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THE question has frequently been asked, If after the door of opportunity to enter the "narrow way" shall have closed and one should then find himself still in heart accord with the Lord and his Plan, but cut off from all opportunity of service, should he believe that he has made his calling and election sure?
We answer that we would not think that this fact would constitute a ground or warrant for concluding that such had made his calling and election sure. It might be considered, rather, as an indication to the contrary, yet we think we should not, under such circumstances, be discouraged, but conclude that if our hearts had continued loyal to the Lord we were now merely enduring a test of faith and that the proper course would be to stand firm in the faith, in the spirit of the words of Job, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." It seems that the Lord desires his people to abide in his love continually and has made the arrangement that our standing in him, our peace of heart, shall depend upon our faithfulness to conscience and to duty, or rather our faithfulness to duty, according to our conscience.
Evidently the condition which the Lord desires most is that we shall day by day keep close to him; that we shall see that no day passes by in which we have not striven to do the Lord's will, and that if we have failed to do the Divine will, according to our conception of that will, we should at once take the matter to the Throne of Grace in prayer and supplication until we have the realization of Divine forgiveness and reconciliation. Thus living day by day we may feel sure that we are abiding in the love of God and may feel each day that so far as that day is concerned we had made "our calling and election sure"; that we are abiding in that condition which would make sure to us the "prize" at the end of the way.
But if in any degree we should seem to be separated in a measure from the Lord and his love and lack the realization of his favor we should not conclude that we are not in the right condition of full acceptance with him, because we know that our Lord, as he neared the end, had considerable fear of this kind. He had a fear that he had not fully complied with all the conditions, and "with strong crying and tears" he made supplication "to him who was able to save him out of death, and was heard in respect to the thing which he feared." He feared that he had been unfaithful; he feared that in some way, unintentionally, he had failed to conform to the Divine requirements.
Again, we remember that in his dying hour, it was the Father's will that he should experience a full cutting off and hiding of the Father's face, so that he cried out in his anguish, "My God! My God! Why hast thou forsaken me?" What have I done that I should be denied fellowship with thee? And so, if this was true of him, it might be true of any of his disciples; our conscience, therefore, might not always be a safe guide as to what would constitute an acceptable condition with the Lord. So the Apostle Paul, after referring to the fact that others might misjudge us and that it was a small thing that he should be judged of his brethren or of any man, continued, "Yea, I judge not mine own self." I realize that I am not competent to judge even my own case. There is One that judgeth me, even God.
So it is in our experiences. We have found some with very sensitive consciences who are continually inclined to reprove themselves as always failing, as always doing something wrong. It seems to be their normal condition to feel so. Such persons might easily make a mistake respecting the diagnosis of their case. Others, the very reverse of this, continually feel well satisfied with themselves, even though they are not in full harmony with the Lord. So those who are overly conscientious and those who are lacking in conscientiousness in their judgment of themselves, should seek to make up these deficiencies of their own conscience so that they can arrive at a right judgment, can be in harmony with the Divine judgment.
At the same time we are to remember that all that we can do that will constitute us acceptable in coming to the Lord will be the exercise and cultivation of faith. Our faith should not be in ourselves, because such faith is merely self-confidence. We are to realize that we have nothing that would commend us to God. We are to realize that we come short continually; that it is not possible for any one to come up to the perfect standard; therefore we are to be continually in the attitude represented [R4684 : page 296] in the Lord's prayer, "Forgive us our trespasses," feeling sure that we have trespassed, and seeking meanwhile to minimize these trespasses, to be so faithful that these will become less and less daily in the Lord's sight.
But from our own experience we would consider the proper thought to be, "Have I lived today as best I knew how, and are the accounts right with the Lord, and is there anything that I can do better tomorrow than today, in the light of the experiences of today? Can I be wiser, can I be stronger, can I be more self-sacrificing?" When we are doing the best we can do, we are to know that the Lord does not expect more than that of us.
We remember a remark made by a brother at one of the conventions. He said, "I am doing the very best that I can, and I am trusting in the Lord." We remember our reply that we thought that a very wonderful testimony—for any one to be able to say, conscientiously, that he was doing the very best that was possible for him to do. Personally, we never know when we have done the very best possible. We always try the next day to see if we can do better; but if any one has reached the place where he has done the very best possible, he has surely done well. We feel at times that we have done the very best, yet we very rarely close a day in which we come to the conclusion that we have done the very best we could possibly do in every particular, in every item of the day; and so we try to mark those points in which we might have done better, that we may have the benefit of those experiences on the morrow.
But if our hearts have been loyal to the Lord and we have been serving him to the best of our ability, striving to bring every word and every action and every thought into full subjection to the will of God—if this has been our endeavor, then we may feel satisfied that God is pleased with us; that we are in the condition that he has declared is acceptable with him; that we are in the way to gain the great "Prize" he has to give. But we are not guaranteed this for the morrow, but only for that moment; and so the Lord wishes us to live moment by moment and to realize his blessing moment by moment, and not to think that our case is decided and ended. Our question, then, should not be, "Will we feel satisfied at some future time?" but rather, "What is my experience now, this moment?" Sufficient unto each day are its trials and difficulties.
Our thought is that there will be privileges of service down quite close to the time of trouble; that there will not be a long period of waiting in which we would have no opportunities of service. Of course, this is purely conjecture; nothing that we think of in the Scriptures states so positively, but there are so many ways of service that we can hardly imagine that all opportunities of service would be cut off. If we were cut off from public service, there would still be a great deal of service, or opportunity for service, in a private way. We can hardly imagine such a condition arising in the world as would cut us off from all service, public and private, until the time of trouble would be so thoroughly upon the world as to stop business and all else. It is our expectation that nearly all the saints will be gone by the time the trouble is so intense that there will be no opportunity for service of any kind.
Suppose, however, for illustration, that for some reason the mails would close, or some other situation should arise that would practically separate us from the world in general, we would still have opportunities of serving one another, and many of the Lord's people have found that their severest trials come in the rendering of service to those closest to them. We have known of cases where husbands found it very much easier to render service to others than to their own families, their wives and children. We have known of instances in which it was the same with the wife, and with the children. Sometimes our severest trials, therefore, may lie very close at home, and our very best opportunities for service consequently may be very close at hand. So we think that when the time comes when all opportunities of service shall be cut off it will mean that the end is close and that the time of trouble is here; and if any of us were here under these conditions, we should fear that we were going to be of the "great company" and have our share in the "time of trouble."
But, on the other hand, we do not know to what extent this trouble that will prevail upon the "great company" may be in some measure also upon the "little flock." Many of the "little flock" may go into a great deal of trouble. We do know that all the Church, the "little flock" and the "great company" will suffer great tribulation. The Scriptures say of the "little flock," "Through much tribulation we must enter the Kingdom," and it will be through much tribulation that the "great company," though failing to get a place in the Kingdom class, will be fitted for their position; so there will be "much tribulation" for both classes. Perhaps this will be the outward tribulation. We are not competent to say at this time; we do not see clearly what the Lord meant when he said, "Watch, ye, therefore, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape those things coming upon the world and to stand before the Son of Man." We do not know whether he meant that we should be accounted worthy to escape all this outward trouble coming upon the world in general and to literally stand before the Son of Man, in the sense of being translated, perfected New Creatures beyond the vail, or whether, on the other hand, he may have meant, "Watch," in your course of life, and be so faithful to the Lord that you may be accounted worthy to stand and not fall in the day of the presence of the Son of Man, escaping those things which are coming upon the world in the sense of not having the anguish of mind that will be upon the world while being in some of the tribulation with them.