"We are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building."[1 COR. 3:9]
The work of the Christian labourer is not light or unimportant. He has a high vocation, from which his whole future life must take its mould and colouring. He who gives himself to so sacred a work should bend all his energies to its accomplishment. He should aim high; he will never reach a higher standard than that which he seeks to attain. He cannot diffuse light until he has first received it. He must be a learner before he can have sufficient wisdom and experience to become a teacher, able to open the Scriptures to those who are in darkness. If God has called men to be labourers together with Him, it is equally certain that He has called them to make the best possible preparation rightly to represent the sacred, elevating truths of His word.
Those who desire to give themselves to the work of God should receive an education and training for this work, that they may be prepared to engage in it intelligently. They should not feel that they can step at once upon the higher rounds of the ladder; those who would succeed must begin at the first round, and climb upward step by step. Opportunities and privileges are granted for them for improvement, and they should make every effort in their power to learn how to do the work of God acceptably.
Wherever our ministers labour, in Europe or in America, they should seek to arouse the youth to prepare for active service in God's great field of battle. All who claim to be the servants of Christ have a work to do for Him. The very name of servant conveys the idea of hire, work, responsibility. To every one God has entrusted powers to be employed in His service. He has given to each his work, and He requires that every faculty shall be improved to His glory.
The Training of Soldiers
Just in front of our printing-office in Basel, Switzerland, is a large park of many acres, reserved by the government for military drill. Here, day after day, at certain seasons of the year, we see the soldiers training. They are drilled in all the duties of the army, so that in case of war they may be ready at the call of the government to engage in actual service.
One day a fine tent was brought upon the ground. Then came the discipline of pitching it and taking it down. Instruction was given as to setting it up in proper order, every man having his specific work to do. Several times the tent was pitched and taken down.
By another company many small cannon were brought upon the ground, and lessons were given by the officers in the matter of moving these quickly from place to place, in taking apart the cannon wagon, and setting the gun ready for use, and in quickly attaching again the fore wheels, so as to be ready at the call to set them in motion in an instant.
Ambulances were brought to the ground, and the sanitary corps were taught to take care of the wounded.
Men were laid upon stretchers, and their heads and limbs were bandaged as are those of the wounded on the field of battle. Then they were laid in the ambulance and drawn from the ground.
For hours, soldiers are drilled to disencumber themselves of their knapsacks, and place them quickly in position again upon the person. They are taught how to stack their arms, and how to seize them quickly. They are drilled in making a charge against the enemy, and are trained in all kinds of manoeuvres.
Thus the drill goes on, preparing men for any emergency. And should those who are fighting the battle for Prince Emmanuel be less earnest and painstaking in their preparation for the spiritual warfare? Those who engage in this great work must take part in the necessary drill. They must learn to obey before they are fitted to command.
Facilities for Training
There should be decided advancement in the matter of special preparatory work. In all our conferences there should be well-organised plans for the instruction and training of those who desire to give themselves to the work of God. Our city missions afford favourable opportunities for education in missionary labour; but these are not enough. There ought to be connected with our schools the best possible facilities for the preparation of labourers for both home and foreign fields. There should also be in our larger churches special training-schools for young men and women, to fit them to become workers for God. And far more attention should be given by our ministers to the matter of assisting and educating younger labourers.
When an effort is made to introduce the truth in an important place, our ministers should give special attention to the instruction and training of those who are to co-operate with them. Colporteurs and canvassers are needed, and those who are fitted to give Bible-readings in families, so that while the ministers are labouring in word and doctrine, these can also be calling minds to the truth.
Our ministers who have gone to important places to hold tent-meetings, have often made a serious mistake in devoting all their time to sermonising. There should be less preaching and more teaching,--teaching the people, and also teaching young men how to labour successfully. Ministers should become efficient in teaching others how to study the Bible, and in training the minds and manners of those who would become workers in the cause of God. And they should be ready to counsel and instruct those who have newly come to the faithful, and who give promise of possessing ability to work for the Master....
All who would be efficient workers must give much time to prayer. The communication between God and the soul must be kept open, that the workers may recognise the voice of their Captain. The Bible should be diligently studied. The truth of God, like gold, is not always lying right on the surface; it is to be obtained only by earnest thought and study. This study will not only store the mind with most valuable knowledge, but will strengthen and expand the mental powers, and will give a true estimate of eternal things. Let the divine precepts be brought into the daily life; let the life be fashioned after God's great standard of righteousness, and the whole character will be strengthened and ennobled.
He who is seeking to qualify himself for the sacred work of God should be careful not to place himself on the enemy's ground, but should choose the society of those who will help him to obtain divine knowledge. God suffered John, the beloved disciple, to be exiled to Patmos, where he was separated from the world's bustle and strife, shut away from every outside influence, and even from the work that he loved. Then the Lord could commune with him, opening before him the closing scenes of this world's history. John the Baptist made his home in the wilderness, there to receive from God the message that he was to bear,--a message that was to prepare the way for the Coming One.
So far as consistent, we should shun every influence that would tend to divert the mind from the work of God. And those especially who are young in faith and experience should beware that they do not in self-confidence place themselves in the way of temptation.
Those who take hold of the work aright, will feel the necessity of having Jesus with them at every step, and they will feel that the cultivation of the mind and the manners is a duty due to themselves and required by God,--a duty which is essential to the success of the work.
Some who contemplate becoming missionary workers may think themselves so far advanced that they do not need all this particular drill; but those who feel thus are the very ones who stand in the greatest need of thorough training. When they know much more in regard to the truth and the importance of the work, they will realise their ignorance and inefficiency.
When they closely examine their own hearts, they will see themselves in such contrast to the pure character of Christ that they will cry out, "Who is sufficient for these things?" Then they will in deep humility strive daily to place themselves in close connection with Christ. While overcoming the selfish inclinations of the natural heart, they are placing their feet in the path where Christ leads the way. "The entrance of Thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple."[2 PS. 119: 130]. But those who have a high estimate of their own ability and acquisitions, are so full of self-importance that there is no opportunity for the entrance of the word of God to instruct and enlighten them.
Many feel that they are fitted for a work that they know scarcely anything about; and if they start to labour in a self-important manner, they will fail to receive that knowledge which they must obtain in the school of Christ. These will be doomed to struggle with many difficulties, for which they are wholly unprepared. They will ever lack experience and wisdom until they learn their great inefficiency.
Very much has been lost to the cause by the defective labours of men who possess ability, but who have not had proper training. They have engaged in a work which they knew not how to manage, and as the result have accomplished but little. They have not done a tithe of what they could have done had they received the right discipline at the start. They seized upon a few ideas, managed to get a runway of a few discourses, and here their progress ended. They felt competent to be teachers, when they had scarcely mastered their a b c in the knowledge of the truth. The have been stumbling along ever since, not
doing justice to themselves or to the work. They do not seem to have sufficient interest to arouse their dormant energies, or to tax their powers to become efficient workers. They have not taken pains to form thorough and well-devised plans, and their work shows deficiency in every part.
Some have given up in discouragement, and have engaged in other employment. Had these patiently and humbly placed their feet on the lowest round of the ladder, and then with persevering energy climbed step by step, diligently improving the privileges and opportunities within their reach, they might have become able, useful workmen, who could give full proof of their ministry, and of whom the Master would not be ashamed.
If those who propose to work for the salvation of souls depend on their own finite wisdom, they will certainly fail. If they entertain humble views of self, and rely fully upon the promises of God, He will never fail them. "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths."[3 PROV. 3:5, 6] We have the privilege of being directed by a wise Counsellor.
God can make humble men mighty in His service. Those who obediently respond to the call of duty, improving their abilities to the very utmost, may be sure of receiving divine assistance. Angels will come as messengers of light to the help of those who will do all that they can on their part, and then trust in God to co-operate with their efforts.
It should be impressed on all who have decided to become workers for God, that they must give evidence
that they are converted men. A young man without a sound, virtuous character will be no honour to the truth. Every worker should be pure in heart; in his mouth should be found no guile. He should bear in mind that, to be successful, he must have Christ by his side, and that every sinful practice, however secret is open to the view of Him with whom we have to do.
Sin has marred the divine image in man. Through Christ this may be restored, but it is only through earnest prayer and the conquest of self that we can become partakers of the divine nature....
The true toilers in the Lord's vineyard will be men of prayer, of faith, of self-denial.--men who hold in restraint the natural appetites and passions. These will in their own lives give evidence of the power of the truth which they present to others; and their labours will not be without effect.
The worker for God should be prepared to put forth the highest mental and moral energies with which nature, cultivation, and the grace of God have endowed him; but his success will be proportionate to the degree of consecration and self-sacrifice in which the work is done, rather than to either natural or acquired endowments. The most earnest and continued efforts to acquire qualifications for usefulness are necessary; but unless God works with the human effort, nothing can be accomplished. Christ says, "Without Me ye can do nothing."[JOHN 15:5.] Divine grace is the great element of saving power; without it all human efforts are unavailing.-- Testimonies for the Church," Vol. V page 583.