IS THE Lord disappointed with His church? Has it failed to preach with power the three angels' messages to the four corners of the earth in the time allotted? If this is so, listen to what the servant of the Lord says: "The work which the church has failed to do in a time of peace and prosperity, she will have to do in a terrible crisis, under most discouraging, forbidding circumstances."—Evangelism, p. 31. This crisis is upon us. Let us consider it.
The Terrible Crisis
Mankind is troubled by the cold war going on at the present time and by the knowledge that one of the many trouble spots in the world could be the spark that would start another world war. The nations with an atheistic and pagan philosophy of life are threatening the survival of the lukewarm Christian civilization of the Western Hemisphere. And it looks as though the survival of our whole planet is threatened also.
Notwithstanding this staggering background, multitudes are giving themselves up to the love of pleasure, sin, and vice. They say they believe in God, but they ignore His counsel. They seem to have lost their conscience and have no ability to perceive right from wrong; neither do they discern between truth and error. There is a passion for power, prestige, honor, and
wealth. Selfishness and falsehood, hatred and wickedness are demonstrated everywhere. Some outbursts of passion have resulted in misunderstanding among nations, hatred between the different races, and in some places even religious intolerance and persecution. The world is breaking in pieces under its load of shame, sin, and rebellion. Yes, in this "terrible crisis" we will have to finish the work we did not accomplish in the time of peace and prosperity.
"Discouraging, Forbidding Circumstances"
Years ago most of the Christian religions had a common foundation upon which they were built—the Bible. But today very few, only the evangelical fundamentalists, accept the Bible, which the Holy Spirit through His prophets and apostles gave us as the only authority on Christian faith and doctrine. The Catholic church says: "However, all revealed truths are not contained in the Bible."—Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 2, p. 543. In volume 15, page 6, it says that "there is in fact, and that there must of necessity be certain revealed truths apart from those contained in the Bible."
Protestantism in general, which since the Reformation was considered the champion of Bible truth, today through its liberal and neo-orthodox theologians is rejecting much of the Bible as absurd and meaningless, stating that although this is the best book about God, it is marred by human interpretations, and that therefore it is impossible for man to know the exact will of God. Truth is only relative. Strange as it may be, it is even asserted that God cannot be declared to exist.
Because of this distorted preaching, as well as the lack of Christian training of millions of children, most of the present generation of Protestants do not know what they believe. They no longer have any concept of what the great Reformation stood for. They have developed an attitude of indifference to the truth, and believe that any religion will do, and that practically any church leads to heaven.
Therefore, I perceive that the reason we have to finish the work of God "in a terrible crisis under most discouraging, forbidding circumstances" is the fact that "Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils." Look at the innumerable churches, sects, cults, and pagan religions all believing in God but which are far apart by all imaginable phiIosophies. What a confusion of beliefs, all eagerly tearing down one another.
In addition, the church of Rome, with the forthcoming Ecumenical Council, is hoping to reunite into her fold at least part of the divided Christian world. It is claimed that the Western civilization can only survive by the strength of the union of all the churches in one body. The slogan is "United we will be victorious; disunited we will all be uprooted." The need for unity seems to be of far greater urgency than is "obeying the truth through the Spirit."
The nominal Christian churches, whose spiritual power seems to be fading because of fast-developing apostasy, are by fluent pen and clamorous voices united in one respect—in contempt and intolerance toward the message of Revelation 14. In many cases they even persecute the movement prophesied to be raised up as the only hope for a dying world, that movement which exalts Christ and defends His holy law.
Yes, the actual confusing activities of the "three unclean spirits" in the midst of insurmountable troubles all over the world are the most "discouraging, forbidding circumstances" under which we as ministers together with the whole church must finish the preaching of these last messages of hope. Humanly speaking, it is a Herculean task.
"Go Ye Therefore" "I Send You Forth"
The Lord says to us today: "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father" (Matt. 28:18, 19). Only as we surrender to Christ can He, through us, put into action His mighty and immeasurable power for the preaching of the gospel. For Him no obstacle is too great. "Go ye therefore" paraphrased means "Go ye because I am the fountain of all power. There is nothing impossible for Me."
But He also said: "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves" (Matt. 10:16). The Lamb of God describes a little zoo—sheep, wolves, serpents, and doves. Generally speaking, sheep are the victims of wolves. The wolves are the enemies of sheep. When sheep are sent among wolves they go to certain death. What then is our weapon when the Lord sends us as sheep among the wolves? It is "die sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:17). But the Spirit of God works with the innocency and frankness of the dove and at the same time with the wisdom of serpents. He does not want us to be astute serpents who kill and destroy with poison and muscular strength. With so much indifference toward the truth, the Lord wants His ministers to be as wise in their work of winning souls for Christ as Satan is when he uses his skill to make men believe that error is truth and wrong is right.
The power of the "wolves" is overwhelmingly strong. It will put error in place of truth; it will oppose, persecute, and even destroy the little flock of sheep as they endeavor to preach the three angels' messages. But as the worker labors he will realize that "all power is given unto me in heaven and earth" and that the power of the wolves is not to be compared with the power of the heavenly Father.
The ministry today needs men and women who are guided by the wisdom of God and have a spirit of adventure controlled by a strong sense of responsibility.
The consecrated worker for God will find the task exciting, exacting, and singularly rewarding. There is no greater joy than that of seeing souls won for Christ.
There seems to be an awakening among God's leadership at this eleventh hour of the world's history. Thanks be to God for the leaders He has given us on all levels of our organization, because they have taken to heart the Lord's counsel: "We are altogether too narrow in our plans. We need to be broader minded. . . . We must get away from our smallness and make larger plans."—Evangelism, p. 46.
For example, in the Georgia-Cumberland Conference the president, A. C. Mc-Kee, and his workers pledged themselves to pray and work for 700 baptisms for the current year. In the recent workers' meeting of the Michigan Conference the president, N. C. Wilson, and his workers determined to labor for no less than 2,000 baptisms during 1961. D. H. Baasch, of the Mexican Union, writes: "The workers of our union have pledged themselves to a minimum goal of 3,000 baptisms for 1961." M. S. Nigri, president of the South Brazil Union, also writes: "Our goal is 5,000 baptisms for 1961." This spirit of soul winning for Christ pervades our whole world organization.
But we must remember that these soul-winning goals can be reached in this "terrible crisis" only under the most "discouraging, forbidding circumstances." It requires first of all a Spirit-filled ministry, a ministry that is willing to endure hardships and at the same time be audacious and fearless; a ministry that will if necessary suffer opposition, ridicule, and persecution patiently; a ministry that will not stand still when beset with difficulties and obstacles, no matter how insurmountable they may appear. But more than anything else, it requires a ministry that has a passion and a love for lost souls and feels that no sacrifice is too great to win them to Christ.
A Call to Our Colleges
In every war it is the youth who win the battles, and in every war the spirit of love for the homeland has made many a hero. Therefore, in this last hour of the world's history of sin, professors and teachers of our colleges surely will inspire our ministerial students with the spirit of dedication, of sacrifice, of adventure, and of love for souls. May they be used of God to change wolves into sheep by the power of His gospel, and may they overcome every obstacle and finally obtain glorious victories.
God grant that our wonderful youth will respond willingly to this adventurous challenge. For some it may mean imprisonment or torture, because the time will come when "whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service" (John 16:2). However, with a ministry determined to fight valiantly, fearlessly, and audaciously for the faith once delivered to the saints, the message will soon triumph, and the church militant will be transformed into the church triumphant ready to meet her returning Lord.