Working For God! Part 1/
Working For God! Part 1
Working For G.o.d!
The object of this little book is first of all to remind all Christian workers of the greatness and the glory of the work in which G.o.d gives a share. It is nothing less than that work of bringing men back to their G.o.d, at which G.o.d finds His highest glory and blessedness. As we see that it is G.o.d's own work we have to work out, that He works it through us, that in our doing it His glory rests on us and we glorify Him, we shall count it our joy to give ourselves to live only and wholly for it.
The aim of the book at the same time is to help those who complain, and perhaps do not even know to complain, that they are apparently labouring in vain, to find out what may be the cause of so much failure. G.o.d's work must be done in G.o.d's way, and in G.o.d's power. It is spiritual work, to be done by spiritual men, in the power of the Spirit. The clearer our insight into, and the more complete our submission to, G.o.d's laws of work, the surer and the richer will be our joy and our reward in it.
Along with this I have had in view the great number of Christians who practically take no real part in the service of their Lord. They have never understood that the chief characteristic of the Divine life in G.o.d and Christ is love and its work of blessing men. The Divine life in us can show itself in no other way. I have tried to show that it is G.o.d's will that every believer without exception, whatever be his position in life, gives himself wholly to live and work for G.o.d.
I have also written in the hope that some, who have the training of others in Christian life and work, may find thoughts that will be of use to them in teaching the imperative duty, the urgent need, the Divine blessedness of a life given to G.o.d's service, and to waken within the consciousness of the power that works in them, even the Spirit and power of Christ Himself.
To the great host of workers in Church and Chapel, in Mission-Hall and Open-Air, in Day and Sunday Schools, in Endeavour Societies, in Y. M.
and Y. W. and Students' a.s.sociations, and all the various forms of the ministry of love throughout the world, I lovingly offer these meditations, with the fervent prayer that G.o.d, the Great Worker, may make us true FellowWorkers with Himself.
Wellington, February, 1901.
Waiting and Working.
They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. Neither hath the eye seen, O G.o.d, beside Thee, which worketh for him that waiteth for Him.'a"Isa. 40:31, 64:4 Here we have two texts in which the connection between waiting and working is made clear. In the first we see that waiting brings the needed strength for workinga"that it fits for joyful and unwearied work. They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up on eagles' wings; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.' Waiting on G.o.d has its value in this: it makes us strong in work for G.o.d. The second reveals the secret of this strength.
G.o.d worketh for Him that waiteth for Him.' The waiting on G.o.d secures the working of G.o.d for us and in us, out of which our work must spring.
The two pa.s.sages teach the great lesson, that as waiting on G.o.d lies at the root of all true working for G.o.d, so working for G.o.d must be the fruit of all true waiting on Him. Our great need is to hold the two sides of the truth in perfect conjunction and harmony.
There are some who say they wait upon G.o.d, but who do not work for Him.
For this there may be various reasons. Here is one who confounds true waiting on G.o.d (in living direct intercourse with Him as the Living One), and the devotion to Him of the energy of the whole being, with the slothful, helpless waiting that excuses itself from all work until G.o.d, by some special impulse, has made work easy. Here is another who waits on G.o.d more truly, regarding it as one of the highest exercises of the Christian life, and yet has never understood that at the root of all true waiting there must lie the surrender and the readiness to be wholly fitted for G.o.d's use in the service of men. And here is still another who is ready to work as well as wait, but is looking for some great inflow of the Spirit's power to enable him to do mighty works, while he forgets that as a believer he already has the Spirit of Christ dwelling in Him; that more grace is only given to those who are faithful in the little; and that it is only in working that we can be taught by the Spirit how to do the greater works. All such, and all Christians, need to learn that waiting has working for its object, that it is only in working that waiting can attain its full perfection and blessedness. It is as we elevate working for G.o.d to its true place, as the highest exercise of spiritual privilege and power, that the absolute need and the divine blessing of waiting on G.o.d can be fully known.
On the other hand, there are some, there are many, who work for G.o.d, but know little of what it is to wait on Him. They have been led to take up Christian work, under the impulse of natural or religious feeling, at the bidding of a pastor or a society, with but very little sense of what a holy thing it is to work for G.o.d. They do not know that G.o.d's work can only be done in G.o.d's strength, by G.o.d Himself working in us. They have never learnt that, just as the Son of G.o.d could do nothing of Himself, but that the Father in Him did the work, as He lived in continual dependence before Him, so, and much more, the believer can do nothing but as G.o.d works in him. They do not understand that it is only as in utter weakness we depend upon Him, His power can rest on us. And so they have no conception of a continual waiting on G.o.d as being one of the first and essential conditions of successful work. And Christ's Church and the world are sufferers to-day, oh, so terribly! not only because so many of its members are not working for G.o.d, but because so much working for G.o.d is done without waiting on G.o.d.
Among the members of the body of Christ there is a great diversity of gifts and operations. Some, who are confined to their homes by reason of sickness or other duties, may have more time for waiting on G.o.d than opportunity of direct working for Him. Others, who are overpressed by work, find it very difficult to find time and quiet for waiting on Him.
These may mutually supply each other's lack. Let those who have time for waiting on G.o.d definitely link themselves to some who are working.
Let those who are working as definitely claim the aid of those to whom the special ministry of waiting on G.o.d has been entrusted. So will the unity and the health of the body be maintained. So will those who wait know that the outcome will be power for work, and those who work, that their only strength is the grace obtained by waiting. So will G.o.d work for His Church that waits on Him.
Let us pray that as we proceed in these meditations on working for G.o.d, the Holy Spirit may show us how sacred and how urgent our calling is to work, how absolute our dependence is upon G.o.d's strength to work in us, how sure it is that those who wait on Him shall renew their strength, and how we shall find waiting on G.o.d and working for G.o.d to be indeed inseparably one.
1. It is only as G.o.d works for me, and in me, that I can work for Him.
2. All His work for me is through His life in me.
3. He will most surely work, if I wait on Him.
4. All His working for me, and my waiting on Him, has but one aim, to fit me for His work of saving men.
Good Works the Light of the World.
Ye are the light of the world. Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.'a"Matt. 5:14, 16 A light is always meant for the use of those who are in darkness, that by it they may see. The sun lights up the darkness of this world. A lamp is hung in a room to give it light. The Church of Christ is the light of men. The G.o.d of this world hath blinded their eyes; Christ's disciples are to shine into their darkness and give them light. As the rays of light stream forth from the sun and scatter that light all about, so the good works of believers are the light that streams out from them to conquer the surrounding darkness, with its ignorance of G.o.d and estrangement from Him.
What a high and holy place is thus given to our good works. What power is attributed to them. How much depends upon them. They are not only the light and health and joy of our own life, but in every deed the means of bringing lost souls out of darkness into G.o.d's marvellous light. They are even more. They not only bless men, but they glorify G.o.d, in leading men to know Him as the Author of the grace seen in His children. We propose studying the teaching of Scripture in regard to good works, and specially all work done directly for G.o.d and His kingdom. Let us listen to what these words of the Master have to teach us.
The aim of good works.a"It is, that G.o.d may be glorified. You remember how our Lord said to the Father: I have glorified Thee on the earth, I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do.' We read more than once of His miracles, that the people glorified G.o.d. It was because what He had wrought was manifestly by a Divine power. It is when our good works thus too are something more than the ordinary virtues of refined men, and bear the impress of G.o.d upon them, that men will glorify G.o.d. They must be the good works of which the Sermon on the Mount is the embodimenta"a life of G.o.d's children, doing more than others, seeking to be perfect as their Father in heaven is perfect.
This glorifying of G.o.d by men may not mean conversion, but it is a preparation for it when an impression favourable to G.o.d has been made.
The works prepare the way for the words, and are an evidence to the reality of the Divine truth that is taught, while without them the world is powerless.
The whole world was made for the glory of G.o.d. Christ came to redeem us from sin and bring us back to serve and glorify Him. Believers are placed in the world with this one object, that they may let their light shine in good works, so as to win men to G.o.d. As truly as the light of the sun is meant to lighten the world, the good works of G.o.d's children are meant to be the light of those who know and love not G.o.d. What need that we form a right conception of what good works are, as bearing the mark of something heavenly and divine, and having a power to compel the admission that G.o.d is in them.
The power of good works.a"Of Christ it is written: In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.' The Divine life gave out a Divine light. Of His disciples Christ said: If any man follow Me, he shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.' Christ is our life and light. When it is said to us, Let your light shine, the deepest meaning is, let Christ, who dwells in you, shine. As in the power of His life you do your good works, your light shines out to all who see you. And because Christ in you is your light, your works, however humble and feeble they be, can carry with them a power of Divine conviction. The measure of the Divine power which works them in you will be the measure of the power working in those who see them. Give way, O child of G.o.d, to the Life and Light of Christ dwelling in you, and men will see in your good works that for which they will glorify your Father which is in heaven.
The urgent need of good works in believers.a"As needful as that the sun shines every day, yea, more so, is it that every believer lets his light shine before men. For this we have been created anew in Christ, to hold forth the Word of Life, as lights in the world. Christ needs you urgently, my brother, to let His light shine through you. Perishing men around you need your light, if they are to find their way to G.o.d.
G.o.d needs you, to let His glory be seen through you. As wholly as a lamp is given up to lighting a room, every believer ought to give himself up to be the light of a dark world.
Let us undertake the study of what working for G.o.d is, and what good works are as part of this, with the desire to follow Christ fully, and so to have the light of life shining into our hearts and lives, and from us on all around.
1. Ye are the light of the world!' The words express the calling of the Church as a whole. The fulfilment of her duty will depend upon the faithfulness with which each individual member loves and lives for those around him.
2. In all our efforts to waken the Church to evangelise the world, our first aim must be to raise the standard of life for the individual believer of the teaching: As truly as a candle only exists with the object of giving light in the darkness, the one object of your existence is to be a light to men.
3. Pray G.o.d by His Holy Spirit to reveal it to you that you have nothing to live for but to let the light and love of the life of G.o.d shine upon souls.
Son, go Work.
Son, go work to-day in my vineyard.'a"Matt. 21:28.
The father had two sons. To each he gave the command to go and work in his vineyard. The one went, the other went not. G.o.d has given the command and the power to every child of His to work in His vineyard, with the world as the field. The majority of G.o.d's children are not working for Him and the world is perishing.
Of all the mysteries that surround us in the world, is not one of the strangest and most incomprehensible thisa"that after 1800 years the very name of the Son of G.o.d should be unknown to the larger half of the human race.
Just consider what this means. To restore the ruin sin had wrought, G.o.d, the Almighty Creator, actually sent His own Son to the world to tell men of His love, and to bring them His life and salvation. When Christ made His disciples partakers of that salvation, and the unspeakable joy it brings, it was with the express understanding that they should make it known to others, and so be the lights of the world.
He spoke of all who through them should believe, having the same calling. He left the world with the distinct instruction to carry the Gospel to every creature, and teach all nations to observe all that He had commanded. He at the same time gave the definite a.s.surance that all power for this work was in Him, that He would always be with His people, and that by the power of His Holy Spirit they would be able to witness to Him to the ends of the earth. And what do we see now? After 1800 years two-thirds of the human race have scarce heard the name of Jesus. And of the other third, the larger half is still as ignorant as if they had never heard.
Consider again what this means. All these dying millions, whether in Christendom or heathendom, have an interest in Christ and His salvation. They have a right to Him. Their salvation depends on their knowing Him. He could change their lives from sin and wretchedness to holy obedience and heavenly joy. Christ has a right to them. It would make His heart glad to have them come and be blessed in Him. But they and He are dependent on the service of His people to be the connecting link to bring them and Him together. And yet what His people do is as nothing to what needs to be done, to what could be done, to what ought to be done.
Just consider yet once again what this means. What a revelation of the state of the Church. The great majority of those who are counted believers are doing nothing towards making Christ known to their fellowmen. Of the remainder, the majority are doing so little, and that little so ineffectually, by reason of the lack of wholehearted devotion, that they can hardly be said to be giving themselves to their Lord's service. And of the remaining portion, who have given themselves and all they have to Christ's service, so many are occupied with the hospital work of teaching the sick and the weakly in the Church, that the strength left free for aggressive work, and going forth to conquer the world, is terribly reduced. And so, with a finished salvation, and a loving Redeemer, and a Church set apart to carry life and blessing to men, the millions are still perishing.
There can be no question to the Church of more intense and pressing importance than this: What can be done to waken believers to a sense of their holy calling, and to make them see that to work for G.o.d, that to offer themselves as instruments through whom G.o.d can do His work, ought to be the one aim of their life? The vain complaints that are continually heard of a lack of enthusiasm for G.o.d's kingdom on the part of the great majority of Christians, the vain attempts to waken anything like an interest in missions proportionate to their claim, or Christ's claim, make us feel that nothing less is needed than a revival that shall be a revolution, and shall raise even the average Christian to an entirely new type of devotion. No true change can come until the truth is preached and accepted, that the law of the kingdom is: Every believer to live only and wholly for G.o.d's service and work.
The father who called his sons to go and work in his vineyard did not leave it to their choice to do as much or as little as they chose. They lived in his home, they were his children, he counted on what they would give him, their time and strength. This G.o.d expects of His children. Until it is understood that each child of G.o.d is to give His whole heart to his Father's interest and work, until it is understood that every child of G.o.d is to be a worker for G.o.d, the evangelisation of the world cannot be accomplished. Let every reader listen, and the Father will say to him personally: Son, go work in My vineyard.'
1. Why is it that stirring appeals on behalf of missions often have so little permanent result? Because the command with its motives is brought to men who have not learned that absolute devotion and immediate obedience to their Lord is of the essence of true salvation.
2. If it is once seen, and confessed, that the lack of interest in missions is the token of a low and sickly Christian life, all who plead for missions will make it their first aim to proclaim the calling of every believer to live wholly for G.o.d. Every missionary meeting will be a consecration meeting to seek and surrender to the Holy Spirit's power.
3. The average standard of holiness and devotion cannot be higher abroad than at home, or in the Church at large than in individual believers.
4. Every one cannot go abroad, or give his whole time to direct work; but everyone, whatever his calling or circ.u.mstances, can give his whole heart to live for souls and the spread of the kingdom.
To Each one his Work.
As a man sojourning in another country, having given authority to his servants, to each one his work, commanded the porter also to watch.'a"Mark 13:34 What I have said in a previous chapter of the failure of the Church to do her Master's work, or even clearly to insist upon the duty of its being done by every member has often led me to ask the question, What must be done to arouse the Church to a right sense of her calling? This little book is an attempt to give the answer. Working for G.o.d must take a very different and much more definite place in our teaching and training of Christ's disciples than it has done.
In studying the question I have been very much helped by the life and writings of a great educationist. The opening sentence of the preface to his biography tells us: Edward Thring was unquestionably the most original and striking figure in the schoolmaster world of his time in England.' He himself attributes his own power and success to the prominence he gave to a few simple principles, and the faithfulness with which he carried them out at any sacrifice. I have found them as suggestive in regard to the work of preaching as of teaching, and to state them will help to make plain some of the chief lessons this book is meant to teach.
The root-principle that distinguished his teaching from what was current at the time was this: Every boy in school, the dullest, must have the same attention as the cleverest. At Eton, where he had been educated, and had come out First, he had seen the evil of the opposite system. The school kept up its name by training a number of men for the highest prizes, while the majority were neglected. He maintained that this was dishonest: there could be no truth in a school which did not care for all alike. Every boy had some gift; every boy needed special attention; every boy could, with care and patience, be fitted to know and fulfil his mission in life.
Apply this to the Church. Every believer, the feeblest as much as the strongest, has the calling to live and work for the kingdom of his Lord. Every believer has equally a claim on the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, according to his gifts, to fit him for his work. And every believer has a right to be taught and helped by the Church for the service our Lord expects of him. It is when this truth, every believer the feeblest, to be trained as a worker for G.o.d, gets its true place, that there can be any thought of the Church fulfilling its mission. Not one can be missed, because the Master gave to every one his work.
Another of Thring's principles was this: It is a law of nature that work is pleasure. See to make it voluntary and not compulsory. Do not lead the boys blindfold. Show them why they have to work, what its value will be, what interest can be awakened in it, what pleasure may be found in it. A little time stolen, as he says, for that purpose, from the ordinary teaching, will be more than compensated for by the spirit which will be thrown into the work.
What a field is opened out here for the preacher of the gospel in the charge he has of Christ's disciples. To unfold before them the greatness, the glory, the Divine. blessedness of the work to be done.
To show its value in the carrying out of G.o.d's will, and gaining His approval; in our becoming the benefactors and saviours of the perishing; in developing that spiritual vigour, that n.o.bility of character, that spirit of self-sacrifice which leads to the true bearing of Christ's image.
A third truth Thring insisted on specially was the need of inspiring the belief in the possibility, yea, the a.s.surance of success in gaining the object of pursuit. That object is not much knowledge; not every boy can attain to this. The drawing out and cultivation of the power there is in himselfa"this is for every boya"and this alone is true education.
As a learner's powers of observation grow under true guidance and teaching and he finds within himself a source of power and pleasure he never knew before, he feels a new self beginning to live, and the world around him gets a new meaning. He becomes conscious of an infinity of unsuspected glory in the midst of which we go about our daily tasks, becomes lord of an endless kingdom full of light and pleasure and power.'
If this be the law and blessing of a true education, what light is shed on the calling of all teachers and leaders in Christ's Church! The know ye nots of Scripturea"that ye are the temple of G.o.da"that Christ is in youa"that the Holy Spirit dwelleth in youa"acquire a new meaning. It tells us that the one thing that needs to be wakened in the hearts of Christians is the faith in the power that worketh in us.' As one comes to see the worth and the glory of the work to be done, as one believes in the possibility of his, too, being able to do that work well; as one learns to trust a Divine energy, the very power and spirit of G.o.d working in him; he will, in the fullest sense become conscious of a new life, with an infinity of unsuspected glory in the midst of which we go about our daily task, and become lord of an endless kingdom full of light and pleasure and power.' This is the royal life to which G.o.d has called all His people. The true Christian is one who knows G.o.d's power working in himself, and finds it his true joy to have the very life of G.o.d flow into him, and through him, and out from him to those around.
1. We must learn to believe in the power of littlesa"of the value of every individual believer. As men are saved one by one, they must be trained one by one for work.
2. We must believe that work for Christ can become as natural, as much an attraction and a pleasure in the spiritual as in the natural world.
3. We must believe and teach that every believer can become an effective worker in his sphere. Are you seeking to be filled with love to souls?
To Each according to his Ability.
The kingdom of heaven is as when a man, going into another country, called his own servants, and delivered them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one; to each according to his several ability.'a"Matt. 25:14 In the parable of the talents we have a most instructive summary of our Lord's teaching in regard to the work He has given to His servants to do. He tells us of His going to heaven and leaving His work on earth to the care of His Church; of His giving every one something to do, however different the gifts might be; of His expecting to get back His money with interest; of the failure of him who had received least; and of what it was that led to that terrible neglect.
He called his own servants and delivered unto them his goods, and went on his journey.' This is literally what our Lord did. He went to heaven, leaving His work with all His goods to the care of His Church.
His goods were, the riches of His grace, the spiritual blessings in heavenly places, His word and Spirit, with all the power of His life on the throne of G.o.d,a"all these He gave in trust to His servants, to be used by them in carrying out His work on earth. The work He had begun they were to prosecute. As some rich merchant leaves Cape Town to reside in London, while his business is carried on by trustworthy servants, our Lord took His people into partnership with Himself, and entrusted His work on earth entirely to their care. Through their neglect it would suffer; their diligence would be His enrichment. Here we have the true root-principle of Christian service; Christ has made Himself dependent for the extension of His kingdom on the faithfulness of His people.
Unto one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one; to each according to his several ability.' Though there was a difference in the measure, every one received a portion of the master's goods. It is in connection with the service we are to render to each other that we read of the grace given to each of us according to the measure of the gift of Christ.' This truth, that every believer without exception has been set apart to take an active part in the work of winning the world for Christ, has almost been lost sight of. Christ was first a son, then a servant. Every believer is first a child of G.o.d, then a servant. It is the highest honour of a son to be a servant, to have the father's work entrusted to him. Neither the home nor the foreign missionary work of the Church will ever be done right until every believer feels that the one object of his being in the world is to work for the kingdom. The first duty of the servants in the parable was to spend their life in caring for their master's interests.
After a long time the lord of those servants cometh and maketh a reckoning with them.' Christ keeps watch over the work He has left to be done on earth; His kingdom and glory depend upon it. He will not only hold reckoning when He comes again to judge, but comes unceasingly to inquire of His servants as to their welfare and work. He comes to approve and encourage, to correct and warn. By His word and Spirit He asks us to say whether we are using our talents diligently, and, as His devoted servants, living only and entirely for His work. Some He finds labouring diligently, and to them He frequently says: Enter into the joy of thy Lord.' Others He sees discouraged, and them He inspires with new hope. Some He finds working in their own strength; these He reproves. Still others He finds sleeping or hiding their talent; to such His voice speaks in solemn warning: from him that hath shall be taken away even that he hath.' Christ's heart is in His work; every day He watches over it with the intensest interest; let us not disappoint Him nor deceive ourselves.
Lord, I was afraid and hid thy talent in the earth.' That the man of the one talent should have been the one to fail, and to be so severely punished is a lesson of deep solemnity. It calls the Church to beware lest, by neglecting to teach the feebler ones, the one-talent men, that their service, too, is needed, she allow them to let their gifts lie unused. In teaching the great truth that every branch is to bear fruit, special stress must be laid on the danger of thinking that this can only be expected of the strong and advanced Christian. When Truth reigns in a school, the most backward pupil has the same attention as the more clever. Care must be taken that the feeblest Christians receive special training, so that they, too, may joyfully have their share in the service of their Lord and all the blessedness it brings.
If Christ's work is to be done, not one can be missed.
Lord, I knew that thou art a hard man, and I was afraid.' Wrong thoughts of G.o.d, looking upon His service as that of a hard master, are one chief cause of failure in service. If the Church is indeed to care for the feeble ones, for the one-talent servants, who are apt to be discouraged by reason of their conscious weakness, we must teach them what G.o.d says of the sufficiency of grace and the certainty of success.
They must learn to believe that the power of the Holy Spirit within them fits them for the work to which G.o.d has called them. They must learn to understand that G.o.d Himself will strengthen them with might by His Spirit in the inner man. They must be taught that work is joy and health and strength. Unbelief lies at the root of sloth. Faith opens the eyes to see the blessedness of G.o.d's service, the sufficiency of the strength provided, and the rich reward. Let the Church awake to her calling to train the feeblest of her members to know that Christ counts upon every redeemed one to live wholly for His work. This alone is true Christianity, is full salvation.
Life and Work.