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called men, not just to a life in which He met their need,
but to one in which they joined Him in His task. In vivid
and homely language which would stir the imagination of
fishermen, He asked Simon and Andrew to join Him in an amazing
fishing expedition. The catch was to be men.
is very important that we should get this clear. The Christian
life involves necessarily the fullest identification of
ourselves with Christ in His supreme work of bringing men
and women to God. To be a Christian is to be a friend of
Christ; and to speak of being the friend of anyone when
we do not care of the thing he cares for, or join him in
the thing he is living for, is simply meaningless.
lived and died to change men, by bringing them to a definite
personal trust in and obedience to God. He knew that nothing
less would meet their real needs, and nothing less would
be sufficient to redeem and remake the world. To stop short
of that would be to fail. Unless, then, we are prepared
to let Him draw us into a share in the same passion and
the same programme, we are no real friends of His, since
there can be no unity of mind and heart between us.
in our minds to-day is the idea that the Christian life
is primarily a matter of being good oneself, and being ready
to help others in what we call practical ways. To deal with
their deepest needs and win them for God is the parson’s
job--or at any rate the job of people with special gifts.
That is to mistake the real nature of Christian life and
service. No doubt Christ meets us first at the level of
our own need. He stoops to us in he tangles of our problems--reaches
to us while we are still centered in ourselves; but He cannot
give us His full answer, even for our own needs, until we
let Him lift us, self-forgotten, into partnership with Him
in His redemptive love of men. Release from ourselves and
with it new power, can only come fully in that active companionship.
only own life but our service of men will be stunted if
we stop short of this work of life-changing with Christ.
We may meet people’s material needs, we may aid them
in sickness or misfortune, we may provide healthy interests
and sound instruction for them--and yet fall short of the
full Christian answer to their need. Christian ‘philanthropy’
is not enough. If we love men at all, we shall be prepared
to do these lesser things for them when it seems right and
wise. If we love men as Christ loved them, we shall not
be content until they have been so brought into touch with
God that they are themselves remade, and have, in their
own lives, the full answer to their own needs. The world
today proved ample evidence of the inadequacy of humanitarian
service which stops short of changing the man himself.
we must remember that the love of Christ, which we are called
to share, is an active love. He was not content to live
a life of 'silent witness' and hope for the best. He went
out seeking men. When we are filled with the same kind of
love we shall do as He did. Life-changing is not a matter
of special commission nor of special gifts. It is a matter
of how much real love for people we have, how much we want
them to find the one complete answer to their need, and
how much of God we have ourselves to share with them.
we have this real love for people, the office and the factory,
the home and the school, and every place where the daily
business of life is carried on, will become the scene of
life-changing. A hotel proprietor in the South of England
meets every day with several of his staff to plan, under
the guidance of God, how his hotel may become a place where
the guests find not only comfort and rest, but God. A Dutch
lawyer, who handled divorce cases in the courts, now settles
many of them in his office by showing his clients how God
can reconstruct their lives. Many doctors now know how to
cure their patients more thoroughly, because they have learned
the secret of healing the mind as well as the body.
is simply normal Christian living. It is doing Christ's
work. If our aim falls below that level we are failing Him.
is very tempting for us, confronted by this high call, to
find excuses for our failure, and to reassure ourselves
sin the fact that at least we are serving others in good
ways, if not the highest.
we allow ourselves to venture up these sidetracks of excuse
we should do well to ask ourselves some honest questions.
I every seriously faced this responsibility?
I actually willing for God to take me right into the centre
of other people's lives, or do I shrink from the cost of
I care enough whether they find God or not?
I enough conviction that the one thing people need most
is a personal relationship with God?
I held back by the knowledge of things in my own life which
have not been uncompromisingly faced?
I fear the opinion of others or the loss of their friendship?
let us beware of pleading our unfitness for so wonderful
and sacred a task as dealing with the inner life of men.
That is not humility. It is distrust of the One who has
called us, and with whom all things are possible-even the
miracle of my being used to bring another person to God.
Until these issues have been faced it is too soon to conclude
that life-changing is not our calling.
cannot change another person. Apart from the fact that God
is already at work in the other person's life, making him
aware of need, awakening responses, and in the end convincing
him of the truth of what he has heard and the rightness
of the new steps he sees, any effort of ours will be quite
useless. Anyone who has tried it knows that human argument
and persuasion do not change people's hearts. But, in the
ceaseless work God is carrying on in the lives of men, He
does fit us in when we fulfil the conditions.
first condition is our own simple honesty. If we try to
hand on to other people something we have not got ourselves,
it will be no wonder if they are unimpressed. People are
drawn and captured by something they can see has really
happened to us. It is not that we are consciously dishonest;
but we present to others the belief and the experience we
feel we ought to have, rather than those we actually have.
Pride creeps in, and we pass quickly over the gaps in our
knowledge of God. Or perhaps we are afraid that, if the
other person sees the meagreness of our Christian life,
he will not be attracted; and consequently we pitch the
note of our witness higher than is justified by fact, or
resort to giving good advice instead of honestly telling
the other person the things which are real to us. In either
case the note rings false.
does not reach other people so much through our opinions,
and our advice as through the rock bottom facts of our life,
honestly presented. It is reality which is redemptive.
have known a man, only an hour old in the Christian life,
bring another man to God simply because he was honest about
the facts of his own surrender. The first price of life-changing
is this kind of honesty.
second condition is that we should be really interested
in people. When our interest ceases to be centred in ourselves
or the small circle of our particular friends, and we begin
to take a real interest in the varied folk we meet, we see
a whole new range of opportunities for entering other people's
lives, and every encounter becomes a responsibility given
us by God.
cannot use many of us deeply in the lives of other people
because we do not see. And we do not see because we are
not interested. Christ was intensely interested in people.
In other words, He loved them. We shall not share in His
redemptive work with men and women unless we too love them.
Life-changing can never be performed as a duty. It is something
which happens when we are deeply and sincerely interested
other condition of God's using us in changing lives is that
we should be guided. As we saw, a changed life is the result
of what God has been doing in a man's mind and heart. We
are only of use if we fit in at the time and in the way
which dovetails into what God is already doing for the man.
If we try to gate-crash a man's soul before the door is
ajar, or try to hurry him ahead of the convictions God is
bringing home to him, we merely spoil God's work. We need
to know when to speak and when to be silent, what to say
and what to leave unsaid, when to step aside and give the
other man time to think, and when to press him relentlessly
towards decision. These things pass the wit of the wisest
of us. They are only made clear to us through a sensitiveness
to people and their needs which is born in prayer. God cannot
guide us rightly in individual work unless we pray for people
and listen for His directions about them.
must be guided too in the choice of those in whose lives
God wishes to use us. God cares for everyone, and His ultimate
purpose is to bring all who are willing, into a full life,
but, in carrying out that purpose, He does choose the men
and women whom He needs next as leaders. It may, therefore,
be much more important for me to spend hours with some man
or woman on whom the lot of hundreds of others depends,
than to run about after a dozen people who are not God's
next work for me. God has His strategy, and it may be vital
for a whole community that the 'salient' of a single life
should be captured before any wide advance is possible.
It may be a business man (or a workman), who, when changed,
will be able to carry out God's plan in a whole industry,
a teacher who will open the way to a God-controlled school,
a local `tough' who will win all his `tough' friends, a
politician who will set a new level of national policy.
And God can tell me, if I listen, who is my responsibility.
are not conditions which can only be fulfilled by the few
and the specially gifted. They are the simple and spiritual
conditions which can be fulfilled by anyone who is willing
to learn in the school of Christ.
vital element in this work of life-changing is, of course,
an infectious experience of God-an experience real enough
for other people to catch from us. The conditions we have
to fulfil are, the simple and spiritual conditions just
outlined. If, however, we are to be used by God to the fullest
extent in other people's lives, there is much to be learned
in the art of dealing with men and women. Our own practical
experience is the best teacher, but it may be some help
if we summarize a few lessons learned by those who have
attempted the work themselves.
thing must be grasped at the beginning. If we are to help
men and women deeply, we must make friends with them. People
only begin to show themselves to us when they feel they
can trust us. They only trust us if they feel we care for
them, and understand them as real persons, and are not merely
interested in them as 'cases' or as 'possible converts.'
To establish such a personal relationship needs patience
and makes big demands. We shall have to find time, put ourselves
out of our way to cultivate acquaintance, get to know what
other persons are interested in, what books they read, what
are their ambitions. We may have to join them in their play.
Sometimes the entry on the other life is swift and the response
to us instinctive. Sometimes the process is long. But whether
the process is long or short, if we try to break in without
friendship, attempt to put the other persons right and tell
them what they should believe or do, we shall find the door
of their inner life slammed in our face. If we are to work
at this deep level, then we must reckon with the fact of
sex. There are confidences which can only rightly be shared
between man and man, and woman and woman. To ignore this
condition would mean either a superficial job, or a wrong
is when we have made friends that we begin to see the other
man more clearly. That is essential. The first step in life-changing
is to introduce a man to himself. We have to help him to
look behind his actions and his feelings and see their roots,
or perhaps face things in his life he has been hiding so
long that now he cannot see them. That is a task which requires
the insight of real love. The difficulty he brings to us
first may be (and very often is) a mere blind. Again and
again people will put forward their intellectual difficulties
when their real trouble is moral; or they will tell you
a lot of things of which they are afraid, while keeping
back the deepest fear of their lives. Sin deceives a man
about himself, and our first work is to help in breaking
through that self-deception. It is here that we can so easily
fail those we are trying to help. We can fail through carelessness
because we simply have not taken the trouble to watch and
learn the other man as far as we possibly can.
can fail through sentimentality. Either our human affection
for the other person, or our dislike of going too deep into
our own life, leads us to idealize, to soften down harsh
facts, or to stay the probe. We call it being charitable.
Actually it is sheer betrayal, and the other person may
have cause one day to curse us for our lack of the kind
of love which loves enough to hurt. We can fail through
haste. We seize on the symptoms of the trouble and haven't
the patience to get down to causes. A good deal depends
on the thoroughness with which we have faced ourselves.
It is not only that honest self-knowledge helps us in the
diagnosis of others, but our own deepest discoveries about
ourselves, shared with him, may be what is needed to help
the other man to see himself.
outcome of this work of helping a man to become acquainted
with himself should be his own willing confession of all
he has so far seen.
next stage will test our restraint. Our human impulse is
to give advice, to point out the steps that other persons
ought to take, to rearrange their life ourselves. Actually
the only thing we can rightly do is to help them to listen,
not to us, but to God. Somewhere at the base of their life
God is speaking to them, convicting them about the past
and insistently pointing the new way. It is tremendously
important that they should discover this themselves. If
they listen to us instead of to God, they will depend on
us instead of Him. That is fatal. We must do no more at
this stage than help them to listen for the deepest voices
in their own souls, until they know that God is speaking
and make their first response in trust and obedience to
the other person has arrived at this point and is face to
face with steps to be taken, and a call to be answered,
we must be ready lovingly and firmly to hold them up to
the decision that must be made. Most people try to run away
when they reach this stage. They try to postpone the decision,
though they know it must be made. They try to make it by
installments, or offer to face any other steps except the
one which really matters. A friend who will not let them
run away is invaluable. It is wise also to remember how
much it helps if the decision is put into words perhaps
the words of a prayer as we kneel with our friend. We should
see, too, that the one who has surrendered makes the fact
known as soon as possible to other people. Anything vague
and indefinite about the act of surrender is a source of
follows a very demanding part of our work for men and women.
Surrender to God has begun the new life, but the one we
have helped so far, needs the most patient aid in working
out the implications of that surrender, establishing a new
discipline of life, making necessary restitutions for the
past, and getting into action for God.
is a crime to expose new-born babies. It is an even worse
crime to leave our spiritual children without careful individual
attention. We are too easily content to push them into a
job in the Church or urge them to attend meetings--mistaking
attendance at meetings for real Christian fellowship. Fellowship
is always between two individuals. It can only exist in
a company of people when it already exists between the individuals
composing the company. We shall, then, need to keep in close
touch with these spiritual children of ours, helping them
to see the fuller implications of their surrender, and particularly
planning with them daring action; for fellowship is found
most of all when we step into God-guided action together.
An employer and one of his workmen plan how to put the whole
factory under the guidance of God. Men, who were previously
trade rivals, seek God's plan for the industry in which
they are engaged. A number of people, seeing their responsibility
for their city, plan its capture for God. In such action
fellowship becomes real, and our spiritual muscles are stretched
in healthy growth.
then, is the quality of redemptive living to which Christ
calls all who are willing to share in His work for men.
It is a partnership which will drain us to the bottom, taking
far more than we have. But it is in this work, which is
utterly impossible to us, that we make the greatest discoveries
of the sufficiency of God.
work of life-changing is in the end the only contribution
which we Christians have to make towards a new world. Anything
less than loving men and women into personal relationship
with God will fail.