. His followers, greatly dis heartened and discouraged at His death, certainly needed power for the stupendous task He left for them to do. That need was foreseen, and abundantly supplied. Jesus was dead and buried. The popular mind was not favorable toward the gospel message. The rulers and the people had put Him to death. It looked as though the case was closed. The disciples were disheartened. Then Jesus was raised. The disciples were directed to tarry for power to come upon them. And at Pentecost the world had such a demonstration of the power of God over the lives and hearts of men that the testimony of the disciples, as they witnessed, was overpowering. The people instinctively believed. "With great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus." This power had been promised (Acts 1:8). The promise was kept, the power given. They were given power in preaching. Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost does not appear to be a great one. It is a simple recital of the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel, that the time would come when God would pour out His Spirit upon men, and a mention of the central facts concerning Jesus. But the Holy Spirit was in it (Acts 2:37). Three thousand were converted by that sermon. Spiritual dynamite was detonated. "The presence of the Spirit with God's workers will give the proclamation of truth a power that not all the honor or glory of the world could give.
"With the consecrated worker for God, in what ever place he may be, the Holy Spirit abides. The words spoken to the disciples are spoken also to us. The Comforter is ours as well as theirs. The Spirit furnishes the strength that sustains striving, wrestling souls in every emergency, amidst the hatred of the world, and the realization of their own failures and mistakes. In sorrow and affliction, when the out look seems dark and the future perplexing, and we feel helpless and alone, these are the times when, in answer to the prayer of faith, the Holy Spirit brings comfort to the heart." The Acts of the Apostles, p. 51.
The Same Agency to Act at the Close
The power which was manifest in the preaching of the apostles at Pentecost continued. The record is plain (Acts 8:5-8, 29; 10:44; 16:14; 1 Cor. 2:4). This was the agency that accompanied and made effectual the preaching at the beginning. It is the agency that is to accomplish the completion of the gospel. When it is absent, when the Holy Spirit is lacking in our ministry, how sterile, how futile, our preaching becomes! "No one can tell how much is lost by attempting to preach without the unction of the Holy Spirit. There are souls in every congregation who are hesitating, almost persuaded to be wholly for God.
The decision is being made for time and for eternity; but it is too often the case that the minister has not the spirit and power of the message of truth in his own heart, hence no direct appeals are made to those souls that are trembling in the balance. The result is that impressions are not deepened upon the hearts of the convicted ones; and they leave the meeting feeling less inclined to accept the service of Christ than when they came. They decide to wait for a more favorable opportunity; but it never comes. That godless discourse, like Cain's offering, lacked the Saviour. The golden opportunity is lost, and the cases of these souls are decided. Is not too much at stake to preach in an indifferent manner, and with out feeling the burden of souls?" Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 447. What a dreadful responsibility rests upon the Christian worker! But it is a responsibility that can be carried, and success fully carried. There is no reason why ordinary workers now shall not be made into extraordinary workers for God. "The lapse of time has wrought no change in Christ's departing promise to send the Holy Spirit as His representative.
It is not because of any restriction on the part of God that the riches of His grace do not flow earthward to men. If the fulfillment of the promise is not seen as it might be, it is because the promise is not appreciated as it should be. If all were willing, all would be filled with the Spirit." The Acts of the Apostles, p. 50. (Italics supplied.) We have all kinds of workers average, above average, below average. But the fact that we should grasp is that we may all be better workers than we now are. God can do more through us than we have yet seen accomplished. Greater results should be characterizing our ministry every day we live. God can, and will if we let Him, make ordinary workers into extraordinary ones. "If all were willing, all would be filled with the Spirit." Does that mean anything to you?