"The servant a" the Lord must not strive (2 Tim. ii. 24).
In seeking to lead a holy, blameless life, I have been helped at one point by the advice of two men and the example of two others.
1. -- COMMISSIONER DOWDLE
Some years ago, in Boston, I attended an "all-night of prayer." It was a blessed time, and scores of people sought the blessing of a clean heart that night. The Scriptures were read, many prayers were offered, many songs were sung, many testimonies and exhortations were given; but of all the many excellent things said that night, there is only one I now remember: that burned itself into my memory never to be forgotten. Just before the meeting closed, Commissioner Dowdle, speaking to those who had been to the Penitent-form, said, "Remember, if you want to retain a clean heart, don't argue!"
There were twenty years of practical holiness behind that advice, and it fell on my ears like the voice of God.
2. -- PAUL OF TARSUS
In writing to young Timothy, the aged Apostle poured out his heart to one he loved as a son of the Gospel. He sought to fully instruct him in the truth, so that, on the one hand, Timothy might escape all the snares of the devil, and walk in holy triumph and fellowship with God, and thus save himself; and, on the other hand, be "throughly furnished" (2 Tim. iii. 17) to instruct and train other men, and to save them. Among other earnest words, these have deeply impressed me: "Of these things put them in remembrance ... that they strive not about words, to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers (2 Tim. ii. 14).
I take it that Paul means by this, that instead of arguing with people and so losing time, and maybe temper, we are to go right for their hearts, and do our best to win them for Christ, and get them converted and sanctified.
Again, he says: "But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves" (2 Tim. ii. 23-25).
Plainly, the Apostle thought this advice important for he repeats it in writing to Titus (iii. 9): "Avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law, for they are unprofitable and vain."
I am certain that Paul is right in this. It takes fire to kindle fire, and it takes love to kindle love. Cold logic will not make a man love Jesus, and it is only he that loveth that "is born of God" (I John iv. 17).
3. -- MARQUIS DE RENTY
We who have had the Gospel taught us in such simplicity and purity can scarcely realize the awful darkness through which some men have had to struggle, even in so-called Christian countries, to find the true light.
Some hundred years ago, among the luxurious and licentious nobility of France, and in the midst of the idolatrous forms and ceremonies of the Roman Catholic Church, the Marquis de Renty attained a purity of faith and a simplicity of life and character and a cloudless communion with God that greatly adorned the Gospel, and proved a blessing, not only to the people of his own community and age, but to many people of succeeding generations. His social position. his wealth and his great business ability led to his being associated with others in various enterprises of a secular and religious character, in all of which his faith and godly sincerity shone with remarkable luster.
In reading his life a few years ago, I was struck with his great humility, his sympathy for the poor and ignorant and his zealous, self-denying efforts to instruct and save them, his diligence and fervor in prayer and praise, and his constant hungering and thirsting after all the fullness of God. But what impressed me as much, or more, than all the rest was the way he avoided all argument of any nature, for fear he should grieve the Holy Spirit and quench the light in his soul. Whenever matters of a business or religious nature were being discussed, he carefully thought the subject over, and then expressed his views, and the reasons upon which he based them, clearly, fully and quietly, after which, however heated the discussion might become, he declined to be drawn into any further debate whatever. His quiet, peaceful manner, added to his clear statements, gave great force to his counsels. But whether his views were accepted or rejected, he always went to his opponents afterward and told them that, in expressing sentiments contrary to their own, he acted with no intention of opposing them personally, but simply that of declaring what seemed to him to be the truth.
In this he seems to me to have been closely patterned after "the meekness and gentleness of Christ" (2 Cor. x. 1), and his example has encouraged me to follow a like course, and so "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. iv. 3), when otherwise I should have been led into wranglings and disputes which would have clouded my soul and destroyed my peace, even if the Holy Spirit were not utterly driven from my heart.
4. -- JESUS
The enemies of Jesus were constantly trying to entangle Him in His words, and involve Him in arguments, but He always turned the subject in such a way as to confound His ides and take every argument out of their mouths.
They came to Him one day ([[Matt. xxii. >> Bible:Mat 22:15-21) and asked whether it was lawful to pay tribute to Caesar or not. Without any discussion whatever, He asked for a coin. He then asked whose image was on the coin.
"Caesar's," they replied.
"Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's," said Jesus.
Again, they brought to Him a woman taken in adultery. His loving heart was touched with compassion for the poor sinner; but instead of arguing with her captors as to whether she should be stoned or not, He simply said, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her" (John viii. 7). And the whole crowd of hypocrites were so convicted and baffled by His simplicity, that they sneaked out one by one till the sinner was left alone with her Saviour.
And so, all through the Gospels, I fail to find Jesus engaged in argument, and His example is of infinite importance to us.
It is natural to the "carnal mind" to resent opposition. But we are to be "spiritually-minded." By nature we are proud of our persons and vain of our opinions, and we are ready to stoutly resist him who sets himself against either us or our principles. Our object at once is to subdue him -- by force of argument or force of arms, but by some means subdue him. We are impatient of contradiction, and are hasty in judging men's motives and condemning all who do not agree with us. And then we are apt to call our haste and impatience "zeal for the truth," when, in fact, it is often a hotheaded, unkind and unreasoning zeal for our own way of thinking. Now, I am strongly inclined to believe that this is one of the last fruits of the carnal mind which grace ever subdues.
But let us who have become "partakers of the Divine nature" (2 Pet. i. 4) see to it that this root of the carnal nature is utterly destroyed. When men oppose us, let us not argue nor revile nor condemn, but lovingly instruct them -- not with an air of superior wisdom and holiness, but with meekness, solemnly remembering that "the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient" (2 Tim. ii. 23-25).
I find that often, after having plainly, fully and calmly stated my views to one who is opposing the truth as I see it, I am strongly tempted to strive for the last word; but I also find that God blesses me most when I there commit the matter into His hands, and by so doing I most often win my adversary. I believe this is the way of faith and the way of meekness. While it may seemingly leave us defeated, we generally in the end win our foe. And if we have true meekness, we shall rejoice more over having won him to an "acknowledging of the truth" (2 Tim. ii. 25) than in having won an argument.
Encouraging One Another
Over and over again when Moses was preparing to give up his command to Joshua, he encouraged Joshua and exhorted him to 'be strong and of a good courage.' And so important was this matter, that when Moses was dead, God Himself spoke to Joshua and said, 'Be strong and of a good courage'; and again, 'Only be thou strong and very courageous'; and a third time, 'Have I not commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed, for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.' (Joshua i. 6, 7, 9.)
Centuries after, we hear David chanting his glorious psalm and singing, 'Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart; wait, I say, on the Lord.' (Psalm xxvii. 14.)
Hundreds of years later we hear Jesus saying to His little flock, confronted by a proud, fierce Jewish priesthood and a world weltering in sin and heathenism: 'Fear not, little flock,' 'Be of good cheer.
Later still we find Paul, a prisoner of the Lord, when waiting to face the monstrous Nero, writing to Timothy from Rome, and saying, 'My Son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.' And to the Ephesians he wrote, 'Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.'
We get a most impressive lesson from the story of the twelve spies sent by Moses to spy out the land of Canaan. Caleb and Joshua returned with cheery hearts, full of courage, and exhorted the people to go up at once and take the land; but ten of the spies gave an evil report; and the people said, 'Our brethren have discouraged our heart,' and they, disheartened and afraid, turned back into the wilderness, and wandered to and fro for forty years, till all of them perished there, except Joshua and Caleb and the children who were not responsible for the unbelief and disobedience of the multitude.
Thus we learn from the example of our Lord, of Moses, David, Paul, and from the bad effect of the spies' gloomy report, the importance of encouraging rather than discouraging one another. How shall we do this?
1. By keeping in such close touch and communion with God that our faces shine with inward peace, and that the joy in our hearts bubbles out in hearty, happy, helpful testimony, not only in Meetings, but wherever we meet a comrade.
2. By talking more about our victories than our defeats; by thinking and meditating more upon our triumphs than our trials; by counting our blessings, naming them one by one, and praising God for what He has done and what He has promised to do.
We should not ignore the dark side of things, but we should not magnify it and refuse to see the silver lining to the cloud that is so dark. God is not dead nor dying, and He does not forget His people who cry to Him night and day, who wait upon Him and do His will. He can open the Red Sea for His people and drown their enemies in its floods. He can make Jericho's walls tumble down before His people who go faithfully about their work and who shout when the time comes. He can make the valley of dry bones teem with an army of living men. (Ezekiel xxxvii. 1-14.) Oh, He is a wonderful God, and He is our God! There is nothing too hard for Him. (Jeremiah xxxii. 17.) Therefore, we should trust Him, and encourage our comrades to trust Him and to make their prayer unto Him in faith and without ceasing.
3. By dwelling more upon the good than the bad in other people. If we would encourage each other, we should talk more about Sister Brown, who is always in full uniform, who sells 'War Crys,' asks for an increase in her Self-Denial Target, and teaches a Company every Sunday, than about Sister Bangs who won't do anything she ought to do, wears feathers in her hat, and goes to moving picture shows.
We should think and talk more about Captain Smith, who by much prayer to God and visitation of the people and faithful dealing, is having souls saved at his Corps, than about Jones who has got embittered in his heart and has left the Work.
4. By trying to comprehend something of the vast responsibilities and burdens which press upon our leaders. What a multitude of perplexities harass their minds and try their patience! Therefore we should not be too quick to criticize, but be more ready to pray for them and give them credit for being sincere and doing the best they can under the circumstances -- probably as well or better than we ourselves would do if we were in their place. They are helped by encouragement even as we are.
I know an Officer who received his target for a special effort and, without praying over it or looking to the Lord at all, immediately sat down and wrote to his Divisional Officer a sharp letter of protest and complaint which discouraged him and made it much harder for him to go happily about his work. I know another old Officer in that same Division who got his target, which seemed fairly large. He saw his Divisional Officer, and said, Major, 'I think you ought to do me a favor.' The poor Major's heart began to get heavy, but at last he asked, 'Well, what is it?' To his amazement and joy, the dear Officer replied, 'Major, I love The Army and its work, and I think you ought to increase my Target.' He encouraged his burdened brother, the Major. He is an old Officer, who goes from one average Corps to another, but through all the years and amid all the changes and trials and difficulties, he has kept cheery and trustful and sweet in his soul, and God makes him a blessing.
'They helped every one his neighbor and every one said to his brother, Be of good courage.' (Isaiah xli. 6.) Shall you and I not take that text for a motto, my comrades? We shall save our-selves as well as our brother from discouragement if we do.
The influence of one gloomy soul can throw a shadow over a whole family. One Soldier in a Corps who persistently represents the difficulties of every undertaking can slow down the pace of all. At best they go forward burdened with his weight, rather than quickened by his example. The glorious work of encouraging others is within the capacity of all. The weakest of us can at least say with loving zeal, and earnest testimony:
'Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.' ([[Psalm xxxiv. >> Bible:Psa 34]]) Hallelujah!
Always he was the dullard, always he Failed of the quick grasp and the flaming word That still he longed for. Always other men Outran him for the prize, till in him stirred Black presage of defeat, and blacker doubts Of love and wisdom regnant; and he styled Himself disciple of the obvious, Predestined failure, blundering foot, and smiled.
But with the smile went heartbreak. Then one day A little lad crept wailing to his knee Clasping a broken toy. 'I slipped and fell And broke it. Make another one for me.' Whereat the answer: 'I am but a fool, I can make nothing.' 'You can mend it then.' 'At least I'll try.' And patiently and slow He wrought until the toy was whole again.
And so he learned his lesson. In the world, The bustling world that has no time to spare For its hurt children, all compassionate He sought, and seeking found them everywhere. And here he wove again a shattered dream, And there bound up a bruised and broken soul; And, comrade to the fallen and the faint, He steadied wavering feet to reach their goal.
Forgotten were his dreams of self and fame; For ever gone the bitterness of loss; Nor counted he his futile struggles vain, Since they had taught him how to share the cross Of weaker brother wisely; and henceforth He knew no word but 'service.' In it lay Ambition, work, and guerdon, and he poured His whole soul in the striving of the day. And when at last he rested, as Love led, So now it crowned him. And they came with tears Those sorrowing hearts that he had comforted Bearing the garnered triumphs of their years. 'Not ours, but His, the glory. Dreams come true. Temptations conquered, lives made clean again, All these and we ourselves are work of him Whom God had set the task of mending man.'