1 Samuel 3: 2-11
Acts 23: 12-17
Mark 14: 3-9
Matthew 27: 57-60
We had a trip earlier in the year to Lindisfarne on the coast of Northumbria. It is an interesting place to visit, a little island cut off from the mainland at high tide, so you have to wait for low tide until you can cross to it. The road disappears into the water and you have to wait for the tide to go down before you can cross. When you go over there is a castle and visitors’ centre and all sorts of interesting things to see. But it is also an important place in the history of Christianity in our country. There was a monastery there and, in around the year 650, there was a man called Aidan, who was asked by the king nearby in Northumbria to preach to his people and convert them. Those were very dark days, our country was what we would call pagan and the rule of myth and legend and superstition was prevalent. Those faithful men went out as missionaries to speak to the people about Christ, and to convert them; and there would have been many dangerous journeys. You have to look a bit under the surface when you visit because the place was ransacked by Vikings and a lot is made of that, and a lot is also made of the works of art that they produced at Lindisfarne, but I looked under the surface and I thought about God preserving His testimony in a place like that, in the surrounding darkness of those pagan days. I thought of God preserving what was true and I thought of a man like Aidan with his companions, going out with the light they had about Christ in their hearts.
It occurred to me how God has relied all down the ages on persons who will put their foot forward for Him and become a link in the chain. God has preserved this chain of gold all the way down the ages and will preserve it to the end, but He needs links in His chain. As the years roll by He needs new ones. Aidan and his companions, their work is done, they had their part, and millions of others have had their part. They have done their bit, but there is a need for links in this chain of gold, persons who will step up and serve God, and commit their lives to Him. Aidan did not set this on; he was just a link in the chain. It is very wonderful to think who set it on, the Lord Himself. No mere man set it on; it was the Lord Jesus. Aidan might have walked along thinking about that scripture when Paul said, “Let us also therefore … run with endurance the race that lies before us, looking stedfastly on Jesus the leader and complete of faith”, Heb 12: 1. He led: Jesus is the Leader. He is the foundation that has been laid. “For other foundation can no man lay besides that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ”, 1 Cor 3: 11. The foundation Stone has been laid but God needs persons in His testimony who will commit themselves to Him and become links in His golden chain. Where is it all going? It is all going up to God. Where has it come down to? It has come down to you and me. That is what it is. This is not any advanced line of teaching but I want to appeal to you, an appeal to your heart about what you can do for Christ, about whether you will step forward and have your part in this wonderful testimony of Jesus that is going up to God for His glory.
I read about Samuel, not because Samuel was prominent but because he was a child. We do not know how old he was; he may have been about twelve years old here, and God called him. God had need of him. You can read the background here which is very sorrowful; the older ones who were around him, who had been given the authority, who had been put in places of responsibility, had all failed. Everything had got corrupted and God called a child, and He called him by name. I want to speak to the children; if you are old enough to listen and to understand what I say you are old enough to get this message: God might call you today. Has He been calling you already? This call that Samuel got was to him personally; it was his name He called, “Samuel, Samuel”. He will say your name. There is no telling how He might speak to you - in the meetings, in your life at school, in your bed, He might speak; but if He speaks, take heed and answer Him. He called a child here. Could I say to you, are you going to step forward, could you step forward in your young years? Could you step forward and be here for Jesus? Who is going to be the one standing up for His Name in the classroom? Is there a child here who would do that for Christ, do that for Jesus? If God is calling you, do not ignore Him; He needs you. You could say, ’He will get by without me; He has many other prominent people’. He had many people here, and they had all failed Him. That is a sorrowful and serious thing, but God needed Samuel and He called him when he was a child. Do not listen to this thinking that it applies only to people who are older; it applies to you. It has all come down to you, and God needs persons who will step forward and be here for Him and do things for Him. We see the young children helping serve the food and perhaps we think that is nothing, that is a little thing. It is not. You are serving God’s people, you are stepping forward and taking your part in this precious testimony, this golden chain that is all going up to God for His glory. How exalted it is. Have your part in it, dear child. Are you going to be the one who sings out in the hymns? Who is singing out? It is a wonderful thing when you hear the voice of a child who has a grasp of the love of Jesus, and who is singing out to the Saviour they love. It has all come down to you, dear children, and I would urge you to have your part. You step forward; do not worry about the person next to you: you do it. God will take care of them, God will call them too, but He is calling you and if He is calling you, answer Him today. The thing about Samuel was that he needed a nudge. He heard three times and he went to Eli. Eli had the perception to say, ’It is God who is calling you’; he needed a nudge. Maybe we can give you a nudge today, if you are wondering whether God is calling you; maybe we can give you a nudge forward. Is He calling you in the breaking of bread; are you thinking about that, are you not sure, are you stuck somehow? Let me urge you to step forward; He called Samuel when he was a child.
I go on to Acts 23, and here is another person being called forward into service. He is a youth. This was a critical time and God needs persons in critical times. How many there have been. Paul here is in danger of his life. Paul was going on in his path, going on to testify in Rome to the rulers there, and there was a plot to kill him. The Jews were going to kill him on the road and this youth hears of it, he “heard of the lying in wait”. You say, ’God could take care of Paul’, and so He could. God could have protected Paul with angels if necessary, but He does not use that way. He uses this boy to go and report it to Paul, and then Paul sends him to the chiliarch; this youth tells him the story, and then Paul has a great military guard around him when he goes and he is preserved. But it all came down to this youth. That is not the only way God could have used, but He used that way; He needed a person. You say, ’I am not like Aidan going out on his missionary journeys’. You may think that no one is going to remember the thing that you can do, but God will remember. This youth is not prominent. You could say it is not a very significant thing he did, but how valuable it was! He was prepared to put his foot forward and take his part. Think of how vital it was in preserving the apostle on his journey.
God has need of persons in critical times. Think of all the unknown servants of Christ; we do not know their names, but they are there in history. Think of the history of the Reformation. I was thinking of the Bibles they printed in Holland; they could not print them here because it was too dangerous; they went over to Holland and printed them there and brought them back in boats. They brought them over under cover of darkness in danger of their lives. Who were these persons who sailed the boats? We do not know their names. God saw them. They were critical times. They committed themselves and served God in what they did. Where is it all going? It is all going up to God, and it depended on them in those days; it was their part. Our test is not the Reformation. It is not our test; it was theirs and they did their part. They are gone now, they have passed away, they are with the Lord. It is no use appealing to them now, their part is done, and there it is laid up as a memorial for them. The point is, what am I going to do? It has all come down to me, and I feel the edge of what I am saying very acutely, in critical times. Some of these ones that we would like to have around us who have gone before, they are gone now; it has come down to me and you. How are you going to respond? Can I urge you to step forward and take your part? You say, ’There are not critical times’. It is not the case. There are critical times in our localities: someone needs care, someone needs a touch, some one needs guarding. Maybe the Lord’s rights need guarding. There are critical things to do if you look for them. Critical things need to be done for Christ. It may involve sorrow and sacrifice; it is almost certainly going to involve cost of some kind. It is a question of whether you are available to act for Christ, act for the Lord.
I was thinking of those days after the terrible division in 1970 when so many of our brethren were lost to us, and I thought of the brothers and sisters who went that following Lord’s day to the meeting room and put the emblems on the table and carried on. Just think of the need for endurance and power of love for Christ that would get us through things like that, so that we might take our part.
In Mark 14 I read about this woman because she is a woman. She has this “alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard … and having broken the alabaster flask, she poured it out upon his head”, on the head of Jesus. All the men here missed this opportunity completely. We read in another gospel that He said that no water was provided for Him to wash and so on, but there was a woman there, she was a sister, and she knew what was needed. The disciples were presumably here, but they missed it, and the Lord says, “She has beforehand anointed my body for the burial”. What perception there was in this beloved sister who did something for Jesus when all the men missed it completely. I wanted to say a word about that - firstly to the sisters themselves, to encourage you that your part is as important as any other. If you do not speak in the meetings it does not mean that your part is somehow unimportant. This woman’s part was the very greatest here because the others were not available, the brothers all missed it. I have had the experience very recently, several times, of missing something and a sister has helped me, a sister has pointed out the thing I should have seen, or the thing I should have done. Could I say a word to the brothers too? Is there a tendency with us to expect more from the brothers than the sisters? I do not labour it, I just would like to encourage us to see that these links in the chain of gold are sisters and brothers working together, and they are both needed. There are times when the sisters will have the answers, times when the feeling side of the sisterhood will be what is required, and we must lean on it, we must expect it to be there and we must use it.
The Lord Jesus is extremely commending here, “Wheresoever these glad tidings may be preached in the whole world, what this woman has done shall be also spoken of for a memorial of her” - it is all going up to God. Could I say to the sisters today, it has all come down to you, this test is coming down to you today? I understand that the sisters’ part is sometimes harder to find, but it is there, and it is precious to Christ and it is needed. How it is needed. I feel it is needed especially in the subject of shepherd care that we listen to what our sisters are saying and how they might guide us.
In Matthew, Joseph of Arimathæa was a rich man. He had been given some special resources, he had lots of money, and we might be given special resources. It might not be money, it might be time, skill of some kind, it might be anything, but Joseph was specially prepared for a unique service. No one else will ever, ever have the opportunity that he had. There is a special attraction in this to me: the Lord had died; it is a unique point in the whole of the Christian testimony. What could we say about it, but the Lord’s body was there and a certain precious and valued service was required? It was required only once in the whole history of time, and there was a man there who was ready for it. He was disciple of Jesus. It says he was a disciple but secretly. It was not a secret after this day because, when others were paralysed by terror, this man stepped forward. A man who had not been happy to say openly that he was a disciple of Jesus goes right into the court of Pilate himself and begs the body. What courage he had, how ready he was to take his place in this chain of gold and how glad I am he did it. He did something for Jesus that I would like to thank him for when I see him in heaven, “having got the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb”: loving hands did that. They were not the cruel unfeeling hands of Roman soldiers, but hands of a disciple of Jesus. God needed him that day, and he did his part. God needed him when the others were not available to Him. Is there a chance that He has a job for you today that He has prepared you for, that needs to be done? Maybe no one else can do it. Think of that. Think of the place where you have been set, the things that you have been given, maybe the gift you have been given, and maybe just the fact that you are there. There is a brother or sister beside you who needs your help; there is no one else there, you are the one. All these things that Christians have done down the ages, they will all be written down, all written against their names: these are the things they did. They became links in the golden chain. It is all going up for God’s glory, and has come down to us today, and we are to feel the edge of this word for ourselves. I do not know what it is that God has for you to do; it may be a prominent thing, or it may be completely hidden, but He needs you for it. He needs you and He needs you today.
You say there is nothing that I can do like Joseph did. The Lord Jesus has gone, but He says, “Inasmuch as ye have done it to one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it to me”, Matt 25: 40. That is how the Lord feels about service to His people. Do something for the saints, do something for your brother, do something for your sister, and the Lord will say, ’It is just like you did it for me’.
I just wanted to appeal to you on these lines. Others have gone before, others have done their part; that is all over. God has all that treasured up, but the testimony is going on and has come down today to you and me. What are we going to do? What is our answer going to be? I would long to send us all out of this room with some fresh resolve, some strengthened committal for Him, some readiness to answer. The children, the youths, the brothers, the sisters, all of us together, we can all have our part. I trust you will take it up for Him today.
For His Name’s sake.
11th September 2010