Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952)
The saddest feature to us which is now presented by the worldwide "Depression," is not the material destitution which has overtaken millions of our fellow creatures, but the spiritual poverty of so many of our dear Brethren and Sisters in Christ. They seem to be as helpless as the poor worldlings, and while no doubt they all have faith that God will not let them starve to death, yet they apparently know of nothing better than simply to ask Him to be merciful, and give them patience to wait until times get better again. While they cannot be entirely innocent with the Word of God to their own hand, yet we are convinced that they are more to be pitied than blamed. By far the greater part of the guilt rests upon the preachers and "Bible teachers" whom they have sat under during the past twenty years. If those who were so zealous in denouncing "Modernism," "Higher Criticism," "Evolution," ad lib., ad nauseam, had devoted their energies unto teaching their hearers what it means to walk with God, He would have been more honored, and they had been more helped. If those who so loudly and so constantly warned against "Russellism," "Pentecostalism," "Eddyism" etc., etc., had been faithful in warning the professing people of God against the sins of covetousness, luxury, and extravagance, and had emphasized the teaching of Scripture upon mortification and the denying of self, though they had not been so popular, far more real good had been accomplished. If those who were so diligent in bidding people "rightly divide the Word of Truth," and adopt their arbitrary methods of sectioning the Scriptures — allocating this part to a company in the remote past, and another part to some company in the distant future—had shown their congregations how to apply the Scriptures practically unto all the varied details of their lives, we would not now witness the pathetic sign which we do.
Were we to follow our own inclinations, we had much prefer writing along different lines from what we are now doing, but we dare not remain silent any longer. While so many of God's people are still in danger of being deceived by blind leaders, it is high time to warn those whom our pen can reach. So many seem to think that because a preacher is "sound" on all the "fundamentals," that his messages must be helpful: that because they hear "faithful" sermons on the Divine Inspiration of the Scriptures, the Virgin birth of Christ, and so on, that their souls are getting just the food they need. This by no means follows. There is "a time to every purpose under the heaven" (Eccl. 3:1), there is "the present truth" (2 Peter 1:12), there is such a thing as "a word in season" (Isaiah 50:4). The tragic thing is that scarcely any of the present-day preachers recognize or are experimentally equipped to give out such.
We are well aware that the above language is strong and sweeping, but the published programs of the "Bible conferences," the "subjects" being taken at the "Bible Institutes," the titles of religious books now being published, all illustrate and demonstrate the truth of what we have said. When we hear of those that are without work and reduced to almost the lowest point of existence, being entertained with lectures on "Daniel's seventy weeks" and interpretations of the symbols of the Apocalypse, it makes us think of Nero fiddling while Rome was burning! When we hear of the homes of Christians being seized and sold, and of other saints being dependent upon unsaved relatives, it seem high time that some voice was raised asking the question, Is that a testimony which honors Christ? Is that an experience which witnesses unto the faithfulness of God to undertake for His own? Instead of the poor, suffering, bewildered children of God having explained unto them what is signified by the "four horses" of Revelation 6, or who is represented by the "two beasts" of Revelation 13, they need to be shown how to pray down temporal blessings, how to have God working miracles for them, how to bring about the fulfillment of some of His wondrous promises. But who is there that is engaged in such a ministry today? Are there none who are now proving for themselves the sufficiency of God, and can point the way for others to do likewise?
Yes, here and there, there is one who is experimentally acquainted with the God of Elijah; but O how pathetically few is their number! Has not God declared that He is ready to "show Himself strong in the behalf of those whose heart is perfect toward Him" (2 Chron. 16:9)? Certainly He has, and He cannot lie. If then God has not shown Himself "strong" on your behalf, and if He is not now doing so, then it must be because your heart has not been and is not now "perfect toward Him." Ah, it is at the heart God ever looks! Nor does a "perfect" heart here signify a sinless one. No, a "perfect" heart is one which genuinely trusts, loves, and obeys God. A "perfect" heart is one which has been weaned from all idols, and finds its satisfaction in the Lord Himself.
"Six days shall you labor" (Exo. 20:9). But there is many a Christian man who is not working at all. Why? "Because there is none available for him." Ah, that is the answer a worldling would give: "Because God is providing none for him" is better, for that places the emphasis where it rightly belongs. And why is not God obtaining an opening for honorable employment? There must be some reason: nothing happens by chance. If you have asked Him to undertake for you, and He has not done so, may not that show you have not His ear!
"Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful" (Josh. 1:7, 8). How many have not "prospered" and do not enjoy "good success"! True, and is the reason far to seek? Have they fulfilled the terms which God has here specified? If not, is not the fault their own? Perhaps someone says that promise does not concern us. But why not? Is not Joshua 1:5 applied to all Christians in Hebrews 13:5! It is the devil who seeks to persuade us that such searching promises as these do not pertain unto Christians today. "Truly I say unto you, There is no man who has left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My sake, and the Gospel's, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life" (Mark 10:29, 30). Here is a New Testament promise which relates to material blessings. But mark, it is also a conditional one; it is only for those who genuinely put Christ first in their lives; who, at His call, are willing to forsake all things for Him.
Now three things are indispensable if we are to enjoy God's blessings, rather than suffer His chastisements.
First, all known sin—past as well as present—must be repented of, confessed, and forsaken (Proverbs 28:13). It is unpardoned sins which withhold good things from us (Jer. 5:25). This principle has always obtained, and will unto the end of time.
Second, real trust in the Lord: "According unto your faith be it unto you" (Matt. 9:29). Even the promises of God avail us not unless they be personally "embraced" (Heb. 11:13). "You have not, because you ask not" (James 4:2)—ask not with a real, living, expectant, persistent faith.
Third, an honest effort to serve Him: God will not place a premium upon disobedience. In keeping His commandments there is "great reward" (Psalm 19:11). True, we do not purchase God's favors; nevertheless, in His moral government of the world, He stands pledged to recompense the righteous "in the earth" (Proverbs 11:31).
The whole history of Israel supplies an illustration of what we have been saying above. God prospered or chastened them in accord with their conduct toward Him. And the principles of His governmental dealings have not changed. When Israel fasted, repented, reformed, and served the Lord wholeheartedly, His rod was removed and His smile again bestowed. There is much in Kings, Chronicles, and Jeremiah that is most pertinent for us today. He who has ears to hear, let him hear (2 Chron. 7:14).