By Mrs. E. G. White
The reason why so little is accomplished to fulfill the words of the Lord’s prayer. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven,” is that many of those whose names swell the church list, have never been joined to Christ; but they have so mingled with the world that their lives and characters are fashioned after the world’s standard. In place of pointing heavenward, they are as sign-boards directing to the world. They are not in union with Christ as is the branch to the vine, although Jesus says, “Without me ye can do nothing.”
Christ and the world are not in partnership. The apostle says, “Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Conformity to the world will never be the means of converting the world to Christ. Christians must be entirely consecrated to God, if the church is to be efficient in its influence for good upon unbelievers. The slightest diversion from Christ is so much influence, power, and efficiency given to the enemy. The church was called into existence to counteract the influence of Satan; but as member after member of the church allows his ability and power to be diverted, one in one line and another in another line, connections are formed with the world, and the enemy of all righteousness triumphs. Almost imperceptibly the world’s standard, the world’s maxims and customs, are introduced into the church; and as these find room, the objectionable maxims and customs more boldly appear, and leaven the influence of the church; and Satan’s devices are successful, just as he has designed they should be. In this way there is brought into the church a mixed company, a divided service. Many profess to love God, yet they are serving mammon, and bowing at worldly shrines. The world is brought into the church, but not through repentance, contrition, and conversion, but because church-members become wedded to the world; and this unholy union is the explanation of the weakness and inefficiency of the church. It is made manifest when church-members follow the maxims of the world, that spiritual discernment is gone. Where this union is preserved, contention, criticism, faultfinding, strife, and decided hatred one of another comes in among those who should be servants of Jesus Christ.
Those who profess to be followers of Christ, should be living agencies, co-operating with heavenly intelligences; but by union with the world, the character of God’s people becomes tarnished, and through amalgamation with the corrupt, the fine gold becomes dim. When worldly agencies are introduced into the church, it is evident that Satan is carrying out his devices, working through those who profess to be followers of Christ, making them ready at any time to engage with him in disheartening and discouraging those who are faithful, who would stand wholly on the Lord’s side.
The church should be the almoner for God to the world, but instead of this, when there is a union with the world, the members of the church practice robbery toward God, withholding from his cause talents of means, ability, and influence. When the church should be diffusing light in every direction, it is in darkness. When the servants of Christ should be drinking largely from the waters of life in order to impart to the world the knowledge of the healing fountain, they are drinking from broken cisterns that can hold no water. Those who profess to love God should let their light so shine before men, that they may see their good works, and glorify the Father who is in heaven.
The world needs missionaries, consecrated home missionaries, and no one will be registered in the books of heaven as a Christian, who has not a missionary spirit. But we can do nothing without sanctified energy. Just as soon as the missionary spirit is lost from the heart, and zeal for the cause of God begins to wane, the burden of our testimonies and plans is a cry for prudence and economy, and real backsliding begins in the missionary work. Instead of diminishing the work, let all the councils be conducted in such a manner that increased purpose may be manifested to carry forward the great work of warning the world, though it may cost self-denial and sacrifice. If every member of the church was constantly impressed with the thought, I am not my own, but have been bought with a price, each would feel that he is under the most sacred obligation to improve every ability given of God, to double his usefulness year by year, and have no excuse for spiritual negligence. Then there would be no lack of sympathy with the Master in the great work of saving souls. Who are there among us that with spiritual perception can discern the stirring conflict that is going on in the world between the forces of good and evil? Do you understand the nature of the great controversy between Christ, the Prince of life, and Satan, the prince of darkness? Does the conflict appear the same to you as it appears to the heavenly intelligences? O, if all who professed to be followers of Christ, were indeed living channels of light to the world, imbued by the Spirit of God, with hearts full to overflowing with the gospel message, with the very countenance beaming with devotion to God and love to man, what a work might be accomplished in a short time! The messengers of the truth would not speak with hesitation, with uncertainty, but with fearlessness and confidence. Their words, and the very tones of the voice would strike conviction to the hearts of the hearers.
Brethren and sisters, God calls upon you to enter the new fields opening before you, calling for laborers. Will you hear? Beneath the cross of Calvary will you consecrate yourselves, and take up the work with vigor and enthusiasm? In the work of saving souls the zeal of Christ consumed him; and it is only by recognizing our responsibilities as laborers together with God, that we become followers of Christ. Shall we give up self, and lift the cross, that we may be endued with the Spirit of Christ and enjoy the triumph of victorious overcomers?
If we would accomplish the great work before us, it is essential that we present to God fervent and effectual prayer; for it availeth much. The prayer needed at this time is the earnest, unbroken, continuous prayer, not fitful, uncertain prayers, wavering as the waves of the sea. If several should meet together with one accord, with hearts burdened for perishing souls, and should offer earnest, fervent prayers, they would prove effectual. Brethren, why not pray more in faith, in child-like simplicity, since our rightful place is at the very feet of God? There self is lost sight of, self is not exalted. There we acknowledge our entire dependence upon God, rendering the homage due unto his great name, which is expressed in the words of the Lord’s prayer, “Hallowed be thy name.” Act this sentiment out, act this truth, bring it into your practical life, and thus the soul will be drawn out after God, thus we shall be kept in active communion with the source of all grace and power. In all our councils, all our plans for the advancement of his cause, the upbuilding of his kingdom, God desires that we rely entirely upon his power, knowing that it is indispensable to success. How can we honor God, how can we vindicate his word, unless we are much in prayer, appealing to him to manifest his power in behalf of the perishing?
The world is full of projects to attract the people of God from their service to heaven. Men who claim to believe the truth accept propositions to advance the truth according to worldly methods; but our hope is in God, and we are to make this plain by importuning him for help, by refusing to be molded by the world’s plan. We are to look to Jesus, showing to believers and unbelievers that our dependence is in God. It is at the throne of supplication that the pride of man is rebuked, and the honor and glory is rolled back to the Source of all power. We are to keep ourselves in a position of humble acknowledgment of God’s unnumbered mercies, in a position of earnest supplication for his grace; for if we walk in the sparks of our kindling, we shall lie down in sorrow. As God’s agents we are to pray more, to labor more, but not in self-sufficiency, supposing that we can go on in our finite strength and do the work that is required of us. He whom we serve is to be our efficiency, our stronghold in every time of trouble.
The Lord calls for laborers in his vineyard but let no minister think that a mere sermonizer is a laborer. He who ministers in the sacred desk must be a shepherd to the flock, or through his careless, sinful neglect, the weak and the diseased will be left to die. We are in need of the ministration of the tender Shepherd; for many are perishing for the lack of care. Paul writes concerning the gospel minister; “Whereof I am made a minister [not a pulpit preacher], according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God; even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory; whom we preach [and then consider our work ended?-No, no], warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: whereunto I also labor, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.”
I have a message to those who labor in the ministry. The Lord is not pleased with the work you have given him, and he does not accept it at your hands, because you neglect the very part of the work that is most essential to the salvation of souls and to the health of the church. The minister is to be a shepherd. Our Redeemer is called the chief Shepherd. The apostle writes, “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ.” However lowly, however elevated we may be, whether we are in the shadow of adversity or in the sunshine of prosperity, we are his sheep, the flock of his pasture, and under the care of the chief Shepherd. But the chief Shepherd has his under-shepherds, whom he has delegated to care for his sheep and lambs. The great Shepherd never loses one from his care, is never indifferent even to the feeblest one of his flock. The beautiful parable that Christ gave of the one lost sheep, of the shepherd that left the ninety and nine to go in search of that which was lost, illustrates the care of the great Shepherd. He did not look carelessly over the sheep of the fold, and say, “I have ninety and nine, and it will cost me too much trouble to go in search of the straying one; let him come back, and I will open the door of the sheep-fold and let him in; but I cannot go after him.” No; for no sooner does the sheep go astray than the countenance of the shepherd is filled with grief and anxiety. He counts and recounts the flock, and when he is certain that one sheep is lost, he slumbereth not. He leaves the ninety and nine within the fold; however dark and tempestuous the night, however perilous and unpleasant the way, however long and tedious the search, he does not weary, he does not falter, until the lost is found. But when it is found, does he act indifferently? Does he call the sheep, and command the straying one to follow him? Does he threaten and beat it, or drive it before him, recounting the bitterness and discomfiture and anxiety that he has had on its account? No; he lays the weary, exhausted, wandering sheep on his shoulder, and with cheerful gratitude that his search has not been in vain, he returns it to the fold. His gratitude finds expression in melodious songs of rejoicing, and heavenly choirs respond to the shepherd’s note of joy. When the lost is found, heaven and earth unite in rejoicing and thanksgiving. For “joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.” Jesus says, “I am the good Shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.” Just as a shepherd of earth knows his sheep, so does the chief Shepherd know his flock that are scattered throughout the whole world. “Lift up your eyes and behold them that come from the north: where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?” “And ye, my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord God.” “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”