by Dibar Apartian Originally published in the Good News magazine September 1966
Do YOU really put your heart in your prayer when you ask God daily, “Thy kingdom come”?
Do you honestly feel the urgent cry and the absolute necessity of God’s intervention in the world’s affairs-a sick world, suffering as never before? However vivid your imagination, it is doubtful that you could visualize the desperate condition the world is in- and the people’s utter misery-unless you see it with your own eyes, or associate yourself with those for whom life is nothing more than a painful existence.
I have often thought what a blessing it would be for every member of the church if he had the privilege- at least once in his lifetime-of taking a baptizing tour. For no one, after having had such an experience, could ever remain lukewarm when asking God, “Thy kingdom come.”
Last year I reported to you from the West Indies where an average family of ten shares a torn-down, dilapidated hut which serves all of its members as living room, bedroom, and kitchen. The necessity for a bathroom does not pre- sent a problem since nature graciously provides the facilities! The average islander has never known the blessings of electricity, or running water at home. He doesn’t know what it means to have a hot meal. To us who are accustomed to modern comfort, this seems inconceivable. We are used to taking things for granted.
When we hear that the FAMINE is already upon the earth, and that … men … don’t have enough to eat, naturally we are impressed somewhat – but not totally shaken. We don’t feel what they feel because our stomachs are not as yet gnawing with pain. We soon forget what we have heard, and get all wrapped up in our own petty problems. As Helen Keller once said-we complain because we don’t have shoes, not realizing that there are some who don’t even have feet. . .
Unlike the penury which is prevalent in the West Indies, Africa and Asia, Europe today is enjoying an UNPRECEDENTED prosperity. … Prosperity, when acquired and used in accordance with GOD’S LAWS, procures well-being and happiness; but when misused, or obtained at our neighbor’s expense, it becomes a curse. That’s precisely what’s happening today in Europe …
Many as yet are too new in the truth to have enough faith to trust in God all the way. Rather than surrender their lives to Him, repent and be baptized, they are willing to compromise with God’s Sabbath Law, assuring themselves that God will understand. . . God, of course, does understand- but not the way they expect Him to!
But do you realize, brethren, that the same thing might soon happen-and will happen to us in this country? What would some of you do if your employer told you that, from now on, you will have your Sundays and Mondays of, but must work all day Saturday?
What would you do if you were “forced” to do so, at the risk of finding no other employment anywhere else, and seeing your children go hungry? Would you have enough faith in God? Would you beseech Him on your knees, day and night, never compromising with His laws? Or would you perhaps, just like those I couldn’t baptize in France, say, “I’m forced to work on Saturdays; I have no choice. God will understand. . .”
And what would you do if your children were required by the State to attend school half a day on God’s Sabbath-and were offered, in compensation, every Wednesday afternoon free? This, too, happens presently to be the case in France where many of our brethren face the problem. Would you consent to let the State take away your children under the pretext that you are an “unworthy parent,” unable to support your children? Think about these things.
Question yourself. Prove your heart, because you may soon have to face the same problems those in France are facing today. Would you have implicit faith in God? Will you put God first in your life- before any members of your family- even before your very OWN life? …
The more we counsel with people on these baptizing tours, the more we realize what James meant when he wrote, under God’s inspiration, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4: 17).
There was a man in the church, in Switzerland, whom I knew very well. He understood the truth. He believed it. But he failed to grow because he yielded to his unconverted wife’s arguments to compromise with God’s commandments-at least on one point. “I don’t care what my husband believes in or does, so long as it does not interfere with our major family plans,” his wife told me a few years ago.
She would even close her eyes on her husband’s not eating unclean foods, or keeping the Sabbath. But the FEAST OF TABERNACLES was something she could not accept! For nearly twenty years, she and her husband had been going on a Mediterranean cruise, every year, for a few weeks in September and October. God’s Feast of Tabernacles now interfered with this family tradition! Something had to change-someone had to give in. It couldn’t be she. Her husband offered alternatives, but to no avail.
Finally, in order to have “peace” at home, he, too, said to himself that God would understand if he kept the Feast in his mind only-and not in the letter! Whether he under- stood the depth of his disobedience or not, the fact remains that for two years he stubbornly went on cruising with his wife at the time when he should have been at the Feast of Tabernacles, in Great Britain.
Last year, a few months before the Feast, he told Mr. Wilkins, in our Geneva office, that he had all the intentions of keeping, this time, the Feast. He apparently meant it-until the moment when, once again, his wife succeeded in making him change his mind. “God will understand,” the man said again, just like all those who seek to compromise with God’s laws.
They don’t realize that it is they-and not God-who need a better understanding! It just so happened that a few weeks before the Feast of Tabernacles, last year-a few weeks before their projected cruise!-the man was suddenly stricken and rushed to the hospital. The doctors began their experimenting and butchering. When I visited him, this summer, before undertaking our baptizing tour, I could hardly recognize him. He was still in the hospital, but he had become a mere skeleton- a human derelict. “If God ever pulls me out of this,” he had previously told Mr. Bourdin, “I will not turn away from Him again. I will obey His commandments. . .”
Sometimes it may be TOO LATE-as it was in this man’s case. That last Mediterranean cruise he and his wife planned to take during the days of the Feast of Tabernacles never took place ! The man died, this summer, a few weeks after I saw him. I clv hope, brethren, that this will serve as a lesson to some in the church, who also look for excuses for not attending God’s Feast days. You never know when it’s too late for you!
“Charity” or Love?
I would like to cite one more example-a happy one-before concluding this report. A rather succcessful businessman, living in a small French city, had written in for baptism. When the Bourdins and I met him in his office, we were at once impressed by his eagerness to put into practice what he learned from the Bible. He was comparatively new in the truth, but zealous. He said he got up early, every morning, to listen to the broadcast and to work on his Bible Correspondence Course.
During our conversation it soon became evident that this man’s biggest problem was his relationship with the other members of his family. His wife “hated” his religion. He was considered a fanatic- almost a recluse-in the view of the fact that he spent most of his time in his little office either working, studying, or praying. He could hardly find any time to spend with his children and his wife.
“We have actually nothing in common,’’ he told us, “everything they do I dislike and everything I do they dislike. I can’t stand the music they listen to, the television shows they watch, or the friends they invite over-who are hypocrites! My family in turn can’t stand me, my religion, my faults and my beliefs. We’re total strangers who share a home. They know, of course, that I am the head of the family, and they do what I say-not because they agree or want to, but because they know they have to obey.”
“It sounds like the army life,” I said, rather amused. “Soldiers, too, do what they are told to do not because they agree or want to, but because they know they have to obey.”
“Right !” our man interjected. “That’s exactly the way it is at home. In fact I used to be an army man myself. That’s the way I have been running my home.” No wonder our friend had problems!
A family is not an army. More than anything else, this man first needed to learn the fundamental principles of life. He had to learn how to be friendly, kind, and affectionate. Actually, he had no idea whatsoever of what LOVE is.
“Love?” he asked thoughtfully. “I wouldn’t be able to define it. Love, to me, is hard work, providing for my own, obeying the orders of my superiors-including God. That’s the extent of my understanding of love.”
“Have you ever read I Corinthians 13?” I asked.
“Certainly,” he said, and he began to quote it to me by heart, “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil” (verses 4-5).
“Fine-and now replace the word ‘charity’ by ‘love’-for that is the true meaning of the word,” I told him, “and do recite it again, please!”
He looked almost petrified. A man of authority, of power-a he-man-how could he really subject himself to such “sentimentality?”
He told me that never in his life had he known what affection was. Never had he done anything out of love-but rather out of “charity.”
He didn’t think that true “charity” and love went hand in hand. It never occurred to him that a he-man could and should express such feelings without being considered a weak person. Charity, the way the world understands it, is what he had practiced- but not love. He had never suspected that what Paul spoke of in this chapter was true LOVE, and not “charity” the way people practice it today.
“This-this will upset everything I training himself not to cry, even when stand for, everything I have done, everything I have ever dreamed of in my life,” he muttered, totally disarmed. “It will mean a total change in my wife and my children, I would be in mind, in my thoughts, in my attitude pain, but I couldn’t cry. I wouldn’t towards my neighbors, my children, wife.”
Had the world collapsed, he couldn’t have been more shocked. “How can I ever begin such a change?” he added.
I spent many hours with him to answer his questions, quoting Biblical examples of love, explaining to him how, with God’s help, he could undertake this seemingly impossible task. He told me that he had not cried since childhood because crying was a sign of weakness. His Dad had said a he-man never cried. So he obeyed that that order—just like a good soldier—training himself not to cry, even when tears would have been most soothing!
“You know,” he said, “I wouldn’t how to cry. Even if I lost my wife and children, I would be in pain, but I couldn’t cry. I wouldn’t know how to go about crying!”
That evening, when the Bourdins and I returned to our hotel, we talked at length about our friend who didn’t know “how to go about crying.” He was a likeable man, who wanted so very much to change. Both the Bourdins and I prayed to God that He would intervene in this man’s live- to show him His love, and even to make him CRY a little. . .
God did intervene!
Here is an excerpt from the letter I received from our friend, just before I left Geneva for home: “I knew in my heart that God would reveal to me, through your mouth, my faults and weaknesses so that I can grow and overcome them. For weeks, I had been praying to God in this respect, asking Him to give me the right heart to put into practice what you would instruct me.
“After you left, I felt a certain discouragement in my heart, which, a few months ago, would have turned into bitterness-even hatred. But I got on my knees and prayed, asking God to help me to do what he had instructed me through your mouth. What can I say? The answer was immediate. Imagine- for the first time in my life-I, the he-man, BROKE DOWN AND CRIED … and it felt good!
“The relations between my family and me have already greatly improved. We are now on friendly, talking terms. Words cannot express my gratitude towards God. Please do continue to pray for me so that I may grow with this newly found truth, to be a light to my own and to my friends. Please also pray that I may be ready for baptism next time one of God’s ministers visits me again. . .
Won’t you, brethren-you who are God’s begotten children-pray for such people? Won’t you pray for a little boy who refuses to eat pork and rabbit even under heavy punishment? Won’t you pray for an old woman, forlorn in a little village, who thinks school teachers ought to have bathtubs? Won’t YOU pray for a he-man, unshaken by emotions, to learn what true LOVE is and to practice it? Once you live such experiences and get to know some of the problems God’s people-as well as the rest of the world-are facing today, you can’t help but PRAY earnestly, “Thy kingdom come!”
Editor’s comments: God does understand when you compromise with His ways, so don’t. We all need to practice love and we all need to pray also for others. We need to realize that God’s intervention and kingdom is what we need and we truly need to trust Him in this life and want to be in His kingdom in the next. This is something Dibar Apartian wanted people to know.