“And no man, when he hath lighted a lamp, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but putteth it on a stand, that they that enter in may see the light. For nothing is hid, that shall not be made manifest; nor anything secret that shall not be known and come to light. Take heed therefore how ye hear.” (Luke 8:16-18).
There are two sides of the Christian life which we must guard carefully if we wish to avoid spiritual injury. These are the life with God and the life for God. To keep the proper balance between these two is an art that seems to be difficult to master. It is so easy to forget that the life with God must also be a life for God. Likewise, the life for God is a life with God.
In the first place we must obtain spiritual life and receive light in our soul from God. We must first sit at meat in the Kingdom of God, drink freely of the water of life, and receive the power of God unto salvation; peace and joy must enter our soul. Then we may go out to serve Christ as living lights; more correctly, we are to be light bearers.
The light is not to be placed under a bushel but in the candlestick. “The seven candlesticks are the seven churches” (Rev. 1:20). Under these figures the Bible pictures the true Christian life.
The first period of our Christian life was marked by diligence, simplicity, childlikeness, and spiritual warmth. As time went on we began to slacken on these points. It is so easy to become mechanical and dry in our Christian life. Our prayers do not seem to reach God. Spiritual zeal diminishes, and the Word of God loses its flavor. Courage, power, and faith fail us, and the desire to serve the Lord with joy disappears.
If we are to ask the reason for such conditions, we shall have to reply that our spiritual life has not been nourished as it should be. Our communion with God has been too much of a hit and miss affair; we have neglected the Word and prayer. We seem unable to break through the barriers that separate us from God.
There are times when we are regular in our Bible reading and prayer; at other times we let our sluggishness rule. When we have nothing particular to ask God for we easily lose our desire to pray. But when something grips us anew such as a spirit filled message, or an awakening that comes our way, we are stirred to increased devotional activity. The same is true if adversity or sorrow becomes our lot. But as soon as the crisis is over we slide back in the old ruts again; we neglect the Bible and forsake the prayer chamber. Of course we have to take the Bible now and then, read a couple of verses and pray; but somehow the heart is not in all this. Our thoughts center about our work, our food, the time of day, and the like. Somehow we stop halfway in our devotions.
We are all exposed more or less to this great danger. Some Christians are victorious on this point, while others suffer from this spirit of impotence most of their lives; they seldom experience a renewal by the Spirit of God.
The light flickers.
The lamp smokes.
There is little oil in the vessel.
Lack of regularity in spiritual matters makes for an infirm Christianity and weakens the will of God’s people. Christian manliness suffers. Growth ceases; we go back to a milk diet, though have for a long time been old enough for solid foods.
It is said of Jesus that He went “as was His custom” to the Mount of Olives in which there was a garden. It was a rule in His life from which nothing could make Him swerve.
Would to God that we also had such a custom in our daily life. Then we too should be able to face our tasks in quietness and confidence, having these words on our lips, “Father, I thank Thee that Thou hearest me always.”
The Christian who holds to this rule will possess a sound spiritual life, and will never lose his first love.
* * *
In addition to the above, there are certain other reasons for the decline in our spirituality.
It does happen, even when we are occupied with the Word and prayer, that we lose all desire for spiritual matters. We try our level best to fight off such a condition but ‘we seem to sink into a slough of sluggishness just the same. It seems to be so impossible for us to become warm in our spirit. It is as though we should be doomed to wither and become weak Christians.
I know that there are many who sigh in despair under such conditions and ask themselves and others how this can be. It is self-evident that there are many answers to such questions. We can be certain however, that for many the reason is that they are not using their natural or spiritual gifts to serve in the Kingdom of God.
The life with God must also be a life for God.
If we always want to have these gifts, but never want to use them, to receive but never to give, our spiritual development will be arrested. It is only running water that has any power. Therefore the Scriptures say that from within him shall flow rivers of living water. (John 7:38). The water is to run in rivers; it is not to be collected in puddles.
Many a healthy person has lost sleep, appetite, and even his health, because he did not want to work. Many a Christian has likewise lost his desire to live with God because he shirked his responsibility of living for God.
In this dispensation God wants to work through us who are Christians. He has chosen His children to be servants. The work He has given us to do has a two-fold effect; others receive help from God through us, and God has an opportunity to help us through our work for others. We have a warped view of Christian service if we think we are supposed to serve, sacrifice and suffer for others only.
All work in the Kingdom of God blesses both him who serves and him who is served. It is therefore so necessary for us to serve with the right spirit. “The husbandman that laboreth must be the first to partake of the fruits. Consider what I say; for the Lord shall give thee understanding in all things.” (II Tim. 2:6-7).
May the Lord grant all Christians to understand this.
We shall let the Lord determine who receives the greatest blessing, the server or the served. But this is most certainly true: The Lord has not called us into His service solely to win others, but that He through such service might bless us.
It is difficult for any Christian to get through this life; but it is most difficult for those who shirk their obligations to serve and to suffer as true soldiers of Christ. He who buried his talent in the earth lost heaven as well as the talent.
As life is widened to include others it is also broadened before God. The Christian who constantly thinks only of himself, and whose prayer, feeling of responsibility, sacrifice, and interest extends only to his own, lives in stiflingly close quarters. His spiritual life becomes dull, dry, and slack, He lives too close to earth. But when his vision and interest is broadened so as to include those not his own, the spirit rises to God. He feels the burdens of others as his own, and his prayers become prayers of intercession. Such work enobles the person; it is more blessed to give than to receive.
It has been said that love has a broken wing if it does not carry us across every ocean.
O that I could as so often in deed I would gladly Praise Thee, my Father, the fount of all kindness and mercy! For every task Give what I need, Lord, I ask May e’er Thy friendship sustain me.
* * *
One of the largest fields of service that God has opened for His people is in foreign missions. Paul says that he had been given grace to proclaim the gospel to the heathen. He had received this as a gift of grace, and it provided him with both a great joy and great sorrow.
If this grace has been accorded to you and me, we too have felt some of the responsibility that follows with it. It has often brought us to our knees; as a consequence we have also experienced God’s marvelous help. With every such experience we have rejoiced anew, each time with increased gratitude. The joy of the Lord came upon us as streams in the desert.
It is only as the river continues to flow that it delivers power.
Your work for God drew you closer to Him; your inner man increased in stature.
If you have not been captivated by God’s missionary program, and if you do not have a part in this great work, then give yourself no peace until you have joined the ranks of those who thus serve.
There is a great responsibility placed upon us through the words, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” But there is also a great promise connected with it. “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”
No one obeys this command without receiving a great blessing from God.
Come, then, and join this band. All who have tasted that the Lord is good belong here. Do not place your candle under the bushel, but in the candlestick; permit it to shine also among those who dwell in the shadow of death. This is the will of Jesus for us.
Blest river of salvation, Pursue thy onward way; Flow thou to every nation, Nor in thy richness stay: Stay not till all the lowly Triumphant reach their home; Stay not till all the holy Proclaim, “The Lord is come.”
Copyright 2018 Hauge Lutheran Innermission Federation. All Rights Reserved.