[b]THE CHURCH A RECRUITING STATION[/b]
By Leonard Ravenhill
At the call of presidents and premiers, men hasten to recruiting stations--careers forgotten, professions left, comforts forsaken, and homes deserted. As peril from the approaching enemy intensifies, weeping wives and sobbing sweethearts are tearfully left. Yet no one calls this folly. To shrink from this is cowardice; to rebel against the order smells of treachery. No mother warns her son of the stupidity of breaking off his university studies, even though he may return as a lifetime casualty--lamed, blinded, permanently crippled, or mentally unstable from enemy brainwashing. In the fight for freedom, this is all calculated and, to some degree, expected in the name of patriotism.
But what risks does the spiritual life offer? Note it carefully that it is a liberal at the Evanston Conference who has been left to deplore the easy way folk are accepted these days into the "church of the living God." This is an hour of anarchy in the world, of lawlessness in the Church. For everyone to do that which is "right in his own eyes" is thought to be democracy in the spiritual realm. But does democracy exist to the soldier? Can he fight when he wants, sleep when he likes, ground his plane according to fancy? Can the sailor speed to port when plagued with homesickness? No! The emotions must be mastered; iron must enter the will as well as the soul. The vision of lovely children must he forgotten and the enemy faced, so that later the soldier may return to family and freedom.
Summer sees Bible conferences in full swing, for which the Lord be praised; but what a fever of feasting on the book of Ephesians, with the accent on the first chapter (sharing with Christ) while almost skipping over the last chapter (fighting with Him)! There are many followers of the Lord these days. But how many are true disciples--disciplined ones? The very last thing that we tell new converts is that they are soldiers, called to orders, to arms, and to alms; that they are to be submissive to undershepherds; that they are not to be entangled with the affairs of this life; that they are to endure hardness, to espouse self-denial, and to glory (not just keep their chins up) in tribulation. Even at Bible conferences we cater to the youth of the day. Fellows old enough to face bloody battlefields on foreign shores are thought too immature to face hell's carnage on the home front (which in this case may be dope peddlers, stinking saloons, and vice on Main Street).
A flash-back in mind the other day staggered me with the realization that two and three hundred years ago there were spiritual giants in the earth. Men were mature at twenty-one years had left college and university and were established as men with a message. See James Chalmers, the missionary-martyr of New Guinea, a full-blown preacher at nineteen. Consider Robert Murray McCheyne. At twenty-nine years of age he thrilled to say, "Farewell mortality; welcome eternity." A Dundee newspaper, paying tribute to his passing, said that in Robert McCheyne, Christ: had walked those Scottish streets. A host of other giants-in-their-youth could be cited. But in this hour it is the hoary head that commands the pulpit.
Easy-going preachers Produce easy-going believers. We have more star preachers than scarred preachers, more expositors than exposers, more who are concerned to "get it over" than to "pray it through." We have more religious educators than soul emancipators. The pulpiteer of our times is expected to enlighten the mind rather than to enliven the conscience. To many, the width of his head matters more than the depth of his heart. So, even with a steel ring of com-munism around the world, and the sewers of moral filth pouring over it, we find the Church more interested in pie than piety, and the Lord's Weakened army "by schism rent asunder" and by conflicting interpretations oppressed.
On the contrary, let the Church become a recruiting booth. Youth likes a challenge. Where is there more need or greater opportunity for courage than in this battle of the Lord? This is a perpetual warfare. Let there be no truce with this enemy, much less a parley. The fight is on. The pressure increases. The ranks are broken.
"Ye that are men now serve Him
Against unnumbered foes;
Let courage rise with danger,
And strength to strength oppose."
Let no man think of fighting hell's legions if he is still fighting an internal warfare. Carnage without will sicken him if he has carnality within. It is the man who has surrendered to the Lord who will never surrender to his enemies.
One great risk in praying is that sometimes God takes us at our word. Then will come the test. I am amazed that men, who at the call of their nation lovingly kiss their wives and leave home possibly for years, shrink back at the call of Christ. For natural warfare men will leave home for years, but to fight against principalities and powers, they cannot leave home one night a week for the church prayer meeting! Shivering and foodless, men will lie for nights in bloody, muddy trenches; or lie in a ditch after bailing out from a plane; or, chilled to the spine, hold on to a spar for hours in a freezing ocean--yet find it almost impossible to spend a half night in a warm church praying.
Is the fact not this, that we have underestimated the total war to which the devil has committed his horde of demons and men alike? Is it not true that cataracts have formed over our eyes (maybe with watching too much T.V.) so that we have completely misjudged the horror of that eternal hell to which at this moment millions of souls are marching? Does such a picture stir your soul and stab your conscience? Are you sleeping at the price of another's peril? Recently, when a hunting dog ferreted into a pile of rocks and was trapped, men fought with cold, rain, and fatigue for two days and nights to find the entombed dog. Are not men more than dogs? Will men be entombed in hell forever because you were playing instead of praying?
A coroner once exonerated a man who said he had swung his lamp at the level crossing as a driver sped toward the oncoming express and was killed, but later he confided to a friend that he had had no light in his lamp. Friend, in the gross darkness that has overcome this generation, are you swinging the lamp of an empty profession?
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon