A FEW years ago some of us felt we should endeavor to make our division committee meetings more Spirit filled. Twice a year we met for a week or ten days at a time, discussing endless problems of the Lord's work in Trans-Africa. We always had our routine devotions to begin each new day's work. A good spirit prevailed. By working early and late we always succeeded in completing our work on time.
Our devotional periods were lengthened. After these inspirational studies the committee members broke up into small prayer bands around the division office. During these seasons with the Lord we spoke with Him about special needs, special problems. There was ample time for everyone to join in the prayer sessions. Then, just before lunch, we set another hour for Bible study—for discussion of the Word when any of the committee members felt impressed to take part.
Some members were a bit skeptical when these plans were suggested. Our agenda was always long. Our time seemed too short to squeeze in everything that needed to be done. How could we take out another hour and a half from our already full program and still get the work done? But we agreed to try.
The results? The Lord more than made up to us the additional time we spent with Him. Our work was done with greater dispatch. The sweet spirit of His presence was felt among us. It was not unusual for us to finish our committee work even earlier than planned! We learned a valuable lesson: It pays, in the midst of a very busy program, to give the Lord more, not less, time!
Peril of Busy Workers
Seventh-day Adventist workers—whether they are in Africa, Europe, America, Asia, or Australia—are busy people. We have an endless round of committees, boards, institutes, workshops, and other appointments to meet. We have efforts to conduct, Ingathering goals to reach, church schools to operate, buildings to erect, and churches both large and small to administer. There is an apparently endless round of duties clamoring for attention. We are indeed a busy people!
To such a preoccupied band of workers God says, "Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord" (Ps. 27: 14).
In our crowded program, doing things that are good, things that are desirable, things that are necessary, we need to reserve time when we can wait on the Lord. There must be time to pause for spiritual refueling, spiritual refreshment.
Holiness and Busy-ness
In the ancient tabernacle service Aaron was instructed to "make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it, like the engravings of a signet, HOLINESS TO THE LORD" (Ex. 28:36). "And it shall be upon Aaron's forehead" (verse 38). This headpiece doubtless had several lessons of significance for the people and for the priests, but it seems to me that one of the most important lessons God wanted His workers of that day to learn was that in the midst of the busy round of tabernacle activity there must be holiness.
The worker for God must not be so busy even in doing God's work that his own soul is left unfed, his own character development stunted. There must be holiness in the midst of busy-ness. In the midst of a program of surging activity there must be ample time for quiet reflection. Amid all the striving there must be coveted intervals for receiving.
A popular soft-drink company lures customers with the assurance that their product provides "the pause that refreshes."
Workers in the cause of God need refreshing breaks frequently—breaks occasioned by earnest seeking after the Lord. In a program so filled with planning and pushing there must be time for thinking and praying. There must be holiness in the midst of busy-ness!
The servant of the Lord has a thought-provoking message for us as workers. It is especially directed to busy leaders—those of us who perhaps may be "more ready to engage in outward religious service than in the inner work of the heart." It is well worth our careful reading and prayerful pondering:
"As our numbers are increasing, broader plans must be laid to meet the increasing demands of the times; but we see no special increase of fervent piety, of Christian simplicity, and earnest devotion. The church seems content to take only the first steps in conversion. They are more ready for active labor than for humble devotion, more ready to engage in outward religious service than in the inner work of the heart. Meditation and prayer are neglected for bustle and show. Religion must begin with emptying and purifying the heart, and must be nurtured by daily prayer."—Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 535.
It Affects Our Success in the Work
We neglect our times of waiting on the Lord at the peril of defrauding our own souls and at the expense of success in our work. "You need to watch, lest the busy activities of life lead you to neglect prayer when you most need the strength prayer would give. Godliness is in danger of being crowded out of the soul through overdevotion to business. It is a great evil to defraud the soul of the strength and heavenly wisdom which are waiting your demand. You need that illumination which God alone can give. No one is fitted to transact his business unless he has this wisdom."—Ibid., vol. 5, p. 560.
In the writings of the gospel prophet are words we usually apply to conditions that will obtain in the new earth. There is also a message for us as workers in God's cause here and now: "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint" (Isa. 40:31).
"They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." This may be a promise as well as a prophecy. It is for you and for me here and now! Not in the gloryland only will our strength be renewed as we wait on the Lord, but right now in our busy round of apparently endless activity. It is spiritual, physical, and mental strength that will be renewed. These are sinews that build success in the Lord's work. We cannot be truly successful in our labor for God if we are too busy to renew our spiritual, physical, and mental strength.
"A worker cannot gain success while he hurries through his prayers and rushes away to look after something that he fears may be neglected or forgotten. He gives only a few hurried thoughts to God; he does not take time to think, to pray, to wait upon the Lord for a renewal of physical and spiritual strength. He soon becomes weary. He does not feel the uplifting, inspiring influence of God's Spirit. He is not quickened by fresh life. His jaded frame and tired brain are not soothed by personal contact with Christ."—Ibid., vol. 7, p. 243.
Hurried prayers, things forgotten, weary bodies, jaded frame, tired brain—these are the certain forerunners of failure. By limiting our time with God, the Source of strength, we limit our success in His service!
"If the rush of work is allowed to drive us from our purpose of seeking the Lord daily, we shall make the greatest mistakes; we shall incur losses, for the Lord is not with us; we have closed the door so that He cannot find access to our souls. But if we pray even when our hands are employed, the Saviour's ear is open to hear our petitions. If we are determined not to be separated from the Source of our strength, Jesus will be just as determined to be at our right hand to help us, that we may not be put to shame before our enemies. The grace of Christ can accomplish for us that which all our efforts will fail to do. Those who love and fear God may be surrounded with a multitude of cares, and yet not falter or make crooked paths for their feet. God takes care of you in the place where it is your duty to be. But be sure, as often as possible, to go where prayer is wont to be made."—Counsels on Health, p. 424.
We shall make mistakes. We shall incur losses. We have closed the door to spiritual success. God cannot find access to our souls! How tragic that any of us as workers might find ourselves in such condition simply because we did not take time to wait upon the Lord!
Our Reception of the Holy Spirit
God's people—and especially His workers—are praying earnestly for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in latter-rain power to finish the work of God in all the earth. Jesus made clear the close relationship that exists between waiting on the Lord and the reception of the Holy Spirit. While the early disciples were assembled in Ierusalem He commanded them not to leave the city. They were to "wait for the promise of the Father" (Acts 1:4).
The disciples waited before Pentecost. There was waiting before infilling then. There must be waiting before infilling now! The promise of the Father is for those who wait upon the Father. Those who are too busy—even about His work —will miss the copious showers of grace and power He has promised. There will be more courage, more power, more success, if we first wait—wait on the Lord.
"Let nothing, however dear, however loved, absorb your mind and affections, diverting you from the study of God's word or from earnest prayer."—Testimonies, vol. 8, p. 53.
There must be set times daily for us to meet our unhurried appointments with God. Some find the early morning hours the best time to spend with the Lord—to find spiritual refreshment for the day. Others prefer the quietness of the late evening just before they retire, after they have laid down the burdens of a busy day. Whichever we prefer matters little. What matters is that we spend ample time with Him; that our busy-ness is bolstered by holiness.
When we are too busy to spend time with God each day, we are busier than the good Lord ever intended us to be! May He help us to learn well the relationship between holiness and busy-ness—the sweet experience of waiting upon the Lord in the midst of a busy, busy program.
Our churches grow, our cares increase, From plans and push we never cease. Like Martha we are on the go—We seem to rush and worry so!
Lord, slow us down and stand us still;
Make clear to us Thy holy will.
And help us see we've lost the day
When we're too rushed to watch and pray!