Some are not close Bible students. They are disinclined to apply themselves diligently to the study of God’s word. In consequence of this neglect they have labored at great disadvantage and have not, in their ministerial efforts, accomplished one tenth of the work which they might have done had they seen the necessity of closely applying their minds to the study of the word. They might have become so familiar with the Scriptures, so fortified with Bible arguments, that they could meet opponents and so present the reasons of our faith that the truth would triumph and silence their opposition.
Those who minister in the word must have as thorough a knowledge of that word as it is possible for them to obtain. They must be continually searching, praying, and learning, or the people of God will advance in the knowledge of His word and will, and leave these professed teachers far behind. Who will instruct the people when they are in advance of their teachers? All the efforts of such ministers are fruitless. There is need that the people teach them the word of God more perfectly before they are capable of instructing others.
Some might now have been thorough workmen had they made a good use of their time, feeling that they would have to give an account to God for their misspent moments. They have displeased God because they have not been industrious. Self-gratification, self-love, and selfish love of ease have kept some from good, withheld them from obtaining a knowledge of the Scriptures that they might be thoroughly furnished unto all good works. Some do not appreciate the value of time and have idled away in bed the hours that might have been employed in the study of the Bible. There are a few subjects that they have dwelt upon the most, with which they are familiar, and upon these they can speak with acceptance; but they have in a great degree rested the matter here. They have not felt altogether satisfied with themselves, and have at times realized their deficiencies; yet they have not been sufficiently awakened to the crime of neglecting to become acquainted with the word of God, which they profess to teach. On account of their ignorance the people are disappointed; they do not receive the intelligence which they might obtain from them and which they expect to obtain from ministers of Christ.
By rising early and economizing their moments, ministers can find time for a close investigation of the Scriptures. They must have perseverance, and not be thwarted in their object, but persistently employ their time in a study of the word, bringing to their aid the truths which other minds, through wearing labor, have brought out for them, and with diligent, persevering effort, prepared to their hand. There are ministers who have been laboring for years, teaching the truth to others, while they themselves are not familiar with the strong points of our position. I beg of such to have done with their idleness. It is a continual curse to them. God requires them to make every moment fruitful of some good to themselves or to others. “Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord.” “He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.”
It is important for ministers of Christ to see the necessity of self-culture, in order to adorn their profession and maintain a becoming dignity. Without mental training they will certainly fail in everything they undertake. I have been shown that there is a decided lack with some who preach the word. God is not pleased with their ways and ideas. Their haphazard manner of quoting Scripture is a disgrace to their profession. They claim to be teachers of the word, and yet fail to repeat Scripture correctly. Those who give themselves wholly to the preaching of the word should not be guilty of quoting one text incorrectly. God requires thoroughness of all His servants.
The religion of Christ will be exemplified by its possessor in the life, in the conversation, in the works. Its strong principles will prove an anchor. Those who are teachers of the word should be patterns of piety, ensamples to the flock. Their example should rebuke idleness, slothfulness, lack of industry and economy. The principles of religion exact diligence, industry, economy, and honesty. “Give an account of thy stewardship” will soon be heard by all. Brethren, what account could you render if the Master should now appear? You are unready. You would as surely be reckoned with the slothful servants as they exist. Precious moments are yet left you. I entreat you to redeem the time.
Paul exhorted Timothy: “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” “But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.”
In order to accomplish the work which God requires of them, ministers need to be qualified for their position. The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, speaks thus concerning his ministry: “Whereof I am made a minister, 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, 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.”
No less sacred appreciation of and devotion to the work of the ministry does God require of His servants who are living so near the end of all things. He cannot accept the work of laborers unless they realize in their own hearts the life and power of the truth which they present to others. He will not accept of anything short of earnest, active, zealous heart labor. Vigilance and fruitfulness are required for this great work. God wants unselfish workmen, those who will labor with disinterested benevolence and give their undivided interest to the work.
Brethren, you lack devotion and consecration to the work. Your hearts are selfish. The deficiencies in you must be supplied, or you will erelong meet with a fatal disappointment—you will lose heaven. God does not lightly regard a neglect of the faithful performance of the work which He has left His servants to do. Enduring energy and a constant reliance upon God are lacking in many who are laboring in the ministry. The result of this lack brings great burdens upon the few who possess these qualities, and they are necessitated to make up the deficiencies so apparent in those who might be able workmen if they would become so. There are a few who are working day and night, depriving themselves of rest and social enjoyments, taxing the brain to the utmost, each performing the labor of three men, wearing away their valuable lives to do the work that others might do, but neglect. Some are too lazy to perform their part; many ministers are carefully preserving themselves by shunning burdens, remaining in a state of inefficiency, and accomplishing next to nothing. Therefore those who realize the worth of souls, who appreciate the sacredness of the work and feel that it must go forward, are doing extra labor, making superhuman efforts, and using up their brain power to keep the work moving. Were the interest in the work and the devotion to it equally divided, were all who profess to be ministers diligently devoting their interest wholly to the cause, not saving themselves, the few earnest, God-fearing workmen who are fast wearing away their lives would be relieved of this high pressure upon them, and their strength might be preserved so that, when actually required, it would tell with double power, and produce far greater results than can now be seen while under the pressure of overwhelming care and anxiety. The Lord is not pleased with this inequality.
Many who profess to be called of God to minister in word and doctrine do not feel that they have no right to claim to be teachers unless they are thoroughly furnished by earnest, diligent study of the word of God. Some have neglected to obtain a knowledge of the simple branches of education. Some cannot even read correctly; some misquote the Scriptures; and some, by their apparent lack of qualification for the work they are trying to do, injure the cause of God and bring the truth into disrepute. These do not see the necessity of cultivating the intellect, of especially encouraging refinement without affectation, and of seeking to attain to the true elevation of Christian character. The certain and effectual means of attaining this is the surrender of the soul to God. He will direct the intellect and affections so that they will center upon the divine and eternal, and then will they possess energy without rashness, for all the powers of the mind and of the whole being will be elevated, refined, and directed in the loftiest, holiest channel. From the lips of the heavenly Teacher were heard the words: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.” When this submission to God is made, true humility will grace every action, while at the same time those who are thus allied to God and His heavenly angels will possess a becoming dignity savoring of heaven.
The Lord requires His servants to be energetic. It is not pleasing to Him to see them listless and indolent. They profess to have the evidence that God has especially selected them to teach the people the way to life; yet frequently their conversation is not profitable, and they show that they have not the burden of the work upon them. Their own souls are not energized by the mighty truths which they present to others. Some preach these truths, of such weighty importance, in so listless a manner that they cannot affect the people. “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.” Men whom God has called must be trained to put forth effort, to work earnestly and with untiring zeal for Him, to pull souls out of the fire. When ministers feel the power of the truth in their own souls, thrilling their own being, then will they possess power to affect hearts, and show that they firmly believe the truths they preach to others. They should keep before the mind the worth of souls, and the matchless depths of a Saviour’s love. This will awaken the soul so that with David they may say: “My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned.”
Paul exhorted Timothy: “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” “Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” What a weight of importance is here attached to the Christian life of the minister of God! What a necessity for his faithful study of the word, that he himself may be sanctified by the truth and may be qualified to teach others.
Brethren, you are required to exemplify the truth in your life. But those who think that they have a work to do to teach others the truth are not all converted, and sanctified by the truth. Some have erroneous ideas of what constitutes a Christian and of the means through which a firm religious experience is obtained; much less do they understand the qualifications that God requires His ministers to possess. These men are unsanctified. They have occasionally a flight of feeling, which gives them the impression that they are indeed children of God. This dependence upon impressions is one of the special deceptions of Satan. Those who are thus exercised make their religion a matter of circumstance. Firm principle is wanting. None are living Christians unless they have a daily experience in the things of God and daily practice self-denial, cheerfully bearing the cross and following Christ. Every living Christian will advance daily in the divine life. As he advances toward perfection, he experiences a conversion to God every day; and this conversion is not completed until he attains to perfection of Christian character, a full preparation for the finishing touch of immortality.
God should be the highest object of our thoughts. Meditating upon Him and pleading with Him, elevate the soul and quicken the affections. A neglect of meditation and prayer will surely result in a declension in religious interests. Then will be seen carelessness and slothfulness. Religion is not merely an emotion, a feeling. It is a principle which is interwoven with all the daily duties and transactions of life. Nothing will be entertained, no business engaged in, which will prevent the accompaniment of this principle. To retain pure and undefiled religion, it is necessary to be workers, persevering in effort. We must do something ourselves. No one else can do our work. None but ourselves can work out our salvation with fear and trembling. This is the very work which the Lord has left for us to do.
Some ministers who profess to be called of God have the blood of souls on their garments. They are surrounded with backsliders and sinners, and yet feel no burden for their souls; they manifest an indifference in regard to their salvation. Some are so nearly asleep that they seem to have no sense of the work of a gospel minister. They do not consider that as spiritual physicians they are required to have skill in administering to souls diseased with sin. The work of warning sinners, of weeping over them and pleading with them, has been neglected until many souls are past all cure. Some have died in their sins, and will in the judgment confront with reproaches of their guilt those who might have saved them, but who did not. Unfaithful ministers, what a retribution awaits you!
The ministers of Christ need a new anointing, that they may more clearly discern sacred things, and have clear conceptions of the holy, blameless character which they themselves must form in order to be ensamples to the flock. Nothing that we can do of ourselves will bring us up to the high standard where God can accept us as His ambassadors. Only a firm reliance upon God, and a strong and active faith, will accomplish the work that He requires to be wrought in us. God calls for working men. It is continuance in well-doing that will form characters for heaven. In plainness, in faithfulness and love, we must appeal to the people to prepare for the day of God. Some will need to be entreated with earnestness before they will be moved. Let the labor be characterized by meekness and humility, yet by an earnestness that will make them understand that these things are a reality, and that life and death are for them to choose. The salvation of the soul is not a matter to be trifled with. The deportment of the laborer for God should be serious and characterized by simplicity and true Christian politeness, yet he should be fearfully in earnest in the work which the Master has left him to do. Decided perseverance in a course of righteousness, disciplining the mind by religious exercises to love devotion and heavenly things, will bring the greatest amount of happiness.
If we make God our trust, we have it in our power to control the mind in these things. Through continued exercise it will become strong to battle with internal foes and to subdue self, until there is a complete transformation, and the passions, appetites, and will are brought into perfect subjection. Then there will be daily piety at home and abroad, and when we engage in labor for souls, a power will attend our efforts. The humble Christian will have seasons of devotion which are not spasmodic, fitful, or superstitious, but calm and tranquil, deep, constant, and earnest. The love of God, the practice of holiness, will be pleasant when there is a perfect surrender to God.
The reason why ministers of Christ are no more successful in their labors is that they are not unselfishly devoted to the work. The interest of some is divided; they are double-minded. The cares of this life engage their attention, and they do not realize how sacred is the work of the minister. Such may complain of darkness, of great unbelief, of infidelity. The reason for this is, they are not right with God; they do not see the importance of making a full and entire consecration to Him. They serve God a little, but themselves more. They pray but little.
The Majesty of heaven, while engaged in His earthly ministry, prayed much to His Father. He was frequently bowed all night in prayer. His spirit was often sorrowful as He felt the powers of the darkness of this world, and He left the busy city and the noisy throng, to seek a retired place to make His intercessions. The Mount of Olives was the favorite resort of the Son of God for His devotions. Frequently after the multitude had left Him for the retirement of the night, He rested not, though weary with the labors of the day. In the Gospel of John we read: “And every man went unto his own house. Jesus went unto the Mount of Olives.” While the city was hushed in silence, and the disciples had returned to their homes to obtain refreshment in sleep, Jesus slept not. His divine pleadings were ascending to His Father from the Mount of Olives that His disciples might be kept from the evil influences which they would daily encounter in the world, and that His own soul might be strengthened and braced for the duties and trials of the coming day. All night, while His followers were sleeping, was their divine Teacher praying. The dew and frost of night fell upon His head bowed in prayer. His example is left for His followers.
The Majesty of heaven, while engaged in His mission, was often in earnest prayer. He did not always visit Olivet, for His disciples had learned His favorite retreat, and often followed Him. He chose the stillness of night, when there would be no interruption. Jesus could heal the sick and raise the dead. He was Himself a source of blessing and strength. He commanded even the tempests, and they obeyed Him. He was unsullied with corruption, a stranger to sin; yet He prayed, and that often with strong crying and tears. He prayed for His disciples and for Himself, thus identifying Himself with our needs, our weaknesses, and our failings, which are so common with humanity. He was a mighty petitioner, not possessing the passions of our human, fallen natures, but compassed with like infirmities, tempted in all points even as we are. Jesus endured agony which required help and support from His Father.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2 pp. 499-508
- May we be diligent Bible students.
- Help our ministers be so familiar with the Scriptures that they could meet opponents and so present the reasons of our faith that the truth would triumph.
- Let ministers maintain a becoming dignity by recognizing the necessity of self-culture and mental training.
- May ministers rebuke idleness, slothfulness, lack of industry and economy by their example.
- Bless those ministers working day and night, performing the labor of three men.
- May we love You with all heart, soul, mind, and strength.
- May we keep before our mind the worth of souls, and the matchless depths of Your love.
- Let us advance daily in the divine life, having a daily experience in godliness, self-denial, cross-bearing, and following Christ.
- May we never neglect Bible meditation and prayer.
- Bless the programming for Spring Council 2021, and General Conference 2022.
- Bless every church leader, delegate and church member in the coming months.