When we look on the dark side we lose our hold on the Lord God of Israel. As the heart is opened to fears and conjectures, the path of progress is hedged up by unbelief. Let us never feel that God has forsaken His work.
There must be less talking unbelief, less imagining that this one and that one is hedging up the way. Go forward in faith; trust the Lord to prepare the way for His work. Then you will find rest in Christ. As you cultivate faith and place yourselves in right relation to God and by earnest prayer brace yourselves to do your duty you will be worked by the Holy Spirit. The many problems that are now mysterious you may solve for yourselves by continued trust in God. You need not be painfully indefinite because you are living under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. You may walk and work in confidence.
We must have less faith in what we can do and more faith in what the Lord can do for us, if we will have clean hands and pure hearts. You are not engaged in your own work; you are doing the work of God.
More love is needed, more frankness, less suspicion, less evil thinking. We need to be less ready to blame and accuse. It is this that is so offensive to God. The heart needs to be softened and subdued by love. The strengthless condition of our people results from the fact that their hearts are not right with God. Alienation from Him is the cause of the burdened condition of our institutions.
Do not worry. By looking at appearances, and complaining when difficulty and pressure come, you reveal a sickly, enfeebled faith. By your words and your works show that your faith is invincible. The Lord is rich in resources. He owns the world. Look to Him who has light, and power, and efficiency. He will bless everyone who is seeking to communicate light and love.
The Lord desires all to understand that their prosperity is hid with Him in Christ; that it is dependent on their humility and meekness, their wholehearted obedience and devotion. When they shall learn the lesson of the great Teacher, to die to self, to put no confidence in man, nor to make flesh their arm, then, as they call upon Him, the Lord will be to them a present help in every time of need. He will guide them in judgment. He will be at their right hand to give them counsel. He will say to them: "This is the way, walk ye in it."
Let the brethren in responsible positions talk faith and courage to the workers. Cast your net on the right side of the ship, the side of faith. As long as probation continues, show what can be done by a consecrated, living church.
We do not understand as we should the great conflict going on between invisible agencies, the controversy between loyal and disloyal angels. Over every man, good and evil angels strive. This is no make-believe conflict. It is not mimic battles in which we are engaged. We have to meet most powerful adversaries, and it rests with us to determine which shall win. We are to find our strength where the early disciples found theirs. "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication." "And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting." "And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost." Acts 1:14; 2:2, 4.
There is no excuse for defection or despondency, because all the promises of heavenly grace are for those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. The intensity of desire represented by hungering and thirsting is a pledge that the coveted supply will be given.
Just as soon as we realize our inability to do God's work and submit to be guided by His wisdom, the Lord can work with us. If we will empty the soul of self, He will supply all our necessities.
Place your mind and will where the Holy Spirit can reach for them, for He will not work through another man's mind and conscience to reach yours. With earnest prayer for wisdom, make the work of God your study. Take counsel of sanctified reason, surrendered wholly to God.
Look unto Jesus in simplicity and faith. Gaze upon Jesus until the spirit faints under the excess of light. We do not half pray. We do not half believe. "Ask, and it shall be given you." Luke 11:9. Pray, believe, strengthen one another. Pray as you never before prayed that the Lord will lay His hand upon you, that you may be able to comprehend the length and breadth and depth and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
The fact that we are called upon to endure trial proves that the Lord Jesus sees in us something very precious, which He desires to develop. If He saw in us nothing whereby He might glorify His name He would not spend time in refining us. We do not take special pains in pruning brambles. Christ does not cast worthless stones into His furnace. It is valuable ore that He tests.
The blacksmith puts the iron and steel into the fire that he may know what manner of metal they are. The Lord allows His chosen ones to be placed in the furnace of affliction in order that He may see what temper they are of and whether He can mold and fashion them for His work.
The laws of Christ's kingdom are so simple, and yet so complete, that man-made additions will create confusion. And the more simple our plans for work in God's service, the more we shall accomplish. To adopt worldly policy in the work of God is to invite disaster and defeat. Simplicity and humility must characterize every effective effort for the advancement of His kingdom.
In order that the gospel may go to all nations, kindreds, tongues, and peoples, self-sacrifice must be maintained. Those in positions of trust are in all things to act as faithful stewards, conscientiously guarding the funds that have been created by the people. There must be care to prevent all needless outlay. In erecting buildings and providing facilities for the work, we should be careful not to make our preparation so elaborate as to consume money unnecessarily; for this means in every case inability to provide for the extension of the work in other fields, especially in foreign lands. Means are not to be drawn from the treasury to establish institutions in the home field, at a risk of crippling the advancement of truth in regions beyond.
God's money is to be used not only in your immediate vicinity, but in distant countries, in the islands of the sea. If His people do not engage in this work, God will surely remove the power that is not rightly appropriated.
Many among believers have scarcely food enough to eat, yet in their deep poverty they bring their tithes and offerings to the Lord's treasury. Many who know what it is to sustain the cause of God in hard and trying circumstances have invested means in the publishing houses.
They have willingly endured hardship and privation, and have watched and prayed for the success of the work. Their gifts and sacrifices express the fervent gratitude of their hearts to Him who has called them out of darkness into His marvelous light. Their prayers and their alms come up as a memorial before God. No incense more fragrant can ascend to heaven.
But the work of God in its wide extent is one, and the same principles should control in all its branches. It must bear the stamp of missionary work. Every department of the cause is related to all parts of the gospel field, and the spirit that controls one department will be felt throughout the entire field. If a portion of the workers receive large wages, there are others, in different branches of the work, who also will call for high wages, and the spirit of self-sacrifice will become feeble. Other institutions will catch the same spirit, and the Lord's favor will be removed from them; for He can never sanction selfishness. Thus our aggressive work would come to an end. It is impossible to carry it forward except by constant sacrifice. From all parts of the world the calls are coming in for men and means to carry forward the work. Shall we be compelled to say: "You must wait; we have no money in the treasury"?
Some of the men of experience and piety, who led out in this work, who denied self and did not hesitate to sacrifice for its success, are now sleeping in the grave. They were God's appointed channels, His representative men, through whom the principles of spiritual life were communicated to the church. They had an experience of the highest value. They could not be bought or sold. Their purity and devotion and self-sacrifice, their living connection with God, were blessed to the upbuilding of the work. Our institutions were characterized by the spirit of self-sacrifice.
In the days when we were struggling with poverty, those who saw how wondrously God wrought for the cause felt that no greater honor could be bestowed upon them than to be bound up with the interests of the work by sacred links which connected them with God. Would they lay down the burden and make terms with the Lord from a money point of view? No, no. Should every timeserver forsake his post, they would never desert the work.
The believers who in the early history of the cause sacrificed for the upbuilding of the work were imbued with the same spirit. They felt that God demanded of all connected with His cause an unreserved consecration of body, soul, and spirit, of all their energies and capabilities, to make the work a success.
But in some respects the work has deteriorated. While it has grown in extent and facilities, it has waned in piety.
There is a lesson for us in the history of Solomon. The early life of this king of Israel was bright with promise. He chose the wisdom of God, and the glory of his reign excited the wonder of the world. He might have gone from strength to strength, from character to character, even approaching nearer the similitude of the character of God; but how sad his history; he was exalted to most sacred positions of trust, but he proved unfaithful. He grew into self-sufficiency, pride, self-exaltation. The lust for political power and self-aggrandizement led him to form alliances with heathen nations. The silver of Tarshish and the gold of Ophir were procured at a terrible expense, even the sacrifice of integrity, the betrayal of sacred trusts. Association with idolaters corrupted his faith; one false step led to another; there was a breaking down of the barriers which God had erected for the safety of His people; his life was corrupted by polygamy; and at last he gave himself to the worship of false gods. A character that had been firm and pure and elevated became weak, marked with moral inefficiency.
Evil counselors were not wanting, who swayed that once noble, independent mind as they chose, because he did not make God his guide and counselor. His fine sensibilities became blunted; the conscientious, considerate spirit of his early reign was changed. Self-indulgence was his god; and, as the result, severe judgment and cruel tyranny marked his course. The extravagance practiced in selfish indulgence necessitated a grinding taxation upon the poor. From the wisest king that ever swayed a scepter, Solomon became a despot. As a king he had been the idol of the nation, and that which he said and did was copied. His example exerted an influence the result of which can be fully known only when the works of all shall come in review before God, and every man shall be judged according to the deeds done in the body.
Oh, how can God bear with the misdeeds of those who have had great light and advantages, and yet follow the course of their own choosing, to their eternal harm! Solomon, who at the dedication of the temple had solemnly charged the people, "Let your heart therefore be perfect with the Lord our God" (1 Kings 8:61), chose his own way, and in his heart separated from God. The mind that was once given to God and inspired of Him to write the most precious words of wisdom (the book of Proverbs),--truths which are immortalized,--that noble mind, through evil associations and yielding to temptation, became inefficient, weak in moral power, and Solomon dishonored himself, dishonored Israel, and dishonored God.
Looking upon this picture, we see what human beings become when they venture to separate from God. One false step prepares the way for another, and every step is taken more easily than the last. Thus souls are found following another leader than Christ.
All who occupy positions in our institutions will be tested. If they will make Christ their pattern, He will give them wisdom and knowledge and understanding; they will grow in grace and aptitude in Christ's way; their characters will be molded after His similitude. If they fail of keeping the way of the Lord, another spirit will control the mind and judgment, and they will plan without the Lord and will take their own course and leave the positions they have occupied. The light has been given them; if they depart from it, let no man present a bribe to induce them to remain. They will be a hindrance and a snare. The time has come when everything is to be shaken that can be shaken, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Every case is coming in review before God; He is measuring the temple and the worshipers therein.