Extracts From Letters of J.N.D.: Working While Working for the Lord; Direct Service; To What He Calls Us; Reward in the Kingdom

Matthew 25  •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 6
MY DEAR BROTHER, I am anxious about a rumor I heard of your becoming doctor, and I am sure you will forgive my anxiety, for the Lord's sake and yours I look to the principle. Christ has ordained that they that preach the gospel should live of the gospel, and it is the clear. duty of the church of God to aid those who are given up to the work. If a man can live by a trade he has already-all well. I have known a brother, an evangelist much blessed, who lived when, at a certain period of the year, the people, from work, could not get on week-day to meeting, and he, being a good watchmaker, mended all the watches in the country; the rest of the year was helped by brethren. This is all well But when I set about to learn a profession or trade, it is not merely the time, but Christ, and Christ's work, is put in a second place, and faith is set aside as to that, and the church encouraged in want of devotedness. All this seems to me evil. If you are not working for the Lord, your setting to do something would be perfectly right; but you are at the work, and it is saying, I fear-not in your heart, perhaps, but as testimony-I have put my hand to the plow, &c. I have never known but one case where a brother actually wanted; it was not known to brethren: a devoted pioneer, who pushed into unbroken ground in -. He fed on nettle-tops, which they use much as spinach, not to give up an open. door. The same man has been three times in prison. That was a bright testimony. I doubt you are quite there yet, and have been pinched, but so was Paul, and the Lord very soon came in to help' them. It may seem easy to me, who want for nothing, to press this on others, but I honestly began by giving up everything, though, in point of fact, my faith was never tried in that way, as an uncle left me something before I was run out, or very soon after.
But I dread settling the principle, when a man is a laborer, that the church is not to take care that those who labor shall be honored by being temporally cared for. No salary. A man is a servant, but free under Christ in his ministry, and the privilege of the church, as those at Philippi, is to be partakers of the grace by helping him who labors in it. It blocks up the path of simple, humble faith. A poor man has no difficulty; and it seems as if an educated person could take the blessed and honored place of service to Christ; working when we can and are not occupied in the work, all well, as I said. But taking up a profession is really saying, I have laid down that of working for the Lord, trusting to Him that knows that we have need of those things.
I have not seen the Lord leave those who have given themselves up to work, trusting Him; and I have seen distress of spirit, and greatly hindered usefulness in those who, through their wives or own hearts, have turned to other things to help wife or family here. A most beloved and able witness was saved from great injury to his own spirit and usefulness by its making him thoroughly miserable, and it did hinder him. There it was a wife's doing; but no matter what, the difficulties are what faith has to overcome. I am a very poor one for faith, but I am sure the Lord is sufficient, and that He will never fail us. He may try our faith, but He will meet it, and rejoice our hearts The gracious Lord guide and teach you.
Affectionately yours in Him,
1869. J. N. D.
REMEMBER you are young at the work, and carry it on much before 'God; seek to be emptied of self, and see only the Lord and souls in it. You know if any real work is done He does it. Be much with God; do not suppose I say this to discourage you. If there is one desire upon my heart, after the blessing itself, it is that God would give and encourage true laborers to go between Him and souls, but this is what it must be, or, surely we have nothing to bring, nor, if not much with Him, any power if we know the truth; He is to be revealed, and He alone can do this, but when much with Him we always learn, and oh! to what profit, our own nothingness.
1861. J. N. D.
DEAREST -, It is a serious, though a most happy, thing, to undertake direct service-that is, a service which takes up all our time. I would there were many more really gifted by love to souls, and zeal for the Lord's glory, to lay themselves out in and for it. The mere fact of an inclination does not spew that we are called to it. I believe the surest sign is earnest love to souls, and intercourse, through the need of the heart, with Christ about it. I doubt not there is a pressure often of the Spirit of God which forces you out into it. Many may be most useful, giving up a portion of their time to it, who would not be giving up all, because they cannot fill up the measure of allotted service with Christ. On the other hand, men of much energy and zeal can serve and support themselves (witness Paul, and in his case even others), when one of less could not, who might be very useful, if given up to it. It is not the desire to speak, but love for souls, and for 'the building up of saints, which is the real moving spring of service. I know not how far this presses on you. I should be most glad to help you in scripture, as far as I am able. Constant application to it would suppose the Lord leading into it, and in your case, a wife and child have to be thought of. I have now coming to me for an hour three or four, twice a week, and probably shall soon have the whole
of an evening generally free for this. I leave, of course, entirely to themselves the Lord's call to them. Those who come are more or less at the work. but, save one, and an ex-clergyman who is with me
for the moment, labor for their livelihood. I leave to, and cast entirely on, the Lord any further carrying out of it.
I shall, if you feel called to the work, be most glad to help you in reading. As to the reading on the Psalms, it would depend on many others besides me. Local ministrations, well supplied from Christ and the word, are greatly wanting, but that love and care for souls which cements and makes happy is an essential element in such service. Devotedness is the first grand question of all; would there were a thousandfold more of it! I should not be afraid of the Lord's taking care of people.
I trust you will weigh over before the Lord how far He calls you to this. Affectionately yours in the Lord,
J. N. D.
VERY DEAR BROTHER, Your letter calls for a serious examination. I suppose, as to the principle, that we are clear on one point, namely, that we are bought with a price, and that we are not our own-servants, blessed be God, in this poor 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 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 called you to the ministry of the word; or if it is only that your practical faith wavers before the difficulties of the path. You must remember that God tests faith; He never fails us, but He makes us feel our entire dependence upon Him. I see this in Paul. He had a thorn, he was often even hungry. He learned to glory in his infirmities, that the power of Christ might rest upon him. But the result was, that he was instructed to be in abundance and in want; to be full, and to be hungry-" I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me." Without were conflicts, within were fears, and he gained the knowledge of God as the One who comforts those that are cast down. But he was able to say (not, who makes me triumph), but, who leads me 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 to him, as he always said, if he preached not, and he did so without his will (ᾶκων), being sent assuredly of God). He could not doubt having been sent; the words of the Lord near Damascus, and the prophecy at Antioch, were positive.
Now, neither our mission, nor any part of the work of the Lord, has this distinctness. Our word is not confirmed by accompanying signs. This does not trouble one. It demands more of the heart's confidence-confidence in Christ, and that always does good. But it strengthens the heart greatly to be assured of it. Then, if there are difficulties on 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 at first Paul had not any active mission in order to reduce the carnal activity which might mix itself in his work with the activity purely from God, and to make him learn his entire dependence. It was Barnabas that put Saul anew 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 n 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 any more, " Thy word was as a fire in my bones." If it is only a fire that crackles in the thorns, it will soon be extinguished. But if you find that the Lord has entrusted you with His word, He 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 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 the 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.
It is 45 years that I have served Him since I left nationalism. Oh how ungrateful I should be if I did not testify to His faithfulness, and to His great and sweet and precious patience with His poor servant. It is a joy to me now to see others raised up to continue the work, and I hope better than I, for that can well be, though I by no means doubt of a special work in these last days. But the workman is another thing. I have been a laborer, God knows; but I have been more a hewer of wood and drawer of water for those who have more courage. But we are what God gives us and permits us to be. God is reviving His work in Europe, and evidently, which encourages us and comforts us, and gives in many respects an open door in spite of the evil, and often even by measure of the evil....
Yours very affectionately,
J. N. D.
As a rule, reward is in the kingdom, "ten cities," Sze. In Matt. 25, ten and four talents being alike into " the joy of thy Lord." Fitness for heaven is not connected with progress in scripture. " He hath made us meet." It is natural to suppose greater spirituality is more capable of enjoying; but the object is so great after all, it eclipses us, and we must remember Christ is our life, and there, all else gone. Scripture, as far as I know, never speaks of spiritual capacity, or growth in it, to enjoy more. Here, surely, there is such a thing. When God is all in all, there is no such thing spoken of. God may have, in His eternal purposes, fitted for more or less, but, as scripture does not speak of it, I do not. Reward in the kingdom is clearly spoken of. J. N. D.