By J.R. Miller
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship." Romans 12:1
The first condition of consecration, must always be entire readiness to accept God's will for our lives. It is not enough to be willing to do Christian work. There are many people who are quite ready to do certain things in the service of Christ--but who are not ready to do everything He might want them to do. Many of us have our little pet projects in Christian work, our pleasant pastimes of service for our Master, and things we like to do. Into these we enter with enthusiasm, and we suppose we are thoroughly consecrated to Christ's work, because we are so willing to do these things.
But the heart of consecration, is not devotion to this or that kind of service for Christ; it is devotion to the divine will. It is readiness to do, not what we want to do in Christ's service--but what He gives us to do. When we reach this state of spirit, we shall not need to wait long to find our work.
The next condition of consecration, resulting from this, is the holding of our lives directly and always at the disposal of Christ. Not only must we be willing to do His will, whatever it is--but we must actually do it. This is the practical part. The moment Christ wants us for any service--we must drop everything and respond to His call. Our little plans must be made always under His eye, as fitting into, and as parts of His perfect plan for our lives. We must make our arrangements and engagements, with the consciousness that the Master may have other use or work for us, and at His bidding we must give up our plans--for His.
We are apt to chafe at interruptions which break in upon our favorite work. We anticipate an unbroken day in some occupation which we have very much at heart, or perhaps a day in relaxation which we have sought in order to obtain needed rest. We hope that nothing will spoil our dream for that day. But the first hour is scarcely passed, before the quiet is broken. Someone calls and the call is not one that gives personal pleasure. Perhaps it is to ask some service which we do not see how we can render. Or it may seem even more needless and purposeless--a neighbor just drops in to visit awhile; someone without occupation comes to pass away an hour of time that hangs heavily. Or you are seeking rest, and there breaks in upon you a call for thought, sympathy, and help--which can be given only at much cost to yourself.
In all such cases, the old nature rises up to protest. We do not want to be interrupted! We want to have this whole day for the piece of work we are doing, or for the delightful book we are reading, or for the little pet plan we had made for it. Or we are really very tired and need the rest for which we have planned--and it does not seem our duty to let anything interrupt our quiet.
But you gave yourself to Christ this morning--and gave Him your day. You asked Him to prosper your plans--if they were His plans; if not, to let you know what He had for you to do. It seems clear that the calls which have so disturbed you--have some connection with your consecration and with your morning prayer. The people who called, Christ sent to you. Perhaps they need you. There may be in one,
a discouragement which you should change to cheer, possibly a despair which you should change to hope. With another it may be an hour of strong temptation, a crisis hour--and the destiny of an immortal soul may be decided in a little talk with you!
Or if there is no such need in any of those who come in and spoil your hour of quiet, perhaps the person may bring a blessing to you in the very discipline which comes in the interruption. God wants to train us to that condition of readiness for His will, that nothing He sends, no call that He makes for service--shall ever disturb us or cause one moment's chafing or murmuring. Often it takes a long while, with many lessons, to bring us to this state of preparedness for His will.
Once our Lord Himself took His disciples apart to rest awhile, since there were so many coming and going, that they scarcely had time to eat. But no sooner had they reached their place of resting, than the eager people, hurrying around the shore of the lake, began to gather about them, with their needs, their sorrows, and their sicknesses. Christ did not murmur when His little plan for rest was thus broken in upon. He did not resent the coming of the throngs, nor refuse to receive them. He did not say to them that He had come to this place for needed rest--and they must excuse Him. He forgot His weariness, and gave Himself at once, without the slightest reluctance or withholding, with all His heart's loving warmth and earnestness, to the serving and helping of the people who had followed Him, even in the most inconsiderate fashion--to His place of retirement.
From the example of our Master--we get our lesson. He may follow us to our vacation resorts, with fragments of His will. He may call us out into the darkness and the storm, on errands of mercy after we have worked all day, and have put on our slippers and prepared ourselves for a cozy evening of relaxation with our loved ones. He may wake us up out of our sleep by the loud ringing of the bell or phone, and call us out at midnight on some ministry of kindness. It seems we would have an excuse for not listening to these calls. It would not appear too unreasonable, if we should say that we are exhausted, and cannot go on these errands. There are limits to human strength and endurance. Perhaps, too, these people who want us--have no just claim on us. Besides, why didn't they send for us at an earlier hour, instead of waiting until this unreasonable hour? Or why won't tomorrow do? Then we shall be fresh and strong, and the storm will be over.
But, ordinarily, none of these answers will quite satisfy the spirit of our consecration. It is the will of God that rings our bell and calls us out. Somewhere there is a soul that needs us, and we dare not shut our ears. When the least of His little ones comes to us for any ministry--hungry to be fed, thirsty to receive a cup of cold water, in trouble to be helped--to refuse to answer the call--is to neglect Christ Himself.
Thus true consecration becomes very practical. There is no place in it, for beautiful theories which will not work, for splendid visions which will not become hands and feet in service. "Dedication meetings," with their roll-call and their Scripture verses, their pledges and their hymns, are very pleasing to God, if--if we go out to prove our sincerity in the doing of His will.
Another condition of consecration, is humility. It does not usually mean great things, conspicuous services--but little lowly things, for which we shall get neither praise nor thanks. Most of us must be content to live commonplace lives. Ninety-nine percent of the work which blesses the world, and which most advances the kingdom of Christ--must always be inconspicuous, along the lines of common duties, in home relationships, in personal associations, in neighborhood helpfulness. Consecration must first be a spirit in us, a spirit of love, a life in our heart, which shall flow out to everyone, in a desire to bless and help and make better.
Thackeray tells of one who kept his pocket full of acorns, and whenever he saw a vacant place in his estate, he took out one and planted it. In like manner he exhorts his readers to speak with kind words as they go through life, never losing a chance of saying one. "An acorn costs nothing--but it may sprout into a prodigious bit of timber." True consecration prompts and inspires us to such a life of service, and it takes humility of mind in many of us--to accept such service.
We shall never lack guidance in finding the duties of our consecration; if only we will follow. One day's work leads to another. One duty--opens the way to another. We are never shown divine maps with all the course of our lives projected on them--but we shall be shown always the next duty, and then the next. If only we are obedient, there shall never come a time when we cannot know what our next duty is. Those who follow Christ--shall never walk in darkness.