THE cause of God is facing an unprecedented crisis. As we look around us we know beyond any doubt that the dragon is wroth with the woman and is making war with the remnant of her seed. (See Revelation 12:17.) As a matter of fact, he is working hard on Christians and non-Christians alike, for he knows he has but a short time.
The Heart of the Church
Naturally we point to world conditions violence, crime, and deteriorating standards. These are all matters of gravest concern, but the main objective of the enemy of souls will be thrust against our homes. The reason is obvious: the heart of the church is the home. "One well-ordered, well-disciplined family tells more in behalf of Christianity than all the sermons that can be preached." The Adventist Home, p. 32. No wonder Satan is bent on destroying or at least damaging our homes and families. The disastrous results of the enemy's attacks are seen everywhere. The staggering and rapidly increasing divorce statistics in North America are now in the 40 percent range. Many other countries have a comparable situation.
Most of us are acquainted with these serious problems, yet we tend to pull our robes around us with pharisaical smugness and say, "Lord, I thank thee that I am not as other men are." We say within ourselves, It can't happen to me. Overconfidence without the necessary protective preparation will lead to a fall. We are warned of this: "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12).
Recently I was talking to a former colleague. He had been a successful minister of the gospel and was respected by all who knew him. Then came a day when everything blew apart. He left his home and family and began living a wild life. This type of situation occurs oftener than we realize. But it does not hap pen as suddenly and dramatically as it appears. Underground factors and neglects prepare the way.
What Are the Pitfalls?
What are the pitfalls and the safe guards? you ask. Pitfall number one as I see it is "too busyness." We get so involved in our work, vocation, and avocation that there is no time for home. How many lonely wives there are whose husbands are never at home. As surely as night follows day, sooner or later such a home is headed for the rocks.
Again, how many lonely children are there whose parents--father and mother--are rarely home? These children are prime candidates for delinquency. If our homes and families are to be the kind God desires them to be, we must make time to spend with our families. For ministers at least one day a week should be family day. It should be time devoted to family interests. The wife and children should know that we place them first--and we should.
A Question of Priorities
That brings us face to face with the question of priorities. What is your sequence of priorities? Mine is God first, family second, others after that. You may argue that your duties come before your family. No, a thousand times no! And that for more reasons than one.
First, if our families are wrecked, our influence before others is destroyed. Second, our mission be gins at home. One day soon we will be asked, "Where is thy flock?" It will be cold comfort in that day to say, "Lord, I have a thousand converts, but I lost my own children." Just in case you may entertain doubts on this point, let me refer you to what Ellen G. White says:
The minister's duties lie around him, nigh and afar off; but his first duty is to his children. He should not become so engrossed with his outside duties as to neglect the instruction which his children need. He may look upon his home duties as of lesser importance; but in reality they lie at the very foundation of the well-being of individuals and of society. To a large degree the happiness of men and women and the success of the church depend upon home influence. Eternal interests are involved in the proper discharge of the every-day duties of life. The world is not so much in need of great minds, as of good men, who are a blessing in their homes.
Nothing can excuse the minister for neglecting the inner circle for the larger circle outside. The spiritual welfare of his family comes first. In the day of final reckoning, God will inquire what he did to win to Christ those whom he took the responsibility of bringing into the world. Great good done for others cannot cancel the debt that he owes to God to care for his own children.
There should exist in the minister's family a unity that will preach an effectual sermon on practical godliness. As the minister and his wife faithfully do their duty in the home, restraining, correcting, advising, counseling, guiding, they are becoming better fitted to labor in the church, and are multiplying agencies for the accomplishment of God's work outside the home. The members of the family become members of the family above, and are a power for good, exerting a far-reaching influence. --Gospel Workers, pp. 204, 205.
Ministers' children are in some cases the most neglected children in the world, for the reason that the father is with them but little, arid they are left to choose their own employment and amusement. If a minister has a family of boys, he should not leave them wholly to the care of the mother. This is too heavy a burden for her. He should make himself their companion and friend. He should exert himself to keep them from evil associates, and should see that they have useful work to do. It may be"hard for the mother to exercise self-control. If the husband sees this, he should take more of the burden upon himself, doing all in his power to lead his boys to Cod. --Ibid,, p. 206.
What a man is at home will profoundly affect all he does outside the home.
Cod designs that in his home life the teacher of the Bible shall be an exemplification of the truths that he teaches. What a man is, has greater influence than what he says. Piety in the daily life will give power to the public testimony. Patience, consistency, and love will make an impression on hearts that sermons fail to reach. --Ibid., p. 204.
The counsel is clear and decisive. If we choose to ignore the Lord's directions, it will be at the peril of our own souls and those of our families. The order of priorities is God first, family next. We must keep it that way.
It is not strange that oftentimes we are less considerate of the feelings of our loved ones than of those outside the home? Sometimes we excuse this rudeness on the ground of being less inhibited or that we are freer to speak our minds. True, there is need for openness and a transparent honesty in dealings between husbands and wives. Family conferences are healthy and to be commended if conducted in the right manner and under proper conditions, but frankness should not be a cloak for rudeness. Again the Lord's servant gives us wise counsel:
There is danger of failing to give due attention to the little things of life. There should be no neglect on the part of the minister to speak kindly, encouraging words in the family circle. My ministering brother, do you, in the home circle, show rudeness, unkindness, impoliteness? If you do, no matter how high your profession, you are breaking the commandments. --Ibid., p. 205.
It is not so much the religion of the pulpit as the religion of the family that reveals our real character. --Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 161.
Remember, "Love will do that which argument will fail to accomplish. But a moment's petulance, a single gruff answer, a lack of Christian politeness and courtesy in some small matter, may result in the loss of both friends and influence." —Gospel Workers, p. 121. "He is our example, not only in His spot less purity, but in His patience, gentleness, and winsomeness of disposition." --Ibid. Our Christian graces and example should shine brighter in our homes than any where else on earth.
Because of a minister's constant and familiar dealing with sacred things, it is easy for him to lose sense of his personal need for devotion and the importance of family worship. In too many Christian homes family worship either drops out because of busyness or be comes a stereotype liturgy. Family worship needs to be a regular morning and evening practice that brings refreshment to mind and soul. It should be made an enjoy able experience suited to all members of the family. It should be a time when the family is all together sharing a full spiritual blessing. It is still true that the family that prays together stays together.
Even when we spend time at home, there are times when we really do not share ourselves. A disillusioned father was asking help for his sixteen-year-old son. The boy was lonely and feeling socially isolated. I suggested to the father that the boy needed his interest and his time.
"You could not be more wrong, doctor," he said. "I am at home every evening."
"What do you do when you are at home?" I asked.
"Well, we watch TV together," he answered.
It appeared that he would hurry home, rush through supper, and then spend the rest of the evening glued to the TV set. No one dared say a word lest it interrupt the program. The boy was hungry for his father's company involving some thing more than mere physical presence. If only he had selected one evening to take his boy out for a hike, or learned to play tennis or engage in some other mutual activity, how much this time would have meant to a lonely lad!
Satan on the March
Yes, my ministering brethren, Satan is on the march and is making war on our homes (see The Great Controversy, p. 580). Let us see to it you and I that he does not make havoc of our homes. Let's guard them with love, gentleness, courtesy, devotion, and timely togetherness. If we keep our homes strong for Cod, I have no fear that such a witness will bring in a harvest of souls to the church.