Functional Church Web Sites

by Joe Dalton

Pharaoh's dream, of scrawny cattle eating up fat cattle yet growing no fatter themselves (Gen. 41), in many ways vividly illustrates the story of men and women who live in the midst of this wonderful world which God has filled with such abundant opportunities for doing good and gathering good, so rich in privileges for the development of the spiritual nature, who yet go lean and hungry, and though they devour the good things of God, they get no good, because they fail to be nourished by them through lack of reverent and loving motive on their part. A selfish man can absorb like a sponge the richest blessings God can give, and be lean and starving in the end.

When God delivered the children of Israel by the miracle at the Red Sea, the people at first were very grateful. But they soon forgot all God's wonderful works in their behalf. They became stubborn and self-willed. They gave themselves over to their own lusts and followed their own way. They were like people now, who do not intend to let their church, or religion, or conscience stand in the way of their worldly success. And God gave those people, as He does similar people now, over to their own ways, and they seemed to succeed; but leanness of soul came to them, as it does to their followers today; and in the end they found that they had been cheated-terribly, fatally cheated.

It is a good lesson for all of us to learn: God cannot give spiritual riches and blessings to men and women who still cherish sinful desires and purposes in their hearts. You may hear sermons till you are gray-headed, and say prayers all your days, and yet die lean and starved at last unless you give your soul to whole-heartedly doing of the will of God.

Dr. Merle Smith sought to enter into the mind of Peter and to tell the story of those wonderful days before Pentecost: "Jesus ascended, and we all went back to Jerusalem into that upper chamber, where the Lord had eaten His last supper. It was endeared to us by many a sacred memory, and we went there and waited for the power which He had promised.

"We thought it would come in the morning, and we began to pray, but the power didn't come. We prayed one day, two days, three days, for the power, and it did not come. One day Thomas arose and said: Brethren, I believe the trouble is in me; I do not believe I am entirely cleansed from doubt. I think there is a lot of sin in me, and the Spirit cannot come because of the sin that is in me.' Then I began to see that my own sin had not been entirely cleared away, and I asked the brethren to pray for me. We just went round in a circle, and we stopped praying for power and prayed for cleansing; we prayed that our sins might be revealed and all our defilement might be shown to us and be cleansed away through the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit. We were not praying for the power; what we wanted was to get clean in the sight of God.

"By and by-I don't know how it was-but on the morning of the tenth day there came a wonderful power upon us through the Spirit that Jesus had promised. We had been cowardly before, but after that we went out and preached that Jesus had risen from the dead, and with what wonderful power! There were three thousand men converted under one sermon. I don't understand how it was, but ever since, the power of God seems to be on me, and it all came when the cleansing of God was made complete in my own heart.'"

Pentecost is the story of a hundred and twenty men and women whose souls were fat with joy coming from conscious communion with Christ and from the assurance that they were the accepted children of God. Lean-hearted, discouraged men and women never could have won that victory. And if we would win victories in the name of the Lord we must not cherish anything in our hearts that will cause God to send leanness there. David said, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." And if He will not hear us He will cannot use us, for we shall be so starved and beggared in our spiritual life that there will be no overflow to bless any one else.

Is not this the secret of the fact that there are many men and women who have sought to live Christian lives, and have come into the church, but live without peace with God, have no religious enjoyment, and their influence wins no one to Christ? Is the secret not in this, that they are cherishing in their hearts some sin that makes it impossible for God to nourish their souls?

J. Wilbur Chapman tells that during a series of meetings he was holding in Massachusetts a minister from one of the little neighboring towns came in to know if some one would come and speak to them. A prominent merchant, whose lips had been sealed for years, said he would take the service. A few days later the minister reported that the merchant took the text, "God so loved the world," but he could not go on. Then the tears came. After he had repeated the text, he simply told his own story-of cheating his business partner, and of being lost in the house of God for twelve years; going lean-hearted and useless; and that until he had come under conviction during Dr. Chapman's meetings his lips had been sealed. Then, while with the tears running down his cheeks, the merchant told how God had sent the fat joys of salvation to him when he put sin out of his heart and life. The minister reported that every unconverted person in the house, man and woman, boy and girl, came to Christ!

God help us to search our own hearts, to see if there be any wicked way in us! And if we have been cherishing any unholy desire or selfish motives that have caused us to go with lean hearts, and silent lips-or what is worse, with a testimony that has sounded hollow and hypocritical-let us pray God's mercy and forgiveness, and, as we first came to the Lord, come again in humble repentance.

But I am sure there is here a message for those who have never yet started to be Christians as well as to the backslider who has fallen away from his first love. Sin makes all its victims lean-hearted. Sin forever starves and beggars the soul. The Prodigal found only hunger and leanness among the husks, and I am sure you have found no fatness or joy or peace as you have turned from God by sin and neglect. But, thank God, you need not go on that way. Turn back before you reach the depths of sin's beggary; turn back while this rich opportunity is offered, and Christ is saying, "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out!"

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