The soul, like the body, must have something to nourish and strengthen it, to give it vigor and vitality. An army will have neither the strength nor the courage to fight unless it has its rations. And if I may be allowed a play on words, I may say that there are three rations which are very needful to every Christian. Without these he must be weak and faltering and of little service, but with them he may be a pillar of strength in the temple of God.
The first of these |rations| is aspiration, or ardent desire. Strong desire is one of the greatest incentives of life. To be contented as we are is one of the most fatal hindrances to progress and activity. There is nothing to stir us to action when desire is satisfied. The trouble with a great multitude of people is that they are satisfied when conditions do not warrant it. If we are to make progress in the Christian life or accomplish anything for God, we must have strong aspirations. These are as a spur to our energies. Aspiration is the cure for being |at ease in Zion.| Aspirations are good or bad according to the motive that prompts them. Some are essentially selfish, and such are necessarily evil. If we desire to be or do for selfish advantage, for glory and praise; if we aspire to be leaders, as so many religious people do, only that they may have authority or honor -- our aspirations are evil. But each one of us owes it to himself and to God to desire strongly to be and to do his best for God.
What is the temperature of your spiritual aspirations today? Are you so well satisfied that desire is cold and almost lifeless? or are you reaching out to the things that are before with an eager yearning? No matter how good or how holy you may be, if you look Christward until you see the depths of his submission to the Father, the length of his love for souls, the heights of his lofty purity and unworldliness, the tenderness of his sympathy, the richness of his communion with the Father, his self-abnegation, his humility, and his unswerving faithfulness, your soul will feel itself so immeasurably beneath Christ that you can not help longing to be more like him. It will create in your soul an inexpressible aspiration to draw further away from this old world with its trifles and its follies and to draw nearer to Christ, to be more like him in your inner life, and to act more like him in your outward life. If you look only at self and self-interest, your spiritual aspirations will fade away; but as you look away from self and behold Him who is altogether lovely, the more you look upon him the greater will be your desire to be conformed to his likeness and submitted to his will.
Each of us ought to desire to be our best for God. Do not be content to be one of the |weak ones,| or even an average Christian. Those souls who rise above the average, those who are bright lights in their communities, are not the ones who are easily satisfied with their attainments, nor are they the ones who are willing to be this year as they were last year or the year before. You, as well as anyone else, can be a bright light if you will. You can be spiritual if you will. It is not a question of God's blessing some more than others; it is a question of desire that spurs to active effort to become spiritual.
There is much work to be done, and you have a part in that work. How great that part may be depends more upon your desire to work than upon anything else. Are you, like many professed Christians, willing enough for others to work and willing to be idle yourself? If you really want to do something for the kingdom, there is something that you can do. If you are willing to do anything, no matter what, God will see that you have something to do. No matter how small your task is, it is worth doing well. Look upon the fields, not those afar off, but those about you. All around you are souls going to destruction. Forget your own concern. Look at the needs about you till your heart is filled with desire for these souls, till you covet them for the Master as a miser covets gold. Then you will find work enough to do and strength to do it.
The second |ration| is inspiration. There is so much half-hearted work, so much done mechanically, so much form in worship and service. What we need is enthusiasm. We hear much about artistic inspiration and poetic inspiration, but what we really need most of all is spiritual inspiration. Religious forms are cold and dead until there is put into them the warmth of enthusiasm. Get your soul filled with this glowing warmth. It will lighten your tasks. It will bring success instead of failure. It will be a well-spring of joy. It will make an optimist of you. It will help you break down barriers. It will enable you to surmount obstacles. It will put the shout of victory in your soul in the very face of your foes. An enthusiastic man is a victorious man. An enthusiastic church is a victorious church. Enthusiastic work and worship are filled with a vitality that makes them worth while.
Do not be content to be a formalist. Throw yourself into your work. Go at things as though you meant business. Do not be a lazy Christian. An indolent way of doing things can be neither joyful nor successful. The more of your heart you put into your work, the more it will mean to you, and the more it means to you, the more you can accomplish. Have confidence that you will succeed, for confidence will help you attain to your desires. Your energy wisely directed has in it the very element of success. Look at what others are accomplishing by hard work and perseverance. The same qualities in you will win. But keep this one thing in view, that without inspiration or enthusiasm you lack much of the winning quality. Cultivate enthusiasm. Do with your might what your hands find to do.
The third |ration| needful is consideration. This serves as a balance for the two former rations. Its absence has caused disaster many times. Many people grow very enthusiastic and aspire to great things, but because they lack consideration they run into wild fanaticism and go to great extremes; and as a result both they and their religion lose the respect and confidence of the people. How especially true this is in some of the modern holiness movements! Their adherents give themselves over to unseemly demonstrations, ignore good judgment, and teach things and do things they would not if they stopped to carefully consider them.
Salvation and all that pertains to it stand on the foundation of wisdom and good sense. Anything that is not according to these is out of harmony with the true principles of religion. So we should weigh our every act and all our teachings in the balance of good judgment. What in our lives or teaching does not appeal to the sound judgment and good sense of others had better be rejected. Genuine holiness, because of its reasonableness, appeals to the intellect and heart of every man. Extremism and fanaticism are not part of true religion. Throw plenty of enthusiasm into your work, but see to it that that enthusiasm is held in proper channels by consideration. Do not let it overflow without bounds. It is sure to run in the wrong direction if you do.
God has given us the power of consideration and understanding to control and guide our energies. By means of these faculties we get the highest and best use of our powers. To act without consideration is very often to act wrongly. God's acts are always wise, and to be godlike means for us to use what wisdom he gives to us.
Let us be sure that we have these three needful |rations| and that we make the use of them that God has designed. We shall then be successful Christians and accomplish the work that it pleases God for us to do. Aspire to be and do your best. Throw your soul into whatever you undertake. Be careful and considerate in all your ways, so that you |shall neither be barren nor unfruitful,| but that you |shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season.|