If Anyone Minister

"If anyone minister — as of strength which God supplies; that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom is the glory and the might for the ages of the ages. Amen" (1 Peter 4:11, N.Tr.).

To minister is not to preach or to teach, but to serve — to serve the children of God, and nobody will do that who does not love them, and the more love the more service. This is not talk, it is deed, and when it is done God is glorified through Jesus Christ. A man may talk and there be nothing in it but words and wind, and he may love himself, glorify himself all the time; but if one loves the children of God and serves them, he secures glory for God, as we shall see. This ministering is open to all; the youngest as well as the oldest may have a part in it, and sisters as well as brothers; indeed, a woman can often do it more effectually and blessedly than a man.

Do you know a man or a woman to whom Christians will go in their sorrows and perplexities, one in whom they can confide, and who will enter sympathetically into their trials and comfort and help them? Then you know one of God's ministers. If you know one who can find out these burdened souls, and place his knowledge of God at their disposal, who can help them by his own experience of God's mercy and grace, and can comfort them with the comfort wherewith He has been comforted, and can draw them near to JESUS, our great High Priest, who is able to succour those that are tempted, then you know one who is invaluable in the church of God, a true and God-gifted minister. As this service is open to all, let us all strive after it. But it can only be done as self-sacrificing love is active, it is the "more excellent way" of love.

How is it done? An incident related to me recently shall illustrate it. It was during the war. A tired horse fell in a London Street, the usual crowd gathered round, and various efforts were made to get the poor beast on to its feet again, but all in vain. The driver dragged at the reins and shouted at the horse; it made a few spasmodic efforts to rise and then lay still. Some one tried the whip, which was just as useless. The driver, losing his patience, applied his boot to its hide, and only produced shudders of pain in the poor brute. At this point an Australian soldier arrived on the scene. "Get out of my way," he said, "and leave the horse to me." To the amusement of some in the crowd, he lay down by its side, and whispered soothingly in its ear, stroking its neck the while. He did that for just about half a minute, when to the surprise of the spectators, soldier and horse rose up together. The whole thing was as simply and quietly done as could be. That man from "down under" understood, and the horse, brute though he was, felt that he understood, that was the secret. If anyone minister, he must understand, and understand with his heart. He must not be a bully, a critic, a heartless, censorious or superior person, but one who can get down alongside the one whom he would help, and so will he bring into the place of need the grace and comfort that he has himself received.

But how can anyone understand? We are so dense and so ignorant; we have so little heart for any one but ourselves, how can we be changed into those who can love and understand and so be able to minister to others? We must learn, and the only Teacher is our Lord. "Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me," He said. Is it not wonderful that those words should be addressed to us just after He had addressed Himself to a world of need? "Come unto Me," He had cried, "all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Ah, yes, He came "not to be ministered unto but to minister," and of Him we must learn, and like Him we must become if we are to understand and help others in their burdens and woes. Have we considered His words, given to us in the Scriptures of the prophets. "The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: He wakeneth morning by morning, He wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned" (Isa. 50:4).

The results of the service correspond in their blessedness to the service Itself. The grace and the power for the service comes from God and the glory goes back to Him. Suppose, for instance, a burdened Christian, tempted of the devil to sink down under his trials, like the tired horse, and to murmur against his lot as so many do. Well, if he yields and does stumble and murmur God is dishonoured and the devil is delighted. But suppose one of these ministers of God, who has sat at Jesus' feet and learned of Him, comes along in that moment of trial and is able to comfort the tried heart, and to lift up the hands that hang down, and to strengthen the feeble knees, so that instead of murmuring, the Christian sings; then is threatened defeat turned into victory and God is glorified, for "whosoever offereth praise glorifieth God."

All are not called to speak as the oracles of God, but to serve one another in love is within the reach of all. This is the need of the day. It is a quiet and often hidden service, it must be so in the very nature of it, and no great renown will be won either in the world or the church by it. But will God ever forget such service rendered to His children? Will the Lord Jesus forget those who in love to Him have sacrificed their own ease and spent themselves for the sakes of those whom He loves, because He loves them? Never, such deeds are recorded in heaven, and the book of records there will be opened and read when service on earth is done, and this quiet, hidden service, so little thought of here, shall be commended there, and names unknown here shall shine out there. And when all the honours that men can give have become of less account than the dust of the street, imperishable crowns of glory shall be placed upon heads that wore no crowns here. This is the time for lowly service, service that the love of Christ constrains, and the crowning day is coming by and by. "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for as much as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." "To whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."