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"Rise up, O church of God!
Be done with lesser things;
Give heart and soul and mind and strength
To serve the King of kings!"
William P. Merrill
What a privilege to be a member of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ! We speak now in the broader sense of the word, not limiting it to a local church to which we may belong and love. We refer to the Body of born-again believers of all ages, some now on earth, some in Heaven, of every kindred and tongue and people and nation. One day this Church will be gathered together around the Throne above in superlative worship and praise and service. What glory that will be!
Jesus speaks of this Church as MY Church (Matt. 16:18). We belong to Him, the King of kings! We are "purchased with His own blood" (Acts 20:28)--proof of His incomparable love for us. He is the Head of the Church, a perfect leader in every way. What an honor to belong to Him! Do our faithfulness and allegiance to Him prove us worthy followers who bring joy to our Master? Do we prove that His grace has not been shed on us in vain? Do we share His eternal vision for the Church or do we limit our vision to pleasant association with fellow members of a local church, good as that might be?
Of all things to which we may belong, the Church is the most honorable and the most to be desired. And along with being a heavenly privilege to be realized to the full only in the future, inclusion in the Body of Christ is also a responsibility here and now.
Heaven's view of the Church as the Body of Christ, is that, under the direction of the Head, the Lord Jesus Christ, she carry on the work of advancing God's Kingdom on earth. Eventually the Church will rule in the heavenlies, as you read in Elmer Klassen's article on page two. These are days of learning and practice. We are to draw from the Body and gain from it personally. But, standing in that Body, we are also to give "heart and soul and mind and strength" as suggested by the song writer above, to advance the glorious purposes of God on earth now.
In this we each one must be involved. We will have to be selective--"Be done with lesser things," as the song writer expresses it above. Some pleasant and appealing things will need to drop by the wayside if we are to have time for God's higher calling to us. "The least thing God wants you to do is more important than anything else in the world."
The Persecuted Church
Spiritual warfare is accelerating in this hour. Not only is the battle with the unseen foe for personal spiritual victory intensifying, but thousands of God's people are suffering greatly at the hands of other humans because of their love for and faithfulness to God. We all know but sometimes forget that while we sit in comfort in lovely church buildings, some in the Body of Christ are undergoing a life-and-death struggle in a lonely place of earth. Some take great risk to huddle together in secret with other believers to worship God. These are fellow members with us in the Body of Christ.
A missionary publication tells of a village overseas where fierce persecution is increasing. As a result of the persecution, some of the believers have backslid. A few others have taken refuge in a nearby village. Five of the families are standing strong in their faith. Fiery trials such as this are undoubtedly repeated more often than we know.
At this time, there is a special prayer effort being made on behalf of the persecuted Church. We need to take our part in this. Prayer will put a hedge of protection around the endangered ones. It will put strength and courage into their hearts and will bring re-assurance of God's love and wisdom so they can live righteous lives in dark and evil places, showing the love of God to ones around who have no knowledge of it. Prayer will thwart the plans of Satan to stamp out little branches of the Church.
Praying for the persecuted is not an easy kind of praying to do, for we fight not against flesh and blood but against powers of darkness. The article beginning on page one is helpful to all wanting to take their place in effective praying on behalf of God's Kingdom. To the shame of the Church, the devil has had his way far too long in far too many lives and situations. "Rise up, O Church of God" in this strategic hour, and take your place in victorious, authoritative praying!
Many of us know more than we practice in the realm of prayer. This is in part because Satan so opposes prayer, cuts it off if he can, tones it down. Let us heed the call in MacMillan's article to shake ourselves awake, rise up, take our responsibility, prove ourselves to be good soldiers of the Lord Jesus Christ, enter or re-enter the fight! By the power of the Holy Spirit be persevering and successful. We are called to noble warfare.
Gurnall's article reminds us of the ferocity of the foe we face in prayer warfare. Be prepared! Gird your armor on! Take utmost care lest through "careless conduct" we discredit our lovely Lord, whom we want to honor. The foe is crafty and wise. We must be humble and dependent on God's keeping power.
Some among us will feel the need to take a fresh grip on the weapon of prayer. If there is laxity in our prayer life we want to correct, let us first examine our devotion to the Lord. Diligence in Kingdom business follows heart devotion. Is ours "full-hearted, whole-hearted"? Are we humbly submitting to His "child training"? As He is calls us, "Closer, closer!" He must often deal with the responding heart in what may seem difficult and inexplicable ways. Ever lower we must become before Him--"None of self and all of Thee." Calvary's stream of cleansing Blood is ever open for us who feel our failures.
Even you dear older ones who may feel it is too late to make a fresh start, seek to deepen your devotion and broaden your prayer life. God will help you, indeed it is He who must help us in prayer. He knows human limitations. He doesn't demand more than we can give. But He wants us to have a full reward. He wants to give us the privilege of being successful workers together with Him. Therein is fullness of joy.