The eastern religions have codes of ethics but provide no power to implement them. And I need not remind any pastor or worker here that sin is still with us.
Our pastors all know something about sin in human experience. In apostasy, backsliding, family strife, and moral shame they see its fruitage on every hand. And we all, no doubt, feel like crying, "Who is sufficient for these things?"
Yet the assurance comes: "Our sufficiency is of God."
Thousands of promises are impounded in His Word, like the water of the Hoover and Grand Coulee dams Jesus stands ready to throw open the floodgates of power. Shall we stand with half-pint cups gathering the trickles of grace that barely keep us alive in faith?
Spend Your Fortune!
To see the need of God's sufficiency it is necessary to recognize that the greatest hindrance to our work is not failure in method, laxity in public relations, deficiency in personality or training, insufficiency of means, but in the inability to deal with sin. How tragic it is to seek and find redemption through Christ and then to languish as a helpless saint, thrashing around in an activity in which there is no power. After being impressed again and again by the Bible assurance that we are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, one man said he wished he could hear a sermon on "You've got a fortune—spend it."
To be rich toward God cancels our poverty in every other direction. Peter and John lacked silver and gold, but they had the healing touch of God. Peter was unlearned in the schools of men, but when he let God have all there was of him three thousand were converted in a day. The woman of Jacob's well was about as low in the spiritual scale as one could get, but when Jesus touched her life she became the evangel to a city. Because Christ is our sufficiency, there are no crises with God. He is equal to every emergency—or to what men call emergency.
We dwell long and often upon the story of the feeding of the five thousand in the wilderness, and it was a wonderful demonstration of the goodness and power of Jesus, but we fail sometimes to see certain parts of that story that have deep spiritual implications in them. It made no difference to Jesus whether there were five or five thousand to be fed. He knew the law of God's bounty. The faith of the disciples wavered when they saw the multitude, just as yours and mine would probably have done. Their solution was to send the people home, but Jesus' counsel was, "freely ye have received, freely give."
A ready reckoner among the disciples figured up their need and said: "Why two hundred pennyworth of bread would not suffice to feed this crowd." 0 how often men are making fiscal computations in the counting house while Christ is pointing to the open doors of God's exhaustless treasury! How often we let hardheaded calculations hinder God's providences. One would suppose Jesus would scorn so trivial a supply as five loaves and two fishes. He could have done an even more spectacular thing and commanded the stones to be made bread. But He had a beautiful lesson to teach—the lesson of consecration of the means at hand. The small gift brought to Him became great when it became a sacrifice. The breaking and distributing taught the lesson: "There is that scattereth and yet increaseth." The whole episode taught that love is the deepest root of social and political economy. O that the United Nations today could understand that principle!
It was barley bread made from barley meal, the cheapest grain in the market. They were small fishes—fish that Peter would have thrown back into the sea as too small for his catch. But Jesus taught that in His hands there is no such thing as limited means. There is always enough and to spare.
God Picked Up the Crumbs
He emphasized the need for frugality by having the crumbs gathered up. What was done with the twelve baskets gathered up? They were taken to the villages round about and shared with the people who couldn't come to the meeting, and as they partook they too heard of the miracle, proof to them that Jehovah-jireh, the great provider, had passed by.
What a wonderful thing is this—Omnipotence picking up crumbs. The all-sufficient Saviour who says, "The cattle upon a thousand hills are mine," at whose word the empty fish nets of the disciples bulged with fish, who makes ten thousand plains bring forth their annual harvest—concerning Himself with fragments of the feast.
What a lesson there is in that part of the story for us. God didn't need those fragments, but He wants to teach us the principle of diligence and economy. Did you ever try to determine what might be accomplished in your own experience with the fragments of time, the fragments of means, the fragments of talents and service? We say we don't have time to pray, yet fritter away the quarter hour for which there is no assignment. We say we cannot give to this church project or that and yet thoughtlessly spend money for trivialities.
Let us not lament our limitations. God's sufficiency will always supply the lack.
If we do not have a whole loaf to bring to Him, let us bring a crust, for no consecrated crust need be wasted. If we cannot bring a crust let us bring the crumbs, for even crumbs are dear to hungry men.
Send them away, said the judicial, and cautious, and treasury-minded disciples.
Freely ye have received—freely give, said Jesus the great representative of God's sufficiency.
I am sure there is nothing that pleases God and the heavenly watchers of human life more than a person who lives a life of trust in God's power, faith in His promises, and confidence in His sufficiency.
The Iniquity of Holy Things
The sufficiency of the Saviour is illustrated in a remarkable way in the book of Exodus, the twenty-eighth chapter. God told Moses that as a high priest Aaron should wear a plate of pure gold upon his forehead engraved with the words HOLINESS TO THE LORD. And verse 38 reads like this: "And it shall be upon Aaron's forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall be always upon his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord."
What a strange clause that is in the middle of the verse, "That Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things." But if we look at it closely we shall see the precious significance of it. Even then it was known that the best gifts offered to God by His people are defiled by the sin of the offerer, that the purest worship is marred by sin and infirmity in God's people, that our most devoted service is tarnished with self-pleasing and vainglory and pride. These are the iniquity of the holy things—the defilement attached to their worship and their service by reason of our sinful inheritance and our sinful state.
But the high priest, who was representative of Jesus, bore the iniquity of those holy things. He made up for all their deficiencies. He answered for all their imperfections in those gifts dedicated to God. But better still, Jesus possesses, not the official holiness of Aaron, but the real holiness of His own sinless life, which He offers as a sufficiency to meet the standards of a holy God.
Organized Brotherhood—Success or Failure?
The schemes are legion that are tried by men and organizations to bring about the kingdom of God on earth through universal brotherhood. And I am afraid the success of organization has a fascination for us that obscures the fact that there must be a spiritual communion between men and the Spirit of God that melts their differences and subdues their pride and self-sufficiency before organization can be effective.
The National Conference of Christians and Jews meets each year in an interfaith movement in which Catholics, Protestants, and Jews mingle together for the promotion of culture and brotherhood. I read of one of these annual meetings in which a Catholic priest, ten Jews (four of them rabbis), seventeen Protestants of varying communions (nine of them ministers), all went together on a flying seminar, visiting some of the shrines of each faith in fifteen countries. They had a wonderful time, maintained a happy surface communion, were liberally instructed in one another's faith, but went back to their homes still Catholics, Protestants, and Jews.
The futility of such abortive activity is tragic. Imagine Jesus in His day organizing such a group made up of a few Pharisees, a half dozen Sadducees, a couple of Samaritans (they would have to be liberals, of course), a sprinkling of Essenes, and one old dyed-in-the-wool Epicurean, and making a cultural safari to the storied lands of the Pharaohs and the Caesars in the hope of establishing a basis for brotherhood in His New Testament church.
Only to draw the analogy is to see the superficiality of these modern stunts in the name of religion. If men's hearts are not changed, what matters their boasted culture? If no one says, Whereas I was blind, now I see, what merit is there in good public relations? If no one hears the sound of a rushing, mighty wind heralding the coming of the Holy Spirit into our conclaves, what hope is there for a last-day Pentecost?
No, God's purposes, plans, and promised power to the worker who will catch the vision of God's sufficiency—to bring His work into worldwide focus—are the same now as they were when Jesus sent forth the seventy on a mission of healing and evangelism. O dear workers today, how may we be empowered by His life as we have been redeemed by His death? Shall we not seek the deeper meaning of "Christ in you, the hope of glory"? How happy we should be that we are in Christ, for to be in Christ makes us fit for heaven, but for Christ to be in us makes us fit for His work on earth. To be in Christ changes our destination, but for Christ to be in us helps us to change the destiny of men. To be in Christ makes heaven our home, but for Christ to be in us makes us worthy laborers for His workshop. To be in Christ means an inheritance with the saints in light, but for Christ to be in us means that we are bearers of that light in this dark world so that those rescued from the miasma of sin will cry:
To me 'twas not the truth you taught,
To you so clear, to me so dim.
But when you came to me you brought
A sense of Him.
And from your eyes He beckoned me
And from your heart His love was shed
Till I lost sight of you and found
The Christ instead