By J.R. Miller
Elijah replied, "I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too!" 1 Kings 19:10
Elijah at a certain great crisis, thought he was the only one left to stand for God. There were others--but he did not know of them. He was indeed the only one in the field for God. He stood alone, one man against and evil king and false priests and sinful people. It was a splendid heroism.
There come times in the lives of all who are Christians--when they must stand alone for God, without companionship, perhaps without sympathy or encouragement. Here is a young person, the only one of his family who has confessed Christ. He takes Him as His Savior and then stands up before the world and vows to be His and to follow Him. He goes back to his home. The members of his home circle are very dear to him--but none of them are Christians, and he must stand alone for Christ among them. Perhaps they oppose him--in his following Christ. In varying degrees, this many times is the actual experience. Perhaps they are only indifferent, making no opposition, only quietly watching his life to see if he is consistent. In any case, however, he must stand alone for Christ, without the help that comes from companionship.
Or it may be in the workshop or in the school that the young Christian must stand alone. He returns from the Lord's table to his weekday duties, full of noble impulses--but finds himself the only Christian. His companions are ready to sneer, and they point the finger of scorn at him, with irritating epithets. Or they even persecute him in petty ways. At the least--they are not Christ's friends, and he as a follower of the Master--finds no sympathy among them in his new life. He must stand alone in his discipleship, conscious all the while that unfriendly eyes are upon him. Many a young or older Christian, finds it very hard to be the only one to stand for Christ in the place of his daily work.
This aloneness puts upon one a great responsibility. Perhaps you are the only Christian in your home. You are the only witness Christ has in your house, the only one through whom He may reveal His love, His grace, His holiness. You are the only one to represent Christ in your family, to show to them the beauty of Christ, the sweetness and gentleness of Christ, to do there the works of Christ--the things He would do if He lived in your home. If you falter in your loyalty, if you fail in your duty, your loved ones may be lost, and the blame will be yours; their blood will be upon you.
In like manner, if you are the only Christian in the shop, the store, or the office where you work, a peculiar responsibility rests upon you, a responsibility which no other one shares with you. You are Christ's only witness in your place. If you do not testify there for Him, there is no other one who will do it.
Miss Havergal tells of her experience in a girl's school of Dusseldorf. She went there soon after she had become a Christian and had confessed Christ. Her heart was very warm with love for her Savior, and she was eager to speak for Him. To her amazement, however, she soon learned that among the hundred girls in the school--that she was the only Christian. Her first feeling was one of dismay--she could not confess Christ in that great company of worldly ungodly companions. Her gentle, sensitive heart--shrank from a duty so hard. Her second thought, however, was that she could not refrain from confessing Christ. "I am the only one He has here!" she said. And this thought became a great source of strength and inspiration to her. She realized that she had a mission in that school--that she was Christ's witness there, His only witness, and that she dare not fail.
This same sense of responsibility, rests upon every thoughtful Christian who is called to be Christ's only witness in a place--in a home, in a community, in a store, or school, or shop, or social circle. He is Christ's only servant there--and he dare not be unfaithful. He is the one light set to shine there for his Master, and if his light is hidden, then the darkness will be unrelieved. So there is special inspiration in this consciousness of being the only one Christ has in a certain place.
There is a sense in which this is true also of everyone of us--all the time. We are always the only one Christ has at the particular place at which we stand. There may be thousands of other lives about us. We may be only one of a great company, of a large congregation, of a populous community. Yet each one of us has a life that is alone in its responsibility, in its danger, in its mission and duty. There may be a hundred others close beside me--but not one of them can take my place, or do my duty, or fulfill my mission, or bear my responsibility. Though every one of the other hundred, does his work and does it perfectly, my work waits for me--and if I do not do it--it will never be done.
We can understand how that if Elijah had failed God that day when he was the only one God had to stand for Him, the consequences would have been disastrous; the cause of God would have suffered irreparably. But are we sure that the calamity to Christ's kingdom would be any less--if one of us should fail God in our lowly place, on any common day?
Stories are told of a child finding a little leak in the dike that shuts off the sea from Holland, and stopping it with his hand until help could come--staying there all night, holding back the floods with his little hand. It was but a tiny, trickling stream that he held back; yet if he had not done it--it would soon have become a torrent, and before morning the sea would have swept over all the land, submerging fields, homes, and cities. Between the sea and all this devastation, there was but a boy's hand. Had the child failed, the floods would have rolled in with their remorseless ruin! We understand how important it was that the boy should be faithful to his duty, since he was the only one God had that night--to save Holland.
But how do you know that your life may not stand someday, and be all that stands, between a great flood of moral decay--and broad, fair fields of beauty? How do you know that your failure in your lowly place and duty may not let in a sea of disaster which shall sweep away human hopes and joys, possibly human souls? The humblest of us dare not fail--for our one life is all God has at the point where we stand.
This truth of personal responsibility is one of tremendous importance. We do not escape it by being in a crowd, one of a family, or one of a congregation. No one but ourselves can live our lives, do our work, meet our obligation, bear our burdens. No one but ourselves can stand for us at last before God--to render an account of our deeds. In the deepest, most real sense--each one of us lives alone!
There is another phase of this lesson; we are responsible only for our own life and duty. The prophet thought his work had failed, because the overthrow of Baalism seemed incomplete. But God comforted him, by telling him of three other men who would come, each in his time, and do each his part of the work in destroying Baalism. Elijah's work had not failed--but it was only a fragment of the whole work.
The best work any of us do in this world--is but a fragment. We all enter into each other's work, and others in turn shall enter into ours and finish or carry on toward completion, what we have begun. Our duty is simply to do well our own little part. If we do that, we need never worry about the part we cannot do. That belongs to some other worker, coming after us--not to us at all.
So while we are alone in our responsibility--we need have no concern for anything but our own duty, our own little fragment of the Lord's work. The things we cannot do--some other one is waiting and preparing now to do--after the work has passed from our hand. There is comfort in this for any who fail in their efforts, and must leave tasks unfinished--which they had hoped to complete. The finishing is another person's mission.