A Whole Year - Acts 11. 26
J. H. Large
WHILST A REVIEW of the past year will undoubtedly give us all much cause for thankfulness, it is unlikely that any of us will be able to feel that we have accomplished as much for God as we might have done. Let this humbling realization at least quicken in us a deep desire to make the coming year more fruitful by the help of God.
Resolutions are too notoriously short-lived to inspire much confidence but it may well be that much of our lack of achievement is for want of that incentive which a well defined and adequate target would provide. Who will question that part of the secret of Paul's massive achievements was his concentration on a distant but clear goal?
Those who arc acquainted with the history of the church at Antioch, and the part played in the initiation of an empire-wide missionary work, will probably be prepared to agree that there has seldom been in the whole sphere of service for Christ a more fruitful year than that spent by Saul and Barnabus in the instruction of the converts there.
It is our conviction that the first few months are crucial for a convert's growth, yet too often it has been thought that this vital period should be filled with things 'likely to interest' -we would say 'calculated to entertain'. We believe it was Finney who said that a truly born-again soul could be taught more of discipleship in the first six months than he would learn in twenty years if the first six months were wasted. The amazing development of the work at Antioch as a result of a year's instruction immediately after conversion certainly gives weight to the remark.
Elders who would like to be able to review 1961 with some satisfaction might well make it their goal to see that believers under their care are provided with sound and regular Bible instruction, and that young people especially are encouraged to go in for the systematic study of the pure Word of God. We are far from despising the ministry of exhortation and comfort but our present stress is on instruction. Where there is genuine spiritual life there will be a Spirit-imparted appetite for spiritual food and it is deplorable when this God-given appetite is vitiated by the mistaken policy of providing 'light fare'. The folk at Antioch were new converts - yet the apostles were not faced with dwindling congregations, but 'much people'.
Lack of confidence in the Lord's ability to make His Word attractive to His children is unworthy of those who are called to be under-shepherds. But it must be His Word.