A Word To You Who Would Be Useful
Does the devil ever tempt you to feel that you are of no use and can do nothing? Every genuine Christian wants to be useful, fruit-bearing, and a soul-winner. This desire is characteristic of the new nature, received at conversion. When Paul was converted, he wanted to go back to Jerusalem and tell all his old friends about it, that they, too, might be saved. When you were converted your heart went out to God for the salvation of your friends, and you tried to so live your life before them that they would be brought to Jesus, and it is largely this desire for usefulness and the salvation of others that has led you to become a soldier or an officer. But now that you are fairly in the Army and in its work, do you ever feel that you are useless; that you can do nothing; that your words are powerless to lead people to Jesus?
I find a great many such people, and maybe you are such an one, and if so, it is for you I write. I have often felt as you do myself; and therefore can sympathize with you, and maybe can write something to encourage you. And first I would say, do what you can. 'Angels can do no more.' Your talents may not be great, but use what talents you have and God will surely increase them. It is a law of God, that what is used shall be increased. Everything that has life begins small. The largest oak was once enfolded in an acorn. The most skillful musician in the world at one time did not know one note from another. The most learned man now living once did not know A from Z. Moses was once a helpless babe in a floating ark of bulrushes. The General was once a young convert. But they grew and increased. If there is spiritual life in you, you will grow, if you will do with your might what your hands find to do.
Cultivate your talents. There are many thousands of bandsmen in the Army today who at one time could not play an instrument, and who did not know a cornet from a concertina. But they began to practice. It was slow work at first. But they kept at it. Probably, the first day they could not see that they had made any progress at all, nor the second day; but in a week or a month they could see. They began, kept patiently at it, and at last succeeded. That is the way to cultivate any talent we have. That is the way to become mighty in prayer, to become acquainted with the Bible, to learn to speak or sing or fish for souls. Begin and keep at it.
Do not get discouraged because you cannot do as well as someone else. God has a work for you to do, and no one else can do it; not even the General can do it. God meant that work for you and you for that work, and if you do not do it, it will never be done. The thing then for you to do is to go to God and thank Him for what gifts you have and for giving you some work to do, and then ask Him for wisdom to do it bravely, faithfully and wisely, and He will surely be with you.
Do not sit down in the discouragement of unbelief and think because you have not the talents of some gifted person you know that therefore you can do nothing. That is wicked. It is dishonoring to God, pleasing to the devil, and will surely result in a great loss to your soul, if not in the final loss of your soul. Jesus tells us that the man with five talents put his money out at use and gained five talents more, and likewise the man with two talents. But He says the man with one talent went and wrapped it in a napkin and hid it, and so lost it, and was himself cast out as a slothful and wicked servant into outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Secondly, encourage your poor, trembling heart with the promises and examples, in the Bible. Here is a promise for you, 'Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord' (1 Cor. xv. 58). The devil tells you that your labour is vain, but God says it is not. Believe God, my brother, and go on with your work. Again the Lord says, 'Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap' (Gal. vi. 7). David tried on Saul's armor, but he could not fight in that, so he laid it aside and went out against the giant in the name of the Lord, with his sling and a smooth stone out of the brook and slew him.
Saul's armor, wrought at the forge, may be like the education and culture gained in the theological schools and universities, while the sling and the stone are like the wisdom given by the Holy Ghost to simple, humble, faithful hearts in mills and shops and kitchens, and the lowly places of secret prayer and daily toil. Go, my brother, my sister, in the name of the Lord, with the wisdom He gives you, and you shall slay giants.
Paul tells us 'that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in His presence' (1 Cor. ii. 26-29).
If you were learned and wise and mighty, and did great things, people would give all the glory to your learning and wisdom; but if you are little and foolish, then they have to give the glory to God. Go on, my brother, and do what you can.
When the Spirit of God came on Shamgar he slew six hundred Philistines with an ox-goad, and Samson slew one thousand with the jaw-bone of an ass, and Gideon, with three hundred men armed only with earthen pitchers and torches routed the hosts of Midian. Hallelujah!
When Jesus blessed the five little loaves and the two small fishes of the lad, they fed about five thousand men. And so if you will pray and believe, He will bless your words and works to multitudes. Remember, it is not what you say or do alone, but it is His blessing added to what you say and do that accomplishes the work, and He will surely add His blessing if you will trust and obey.
I read of an educated minister who had a skeptical lawyer in his congregation, whom he wanted very much to see converted and united with the church, and for whose benefit he prepared some very learned and labored sermons. One day, to the minister's delight, the lawyer came to his study with the glad news that he was converted, and wished to join the church. After some conversation, the pastor rather blushingly inquired, 'May I ask you which one of my sermons it was led you to Christ?
Then the lawyer, with some little confusion, replied, 'Well, to tell you the truth, pastor, it was not one of your sermons that led me to Christ at all. It was this way. A few Sundays ago, as we were leaving the church, the steps were very slippery, and old colored Auntie Blank was trying to descend them. She was crippled and feeble and in danger of falling, when I took hold of her arm and assisted her to the sidewalk. She looked up into my eyes and thanked me, and, with a bright smile on her old black face, asked, "Do you love my Jesus?" and that led me to Christ.' Ah, that was the smooth stone, that killed the giant when Saul's armor and sword had failed!
Be a man of much secret prayer, my brother. Acquaint yourself with God; take time to listen to His voice; read your Bible; love it, pray over it; read good books; familiarize yourself with the 'Orders and Regulations for Soldiers,' by the General, and you will get your mind stored with truths that will be to you as David's smooth stones, and God will surely use you and make you a blessing.
I remember well the first time I attempted to speak from a text. I utterly failed, and was filled with confusion. But by seeking His face the Lord has long since given me victory, and I rejoice unutterably at the privilege of speaking for Him, and by living a life of constant prayer down at Jesus' feet, and by a determined exercise of faith, I seldom open my mouth to speak for Him without feeling a deep conviction in my soul that my words are accompanied by the Holy Ghost and are hitting the mark and reaching hearts. And this may be your experience, my brother, my sister, if you utterly forsake sin, consecrate yourself fully to the interests of Jesus, steadfastly believe and continue in prayer. God said to Moses, 'I will be with thy mouth' (Exod. iv. 12), and He will say the same to you if you wait on Him. He is no respecter of persons.
After The Holiness Meeting
Were you at the holiness meeting? Did you come out to the Penitent-form? Did Jesus make your heart clean? And did you receive the Holy Ghost?
If you gave yourself to God in the very best way you knew of; but did not receive the Holy Ghost, I beg of you not to be discouraged. Do not take a backward step. Stand where you are, and hold fast your faith. The Lord means to bless you. Keep looking unto Jesus, and fully expect Him to satisfy your heart's desire. Tell Him you expect it, and plead His promises. He says: "I know the thoughts I think toward you, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon Me, and ye shall go and pray unto Me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart. And I will be found of you" (Jer. xxix. 11, 14). This is a wonderful promise, and it is for you.
Has the devil tempted you, more than ever, since then? Well, here is another promise for you: "O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires. And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones ... in righteousness shalt thou be established" (Isa. liv. 11, 12, 14). God is going to do wonderful things for you, if you will not cast away your faith and your boldness.
No doubt some of you not only gave yourselves to God, but God gave Himself to you. You did receive the Holy Ghost. When He came in, self went out. You abhorred, you loathed yourself; and sank into nothingness, while Jesus became all and in all. That is the first thing the Holy Ghost does when He comes into the heart in all His fullness -- He glorifies Jesus. We see Jesus as we never saw Him before; we love Him; we adore Him; we ascribe all honour and glory and power unto Him, and we realize, as we never did before, that through His precious Blood we are saved and sanctified. The Holy Spirit will not call your attention to Himself; but will point to Jesus. "He shall not speak of Himself ... He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall shew it unto you," said Jesus; and again: "He shall testify of Me" (John xvi. 13, 14; xv. 26). Nor does He come to reveal to us any new truth, but rather to make us understand the old truth that Jesus spoke, and which the Prophets and Apostles, whom He inspired, spoke. "He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" (John xiv. 26). He will make your Bible a new book to you. He will make you remember it. He will teach you how to apply it to your everyday life, so that you will be safely guided by it.
The reason why people get mixed up over the Bible is because they have not the Holy Spirit to show them the meaning. A cadet or humble soldier who is full of the Holy Ghost can tell more about the real, deep, spiritual meaning of the Bible than all the doctors of divinity and theological professors in the world who are not baptized with the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost will make you love your Bible, and you will say with Job, "I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food - (Job xxiii. 12); and with the Psalmist you will declare His judgments to be "sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb" (Ps. xix. 10). No book or paper can take its place; but, like the "blessed" man, you will "meditate therein day and night" (Ps. 1. 2; Josh. i. 8). He will make you tremble at the warnings of God's word (Isa. lxvi. 2), exult in His promises, and take delight in the commandments. You can be satisfied with nothing less than the whole Bible, and you will say with Jesus, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matt. iv. 4); and you will understand what Jesus meant when He said, "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life" (John vi. 63).
While you walk in humble obedience and childlike faith, trusting in the Blood of Jesus to cleanse you from all sin, the Comforter will abide with you, and the "low-water mark" of your experience will be "perfect peace." I will not dare to say what the high-water mark may be! Like Paul, you may get "caught up to the third heaven" at times, and hear "unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter "(2 Cor. xii. 4). Oh, there are unspeakable breadths, and lengths, and depths, and heights of the love of God for you to revel in and discover by the telescope and microscope of faith! Glory to God! You need not fear that the experience will wear out or grow tame. God is infinite, and your little mind and heart cannot exhaust the wonders of His wisdom and goodness and grace and glory in one short lifetime. Bless the Lord! Hallelujah!
Do not think, however, when the tide flows out to "low-water mark" that the Comforter has left you. I remember well how, after I had received the Holy Ghost, I walked for weeks under a weight of divine joy and glory that was almost too much for my body to bear. Then the joy began to subside, and there would be alternate days of joy and peace; and on the days when there was no special experience, the devil would tempt me with the thought that I had in some way grieved the Holy Spirit and that He was leaving me. But God taught me it was the devil's lie, and that I must "hold fast the profession of" my "faith without wavering" (Heb. x. 23). So I may say to you, Do not think He has left you because you are not overflowing with emotion. Hold fast your faith. He is with you, and will not leave you, after the hard time He has had to get fully into your heart, without first letting you know just why He goes. The Holy Spirit is not capricious and fickle. He has to strive long to get into your heart, and He will strive long before He will leave it, unless you willfully harden your heart and drive Him from you.
I am not writing this, however, for those who are careless and would as soon grieve Him as not, but for you whose hearts are tender, who love Him, and would rather die than lose Him out of your hearts. I say to you, trust Him! When I had almost yielded to the lie of Satan that the Lord had left me, God gave me this text: "The children of Israel ... tempted the Lord, saying, Is the Lord among us, or not?" (Ex. xvii. 7).
I saw that to doubt God's presence with me, even though I felt no special sign of His presence, was to tempt Him; so I promised the Lord then that I would not doubt, but would be strong in faith. Glory to God for ever ! He has not left me yet, and I am persuaded He never will. I can trust my wife when I cannot see her, and so I have learned to trust my Lord, even if I do not always feel the same mighty stirrings of His power in me. I tell Him that I trust Hint, and I do believe He is with me, and I will not please the devil by doubting.
Just at this stage, after having received the Holy Ghost, many people get into confusion. In time of temptation they think He has left them; and instead of trusting and acknowledging His presence and thanking Him for stooping so low as to dwell in their poor hearts, they begin to seek Him as though He had not already come, or had gone away. They should stop seeking at once, and go to fighting the devil by faith, and telling him to get behind them, and go on praising the Lord for His presence with them. If you will seek light when you have light, you will find darkness and confusion; and if you begin to seek the Holy Spirit when you already have Him, you will grieve Him. What He wants is that you have faith. Therefore, having received Him into your hearts, continually acknowledge His presence, obey Him, glory in Him, and He will abide with you for ever, (John xiv. 16), and His presence will be power in you.
Do not keep seeking and crying for more power; but rather seek by prayer and watchfulness and study of your Bible and the honest improvement of every opportunity to be a perfectly free channel for the power of the Holy Ghost, who is now in you. Believe God, and do not obstruct the way of the Holy Ghost, that He may work through you. Ask Him to teach and guide you, that you may not hinder Him in His work. Seek to think His thoughts, to speak His words, to feel His love, and exercise His faith. Seek to be so guided by Him that you will pray when He wants you to pray, sing when He wants you to sing, and last, but not least, be silent when He wants you to be silent. "Live in the Spirit," "Walk in the Spirit," (Gal. v. 25), "Be filled with the Spirit" (Eph. v. 18).
Finally, do not be surprised if you have very unusual temptations. You remember that it was after Jesus was baptized with the Holy Ghost that He was led into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil for forty days and forty nights (see Matt. iii. 16-17 and iv. 1-3). "The disciple is not above his Master" (Matt. x. 24). But when you are tempted count it all joy (James i. 2). Your very trials and temptations will lead you into a deeper acquaintance with Jesus; for, as He was, so are you to be in this present world. Remember He has said: "My grace is sufficient for thee "(2 Cor. xii. 9), and it is written of Him: "For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted" (Heb. ii. 18); and again: "We have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. iv. 15). But, "What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. viii. 31).
Be true, be full of faith, and you will be able to say with Paul: "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" (Rom. viii. 37-39).