The true missionary spirit is the spirit of Christ. The world’s Redeemer was the great model missionary. Many of his followers have labored earnestly and unselfishly in the cause of human salvation; but no man’s labor can bear comparison with the self-denial, the sacrifice, the benevolence of our Exemplar.
The love which Christ has evinced for us is without a parallel. How earnestly he labored! How often was he alone in fervent prayer, on the mountain side or in the retirement of the garden, pouring out his supplications with strong crying and tears. How perseveringly he urged his petitions in behalf of sinners! Even on the cross, he forgot his own sufferings in his deep love for those whom he came to save. How cold our love, how feeble our interest, when compared with the love and interest manifested by our Saviour! Jesus gave himself to redeem our race; and yet how ready are we to excuse ourselves from giving all that we have for Jesus. Our Saviour submitted to wearing labor, ignominy and suffering. He was repulsed, mocked, derided, while engaged in the great work which he came to earth to do.
Do you, my brethren and sisters, inquire, What model shall we copy? I do not point you to great and good men, but to the world’s Redeemer. If we would have the true missionary spirit, we must be imbued with the love of Christ; we must look to the Author and Finisher of our faith, study his character, cultivate his spirit of meekness and humility, and walk in his footsteps.
Many suppose that the missionary spirit, and qualification for missionary work, are a special gift or endowment bestowed upon the ministers and a few members of the church, and that all others are to be mere spectators. Never was there a greater mistake. “No man liveth to himself,” and “if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Every one who has tasted of the powers of the world to come, whether he be young or old, learned or unlearned, will be stirred with the spirit which actuated Christ. The very first impulse of the renewed heart is to bring others also to the Saviour. Those who do not possess this desire, give evidence that they have lost their first love; they should closely examine their own hearts in the light of God’s word, and earnestly seek a fresh baptism of the spirit of Christ; they should pray for a deeper comprehension of that wondrous love which Jesus manifested for us in leaving the realms of glory, and coming to a fallen world to save the perishing
There is work for every one of us in the vineyard of the Lord. We are not to seek that position which will yield us the most enjoyment or the greatest gain. True religion is free from selfishness. The missionary spirit is a spirit of personal sacrifice. We are to work anywhere and everywhere, to the utmost of our ability, for the cause of our Master.
Just as soon as a person is really converted to the truth, there springs up in his heart an earnest desire to go and tell some friend or neighbor of the precious light shining forth from the sacred pages. In his unselfish labor to save others, he is a living epistle, known and read of all men. His life shows that he has been converted to Christ, and has become a co-laborer with him.
As a class, Seventh-day Adventists are a generous and warm-hearted people. In the proclamation of the truth for this time, we can rely upon their strong and ready sympathy. When a proper object for their liberality is presented, appealing to their judgment and conscience, it calls forth a hearty response. Their gifts in support of the cause testify that they believe it to be the cause of truth. There are, indeed, exceptions among us. Not all who profess to accept the faith are earnest and true-hearted believers. But the same was true in the days of Christ. Even among the apostles there was a Judas; but that did not prove all to be of the same character. We have no reason for discouragement while we know that there are so many who are devoted to the cause of truth, and are ready to make noble sacrifices to advance it. But there is still a great lack, a great need among us. There is too little of the true missionary spirit. All missionary workers should possess that deep interest for the souls of their fellow-men that will lead heart to heart, in sympathy, and in the love of Jesus. They should plead earnestly for divine aid, and should work wisely to win souls to Christ. A cold, spiritless effort will accomplish nothing. There is need that the spirit of Christ fall upon the sons of the prophets. Then will they manifest such love for the souls of men as Jesus exemplified in his life.
The reason why there is no deeper religious fervor, and no more earnest love for one another in the church is, the missionary spirit has been dying out. Little is now said concerning Christ’s coming, which was once the theme of thought and of conversation. There is an unaccountable reluctance, a growing disrelish, for religious conversation; and in its stead, idle, frivolous chitchat is indulged in, even by the professed followers of Christ.
My brethren and sisters, do you desire to break the spell that holds you? Would you arouse from this sluggishness that resembles the torpor of death? Go to work, whether you feel like it or not. Engage in personal effort to bring souls to Jesus and the knowledge of the truth. In such labor you will find both a stimulant and a tonic; it will both arouse and strengthen. By exercise, your spiritual powers will become more vigorous, so that you can, with better success, work out your own salvation. The stupor of death is upon many who profess Christ. Make every effort to arouse them. Warn, entreat, expostulate. Pray that the melting love of God may warm and soften their icebound natures. Though they may refuse to hear, your efforts will not be lost. In the effort to bless others, your own souls will be blessed.
The ministers of the word are God’s chosen agency to spread the knowledge of his will; but there is too little of a missionary spirit, even among our ministers. After preaching the word, some confine themselves almost wholly to reading and study, to the neglect of other and vitally important duties. While it is right to devote some time to study, every minister should feel a deep interest to do all that it is possible for him to do for the salvation of souls for whom Christ died. He should visit the people, and with care and wisdom seek to interest them in spiritual things.
Ministers of Christ should be united,–of one heart and one mind. They should counsel with one another. None should require their brethren to labor exactly after their plan, but each should preserve his individuality, and all labor for the good of others, esteeming their brethren better than themselves. It is Satan’s work to excite envy and jealousy, to alienate affection, weaken confidence, and engender distrust and suspicion. All this hinders unity of faith in intercession with God for the weak and the desponding, for the grace of Christ, for the conversion of sinners, and thus shuts away the blessing which might be ours.
We have the theory of the truth, and now we need to seek most earnestly for its sanctifying power. I dare not hold my peace in this time of peril. It is a time of temptation, of despondency. Every one is beset by the wiles of Satan, and we should press together to resist his power. We should be of one mind, speaking the same things, and with one mouth glorifying God. Then may we successfully enlarge our plans, and by vigilant missionary effort, take advantage of every talent we can use in the various departments of the work. When the people see the unity, the wisdom, and the grace of Christ exemplified in their teachers, they will have increased confidence in the work.
The light of truth is shedding its bright beams upon the world through missionary effort. The press is an instrumentality by which many are reached whom it would be impossible to reach by ministerial effort. A great work can be done by presenting to the people the Bible just as it reads. Carry the word of God to every man’s door, urge its plain statements upon every man’s conscience, repeat to all the Saviour’s command, “Search the Scriptures.” Admonish them to take the Bible as it is, to implore the divine enlightenment, and then, when the light shines, to gladly accept each precious ray, and fearlessly abide the consequences.
The down-trodden law of God is to be exalted before the people; as soon as they turn with earnestness and reverence to the holy Scriptures, light from Heaven will reveal to them wondrous things out of God’s law. Great truths that have long been obscured by superstition and false doctrine, will blaze forth from the illuminated pages of the sacred word. The living oracles pour forth their treasures new and old, bringing light and joy to all who will receive them. Many are roused from their slumber. They rise as it were from the dead, and receive the light and life which Christ alone can give. Truths which have proved an overmatch for giant intellects are understood by babes in Christ. To these is plainly revealed that which has clouded the spiritual perception of the most learned expositors of the word, because, like the Sadducees of old, they were ignorant of the Scriptures and of the power of God.
Those who study the Bible with a sincere desire to know and do the will of God, will become wise unto salvation. The Sabbath-school is an important branch of missionary work, not only to give to young and old a knowledge of God’s word, but to awaken in them a love for its sacred truths, and a desire to study it for themselves; above all, to teach them to regulate their lives by its holy teachings.
All who take the word of God as their rule of life are brought into close relationship with one another. The Bible is their bond of union. But their companionship will not be sought or desired by those who do not bow to the sacred word as the one unerring guide. They will be at variance, both in faith and practice. There can be no harmony between them; they are unreconcilable. As Seventh-day Adventists we appeal from custom and tradition to the plain “Thus saith the Lord,” and for this reason we are not, and we cannot be, in harmony with the multitudes who teach and follow the doctrines and commandments of men.
All who are born of God will become co-workers with Christ. Such are the salt of the earth. “But if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted?” If the religion we profess fails to renew our hearts and sanctify our lives, how shall it exert a saving power upon unbelievers? “It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” That religion which will not exert a regenerating power upon the world, is of no value. We cannot trust it for our own salvation. The sooner we cast it away the better; for it is powerless and spurious.
We are to serve under our great Leader, to press against every opposing influence, to be laborers together with God. The work appointed us is to sow the gospel seed beside all waters. In this work every one must act a part. The manifold grace of Christ imparted to us constitutes us stewards of talents which we must increase by putting them out to the exchangers, that when the Master calls for them, he may receive his own with usury.
— E.G. White, Review and Herald, July 10, 1883