Editor's Letters

by T. Austin-Sparks

July-August 1964

Dear Fellow-members of Christ,

While the paper ["A Witness and A Testimony" magazine] as a whole contains what we believe to be the Lord's desire for His people - at least in part - from time to time a personal letter, such as this, can bring it all into focus. That is, the particular aspect of the concern can be underlined.

While there is no organized movement or institution behind this ministry, we have for many years - up to date - been in touch, directly and indirectly, with the Lord's people and work in many parts of the world, from Far East to Far West. We are therefore able to judge fairly well what conditions and needs are.

Of course, many things could be said in this connection; much that is good, and occasion for thankfulness; but also much that makes for sadness,

One thing stands out so impressively and oppressively. It is the limitation in the matter of real, solid, building-up spiritual food. What is so largely being given is such light and unsubstantial fare. What pleases, in a superficial way, seems to be characteristic. There seems to be - perhaps unintentionally - a fear of anything too solid. It may be that the supply is dictated by the kind of demand, but this is very shortsighted. We fear that a generation is being brought up on such light or unsubstantial diet which will mean a lack of stamina in the day of testing.

The Lord put strong emphasis upon 'endurance'. "Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many will wax cold" "The love of a great body of people will grow cold, because of the multiplied lawlessness and iniquity" (A.N.T) "But he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved" (Matt. 24:12,13).

It is a matter of very great importance that we should not live just for the moment, the immediate present. 'Quick returns' may be a policy in worldly trade, but the firms which have lasted, and built up a reputation for reliability have often sacrificed this superficial consideration for the day when business will be severely tested. 'Quick returns' is the policy of so much Christian activity, but too often that is just policy, not principle, and the long-run proves its weakness.

Again, it is a disastrous thing to think more of the work, and how much can be done, without watching closely its depth. I was talking with the man at the head of one of the largest organizations of Christian work, and we were deploring the loss through the years of the original and former spiritual depth of that ministry. At length he asked: What can be done to recover that lost strength? I suggested that perhaps one step might lead to that recovery, that is, to bring all the leaders and most responsible workers together in areas for a period of prayer and waiting upon God in deep exercise over the situation. I suggested at least ten days. He said - "That is right, and the only way, but it is impossible, it cannot be done; our men are too busy." "Too busy"!

The tragedy of the work! Yes, there is urgency. There is necessity to heed the word - "Son, go work in my vineyard". The call is imperative; there is so much to be done; but remember, the Lord does not hesitate to lay aside in long indisposition some of His most valuable workers, showing that it is quality more than quantity which is His concern.

In this connection, food is a very important factor. On another page of this issue we have dealt with this question more fully; ["Food for the Hungry"] by which it will be seen that the Lord is laying the matter increasingly upon our heart.

This burden, has led us to build up considerably the supplies of written ministry. We have definitely responded to what we believe is a leading of the Spirit, so that, as need increases - so far as our responsibility is concerned - there may be "meat in my house".

We would be careful to say that we are concerned with spiritual food. There is very much being provided for the intellect; much that is undoubtedly good, but we do distinguish between theological and philosophical wisdom; between the academic and the intellectual - as such - and that which ministers to the heart, and builds up spiritually.

We receive a great many letters in relation to the ministry of this little paper. Some express pleasure because - they say - it gives a new idea; it is a fresh aspect of various matters; etc. The letters which give us the greatest pleasure are those which tell of the change in the life of the reader, and of how much more the Lord has become to them through the ministry.

That is the real test of food. A person's body and demeanour, complexion and health is so often the result of the diet. That is why the doctor goes so quickly to that matter when he has to do with debility and disorder. It is character that matters! The ultimate test is stamina and effectiveness. What does it issue in that we have been here on this earth? What are the eternal, time-outlasting values?

We know that such an issue will sift and reduce because the great majority, even of Christians, want a 'good time', the pleasing and the exciting; and those who really are desiring the greatest possible measure of Christ, at any cost, are comparatively few. But the end will determine lasting values.

We would resolve this letter into an appeal to our readers to pray to the Lord that whatever there is available here in this printed ministry; as well as personal ministry, that would minister to the Lord's need in His people, may be released.

In a new way we are burdened regarding the 'gathering of my people unto me; those that have made a covenant by sacrifice', and the feeding of the flock. Please do pray with us about this; both as to how it can be done, and the release of what is available.

Yours in the quest for a greater fulness of Christ,

July 1964

In keeping with T. Austin-Sparks' wishes that what was freely received should be freely given and not sold for profit, and that his messages be reproduced word for word, we ask if you choose to share these messages with others, to please respect his wishes and offer them freely - free of any changes, free of any charge (except necessary distribution costs) and with this statement included.