GOD expects personal service from every one to whom He has entrusted a knowledge of the truth for this time.— Testimonies vol. 9, p. 50. (Italics supplied.)
In view of this statement, it is well to seek an understanding of what is meant by the term "personal service." Is it possible to possess the qualifications that tend to success as a Bible instructor and yet fail to be a successful personal worker? What is the meaning of "personal service"? Is not all Christian endeavor personal work?
Personal work may be defined as the art of reaching the heart. The Bible instructor may possess a pleasing personality; his teaching may be gripping, clear, and logical; he may find ready access to homes and be cordially welcomed; but has he mastered the art of dealing with the soul in a personal, heart-to-heart manner?
"The Lord desires that His word of grace shall be brought home to every soul. To a great degree this must be accomplished by personal labor. This was Christ's method. His work was largely made up of personal interviews. He had a faithful regard for the one-soul audience. Through that one soul the message was often extended to thousands."—Christ's Object Lessons, p. 229.
There is no substitute for the personal touch. This was Christ's preferred method. He spent much time in personal interviews with the people with whom He mingled day by day.
Take, for example, that interview with the one lone Samaritan woman, who in the pursuance of her daily tasks came with her pitcher to the well for water in the heat of the day. The Master, weary and thirsty, was resting by the well that noontide hour. He had made no appointment for a sermon or an interview; He was not "on duty" in the sense of preaching or teaching; but every moment of His life was the spontaneous expression of personal appeal to the soul. How simple the approach to the prejudiced heart of this sinful Samaritan woman—the common request of a wayworn traveler for a drink. Her impertinent reply was met by such words as she had never heard before, revealing her great need as a sinner, and the gracious offer of the water of life that would forever quench spiritual thirst. The words of the Master touched the innermost recesses of a storm-tossed soul and led to discovery of personal need. Then followed a yielding obedience and an immediate search for those nearest of kin, that they might share in the wonderful experience of salvation. That is personal work. That is the personal service God expects from everyone who has a knowledge of truth.
The apostle Paul was a personal worker. In the presence of King Agrippa, as recorded in the twenty-sixth chapter of Acts, he testifies to his own conversion in a very convincing way and makes this the point of contact for a personal appeal to the king. Paul knew something of the life of King Agrippa and the great need of his soul, and he watched for the opportunity to bring truth home to the heart— not as mere words to the ears. We find Paul, under the Holy Spirit's direction, appealing to the king at the psychological moment—"King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets?" Without waiting for a reply, he said, "I know that thou believest." Conviction fastened itself upon Agrippa's soul, and he replied, "Almost thou persuades! me to be a Christian" (Acts 26:28). That is an example of personal work in a public way. Usually this method of service applies to the onesoul audience; but the essential point is for the individual to be so entirely under the control of the Holy Spirit that the heart, rather than the mind is convicted.
Personal work should begin in the home, in behalf of any member of the family who has not found Christ. Husband, wife, father, mother, son or daughter, neighbor, friend, employer, employee—all are candidates for personal work. We are told: "There are many who need the ministration of loving Christian hearts. Many have gone down to ruin who might have been saved if their neighbors, common men and women, had put forth personal effort for them. Many are waiting to be personally addressed. In the very family, the neighborhood, the town, where we live, there is work for us to do as missionaries for Christ. If we are Christians, this work will be our delight. No sooner is one converted than there is born within him a desire to make known to others what a precious friend he has found in Jesus. The saving and sanctifying truth cannot be shut up in his heart."—The Desire of Ages, p. 141.
We must find the needy just where they are—in the church, at the family altar, in the field, the barn, the shop, or in the office. We must pray that God will help u;i to know when and where to begin. Jesus personally called His disciples while they were about their daily work. Four of the disciples left their fishing nets in response to His personal appeal. Matthew was called from i lucrative business profession. John the Evangelist was a diligent observer of Christ's preferred method of winning souls, and records the experience in which Jesus made direct personal contacts with individuals in eighteen to twenty cases.
Jesus never lost sight of the individual. We think of that unsurpassed personal appeal to Nicodemus, a;; found in John 3:16. The proud Pharisee never forgot the conversation with the Master that night, but he did not fully surrender until about three years later. Although Nicodemus procrastinated so long, Jesus never abandoned hope for him. Just so the personal worker for souls must never give up but must hold on by the cords of faith and love. To the vacillating Peter, Christ said, "I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not" (Luke 22:32). It was this steadfast personal interest and love for Peter that held him and led him into genuine conversion. So the personal worker must ever manifest firm unyielding faith, and prevail in prayer. "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16). Let your prospects know that you are praying for them. Help them to find God in prayer. If he does not know how to pray, explain that even two or three sentences expressing the deep desire of their heart will be heard and answered. Prayer is the key to unlock Heaven's storehouse for every time of need.
While engaged in Ingathering early one morning, a solicitor came to the rear door of a grocery store through which customers were coming and going. Stepping inside the store, he approached the proprietor at a moment when he was not engaged, and explained his mission. The response was unexpected, for the grocer flew into a rage, declaring that he would have nothing to do with such work or with the churches in general. He referred to his wife, who, he said, had been a wonderful Christian but was now dead. The solicitor appealed to the man to be ready to meet his wife when Jesus comes. As a quiet personal appeal was made for him to surrender to Christ, tears began to stream down the man's face, and his entire attitude changed. A silent prayer at the moment brought the assistance needed. God is ready to iclp in every emergency.
The enemy of truth and righteousness ever stands ready to hinder the worker for God, and one of his principal weapons is the excuse, "I am not qualified." Just so long as he can bind the child of God by the cords of procrastination or excuse, his purpose to thwart God's plans will be met. Let all be on guard, and through prayer and consecration break the fetters of hesitancy and doubt. Gc d is counting on His children. Dare any disappoint Him? "God will not complete His we rk without human agencies."—Christian Service, p. 9. A sense of our unworthiness to be a colaborer with God in the plan of salvation may almost overwhelm us, and our first reaction to the call to service may be like that of the prophet Isaiah, who exclaimed, "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips" (Isa. 6:5). It is true that Isaiah was called to do a very great and difficult work, in comparison to which the call to laymen to engage in house-to-house personal Bible evangelism may seem small; but the call is from the same source, and the response must be made in the same way. It was when Isaiah's lips were touched with a living coal from off the altar that he had the courage to say, "Here am I; send me."
Itanel Ferraz is the former Personal Ministry director of South American Division living presently in Sao Paulo, Brazil.