Gospel Workers (1892/1893 ed.)


Christian Deportment and Influence

There is a great and solemn work devolving upon ministers; but many have not felt its weight sufficiently to balance them, and lead them to walk circumspectly. Out of the desk, their ministerial labors cease almost entirely, and their example is not worthy of imitation. Their light, jesting conversation may entertain and provoke mirth; but both believers and unbelievers lose confidence in them as Christ's ambassadors. Such ministers may present a theory of truth to the people; but they have not felt its sanctifying power on their own souls, and the word spoken has but little effect. GW92 415.2

Having laid off the armor of righteousness, they are exposed to the darts of Satan, and often fall under the power of his temptations. They do not remember that a single thoughtless act, a light and trifling word, may balance a soul in the wrong direction, and effect decisions that are made for eternity. GW92 416.1

A spirit of jesting and joking, of lightness and trifling, is not only a stumbling-block to sinners, but a worse stumbling-block to those who thus give way to the inclination of an unsanctified heart. The fact that some have allowed this trait to develop and strengthen until jesting is as natural as their breath, does not lessen its evil effects. When any one can point to one trifling word spoken by our Lord, or to any lightness seen in his character, he may feel that lightness and jesting are excusable in himself. This spirit is unchristian; for to be a Christian is to be Christ-like. Jesus is a perfect pattern, and we must imitate his example. A Christian is the highest type of man, a representative of Christ. GW92 416.2

Some who are given to jesting and to light and trifling remarks, may appear in the sacred desk with becoming dignity. They may be able to pass at once to the contemplation of serious subjects, and present to their hearers the most important, testing truths ever committed to mortals; but perhaps their fellow-laborers, whom they have influenced, and who have joined with them in the careless jest, cannot change the current of their thoughts so readily. They feel condemned, their minds are confused; and they are unfitted to enter upon the contemplation of heavenly themes, and preach Christ and him crucified. GW92 416.3

The disposition to say witty things that will create a laugh, when the wants of the cause are under consideration, whether in a committee meeting, a board meeting, or any other meeting for business, is not of Christ. This untimely mirth has a demoralizing tendency. God is not honored when we turn everything to ridicule one day, and the next day are discouraged and almost hopeless, having no light from Christ, and ready to find fault and murmur. He is pleased when his people manifest strength and firmness of character, and when they have happy, hopeful dispositions. GW92 416.4

We should be cheerful; for there is nothing gloomy in the religion of Jesus. While all lightness, trifling, and jesting, which the apostle says are not convenient, are to be studiously avoided, there is sweet rest and peace in Jesus, that will be expressed in the countenance. Christians will not be mournful, depressed, despairing. They will be sober-minded; yet they will show to the world a cheerfulness which only grace can impart. GW92 417.1

Peter says, “Gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” [1 Peter 1:13.] Here is a lesson for us to learn; here is a work for us to do to control the mind, not letting it drift on forbidden themes, or spend its energies on trifling subjects. GW92 417.2

There are many who are really troubled because low, debasing thoughts come into the mind, and are not easily banished. Satan has his evil angels around us; and though they cannot read men's thoughts, they closely watch their words and actions. Satan takes advantage of the weakness and defects of character that are thus revealed, and presses his temptations where there is least power of resistance. He makes evil suggestions, and inspires worldly thoughts, knowing that he can thus bring the soul into condemnation and bondage. To those who are selfish, worldly, avaricious, proud, fault-finding, or given to detraction,—to all who are cherishing errors and defects of character,—Satan presents the indulgence of self, and leads the soul off upon a track that the Bible condemns, but which he makes appear attractive. GW92 417.3

For every class of temptations there is a remedy. We are not left to ourselves to fight the battle against self and our sinful natures in our own finite strength. Jesus is a mighty helper, a never-failing support. His followers should develop symmetrical characters by strengthening weak traits. They must become Christ-like in disposition and pure and holy in life. None can do this in their own strength, but Jesus can give the daily grace needed to do this work. None need fail or become discouraged, when such ample provision has been made for us. GW92 418.1

The mind must be restrained, and not allowed to wander. It should be trained to dwell upon the Scriptures; even whole chapters may be committed to memory, to be repeated when Satan comes in with his temptations. The fifty-eighth of Isaiah is a profitable chapter for this purpose. Wall the soul in with the restrictions and instructions given by the inspiration of the Spirit of God. When Satan would lead the mind to dwell upon earthly and sensual things, he is most effectually resisted with “It is written.” When he suggests doubts as to whether we are really the people whom God is leading, whom by tests and provings he is preparing to stand in the great day, be ready to meet his insinuations by presenting the clear evidence from the word of God that we are keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. GW92 418.2

It is natural for us to have much self-confidence and to follow our own ideas, and in so doing we separate from God; and we do not realize how far we are from him until the sense of self-security is so firmly established that we are not afraid of failure. We should be much in prayer. We need Jesus as our counselor; at every step we need him as our guide and protector. If there was more praying, more pleading with God to work for us, there would be greater dependence upon him, and faith would be strengthened to take him at his word. This faith would honor our Redeemer. It would be easier to believe that if we ask for grace or wisdom, we shall receive it, because his word says, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” [Matthew 7:7; James 1:5.] GW92 418.3

“The end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.” [1 Peter 4:7.] We are not only required to pray, but to guard the words and actions, and even the thoughts,—to “watch unto prayer.” If the mind is centered upon heavenly things, the conversation will run in the same channel. The heart will overflow at the contemplation of the Christian's hope, the exceeding great and precious promises left on record for our encouragement; and our rejoicing in view of the mercy and goodness of God need not be repressed; it is a joy that no man can take from us. During the waking hours, the mind will be constantly employed. If it dwells upon unimportant matters, the intellect is dwarfed and weakened. There may be some spasmodic flashes of thought, but the mind is not disciplined to steady, sober reflection. There are themes that demand serious consideration. They are those of the great plan of redemption, which is soon to be finished. Jesus is about to be revealed in the clouds of heaven, and what manner of characters must we have, to enable us to stand in that day? GW92 419.1

Well would it be for us if we could always remember Calvary, where Jesus bore the terrible burden of the sins of the world. In his expiring agony hear him exclaim, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!” [Matthew 27:46.] and remember that he endured the hiding of his Father's face, that it might not be forever hidden from fallen man. He endured shame, cruel scourging, insult, and mockery, that we might be reconciled to God and rescued from endless death. If our minds dwell upon these themes, our conversation will be in heaven, from whence we look for the Saviour, and even vain thoughts will seem out of place. GW92 419.2

He who died for us loves us with a love that is infinite. He wants us to be happy; but he would not have us find our happiness in foolish jesting and joking, which disgrace the holy cause we profess to love. GW92 420.1

By dwelling upon the themes of eternal interest, the mind is strengthened, and the character developed. Here is the foundation of that firm, unswerving principle which Joseph possessed. Here is the secret of growth in grace and in the knowledge of the truth. GW92 420.2

The religion of Christ is not what many think it is, nor what their lives represent it to be. The love of God in the soul will have a direct influence upon the life, and will call the intellect and the affections into active, healthful exercise. The child of God will not rest satisfied until he is clothed with the righteousness of Christ, and sustained by his life-giving power. When he sees a weakness in his character, it is not enough to confess it again and again; he must go to work with determination and energy to overcome his defects by building up opposite traits of character. He will not shun this work because it is difficult. Untiring energy is required of the Christian; but he is not obliged to work in his own strength; divine power awaits his demand. Every one who is sincerely striving for the victory over self, will appropriate the promise, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” [2 Corinthians 12:9.] GW92 420.3

Through personal effort, joined with the prayer of faith, the soul is trained. Day by day the character grows into the likeness of Christ, and finally, instead of being the sport of circumstances, instead of indulging selfishness, and being carried away by light and trifling conversation, the man is master of his thoughts and words. It may cost a severe conflict to overcome habits which have been long indulged, but we may triumph through the grace of Christ. He invites us to learn of him. He would have us practice self-control, and be perfect in character, working that which is well-pleasing in his sight. “By their fruits ye shall know them,” [Matthew 7:20.] is his own standard of judging character. GW92 420.4

If we are true to the promptings of the Spirit of God, we shall go from grace to grace, and from glory to glory, until we have received the finishing touch of immortality. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” [1 John 3:2, 3.] Can any earthly promotion confer honor equal to this,—to be sons of God, children of the heavenly King, members of the royal family? Man may be ambitious of the honor that his finite fellow-man may bestow; but what will it avail? The nobility of earth are but men; they die, and return to dust; and there is no lasting satisfaction in their praise and honor. But the honor that comes from God is lasting. To be heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, is to be entitled to unsearchable riches,—treasures of such value that in comparison with them the gold and silver, the gems and precious stones of earth, sink into insignificance. Through Christ we are offered joy unspeakable, an eternal weight of glory. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit.” [1 Corinthians 2:9, 10.] GW92 421.1

We are wanting in simple faith; we need to learn the art of trusting our very best Friend. Although we see him not, Jesus is watching over us with tender compassion; and he is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. No one in his great need ever looked to him in faith and was disappointed. Brethren, do not express doubt; do not let your lips utter one complaining, repining word. Begin now to fix your minds more firmly upon Jesus and heavenly things, remembering that by beholding we become changed into the same image. GW92 422.1