|Qualifications for Successful Christian Service by Ellen G. White (condensed excerpt from Christian Service, chapter 24)|
Listlessness and inefficiency are not piety. When we realize that we are working for God, we shall have a higher sense than we have ever had before of the sacredness of spiritual service. This realization will put life and vigilance and persevering energy into the discharge of every duty.
The right culture and use of the power of speech has to do with every line of Christian work….We should accustom ourselves to speak in pleasant tones, to use pure and correct language, and words that are kind and courteous.
Every minister and every teacher should bear in mind that he is giving to the people a message that involves eternal interests. The truth spoken will judge them in the great day of final reckoning. And with some souls the manner of the one delivering the message will determine its reception or rejection. Then let the word be so spoken that it will appeal to the understanding and impress the heart. Slowly, distinctly, and solemnly should it be spoken, yet with all the earnestness which its importance demands.
We must not enter into the Lord’s work haphazard, and expect success. The Lord needs men of mind, men of thought. Jesus calls for coworkers, not blunderers. God wants right-thinking and intelligent men to do the great work necessary to the salvation of souls.
Men in responsible positions should improve continually. They must not anchor upon an old experience, and feel that it is not necessary to become scientific workers. Man, although the most helpless of God’s creatures when he comes into the world, and the most perverse in his nature, is nevertheless capable of constant advancement. He may be enlightened by science, ennobled by virtue, and may progress in mental and moral dignity, until he reaches a perfection of intelligence and a purity of character but little lower than the perfection and purity of angels.
Christian Dignity and Politeness
Be sure to maintain the dignity of the work by a well-ordered life and godly conversation. Never be afraid of raising the standard too high…. All coarseness and roughness must be put away from us. Courtesy, refinement, Christian politeness, must be cherished. Guard against being abrupt and blunt. Do not regard such peculiarities as virtues; for God does not so regard them. Endeavor not to offend any unnecessarily.
Men may have excellent gifts, good ability, splendid, qualifications; but one defect, one secret sin indulged, will prove to the character what the worm-eaten plank does to the ship,--utter disaster and ruin!
Prayers, exhortation, and talk are cheap fruits, which are frequently tied on; but fruits that are manifested in good works, in caring for the needy, the fatherless, and widows, are genuine fruits, and grow naturally upon a good tree.
God does not generally work miracles to advance His truth. If the husbandman neglects to cultivate the soil, God works no miracle to counteract the sure results. He works according to great principles made known to us, and it is our part to mature wise plans, and set in operation the means whereby God shall bring about certain results. Those who make no decided effort, but simply wait for the Holy Spirit to compel them to action, will perish in darkness. You are not to sit still and do nothing in the work of God.
God has no use for lazy men in His cause; He wants thoughtful, kind, affectionate, earnest workers.
Those in the service of God must show animation and determination in the work of winning souls. Remember that there are those who will perish unless we as God’s instrumentalities work with a determination that will not fail nor become discouraged.
It is earnest Christian zeal that is wanted,—a zeal that will be manifested by doing something…. No more could a soul who possesses Christ be hindered from confessing Him, than could the waters of Niagara be stopped from flowing over the falls.
Every one who accepts Christ as his personal Saviour will long for the privilege of serving God. Contemplating what heaven has done for him, his heart is moved with boundless love and adoring gratitude. He is eager to signalize his gratitude by devoting his abilities to God’s service. He longs to show his love for Christ and for His purchased possession. He covets toil, hardship, sacrifice.
To be a coworker with Jesus, you should have all patience with those for whom you labor, not scorning the simplicity of the work, but looking to the blessed result. When those for whom you labor do not exactly meet your mind, you often say in your heart, “Let them go; they are not worth saving.” What if Christ had treated poor outcasts in a similar manner? He died to save miserable sinners, and if you work in the same spirit and in the same manner indicated by the example of Him whom you follow, leaving the results with God, you can never in this life measure the amount of good you have accomplished.
Work disinterestedly, lovingly, patiently, for all with whom you are brought into contact. Show no impatience. Utter not one unkind word. Let the love of Christ be in your hearts, the law of kindness on your lips.
In the work of soul-winning, great tact and wisdom are needed. The Saviour never suppressed the truth, but He uttered it always in love. In His intercourse with others, He exercised the greatest tact, and He was always kind and thoughtful. He was never rude, never needlessly spoke a severe word, never gave unnecessary pain to a sensitive soul. He did not censure human weakness. He fearlessly denounced hypocrisy, unbelief, and iniquity, but tears were in His voice as He uttered His scathing rebukes. He never made truth cruel, but ever manifested a deep tenderness for humanity. Every soul was precious in His sight. He bore Himself with divine dignity; yet He bowed with the tenderest compassion and regard to every member of the family of God. He saw in all, souls whom it was His mission to save.
The true Christian works for God, not from impulse, but from principle; not for a day or a month, but during the entire life.
The Saviour was an untiring worker. He did not measure His work by hours. His time, His heart, His strength, were given to labor for the benefit of humanity. Entire days were devoted to labor, and entire nights were spent in prayer, that He might be braced to meet the wily foe in all his deceptive working, and fortified to do His work of uplifting and restoring humanity. The man who loves God does not measure his work by the eight-hour system. He works at all hours, and is never off duty. As he has opportunity, he does good. Everywhere, at all times and in all places, he finds opportunity to work for God. He carries fragrance with him wherever he goes.
Sympathy and Sociability
We need more of Christlike sympathy; not merely sympathy for those who appear to us to be faultless, but sympathy for poor, suffering, struggling souls, who are often overtaken in fault, sinning and repenting, tempted and discouraged. We are to go to our fellow men, touched, like our merciful High Priest, with the feeling of their infirmities.
As a people we lose much by lack of sympathy and sociability with one another. He who talks of independence and shuts himself up to himself, is not filling the position that God designed he should. We are children of God, mutually dependent upon one another for happiness. The claims of God and of humanity are upon us. We must all act our part in this life. It is the proper cultivation of the social elements of our nature that brings us into sympathy with our brethren, and affords us happiness in our efforts to bless others.
Thousands can be reached in the most simple and humble way. The most intellectual, those who are looked upon as the world’s most gifted men and women, are often refreshed by the simple words of one who loves God, and who can speak of that love as naturally as the worldling speaks of the things that interest him most deeply. Often the words well prepared and studied have but little influence. But the true, honest expression of a son or daughter of God, spoken in natural simplicity, has power to unbolt the door to hearts that have long been closed against Christ and His love.
Often the Christian life is beset by dangers, and duty seems hard to perform. The imagination pictures impending ruin before, and bondage or death behind. Yet the voice of God speaks clearly, “Go forward.” We should obey this command, even though our eyes cannot penetrate the darkness, and we feel the cold waves about our feet. The obstacles that hinder our progress will never disappear before a halting, doubting spirit. Those who defer obedience till every shadow of uncertainty disappears, and there remains no risk of failure or defeat, will never obey at all. Unbelief whispers, “Let us wait till the obstructions are removed, and we can see our way clearly;” but faith courageously urges an advance, hoping all things, believing all things.-
When in faith we take hold of His strength, He will change, wonderfully change, the most hopeless, discouraging outlook. He will do this for the glory of His name. God calls upon His faithful ones, who believe in Him, to talk courage to those who are unbelieving and hopeless. May the Lord help us one another, and to prove Him by living faith.
Courage, energy, and perseverance they must possess. Though apparent impossibilities obstruct their way, by His grace they are to go forward. Instead of deploring difficulties, they are called upon to surmount them. They are to despair nothing, and to hope for everything. With the golden chain of His matchless love, Christ had bound them to the throne of God. It is His purpose that the highest influence in the universe, emanating from the Source of all power, shall be theirs. They are to have power to resist evil, power that neither earth, nor death, nor hell can master, power that will enable them to overcome as Christ overcame.
True holiness is wholeness in the service of God. This is the condition of true Christian living. Christ asks for an unreserved consecration, for undivided service. He demands the heart, the mind, the soul, the strength. Self is not to be cherished. He who lives to himself is not a Christian.
The first thing to be learned by all who would become workers together with God, is the lesson of self-distrust; then they are prepared to have imparted to them the character of Christ. This is not to be gained through education in the most scientific schools. It is the fruit of wisdom that is obtained from the divine Teacher alone.
God’s people are to be distinguished as a people who serve Him fully, whole-heartedly, taking no honor to themselves, and remembering that by a most solemn covenant they have bound themselves to serve the Lord, and Him only.
No man can succeed in the service of God unless his whole heart is in the work, and he counts all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ. No man who makes any reserve can be the disciple of Christ, much less can he be His colaborer.
The Lord abhors indifference and disloyalty in a time of crisis in His work. The whole universe is watching with inexpressible interest the closing scenes of the great controversy between good and evil. The people of God are nearing the borders of the eternal world; what can be of more importance to them than that they be loyal to the God of heaven? All through the ages, God has had moral heroes; and He has them now,—those who, like Joseph and Elijah and Daniel, are not ashamed to acknowledge themselves His peculiar people. His special blessing accompanies the labors of men of action; men who will not be swerved from the straight line of duty, but who with divine energy will inquire, “Who is on the Lord’s side?” men who will not stop merely with the inquiry, but who will demand that those who choose to identify themselves with the people of God shall step forward and reveal unmistakably their allegiance to the King of kings and Lord of lords. Such men make their wills and plans subordinate to the law of God. For love of Him, they count not their lives dear unto themselves. Their work is to catch the light from the Word, and let it shine forth to the world in clear, steady rays. Fidelity to God is their motto.
The Lord demands that in His servants shall be found a spirit that is quick to feel the value of souls, quick to discern the duties to be done, quick to respond to the obligations that the Lord lays upon them.
Industry in a God-appointed duty is an important part of true religion. Men should seize circumstances as God’s instruments with which to work His will. Prompt and decisive action at the right time will gain glorious triumphs, while delay and neglect result in failure and dishonor to God.
Maintain High Standards
Many who are qualified to do excellent work accomplish little because they attempt little. Thousands pass through life as if they had no great object for which to live, no high standard to reach. One reason of this is the low estimate which they place upon themselves. Christ paid an infinite price for us, and according to the price paid He desires us to value ourselves.
To our ministers, physicians, teachers, and all others engaged in any line of service for the Master, I have a message to bear. The Lord bids you to come up higher, to reach a holier standard. You must have an experience much deeper than you have yet even thought of having. Many who are already members of God’s great family know little of what it means to behold His glory, and to be changed from glory to glory. Many of you have a twilight perception of Christ’s excellence, and your souls thrill with joy. You long for a fuller, deeper sense of the Saviour’s love. You are unsatisfied. But do not despair. Give to Jesus the heart’s best and holiest affections. Treasure every ray of light. Cherish every desire of the soul after God. Give yourselves the culture of spiritual thoughts and holy communings. You have seen by the first rays of the early dawn of His glory. As you follow on to know the Lord, you will know that His going forth is prepared as the morning. “The path of the righteous is as the light of dawn, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” Having repented of our sins, confessed them, and found pardon, we are to continue to learn of Christ, until we come into the full noontide of a perfect gospel faith.
Prudence and Forethought
While Nehemiah implored the help of God, he did not fold his own hands, feeling that he had no more care or responsibility in the bringing about of his purpose to restore Jerusalem. With admirable prudence and forethought he proceeded to make all the arrangements necessary to insure the success of the enterprise. Every movement was marked with great caution.
The example of this holy man [Nehemiah] should be a lesson to all the people of God, that they are not only to pray in faith, but to work with diligence and fidelity. How many difficulties we encounter, how often we hinder the working of Providence in our behalf, because prudence, forethought, and painstaking are regarded as having little to do with religion! This is a grave mistake. It is our duty to cultivate and to exercise every power that will render us more efficient workers for God. Careful consideration and well-matured plans are as essential to the success of sacred enterprises today as in the time of Nehemiah.
How to Counteract Discouragement
The servants of the Lord must expect every kind of discouragement. They will be tried, not only by the anger, contempt, and cruelty of enemies, but by the indolence, inconsistency, lukewarmness, and treachery of friends and helpers… Even some who seem to desire the work of God to prosper, will yet weaken the hands of His servants by hearing, reporting, and half believing the slanders, boasts, and menaces of their adversaries…. Amid great discouragements, Nehemiah made God his trust; and here is our defense. A remembrance of what the Lord has done for us will prove a support in every danger. “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?” And “if God be for us, who can be against us?” However craftily the plots of Satan and his agents may be laid, God can detect them, and bring to naught all their counsels.
Those who, standing in the forefront of the conflict, are impelled by the Holy Spirit to do a special work will frequently feel a reaction when the pressure is removed. Despondency may shake the most heroic faith, and weaken the most steadfast will. But God understands, and He still pities and loves. He reads the motives and the purposes of the heart. To wait patiently, to trust when everything looks dark, is the lesson that the leaders in God’s work need to learn. Heaven will not fail them in their day of adversity. Nothing is apparently more helpless, yet really more invincible, than the soul that feels its nothingness, and relies wholly on God.
A tender spirit, a gentle, winning deportment, may save the erring, and hide a multitude of sins. The revelation of Christ in your own character will have a transforming power upon all with whom you come in contact. Let Christ be daily made manifest in you, and He will reveal through you the creative energy of His words,—a gentle, persuasive, yet mighty influence to re-create other souls in the beauty of the Lord our God.
When you turn from those who seem unpromising and unattractive, do you realize that you are neglecting the souls for whom Christ is seeking? At the very time when you turn from them, they may be in the greatest need of your compassion. In every assembly for worship, there are souls longing for rest and peace. They may appear to be living careless lives, but they are not insensible to the influence of the Holy Spirit. Many among them might be won for Christ.
When responsibilities are to be intrusted to an individual, the question is not asked whether he is eloquent or wealthy, but whether he is honest, faithful, and industrious; for whatever may be his accomplishments, without these qualifications he is utterly unfit for any position of trust.
The motive that prompts us to work for Lord should have in it nothing akin to self-serving. Unselfish devotion and a spirit of sacrifice have always been and always will be the first requisite of acceptable service. Our Lord and Master designs that not one thread of selfishness shall be woven into His work. Into our efforts we are to bring the tact and skill, the exactitude and wisdom, that the God of perfection required of the builders of the earthly tabernacle; yet in all our labors we are to remember that the greatest talents or the most splendid services are acceptable only when self is laid upon the altar, a living, consuming sacrifice.
Cease to Worry
Things will go wrong because of unconsecrated workers. You may shed tears over the result of this; but don’t worry. The blessed Master has all His work from end to end under His masterly supervision. All He asks is that the workers shall come to Him for their orders, and obey His directions. Everything—our churches, our missions, our Sabbath schools, our institutions—is carried upon His divine heart. Why worry? The intense longing to see the church a living and shining light as God designs it shall be, must be tempered with entire trust in God.
Cultivate restfulness, and commit the keeping of your souls unto God as unto a faithful Creator. He will keep that which is committed to His trust. He is not pleased to have us cover His altar with our tears and complaints. You have enough to praise God for already, if you do not see another soul converted. But the good work will go on if you will only go forward, and not be trying to adjust everything to your own ideas. Let the peace of God rule in your hearts, and be ye thankful. Let the Lord have room to work. Do not block His way. He can and will work if we will let Him.
Bear the Divine Credentials
God can use every person just in proportion as He can put His Spirit into the soul temple. The work that He will accept is the work that reflects His image. His followers are to bear, as their credentials to the world, the ineffaceable characteristics of His immortal principles.
Christ’s name was to be their watchword, their badge of distinction, their bond of union, the authority of their course of action, and the source of their success. Nothing was to be recognized in His kingdom that did not bear His name and superscription.
God’s servants should be minutemen, ever ready to move as fast as His providence opens the way. Any delay on their part gives time for Satan to work to defeat them.-
Those who are really representatives of Christ are working for the good of others. They delight in advancing the cause of God both at home and abroad. They are seen and heard, and their influence is felt, at the prayer meeting. They will try to supply the place of the minister, whose labors they cannot have. They do not seek to exalt self, or to receive credit for doing a great work, but labor humbly, meekly, faithfully, doing small errands or doing a greater work, if necessary, because Christ has done so much for them.
Brave and True
What the church needs in these days of peril, is an army of workers who, like Paul, have educated themselves for usefulness, who have a deep experience in the things of God, and who are filled with earnestness and zeal. Sanctified, self-sacrificing men are needed; men who will not shun trial and responsibility; men who are brave and true; men in whose hearts Christ is formed “the hope of glory,” and who, with lips touched with holy fire, will “preach the word.” For want of such workers the cause of God languishes, and fatal errors, like a deadly poison, taint the morals and blight the hopes of a large part of the human race.
God cannot use men who, in time of peril, when the strength, courage, and influence of all are needed, are afraid to take a firm stand for the right. He calls for men who will do faithful battle against wrong, warring against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. It is to such as these that He will speak the words: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
The shepherd who discovers that one of his sheep is missing, does not look carelessly upon the flock that is safely housed, 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 sheepfold, and let him in.” No; no sooner does the sheep go astray than the shepherd is filled with grief and anxiety. He counts and recounts the flock. When he is sure that one sheep is lost, he slumbers not. He leaves the ninety and nine within the fold; and goes in search of the straying sheep. The darker and more tempestuous the night, and the more perilous the way, the greater is the shepherd’s anxiety, and the more earnest his search. He makes every effort to find that one lost sheep.
With what relief he hears in the distance its first faint cry. Following the sound, he climbs the steepest heights, he goes to the very edge of the precipice, at the risk of his own life. Thus he searches, while the cry, growing fainter, tells him that his sheep is ready to die. At last his effort is rewarded; the lost is found. Then he does not scold it because it has caused him so much trouble. He does not drive it with a whip. He does not even try to lead it home. In his joy he takes the trembling creature upon his shoulders; if it is bruised and wounded, he gathers it in his arms, pressing it close to his bosom, that the warmth of his own heart may give it life. With gratitude that his search has not been in vain, he bears it back to the fold.
In choosing men and women for His service, God does not ask whether they possess learning or eloquence or worldly wealth. He asks: “Do they walk in such humility that I can teach them My way? Can I put My words into their lips? Will they represent Me?“
All heaven is interested in this work that God’s messengers are carrying forward in the world, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. This is a great work, brethren and sisters, and we should humble ourselves daily before God, and not feel that our wisdom is perfect. We should take hold of the work with earnestness. We should not pray for God to humble us; for when God takes hold of us, He will humble us in a way that we would not enjoy. But we must day by day humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. We are to work out our own salvation with fear and with trembling. While it is God that works in us to will and to do of His own good pleasure, we are to co-operate with Him while He works through us.
Would that every child of God might be impressed with the necessity of being temperate in his eating, dressing, and working, that he may do the best work for the cause of God. When the laborer has been under a pressure of work and care, and is overworked in mind and body, he should turn aside and rest awhile, not for selfish gratification, but that he may be better prepared for future duties. We have a vigilant foe, who is ever upon our track, to take advantage of every weakness, that he may make his temptations effective for evil. When the mind is overstrained and the body enfeebled, he can take advantage, and press the soul with his fiercest temptations, that he may cause the downfall of the child of God. Let the laborer for God carefully husband his strength; and when wearied with toil that must come upon him, let him turn aside and rest and commune with Jesus.
Rest and Reflection
The disciples of Jesus needed to be educated as to how they should labor, and how they should rest. Today there is need that God’s chosen workmen should listen to the command of Christ to go apart and rest awhile. Many valuable lives have been sacrificed, that need not have been, through ignorance of this command…. Though the harvest is great and the laborers are few, nothing is gained by sacrificing health and life…. There are many feeble, worn workmen who feel deeply distressed when they see how much there is to be done, and how little they can do. How they long for physical strength to accomplish more; but it is to this class that Jesus says, “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest awhile.”