Ellen G. White Writings

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The Review and Herald

March 7, 1893

Faithful Stewardship Required

By Mrs. E. G. White

“God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: that ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

Let no one permit himself to be unhappy and repine because his talents are few, and he cannot glorify God with that which has not been bestowed upon him, and for the use of which he is not responsible. If you can do but little, you are responsible only for the doing of that little with fidelity. If you have but one talent, use it well, and God will accept your effort to make the most of what he has given; he will approve of you as he sees you faithful over a few things. We have all been intrusted with some gift of God, and for its use we shall be held accountable. Whether saint or sinner, we shall be required to render an account for the use of the talents God has given us, according to our several ability. Christ has made an infinite sacrifice that the sinner may come to him, and behold him whom his sins have pierced. The only hope for the perishing is to believe in him who has loved us and given himself for us. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” When the sinner comes to God confessing his sins, he receives pardon, and becomes a child of God, an heir of heaven. He then realizes that his talents are the gift of heaven, and that through faith in his Redeemer he is under obligation to God to fulfill his requirements. He knows that he is justified by faith, but judged by his works, and that life is a day of trust wherein he is preparing for the final reckoning.

The Lord has given to those who should be his human agents, talents of means, capacity, and influence, according to their ability to employ these gifts in a wise manner for his service. He has given to every man his work. “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some pastors and teachers.” Why were these various workers appointed? “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come into the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.”

We can see from this scripture that the Lord has his appointed workers, and that the work committed unto them has in view a definite object. Prophets, apostles, evangelists, pastors, teachers, are all to work for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. Is not this object worthy of careful attention? Can we not discern that there has been neglect in some special work for the church, in that the saints have not attained the perfection that God would have them attain? Had the work of the ministry been done, the church would have been edified, and educated for the great work that devolves upon them. The truth would have been presented in such a way that the Spirit of the Lord would have moved upon hearts, and sinners would have been convicted and converted, and would have taken their position as followers of Christ. But many are only partially changed. Their names are registered upon the church book, and they gather with the assembly of the saints, and listen to what is presented from the desk; but many things they do not understand, and they fail to practice the requirements of the Lord. There are many who do not understand the parable of the talents, and they do not realize that they are to be agents through whom the Lord will communicate his blessing to others. They do not realize that they should put to use the talents given them, trading upon them, that when the Master comes, he may receive his own with usury.

In the teaching of Christ the use or abuse of talents is presented in a solemn light. He says he gave to “every man according to his several ability.” “Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his Lord's money. And after a long time the Lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.” But he who had the one talent, and had refused to do with his Lord's goods what the others had done, had no increase to present to the Master. He had only accusation to present as an excuse for his neglect of duty; he said to his Lord, “I knew thee that thou art a hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strewed: and I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth.”

With what intense interest is the examination of the talents carried on in the judgment, that the improvement may be noted, or the deficiency revealed. Eternal life or death hangs upon the decision of this investigation. Though the participants in the work of the Lord have to acknowledge that they can claim no merit, that their talents are those that have been delivered unto them, that there could have been no gain without the deposit, no interest without the principal, by diligent trading God has been glorified. Those who have made use of their intrusted gifts have gained other talents. They do not feel that they have done more than their duty. The capital was the Lord's, and the treasure is his, and they are satisfied that their work meets the Master's approval. But he who faithfully fulfilled his trust has abundant reward; for the Lord restores to him both principal and interest, and makes him ruler over all that he hath. The recipient of this mercy realizes that all his success is of the Lord; for had not the Saviour bestowed upon him his love and mercy, the trader would have been bankrupt for eternity. But mark this: when the Lord scrutinizes the talents, and notes their improvement, he bestows upon the diligent trader his approbation, and rewards him as though all the merit were of the human actor. He says, “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” As the Master shall utter these words of approval, his countenance will shine with unutterable love. He delights in expressing his approbation, and in rewarding the diligent worker in his service.

A sacred responsibility rests upon every one who has a connection with the cause of God. He is called upon to do his work with fidelity, to sanctify himself to the service of God that others also may be sanctified. When the case of every soul is decided in the judgment, some will meet their record with joy, and others with hopeless grief. The faithful will be invited in to the marriage supper of the Lamb, and Christ will gird himself, and come forth to serve them. And since so great interests depend upon the right use of the talents of those seeking for salvation, and since God has placed in the church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, for the perfecting of the church, for the edifying of the body of Christ, how important it is that no blundering work be done. There is much more to be accomplished that can be accomplished simply by preaching. The workers must be endowed with heavenly wisdom that they may devise and execute plans that shall result in the perfecting of the experience of all who shall come into the faith. We must teach the members of the church how they may effectually minister to others. In ministering to others, men and women may be educated to bear burdens, to wear the yoke of Christ, and thus exercise their intrusted talents in his service, until they shall be developed to fill positions of greater trust and heavier responsibility.

There are many who are ordained ministers, who have never yet exercised a shepherd's care over the flock of God, who have never yet watched for souls as they that must give an account. Were the kind of labor of which it stands in need bestowed upon the church, many who are doing nothing would be educated to become diligent laborers in the harvest-field. An education should be given to the people of God that would result in furnishing hundreds who would put out to the exchangers valuable talents, whose use would develop men for positions of trust and influence, and great good would be accomplished for the Master. But instead of thus developing, the church is left to be a weak, dependent, inefficient body. The members of the church are trained to rely upon preaching, and they do little for Christ. They bear no fruit, but rather increase in selfishness and unfaithfulness. They put their hope in the preacher, and depend on his efforts to keep alive their weak faith. Because of the lack of proper instruction among the church-members by those whom God has placed as overseers, there is not one merely, but scores who are slothful, and who are hiding their talents in the earth, and still complaining of the Lord's dealings toward them. They need to be tended as do sick children.

But this condition of weakness must not continue. Well-organized work must be done in the church, that its members may understand the manner in which they may impart light to others, and thus strengthen their own faith and increase their knowledge. As they impart the light which God graciously bestows upon them to those in darkness, they will be confirmed in the faith. A working church is a living church. We are built up as living stones, and every stone is to emit light; for every one is compared to a precious stone that catches the glory of God, and reflects it to others.

The idea that the minister must carry all the burdens and do all the work, is a great mistake. Overworked and broken down, he may go into the grave, when had the burden been shared as the Lord designed, he might have lived. That the burden may be distributed, an education must be given to the church by those who can instruct the workers to follow Christ, and to work as he worked. “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” When it is made manifest that the members of the church are not fulfilling their high calling, are not improving the talents God has intrusted to them, then it is the duty of the ministers and workers to seek for heavenly wisdom, that they may know what is the kind of labor which will result in quickening the church, and causing its members to bring forth fruit unto life eternal. Why do not the overseers of the church have councils to devise ways whereby young men and women may be trained to put to use their intrusted talents? Why do not the older members of the church seek to do good, earnest, compassionate work for the children and youth? Many have embraced the truth, and yet they have not been educated as to how they may serve the cause of God, and thereby grow in spiritual muscle and sinew. By employing the faculties of the mind and body of our youth in the service of God, a door is closed against the temptations of the enemy, and Satan has not as favorable an opportunity for training the children and youth for his service.

Let the ministers put to use all their ingenuity, that plans may be devised whereby the youthful members of the church may be enlisted in the cause of God. Why should they not be interested in the great work that there is to be done. But do not imagine that this interest can be aroused by going to the missionary meeting and presenting a long sermon; plan ways whereby a live interest may be kindled, and train up the young to do what is appointed them. Let them have a part to act, and from week to week let them bring in their reports, telling what they have experienced, and through the grace of Christ what success has been theirs. If the missionary meeting was a meeting where such reports were brought in by consecrated workers, it would not be dull, tedious, and uninteresting. It would be full of intense interest, and there would be no lack in attendance.

In every church the members should be trained so that they will devote time to the work, and win souls to Christ. How can it be said of the church. “Ye are the light of the world,” unless the members of the church actually impart light to others? In seeking to point sinners to the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world, their own love would be kindled, and by beholding him they too would become changed into his likeness.

Will those who have charge of the flock of God, awaken to their duty? “Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” When the church is properly instructed, there will not be so great dependence and weakness. Believers in the truth will not come and go as the door upon its hinges. They will not sit complacently and listen to sermon after sermon, and fail to bring the instruction into practical life. Many a minister does present the truth with force and clearness, but the members of the church fail to reap benefit therefrom, because the word is not mixed with faith in them that hear it. The mind is occupied with worldly interests, and as soon as they leave the church door, the impression is lost; for as water flows from a leaky vessel, so the truth leaks from the heart. The more preaching they have, the less they do to carry out the truth in practical godliness. They are glutted with sermons, and the truth fails to arouse them to a sense of their condition.

It is important that the people understand that they cannot depend upon a minister, or expect that one will be stationed among them to do all the work in their community. Were this done, it would result in spiritual death to those who are content to look on while another bears the burden. Let the people understand that it is by diffusing their light that they will have light more abundantly. But if they fail to impart light, they will lose even that which they have, and will walk in darkness.

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