OUR life and ministry have one objective. This objective is not looming in a hazy distance; its outlines are definite and exact. The special mission of the remnant church in this world is clearly presented to us: "We are here to become like God in character, and by a life of service to reveal Him to the world."---The Ministry of Healing, p. 409.
The solemnity and grandeur of the divine commission fill the soul with humbleness and joy. If the very possession of an exalted object in the life brings a great satisfaction, then what can be said of the happiness we feel while we are approaching to the attainment of this object!
There is no question but that God's eternal purpose for this earth will be reached ultimately. The victory of good over evil is the theme of the whole Bible and the leading idea of our Saviour's preaching. The triumph of truth is indubitable, for the Creator of the universe has warranted it. But what about our personal participation on the side of good? Is it successful now? And will it be a success in the future? This thought is certainly deserving of consideration.
For a better understanding of those special conditions that lead to the attainment of our objective---becoming like God in character and revealing Him to the world---we look to the experiences of Joshua. While charging Joshua with the responsibility of leadership in that very important moment in Israeli history the Lord pointed out to him several conditions of a successful ministry (Joshua 1:5-8). The whole point was that only through a real knowledge of God, a knowledge that comes from constant contact with God and His Word, would he be able to develop the essential qualities of a prosperous leader of the people and a true servant of the Lord. On His part the Lord widely and willingly opened the door of communion in front of Joshua, saying: "As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee" (verse 5).
How thrilling it is! Mighty, eternal, and holy God comes to a mortal man, reveals Himself to him, transforms him, invests him with many wonderful abilities, and uses him in His service! Indeed, how can one effectively accomplish God's work with out a personal knowledge of Him and without His full participation in this work?
A Main Secret of Success
We are told:
In order to be co-workers with God, in order to become like Him and to re veal His character, we must know Him aright. We must know Him as He reveals Himself. . . . This is the knowledge needed by all who are working for the up lifting of their fellow men. Transformation of character, purity of life, efficiency in service, adherence to correct principles, all depend upon a right knowledge of God. This knowledge is the essential preparation both for this life and for the life to come. --Ibid.
Theoretical studies are insufficient for acquiring such knowledge, and of course this knowledge will be only superficial if our meetings with God continue to be accidental, short, or formal. Other people's experiences in this case can be helpful to us in some degree, but however precious they will never substitute for a personal experience. A lack of the knowledge of God will be seen in our life, and it will at once reveal itself in our witness for Him.
This fact can be illustrated by the story of a poor shepherd of ancient times who spent all his life in a native village. Once while out in the woods this shepherd met a knight in his shining vestments, the sight of which he had never seen before. He had no doubt as to the existence of the person he met, but how could he adequately describe the knight's rich apparel to his fellow villagers? He began a description of splendid onoochas (clothes wrapped around feet in bast shoes) and brilliant cap, as he knew no other words for the things seen. But the word picture he painted lacked the color and excitement he had viewed, and his listeners were not touched with such a description.
I am afraid that we often find ourselves in the same situation as that shepherd when we try to reveal God to our neighbors. Is it because our association with Him is so fleeting and erratic that we are unable to give an accurate description either in word or act?
We know it is impossible to submit ourselves only halfway to God. To know Him is to be like Him. And it is not enough to rely on some experience we have had in the past. Today with a special force the inspired invitation is directed to us: "Let us know the Eternal, let us make haste to know him" (Hosea 6:3, Moffatt).* And the invitation in the King James Version is accompanied by the promise to which we are eagerly looking: "He shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth" (verse 3). Here is the secret of our success now and hereafter.
Steps to these blessed attainments are clearly pointed out:
We can receive of heaven's light only as we are willing to be emptied of self. We can discern the character of God, and accept Christ by faith, only as we consent to the bringing into captivity of every thought to the obedience of Christ. To all who do this, the Holy Spirit is given without measure.--Testimonies, vol. 8, p. 334.
This was the personal experience of Joshua. His question to the captain of the Lord's host "What saith my Lord unto his servant?" (Joshua 5:14) indicates how much he longed for the divine light and guidance. And in this crucial hour of the world's history, in the moment of our greatest need, can it be otherwise with us?
I am deeply moved by these inspired words:
Many, even in their seasons of devotion, fail of receiving the blessing of real communion with Cod. They are in too great haste. With hurried steps they press through the circle of Christ's loving presence, pausing perhaps a moment within the sacred precincts, but not waiting for counsel. They have no time to remain with the divine Teacher. With their burdens they return to their work.
These workers can never attain the high est success until they learn the secret of strength. They must give themselves time to think, to pray, to wait upon Cod for a renewal of physical, mental, and spiritual power. They need the uplifting influence of His Spirit. --Education, pp. 260, 261. How very much we need this power now when so much must be done everywhere for the progress and uplifting of the whole human family!
No Success Without Devotion
From the prosperous life of Joshua I would like to learn one more lesson. Surrounded by many disappointing circumstances, still he remained a man of unreserved devotion in the Lord's service. His motto (so well known to God's children in all successive generations) was: "But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15). The results of such commitment were really magnificent: "And Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua" (verse 31).
Success in any undertaking is not achieved through luck. It comes as a result of hard work and devotion to a chosen pursuit. This is true even in such a sphere as art, where it seems that much depends on innate gift.
The story is told of the famous Russian painter I. E. Repin that shortly before his death he was not allowed to draw or paint by the physicians, who worried about his health. He would not submit to this curtailment of his first love, and continued to be occupied with his lifework. Conforming to the urgent advice of the physicians, his relatives took away all his art materials in order that he could have absolute rest. But he who had devoted the whole of his conscious life to making historical and con temporary portraits could not accept the situation. Living without painting made life meaningless for him. Having nothing ready at hand but burnt matches, he tried to draw with them.
When I contemplate this story I cannot help thinking, Have we any excuse for not manifesting the same commitment and devotion to the work that is entrusted to us?
God's promise is sure: You shall have good success. All we need to do is commit ourselves.
* From: The Bible: A New Translation by James Moffatt. Copyright by James Moffatt 1954. Used by permission of Harper & Row, Publishers, Incorporated.