Ministries That Bless
J. R. Miller, 1902
We mistake, when we think that only great deeds make worthy service. In no life can there be many large and conspicuous things; the years must chiefly be filled with little things.
Take even the story of the life of Jesus. In it there were, as recorded, a definite number of miracles which stand out in the narrative, as stars of the first magnitude in the heavens. But strewn through all the days, filling all the moments, crowded into all the interstices of that wonderful life—were innumerable kindnesses and thoughtfulnesses, unrecorded, even unremembered words and acts. Jesus was not always working miracles—but He was always doing good; and the greater measure of the blessing He left in the world came, not from His few supernatural works—but from the countless common human kindnesses He wrought. "Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written!" John 21:25. "He went around doing good" Acts 10:38.
It is so in every really great and holy life. Now and then there may be some conspicuous deed done, which wins the applause of men—an account of which gets into the newspapers, and which is talked about near and far. But on all the days of all the years, there is going on a ministry of love which uplifts many people, which give pleasure to old and young, which leaves inspiration of holiness and beauty in countless hearts, which makes one spot of the world sweeter.
Sometimes it happens, that those who seek human applause for what they can accomplish, striving to do things that are conspicuous and that make a sensation in the world—have no beautiful ministry of kindness to fill and brighten the days of their common life. When they give alms—they sound a trumpet proclaiming the fact, that their good deeds may be seen and praised of men. But when they are not exhibiting their charity or their generosity, that is, when others are not watching, they are neither charitable nor generous! They do not take the trouble to be kind or loving—when there is nothing to be gained by it. That is, their doing of good is spurious, because it is something enacted for men's eyes, not for God's. The staple of their life is selfishness. When they are not posing for effect—their days are full of things which are not lovely!
It may be set down as a principle, that the true test of a life is found in the things that are done—when no human eye is watching—the things of the quiet days. The ten thousand little acts and words and manifestations of disposition, which make up the substance of living, much more justly index the real character—than do the one or two ostentatious things which people talk about.
After all, the greatness is not in the conspicuousness of that which is done—but in its spirit, its moral quality.
"With God there is neither little nor great;
there is only straight or crooked."
That which we do really for God—is great; though it seems but a trifle in human eyes. That which we do only for men is small; though in bulk—it is as large as a mountain! "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven." Matthew 6:1
We never know what will be in the end of the smallest good we do in this world. It may start a series of blessings which shall extend, with increasing benefit, through centuries! There are single sentences in the Bible which have been helping, comforting, strengthening, guiding, cheering, and inspiring men and women for thousands of years and in all lands! There have been single acts of simple kindness, done even without the thought that they would be helpful—which have proved the beginning of endless chains of blessing! Says one, "When men do anything for God—the very least thing—they never know where it will end, nor what amount of work it will do for Him. Love's secret, therefore, is to be always doing things for God, and not to mind because they are very little ones."
When they get home to heaven at last, and all the harvest of their lives has been gathered in, godly people will experience two great surprises. They will be surprised to find that certain things which they have done, which they regarded as great things and largely useful—were really of very small account, received but slight commendation by God, and left but small blessing in the world. But they will be surprised, on the other hand—at the great beauty and the rare value—of many little things which they have done, which they had not considered as of any importance; things, perhaps, they do not even remember doing; or were done with so little thought, that they could be of any worth!
It is a law of God's kingdom—that what we do with thought of SELF lacks one of the finest elements of moral quality. Consciousness of doing good things—mars the beauty. What we do, intending that it shall be fine and winsome—is of far less worth in God's sight—than what we do, when our left hand does not know what our right hand is doing!
There are two classes of ministry in every life. There are the things which a man does purposely, which he plans to do, which he trains himself to do, which he does with special thought and deliberation. Then there is a wayside ministry, which he does without previous purpose, as he goes along through life, engaged in his allotted duties. This embraces the countless little things of common courtesy and kindness; the things done without forethought; the greetings and the amenities of the street—the words of cheer, comfort, or encouragement, spoken as men meet each other.
We are apt not to make much account of these wayside services; while we usually set a high value on the things we have done with care, thought, and preparation. Yet it may be, that ofttimes the former are of more worth to God—than the latter. There is less of SELF in them, less thought of being seen by men—and more of the simple outworking of the heart's love.
The doing of God's will is always a great thing—whether it is something that affects the welfare of a nation, or something that concerns only the good or the comfort of the lowliest of Christ's little ones.
There is a legend of an angel who was sent to earth to keep a king from sinning; and also to help a little struggling ant home with its burden. Both tasks were alike noble, because both were God's will.
In a great painting by one of the masters—there is a kitchen in which angels are doing their work. One is putting the kettle on the fire, one is lifting a pail of water, one is reaching up after a plate. These angels appear just as heavenly in this lowly work—as if they were doing Divine errands around God's throne!
We need to learn the lesson: that anything that is God's will—is great; and that whatever is not God's will—is unworthy and ignoble, though it be to sway a scepter over a nation, or being the world's idol. Many of us have to spend most of our life—in what seems 'drudgery'. Perhaps we think it is unworthy of us. We feel that we are capable of greater things, and should not be required to spend our time in matters so trivial, perhaps so menial. But if it is God's will that we are doing, our drudgery, as it appears to God's eyes, is as radiant as angel's ministry!
Some people, when they think of how little they are able do to help others, despair of making of their life anything worth while. They cannot leave blessings in the world. They cannot speak words that will impress others, or write books that will give cheer, comfort, and hope to anyone. They cannot do kindnesses which the recording angel will care to write down to their account. But God can use the smallest deeds, the smallest words, even a smile which comes from a loving heart, in making the world happier and sweeter. Nothing that has love in it—ever perishes or fails to be useful.
"The look of sympathy, the gentle word,
Spoken so low that only angels heard,
The secret act of pure self sacrifice
Unseen by men but marked by angels' eyes–
These are not lost!
"The kindly plans devised for others' good,
So seldom guessed, so little understood,
The quiet, steadfast love that strove to win
Some wanderer from the woeful ways of sin–
These are not lost!"
It has been said that 'he who makes two blades of grass grow where only one grew before—is a benefactor.' He has done that which makes one small spot of the world, a little brighter and more beautiful.
There is a story of a nobleman who always carried acorns in his pocket, and, whenever he found a bare place on his estate, he would plant one of them, that a tree might spring up to brighten the dreariness. That was something worth while. He who watches ever for lives that are bare of gladness, and drops a kindness to grow into a blessing, is doing work worthy of the archangel!
We need never vex ourselves over the smallness of our opportunities; our only care should be that we use the opportunities that are given to us. Our one little word or kindly act, our one look that gives a moment's cheer—may reap fruit for ages! We need not fear to waste our strength in lowliest ministry, to wear out our life in serving others. Nothing is really wasted, which is poured out on God's altar—in service of love for Christ and for His little ones!
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right—and the goats on the left.
Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you took care of Me; I was in prison and you visited Me.’
Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’
And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me!’