In previous articles of this series, we have studied about “The Challenge” that a finished work is for us today [December 2005], and “The Method” of finishing the work [January 2006]. Each of God’s people around the world must be involved in the finishing of the work, doing their part through personal testimony and personal witness to those around them. In this article, we will consider “The March” in the Christian’s life.
Jesus said, in John 4:34, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” If Jesus’ food was to do the will of the One that sent Him and to finish the work, is that our food and drink today—to do the will of Him that has sent us and to finish His work? God is calling us today to partake of this food and drink and to make it our purpose for living.
The first chapters of the Book of Joshua record the experience of the children of Israel as they entered the Promised Land. Uncertainty, fear, and trepidation gripped many of them, because they had been told about the giants in the land. God had given Joshua direction to cross over the Jordan to Canaan, and it was only through explicit obedience to His direction that Canaan was conquered.
In Joshua 6, very specific directions from the Lord for embattling with and conquering Jericho are recorded. This city was a formidable obstacle in the conquest of the rest of Canaan. In verses 6, 7, and 10, we read: “And Joshua the son of Nun called the priests, and said unto them, Take up the ark of the covenant, and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord. And he said unto the people, Pass on, and compass the city, and let him that is armed pass on before the ark of the Lord.” “And Joshua had commanded the people, saying, Ye shall not shout, nor make any noise with your voice, neither shall [any] word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I bid you shout; then shall ye shout.”
What interesting battle plans! Not since this time have battle plans ever been laid like this. The directions were for a small, armed group to go first, followed by seven priests blowing on seven trumpets. The Ark of the Covenant was to follow the priests, with the entire armed host marching after it. As they marched, they could not be laughing and talking or conversing in any way. The instruction was, “You shall not shout, nor shall you make any noise.” They were to march in silence together for six days.
Then, we know the rest of the story: “And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the Lord hath given you the city.” Verse 16. On the seventh day, as they finished that seventh circuit, they were to shout! Oh to have heard that shout!
Obey the Orders
For six days, the entire armed host was silent as it marched around the city, but on the seventh day, the seventh time marching around the city, when the priests blew the trumpets with a loud blast, every person gave a loud shout. The walls of the city came down, and Jericho was conquered without a fight.
Think this through for a moment. Suppose they had decided that it was not that important whether or not they were quiet during the first six days of marching around the city, and they engaged in talking and conversing with their friends. Do you think the victory would have been won? No. What if some were growing weary of the silent marching, so they decided to shout on the fifth lap or the sixth lap around the city? Would the victory have been won? No. Without united effort, without marching in unity, without explicitly following the instruction of God, Jericho would never have been conquered.
In the finishing of our work today, unless we learn as they did to march in unity, the work will not be finished by us. God will use others who will march in unity. A disunited army could not conquer Canaan, and a disunited army is not going to finish the work today.
Imagine how the situation would have unfolded if they had taken the orders from Joshua, which came directly from the Captain of the host of the Lord, and said, “All right, we will march around the city.” And then Ephraim had begun marching around the city clockwise as Judah had begun marching around it counterclockwise. Or perhaps Dan had started at the West Gate while Naphtali had started at the East Gate. Another tribe had started marching at 7:00 a.m., but another group had not gotten started until noon. Perhaps they had greeted one another or had waved to the curious onlookers as they marched. Would the plan have worked? Definitely not.
An army that fights like that is not ready to face any foe. It is very easy for us, as we stand up against sin and against apostasy, to begin standing up against our brethren too, and not march in unity.
In Matthew 24, Jesus concludes His message on the signs of the times—what is to precede His coming and what His coming will be like. He tells a parable of two servants—a faithful servant and a wicked servant. Jesus brings, at the end of this discourse of last day events, a very interesting conclusion. Note verses 48 and 49: “But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; And shall begin to smite [his] fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken.” Is there anything absolutely terrible, any grave sin, we might say, with which this evil servant is condemned? He does not even verbalize it; He just says in his heart, “My Lord is delaying His coming.” And that leads him to smite his fellowservants.
Can we be guilty of this? Is it possible to smite our fellowservants with more than just a fist? A tongue can smite our fellowservants too, can it not? The Lord says, of those who are smiting their fellowservants and of those who are not marching in unity, that their portion is going to be with the hypocrites when He comes. Their portion is going to be weeping and gnashing of teeth, because they did not join the army that was marching shoulder-to-shoulder in conquest of Canaan.
We need to forget our silly differences and pray that the Lord will help us to not be smiting our fellowservants, because anyone that is smiting his fellowservants will not be in the army that is going to finish the work. We need to realize who the enemy really is. The enemy is not one another. The enemy is not those who disagree with us or have different ideas; the enemy is the prince of the unconquered and unwarned world.
“Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind [and] one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15:5, 6.
What an amazing passage! It directs that we are to have one mind and one mouth. What do we do with our minds? We think. Our ideas, our thought processes, come from our minds, and here Paul says that we are to have one mind. The church is to have one mind, one purpose, one goal, one mouth. What do we do with our mouths? We speak. We are not to be saying multiple different things. We are to have one mouth, and we are to be speaking one thing.
How can that happen? Philip-pians 2:2 tells us,” Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, [being] of one accord, of one mind.” Paul says that we are to “fulfill my joy, be likeminded.” And then he tells us how that is possible. We are to have the same love. We are not going to have the same mind, the same mouth, or march shoulder-to-shoulder until we have the same love. Do we have the same love today?
On the first night of one of my trips to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, my travel companions and I discovered that the people whom we were visiting had been preparing a mud hut for us. It was actually quite large. They had gone out of their way to make what we would call a mud mansion. But they were not completely finished with it by the time we arrived. There were not yet any doors on the hut, but we were very tired, only wanting a place to sleep, as we had been traveling for many, many hours by multiple conveyances.
During the night, we were awakened by sounds outside of the hut. Peering outside, we noticed that the kerosene lantern was burning, and there beside it was a brother who had not yet been baptized. He wanted to make sure that we were safe, so he stayed awake the entire night to be a guard for us. When I learned that he had stayed sitting upright in a chair all night just to make sure no one harmed us, I felt so badly for him, but he had love.
This man was baptized while we were there. He had been a member of the Baptist Church. He had discovered a little bit about the Advent message from a sign along the road, and he had received Bible studies. He took the studies back to his church and other Baptist churches, and the members accepted what they learned from the lessons and wanted to know more about the Seventh-day Adventist message. They accepted the Sabbath. He was there at our location as their representative. We were never able to visit the other members, as they were 160 kilometers—about 100 miles—away. We did not have time to walk there, but 15 Baptist churches had sent him to learn more of the Adventist message. One reason God could work in their hearts, I believe, was because they had a love in their hearts for the brethren and for the message.
God is going to work in our churches; the more love and the more unity we have, the more He is going to work with us. Ellen White wrote: “The success of our work depends upon our love to God and our love to our fellowmen. When there is harmonious action among the individual members of the church, when there is love and confidence manifested by brother to brother, there will be proportionate force and power in our work for the salvation of men.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 188.
We need to march in unity. We need to march shoulder-to-shoulder if we are going to conquer Canaan. So often, though, we think that the method to which God has called us is the only method, and everybody must use that method. We think that anybody who is not doing what we are doing is just not quite as sanctified as we are.
My friends, we need to all march in unity. There is a work to be done in literature work, but literature work alone is not going to finish the work. There is a work to be done in medical missionary lines, but that alone is not going to finish the work, even though it was given for evangelism. It was not just given to educate our churches; it was not just given so we could treat those among our number that become sick.
Do you remember that Loma Linda University used to be called the College of Medical Evangelists? Medical missionary work was given as a part of finishing the work and of evangelism. Ellen White often used an interesting phrase: “gospel medical missionary evangelist.” (See, for instance, Medical Ministry, 56.) The purpose of medical missionary work is to do evangelism. The purpose of literature work is to do evangelism, public evangelism, personal work among the members of the church.
We have to march shoulder-to-shoulder and work together to finish the work, because there are those who will respond to literature work but who will not respond to other work. There are those who will respond to medical missionary work who will not respond to something else. There are those who will respond to public evangelism and personal testimony who will not respond to other methods. God has called us, just as He called the army that was to conquer Canaan. He has called us to march shoulder-to-shoulder.
How can we march shoulder-to-shoulder? How can we work together in unity? My favorite sermon titles are the ones that begin with “How”! I like practical things, and we are given some practical counsel regarding unity.
“The unity that exists between Christ and His disciples does not destroy the personality of either. In mind, in purpose, in character, they are one, but not in person. By partaking of the Spirit of God, conforming to the law of God, man becomes a partaker of the divine nature. Christ brings His disciples into a living union with Himself and with the Father. Through the working of the Holy Spirit upon the human mind, man is made complete in Christ Jesus. Unity with Christ establishes a bond of unity with one another.” Sons and Daughters of God, 286.
We can be united with one another by striving to be united with Christ.
“The cause of division and discord in families and in the church is separation from Christ. To come near to Christ is to come near to one another. The secret of true unity in the church and in the family is not diplomacy, not management, not a superhuman effort to overcome difficulties—though there will be much of this to do—but union with Christ.” The Adventist Home, 179.
When there is a lack of unity, when there is division, when there is discord, we have to examine our hearts. We individually must ask, “Lord, am I in union with You? Am I the cause of this disharmony? Am I marching in a direction different from the rest of my brethren, or am I marching shoulder-to-shoulder? Am I in union with Christ?”
Another interesting area that we are told will affect unity is also given: “Those who would be overcomers must be drawn out of themselves.” Fundamentals of Christian Education, 207. Do you want to be an overcomer? If we are not overcomers, we are not going to finish the work. If we are not overcomers, we are not going to enter into the Holy City.
How can we overcome? How can we be drawn out of ourselves? She says, “The only thing which will accomplish this great work, is to become intensely interested in the salvation of others.” And then she says, “This does not mean that you are to convert men to your way of doing, or to compel them to view things in the same light as you do; but you are to seek to present the truth as it is in Jesus.” Ibid.
Continuing, Ellen White says, “Missionary effort will become more general, and the example of one zealous worker, working in the right direction, will influence others, and they also will go forth to preach the gospel. The missionary spirit will pass from house to house, and the brethren will find something to talk about of more interest than their grievances.” Ibid., 208.
Have you ever been in a church where there are discussions about grievances? If so, it means that there is not enough missionary work being done, because she says that if we had greater missionary work being done, we would not find time to talk about our grievances. We would have more important things to discuss.
She goes on: “They will be interested in displaying the jewels of truth which the Bible contains, and churches will be established, meetinghouses erected, and many will come to the help of the Lord.” And notice what the result will be: “The brethren will be united in bonds of love, and will realize their unity with experienced Christians in all parts of the world, as they are one in their plans, one in the object of their interest.” Ibid. [Emphasis supplied.]
What brings about this unity? It is brought about by union with Christ and an intense interest in the salvation of others and by missionary effort that leads us to forget about talking about grievances and problems in the church. These different things become nothing when we have the goal of a finished work before our eyes.
I am always amazed how this works! Every time a church is involved in active evangelism, there is greater unity than at previous times. I have noticed this played out every year with the youth class at camp meeting. Each time we have gone out door-to-door in the community, the spirit is always different when the young people get back into the van than when they got out. When they return, they are talking about the person they met at one door, and the person that signed up for Bible studies at another, and the literature they gave away. There is a common spirit and more of a unity, just in that van.
That is what we need in our churches. We have to look those giants in the face, and we have to march forward shoulder-to-shoulder, being as aggressive in our work as possible. We have to look at the giants in our hearts and ask the Lord to bring those giants in our hearts down, that we might have a closer unity with Christ and that we, as a church, can march in unity—because God’s work will be finished by His church marching in unity, shoulder-to-shoulder around Jericho.
Cody Francis is currently engaged in public evangelism for Mission Projects International. He also pastors the Remnant Church of Seventh-day Adventist Believers in Renton, Washington. He may be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.