Wm. H. Ferguson
How shall we take advantage of the coming of this season of the year to further the cause of Christ and at the same time find refreshing and strength and happiness in the Lord in so doing?
We are sure questions as to the above arise in the minds of many at this time and with a view to the encouragement of His own and their help in the things of God, we submit a few thoughts for their consideration.
To many this is the sum total of the thought in connection with the summer season. It is so in the world and to prepare for the days ahead the man of the world devotes considerable time and thought and money towards this end. However, we read in the Word, 1 Timothy 4:8, that it
or, as the margin of your Bible states, "for a little time." It is therefore not the objective for a Christian but rather as one version gives it in v. 7, "Train yourself for godliness," and v. 8 further states
But Godliness is Profitable unto All Things
The original word for "exercise" here is "gumnasia" from which comes our English word "gymnasium" and whereas this form of exercise is given great prominence in the world, godliness and training oneself for godliness is given the superior place in Gods Word. What then would be the result should we go in for godliness rather than bodily exercise? The Scripture states such a course has the
Promise of the Life that Now Is
meaning that it shall not adversely affect our lives now - it shall by no means hinder our enjoyment of the life that now is. Further, it has the promise
And of That which Is To Come
The exercise of godliness brings us into a field where we shall not only profit for time but for eternity. Godliness brings us nearer God in our thoughts and ways. It is primarily an exercise of the renewed spiritual mind. "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things that are above, where Christ sitteth on the right had of God. Set your affection (mind) on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead" (Col. 3:1,3). We are dead to the idol of pleasure as to all other idols of the world and in a mad pleasure-loving world, it means something to realize this and abstain from that which the world goes after so strenuously, the care of the body while it so woefully neglects the care of the soul.
Everywhere there is room for the Christian to engage in useful service at this season. An earnest tract distributor has no lack of exercise, spiritual and physical as he or she wends their way into lonely and isolated spots and lonely homes with the Word of Life. You will find rebuffs. We remember years ago going up to a home in the backwoods in our Bible Carriage work where the farmers wife was busy with the Mondays family wash outside. She scarcely lifted her eyes from the tub as she evidently sensed my errand. Perhaps she had read the texts on the horse-drawn Bible Carriage standing outside in the road, and as I offered her our usual supply of good Gospel tracts and a portion of Gods Word, saying, "I have a few Gospel tracts for you this morning." Her reply was anything but encouraging. She said with a dagger look, "The only tracts I want to see are your tracks outside that gate." But then, this is the exception. Many will accept tracts and express thanks and receive these silent messengers and who can tell what the results may be. Then when you return to your home or lodging after a days work of this nature, the question of bodily exercise will trouble you but little.
There are other avenues of service, the open air meeting, the tent meetings where you can help the preachers in so many ways with invitations, etc., all offer an opportunity to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine and at the same time further the cause of Christ.
The Summer Vacation
When one does feel the need of relaxation of mind and body, the woods, the mountains, the lakes, the ocean, all can remind us of that blessed One whose feet trod the waters, who often spent the nights in solitude on the mountainside in prayer and as one views the handiwork of God in creation it should lead out our thoughts in contemplation of Himself. The quietness, the relaxation from the busy "grind" of modern life can thus be most beneficial and it is a good rule never to engage in any activity (and this applies equally in summer as in winter) which will divert our minds from Himself and His Word. I once knew a successful surgeon who never fell asleep without one of the latest books on medical science in his hand. His mind was devoted to his supreme passion in life, the surgeons art and work. So it must be with the Christian. Not even the summer vacation can be allowed to divert our mind from the Lord.
One views with alarm the introduction into professed assembly testimony of very recent years of a mixture of the worlds pleasure and the Word of God. Such a mixture is not of God. Organized sports after the fashion of the world with their spirit of contest and worldly pattern can never be anything but a detriment to the spiritual life of the Christian. When the Christian goes to the world, even the religious world, for its pattern (and these new ventures of today are all fashioned after the pattern of Babylon), the result can only be disintegration and decay of testimony and the substitution of a light and trashy religious exercise for true godliness and spiritual unction.
Who could suppose Timothy or his companions running around with a tennis racket in hand or sitting down on a beach at night in the midst of a crowd of girls over a marshmallow roast or a so-called singspiration intermingled with the empty laughter and levity of the present day youth, say on a Saturday night. Then tumbling into bed in the small hours of the morning and rushing out again on a Lords Day morning to a professed feast of remembrance and meeting with the Lord? What a fantasy! This is not the road to godly living and one has well said, "What is the use of running if you are on the wrong road?"
Always arrange to be near some assembly. It may be small, but you will enjoy the presence of the Lord and it will be a little added strength to the saints who carry on in weakness all the year. In seeking out such who gather to His Name alone, you will be doing that which pleases our God. Take a letter of commendation with you signed by responsible brethren so that a godly order may be preserved. The seasonal breaking of break (that is, the setting up of a table, whatever that may mean, by a number of Christians and then disbanding in a few weeks) finds no countenance in the Word of God - is not patterned after the apostles doctrine, has no proper or scriptural discipline and should be avoided by those who are anxious to take Gods Word as their guide and be led only by His Spirit. This is a modern invention to suit the times and appeal to those who either have never seen or have lost heart for Gods ways of simplicity and reproach.
The time is short, our little day will soon be over and the words of our gracious Lord come to mind when He spoke first of the Church in the New Testament in Matt. 16:18. He then spoke of the cross and His path of suffering which lay before Him in v. 21. Then follow the memorable words of verse 25 which describe the real Christian outlook on this life in relation to the future reward - "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it."
To all young men and women and older ones who are willing to "lose" their lives for His sake we earnestly urge a return more and more to godly and simple ways in life and testimony and an adherence to the Divine pattern for gathering and for our testimony which does not change to suit 20th (soon 21st) century customs or so-called advancement.