Good Time Christians
The king made a feast . . . in the court of the garden of the king's palace; where were white, green and blue hangings, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble; the beds were of gold and silver, upon a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black marble." (Esther 1. 5-6.)
Words of ease and comfort! What a pleasant place must have been that Persian court in which the Jewish maiden found herself reigning as Queen! Life must have been very comfortable and the ugly things of the world kept at a safe distance ‑ until Haman brought her face to face with reality.
That is the position of the good-time Christian. There are so many fellowships and groups which have rendered Christian service in past years which now stand in grave danger of degeneration into a comfortable community. The world is becoming such an ugly and unsympathetic kind of place that the temptation for us to withdraw into our own circle and enjoy ourselves in our own way was never stronger. And it seems so obvious a way of being "in the world but not of it", especially when we are getting on in years and continued disappointments and disillusionments remind us that the placid backwaters of study and meditation on the river of Divine Truth do not rock the boat so much as do the turbulent main stream of evangelism and witness. After all, we reason, we are older than we were twenty, thirty, or forty years ago. The Devil is always very solicitous about our advancing years and counsels us not to strain our failing powers too much. And so there are meetings at which the faithful gather together to listen to "a very lovely song of one that hath a very pleasant voice, and that can play well upon an instrument" (see Ezek. 33. 32) and after the service to shake hands and congratulate one another on the good time they have had. The pity of it all is that there is such sincerity and real love for the Lord manifested in this; there is no denying the thoroughness of the consecration to God and the desire to be true copy-likenesses of His Son. That is not the issue at all. The real trouble is that having secured our own assurance of heavenly glory we fail to remain imbued with the passionate longing to bring others into the same happy condition.
It is essential that we have our conventions, our gatherings, our Bible studies and our fellowship. These things are the breath of life to us and they play an important part in our spiritual development. But do not let us use them as a means of escape from the obligations resting upon us of being lights in the world. Do not let the wealth of good things that we enjoy at the Lord's table so dull our senses that we do not realise our responsibility of ministering these same things to others outside.
The Christian faith is a missionary faith; the Christian group that ceases to evangelise eventually ceases to exist. Whilst it can be argued that such must be the ultimate fate of the Church in the end of this Age, it must also be pointed out that our Master has not entrusted us with the task of ending the Church's earthly career. A soldier is expected to be prepared to die for his country if and when necessary. But his true duty is to avoid death as long as possible and keep himself in such condition that he can inflict the maximum of damage upon the enemy before he does have to yield up his life. And is it so very different in the Christian Church? Is not our Lord best pleased with those who are constantly on the alert for the first appearance of the enemy that they might be ready to leap up and engage him in mortal combat? Else why are we bidden to emulate the Roman soldier and stand, arrayed in the complete armour of God, ready to suffer hardship and sacrifice, that we may please him who hath called us ‑ to be a soldier?
It is in that spirit we can make a sober appraisal of our position and resolve that we will by our lives and our works give a good witness to the world in which we live. It is a world which is rapidly going to pieces before our eyes, a world which contains men and women ‑ millions of them ‑ who sadly need the oil of joy and the garments of praise which we can give them. Let us take strength from our fellowship and studies together and give that strength to those around us, that we may prepare, even though in only slight degree, for the Kingdom that is to come. Let us take an intelligent interest in our fellow-beings, Christians and non-Christians, the converted and the non-converted, taking to each the message that is most appropriate in the particular case, according to the opportunities we have or can make. Let us resolve that we shall not rest until we find work to do for the Master that is going to cost us something in labour and sacrifice and vitality. We are destined to deal with all men in the Millennial Age, a little practice now will not come amiss.
Does this course of life place us at risk from the 'Hamans' of this world? It may be so, but when Christ would put peculiar honour upon His servants He often suffers them to be brought low in the sight of men. If the saints are favoured to suffer reproach for Christ's sake, then they will own the honour put upon them to be thus conformed to their Master. He turns loss to gain and honours faithful servants. He comforts persecuted ones.