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Gospel Workers (1915 ed.)

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    The Minister and Manual Work

    While Paul was careful to set before his converts the plain teaching of Scripture regarding the proper support of the work of God, and while he claimed for himself, as a minister of the gospel, the “power to forbear working” [1 Corinthians 9:6.] at secular employment as a means of self-support, yet at various times during his ministry in the great centers of civilization, he wrought at a handicraft for his own maintenance....GW 234.1

    It is at Thessalonica that we first read of Paul's working with his hands in self-supporting labor while preaching the word. Writing to the church of believers there, he reminded them that he “might have been burdensome” to them, and added” “Ye remember, brethren, our labor and travail: for laboring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.” [1 Thessalonians 2:6, 9.] And again, in his second epistle to them, he declared that he and his fellow-laborers while with them had not eaten “any man's bread for naught.” Night and day we worked, he wrote, “that we might not be chargeable to any of you: not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.” [2 Thessalonians 3:8, 9.] ...GW 234.2

    When Paul first visited Corinth, he found himself among a people who were suspicious of the motives of strangers. The Greeks on the seacoast were keen traders. So long had they trained themselves in sharp business practices, that they had come to believe that gain was godliness, and that to make money, whether by fair means or foul, was commendable. Paul was acquainted with their characteristics, and he would give them no occasion for saying that he preached the gospel in order to enrich himself. He might justly have claimed support from his Corinthian hearers; but this right he was willing to forego, lest his usefulness and success as a minister should be injured by the unjust suspicion that he was preaching the gospel for gain. He would seek to remove all occasion for misrepresentation, that the force of his message might not be lost.GW 234.3

    Soon after his arrival at Corinth, Paul found “a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla.” These were “of the same craft” with himself. Banished by the decree of Claudius, which commanded all Jews to leave Rome, Aquila and Priscilla had come to Corinth, where they established a business as manufacturers of tents. Paul made inquiry concerning them, and learning that they feared God and were seeking to avoid the contaminating influences with which they were surrounded, “he abode with them, and wrought....And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.” [Acts 18:2-4.] ...GW 235.1

    During the long period of his ministry in Ephesus, where for three years he carried forward an aggressive evangelistic effort throughout that region, Paul again worked at his trade. In Ephesus, as in Corinth, the apostle was cheered by the presence of Aquila and Priscilla, who had accompanied him on his return to Asia at the close of his second missionary journey.GW 235.2

    There were some who objected to Paul's toiling with his hands, declaring that it was inconsistent with the work of a gospel minister. Why should Paul, a minister of the highest rank, thus connect mechanical work with the preaching of the word? Was not the laborer worthy of his hire? Why should he spend in making tents time that to all appearance could be put to better account?GW 235.3

    But Paul did not regard as lost the time thus spent. As he worked with Aquila, he kept in touch with the great Teacher, losing no opportunity of witnessing for the Saviour, and of helping those who needed help. His mind was ever reaching out for spiritual knowledge. He gave his fellow-workers instruction in spiritual things, and he also set an example of industry and thoroughness. He was a quick, skilful worker, diligent in business, “fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” [Romans 12:11.] As he worked at his trade, the apostle had access to a class of people that he could not otherwise have reached. He showed his associates that skill in the common arts is a gift from God, who provides both the gift, and the wisdom to use it aright. He taught that even in every-day toil, God is to be honored. His toil-hardened hands detracted nothing from the force of his pathetic appeals as a Christian minister....GW 236.1

    If ministers feel that they are suffering hardship and privation in the cause of Christ, let them in imagination visit the workshop where Paul labored. Let them bear in mind that while this chosen man of God is fashioning the canvas, he is working for bread which he has justly earned by his labors as an apostle.GW 236.2

    Work is a blessing, not a curse. A spirit of indolence destroys godliness, and grieves the Spirit of God. A stagnant pool is offensive, but a pure, flowing stream spreads health and gladness over the land. Paul knew that those who neglect physical work soon become enfeebled. He desired to teach young ministers that by working with their hands, by bringing into exercise their muscles and sinews, they would become strong to endure the toils and privations that awaited them in the gospel field. And he realized that his own teachings would lack vitality and force if he did not keep all parts of the system properly exercised....GW 236.3

    Not all who feel that they have been called to preach, should be encouraged to throw themselves and their families at once upon the church for continuous financial support. There is danger that some of limited experience may be spoiled by flattery, and by unwise encouragement to expect full support independent of any serious effort on their part. The means dedicated to the extension of the work of God should not be consumed by men who desire to preach only that they may receive support, and thus gratify a selfish ambition for an easy life.GW 237.1

    Young men who desire to exercise their gifts in the work of the ministry will find a helpful lesson in the example of Paul at Thessalonica, Corinth, Ephesus, and other places. Although an eloquent speaker, and chosen by God to do a special work, he was never above labor, nor did he ever weary of sacrificing for the cause he loved. “Even unto this present hour,” he wrote to the Corinthians, “we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place; and labor, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it.” [1 Corinthians 4:11, 12.]GW 237.2

    One of the greatest of human teachers, Paul cheerfully performed the lowliest as well as the highest duties. When in his service for the Master circumstances seemed to require it, he willingly labored at his trade. Nevertheless, he ever held himself ready to lay aside his secular work in order to meet the opposition of the enemies of the gospel, or to improve a special opportunity to win souls to Jesus. His zeal and industry are a rebuke to indolence and a desire for ease.—The Acts of the Apostles, 346-355.GW 238.1

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    The failure of some of our ministers to exercise all the organs of the body proportionately, causes some organs to become worn, while others are weak from inaction. If wear is left to come almost exclusively upon one organ or set of muscles, the one most used must become overwearied and greatly weakened.GW 238.2

    Each faculty of the mind and each muscle has its distinctive office, and all must be equally exercised in order to become properly developed and to retain healthful vigor. Each organ has its work to do in the living organism. Every wheel in the machinery must be a living, active, working wheel. All the faculties have a bearing upon one another, and all need to be exercised in order to be properly developed.—Testimonies for the Church 3:310.GW 238.3

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