“Can two walk together except they be agreed?” Amos 3:3
Association with other members of the human family makes up nearly all of life—friendship, family, society, community, city and nation. Out of it grow churches, schools, business, fraternities, orders, lodges, unions, and governments.
There are two aspects of the matter which will be the chief concern of “Christian Association,” namely,
- The influence received from our associates, and
- The influence we impart to them
The first concerns the development of our own character and Christian experience and either prepares or disqualifies us to meet our responsibilities in the second.
By the very nature of things the first is of first importance.
The influence of our Associates
Henry Varnum in his book on Character made some helpful observations on this subject which are herewith offered the reader for meditation:
- “A man’s character and success are greatly affected by his friends. A man is known by the company he keeps.” p. 352.
- “It is impossible that association with those about you should not produce a powerful influence in the formation of your character.” p. 48.
- “Companionship is education, good or bad. It develops manhood, high or low; it lifts the soul upward or drags it downward; it ministers to virtue or to vice.” Ibid.
- “All go to school to one another, and you are constantly learning from your companions. You catch their peculiarities and ways. You get into their habits of thought and action. You set them up as your ideals and what they are you try to become.” p. 49.
- “You will never forget your companionships nor will you ever be free from the influence and example of your associates.” Ibid.
- “Let your company be always, where possible, better than yourself; and when you have the misfortune to move amongst your inferiors, bear in mind this seriously, that if you do not seize the apt occasion to draw them up to your level—which requires wisdom as well as love—they will certainly not be slow to drag you down to theirs.” Ibid.
- “It is easier to sink to the level of evil companions than to raise them; encourage them to better ways, but avoid contamination.” Ibid.
- “No matter how sly, how secret, no matter if your associates have been in the dark, their image will sooner or later appear in your face and conduct.” Ibid.
- “More of that which may most properly be called culture, wisdom or unwisdom, morality or immorality, refinement or vulgarity, chastity or unchastity, is absorbed from habitual associates, than in any other way, or all other ways put together.” p. 48.
In as much as nearly all we ever learn in life we gather through association with others, it is most important that our associates be carefully selected. We should shun evil companions and deliberately choose the best people as associates.
All association begins at home, and would God that every home were sanctified with heavenly influences so that all who dwell there would become wells of living water flowing forth to quench the thirst of a dying world. A holy home is heaven’s fortress in the world. When it is divided between good and evil, its members who are determined to seek righteousness will have to build their own individual fortresses and find God in secret places and stand steadfast in adverse circumstances. God will never fail such souls and will build them up so that when they meet other struggling souls they will be extra strong to help them. Within the family circle we cannot select our associates, except in the formation of new families; but in all other groups and places we are largely responsible for the kind of people who influence our lives; we can even choose the church or school we wish to attend.
Choosing a life-companion is by far the most important item in life, except that of choosing to serve God. The two people who unite in a life partnership should be of one heart in their service to God and in their views of all the major aspects of life; then their association will be bliss. Thousands of homes have gone down because their members could not endure associating with each other.
As we pass out from the home to all life’s experiences our selection of associates should be guided by this fundamental principle: never by deliberate choice should we continue any affiliation which does not lead to God and holiness.
A divine survey of the world today would reveal that Satan has been exceedingly busy in corralling almost every person into one or many organizations of some kind where God is not in control and which have worldly objects to gain and which do not prepare their members for the kingdom of heaven. Some of them may make false claims to doing so. Jesus fitly described conditions in the last days, saying the people would be “bound into bundles to be burned.” (See Matthew 13:30.) Let the reader beware of holding membership in any group not governed by divine influences.
The Best Associates
We pass from the matter of common associates to consider the possibility of divine companionship.
“God suffered John, the beloved disciple, to be exiled to Patmos, where he was separated from the world’s bustle and strife, shut away from every outside influence, and even from the work that he loved. Then the Lord could commune with him, opening before him the closing scenes of this world’s history. John the Baptist made his home in the wilderness, there to receive from God the message that he was to bear.” Gospel Workers, 77.
Of Enoch it is said: “In the midst of a life of active labor, Enoch steadfastly maintained his communion with God. The greater and more pressing his labors, the more constant and earnest were his prayers. He continued to exclude himself at certain periods from all society. After remaining for a time among the people, laboring to benefit them by instruction and example, he would withdraw, to spend a season in solitude, hungering and thirsting for that divine knowledge which God alone can impart.
“Communing thus with God, Enoch came more and more to reflect the divine image. His face was radiant with a holy light, even the light that shineth in the face of Jesus. As he came forth from these divine communings, even the ungodly beheld with awe the impress of heaven upon his countenance. …
“The men of that generation mocked the folly of him who sought not to gather gold or silver, or to build up possessions here. But Enoch’s heart was upon eternal treasures. He had looked upon the celestial city. He had seen the King in His glory in the midst of Zion. The greater the existing iniquity, the more earnest was his longing for the home of God. While still on earth, he dwelt by faith in the realms of light. …
“For three hundred years Enoch had been seeking purity of heart, that he might be in harmony with heaven. For three centuries he had walked with God. Day by day he had longed for a closer union; nearer and nearer had grown the communion, until God took him to Himself. He had stood at the threshold of the eternal world, only a step between him and the land of the blest; and now the portals opened, the walk with God, so long pursued on earth, continued, and he passed through the gates of the holy city—the first from among men to enter there.
“ ‘By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; … for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God’ (Hebrews 11:5).
“To such communion God is calling us. As was Enoch’s, so must be their holiness of character who shall be redeemed from among men at the Lord’s second coming.” Ibid., 52–54.
To recognize that we are always in the Living Presence is one of the strongest deterrents to sinning; how could a man want to lie or steal while standing in the very present of God! “Thou, God, sees me!”—has a mighty, holy influence. Such a recognition would change my life.
Although, since man became a sinner he cannot see God face to face, God does not lose contact with any human being who is receptive to heavenly influences. These influences reach man in various ways among which may be named,
- The Holy Spirit, His personal representative. The work of the Spirit has been considered in other chapters of this book. …
- The word of God, which is explained by the Spirit if we are diligent students of the Word and keep our hearts open to the Spirit and fully surrendered to His pleading voice.
- Nature, when interpreted in the light of revelation.
- Prayer, which makes all of these influences available to us and makes us subject to them.
- Angels, who are actual heavenly visitants whom God has provided to be our associates sent forth to “minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation” (Hebrew 1:14).
All of these means of communion with God exist and wait to be used just as truly as the telephone and radio; but if they are ignored nothing will come through them to us any more than through an unlifted receiver or an unturned dial. If men but knew the educational influences and the uplifting power available through these means, they would take precedence over all other associations in the world and become the guiding, governing forces of every detail of life.
“We need to understand better than we do the mission of the angel visitants. It would be well to consider that in all our work we have the co-operation and care of heavenly beings. Invisible armies of light and power attend the meek and lowly ones who believe and claim the promises of God. Cherubim and seraphim and angels that excel in strength—ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands—stand at His right hand, ‘all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation’ (Hebrews 1:14).” Christ’s Object Lessons, 176.
“All who engage in ministry are God’s helping hand. They are co-workers with the angels; rather, they are the human agencies through whom the angels accomplish their mission. Angels speak through their voices, and work by their hands. And the human workers, co-operating with heavenly agencies, have the benefit of their education and experience. As a means of education, what ‘university course’ can equal this?” Education, 271.
How can I live unworthily, when He is by my side,
My Helper, Comforter to be, my solace, and my Guide?
How can I harbor thoughts of hate, or passions which defile,
When One of spotless purity is near me all the while?
Swiftly, so swiftly, moments go; they make the months—the years;
I’ll reap in harvest what I sow—why should it be in tears?
How can I live unworthily when He is always near,
Ready to aid when tempted, tried—ready to banish fear?
Ready to lead up toward the home He is preparing there,
Up where there’s nothing to perplex, up where there is no care?
How can I live unworthily when I have proved Him true?
I will reap in harvest what I’ve sown—so will it be with you.