Fifty Practical Talks with Boys on Life's Big Issues
WADE C. SMITH
Author of "The Little Jetts Telling Bible Stories"
New York Chicago Fleming H. Revell Company London and Edinburgh
Adapted from the Author's weekly Sunday School Lesson Treatments in The Sunday School Times, by permission of the Editors.
New York: 158 Fifth Avenue Chicago: 17 North Wabash Ave. London: 21 Paternoster Square Edinburgh: 75 Princes Street
her whose instruction and example first inspired in me the purposes and ideals which make for patience, courage, endurance and faith—
"My teacher told me to write a composition on the last picture I looked at," said Henry, a sixth grader, when he came in from school the other day. "I had seen a picture of a fire engine," he added, "so I wrote:
"'With a clatter of hoofs and a whirr of wheels, the fire engine dashed around the corner. The driver was crouched low in the seat. He was driving like Jehu.'
"But I could not spell Jehu, so I went to my teacher and asked, 'Please, how do you spell Jehu?'
"'Spell what, Henry?'
"'What in the world are you trying to say, boy?'
"'I am trying to tell how fast a fire engine driver goes—as fast as a chariot driver in the time of King David, I think it was.'
"'Well, Henry, I think you had better say the engine driver drove as fast as an ancient charioteer.'"
"And did you?" I asked.
"No, sir; I said, 'he was driving like mad.'"
It is plain that this grammar-school teacher had never heard of the Bible character who had interested her pupil, but the author of this book knows how to spell "Jehu" to a questioning boy, or to a "gang" of boys, or to a Sunday-school class of boys.
Is there any boy who does not have a motor in his mind? A writer of a method article in a recent issue of The Sunday School Times related an incident of a chap whom he described as "a motor-minded boy." He said that he was sitting on top of a school desk at recess, kicking back with his heels, and when asked what he was thinking about, replied: "I was wondering, if my legs were horses, how fast they would go!"
It was with a realization of the fact that when a class of Sunday-school boys assembles, their instinct is of one accord to turn their legs into horses and to drive them as Jehu drove his pair of Arabs, that our paper requested Wade Smith to take charge of its Lesson Help for boys' classes. The management realized the truth of the statement of Dr. Walter W. Moore, President of Union Theological Seminary at Richmond, Va., when he said that Mr. Smith was the most versatile man whom he ever knew.
Although Mr. Smith was already contributing to its columns "The Little Jetts Teaching the Sunday-school Lesson," he was asked also to undertake the difficult but important task of writing the lessons for teachers of, and students in, boys' classes. His highly acceptable performance of this work is but another evidence of his versatility.
Out of his own richly eventful and happy boyhood, as well as his experience as a Christian father and a lifelong student of boys, small and grown up, Mr. Smith wrote the chapters of this book. They appeared week by week under the title of "Say, Fellows—" Letters from our readers have testified to their helpfulness. The writer of this Introduction teaches two Sunday-school classes—one composed of his two boys in their home preparation for Sunday school, and the other an Adult Men's class in the church to which he belongs. When his own boys have finished studying their lesson in their Quarterlies, they almost invariably come to their father and say, "Now read us what Mr. Smith says, and then we will be ready for the lesson."
On two occasions I recall introducing the lesson to my adult class by recounting Mr. Smith's striking stories out of his own experience about the boy who was drowned and restored to life, illustrating the Resurrection Lesson (See page 60), and of his first and last deer hunt (See page 76), and both times the attention of the men was gripped in an unusual way by these remarkable incidents. No doubt, hundreds of teachers have had similar experiences in making use of Mr. Smith's illustrations.
So great has been the helpfulness of the "Say, Fellows—" lessons that the demand has come for their publication in the delightful book form in which they now appear. In expressing my own pleasure that these lesson treatments, having served their immediate purpose, are now to be rescued from yellowing files and preserved under the covers of a book, I am but voicing the hearty sentiment of the entire staff of the paper.
May God's rich blessing rest upon the pages of this book as it takes a deserved place in the libraries of lovers of Motor-minded, Jehu-driving boys.
HOWARD A. BANKS, Associate Editor "The Sunday School Times." Philadelphia, Pa.
1. BUILDING 13
2. WORK 16
3. INVISIBLE! 19
4. MR. ALMOST 22
5. FISHING 25
6. SHOWING OFF 28
7. KEEPING FIT 31
8. QUESTIONING 34
9. LOYALTY 37
10. A GOOD SPORT 40
11. FEASTING 44
12. STEWARDSHIP 47
13. TALENTS 50
14. FIGHTING 54
15. DRIFTING 57
16. RESURRECTION 60
17. KNOWING HOW 63
18. FRIENDSHIP 66
19. ALABASTER 69
20. TELLING IT 72
21. READY! 76
22. REMEMBERING 79
23. GETTING EVEN 82
24. GREATNESS 85
25. "PAW, I WANTA BE SOMEBODY!" 88
26. "LET DOWN YOUR FEET!" 92
27. AN "UNASSISTED TRIPLE PLAY" 96
28. FORGIVING 100
29. PARADOX 103
30. FRAUD 106
31. THE BIG TASK 110
32. POWER 113
33. CHRISTMAS 116
34. AIMING HIGH 119
35. WAITING 122
36. ACTION 125
37. A CORONATION 128
38. DO IT RIGHT 130
39. KEEPING FAITH 133
40. THE GAME THAT CAME NEAR BLOWING UP IN THE SEVENTH INNING 135
41. THE BITTEN APPLE 138
42. MY KINGDOM 141
43. A TOOL BOX 144
44. SAUL NIAGARA 148
45. "TURNING THE BATTLE AT THE GATE" 152
46. A KING IN RAGS 155
47. SHAKING UP PHILIPPI 158
48. GO IN YET—AND WIN! 162
49. GREEN FRUIT 166
50. THE BEDOUIN SLAVE 170
Say, fellows, look at Solomon building a temple! Ever see anything like that? Yes, I have. I saw some boys building a dam. It was a peach of a dam when they got it finished; and the little stream that trickled along between the hillsides filled it up by next day, making a lake big enough to put a boat in. But, oh, how those fellows worked! For a whole week they brought rocks—big rocks—logs, and mud. Some of those stones and logs were dragged and rolled a quarter of a mile. They built right skillfully, too; they ricked it and they anchored the cribs; they piled in the rocks and braced the supports.
Work? I should think they did. From early morning until dark they worked, hardly stopping long enough for meals. But it was truly some dam when they got through. Then came the big moment for which they had laboured and endured: they closed the small outlet protected by several sections of terra-cotta pipe at the base—and let her fill!
Solomon went at building the temple pretty much the same way. The boys who built the dam said they were going to make the best boys' dam in all that country around, and they did. Solomon said he was going to put up the largest, the strongest, the finest, the best-looking temple of all for God. He put one hundred and fifty thousand strong men in the forests and in the quarries, getting out the finest timber and the best stone; he had these materials brought by sea and by land; he employed workers in brass, and stone-cutters and gold-beaters wherever he could find the most skillful, regardless of the cost, and he himself directed the work.
Well, it was a peach of a temple, too. Nothing like it had ever been seen before. Crowning the highest hill in Jerusalem, overlooking all the country around, its marble walls, its shining brass pillars, its white chiselled columns, and its golden interior, it shone like a gem of dazzling beauty. When Solomon had finished it, he invited the Lord to come into it, and "the glory of the Lord filled the house."
Fellows, we are all building some kind of a temple, and we build some on it every day. I saw a bleary-eyed dope fiend going along the street the other day. He has built a temple—a temple to the god Appetite. His temple is truly a sorry looking shack, but it is good enough for the god he serves. I know a very seedy individual, going around begging a living of whomsoever will give him a dime or a nickel. He has built his temple to the god Idleness. It is a ramshackle affair, to be sure, but it is plenty good for the god he serves. I know another fellow who has built a very ordinary looking temple—rather poor inside and out. He served the god "Let Well Enough Alone." There are many temples like his, and little joy is in them; but they are good enough for the god "Do-Little."
I think of one more temple builder. Early in his boyhood he learned that the human body, with its wonderful soul, is a temple for God to live in. Said he, "If God is to live in my body, then it must be fit." He began to think of everything he did for his health, for the training of his mind, his hands and other members, as fitting or unfitting the temple, according to whether it was good or bad. He quickly saw that his choices of entertainment and recreation were as important as his work, in the building he was putting up for God's dwelling. One day he made the most important discovery of all: it was that after all he might do to make the temple fit, it could never be so until the doors were flung wide and the Lord Himself should come in. Then, like Solomon, he "dedicated" it—and the Lord Jesus came in and made the temple fit, for "the glory of the Lord filled the house."
Which simply means that he surrendered his life to Jesus Christ. A fellow's biggest and best and grandest work is the Temple of the Lord.
Let's get at the job.
Read 2 Chronicles 5:1-14.
Say, fellows, shake hands with Mr. Work. Humanly speaking, the way in which you meet and hook up with this gentleman will have more to do with determining your success in life than any other one thing. Mr. Work is a member of the most amazingly successful concern in the community. His senior partner is Mr. Faith. "Faith and Work, Unlimited"—that's the style of the firm, and they certainly have put across the biggest contracts ever known to the world.
Some time I hope we may have the senior partner with us, but Mr. Work is here to-day, and we shall get a-plenty from him. In fact, "Plenty" is his middle name. Let's look him over. He is full of life and vigour. See his muscles, firm and hard. Watch the flash of his eye. Something there that inspires a fellow. Notice how he is in demand. Everywhere, people want him. Get that cheery smile; it grew on a well done job, and stays there by repetition of well done jobs. Observe his steadiness, his confidence, and, withal, his acceptable humility. Why, he looks good either in Scotch cheviot or in overalls.
I want to tell you a secret about this fellow. He is often mistaken for another celebrated and much honoured one—Mr. Genius. Thomas Edison says that genius is just another name for conscientious hard work. That being so, any fellow can make a success and an honoured name who is willing to dig—and dig intelligently.
But the best thing that can be said about work is to repeat what our Lord said: "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." Work is a divine characteristic, a divine institution. Our great God works. Jesus Christ His royal Son worked incessantly when upon earth, and works now continually. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are the most tireless workers in the universe. Now what do you think of anybody who could despise work? What would you think of one who refused the work at hand and sat idly by, or went off on some useless excursion to escape it, while God, unwilling to lose a minute, ceaselessly works?
Of course, fellows, I'm not saying we should never go a-fishing or play a game of ball. Recreation is in the divine program. Every proper recreation is a help to good work. We owe it to our job and to ourselves to keep fit, and recreation is a part of the keep fit schedule. We only need to be careful and keep work and recreation in their right proportions.
The bitterest pills a fellow has to take are those produced by idleness. Idleness usually lets down the portcullis and the devil comes across and takes charge. Not that work alone is sufficient to keep us clean and out of trouble; oh, no, that would be a fatal error, and many have fallen by it. The firm, you remember, is "Faith and Work, Unlimited." Mr. Christian Faith is the senior partner of this firm, and is absolutely necessary to the truly successful career in the great business of life. We are simply looking over Mr. Work to-day.
One other wonderful thought, to me, about this matter of work, fellows, is that when a boy is born into the world, his work is born with him—his own particular task, his life-work. God Himself arranges it. Isn't that fine? Who could do it so wisely? So you may depend your job somewhere awaits you, if you have not already discovered it, and it is a perfect fit.
How to know your task? First, ask God. Pray over this thing. Then do the thing next at hand, the duty calling now. Do it the best way you know and put your level best into it. It is the surest way I know for a fellow to find his best level; and usually you work upward to it when you seek it in that way.
Listen, fellows, this is Gospel—"Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."
Read Romans 12:11 and Proverbs 22:29.
Say, fellows, have you ever thought what a fight you could put up if you were invisible? Why, you could walk right up in front of a fellow and smash his nose or knock him down before he could put up his guard or smash back—and even then he couldn't see you to hit you. Of course that would be a cowardly thing to do, but I'm just saying "Suppose." And this is to introduce right here your arch enemy, the devil, who is not a "suppose" at all, but is very real, very personal, and very invisible,—always present and ready to do his cowardly, dirty work.
Somebody said people are like a lot of safes. We may be generally of the same pattern, but each has a different combination. Perhaps none of us knows the combination to any but our own, but the devil carries them all in his note-book, and he never makes the mistake of trying to throw a fellow with a drink when his combination is a cigarette, or vice versa.
The devil's finger is in all our affairs, and we can keep nothing secret from him. No matter what we try to do, he is ever present to try to make us do it his way. Even when we worship God, or pray, or sing, he has the audacity to try to make suggestions. You think the Wright brothers were clever to "conquer the air," and they were; but the devil has won the title of "Prince of the power of the air"! His airplane is instantaneous and noiseless; he requires no special landing field, but can light on the lobe of your ear with a precision that is uncanny, and, lighting there, he whispers things into your heart that you would not dare to utter with your lips. There are three points scored on the Wrights in one breath, and there are many others.
The devil has won victories over the best men we can think of. Oh, how he got David, and spoiled a wonderful record being made by the "man after God's own heart." All in a trice he tripped David and led him to break six of the ten Commandments at once—five to ten inclusive! And he got Moses for a bad fall, and Elijah and Abraham and Jacob. He simply crept up unseen and caught them with their guards down.
But in spite of the fact that he took a fall out of each of those strong and saintly characters, he met his match and more than his match when he tackled our Saviour. He made the strongest attack that could have been made, but Jesus overthrew him and put him to flight, and to-day's big news is that there is a way for you and me to throw this fellow down. Simple enough, if you are on your guard. Did you notice how Jesus handled him? He quoted Scripture to him. Scripture to the devil is just like salt on a snail. He can't stand it.
Jesus used God's Word, and that is invincible even against the devil, our mightiest foe. Go into your Bible and select an assortment of "devil-chasers." Memorize them and have them ready for instant use. Like David, choose five smooth stones from the "Brook" and put them in your scrip; then you will be ready for this giant, who stalks abroad as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Only, he doesn't roar: he is noiseless and invisible—don't forget that.
Read Matthew 4:1-11.
Say, fellows, meet Mr. Almost!
He is one of the saddest, most pathetic figures in all the Bible story, not because he was a villain or a murderer come to judgment, but because he was so good and fine, and so nearly perfect, "on points," and yet—flunked!
But he was a lot lower down on the honour roll than he thought. "What lack I yet?" he asked Jesus. Really, he couldn't see that he lacked anything at all—and that alone was a sign of failure, if he had only been wise enough to see it.
Think of it, fellows, here was a man clean and safe and upright, as touching the law, yet the fires of torment were leaping up to meet him, along with Ananias the liar, and Judas the betrayer. Ananias did give a part of his money to the Lord, and Judas threw his blood money back into the bribers' faces, but this Mr. Almost closed his fingers tight over all his gold when the Lord called for it.
Mr. Almost kept the Commandments from the time he was a boy. He worshipped God only; he bowed down to no idol; was very careful to speak God's name reverently; wouldn't carry so much as a toothpick around on Sunday because it would be hauling wood and breaking the Sabbath; honoured his parents; of course he never killed a person; was pure in deed; took nothing which did not belong to him; told no lie on his neighbours; and he never wished another's property might be his own! Mr. Almost was a pious man.
Jesus saw through Mr. Almost, saw through his luxurious robe and his clean, washed skin, clear down into his stingy heart, and put his finger instantly on the trouble. Jesus has a way of doing that. "Having kept all the Commandments, and wanting to be perfect," said Jesus, "now go, sell your property, and give the money to these poor starving, dying people about you."
Mr. Almost had actually run to meet Jesus, to ask Him that question, "What lack I yet?" says Mark's Gospel. Yes, ran. He evidently had no suspicion as to the answer he would get. Doubtless he thought the great Master would tell him of one more hand-washing necessary before retiring, or possibly some gnat's burden which Mr. Almost had been carrying around on his sleeve on the Sabbath. Flick that off and be perfect! Mr. Almost wanted to make his perfection secure. He had all kinds of earthly securities; now this one more, the security of heaven, guaranteed by Jesus, and he would rest satisfied. He would just nail that down in passing. But Jesus touched him where he lived, and he crumpled up like some high floating dirigible whose gas tank explodes in mid-air.
Fellows, really I didn't want to bring Mr. Almost into this volume. He gets on my nerve—and do you know why, fellows? He's too much like me! for I am rich. Yes, rich in all the abundance of God's wealth which He has given me. I live in a wonderful land, a land of freedom and independence and opportunity—the richest and most powerful in all the world—and as a citizen of it all its resources are mine. I have plenty to eat and sufficient to wear, lots of friends and well-wishers. Life is beautiful and bright and comfortable; while just at my elbow, fellows, are many poor, starving, dying human beings—men, women, little children. The world is closely drawn together now, and there is never a time but that in some section of it there is famine and suffering. If we have the means to give and will give it to relieve human suffering, there are always reputable agencies ready to properly dispense it.
None of us can despise Mr. Almost, fellows, if we eat a square meal and turn a deaf ear to the calls to help the suffering and the needy.
This is the acid test.
Read Mark 10:17-27.
Say, fellows, the biggest and finest surprise a certain boy ever got was on that day when he was called out of the shop to the manager's office, and, reaching there trembling with fright, was told that he was promoted and would from that time have a share in the profits of the business!
It was almost too good to be true. Immediately the shop looked different—the whole plant looked different—the men, the tools, the materials, the very smoke from the big chimney, all took on a kind of glory. The rows of machines looked like a parade and the mingled roar and grinding of them sounded like a brass band at a picnic. The dull routine of a daily schedule was suddenly changed to a thrilling program in every detail.
Something had happened—not to the shop, but to him. His interest was changed. Now, instead of simply doing his daily task for daily pay, he was to share in the big objectives of the whole plant; he was taken into confidence and partnership with the management. He was actually to share and rejoice in the achievements of a business which exported its products to every corner of the world! With what joy he realized that his capacity for higher and larger service had been recognized, and that now he would have fellowship not only with the men of the shop, but also with the head of the plant.
Fellows, that is about what happened to Peter and Andrew and James and John that morning on the shore of the lake. They were simply engaged in making a living. One day was pretty much like another. Sometimes, perhaps, the fishing was good, sometimes not so good. Life was just a day to day affair, and rather disappointing somehow, to souls with capacity for so much larger and finer things. Suddenly the Master, the Creator and Proprietor of the world, appeared and said: "Boys, it's a dull life at best—just fishing for fish; come and join me in a really big and worth-while task—fishing for men!"
And those four men caught the vision and followed Jesus. Life for them took on a new meaning that day. Instead of a daily grind it became an inspiring program with a grand objective.
I am glad that God is so great and that His plans are so large that He is still calling out men to share them with Him and work out their fulfillment. And you and I, if we are wise, will gladly hear that call and promptly respond, for we will realize that the transient things we daily seek are not sufficient to give us any real or permanent satisfaction, and that we have a capacity for larger and better things.
Oh, I don't suppose we can all be ministers and missionaries, though many of us may have that highest of all privileges, but we shall also find that a merchant's life can be so planned as to be a means of rich service to God; that a lawyer, after all, can be a force for Christ's kingdom; that an engineer can lay out his life-work so as to make straight the path and level the road for the King; that a school-teacher can use his influence to bring pupils to the Master Teacher; that a physician has peculiar opportunity to quicken the spiritual lives of his patients; and that any legitimate occupation can be made to serve man's chief end, which is "to glorify God and enjoy him forever."
And when you and I catch and follow that vision of our life task, whatever it is, the whole plant changes, whether our job is in the shop or in the office, or on the farm or in the schoolroom or pulpit, because we have tasted of the power and fellowship of a Spirit-filled life and a God-used career.
Listen, fellows, He stands now in the morning of life, on the shore of your little lake and calls you to a wonderful partnership!
Let's follow Him!
Read Matthew 4:18-22.
Say, fellows, it's great fun to "show off." Honest now, isn't that so? If you've got some rare thing the other fellows haven't got, what fun to have them come from all over the block to go up in the attic with you to see it and watch you "work it"!
I knew a boy who made an airplane. Of course it was just a toy, but it had all the parts. He had gotten a pattern from a mechanical magazine, with explicit instructions; he scoured around and got the dozen or more materials necessary, then worked for days and some nights in the basement. Finally, the thing was completed. It had a twist-rubber propeller, and would actually fly a little—not much. But it was a thing of beauty, and its varnished butterfly planes spread majestically and glistened in the sunlight. There were the stays and the rudder, the pilot's seat and the complicated triggers by which it was supposed to be governed. Well, the boys came from far and near to look at it, and the biggest fun the owner had was showing it to some new boy who hadn't seen it before. That is all right, too, if you do it in the proper spirit, but nobody likes to see a fellow get "cocky" over his luck, no matter how good or how rare it is.
Solomon had the show stuff all right. The Queen of Sheba heard about it away down south in her African kingdom, and came many miles with a caravan of camels to see for herself. This man Solomon was a wonder. He answered her best riddles without batting an eyelash—and she had some corking hard riddles, too. When she tired of testing him he showed his wonderful house, his gorgeous throne of ivory overlaid with gold, his great flocks and herds for his household table, his army of servants, his courtly ministers, his treasuries piled with gold, and a hundred other sights richer and finer than she had ever known.
But the big event of that show day was the temple! Of course it was, for Solomon had made it the biggest and finest thing in the kingdom. Even if he hadn't told her she would have seen that. And there was but one way to explain it: Solomon's God, to whom the temple had been built, was the secret of Solomon's glory and power. That was the impression the queen carried home.
It is said that when one of the princes of India visited England, he was overcome by the display of the wealth and grandeur of the empire. After seeing the palaces of Buckingham and Windsor, and the Halls of Parliament; after getting a glimpse of British shipping and commerce plying to every known port; after viewing the greatest navy in the world and witnessing a review of the army at Aldershot—he exclaimed to Queen Victoria:
"Tell me, Your Majesty, what is the secret of it all?"
In answer the queen took a Bible from a near-by table and placed it in the prince's hand. "This," she said, "God's Word, is the basis of all—God is the giver."
Fellows, if there is anything you take pride in, remember the Giver. Don't make the mistake of Nebuchadnezzar, who actually talked to himself about how clever he was and how great he was to build Babylon by the might of his own power (Dan. 4:30, 31). Even while he spoke those boasting words God punished him by taking it all away from him.
But it is not sufficient simply to refrain from boasting. You and I must see to it that God gets the glory, for God has given whatever we have that is worth-while. Let the presentation be so made that whoever witnesses it will pass out saying: "Surely God is the secret of that fellow's success!"
Real and permanent greatness is the kind that exalts God above all.
Read 1 Kings 10:1-10.
Say, fellows, I wouldn't take a lot for the privilege of handing you young champions this message: for it comes right out of the heart of a King to the princes of the Blood.
Yes, something doing in athletics this time,—and the Big Event for which each one of you is preparing, whether you know it or not.
"Find all that in the Bible?"
Sure! that and more. Why, fellows, don't you know the Bible has more dealings right where you live and play and work and study and eat than any other book that was ever written? Just let me read you a part of to-day's Scripture lesson out of Weymouth's translation, which is the same as your Bible—only saying it in the kind of language spoken to-day instead of that of many years ago.
Listen to First Corinthians 9:24-27: "Do you not know that in the foot-race the runners all run, but that only one gets the prize? You must run like him, in order to win with certainty. But every competitor in an athletic contest practises abstemiousness in all directions. They indeed do this for the sake of securing a perishable wreath, but we for the sake of securing one that will not perish. That is how I run, not being in any doubt as to my goal. I am a boxer who does not inflict blows on the air, but I hit hard and straight at my own body and lead it off into slavery, lest possibly, after I have been a herald to others, I should myself be rejected."
Now, fellows, it was Paul saying that—writing to the Corinthians, who knew all about the Corinthian games and races, and contests of strength, skill, and endurance. And so do you know how the coach lays his hand on your shoulder, looks you straight in the eye, and says: "Listen, son, we've got to win that game,—you understand? From this on, cut the big eats. No rich stuff and no stuffing. Simple diet. No smoking. No late hours. Early to bed. Keep clean; exercise daily according to directions. Keep fit! Do you get me?"
And you meekly nod and say: "Yes, sir, boss." Do you have to do that? Oh, no, you could drop off the team if you didn't like the conditions, but you don't want to drop off and you comply with the conditions. You surprise yourself by your self-control. You are in on that game, and you're in to win. It is the event of the season. It will be the thrill of a lifetime to win. So you are temperate because you want the glory of winning—glory for your team; glory for your school.
Fellows, thus your body becomes the temple of a living hope. And it is all right. Bless your hearts, there are few things finer than that self-mastery which enables a boy to deny his natural appetite for the sake of an ideal—even though it be a sporting ideal.
And I think God designed it so. He is continually teaching us the deeper and richer truths by leading us up to them through our experiences with things we can touch and taste and see and hear.
To-day He is pointing you and me, not to the temporary honour of an athletic victory, but to the eternal honour of gaining the mastery over our appetites for the sake of keeping our bodies, minds, and hearts for His own indwelling. And He, Himself, is our Coach, doing something which no other coach can—remaining constantly beside us, within us, establishing that wonderful endurance—that indescribable something within us which strives and strives and conquers!
Fellows, talk about thrills! there is nothing like the thrill that comes of being used—effectively used—by Him. The thrills of our athletic victories die away with the shouting, but the deep satisfaction of "keeping fit" for God's service grows finer and finer as the days go by.
Oh, say, fellows, this is the thrill of Real Life!
Read 1 Corinthians 6:13-20.
Say, fellows, make a note of this: If you question Jesus in the effort to trip Him, you throw yourself down; but if you question Jesus in order to know and do His will, you may confidently stand upon your feet and defy anything that threatens your peace, your happiness, or your success.
"How can a fellow question Jesus in these days, like the Pharisees?" did I hear you ask? This way: You can question God's Word, its truth, its justice, its wisdom in your particular case. Millions are to-day questioning in that way; millions who do not want to change their ways, millions who would like to overthrow God's laws, because they want to go on in their wickedness and our Lord's teachings are a continual reproach to them. But they are having no better success in it than the Scribes and Pharisees had in Jesus' day.
"Last eve I paused beside a blacksmith's door, And heard the anvil ring the vesper chimes; Then, looking in, I saw upon the floor Old hammers worn with beating years of time.
"'How many anvils have you had,' said I, 'To wear and batter all these hammers so?' 'Just one,' said he, and then with twinkling eye, 'The anvil wears the hammers out, you know.'
"'And so,' I thought, 'the Anvil of God's Word For ages skeptic blows have beat upon, Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard, The Anvil is unharmed, the hammers gone.'"
Now, fellows, those Scribes and Pharisees ought to have known better than to try to tangle Jesus in His talk. Already they had been astonished by the wise words He said, by the unmistakable "authority" shown in His manner and teachings, by the power of His mere word over diseases and devils. These men were the devil's own servants. There are many such to-day, and they never seem to realize until too late that their master will allow them to walk right into a hopeless fix—caught in their own trap.
Let's run our eye down the closing verse of this chapter of Matthew, as it tells better than any other how completely squelched were these critics of Jesus: "And no one was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that time forth ask him any more questions."
But there is a kind of questioning which we do want to practise. One of the wisest and finest things a fellow can do is to make it a rule to ask Jesus some questions every day in His Word. Make a place in your day's schedule—make it in the morning, first thing if possible, or very soon after you are up. Open your Bible with a question, and let that question be: "Lord Jesus, what would you like to tell me to-day out of these verses of Scripture which I am about to read? What thing in my life would you warn me against, or what thing should I do which I am not doing? Or, is there a better way I should try?
"Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth."
Fellows, start a day like that—honestly—and you cannot fail!
Read Matthew 22:15-46.
Say, fellows, what is the most loyal thing you ever did? I should like to know. Was it when you waded into a big bully who was licking your little brother, and took the drubbing yourself? Or was it when some fellows accused you of being tied to your mother's apron strings, and you flashed back at them: "Yes, and she is the finest mother a boy ever had!" Or was it when you sat up all night in a coach on a railroad trip to root for your team next day on the enemy's field?
I heard of a British boy in Flanders who was brought back of the lines for surgical treatment, and when they opened his shirt they found tattooed on his breast the words: For My King! I read of a French lad whose arm had to be amputated at the shoulder, having been shattered by a German shell. When he regained consciousness, the surgeon, moved with deep sympathy, said, "Oh, my poor boy, I am so sorry you lost your arm!" The boy's eyes snapped as he answered: "Lost! No, don't say that; I gave it to France!"
Each one of you fellows has a tremendous capacity for being loyal to some thing, some principle, or somebody. It is a costly part of your make-up, because it will cause you to make sacrifice. What are you choosing as the object of your loyalty?
Fellows, I want to offer you King Jesus as the One upon whom you can spend your loyalty to the limit. There is none like Him. He is the chief among ten thousand. When He gives you a task He gives you at the same time the power to do it. When He sends you to men, He opens the hearts of those to whom you are sent. You can undertake anything for King Jesus without fear, no matter how difficult or how impossible the task may seem.
Why, fellows, think of those two disciples going after that colt for Jesus their King to ride upon! He sent them for it. The beast belonged to some one else, yet they were to untie it and bring it. If the owner objected, all they were to say was: "The Lord hath need of him." That would settle it. They brought it as directed. That was faith, and that was loyalty.
To-day King Jesus wants messengers—not to send out for asses, but into the haunts of sin for lost men and women; and into the social, commercial, and industrial world to present His claims. Some, hearing the call, are answering, "But how do I know I will succeed in that sort of business? Will I be contented in such work? Will it pay? Will it keep me in a comfortable living? Will men come when I tell them?" Listen, fellows, King Jesus says: "All power is given unto me—Go!—and lo, I am with you alway!" That is sufficient, it is the King's own word for it; and here is the place where you can exercise your priceless loyalty to the limit, and never know a moment's regret. The King Himself goes with you.
The loyal servants of King Jesus never have to root for a losing game; victory is assured from the beginning.
Read Mark 11:1-11.
A GOOD SPORT
Say, fellows, I overheard a remark the other day as I passed a bunch of boys down on the corner. One of the boys was saying, "Oh, he's a good sport, all right," and I wondered just what that boy thought it took to make a good sport. About that time one of the boys whom I knew pulled out of the crowd and coming my way overtook me, so I asked him who was the "good sport" the fellows were talking about.
"Why," he said, "it was Jim Love; when he was in the two-mile cross-country foot race the other day, with a good chance of getting ahead of Tom Locke, who won it, Jim stopped long enough to help a guy across a footlog with a sack of potatoes or something—and even then came in just a few yards behind Tom. He would have won, but for that stop; but he said the old man looked as if he was about to fall off the footlog. Tom saw it, too, but he waded the creek and got a better lead on Jim."
It did me good to think of those fellows classing Jim up as "a good sport," after I knew what had happened. They had the right idea. I believe our Lord would have called Jim a good sport, too, if He had been telling the boys of to-day about it, because the Christ spirit in a fellow is what makes him a "good sport" in the highest sense. Once when a proud Pharisee was trying to trap our Lord with a "catch question," Jesus answered him with a story very much like that which made the boys call Jim Love a good sport.
The Pharisee asked Jesus, "Who is my neighbour?" and Jesus told him about the Good Samaritan. A man was travelling from Jerusalem down the rough mountain road to Jericho, and was attacked by bandits, beaten, robbed, and left lying beside the road half dead. A priest came along, but he was in a hurry; he had important religious duties awaiting him, and besides, that fellow looked as if he was in bad and it would take a lot of time and trouble to "undertake" him, so Mr. Priest just hummed a little tune to himself, looked at the sky and passed on.
Then came a Levite. He got down off his donkey and stepped over and looked at the poor fellow. Yes, he was breathing, but so near dead he probably would not last long, so why worry? So passed on the Levite. But next came along a man whom the priest and the Levite despised because he was a Samaritan. They regarded him as a very poor sort of a citizen.
But the Samaritan had a heart in him and he had a way of saying to himself when he saw anybody in distress: "Suppose I was in that fellow's fix, what would I like to have done for me?" When he asked himself that question on this occasion, the answer came quick and strong: "Get down and help him all you can; yes, your business is urgent, too, but here is a fellow-man in hard luck and you've got the stuff to help with!"
That is the way the heart of a good sport talks back to a fellow, and a good sport listens when his heart speaks, and a good sport acts quickly. So the Samaritan got down off his donkey and ran to the man, felt his pulse, spoke to him, loosened his shirt and looked into that ugly wound all bleeding. Then back to his travelling sack and out with the oil and wine.
Pouring in the soothing and healing stuff, he doubtless said: "There now, old fellow, you're feeling better already; just keep steady a bit, and we'll get you out of this; a little water? yes, hold on a minute—" and down to the trickling stream he runs and brings a cool drink in his little leather cup.
Ah, it was fine to see that beaten man revive! He opened his eyes wide and looked the gratitude he was not yet able to speak. Soon the Samaritan got the whole story of the attack, listening with sympathetic indignation as the wounded man told how it happened, how he was taken by surprise by those cowardly ruffians, stripped, robbed, and beaten into insensibility. Directly he was trying to raise up on his elbow, and the Samaritan said:
"Now you just put your arm around my neck and hold steady while I lift. That's it, get your weight on your right foot, lean forward, and I'll get you atop this beast. Ah! that's the stuff, you're getting stronger every minute—now steady just a moment, let me pick up that oil bottle—all right—Get up! Bess—steady, girl, keep your hoofs in the path, and we'll make it fine. There, that's the movement.
"The inn is only a mile down the road now, friend, and there is food and a good bed awaiting you—oh, well, that's all right about your money being taken, I'll take care of that. The innkeeper and I are good friends, and likely with the good treatment you'll get you will be on your way in a couple of days—"
And so they go, the donkey picking her way carefully over the rougher places under the restraining voice of her master, while the wounded man leans heavily upon his benefactor.
Then, you know the rest, fellows. That despised Samaritan saw the thing clean through. He did not leave "his neighbour" until he had spent a night with him at the inn and had an understanding next morning with the innkeeper as to his safekeeping until able to resume the journey.
And what did our Lord teach in that graphic story? Why, simply this: Anybody whom you can help is your neighbour. If there is a poor man at my door needing something I can give, he is my neighbour. Or, if there is a rich Chinaman six thousand miles across the seas, needing the spiritual help I can send him through my prayers, my gifts, or my personal attention—he is my neighbour. Distance, short or long, is not the measure of neighbourhood; but need and my ability to help are the tests which determine how near by is my brother man.
The Boy Scouts have a fine motto: "Do a Good Turn Daily." There is just one better—"Do a Good Turn Whenever You Can," and that is loving your neighbour.
Read Luke 10:25-37.
Say, fellows, a man raised a glass of water to his mouth to take a drink; some one passing struck his elbow, and—! Now an interesting thing has happened: each one of you fellows got a picture, complete in all details, to a climax. Yet there was no real picture; it was all in your imagination, spurred by twenty-one simple words. And it was a moving picture, too, and it went away past the word-spurs, because you painted the balance of it yourselves like a flash. You saw the glass fall and smash on the floor, and you saw the water spatter the man's feet and trousers—then some of you saw him jump back and look up quick and kind of mad like at the person passing, and maybe say something rough.
Well, that's a wonderful machine you've got there, fellows; anything that can make a moving picture out of a thin line of material like that—a really for-the-moment interesting picture, with all the finishing touches—has a most valuable and useful outfit. Now Jesus knew His hearers had outfits of that wonderful kind, so in speaking to them He helped them draw pictures which would enable them to see some very interesting and startling things—things which they needed to know worse than a dying man needs a doctor.
Most of the pictures which He drew in this way were to show what the kingdom of heaven is like. Men in those days, just as nowadays, were walking around bumping right up against the kingdom of heaven without knowing it. So Jesus drew pictures to help them see this wonderful kingdom, in order that they might not only become glad citizens of it but also to escape an awful fate.
The picture I want to present is of a great and rich king who was also both good and generous, making a marriage feast for his son and inviting a large number of guests.
Now, fellows, use your fine imagination again. You saw the king's surprise when the first servants reported; you saw him knit his brows (like this) and stand silently thinking a moment before deciding to send a second word; but can you imagine his astonishment a little later, when two of that second squad came running in, all breathless, and told him that though they fully explained the magnificence of the wedding supper, some turned upon their heels with a flimsy excuse, others rudely laughed outright in the messengers' faces, and—oh, the horror of it!—still others actually stoned and beat some of the messengers to death!—and their bodies were even at that moment lying in the street, being licked by dogs.
I say, can you see the king now? I think you can, for you have heard what he did. Yes, his servants went out again to those same people, but this time with swords and spears and fire, a terrible army of them, marching to the dread drum-beat of judgment, "and destroyed those murderers and burned up their city."
Yes, fellows, I know what you are saying. You are saying, "Well, I don't see how anybody could be as big a fool as that!" And yet, do you know that people are just as foolish to-day? Jesus told that parable to help us, too. The kingdom of heaven is just as close to you and to me; the greatest King of all—that's Jesus—is inviting boys and men to come in to the feast of usefulness and happiness and joy of an out-and-out Christian life, a feast which He has Himself prepared, and some are turning their backs upon His call, unwilling to take the King's own word for it that they will have the time of their lives, which will grow sweeter and finer and better as the days go by, and never, never end!
I tell you, fellows, there's nobody who can make a feast like Jesus; things taste even a lot better than they look on the card, for He always gives more than He promises. Don't you make the mistake of turning down His invitation. It would be a tragedy. Let's answer His gracious call to-day like this:
"I'll go where you want me to go, dear Lord, Over mountain or plain or sea; I'll say what you want me to say, dear Lord; I'll be what you want me to be."
Read Matthew 22:1-10.
Say, fellows, how much is a boy worth in money? The United States Labour Bureau in 1914 estimated the average cost of rearing a boy to the age of sixteen was then $1,325. It must average at least $1,500 now. Well, fellows, that is what you cost; are you worth it? I am talking of actual, not sentimental, values. Father and mother wouldn't take a million dollars for any one of you, I suppose, but that does not mean you are worth it. An investment of $1,500 ordinarily is expected to yield at least six per cent. a year, which is $90.
I know a fourteen-year-old boy who is earning $7 a week. He gives it all to his widowed mother on Saturday night. She gives him back a dollar of it. He first takes out ten cents for his church pledge and five cents for Sunday-school. Then he puts fifty cents in his savings bank. He has about $25 in the bank. The remainder, thirty-five cents, he spends as his fancy dictates. He is a steady boy and it is reasonable to count upon his putting in eleven months a year at his work, allowing one month for vacation. His gross financial value to his mother for the year, therefore, is not less than $280. It costs her about $12.50 a month to provide his food and clothing. That takes off $150, so his net financial value a year is $130, which is six per cent. on $2,166. Thus you see that fourteen-year-old boy is a paying investment on considerably more than the average cost of a sixteen-year-old boy, and I do not wonder that that fellow's mother would not take a million for him, for the money part of his value is the least of all.
But this is not by any means an accurate way to arrive at a boy's real value. The more fortunate boy will be going to school nine months of the year. He is preparing for a later very much higher value than the boy who is denied an education, and while he may not be earning money now, he is earning a certain knowledge, skill, and development which will give him equipment of high value. At any rate, sooner or later, fellows, you find yourself with a capacity for earning and accumulating money. And, remember, in your relation to your money, that after all it is not yours, but God's—no matter how it comes into your hands.
In Luke 16 is the account of Dives, whom God permitted to be rich, but who made the fatal mistake of using his wealth for the sole purpose of gratifying himself. He built a luxurious home, he bought fine clothes and feasted every day on costly food. There were suffering and want all about him, but he turned his face away from the needy. One poor fellow named Lazarus, too weak to walk and all covered with sores, was laid at this rich man's gate where he was bound to see him day after day.
The dogs came and licked the poor man's sores, but Dives passed him by. Lazarus got a servant to ask for the scraps taken from the rich man's table, but he needed other help. God gave Dives money and gave him an opportunity to serve his fellow-man with it, but Dives failed to catch the idea, somehow. He foolishly spent his money upon himself, and one night Dives lay down to sleep on a full stomach and woke up in torment.
Fellows, money was his undoing. Money can be a curse, or it can be a blessing. All depends upon whether or not you recognize God's ownership, acknowledge it, and act upon it. Some of the saddest lives ever lived are those built around a wrong conception of their relation to money. Some of the happiest and most successful lives are those built upon the principle that money is a God-given trust to be used for Him.
Fellows, what are you going to be worth—to God, and to your fellow-man?
Read Luke 16:19-31.
Say, fellows, one morning in spring a boy came to me and said: "Dad, let's go fishing; I saw the bass jumping in the lake just now, and that means they are ready to bite."
"All right," I replied, "you get the bait and the lines ready and we will go at four this afternoon." He did so.
Then we went around to the point on the lake where he had seen the fish jumping. I made a dandy throw, first try, and as the bait began bobbing in and out among the flags I could just see myself hanging a beauty. I was watching the line so hard that I forgot the boy for two or three minutes; then, turning, I saw him standing there looking very sad.
"What's the matter," I said, "why don't you unwrap your line and fish?"
He whimpered: "I want to fish for bass, with a big line, like yours."
"Why," I said, "you couldn't handle a big rod and line like this; and if you could, you would get it tangled up in those flags out there; now you just unwrap your little line, put a little worm on your little hook and drop it over there by that stump, and you will catch a little perch."
Well, he didn't want to do it, but because I ordered him to do it he cast in his hook. In the meantime, I was watching my minnow again; it was playing beautifully, but getting no strike. I was still watching it intently, when all of a sudden I heard a great splashing beside me, and looking around—there was a sight! That boy's little pole was nearly bent double, and at the end of his line threshing and churning the water at a terrific rate was a big fish! The boy was having the time of his life; oh, he played him, he tightened him and slacked him, but all the time bringing him nearer to the bank.
In about a half minute (it seemed much longer) there was a pound-and-a-half bass flapping out there on the grass. In the meantime, the big hook continued to do nothing—and it never did, that afternoon. We went home with the one bass, and that night the family sat around the supper table and greatly enjoyed the fish caught on the little hook.
God will honour the fellow that does the best he can with what he has in his hand. And perhaps it will be a far greater honour than you ever dreamed of.
When our Lord told the parable He did not mean to make small of the fellow who has only small ability. He condemned the fellow who refused to use what ability he had because it was small and because he did not have as much as somebody else to work with. Let's suppose the last part of that parable had read this way:
"Then he which had received the One Talent came and said, Lord, you only gave me one talent, and when I saw you giving that other fellow five and still another two, I was all cut up about it. I did not see why you should give them more to work with than you gave me. I boiled inside. I said to myself, Well, if that is the way he treats me, I will simply take his talent and bury it until he comes back; then I will dig it up and hand it back to him just as he handed it to me.
"But then I thought again, and I remembered that it was your property you were distributing, and you had a perfect right to do it as you chose. I remembered that you are both a wise and a kind master; you have never given me a reason to question your love for me and your interest in me; and you know me and my capacity for handling your property far better than I know myself. So I decided to take that One Talent and work with it and do the very best I could with it. And, Lord, I did; and here, see—I have gained another one to go with it; here are two talents."
Bless your life, fellows, do you know what his lord would have said to that man? He would have said to him exactly what he said to the other two men.
A poor boy in New York got himself a job at a little lunch stand. He found he had a little talent for making the lunches attractive and people would buy them. He stuck at it, saved his earnings, and after a while bought out the lunch stand. He enlarged the variety of his lunches and added some other goods. And, to make a long story short, he is now acknowledged to be the greatest hotel man in the world.
The fellow who uses the talent he has, be it one, two, or five, and takes Jesus for his partner, is bound to be a success.
Read Matthew 25:14-30.
Say, fellows! of all the boys in the Old Testament, David is my choice. There was something about that chap that was "real class."
If David were to happen in your bunch, doubtless when you got to knowing him every one of you would want him for a chum. He was the kind of fellow that real boys like: not a braggart and not a "sissy," but generally when it came to his turn to bat he smashed the ball for a clean hit. Or if he should happen to strike out, he didn't slam the stick to the ground, but with a smile stepped back and turned a handspring and lit on his feet rooting for the next man up. Of course, you know there was not any baseball in those days, but that is about the way David would have played the game.
Out there minding the sheep, David didn't get moody. It might have been a slow job for others, but not for him. No, he had a harp and he made music with it. He had a sling, and could hit a quarter on a telegraph pole with it—if there had been quarters and telegraph poles. But there were other things to use that sling on, and they gave David a touch of real life.
David knew that lions, bears, and wolves lurked in the forests near the pastures in which his sheep must graze, and he got ready for them. Notice, fellows, here is one of the secrets of David's success: he was always ready. His big opportunity came when he arrived at King Saul's camp on that errand for his father, and he was ready for it.
He was ready, first, because he believed God's power was greater than any army, and that God would fight for any one who fought for Him. Did you notice in the Bible account how David told the king that God would handle the matter; and how he also told Goliath out there on the field, while all men held their breath, that it was Goliath plus sword, spear, and shield, against David plus God?
And so God helped. One smooth stone, the first out of the sling, crunched through that big bluffer's head like a baseball through a stained glass window, and the Philistine fell on his face.
Everybody's giant comes some day. Every fellow's big opportunity comes one time, at least, and he can be just as ready for it as David was.
That's the big news to-day.
I like to think of the five smooth stones as representing five characteristics of David's readiness.
First Stone: (the one he slung) Faith. We have been talking about that—faith in God. David prayed as he picked up those stones, you know he did.
Second Stone: A pure heart. God searched it that day at Bethlehem and approved him for anointing. David was clean. You would never hear him telling smutty stories, nor did he think them.
Third Stone: Industrious habits. Think of his skill in playing the harp, and his effectiveness with that deadly sling.
Fourth Stone: A courageous spirit. A lion's mane, a bear's skin, and a giant's head, of which we know, bear testimony to this. No wonder the shepherd boy could stand before a king and reason with him in the presence of a national crisis.
Fifth Stone: A humble spirit. Listed last, but not least by a good deal. "Thy servant will go and fight this Philistine"; "Thy servant kept his father's sheep and—" "The Lord will" do this thing—not I. David's humility throughout his boyhood and young manhood—indeed throughout his whole life—is one of the fine and strong points of his character.
In the brook that runs alongside your lives, fellows, these five smooth stones and others are waiting for each one of you. Put them in your "scrip" now and be ready for life's opportunities; for they are coming, head on, to meet you, and God wants to be on your side.
Read the seventeenth chapter of 1 Samuel.
Say, fellows, there is a little animal in the North Woods, called the weasel. In coldest winter its fur turns snow white and its pelt is very valuable. The white fur of the weasel (sometimes called the ermine) is used to make some of the most beautiful and expensive stoles that elegant and wealthy ladies wear. Therefore, in very cold winters, trapping the weasel is profitable as well as interesting.
Now here comes the queer part of this story: The weasel is small, and any scar made upon its snow-white coat is doubly conspicuous. If the pelt is torn or injured it is rejected; so the trapper must take his captive clean and scarless. The weasel will not enter a cage trap, and the much used snap-jaw steel trap would tear the skin. But the weasel likes to lick a smooth surface, especially if it is the slightest bit greasy; so the trapper smears with grease the blade of a large knife and lays it on top of the snow, secured by a chain attached to the handle, and covers the chain with snow to hide it.
The weasel comes along and immediately indulges its natural desire to lick the smooth blade, and instantly the end of its tongue clings fast to the cold steel. Try as it may, it cannot pull loose without tearing its tongue out, which usually it will not do, but sits quietly by, until released by the trapper, released only to die. Luckless weasel, trapped by the tongue.
Now, fellows, the weasel does no more wicked thing than to follow its natural inclinations; but natural inclinations are not safe guides; they more frequently lead to death. We folks are much like the weasel; we are much of the time dead bent in the direction of what is worst for us. Is not our God good to give us the plain warnings which we as intelligent beings can see and understand—and, seeing and understanding, "Stop, Look, and Listen!"—turn about and head toward safety, success, and happiness! Surely, He is good. But what matters how good God is and how plain His warnings if we go right on in the wrong direction?
If a weasel could understand a warning and should say, "Yes, I know, but I am just going to lick this once," what would it matter how clear the warning was?
God's warnings are such as should turn us face about; right now, before we are hard and fast in one of the devil's many crafty snares, for he always lays his snares along the path of our natural inclinations. God warns: "Abhor evil," learn to hate it, pray to hate it. "Cleave to the good," learn to love it, pray to love it.
Naturally, we seek our own praise, but face about! seek the praise for another, in true brotherly spirit. Naturally, we are lazy and would shirk our task; but brace up! put vim in the job; that honours God, and incidentally, puts both success and joy in the work. When we get in trouble, naturally we chafe and become impatient; God says, "Be patient in tribulation." That's a "Right-about-face!" for you. We pray once and quit—naturally. God says keep on praying. When folks nag at us and pester us, naturally we blaze out at them. God says, don't blaze, but bless. And that's "To the rear! Hey!"
Naturally, our noses turn up and our heads are lifted to salute the lofty ones; God says look around for those not so well off as we are, and lavish our sociability on them. Naturally, we try to "get even" with the fellow who does us a mean turn; God says turn that matter over to Him; He will take care of it. And when that fellow needs help, as surely he will sooner or later (maybe right now), make him the special object of our kindness.
Oh, yes, I know, fellows, it is much easier to do the way you feel like doing. But when your boat is drifting down the current, which is the natural way, it takes a Real Fellow to dig his oars in and turn and row up-stream. And that's what you propose to be: a Real Fellow, and the best part of it is you then become a Yoke-fellow with Jesus Christ; and let me tell you, He pulls a good oar!
Fellows, drifting means "over the falls." "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Prov. 16:25). Pulling up-stream with Christ means getting to the sunshine of the eternal hills. "But the path of the righteous is as the dawning light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day" (Prov. 4:18).
Fellows, I had rather PULL with Christ than DRIFT with the devil, wouldn't you?
Read the twelfth chapter of Romans.
Say, fellows, I'll never forget one exciting morning on the banks of the Etowah River, a treacherous stream that threads its way through the red hills of northwest Georgia. A bunch of us boys were spending that morning in swimming. Not much swimming, either, for only one boy in the crowd could swim, and all except him were under thirteen years old. Bob was fifteen, and a good swimmer. One of the boys waded out pretty deep, and the undercurrent swept him off his feet. There was a cry, and he sank.
Then it was that Bob did a fine thing, which has caused the rest of us to look upon him as a real hero ever since. He ran along the bank, down-stream a little way, and jumped in, rapidly made his way to a point a few yards below where the boy had gone down, dived, and came up with him. The rest of us waded out as far as we dared, to meet him, and all together we drew the couple to shore. But, fellows, that boy was dead—at least he seemed to be, and we were certain of it.
We lifted his limp body out of the water and laid it on the ground. We were three miles from town. Scared? We were terrified! All of us were trembling from head to foot with fright. There were no Boy Scouts in those days, and boys had not learned the scientific way to restore a drowned person to life. We were alone and helpless in the presence of sudden death, and knew not what to do.
One boy suggested that we ought to "get the water out of him," and that was followed by another suggestion, to put the body over the lower limb of a near-by tree letting the head hang down, so the water could run out of the mouth. This we proceeded to do, with a great deal of difficulty, but finally we got it up there, hanging across the limb, pretty much like a wet necktie.
After the body had hung in the tree about five minutes, while we stood about, panting, pale, and terror-stricken, we again took it down and laid it out on the ground. All of a sudden, to our amazement there was a movement about the mouth and a little gasp, as for breath. The rough handling of the body getting it in and out of the tree had had some effect.
Instinctively we began to roll him over and move his arms about. We knew nothing of the proper method, but the mouth opened and he breathed again—then again—and as we let him rest a moment on his back, he opened his eyes and looked at us, from one to the other.
Fellows, can you imagine how we felt? Well, we couldn't speak; we just jumped around like Indians and shouted and laughed and cried. It was wonderful—the most thrilling experience I think I ever had, but I was wobbly in the knees for a week afterward.
The thing which tremendously impressed me was the coming back from death to life—for so it seemed to us. But what do you suppose must have been the feelings of those two women and the disciples, on that astonishing morning when the two Marys went at early dawn with spices to place about the Lord's body,—the body which they had seen die upon the cross two days before; the body they had seen lifted down from the cross and which they had helped to prepare for burial; the body they had seen sealed up in the tomb as the sun went down on the darkest, saddest day the world ever knew?
What must have been their feelings, I say, fellows, when suddenly He appeared before them alive and well and speaking? How they must have leaped to do the thing their risen Lord commanded: "Go quickly—tell."
Do you know what it all means to you fellows who have accepted Him as your Saviour and Friend and Guide?
It means this: that you in your youth, full of life and with all the thrill of growing strength and manhood, have no dead and lifeless program to follow, no fickle and disappointing "rewards" which perish with using; but yours is always a forward, up-going experience—something doing every day that is worth while, something that brings a thrill which does not die out and leave you weaker, but makes you stronger every day, and prepares you for a yet bigger task,—a living task and a living reward—Eternal Life!
Read John 20:1-21.
Say, fellows, have you heard of the expert who was called in to start the big engine? Every wheel in the plant had come to a sudden standstill. Something had gone wrong in the engine room, and the engineer was nonplused. To save his life he could not locate the trouble. The superintendent was down there mad as a hornet. A thousand operatives were idle on full pay, and it was like burning money on an ash heap. Still that engineer fumbled around. The "super" telephoned for the expert to come at once and see what was the matter.
Directly, he walked quietly in, glanced at the steam gauge and turned the throttle wheel a bit. Then, with a tiny hammer which he drew from his pocket he lightly tapped some parts of the machine, here and there. He paused at a certain pipe leading to the steam chest, called for a wrench, removed a tap and a plate, peered in, then carefully picked out a piece of cotton waste and replaced the plate and tap. "Now open your throttle," he said to the engineer. The big engine moved off like a thing of life, pulleys began to whirl and belts to whirr, and a thousand hands resumed their work.
In the office the expert handed in his memorandum charge. It was fifty dollars and fifty cents.
"It is all right," said the superintendent, "we're glad to pay it, but would you mind telling me what the fifty cents is for?"
The expert smiled, "Why, that is my charge for the one minute spent in locating your trouble, the fifty dollars is for knowing how."
Fellows, your life is a great big costly engine, built with infinite skill, and you are the engineer. It is a wonderful thing running that engine,—wonderful because it is the motive power to turn many wheels and affect many lives. Rightly understood and properly handled it will produce great values, and be a blessing to the world. Misunderstood and carelessly handled, it will cause loss and suffering to you and perhaps many others.
As a boy, I used to go to the engine room of my father's mill and watch the engineer. Continually, he moved about, watching its movements, its big flywheel half below in the pit, half above, and the broad belt that glided over it and disappeared through the brick wall into the mill; now he would be refilling the oil cups, now noting the steam gauge, or polishing the shining brass trimmings almost with a caress. He was the first man on hand in the morning, and the last man to leave at night. Oh, how well he must know his engine, how carefully he must guard its movements, how always he must be on the job, if he would be a capable, successful, happy engineer!
And what is God's Word telling us about it to-day? Listen, "Happy is the man that findeth wisdom [to know God, to know himself, to know his engine], and the man that getteth understanding [how to run his engine]. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. Length of days is in her right hand [a long and happy career of productive energy] and in her left hand riches [the actual wealth which God promises to those who obey His law and love His service, and the inexpressible satisfaction which comes with the honour that honours God first of all]."
Every fellow can have this wisdom for the asking. Every fellow can know how to run his life engine, to avoid the breakdowns, to keep the wheels humming the song of industry and success. Life is the most interesting thing in the world, and God gives it abundantly. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."
Now, fellows, here is the whole matter in a nutshell: Your life machine is the most wonderful, the most mysterious, and at the same time the most "runnable" thing that the great God has created; but to run it successfully, as God designed it to be run, you must get your instructions from Him, the Maker of it. His Book of Rules, the Bible, must be your daily guide, and through it He will speak to you in your wonderful day as you live it in His companionship.
Fellows, it is the Life!
Read Psalm 119:1-11.
Say, fellows, if you were blindfolded and walking a plank above Niagara Falls, humanly speaking your chances would be about as good as David's were when King Saul in a frenzy of rage and jealousy was seeking his life. David sized it up when he said: "There is but a step between me and death."
If ever a fellow needed a friend, David needed one at that time.
And a friend he had—a friend with a backbone, a true friend—as brave as any knight who sat at King Arthur's Table Round or followed in the train of Richard Coeur de Lion.
Young gentlemen, meet Prince Jonathan!
He never got to be a king, but he had a kingly spirit—if that means something high and noble. He never deserted a cause which had a claim upon him. He was true to Saul, his father; he fell at Gilboa fighting by his side. He was true to David, his friend, unto the point of death.
You may recall that in a former chapter I mentioned the opinion that David was the kind of a fellow any red-blooded boy would like. On that day of wonders, when in the twinkling of an eye the shepherd lad became the champion of two armies, when the musical fingers of the boy who played a harp and tended sheep did the execution which routed the enemy and laid a giant's head at the feet of the king—that day Jonathan's soul was knit to the soul of David in a lifelong friendship. It was the kind of friendship which stands the test of adversity.
It was no wonder that David could have the admiring friendship even of a prince on the day of his triumph and for days afterward when all people were singing his praises and he moved upon the high places of royal and popular favour. If the tide had not turned, Jonathan's friendship would have been only an incident upon the page of history, if it had been recorded at all. It would not have been a thing so fine, so inspiring, as to have thirty millions of Sunday-school folks discussing it to-day.
But the tide turned, and there came a day when it was expensive and hazardous to be a friend of David. Jonathan's position became both delicate and perilous. Saul his father was a despot who would take his own son's life if he sought to excuse or defend one whom the king conceived to be his enemy. Jonathan's friendship stood the test. His own life hung lightly in the balance, but Jonathan would rather have given his life than fail his friend. He took it in his hand that evening at the royal feast of the new moon; and he played with death as the javelin of the infuriated Saul came hurtling across the table.
Then it was that this thing called Friendship sprang forth in all its wonderful strength and beauty and found its place in poetry and song. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends, said Jesus. Ah! there is the best friend of all—Jesus! And what did He do? Well, He did this, which proves it:
There came a day when you and I were fugitives from the king—not a tyrant king, like Saul, but a just and holy God; not an innocent fugitive, like David, but a sinner meriting the King's wrath and curse; and One stood in the councils of Eternity—the Great White Prince—and said, "Father, forgive him; let me take his place; let me suffer his punishment; let me bear his shame; but him forgive and restore to a place in court and to the joy of the Royal Service."
And the King consented, and the Son came to earth and died upon the cross to satisfy the law and make it possible for you and me, fugitive sinners, to return to the King's Table—forgiven and restored!
Read the twentieth chapter of 1 Samuel.
Say, fellows, a bunch of college students were talking over the news that had come to the campus that morning about Bob Allman. They were not only surprised; they were mad, for "Bob Allman had done the biggest fool thing ever committed by any decent fellow that the college had sent out,"—that was the unanimous verdict. And of all the bunch in last year's graduating class, Bob was the last one you would have suspected of such a thing, he had so much at stake. He was the clearest-headed, the best-balanced, the finest physical specimen, the smartest chap in the lot. Bob was one of those rare fellows who could stand high in his classes and be popular with the boys and the professors alike. He was president of his class and captain of the 'varsity football team, and everybody was glad of it.
The amazing news had arrived, in a letter from Bob, himself, to one of the boys stating that he was that very week at Vancouver, taking ship for China, where he had accepted a position as school-teacher on the banks of the Yangtse; there he would preside over a room full of Chinese boys about seven hours every day, while they monotonously swayed backward and forward to the droning of their "study voices" in the characteristic Chinese fashion.
Bob's friend showed the letter. He had no more sympathy for Bob's reasons than the bunch had; it was "simply a horrible mess—an outrageous slaughter of talent." That was what they decided. Bob's letter had said:
"I don't suppose you will understand it now; I hope you may, later; but out there are living (dying, I had better say) about four hundred and twenty-five millions of people, practically without a knowledge of Christ. I know Jesus Christ, not only as my Saviour, but as the very finest and best friend a fellow ever had. I know what the knowledge of Him can mean to one human life. I know that He wants those people to meet Him and to know Him as I do. It has suddenly dawned upon me that I can go over there and help introduce those strangers to my Lord, and by doing so not only please Him but save them from eternal death.
"I couldn't be happy at anything else, Gus. Maybe you will smile—if it doesn't make you mad—but just wait, old fellow; give me time. Unless I am the worst fooled mortal that ever lived, I have got hold of the really big job—one that takes all that is in a man. Oh, it's easy to make money, and it's easy to do some stunt that wins applause; but after it all, when 'the tumult and the shouting dies,' what have you got?
"And what have I got? do you ask? Well, first, I've got about the best inside feelings you ever could imagine. I've got a happy heart. I've got the courage of my convictions. But, best of all, I've got my Master's smile; and one day, if my faith does not fail, and I don't believe it will, I'll get His 'well done'—and that will be worth it all.
"Gus, I wish you were going with me, old fellow. Smile, but think it over. You will graduate next year. Say, I'm going to expect you. But in the meantime, remember: Nothing you've got is too fine or too rare to lay down in service to Jesus Christ!"
Fellows, that was fifteen years ago. Want to take a look at Bob now? It is a thrilling picture I see. A group of fine buildings—a great Christian college in China, built for the most part by the Chinese themselves. Bob is the president of it. He wouldn't swap positions with the President of the United States, nor would he care to be a captain of finance or a Supreme Court Judge. Bob has for fifteen years been "living the life," and it's going finer each year.
He has had the supreme joy of seeing Christian Chinese business men, statesmen, and great leaders go out from his college to take their places of influence and leadership in the affairs of an Empire—in some respects, particularly in population and undeveloped resources, the greatest upon earth. Bob himself has been called time and again into the highest councils of the nation. He is engaged in introducing men—and through them a great multitude—to his Master, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Yes, fellows, boys have alabaster boxes, too—and there's only one place to break them—at the feet of Jesus.
Read Mark 14:3-9.
Say, fellows, do you know it is impossible for anybody to tell with words the whole story of the cross. The only way you can tell the story in its real power is to live it.
I have heard there was a high-caste Chinese boy, the son of a wealthy mandarin, governor of one of the Chinese provinces. This father was very ambitious for his boy, hoping that one day he would succeed him as chief executive. Therefore to secure for him the most modern and progressive education, he sent the boy a hundred miles away to a school on the Great Canal, taught by American missionaries. "To get the Western learning," he told the boy, but not the foreign devils' religion.
The teacher in Yuan Ki's room was a six-footer, a college graduate, and an athlete. Yuan Ki was much impressed. He secretly admired him, but was ungraciously curt to him. This was Yuan Ki's way of making the teacher "keep his distance." But the teacher seemed not to notice it. He was always kind to Yuan Ki, even as he was to the others.
One morning at chapel teacher talked about his God. Yuan Ki sneered at what he told. Actually, teacher had said that his God had come down to earth and had given up His life on a cross, as a sin-offering for all people, even His own enemies. Yuan Ki wrote his father about this "ridiculous story."
One day Yuan Ki was taken sick with a high fever and placed in the school hospital. That night as he turned his feverish head from side to side on the pillow, he felt a cool hand laid on his brow. It was the teacher. Yuan Ki turned his face away, affecting not to see him. The second night, he kept the boy's feverish brow cooled with iced cloths until the fever subsided. Yuan Ki was distressed at the situation, but all the more determined to ignore the teacher's kindness.
At noon recess one day the boys were playing on the sloping grounds between the school building and the river. It was strictly against the rules for the boys to go past a certain low wall, toward the water. But Yuan Ki and Wang To, seeing the teacher sitting near one of the windows and knowing how it would disturb him, ran over the wall and jumped on to the deck of a house-boat moored near by. Yuan Ki saw the teacher look up in alarm and start as if to jump from the window, which was ten feet from the ground. Yuan Ki ran to the outer end of the house-boat, intending to jump to the deck of another house-boat alongside, but in doing so, slipped and fell into the swift current. The boy could not swim, and after a brief struggle he sank and knew no more.
It was two days later that Yuan Ki came to consciousness. He was puzzled quite a little until he figured out that he was in the hospital bed again, and it was in the early dawn of the morning. There seemed to be nobody else in the room. Yuan Ki could see through the open door, across the hallway, into the large reception room opposite. There was a long, strange-shaped, box-like thing, with some candles burning near by. Curiosity getting the better of him, Yuan Ki got up and crept across the hall. Coming close to the casket, he looked through the glass cover—and there lay the teacher.
Just then a hand was laid on Yuan Ki's shoulder, and the nurse hustled him back to bed, scolding him for his imprudence. "But," said Yuan Ki, "the teacher—how did he die?"
"Lie still," said the nurse, "and I will tell you. When you fell into the water, teacher jumped from that high window to the ground. It seemed to sprain his ankle, or something, for he limped badly as he made his way to the water. He reached you just as you went down the last time, and bore you up. A man ran out on the deck with a boat-hook and reached for you both. He caught your sleeve and hauled you in, but the current carried teacher out of reach, and then we saw him sink. He was an expert swimmer, but the sprain must have caused him to lose consciousness."
Yuan Ki's next letter to his father read in part like this: "My father, my heart is broken, for I shall not see your face again. I know that what I shall tell you means that your hopes for me will be crushed and that you will disinherit me; but, oh, my father, I have learned now what is the love of Christ. Teacher had tried to tell us about his Christ, who said: 'Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.'
"And now, my father, there is but one thing for me to do, and that is, myself, to take the place which this noble servant of his Master has left vacant—his Master—now my Master, too, for He has accepted me and I have accepted Him. I have resolved to train to go to my countrymen and tell them of this wonderful God, the like of whom there is none other."