Readiness for Service
W. E. Vine, Bath
All quotations are from the Revised Version
Effectual service for God demands the consecration of the life to Him; he whose members are to be 'instruments of righteousness', Rom. 6. 13, must present himself to God. If the vessel is to be 'meet for the master's use, prepared unto every good work', 2 Tim. 2. 21, it must first be sanctified. We are called to present our bodies to the Lord as a living sacrifice, and in this yielding of the life to Him we shall be equipped for godly living and ready for any special service He may have in store for us. This involves at least three things and to these we shall now give our attention.
Submission to God's Word
This has in view the servants' need of self-judgment. We must learn to pass sentence upon everything in our lives which is inconsistent with the will of God. For this we shall need the help of God's Word. It is a great heart-searcher; it is 'quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart', Heb. 4. 12; its holy light reveals all that meets with the displeasure of its Author; it teaches us to pray: 'Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any way of wickedness in me, and lead me in the way everlasting', Ps. 139. 23, 24. The judgment of self under the power of the Word of God is not calculated to drag the soul into despondency; self-judgment does not mean a gloomy introspection. He who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at God's word, Isa. 66. 2, is the object of His special regard. Such a one He can use for the carrying out of His purposes. We need to keep short accounts with God; we must sutler nothing to remain to mar our enjoyment of the Lord's presence and communion with Him. For this a full provision has been made. For the rectification of the life and the cleansing of the way, there is the help of the Holy Spirit, the efficacy of the cleansing blood, the ministry of our Advocate with the Father, and last but no means least, the guidance and separating power of the Word of God.
Agreement with God's Purpose
To be ready for service we need, also, a heart in unison with God's counsels. We must know His purposes if we are to be 'strong, and do exploits', Dan. 11. 32. This involves understanding His will and His ways; we may form many plans for serving Him, but they may not be His plans. To serve Him rightly, His thoughts must be our thoughts, and His ways our ways. Now oneness with the Lord's thoughts and ways depends upon the cultivation of private prayer and meditation in the Scriptures. These two must go together, and together they will enable us to know the Lord and His counsels. Meditation in the Scriptures without prayer will make us mere students and not disciples. The conditions by which we may be in readiness for God's service are strikingly illustrated in the vision given to Isaiah in chapter six of his prophecies. When he saw 'the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lilted up', he was not aware that God had a particular service in view for him. The vision, however, brought about the spirit of self-judgment which was an essential preparation for it. The revelation of the glory of the Lord drew from his heart the contrite confession, 'Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts'. The confession was real and full of meaning; seeking religious ends in their own way and ignoring God's way was the characteristic sin of the nation, and with this national sin Isaiah identified himself and judged himself for it. His confession and immediate forgiveness re-established that communion with God which was necessary for what was to follow. That the prophet had a heart to will according to the will of the Lord is at once manifest. He was now so in touch with God, so fully in the current of the divine thought and purpose, that on hearing the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?', he immediately offered himself for the task. In his 'Here am I; send me', there was no pondering over possible difficulties. Such a man, self-judged and devoted, was in God's estimate suited to the work; He at once says, 'Go'. There was no romance about the errand; the message he had to deliver would be anything but popular. Rut no difficulty could daunt the man who was out-and-out for God. He who stands in the counsels of the Lord shrinks not from hardships, he is proof against any degree of dis-couragement: he knows that God's mountains are wont to become His ways. Can we wonder that Paul says of him: 'Isaiah is very bold". Isaiah's call was not a case of compulsion, nor of half-reluctant submission. There was no struggle to decide on a path which conscience made it impossible for him to refuse. Nor, on the other hand were there any ulterior motives of self-interest, such as the prospect of notoriety or some other advantage likely to accrue from entrance upon the service. He was moved neither by pressure without, nor by selfish ambition within. He heard the voice of God declaring a divine requirement, and, being in the necessary readiness of heart and mind, he spontaneously offered himself. What an example for us! Where such are the conditions for preparation, the worker is not likely to abandon the appointed path through the attractiveness of some other course, nor through a gradual declension first into flagging interest, and then into heartlessness for the work. Self-abasement before God, self-consecration to His service, self-obliteration of a will that is lost in His will, only thus can we be brought into agreement with God's purposes. Let us beware of the Lord's condemnation when He said: 'I have found no works of thine fulfilled before my God', Rev. 3. 2.
Recognition of God's Claims
How great arc the claims upon us to devote ourselves entirely to Him! When we consider the awful doom that awaited us, and that His was the love and grace that endured the unspeakable suffering and judgment of the cross to deliver us, when we think of our mercies which are the outcome of His death, mercies innumerable, inestimable, unutterable, unmerited, we surely cannot but be moved to consecrate our all to our Redeemer. In the words of the apostle, 'I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice', Rom. 12. 1. The mercies of God would form a fitting title to the first eleven chapters of the Epistle to the Romans, and those words may be summed up in the words at the close of the eighth chapter, 'the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus'. David's appeal to his people, 'Who then offereth willingly to consecrate himself this day unto the Lord?', drew forth a loyal response, for 'with a perfect heart they offered willingly to the Lord', 1 Chron. 29. 9. Shall ours be less whole-hearted who have upon us the claims of a Redeemer's love? The churches of Macedonia are examples to us; the secret of the devotion of their service lay in this, that 'they first gave their own selves to the Lord', 2 Cor. 8. 5. His love it was that stirred theirs. A further incentive is the desire of our Lord towards the perishing, and true discipleship involves identity of our desire with His. Have we fully entered into His thoughts concerning the lost whom He came to seek and to save? Is there a danger lest we should unconsciously get into a way of thinking that we, to whom the Gospel has been brought, and who have experienced its saving power, are a kind of privileged caste? Not so, if we know the meaning and purpose of the cross, and the deep yearning of the Saviour who hung and suffered there. He still bids us look to the fields. He calls us to share His compassion for those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, and for whom the light that shines from Calvary was intended to shine as much as for us. Shall we, whose souls are lighted
With wisdom from on high, Shall we to men benighted
The lamp of life deny? We may not be called to other lands, but we are called to take such part as He will assign to the fulfilling of His purpose for us towards the souls for whom He died. For this we need to be in readiness. Let us breathe afresh the prayer:
Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee; Take my moments and my days;
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.