Our Unique Opportunities/The Challenge

1 Cor. 16:8,9.---' I will tarry at Ephesus till Pentecost. For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.'

Such, then, is the situation which confronts the Church, and it constitutes a challenge to energy and courage. When St. Paul found the open door in front of him, he resolved by the help of God to enter it, and the fact that there were many adversaries, instead of deterring him, was only an additional incentive. It is perfectly clear that the adversaries were a part of the attraction to his warrior soul. He does not say he is going to stay in spite of them, but rather because of them. Not like the spies of Israel who came back with glowing reports of a goodly land, but the walled cities and the giants and the chariots of iron made it impossible to enter. Had the Apostle been there he would have stood with Joshua and Caleb, calling for an immediate advance. It has been truly said of him that "he never asked for the green pastures and the still waters where he might lie down in delicious rest and peace. And while the wars of the Lord are afoot, and the world is unsubdued, I am not sure that any of us have the right to ask for them.

The open door is a challenge to energetic advance. Life does not force action upon us, but rather sets openings in our way which it is ours to enter. We must never fall into the dark mood of thinking that all things are moved by an iron fate which leaves us no real freedom of action. That is a brand of pessimism which closes all the doors of life and makes the world a prison-house of mechanical cause and effect. Neither must we repose in an easy optimism which declares that all must inevitably go well by the sheer power of the loving will of God, without human cooperation. "Sit down, young man," said an old minister to William Carey, "when it pleases the Lord to convert the heathen, He can do so without your help." Fatalism, whether it be pessimistic or optimistic, is the very antithesis of the Christian spirit. Doors are set open before us in the providence of God to the very end that we should enter them. "If a man," wrote Lord Lister, "is not to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves to him, what is he to do, or what is he good for?" The answer is that no man is of any use whatever who is not keen to seize the opportunities that present themselves, and ready to enter the doors that are opened. Gladstone, that Herculean toiler, speaks of "a desire which at times has risen in my soul, a fervent and a buoyant hope that I might work an energetic work in this world, and by that work [whereof the worker is only God] I might grow into the image of the Redeemer." It is such a spirit that great lives are lived and great deeds done. Now it must surely be felt by ever loyal servant of Christ that the unique opportunities of our time are a tremendous challenge to the Church. With wide-open doors confronting her the Church is called to make a great advance. She has the whole world to win. She ought to be carrying the flag into every land. She ought to be rallying all her forces. She should be filled with a Divine discontent with things as they are, and count all that has been already done as but the beginning of greater things. She ought to be straining her resources to the uttermost, and pouring wave after wave of eager volunteers into the far-flung battle line. Yet, what do we see? The Church in many places barely maintaining her ground, uttering from time to time appeals almost of despair, speaking of retrenchment instead of advance, seeing doors on every hand which she has no strength to enter, fields which she cannot occupy, while multitudes of her people sit in comfortable ease and dull content, heedless and unresponsive. If only the situation were realized, surely these things would be impossible. 'How shall we escape,' says the Apostle, 'if we neglect so great salvation?' And it may well be said, 'How shall the Church of this generation escape the just judgment of God, if in this critical time so great an opportunity be let slip?'

And the fact that the opposition is so powerful is only an additional challenge to faith and courage. There are many adversaries by every great and effectual door, and they have to be defied in the name of the Lord, as David defied Goliath. We want more heroic Christianity, more of the spirit of those who in their time and according to their lights gave themselves utterly to the Christian cause; more of the spirit of St. Francis, who consecrated the devotion and high courage of mediaeval knighthood to the service of Christ.

It is our boast that mankind is bred of a resolute and adventurous race. Where difficulties were to be overcome and dangers encountered our people have never been found wanting. We hold up to admiration the explorers and pioneers who have gone gladly forth to face stormy seas, and Arctic rigors, have crossed swamps and deserts and mountains, ever coveting the place of difficulty and of danger. We recognize that it is they who have carried the bounds of mankind to the remotest parts of the earth. Is it for nothing that the Almighty has planted such a spirit in the hearts of our people? May we not believe that the Divine intention was that this spirit should be consecrated to the Kingdom of God, that all our native resolution and courage should be thrown into the Christian cause? We are called to fight for Christian ends in Christ's own way, that is, to 'overcome evil with good,' to vanquish hatred by love, and to bear down all opposition by an invincible patience of goodness.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha