"Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off."—1 Kings 20:11.
THE test of endurance is certainly one of the severest tests of faithfulness to which the elect Church, the body of Christ, is subjected. It is the test which gauges and registers the strength of every other virtue and grace, and no soldier of the cross will be crowned with the laurels of victory who has not stood this test. The Christian life is a warfare, and the above words of one of the kings of Israel to a boastful enemy of the Lord's people are applicable, not only to every new recruit in the Lord's army, but similarly to all who have not yet finished the good fight of faith.
The first gush of enthusiasm in the Lord's service, much as we may and do appreciate it, may be but the hasty production of the shallow soil of a heart which immediately receives the truth with gladness, but having no root in itself, endures but for a time; and afterward, when affliction and persecution ariseth, immediately they are offended. (Mark 4:16,17.) Such characters cannot stand the fiery tests of this evil day, whereof it is written—"The fire [of that day] shall try every man's work, of what sort it is."—1 Cor. 3:13.
Therefore, says the Apostle Peter, "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you as though some strange thing happened unto you." All of the elect Church must be so tried; and blessed is he that shall endure unto the end. The sure word of prophecy points to severe conflicts and great trials in the closing scenes of the Church's history. Elijah, a type of the body of Christ, finished his earthly career and went up by a whirlwind in a chariot of fire—strong symbols of storms and great afflictions. John, another type of the Church, was cast into prison and then beheaded. And we are forewarned of the great necessity of the whole armor of God, if we would stand in this evil day.—M. DAWN, VOL. II., Chap. 8.
It therefore behooves every one who aspires to the prize of our high calling to brace himself for the severer conflicts and trials of faith and patience that may suddenly and without a moments warning be sprung upon him. In the battle of this day, as in all other battles, the effort of the enemy is to surprise and suddenly attack and overwhelm the Lord's people; and the only preparation, therefore, that can be made for such emergencies is constant vigilance and prayer and the putting on of the whole armor of God—the truth and the spirit of the truth.
"In your patience possess ye your souls." No other grace will be more needed than this in the fiery ordeals of this evil day; for without great patience no man can endure to the end. All along the Christian's pathway, ever and anon, he comes to a new crisis: perhaps they are often seemingly of trivial importance, yet he realizes that they may be turning points in his Christian course. Who has not realized them? There comes a temptation to weariness in well-doing, together with the suggestion of an easier way; or there springs up a little root of pride or ambition, with suggestions of ways and means for feeding and gratifying it. Then there comes, by and by, the decisive moment when you must choose this course or that; and lo, you have reached a crisis!
Which way will you turn? Most likely you will turn in the direction to which the sentiments you have cultivated have been tending, whether that be the right way or the wrong way. If it be the wrong way, most likely you will be unable to discern it clearly; for your long cultivated sentiments will sway your judgment. "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof is the way of death." (Prov. 14:12.) How necessary, therefore, is prayer, that in every crisis we may pass the test successfully. Nor can we safely delay to watch and pray until the crisis is upon us; but such should be our constant attitude.
The life of a soldier ever on the alert and on duty is by no means an easy life; nor do the Scriptures warrant any such expectation. On the contrary, they say, "Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ;" "Fight [R1656 : page 156] the good fight of faith," etc. And yet many Christian people seem to have the very opposite idea. Their ideal Christian life is one without a breeze or a storm: it must be one continuous calm. Such a life was indeed more possible in former days than now, though the world, the flesh and the devil always have opposed themselves, and always had to be resisted by every loyal soldier of the cross. But now the opposition is daily becoming more and more intense; for Satan realizes that his time is short, and he is determined by any and every means to exert his power against the consummation of the Lord's plan for the exaltation of the Church.
Consequently we have had within this harvest period many and severe storms of opposition, and still there are doubtless more severe trials to follow. But those who, with overcoming faith, outride them all—who patiently endure, who cultivate the spirit of Christ with its fruits and graces, and who valiantly fight the good fight of faith, rather than withdraw from the field, such will be the overcomers to whom the laurels of victory will be given when the crowning day has come.