The Lord’s Work
What men want in doing the Lord’s work is (1) Courage, (2) Enthusiasm, (3) Perseverance, (4) Sympathy.
1. Courage. – The man who is afraid, who holds down his head like a bulrush, is not the worker whom God will bless; but God gives courage to him whom He means to use. I have been all along with young men, and a great portion of my work these fifteen years has been among them, and I find that they generally fail for want of courage. There is any quantity of young men in Edinburgh just now whose lives are a blank to them, and who have not discovered that God sends us to do work for Him.
He can qualify them for that work. John Wesley said, “Give me thirty men of faith, and I shall storm the citadel of Satan and win it for Christ;” and he did it too.
Talk of Alexander being a great conqueror, he was nothing compared with that little man, Saul of Tarsus.
Once I had been fishing long, and caught nothing, and I almost got discouraged. My Sabbath services were barren one day, and I was greatly disheartened. My heart was down, and my head was down. In came a brother. “How does the work go on with you?” asked of a fellow-worker. “Splendidly,” he said. “Great blessing on Sabbath.” I told him my state of mind. He said, “Did you ever study the life and character of Noah?” “Yes; I know it by heart.” “Well,” said he, “study it again.” And I did so, and found in him wonderful courage. For one hundred and twenty years that the ark was building, he labored to get men to believe in God’s righteousness. He did not get one, and I said, “What have I to be discouraged about after that?” So I went down to the prayer-meeting, and a man behind me clasped me by the hand, and said. “Pray for me, for I am in great trouble.” And I thought what would Noah have given for encouragement like that! And a man rose up, and told that a hundred young men had just come to Christ in a neighboring town. What would old Noah have said to that? One hundred and twenty years, and no fruit at all; and yet he had courage to go on preaching!
All at once the clouds were all gone from my mind. If you get discouraged, keep it to yourself; don’t tell any one about it; for you will just discourage others if you do. Be strong and very courageous if you would do anything for God.
2. Enthusiasm. – We need more enthusiasm. The more we have the better. I have a great admiration for Garibaldi [who unified Italy in the 1870s], though I cannot, of course, approve of all his acts. When put in prison he said, “It were better that fifty Garibaldis should perish, than that Rome should not be free.” This was the cause getting above the man; that is what we want. We want to forget ourselves.
There are one hundred thousand men waiting now to be brought to Christ, to be invited to come to Him, and shall we hang back? Let us have enthusiasm.
This formalism that abounds at the present day, is the worst ism of all – it is worse than all the infidelity and skepticism of the land.
I remember reading in some history of the ninth century of a young general who with only five hundred men came – up against a king with twenty thousand. And the king sent to him to say that it was the height of folly to resist with his handful of men. The general called in one of his men, and said, “Take that sword and drive it to your heart.” And the man took the weapon, and drove it to his heart, and fell dead. He said to another, “Leap into yonder chasm,” and the man instantly obeyed. Then, turning to the messenger, he said, “Go back and tell your king that we have five hundred such men. We will die but we will never surrender.” The messenger returned, and his tale struck terror into the hearts of the king’s soldiers, so that they fled like chaff before the wind.
God says, “One shall chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight.” Let us have confidence in God. When men are in earnest they carry everything before them. The world don’t read the Bible, but they read you and me.
3. Perseverance. – The men who have been successful are not those who work by fits and starts, but three hundred and sixty-five days in the year. By the grace of God, these eighteen years I have been kept working for God. People complain how cold other people are: that is a sign that they are cold themselves. Keep your own heart warm, as if there were no other but you in the world. Keep working all the time at steady, constant work.
For the last eleven years I have not let a day pass without saying something to somebody of Christ. Make it a rule that never a day pass without speaking for Christ. People won’t like it. If you are a living witness for Christ it makes people mad against you. You will suffer persecution, and be spoken against, and yet they will send for such a man first when they are in trouble or on their death-bed.
The man that is popular with the world is not a friend of Jesus. You cannot serve two masters. The world hates Christ, and if you are a friend of the world you cannot be a friend of His. You may be sure that something is wrong with you when everybody is your friend. Every man here can win souls for Christ.
The public-houses in America, are called “saloons.” There is a hall with a bar, and behind, a dining-room, and above, sleeping-apartments, and in these saloons the young men congregate at night, and drink and gamble. There was a terribly wicked man who kept a saloon, whose children I was very anxious to draw to my Sabbath-school. So one day I called on this man and said, “Mr. Bell, I want you to let your children, come to the Sabbath-school.” He was terribly angry, said he did not believe in the Bible, school or anything else, and ordered me to leave the house.
Soon after I went down again and called on this man, and asked him to go to church, and again he was very angry. He said that he had not been at church for nineteen years, and would never go again, and he would rather see his boy a drunkard and his daughter a harlot than that they should attend the Sabbath-school. A second time I was forced to leave the house.
Two or three days after I called again, and he said, “Well, I guess you are a pretty good-natured sort of man, and different from the rest of Christians, or you would not come back;” so seeing him in a good humor, I asked him what he had to say against Christ, and if he had read His life: and he asked me what I had to say against Paine’s “Age of Reason,” and if I had read it. I said I had not read it: whereupon he said he would read the New Testament, if I would read the “Age of Reason,” to which I at once agreed, though he had the best bargain: and I did so. I did not like it much, and would not advise any person to read it.
I asked Mr. Bell to come to church, but he said they were all hypocrites that went to church. This he would do, however: I might come to his house if I liked, and preach. “Here, in this saloon!” “Yes! but look here, you are not to do all the talking;” he said that he and his friends would have their say as well as I. I agreed that they might have the first forty-five minutes, and I the last fifteen of the hour, which he thought fair, and that was settled.
The day came, and I went to keep my appointment, but I never in all my life met such a crowd as when on the day appointed I went to that saloon – such a collection of infidels, deists, and reprobates of all kinds I never saw before. Their oaths and language were horrible. Some of them seemed as if they had come on leave of absence from the pit. I never was so near hell before. They began to talk in the most blasphemous way; some thought one thing, some another; some believed there was a God – others not; some thought there was such a man as Jesus Christ – others that there never was; some didn’t believe anything. They couldn’t agree, contradicted each other, and very nearly came to fighting with one another before their time had expired.
I had brought down a little boy, an orphan with me, and when I saw and heard such blasphemy I thought I had done wrong to bring him there. When their time was up, I said that we Christians always began service with prayer to God. “Hold,” said they; “two must be agreed first.” “Well, here are two of us.” And so I prayed, and then the little boy did so, and I never heard a prayer like that in all my life. It seemed as if God was speaking through that little boy. With tears running down his cheeks he besought God, for Christ’s sake, to take pity on all these poor men; and that went to their very hearts. I heard sobs throughout the hall, and one infidel went out at this door and another at that; and Mr. Bell came up to me and said, “You can have my children, Mr. Moody.” And the best friend that I have in Chicago to-day is that same Joshua Bell, and his son has come out for Christ and as a worker for Him.
There was a family which for fourteen years I had tried to draw to Christ, but they would not come, and I had almost given them up as hopeless. We have a custom on New Year’s Day in America of calling on our friends and acquaintances, and wishing them the compliments of the season. Last New Year’s Day I thought I should call on the old doctor, which I did, and I offered up just a short prayer. That week he and his wife came to Christ, and next week his son, and a few days after his daughter, and now the whole family are converted.
“This one thing I do,” said Paul. He had received thirty-nine stripes, and if he had other thirty-nine stripes to receive, “This one thing I do” forgetting the things that “are behind, I press towards the mark.” A terrible man he was – this man of one thing and one aim, and determined to go on doing it.
“To every man his work” (Mark 13:34). If blessing don’t come this week, it will come the next, only persevere. Be of good courage, Christ will strengthen your heart.
4. Sympathy to touch the hearts of men is needed too. Some men have courage, perseverance, and zeal, but their hearts are as cold as an icicle. Christ might have been born in a palace had He chosen, but poor men would have said He had not come for them; but He was born in a manger, lower than their own rank of life. The minister who speaks to people as if he were separate from them, that tells them what they should do, this and that, will not carry them with him. To speak to men from a higher platform is not the way to do them good. It should be what we do, – we poor sinners, and you. The milk of human kindness is a great element in bringing souls to Christ.
We have, in Chicago, a meeting for strangers; and it is most blessed. Every Monday night, seventy-five a hundred young men newly arrived in the city, assemble to find friends. A young man coming from the country to a situation, or to college in town, feels very lonely. He walks the street, and has no one, of all the crowds, to speak to him, and he is miserable. That is the time when his heart is softest; then, if any one speaks to him or shows him acts of kindness, he never forgets it. The devil watches for friendless youths like those; and the ensnaring paths of vice seem refuges from loneliness. Such a young man, walking along the street, sees a big brown paper pasted on a boarding, or at a railway station, or somewhere else, having painted on it, “Strangers’ Meeting to-night. All strangers invited to attend.” So he goes, and meets a kind look and words of friendship, and it is better to him than anything in the world.
During our [civil] war, there was a Southern man who came over to a Wisconsin regiment, saying he could not fight to uphold slavery. Some time after, the mail from the north came in, and all the men got letters from their relations, and universal joy prevailed. This Southern man said he wished he were dead; he was most unhappy, for there were no letters for him. His mother was dead, and his father and brothers would have shot him if they could, for going against them. This man’s tent-mate was very sorry for his friend, and when he wrote to his mother in Wisconsin, he just told her all about it. His mother sat down and wrote to her son’s friend. She called him her son, and spoke to him like a mother. She told him, when the war was over that he must come to her, and that her home would be his. When the letter reached the regiment, the chaplain took it down to where this man was standing, and told him it was for him; but he said it was a mistake, that nobody would write to him; he had no friends, it must be for someone else. He was persuaded to open it, and when he read it, he felt such joy. He went down the lines, saying, “I’ve got a mother!” When afterwards the regiment was disbanded, and the men were returning to their homes, there was none who showed so much anxiety as this man to get to his mother in Wisconsin.
There are hundreds of young men who want mothers, and any kindness done to them will not lose its reward.
Sermon delivered by Dwight L. Moody to young men in Edinburgh, Scotland, 14th Dec., 1873.