George H. Morrison - Devotional Sermons
To the Half-Hearted
Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord--Col 3:23
A Command to Slaves
I want you to note how our text is introduced; it has a very. suggestive and illuminative context. "Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh," that is verse twenty-two; and then, "Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord," that is verse twenty-three. Now the servants of whom Paul speaks in verse twenty-two are not domestic servants in our sense. They were slaves, bought for a little money; the property and the chattels of their master. Yet even to slaves who got no wages and who had no rights, clear and imperious comes the command of God, "Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily."
Now I think that is very suggestive for today. I can hardly talk to a master-painter or a master-baker, but I hear complaints about the degeneracy of labor. Men are not faithful, they have to be watched like children; the loyal service of an older day is dead. So say the masters; and on the other hand the men say that had they a more direct interest in their work and a more immediate concern in its prosperity, they would throw themselves into it with doubled zeal. Now all that may be true. But the point is that if the Bible holds and if this text be really the Word of God, nothing on earth, not even the worst relationships of capital and labor, can ever excuse half-hearted work. Your hours are long?--so were those of the Colossian slaves. Your pay is poor?--the Colossian slave had none. Your mistress is tyrannical and mean?--but the Colossian mistress lashed her servants. Yet whatsoever ye do, ye slaves, cries Paul, do it all heartily as to the Lord.
Paul Practiced What He Preached
I want you to note, too, that this text was never better illustrated than in the life of the man who was inspired to pen it. There was an enthusiasm and a concentration about Paul which have won the admiration of men of all time. "One thing I do, forgetting the things that are behind, I press towards the mark," says the apostle; and whatsoever he did, he did it heartily as unto the Lord who loved him so. It is so easy to preach and never intend to practice. It is so hard to practice first and then to preach. It gives a wonderful power to our text and charges its mandate with redoubled urgency when we remember who the writer was. Men have brought many charges against Paul, but I do not think his bitterest enemy has ever charged him with half-heartedness. There is a glow and fervor in the man that marks in an instant the divine enthusiast. Others might waver, Paul battled to his goal. Others might yield, Paul was invincible. And had you seen him working at his tent making in the late night when the city was asleep, you would have found him plying the tent maker's needle and singing, I doubt not, as in the prison at Philippi, with the very heartiness and zeal that filled his preaching of Christ crucified.
Faithful Work Is Enthusiastic but Not Necessarily Noisy
It is then of this whole-heartedness, of this fine concentration or enthusiasm, that I want to speak. And I should like to say by way of caution, that true enthusiasm is not a noisy thing. Whenever we think of an enthusiastic crowd, we think of uproar, tumult, wild excitement. And I grant you that in the life of congregated thousands, touched into unity by some great emotion, there seems to be some call for loud expression. But just as there is a sorrow that lies too deep for tears, there is an enthusiasm far too deep for words; and the intense purpose of the whole-hearted man is never noisy. When the children of Israel, defeated by the Philistines, sent for the ark of God into the camp, do you remember how, when the ark appeared they shouted till the earth rang and rent? Yet in spite of the effervescence of emotion, they were defeated and the ark of God was captured. But Jesus, in the enthusiasm of His kingly heart, set His face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem; and yet He would not strive nor cry nor lift up His voice in the streets. The noisiest are generally shallow. There is a certain silence, as of an under current, wherever a man is working heartily.
Prune thou thy words, thy thoughts control
That o'er thee swell and throng;
They shall condense within thy soul
And change to purpose strong.
Whole-Hearted Personal Involvement Is a Condition to Success
Whole-heartedness, then, is never a noisy virtue; and I have thought it right to dwell on that that we may be on our guard against its counterfeits. But if it is not noisy, this at least is true of it: it is the basic condition of the best success. The chairman of the Congregational Union of Scotland, in an address he delivered some time ago at Glasgow, told us that a friend had met him lately and said to him, "I suppose you have heard that Mr. So-and-so has failed?" The chairman had not heard it. "Well he has," said his friend, "and little wonder, for he starved his business. He did not even put himself into it." He did not put himself into the work; he did not do it heartily as to the Lord. And could we trace the history of failure--that long, sad story of the world--I think we should find that for everyone who went to the wall through want of intellect, there were a score who reached that pass through want of heart. To concentrate as all the apostles did, to have the resolute enthusiasm of Jesus, that spirit has something congenial to success in it; and I use success in its best and noblest senses, some of which the world might call defeat.
Whole-Heartedness Is a Condition to True Happiness
But the virtue of whole-heartedness is more than that. It is one of the conditions of the truest happiness. There comes a certain joy as of the morning, a certain zest and buoyancy of spirit, when whatsoever we do is done heartily as to the Lord. When we are half-hearted, the hours have leaden feet. We become fretful, easily provoked; the very grasshopper becomes a burden. But when, subduing feeling, we turn with our whole energy of soul to grapple with our duty or with our cross, it is wonderful how under the long shadows we hear unexpectedly a sound of music. To be half-hearted is to be half-happy. It is to live in a lack-luster kind of way. And so it is to live in an unChristlike way, it is to know little of the joy of Jesus. Do you not think the joy of Jesus Christ was linked, far down, with His whole-hearted service? He never could have spoken of His joy but for His unswerving fidelity to God. And when at last upon the cross there rang out the loud, glad cry, "It is finished," there was joy in it because the stupendous work of saving men had been carried through to its triumph and its crown.
Whole-Heartedness Involves a Feeling of Doing As unto God
And there can be little question that the more heartily we do our humble duty, the more we feel we are doing it for God. It is one of the secrets for bringing heaven near us, for feeling the Infinite with us and within us, to be whole-hearted in the present task. Thinkers have often noted this strange fact: great enthusiasms tend to become religious. Let a man be mastered by any great idea and sooner or later he will find the shadow of God on it. But that is true not of great enthusiasms alone; it holds of whole-heartedness in every sphere. When Luther said, "Laborare est orare"--to labor is to pray--you may be sure that that great soul did not mean that work could ever take the place of prayer. He knew too well the value of devotion and the blessed uplifting of the quiet hour with God ever to think that toil could take its place. But just as in earnest prayer the heavens are opened to us and we are led into the presence and glory of the King, so in our earnest and whole-hearted toil, clouds scatter, the mists of feelings and passions are dispelled, and we are led into a peace and strength and sweet detachment without which no man shall see the Lord. It is in that sense that to labor is to pray. To be whole-hearted is to be facing heavenward. And the great loss of all half-hearted men and women is this, that above the dust and the stress and strain of life, above the fret and weariness of things, they catch no glimpse of the eternal purpose, nor of the love, nor of the joy of God.
The Whole-Hearted Worker Is in Harmony with God
Indeed, if that old saying "like to like" be true, the men who are half-hearted must be blind. For if there is one demonstrable fact I think it is this: we are the creatures of a whole-hearted God. When I remember the thoroughness of the Creator's workmanship; when I think of the consummate genius and care that He has lavished on the tiniest weed; when I recall the age-long discipline that was preparing the world for Jesus Christ; I feel that the heart of God is in His work. And I feel, too, that if my heart is not in mine, I must be out of touch with the Creator. The gods of savages are generally lazy because the savages themselves are lazy, and they have spiritual sense enough to know that there cannot be communion without kinship. But our God is the infinite Creator; the master-builder, the thorough and perfect workman. And I don't know how a half-hearted servant can have any kinship with a whole-hearted Lord. O brother, whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, that you may come into line with the eternal. It is the pity of all half-hearted men that they are out of harmony with God.
Whole-Heartedness in Attachment to a Person
One other word on our text and I am finished. I want you to note how the writer lays his hand on the real secret of all great enthusiasm. He centers his appeal upon a person. Had Paul been writing in some quiet academy, the text, I dare say, might have read like this, "Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, for that is the road to nobility of character"; or "Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, for that is the secret of success." But Paul did not write in any quiet academy. Paul wrote for the masses. Paul wrote for the whole world. And he knew that nothing abstract, nothing cold, would ever inspire the enthusiasm of thousands. A cause must be concentrated in some powerful name; it must live in the flesh and blood of personality if the hearts of the multitudes are ever to be stirred and the lives of the many are ever to be won. So Paul, with the true instinct of universal genius, gathered all abstract arguments for zeal into the living argument of Jesus. And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as what? as to the Lord.
And so by the roundabout road of this address, you see I have brought you back to the feet of Christ, and wherever we may start from, I trust always to leave you there. I believe that the secret of all worthwhile living lies in the company of Jesus Christ. And for making us earnest, thorough, quietly resolute, no matter what fickleness or cowardice we start with, there is really nothing like fellowship with Him. Do you want to be truer? Get a little closer. Are you ashamed of your half-heartedness? Get nearer. Then back to your work again, alone yet not alone: for the time flies and eternity is near, and you shall pass this way but once.
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