My soul, if thou wouldst be enlarged into human sympathy, thou must be narrowed into limits of human suffering. Joseph’s dungeon is the road to Joseph’s throne. Thou canst not lift the iron load of thy brother if the iron hath not entered into thee. It is thy limit that is thine enlargement. It is the shadows of thy life that are the real fulfillment of thy dreams of glory. Murmur not at the shadows; they are better revelations than thy dreams. Say not that the shades of the prison-house have fettered thee; thy fetters are wings — wings of flight into the bosom of humanity. The door of thy prison-house is a door into the heart of the universe. God has enlarged thee by the binding of sorrow’s chain. —George Matheson (as found in Streams in the Desert)
I have just read a portion of an old topical teaching by Oswald Chambers, entitled So Send I You. The theme is effective missions and witnessing as contained in lectures to students in Chambers’ Bible College, before he went to British troops in Egypt during World War One. He died of an illness contracted there.
He suggested that the mis-guided missionary craze was to improve, civilize, heal and educate. This was secondary, and robbing evangelistic effort of the power to be God-directed in one man or a few who would make a quality decision to approach ever more intimately the person of Jesus Christ. The means of communion are there (Bible, prayer, meditation, sanctified discourse, the elements of the Supper, irreplaceable leading of the Holy Spirit).
The Christian worker “steeped” in Christ merely did the simple, obvious and available work, but with tremendous Godly power and precision. He made himself available. God said gently “here” or “over to that person” or “not yet”. He did the service wherever he was to be found; not, as humourously stated, wherever he was not found.
And the bulk of the work was found in prayer. Remember how Jesus said “the fields are white unto harvest; therefore pray ye the Lord of the harvest that He will send forth workers.”
But oh no we North Americans must always be planning, programming, doing and seen to be doing. Pity. The Power just went somewhere else.
And hardly even knows the reason
As cat-tails frolic in the breeze
As anything of risk comes near the nestlings
This little Lord o’er all the stream he sees.
For noble purpose kindly birthed in Heaven
Or teach or write or bake or care
For all the training of a simple providence
The Lord of life for all His mercies rare.
I read a moving article on the power of love in a delightful devotional of classic Christian writings entitled “Show Me Your Love” (Barbour Publications, 2004).
A friend of American evangelist Charles Finney (1850’s) ran a reform school in his town. He was called away and struggled with how to leave his charges for a short while.
Approaching the town fathers, he pledged that if any of his boys ran away or caused trouble he would forfeit his town lot and property. A meeting was called at the school and the boys were told the extent of his trust, and the cause of his family which was now left to the boys and their honour. He departed.
The appointment in the other community ended earlier than expected. The principal arrived at the school late Saturday evening. One of the boys shouted “It is Father”, and the entire school gathered, clean, orderly, smiling and overwhelmed with the transformation of trust.
This is the kind of response which love and trust will elicit. We see it in the Gospel. God first loved us. We respond in a way which no principal’s switch could ever produce.
To what they divulge
Like the friend He is
Hold a door
Give something of value
Tell a story that lifts
Lots of eye contact
And past meetings
Affirm who they are
Where they’re at
Praise a good book
Keep your choice of words
Simple and direct
Respect the possibility
Of unknown facts
Living epistle to the King.