TUCKED away in Paul's Second Epistle to Timothy, as translated by J. B. Phillips, is a message that should burn its way into the thinking of every Seventh-day Adventist worker. It is a message especially for us who lead God's people in these last days.
"Never lose your sense of urgency" (2 Tim. 4:2, Phillips.*
There is danger that we forget our sense of mission. We could all too easily drift into the pattern of being just another Christian denomination with no special message for God's climactic hour. We are growing; we are prospering; we are even becoming popular in some quarters. Such an experience can become satisfying. But spiritual satisfaction may well breed spiritual indifference. Satisfaction and indifference soon dull the sense of urgency.
God's Work Urgent
In David's day "the king's business required haste" (1 Sam. 21:8). "The king's business," as Rotherham translates this verse, "was urgent." Urgent means "pressing, calling for immediate attention." A king's business is different from the business of an ordinary subject or citizen. It is pressing. It calls for immediate attention. It demands high priority. In a word, it is urgent!
A few years ago, I rode from Singapore to Sydney, Australia, on the same plane with the Foreign Minister of Australia. I soon noticed that at every port Mr. Casey received preferential treatment. Local officials invariably cared for his business first. It was understandable. He was on the king's business. His business was urgent!
Workers in the Seventh-day Adventist Church are on the King's business. What is more, our sovereign is the King of kings (Rev. 17:14). Our business differs from that of other Christian workers. Our message is different. It is urgent! The acceptance or rejection of our life-or-death message carries with it eternal implications. More awesome yet is the fact that our time for preaching is fast running out. Herein lies the greatest urgency of our task. Our commission is different. Our Lord sends us to all the world. We dare not work with those who would divide the world into spheres of influence, assigning the various mission organizations to different areas. No! Our "everlasting gospel" must go to "every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people" (Rev. 14:6).
Our message centers in Christ and is the very embodiment of the love and peace and forgiveness our friends in other Christian denominations preach. But the Advent message of prophecy includes vastly more. Generally speaking, the evangel of the world's churches bears no relationship with time and the cataclysmic end of the world. They could well preach their gospel of love, peace, and joy forever. But Seventh-day Adventists, guided by the Holy Spirit and basing their conclusions upon the solid rock of God's Word, say, "No! We do not have an eternity of probation before us!" Then we proceed to select a comparatively short period in the toes of time—the very days in which we are now living—and declare, "This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled" (Matt. 24:34). While we cannot be time setters, we dare not be time ignorers!
We dare not say, "My lord delayeth his coming" (Matt. 24:48).' The hour is too late. Eternal life is too precious. We dare not settle down as though we had centuries ahead to do the urgent work God has entrusted to us in time's last hour. Paul's message to young Timothy centuries ago is a divine directive at this very hour to every Advent worker the world around— "Never lose your sense of urgency"!
Urgency Must Characterize Our Planning
There must be divine urgency in our planning for the future of God's work! "Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say
unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest" (John 4:35).
Now is the time that "the leaders in God's cause, as wise generals, are to lay plans for advance moves all along the line."—Gospel Workers, p. 351. The fields of the world "are white already to harvest" today. I could write pages confirming the truthfulness of this statement. Throughout the Southern African Division, despite the political turbulence of our times, if we had the men and the means we could step in and do a far greater work of reaping. A continent in flames is also a continent of opportunity, and must, as well, be ablaze for God. What I say of Africa no doubt other division leaders could say of their fields. "Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor. 6:2). The urgency of our task is bound up in that little three-letter word now.
"We are altogether too narrow in our plans. . . . His work is to go forward in cities and towns and villages. . . . We must get away from our smallness and make larger plans. There must be a wider reaching forth to work for those who are nigh and those who are afar off. —Evangelism, p. 46.
Make Larger Plans
Our urgent planning for time's last hour must be as broad as the uttermost parts of the earth—every unentered city, town, and village must receive our prayerful, careful attention. We dare not boast of what has been done in our fields. The measure of our God-given task is that which yet remains undone. Those unentered areas must haunt us until our holy desperation compels God to tear away the barriers and open the way for us to enter with His message before the door of mercy closes forever. The time must come, and that very soon, when we will no longer be able to speak of our "unentered territories." The workers of a finished task will bear the glad word heavenward, "Mission accomplished! The last bastion of unbelief has yielded to the assault of the army of God." Such a glorious day will only come as the result of God's blessing upon "larger plans" and a "wider reaching forth to work for those who are nigh and those who are afar off."
"We are not to hover over the ninety and nine, but to go forth to save the lost, hunting them up in the wilderness of the large cities and towns."—Testimonies to Ministers, p. 232.
Paul's urgent planning in his day included both soul conquest and soul conservation. He was a spirit-filled evangelist. He also must have been a wise shepherd-home-missionary leader. He did 'not hover over the ninety and nine." He trained strong church leaders to do their share in caring for the flock of God after he had passed on to other fields.
The urgency of the times demands that our planning include aggressive worker evangelism. It must also reserve a large place for the inspiration and instruction of our thousands of laymen who long to have a part in finishing the work. Though we have all read it frequently, it is well for us to read again this inspired reminder: "The work of God in this earth can never be finished until the men and women comprising our church membership rally to the work and unite their efforts with those of ministers and church officers."— Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 117.
God's program for His remnant church includes lay pastors as well as lay evangelists. Our laymen must be trained and organized to help us shepherd our rapidly growing flock, as well as to serve as preachers of the message in new areas. When the servant of the Lord warned us against hovering over the flock she did not mean that the flock of God required no shepherding. No, a thousand times no! The Lord's weaker saints inside the church are just as precious in His sight as the honest in heart outside the fold. Both require our attention. Our urgent last-day planning must include worker evangelists to blaze the trails into unentered areas and worker pastors to consolidate and retain the rains in the churches. Such planning must also include the lay evangelists and the lay pastors to assist their ministering brethren.
Not to Be Deterred by Difficulties
"We are not to let the future, with its hard problems, its unsatisfying prospects, make our hearts faint. . . , Whatever our situation, if we are doers of His word, we have a Guide to direct our way; whatever our perplexity, we have a sure Counselor; whatever our . . . loneliness, we have a sympathizing Friend."—The Ministry of Healing, pp. 248, 249.
Many of the world's most fertile fields are plagued Math "hard problems." Our thirty-three thousand baptisms in the Southern African Division the past two years came amid trial and tribulation. Often we have wondered where our next crisis would appear. Ours is a fertile field. It is also a flaming, frustrating enigma. We have thanked God unceasingly for "a Guide to direct our way." In our times of great perplexity we have turned to "a sure Counselor" and found that He never fails His needy ones in the hour of peril. In hours of loneliness, what a comfort to have "a sympathizing Friend."
This promise is as well for those who labor in lands of "unsatisfying prospects." I bumped my head against the Gibraltar of heathenism for more than a decade. I know what it is to go to bed at night with more than 400 million judgment-bound Hindus, Moslems, Buddhists, Animists, and varied Christians haunting me. I know something of the difficulties and the heartaches in attempting to reach these wonderful but satisfied people with the third angel's message. But here too we found "a Guide to direct our way" and learned that in the hour of perplexity He is "a sure Counselor." To those laboring in fields of "unsatisfying prospects" He is a sympathizing Friend.
Nothing must deter us in our planning for the Lord's work now. Hard problems, unsatisfying prospects, must challenge but never discourage or dismay us. "Never lose your sense of urgency" is God's message to His leaders today. We set the pace for the work. Our members will move ahead no more rapidly than we lead them. May God help us as workers and leaders to plan to underwrite our planning with a spirit of holy urgency.
* From The New Testament in Modern English by J. B. Phillips. Copyright 1958, by J. B. Phillips. Used by permission of The Macmillan Company.