WHAT a sight! In a little clearing in the jungle a troop of baboons were sitting in a partial circle, for all the world like a council of elders!
The old Luo tribesman and his wife sat watching them. "See that little pile of sticks in the center?" the old man whispered. "They have placed them as we place our wood for a fire."
And that is exactly what they had done. They were copying what they had seen the tribesmen do many times when making a fire—but one thing they lacked—there was no fire in the wood. They had taken every step in preparation, but there was no fire!
Fuel—but No Fire!
Could it be possible this is a parable of the experience of the remnant church today? In this story the baboons had everything but the fire. Could it be that we also have everything but the fire of the Holy Spirit in the church? Seventh-day Adventists have enough spiritual fuel in the glorious Advent message to kindle a fire that would set every continent on earth ablaze for God, from Singapore to Sierra Leone, from Washington to Prakaspuram, from Murmansk to the Straits of Magellan.
With more than two million Sabbath school members, 20,000 evangelistic workers, 18,000 doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel, 6,000 literature evangelists, 2,200 publishing house employees, 16,000 teachers and other workers, we could light the greatest fire this world has ever seen. But these men and women must be set on fire for God.
We have the wheels too. Ezekiel saw them, "one wheel . . . within another" (Eze. 1:16, Goodspeed).* The messenger of the Lord also referred to this vision under the heading "God's Organization." "The hand of Infinite Wisdom is seen among the wheels, and perfect order is the result of its work. Every wheel works in perfect harmony with every other."—Testimonies to Ministers, p. 213.
We have the wheels, the organization, to carry the fire and spread it with great speed to earth's remotest atoll. It is a wonderful organization that has been perfected. "The Lord gave testimony after testimony upon this point."—Testimonies to Ministers, p. 26.
Fire in the Wheels
Yes, we have the wheels, but if they are to do the work God desires in these closing, challenging days of earth's history, there must be fire in the wheels. There was fire in Ezekiel's wheels. "As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning. And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning" (Eze. 1:13, 14).
We must have the Spirit of God in the wheels of our organization today. There must be fire in the wood. Organization is not enough. Machinery is not enough. Budgets are not enough. Even men and women are not enough. We need fire in the wheels—living fire, Pentecostal fire, that comes down from heaven and sets men and women ablaze for God. The Lord's messenger makes it clear: "We cannot depend upon form or external machinery. What we need is the quickening influence of the Holy Spirit of God."Ibid., p. 512.
We may have church buildings that are an architect's dream, evangelistic centers that are all a preacher's heart could desire, burgeoning budgets to supply the most modern equipment and an abundance of evangelistic supplies. Our planning may be perfect, our organization flawless. We may have all of the visible resources required for a mighty evangelistic advance. But our struggle is a spiritual warfare, not material. The results are dependent upon internals and not externals. There must be fire in the wheels—the power of the Holy Spirit in our service for the Master.
When the Holy Spirit is not present, the fire goes out. There may be activity. Prospects may appear bright. But we can never do God's work in God's way in God's last hour without the fire from on high. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that the fire, the power of the Holy Spirit, is an absolute must.
Fear or Courage?
Before His ascension Jesus said, "Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). The disciples had been in hiding for fear of the Jews. They feared that the same fate that had befallen Jesus would befall them. They shut themselves behind closed doors. They were a frightened, discouraged, thwarted group of men. They had passed through the greatest disappointment ever experienced by humankind.
Then came Pentecost. The fire fell; the power came. A transformation was wrought. Their fear and discouragement left them. A holy boldness, a sanctified zeal, possessed them. They emerged from their hiding place. The infant church began its work of evangelizing the world. "They were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began . . ." (Acts 2:4). When they were filled with the Holy Spirit they began to live, they began to witness, to bear fruit, to evangelize. They began to accomplish their God-given task. The cringers became conquerors; the fearful became forceful. Where before there had been hesitancy, inadequacy, defeat, there now were certainty, courage, power, victory. Fire inside made the difference. When the fire fell, the record says there were 3,000 converted at Pentecost. The book of Acts further reveals that there were added daily to the church thereafter "such as should be saved." Jerusalem was filled with the doctrine of Jesus. Some of the bitterest foes of the early church—"a great company of the priests"—believed.
Heathen Altars Overturned
In thirty short years the glad evangel swept through Asia Minor, across Europe, until it threatened to overturn the heathen altars and the pagan temples in mighty Rome, the mistress of the world. In the face of deadly, malignant opposition the heralds of the cross planted the ensign of the Crucified One upon the very doorstep of the imperial household. Luke speaks of the mighty advance of the gospel through the efforts of fire-filled men. He tells of a great number" in wicked Antioch who "turned to the Lord." At Iconium, Thessalonica, Corinth, and elsewhere it was the same story. "Great multitudes of Jews and Greeks" allied themselves on the side of Christ. Everywhere these Spirit-filled men went, a large harvest of souls resulted.
Why? Because there was fire within their hearts. Because the Holy Spirit possessed them. Finally, according to Acts 28:31, an infant church could report "Mission accomplished" in Rome as the result of these fire-filled men.
What a saga of success! What a paean of power! What a proclamation of progress! Two thousand years later it still thrills our hearts to read it. What was the secret of the power of those early men of God, of the rapid expansion of the church in those difficult days? The answer is found in these inspired words: "They were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began . . ." There was fire inside.
Success or Failure?
Here is a vital lesson for us as workers and leaders in the cause of God. An urgently pressing lesson we must not fail to grasp. Whether we learn it will determine success or failure in our ministry. There is a lesson for those of us who face the millions of New York, London, Berlin, Bombay, Manila, Tokyo, Johannesburg, Buenos Aires, and a thousand more great concrete chasms filled with judgment-bound men and women, chasms we have scarcely touched with the present truth.
It is a lesson for those of us who have had the specter of Southern Asia's millions haunting us in the night seasons, who have to face the cold complacency of millions of Buddhists, or the fierce fanatical resistance of the world of Islam, or the mesmerized millions in the lands of nominal Christianity. We need to learn this lesson and learn it well, lest we seek to do God's work in God's hour in other than God's way.
The disciples began, and they began in Jerusalem. Why? Why did Jesus command the disciples to tarry in Jerusalem? Why didn't He tell them to go to Bethlehem, to Jericho, to Nazareth? Was it merely because Jerusalem was the capital city, the center of Judaism? No! A thousand times no! He wanted the disciples to learn one great lesson—the same vital lesson He desires us to learn today.
It is simply this: The reception of the Holy Spirit is an absolute necessity if success is to come to God's laborers as we seek to finish His work in the earth. "Before one book of the New Testament was written, before one gospel sermon had been preached after Christ's ascension, the Holy Spirit came upon the praying apostles."—The Desire of Ages, p. 672.
"Tarry . . . Until"
Christ did not want the disciples to go anywhere, to begin any work, or even to preach a single sermon until the fire fell, until power from on high possessed the workers of the infant church. "Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high," He instructed (Luke 24:49). Christ wished to burn this one vital truth into the thinking of the early workers. Pentecost was not spiritual luxury but an utter necessity. Pentecost was not something the disciples could take or leave as they chose. It was a must. They were confronted with a choice of either Pentecost or failure.
A Second Pentecost
The naked, challenging truth that confronts the leadership and the ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church today is that for us, too, it is either Pentecost or failure. The task is too great for us. But it is not too great for God. Dublin, Khartoum, Mogadishu, Tashkent, and even Lhasa cannot resist the mighty power of cloven tongues of fire burning through Spirit-filled men, Spirit-filled pens, or Spirit-filled airwaves. God wants our day to be the day of His latter-rain power, His second Pentecost, His final push to a finished work. It must be so. "Satan can no more hinder a shower of blessing from descending upon God's people than he can close the windows of heaven that rain cannot come upon the earth."—Messages to Young People, p. 133.
It is coming. This is certain. The question is, Will you, will I, be prepared to receive its blessings, its power, and do our part in finishing the work? "Before the final visitation of God's judgments upon the earth, there will be, among the people of the Lord, such a revival of primitive godliness as has not been witnessed since apostolic times."—The Great Controversy, p. 464.
Thank God it is coming, brethren. The fires will burn. The Spirit will fall in latter-rain power. The strongholds of Satan will crumble. The unentered areas will be evangelized. The work will be finished. Jesus will come in this generation. Ours is the blessed hope, not the blasted hope. These eyes of ours will see the King in His glory in our day, if only somehow we can catch a new vision of Him now.
Fire in Our Hearts
But sin must go. Revival must come. A new dedication must possess us. There must be fire in our hearts and in the wheels of our church organization. Our need is the same as that of the early Christian movement—a need of a Spirit-filled church. In the days of the apostles the Holy Spirit broke down all the barriers, breached all opposition, evangelized wicked cities, uprooted heresies, baffled offshoots, scorned the oppressor, won through to victory. It will be the same in our day. But we need the Holy Spirit in our individual lives, to conquer self and sin, to break the steel bands of evil habits, to enable us to live up to the high standards of the Advent message, for power to stand for right though the heavens fall.
Yes, there is need for the Holy Spirit in each of our lives. The church needs the power of the Holy Spirit, power to stand firm for faith in the face of apostasy and spiritual treachery, power to master complex circumstances, power to press the battle to victorious conclusion in all parts of the world.
"A reformation is needed among the people, but it should first begin its purifying work with the ministers."—Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 469. This awesome declaration, brethren, means that it must begin with us! What an awe-inspiring, challenging thought! This reformation and revival must begin with the ministerial leaders of the church. Should it not then spread like ripples of the sea throughout North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and the islands of the sea? Let us kindle the fires of God through full surrender that will set the world ablaze for the Advent message! Will you not make such a surrender, such a pledge, at this time?