A Word on Going Forth as a Laborer and Dropping Other Work

 •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 8
.... I suppose as to the principle that we are clear on one point, namely, that we are bought with a price, and are not our own—servants, blessed be God in this ruined world, of the Lord, by His great grace: and if besides the joy of being forever with Him there is one, it is that of being able to serve Him down here, the little while that we have for so doing, for it is only here that we can suffer with Him.
Then the question arises as to what He calls us—for you, dear brother, if God has really called you to the ministry of the word, or if it is only that your practical faith wavers at the difficulties of the path. You must remember that God tests faith; He never fails us, but He makes us feel our entire dependence on Him. I see this in Paul: he was often hungry; he learned to glory in infirmities that the power of Christ might rest upon him. But the result was that he was instructed to be in abundance, and to want, to be full and to be hungry—" I can do all things through Him that strengtheneth me." Without were conflicts, within were fears-and he gained the knowledge of God as the One who comforts those who are cast down. Then it was worth while being cast down. But he was able to say, not " who causeth us to triumph," but " who leadeth us about in triumph "-having missed the open door at Troas, being in great conflict with regard to Corinth, but able to say, in order to be a sweet savor of Christ wherever he was.
The question of his call to the ministry was certain. If grace had not sustained him here, he could have returned like John Mark: woe be to him, as he said, if he preached not, and he did so without his will: being sent assuredly of God, he could not doubt having been sent. The word of the Lord near Damascus and the prophecy at Antioch were too positive. Now neither our mission, nor any part of this work of the Lord, has this distinctness. Our work is not confirmed by accompanying signs. This does not trouble me. It demands more of the heart's confidence, confidence in Christ, and that is always good. But it strengthens the heart greatly to be assured of it. Then if there are difficulties in the way, they are but difficulties to be overcome. If I have not this assurance in starting, it is a question if I am in my place: in any case God can exercise us here for our good. Not only that, but when God has clearly called some one, either by the ardor of his faith, like Moses, or by any formal calling like Paul, He can put him aside. Moses during forty years kept the sheep of his father-in-law, and Paul had not any active mission, to reduce the fleshly activity which might mix itself in his work with the activity purely of God, and to make him learn his entire dependence. It was Barnabas who put Saul afresh to the work; then came the mission of Antioch. But the heart is in these cases always in the work, but retired with God, in such a manner that God has a larger place in the heart, and our labor is afterward more directly with reference to Him. There then, dear brother, is the question for you: Are you truly called to labor for the Lord? that is to say, to go about in His work, for we all ought to labor for him. When we are, faith may fail; yes, but we are miserable if we abandon it, as Jeremiah said when he did not wish to speak anymore. " But His word was in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones." If it is only a fire that crackles in the thorns, it will soon be extinguished. But if you feel that the Lord has entrusted you with His word, has put it into your heart, not only for yourself, but for others, (Gal. 1:15,1615But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, 16To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: (Galatians 1:15‑16)), then fear nothing. Faith tested is faith strengthened, it is to have learned your own weakness, but to have learned the faithfulness of God. His tender care even in sending the difficulties, that we may be there with Him. And if you have the assurance that God has entrusted you with His word, do not be troubled if you are set aside for a time. One learns one's lack of courage, at least, I have learned it, but God takes account of what we are, gives us our thorn, that we may be humbled, and that we may feel that the strength and work are of Him. No doubt we have to judge our want of courage. For my part, it is my greatest test, the want of aggressive courage, and the way in which I shrink back before the coarseness of the world. But there is the look towards God, who has pity for us.
Profit then by your present separation from the work, to be much with Him. You will learn much inwardly in your incapacity to go forward, much of Himself, then more distinctly if God has really sent you, which gives great inward power in following out the work. But do not doubt His faithfulness.