Christ is our example. Are the ministers of Christ tempted and fiercely buffeted by Satan? so also was He who knew no sin. He turned to His Father in these hours of distress. He came to earth that He might provide a way whereby we could find grace and strength to help in every time of need, by following His example in frequent, earnest prayer. If the ministers of Christ will imitate this pattern, they will be imbued with His spirit, and angels will minister unto them.
Angels ministered to Jesus, yet their presence did not make His life one of ease and freedom from severe conflict and fierce temptations. He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin. If ministers, while engaged in the work which the Master has appointed them to do, have trials and perplexities and temptations, should they be discouraged, when they know that there is One who has endured all these before them? Should they cast away their confidence because they do not realize all that they expect from their labors? Christ labored earnestly for His own nation; but His efforts were despised by the very ones He came to save, and they put to death Him who came to give them life.
There is a sufficient number of ministers, but a great lack of laborers. Laborers, co-workers with God, have a sense of the sacredness of the work and of the severe conflicts they must meet in order to carry it forward successfully. Laborers will not faint and despond in view of the labor, arduous though it may be. In the Epistle to the Romans Paul says: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” In Him are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. We are without excuse if we fail to avail ourselves of the ample provisions made for us that we might be wanting in nothing. Shrinking from hardships, complaining under tribulation, makes the servants of God weak and inefficient in bearing responsibilities and burdens.
All who stand unshrinkingly in the forefront of the battle must feel the special warfare of Satan against them. As they realize his attacks, they will flee to the Stronghold. They feel their need of special strength from God, and they labor in His strength; therefore the victories they gain do not exalt them, but lead them in faith to lean more securely upon the Mighty One. Deep and fervent gratitude to God is awakened in their hearts, and they are joyful in the tribulation which they experience while pressed by the enemy. These willing servants are gaining an experience and forming a character which will do honor to the cause of God.
The present is a season of solemn privilege and sacred trust to the servants of God. If these trusts are faithfully kept, great will be the reward of the faithful servant when the Master shall say: “Give an account of thy stewardship.” The earnest toil, the unselfish work, the patient, persevering effort, will be rewarded abundantly; Jesus will say: Henceforth I call you not servants, but friends, guests. The approval of the Master is not given because of the greatness of the work performed, because many things have been gained, but because of the fidelity in even a few things. It is not the great results we attain, but the motives from which we act, that weigh with God. He prizes goodness and faithfulness more than the greatness of the work accomplished.
I have been shown that many are in the greatest danger of failing to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord. Ministers are in danger of losing their own souls. Some who have preached to others will themselves be cast away because they have not perfected a Christian character. In their labor they do not save souls, and fail even to save their own. They do not see the importance of self-knowledge and self-control. They do not watch and pray, lest they enter into temptation. If they would watch, they would become acquainted with their weak points, where they are most likely to be assailed by temptation. With watchfulness and prayer their weakest points can be so guarded as to become their strongest points, and they can encounter temptation without being overcome. Every follower of Christ should daily examine himself, that he may become perfectly acquainted with his own conduct. There is with nearly all a neglect of self-examination. This neglect is positively dangerous in one who professes to be a mouthpiece for God, occupying the fearful, responsible position of receiving the words from God to give to His people. The daily conduct of such a person has great influence upon others. If he has any success in labor, he brings his converts to his own low standard, and it is seldom that they rise higher. Their minister’s ways, his words, his gestures and manners, his faith, and his piety, are considered a sample of those of all Sabbathkeeping Adventists; and if they pattern after him who has taught them the truth, they think they are doing all their duty.
There is much in the conduct of a minister that he can improve. Many see and feel their lack, yet they seem to be ignorant of the influence they exert. They are conscious of their actions as they perform them, but suffer them to pass from their memory, and therefore do not reform. If ministers would make the actions of each day a subject of careful thought and deliberate review, with the object to become acquainted with their own habits of life, they would better know themselves. By a close scrutiny of their daily life under all circumstances they would know their own motives, the principles which actuate them. This daily review of our acts, to see whether conscience approves or condemns, is necessary for all who wish to arrive at the perfection of Christian character. Many acts which pass for good works, even deeds of benevolence, will, when closely investigated, be found to be prompted by wrong motives. Many receive applause for virtues which they do not possess. The Searcher of hearts inspects motives, and often the deeds which are highly applauded by men are recorded by Him as springing from selfish motives and base hypocrisy. Every act of our lives, whether excellent and praiseworthy or deserving of censure, is judged by the Searcher of hearts according to the motives which prompted it.
Even some ministers who are advocating the law of God have but little knowledge of themselves. They do not meditate, and investigate their motives. They do not see their errors and sins, because they do not, in sincerity and earnestness, take a view of their life, their acts, and their character, separate and as a whole, and compare them with the sacred and holy law of God. The claims of God’s law are not really understood by them, and they are daily living in transgression of the spirit of that law which they profess to revere. “By the law,” says Paul, “is the knowledge of sin.” “I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” Some who labor in word and doctrine have not a practical understanding of the law of God and its holy claims, or of the atonement of Christ. They themselves need to be converted before they can convert sinners.
The faithful mirror which would reveal the defects in the character is neglected; therefore deformity and sin exist, and are apparent to others, if not understood by those who are in fault. The hateful sin of selfishness exists to a great degree, even in some who profess to be devoted to the work of God. If they would compare their character with His requirements, especially with the great standard, His holy, just, and good law, they would ascertain, if earnest, honest searchers, that they are fearfully wanting. But some are not willing to look far enough or deep enough to see the depravity of their own hearts. They are wanting in very many respects; yet they remain in willing ignorance of their guilt, and are so intent upon caring for their own interests that God has no care for them.
Some are not naturally devotional, and therefore should encourage and cultivate a habit of close examination of their own lives and motives, and should especially cherish a love for religious exercises and for secret prayer. They are often heard talking of doubts and unbelief, and dwelling upon the wonderful struggles they have had with infidel feelings. They dwell upon discouraging influences as so affecting their faith, hope, and courage in the truth and in the ultimate success of the work and cause in which they are engaged, as to make it a special virtue to be found on the side of the doubting. At times they seem to really enjoy hovering about the infidel’s position and strengthening their unbelief with every circumstance they can gather as an excuse for their darkness. To such we would say: You would better come down at once and leave the walls of Zion until you become converted men and good Christians. Before you take the responsibility of becoming ministers you are required of God to separate yourselves from the love of this world. The reward of those who continue in this doubting position will be that given to the fearful and unbelieving.
But what is the reason of these doubts, this darkness and unbelief? I answer: These men are not right with God. They are not dealing honestly and truly with their own souls. They have neglected to cultivate personal piety. They have not separated themselves from all selfishness and from sin and sinners. They have failed to study the self-denying, self-sacrificing life of our Lord and have failed to imitate His example of purity, devotion, and self-sacrifice. The sin which easily besets has been strengthened by indulgence. By their own negligence and sin they have separated themselves from the company of the divine Teacher, and He is a day’s journey in advance of them. They have for their company, the indolent, slothful, backsliding, unbelieving, irreverent, unthankful, unholy, and their attendants, the evil angels. What marvel that such are in darkness, or that they have doubts of doctrine? “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine.” He shall know of a certainty in regard to this matter. This promise should put to flight all doubts and questionings. It is separation from Christ that brings doubts. He is followed by the earnest, honest, true, faithful, humble, meek, and pure, whom holy angels, clothed with the panoply of heaven, are sanctifying, enlightening, purifying, and guarding; for they are heaven bound.
No greater evidence need be asked that a person is at a great distance from Jesus, and living in neglect of secret prayer, neglecting personal piety, than the fact that he thus talks doubts and unbelief because his surroundings are not favorable. Such persons have not the pure, true, undefiled religion of Christ. They have a spurious article which the refining process will utterly consume as dross. As soon as God proves them, and tests their faith, they waver, they stand feebly, swaying first one way, then the other. They have not the genuine article that Paul possessed, that could glory in tribulation because “tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts.” They have a religion of circumstance. If all around them are strong in faith and courage in the ultimate success of the third angel’s message, and no special influence is brought to bear against them, they then appear to have some faith. But as soon as adversity seems to come upon the cause, and the work drags heavily, and the help of everyone is needed, these poor souls, though they may be professed ministers of the gospel, expect everything to come to nought. These hinder instead of helping.
If apostasy arises, and rebellion is manifested, you do not hear them say, in words of encouragement and lofty cheer: Brethren, faint not; be of good courage. “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His.” Men who are thus affected by circumstances should remain at their homes and employ their physical and mental strength in a less responsible position where they will not be liable to meet such strong opposition. If everything moves smoothly, they may pass for very good, devotional men. But these are not the ones whom the Master will send to do His work, for this is opposed by those who are emissaries of Satan. Satan also, and his host of evil angels, will be arrayed against them. God has made provision for the men whom He has called to do His work, that they may come off conquerors in every contest. Those who follow His directions will never meet with defeat.
The Lord, speaking through Paul, Ephesians 6:10-18, tells us how to fortify ourselves against Satan and his emissaries: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.”
We are engaged in an exalted, sacred work. Those who profess to be called to teach the truth to those who sit in darkness should not be bodies of unbelief and darkness themselves. They should live near to God, where they can be all light in the Lord. The reason why they are not so is that they are not obeying the word of God themselves; therefore doubts and discouragements are expressed, when only words of faith and holy cheer should be heard.
It is religion that ministers need; a daily conversion to God, an undivided, unselfish interest in His cause and work. There should be self-abasement, and a putting away of all jealousy, evil surmising, envy, hatred, malice, and unbelief. An entire transformation is needed. Some have lost sight of our pattern, the suffering Man of Calvary. In His service we need not expect ease, honor, and greatness in this life; for He, the Majesty of heaven, did not receive it. “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.” With this example before us, will we choose to shun the cross, and to be swayed by circumstances? Shall our zeal, our fervor, be kindled only when we are surrounded by those who are awake and zealous in the work and cause of God?
Can we not stand in God, let our surroundings be ever so unpleasant and discouraging? “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For Thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Many ministers have not an undivided interest in the work of God. They have invested but little in His cause, and because they have taken so little stock in the advancement of the truth they are easily tempted in regard to it and moved from it. They are not established, strengthened, settled. He who understands well his own character, who is acquainted with the sin which most easily besets him, and the temptations that will be most likely to overcome him, should not expose himself needlessly and invite temptation by placing himself upon the enemy’s ground. If duty calls him where circumstances are not favorable, he will have special help from God, and thus go fully girded for a conflict with the enemy. Self-knowledge will save many from falling into grievous temptations, and prevent many an inglorious defeat. In order to become acquainted with ourselves, it is essential that we faithfully investigate the motives and principles of our conduct, comparing our actions with the standard of duty revealed in God’s word. Ministers should encourage and cultivate benevolence.
I was shown that some who have been engaged in our office of publication, in our Health Institute, and in the ministry have labored simply for wages. There are exceptions; not all are guilty in this respect, but few have seemed to realize that they must give an account of their stewardship. Means that had been consecrated to God to advance His cause has been squandered. Families in poverty, who had experienced the sanctifying influences of the truth and who therefore prized it and felt grateful to God for it, have thought that they could and should deprive themselves of even the necessaries of life in order to bring in their offerings to the treasury of the Lord. Some have deprived themselves of articles of clothing which they really needed to make them comfortable. Others have sold their only cow and have dedicated to God the means thus received. In the sincerity of their souls, with many tears of gratitude because it was their privilege to do this for the cause of God, they have bowed before the Lord with their offering and have invoked His blessing upon it as they sent it forth, praying that it might be the means of bringing the knowledge of the truth to souls in darkness. The means thus dedicated has not always been appropriated as the self-sacrificing donors designed. Covetous, selfish men, having no spirit of self-denial or self-sacrifice themselves, have handled unfaithfully means thus brought into the treasury; and they have robbed the treasury of God by receiving means which they had not justly earned. Their unconsecrated, reckless management has squandered and scattered means that had been consecrated to God with prayers and tears.
I was shown that the recording angel makes a faithful record of every offering dedicated to God and put into the treasury, and also of the final result of the means thus bestowed. The eye of God takes cognizance of every farthing devoted to His cause, and of the willingness or reluctance of the giver. The motive in giving is also chronicled. Those self-sacrificing, consecrated ones who render back to God the things that are His, as He requires of them, will be rewarded according to their works. Even though the means thus consecrated be misapplied, so that it does not accomplish the object which the donor had in view,—the glory of God and the salvation of souls,—those who made the sacrifice in sincerity of soul, with an eye single to the glory of God, will not lose their reward.
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2 pp. 509-518