My text this morning is found in Revelation 17:14: "These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful."
While multitudes in most lands of earth contemplate what World War III could mean to modern civilization, and the statesmen of the nations hurry from one council to another in an endeavor to stabilize the affairs of state and bring order out of confusion, we as workers in the cause of God need to remind ourselves that the last great conflict between good and evil is nearly over. The dragon went to make war with the remnant church more than a century ago. If the angels were not holding the winds of strife, we would no doubt ere this have been plunged into World War III. God has commanded them to hold the winds until we have completed the task.
We see and hear the signs fulfilling about us. In fact, in many places our people are not only seeing but feeling the fulfillment of prophecy. Without question we are nearing the final scenes of the very last days of the controversy. The events of our day testify that the earth is waxing old and time is running out. There is no doubt in our minds this morning as to the fulfillment of prophecy. The text is a very plain statement, a declaration of a great fact: "The Lamb shall overcome them."
How good it is to have that assurance in our hearts as we press on with our work amid the terrible conditions of 1956. There are many things in the world today that would rob us of this assurance. May nothing ever come in to take this confidence of victory out of our hearts. As workers in the cause of God we want to remind ourselves daily that we are workers together with God. We will succeed in this great conflict, not because of our wisdom or resources, not because of our plans or resolutions, but because this is God's work and He is King of kings and Lord of lords. We will win because we are workers together with God.
Every provision has been made for our success in this conflict. I never read this gem in the book The Acts of the Apostles, page 29, but my mind thrills and my courage rises:
'Christ did not tell His disciples that their work would be easy. He showed them the vast confederacy of evil arrayed against them. They would have to fight 'against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.' But they would not be left to fight alone. He assured them that He would be with them; and that if they would go forth in faith, they should move under the shield of Omnipotence. He bade them be brave and strong; for One mightier than angels would be in their ranks,—the General of the armies of heaven. He made full provision for the prosecution of their work, and took upon Himself the responsibility of its success. So long as they obeyed His word, and worked in connection with Him, they could not fail. Go to all nations, He bade them. Go to the farthest part of the habitable globe, and be assured that My presence will be with you even there. Labor in faith and confidence; for the time will never come when I will forsake you. I will be with you always, helping you to perform your duty, guiding, comforting, sanctifying, sustaining you, giving you success in speaking words that shall draw the attention of others to heaven."
No, we are not left to fight alone. We can look back over the experiences of this movement and recount the many times it would have been overcome if God had not moved in by His mighty power. We can know in our personal experiences that only as help came from the courts of God have we ever been able to accomplish anything for Him.
Our work has grown to large proportions and has moved on from victory to victory. We have a vastly extended work with more problems and heavier burdens.
Some years ago I received this message on a postal card from a friendly minister of another denomination. It was when all missions in Japan were having serious problems. I shall always treasure this little poem:
"He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase.
To added affliction He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials His multiplied peace.
"When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father's full giving has only begun.
"His love has no limit, His grace has no measure,
His power boundary known unto men,
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again."
Yes, we believe we are nearing the final days of the work of God and that victory is sure. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. He has made every provision for the success of the work and assures us that we can be confident of victory as long as we march forward in faith with Him.
Will We Share in the Victory?
My concern this morning is not the outcome of the struggle; my concern is whether or not we are going to share in the victory. Let us never forget that it is possible to be a member of the church, a worker in the cause of God, a member of the General Conference Committee, or a worker in the General Conference office and yet miss the joy of final victory when the conflict is over. We can recall workers who have lost out in the struggle and are not with us today. They once marched with this people. They gave promise of success; but somewhere along the road they dropped out. We are not wiser than they were. We do not have more natural ability than they had. We may not love the work anymore than they did. But something came that caused them to stumble, and they lost their way. We need to be watchful and alert, for the devil is going around as a roaring lion, and he is going to deceive if possible the very elect.
The text says, "They that are with him [those who will stand at His side and share in the victory] are called, and chosen, and faithful." The call of God is sounding throughout the world today. Sometime, somewhere, you and I have heard that call. It may have been around the family altar in a Christian home, or while reading a book or tract or paper, or while listening to a sermon, or while attending an evangelistic service in one of our centers. Somewhere we have heard the call and accepted; that is why we are here this morning. If the call had not come, we would be elsewhere now. I am glad we have heard the call and have accepted it. We need to remind ourselves that every call that is extended to sinners to stand at the side of Christ Jesus in the great conflict has required sacrifice.
Our Father had to sacrifice by giving His Son. Our Saviour had to sacrifice by giving His life. The call of salvation could never have sounded without such fathomless sacrifice. We need to think continually of the price paid in the heavenly courts for our salvation. The enemy of souls was filled with amazement as he saw the willing sacrifice in man's behalf. Notice these words from the book The Desire of Ages (1940), pages 115, 116:
"Satan well knew the position that Christ had held in heaven as the Beloved of the Father. That the Son of God should come to this earth as a man filled him with amazement and with apprehension. He could not fathom the mystery of this great sacrifice. His selfish soul could not understand such love for the deceived race. The glory and peace of heaven, and the joy of communion with God, were but dimly comprehended by men; but they were well known to Lucifer."
We will better understand and more fully appreciate the price paid for our salvation if we go often to the garden where He spent that last night of agony.
"The awful moment had come—that moment which was to decide the destiny of the world. The fate of humanity trembled in the balance. Christ might even now refuse to drink the cup apportioned to guilty man. It was not yet too late. He might wipe the bloody sweat from His brow, and leave man to perish in his iniquity. He might say, Let the transgressor receive the penalty of his sin, and I will go back to My Father. Will the Son of God drink the bitter cup of humiliation and agony? Will the innocent suffer the consequences of the curse of sin, to save the guilty? The words fall tremblingly from the pale lips of Jesus, '0 My Father, if this cup may not pass away from Me, except I drink it, Thy will be done.'
"Three times has He uttered that prayer. Three times has humanity shrunk from the last, crowning sacrifice. But now the history of the human race conies up before the world's Redeemer. He sees that the transgressors of the law, if left to themselves, must perish. He sees the helplessness of man. He sees the power of sin. The woes and lamentations of a doomed world rise before Him. He beholds its impending fate, and His decision is made. He will save man at any cost to Himself."—ibid., pp, 690, 693.
Yes, a supreme sacrifice was made that the call of salvation might be given to the world. That sacrifice was made for us. It was our destiny that hung in the balance. The more we contemplate the sacrifice made for us, the more useful we will be in the cause of God; the more power we will have in rescuing sinners as we pass on to them the call of salvation.
Perhaps our greatest danger as workers in the cause of God today is that in the rush of business we will not spend the time we should at the foot of the cross beholding the matchless sacrifice made in our behalf.
"it would be well for us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ. We should take it point by point, and let the imagination grasp each scene, especially the closing ones. As we thus dwell upon His great sacrifice for us, our confidence in Him will be more constant, our love will be quickened, and we shall be more deeply imbued with His spirit. If we would be saved at last, we must learn the lesson of penitence and humiliation at the foot of the cross."—/bid., p. 83.
I do not want to embarrass anyone here this morning; I do not want to embarrass myself; but the quotation says it would be well to spend an hour a day at the foot of the cross. How many of us spend even a few minutes in our rush as we go forward in our work? And yet it is only at the foot of the cross that we learn true penitence and humiliation. We are glad we have heeded the call, but let us not forget the sacrifice required in order that the call might come to you and to me. Our work is to send that call to others. Every soul is to hear the call; but it will be through sacrifice. Someone sacrificed that you might hear the call.
I take my Bible. How much we love this Book! Men have sacrificed that I might have this Bible. Think of all the sacrifices that have been made down through the years by the characters recorded in this Book. They all made sacrifices that we might have the Sacred Record for our help today. Think of the men who labored so hard to translate the Book. Think of the men who became martyrs that the Bible might be written and passed on to us today. Now for a small price we can have this matchless gift. I like to read my Bible, and when I contemplate the sacrifices that were made that I might have this precious volume I prize it even more.
I greatly appreciate the writings of the Spirit of prophecy. What a help they are to us! I appreciate them even more when contemplate the sacrifice that was made that they might be written and given to the church today.
One Convert to Report
A minister came to our district in Montana and spent the winter holding meetings, giving studies, and visiting homes. When he had finished I think the conference committee may have considered whether he was a profitable worker or not. After all was summed up he had one convert to report—only one. Someone had paid the tithe that supported that minister those months and paid his expenses. The man himself had braved a cold winter; he had labored hard. He had endured ridicule, and he did it all that one soul might accept the call. I do not know how the committee looked upon his work, but as for me, it was the most successful effort ever held. My mother was the one convert. Her acceptance of the message brought on a storm of persecution. Mother endured great trials. That is what it cost for her to pass the call on to me. The only way I can settle the account is to pass the call on to someone else.
When the call came for us to go to the mission field Mother was an invalid in a wheel chair. But she said, "Do not stay home on my account." We answered the call. When we came home on our first furlough Mother was feeble and needed care. One day I said, "Mother, perhaps I should not go back to the mission field but stay home and care for you." I shall never forget the look she gave me or the words she spoke. "Son, I promised God that if He would bring you into the message I would lay no more claims upon you, but would dedicate you to the work of God. Now, if you are needed on the other side of the world you must go. It would break my heart if you stayed home on my account." We said good-by and left. Mother passed away before we came home again; but her parting message is still in my heart. Her last letter is among my treasured keepsakes. The last message did not ask me to come home, or not to work too hard, or to care for myself. No, Mother believed in a finished, victorious work, and her urge was that I put forth every effort to help complete the task. Thank God for mothers like that.
Yes, there is a sacrifice made for every soul that will be saved in the kingdom. These sacrifices extend all the way from heaven to the ends of the earth, and we are glad these sacrifices are not in vain. Thousands all around the world are hearing the call and accepting it. Those who will stand with Christ in that day of victory are called and chosen, arid regardless of the cost or sacrifice there will be a great company from all nations of earth that will be with Him in that day of victory.
We are told that the same spirit of sacrifice that was manifested in the beginning of the work is needed in the closing days. I am sure we all want to see the work quickly finished. We want to see more accomplished. Notice these words from Testimonies, volume 6, page 419:
"But were there the same diligence and self-sacrifice manifest at the present stage of the work as at its beginning, we should see a hundred times more than is now accomplished."
I do not believe that the spirit of sacrifice is dying in the church. But I do not believe that there is as high a percentage of our people really sacrificing today as there was in the beginning of the work. I long to see the day come when we will have that same spirit of sacrifice and diligence that was manifested in the church in the beginning of the work. When we think of accomplishing a hundred times more we know it would mean that the work would soon be finished. It would mean more workers, more evangelistic meetings, more literature, more missionaries going to foreign fields, and I am sure the treasury department would be sending out the word that budgets were going to be greatly increased. It is a very challenging statement.
As leaders in the cause in these stirring days we need to take it to our hearts and see what more we can do to make it a living reality in our lives and in the lives of our people. There is much more we could consider before we pass on, but we must not overlook the last word in our text. God can call and choose us, but to be permitted to stand with Christ in that day we must prove faithful. That word "faithful" means so much. It means to be constant. It means we will be true, loyal, reliable, honest. These attributes will have to be a part of our character if we are to stand with Christ on that day of victory. Are we constant in our Christian experience? Are we always truthful? In a time of crisis are we loyal? Do we always stand for the right? Are we honest men and women, or do we color things to suit our personal considerations?
Faithfulness and Unfaithfulness
When I think of the word "faithful" I think of Pastor Chey, whom I knew in Korea. When the missionaries were leaving Korea before World War II Pastor Chey was asked to be president of the Korean Union. The morning I left Seoul after his appointment I shook hands with him and expressed my feeling that perhaps before we should meet again we might face very serious problems. I asked Pastor Chey to do his best and to be faithful. With tears streaming from his eyes he said: "I believe war is coming and we will have difficult times. The church no doubt will suffer persecution. Some of us may have to go to jail. We may even have to give our lives for this message. But I promise you that I will be faithful."
When I went back to Korea after the war I asked for Pastor Chey. They showed me his grave and told me how he had suffered persecution; but he would not yield his faith. He was punished severely in many ways. One day they came to him and said, "Mr. Chey, if you will sign this paper we will grant you your freedom and you can go home. Just sign this statement that you will renounce Christianity, will become a loyal citizen of Japan and a member of the Buddhist religion, and you can have your freedom."
Pastor Chey said, "No, I cannot give up my religion. I cannot sign the paper." He received further punishment, and a few hours before his death they carried him home to die. Pastor Chey died a martyr to this message and to the cause of God. In that hour of trial he proved faithful.
I would like to refer to a few men who were examples of unfaithfulness. By considering the unfaithfulness in their lives we can guard against the danger in our lives. Like causes produce like effects. What caused the first king of Israel to fail will also cause us to fail if we do not guard against it. Saul gave great promise of success as he started out in his work, but failure came very early in his reign. Saul was called and chosen, but he was not faithful to his charge.
"If Saul had fulfilled the conditions upon which divine help was promised, the Lord would have wrought a marvelous deliverance for Israel, with the few who were loyal to the king. But Saul was so well satisfied with himself and his work, that he went out to meet the prophet as one who should be commended rather than disapproved."—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 618.
The quotation says Saul was well satisfied with himself and what he was doing. He felt he should be commended for what he had done. But God had no words of commendation for him. The prophet was given another kind of message—one of stern reproof. How is it with us this morning? Are we satisfied with ourselves? Do we sum up our accomplishments and glory in them?
We are always glad to hear good reports, of increases in membership, more hinds gathered, more favorable comments in the press, larger and still larger and more expensive buildings and furnishings. There are many things that we might mention that men take pride in and that may please us and make us satisfied with ourselves and our accomplishments. The burden of our hearts this morning should be: Do my ways and my work please God? How does He look upon my accomplishments?
There is another text in Revelation that describes the condition of many: "Knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." Let us look at what we are doing as compared with what must be done—what God commands us to do. See the open doors today; hear the calls that are continually sounding in our ears; see the dark counties in the North American Division; listen to the appeals from all the mission lands.
Are We Satisfied With Our Accomplishments?
Not long ago I was in committee meetings in a field, and workers were being dropped because there were not sufficient funds and the budget had to be brought into balance. Thousands were attending the baptismal classes, needing guidance and instruction, and there were not enough workers to care for them. And yet in the face of that situation workers had to be dropped. It made me feel very humble. I was not satisfied; I asked myself why this condition existed. Where are we failing in the great program of God? Why must opportunities to win multitudes and prepare them for the kingdom be lost?
I want to tell you this morning, dear fellow workers, that I was not satisfied with what had been accomplished or what we were accomplishing in the great program of God. This morning I think we ought to give heed so that much more can be done. Saul failed because he was satisfied with himself and what he was doing. There is danger that we will become satisfied with what we are doing and not push on to greater accomplishments. Look at the standards set up by God for the remnant church, and then see how far below these standards, set by God, we are this morning, and we will not be satisfied—cannot be satisfied—with what we have done as leaders in the cause of God. Self-satisfaction led Saul to his utter ruin. We must guard against it or our fate will be utter ruin also.
If the prophet of God were to visit us today and speak the mind and will of God, would it be commendation, or stern reproof as it was in the experience of Saul? Think it over in your experience and service for God. If we are truly faithful we will, by the help of God, come up on every point and do the appointed work in God's way. Our prayer will be: "Thy will be done." But with Saul we read it was his will, not the will of God, that led him into difficulty. Is it God's will or our will today?
Balaam was another man who started out well. He was once a good man. He was called to be a prophet of God. But he lost his life—he went to his death with the enemies of God's people. Of his experience we take a quotation from the inspired record:
"Balaam was once a good man and a prophet of God; but he had apostatized, and had given himself up to covetousness; yet he still professed to be a servant of the Most High. He was not ignorant of God's work in behalf of Israel; and when the messengers announced their errand, he well knew that it was his duty to refuse the rewards of Balak, and to dismiss the ambassadors. But he ventured to daily with temptation, and urged the messengers to tarry with him that night, declaring that he could give no decided answer till he had asked counsel of the Lord. Balaam knew that his curse could not harm Israel. God was on their side; and so long as they were true to Him, no adverse power of earth or hell could prevail against them. But his pride was flattered by the words of the ambassadors, 'He whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed.' The bribe of costly gifts and prospective exaltation excited his covetousness. He greedily accepted the offered treasures, and then, while professing strict obedience to the will of God, he tried to comply with the desires of Balak.
"In the night season the angel of God came to Balaam, with the message, 'Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people; for they are blessed.'
"In the morning, Balaam reluctantly dismissed the messengers; but he did not tell them what the Lord had said. Angry that his visions of gain and honor had been suddenly dispelled, he petulantly exclaimed, 'Get you into your land; for the Lord refuseth to give me leave to go with you.'
"Balaam 'loved the wages of unrighteousness.' The sin of covetousness, which God declares to be idolatry, had made him a time-server, and through this one fault, Satan gained entire control of him. It was this that caused his ruin. The tempter is ever presenting worldly gain and honor to entice men from the service of God. He tells them it is their over-conscientiousness that keeps them from prosperity. Thus many are induced to venture out of the path of strict integrity. One wrong step makes the next easier, and they become more and more presumptuous. They will do and dare most terrible things when once they have given themselves to the control of avarice and a desire for power. Many flatter themselves that they can depart from strict integrity for a time, for the sake of some worldly advantage, and that having gained their object, they can change their course when they please. Such are entangling themselves in the snare of Satan, and it is seldom that they escape."—Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 439, 440.
Balaam loved the wages of unrighteousness. The sin of covetousness had made him a timeserver, and through this one sin Satan gained entire control of him. It was the cause of his ruin. It takes only one sin in the life to bring about our downfall. Through selfishness and covetousness Balaam was led to his ruin. It would be very surprising if the workers in these last days did not meet this same temptation. The very spirit of the age fosters selfishness and covetousness. We must not take more time to deal with the sin that led this prophet of God to ruin; but let us know that a love of gain and honor in our day will produce like results, and can lead us away from God and make us unfaithful in the work we are called to do.
Notice for a moment the experience of Peter. We are told that he proved unfaithful to his Master because he did not know his own frailty. He thought himself strong, when really he was very weak. And the same quotations tell us that many of Christ's professed disciples fall into grievous temptations because they do not have a correct knowledge of themselves. If we could understand our own weaknesses we should see so much to do for ourselves that we would humble our hearts under the mighty hand of God.
Let us determine that we will not let these sins have dominion over us. I am glad for the promise given us in reference to Peter's mistake:
"The watch-care of Christ for Peter was the cause of his restoration. Satan could do nothing against the all-powerful intercession of Christ. And the prayer that Christ offered for Peter He offers in behalf of all who are humble and contrite in heart." —ELLEN G. WHITE in The Youth's Instructor, Dec. 15, 1898.
Are we satisfied with ourselves and our accomplishments in the work of God? Are we sorry for our past failures? Are we humble and contrite in heart? Do we purpose to do better? If so, then the prayer of Christ for Peter is also for us this morning. Satan can do nothing against the all-powerful intercession of Christ. The prayer that saved Peter is offered for you and me. May God help us in our work in the days that lie ahead. May we be faithful in our great task for God.
"These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful" (Rev. 17:14)