A word of encouragement to Sunday School Workers and to those who work among the younger generation!
Everyone who takes up any service for the Lord ought to be able to give some reason why he serves Him. Let me say at once that no service save that which flows from the constraint of love—the love of Christ—can possibly be acceptable to the Lord. But because He has loved us, we do love Him; and love delights to serve. Love, then, must be our motive. Anything short of this is utterly unworthy. And if we are constrained by the love of Christ we shall serve Him for His sake alone. “Ye serve the Lord Christ.” Fellow-workers, we need to have this ever in mind. We are so apt to serve before others, to do our work in order to gain their approval. When this is the case the quality of the service is very poor indeed. But if, in the Sunday School class, or the weeknight service, we serve as under the eye of the One who reads the heart and knows the hidden motives we shall take care that the ointment of our service is free from the flies that give it an ill odour.
There are men today who preach to thousands. They are much before the public eye; their names have become household words, and they seem to be used of God in widespread blessing. But your service is hidden and unostentatious. Are you ever tempted to envy these servants who have a great name? Envy them not. Keep in mind that you serve the Lord Christ. He is taking note of every bit of true service done to Him. In His well-adjusted balances all service is weighed, and He knows its true value. Everything you ever did for Him has gone down to your credit in His book. You shall have your recompense—He will speak words of approval which you will treasure in your heart and memory for ever. How blessed to have a Master so tender and gracious! May we be satisfied with His commendation. Those who are praised of men have their reward now; may we be content to wait for ours.
Now service amongst the young is pre-eminently a work of faith and labour of love. Patience of hope, too, is called for. You need these three Christian graces very much developed in your soul. It is a work of faith—you cannot count upon anything in the children, your faith must be in the Lord. It must be a labour of love, because the children are tiresome sometimes, and if love is not at the back of it, you will grow weary in the service. There must be the patience of hope, because you look forward to the result of what you are doing.
Secondly: The material that we have to work with. Children are, in the first place, empty vessels. Now, grown-up people are not empty, they are full of their own notions, and very well satisfied with themselves. But with children it is not so. They are empty, and it is our blessed privilege to fill them. Think of the water pots in the second chapter of John. You remember what the Lord Jesus Christ said to the servants, “Fill the water pots with water.” They obeyed to the letter. There was a blessed enthusiasm about them, for they filled them to the brim! What did they fill them with? That which the Lord would turn into wine. It is your business also to fill the water pots to the brim. Fill them with that which the Lord can turn into wine.
I have heard it said that it is useless to teach children the Scriptures. It is all a dead letter to them, say these wise folks. My answer is, Paul said to Timothy, “From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation.” Your business is to fill the children with the water of the Word—the blessed truths of the gospel—which the Lord can turn into the wine of salvation. We may be sure that if we do not fill the children someone else will. The devil is looking out for water pots, and he will fill them with the poison of infidelity and sensualism, which will kill and destroy. Let it be ours to fill them with the water of the Word.
We shall not be able to fill them with water unless we are first filled with the water of the Word ourselves. If we read trashy literature, we must not be surprised if our children turn to folly. You know better than to do that. You feed your soul upon the precious Word of God. Alas, there are those who take up the service amongst children who feed their souls upon mere garbage. No wonder if the children grow up for the world and the devil. Read, by all means. Read anything that can help you in your service, but feed upon the sacred Scriptures, and make the Bible your chosen book. And do not forget that you must also be in personal contact with the blessed Lord, of whom the Scriptures speak. If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink.” Let us, then, be like the servants of John 2, who filled the pots to the brim and then brought them to Jesus. We cannot change the water into wine, nor could they. We must do what they did—we must bring them to Jesus; and that necessitates prayer. Oh, beloved fellow laborers, we shall not be successful unless we are found in dependence and prayer before Him.
We have to remember that the children are not only empty, but they are every bit as much dead towards God as grown-up sinners. You will find it very instructive to search out in your Bible all the cases of children raised from the dead. Study them well, and they will yield you much profit. Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, put his hand to this work. Elisha said to him, “Take my staff and lay it on the face of the child.” Ah, but Gehazi had not the spirit for this. He was a self-centred and an ambitious man. We can well understand his pride as he walked off with Elisha’s staff—the staff that had smitten Jordan, and divided the waters—that mighty staff which had done such wonders! It was in his possession now! Doubtless he imagined he was going to do great things with it as he laid it on the face of the dead child! But there was neither voice nor hearing. Is it possible for us to take the Word of God—that which is mighty to give life—and use it without effect, so that there is neither voice nor hearing? It is possible. If the staff is to be of any use we must be in touch with the One in whom is life and power. God grant that we may not be powerless, like Gehazi!
Elisha was very different, and he acted in quite another way. He laid himself on the child, and walked about the house and prayed to God. His every movement denoted the intensity of his exercise, the earnestness with which he sought the life of the child and his dependence upon God. It will be well for us to learn the lessons, for these things are recorded in His Word for our learning.
The third point shall be, The spirit in which we serve. The one who deals with children must be like his Lord if he is to be successful. There was Peter, he could stand up on the day of Pentecost and preach so that 3,000 souls were converted; but Peter, in earlier days, had driven the children away from Jesus. We must be very careful that there is nothing in us to drive them away. They doubtless shrank in fear from the disciples, but can you not imagine how eagerly they would run to the outstretched arms of the Savior? Do you think the children were afraid of Jesus? Was there anything in Jesus to drive the children away from Him? You know that Mark’s Gospel sets the Lord Jesus before us as the true Servant, and in the tenth chapter we see how He dealt with the children. He put His hands upon them, drew them to His arms, and blessed them. They had a place in His heart. Have the children a place in your heart? If you are like the Lord they will have. Then they will feel that we love them, and we shall seek, in dependence on the Lord, to communicate to them the blessed things that have made us happy—the things of Christ. The Lord grant that we may be able to do that. But we must be near to Him, for it is at the feet of the blessed Lord that we learn and are trained for service.
Lastly, let us think of The result of your service. a prestige school headmaster once said, when he looked upon the faces of the boys in his school, that he felt there might be among them a future prime minister—a future commander-in-chief—a future leader of the thoughts of men. But you can say something better than this, as you look on the faces of the children. Yours may grow up to serve the Lord. Who can tell what may come out of your class? Here may be a soul-winner; there, one who shall be a constant comfort to the people of God; another who, perhaps in an obscure place, shall shed the light of the life of Jesus, and last of all and best of all shall shine in the glory of God for ever. This is the great and ultimate end of all our service. If we keep this in view, how earnestly we shall seek that all the children may be the Lord’s. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”