HOW is it possible for us as ministers of the gospel to be in danger of allowing the sacred fire that we handle to turn into cold ashes? By our very office we are in constant contact with religious duties. We revel in studying Scripture with people, praying with and for people, and public presentation of precious truths to people. We become saturated through the intensity of our overexposure to the surface spiritual duties. People are constantly turning on the faucet of our calling, and we gush out with the anticipated balm for their weary souls.
The squeeze conies when we are drained. When the platitudes of our counsel become just that. When the reality of our instruction becomes forced. As life goes on, a greater stimulus is required to produce an equal reaction to sensation.
First love wanes and becomes commonplace. The eye soon can become used to beauty and the fingers used to the touch of a friend. We go through the motions, but the spiritual spark of genuineness flickers and is about to go out. Promoting the program becomes an end in it self. Professionalism reigns supreme. We are no longer the firebrand for truth, but the staid, superficially smooth, organized promoter. Hypocrisy becomes the rule of the day.
If the men who bear the message have not Christ abiding in them, if they are not true and some are not may the Lord awaken them from their deception before it shall be too late.1
You must be careful not to become victims of an arid and misleading intellectualism, which is based on merely human tradition and on that elementary knowledge, which is all the world can supply, and not on Christ. For it is in Christ that Godhead in all its completeness, dwells in bodily form. It is in your union with Him that your own life reaches perfected completeness. He is supreme over every demonic power and authority. 2
The malady of spiritual mediocrity creeps in upon us stealthily. The fact that we are ministers handling spiritual things lulls us into thinking that by our very association with such, we are all right. Our ministry must not be only instructing, praying for, and guiding others. This work must be buttressed by a daily personal walk with Jesus. Personal private devotions are an essential. We must receive light before we can give light. We must bask in the Sun of Righteousness. We must feed on the Bread of Life and drink of that fountain that never runs dry before we can feed and water the people of God.
The secret of praying is praying in secret. Books on prayer are good, but not enough. As books on cooking are good but hopeless unless there is food to work on, so with prayer. One can read a library of prayer books and not be one whit more powerful in prayer. We must learn to pray, and we must pray to learn to pray. While sitting in a chair reading the finest book in the world on physical health, one may waste away. So one may read about prayer, marvel at the endurance of Moses, or stagger at the weeping, groaning Jeremiah, and yet not be able to stammer the ABC's of intercessory prayer. As the bullet unspent bags no game, so the prayer-heart unburdened gathers no spoil. 'In God's name, I beseech you, let prayer nourish your soul as meals nourish your body!' said the faithful Fenelon. Henry Martyn spake thus: 'My present deadness I attribute to want of sufficient time and tranquility for private devotion. Oh that I might be a man of prayer!' A writer of old said, 'Much of our praying is like the boy who rings the door bell, but then runs away before the door is opened.' Of this we are sure: The greatest undiscovered area in the re sources of God is the place of prayer.3
Our great need is each day to be recharged and revitalized before the very throne of our heavenly Employer, to come from the darkness of the closet illuminated by the Spirit to truly shine for Him.
1 Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers, p. 153.
2. Col. 2:8-10, The New Testament, William Barclay, translator. William Collins Sons & Co., Ltd., New York, publishers, p. 131. Used by permission.
3. Leonard Ravenhili, Why Revival Tarries, p. 154.