The Word and the World

From an address given at a prayer meeting for the Gospel in heathen lands at Heaton Chapel

I got my message for this meeting through the post this morning. Among some circulars from a publisher was one advertising "Young's Analytical Concordance" — a very good book to possess. In this circular was a report of an address given at a meeting of a Bible Society. The speaker had been looking up the word "Word" in the Concordance, and had been greatly interested by the fact that the word following "Word" was "work" and following work was "worker," and following worker was "world" — a very remarkable sequence of words. There was the "Word" for the "world," but between the two, and indispensable if the Word is to reach the world, are the "work" and the "worker." The speaker said, and very wisely too, that often this true sequence was reversed. That Christians saw and felt the need of the world and decided to be workers, and then asked to be provided with work, and then went to the Word for a message, and small wonder that disappointment and discouragement were the result. The order is not world, worker, work, Word, but Word, work, worker, world. We must keep the sequence right; we must begin with the Word, or we shall be running to the world without a message, as Ahimaaz the son of Zadok desired to run to King David though he had no tidings ready.

When the fullness and blessedness of the Word of God's grace gets into our hearts our mouths must speak, and we shall be like Elihu, who said, "I am full of matter, the Spirit within me constraineth me." "I will speak, I will open my lips." We shall not wait until we are sent to some field of labour 5000 miles away, to communicate what fills our hearts, we shall find those who need the Word close at hand. We shall understand that the world is one and that the Word is for the world, and that the world — the needy world — is here as well as there. If we are not interested in the souls of those close beside us, our interest in work abroad is of very little value.

But what is the message in the Word? "The voice said, Cry. And be said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth." That is not an exhilarating message. No one would desire to carry that message to men if that were all the Word contained. Thank God it is not all; but it is necessary that it should be told to make way for what follows. "THE WORD OF OUR GOD SHALL STAND FOR EVER" (Isa. 40). And this Word is good news: it warms the hearts and energizes the souls of those who receive it. It has been said of it, "The essence and glory of the gospel is that it is for all, and he who truly receives it receives it as a salvation for all, and feels himself impelled to communicate it to others. With it comes the power at once to consider and to care for others." Thus do we become the happy channels by which God communicates His Word to the world.

The Word is for the world. We cannot limit it to any smaller sphere. "Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His Name among all nations," said the risen Lord. And the last words that the wondering disciples heard from the lips of their ascending Lord were, "UNTO THE UTTERMOST PARTS OF THE EARTH." We here tonight have not been called to fare forth into other lands, but where we cannot go in person we may go in heart, and in our prayers. And as those who pray about the work we are partners in it. Let no one suppose that prayer is a secondary thing; a thing to be done or left undone according to our moods and whims. If the Word is in our hearts we shall then pray; we shall labour fervently in fellowship in the gospel and be partners in prayer, and thus shall we show out in the work of God in the world.

What encouragement for us to pray there is in the great apostles' appeal, "Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the Word of the Lord may run and be glorified, even as it is with you." We desire to share with others what we have through grace; we show this desire tonight by our prayers. It is the Word in our hearts that makes us pray for the work and the workers in world.