While away from home recently, our attention was drawn to a recreation that has developed to become quite an icon in New Zealand over the last 20 years. In years gone by, even to generations previous, cycling was very much a mode of transport that was the norm. It was a necessary and convenient way of transporting oneself and some extra luggage from place to place.
As the motor industry took off, and cars became more reliable and dependable, it increasingly became the popular mode of transport, even to commuting to and from places of employment on a daily basis. We became reliant on our motorised wheels even to locating our homes and families at a distance that would obviously only be reachable by vehicle in workable time frames. The bike became a by-word over time. Who would in their right mind want to push the old bike into a head wind to and from work each day? Very few ever thought of buying a new bike, because it would make sense to put that finance into filling the tank with fuel for travel. And so it was. The old bikes were left to seize and rust under the tree, or perhaps in the back of the shed and never more to see the light of day.
That all started to take a change in the 1980's in New Zealand, especially with younger people. They started to get the old bikes out, modify them to cope with rougher treatment like farm tracks, or riverbed tracks—and the sport took off. Soon manufacturers were realising there was going to be a lucrative market in designing bikes for this market. Since then, over the last 20 odd years, this recreation has accelerated into, as mentioned above, an icon sport.
The point of my introducing this editorial in this manner, is that while there are definitely some more mature ages involved, this recreation has largely affected and activated the younger generation. In this day and age, when any sport takes off – and it is not necessarily confined to sport – there can be a tendency to go to extremes where one has to have the most up-to-date equipment, clothing and top achievements, even to the detriment of other needy priorities.
Mountain biking is the recreation/sport that particularly took our notice recently. What struck us is that while one needs a bike and all the necessary equipment to ride, it also needs tracks that, upon lengthening, become trails. We were taken with the dedication of many young people who devote many hours of voluntary labour to hack, dig, chisel and grub kilometres of narrow tracks. In the Queenstown region alone, over the last 10 years, they boast 100km of trail built by voluntary labour over those years.
Now, there is at least one book printed every year in about November, as the summer season starts, updating on all the new and existing mountain bike tracks from Queenstown to Auckland. There would most probably be many more such publications just on mountain biking alone.
I was personally, in a way, positive to see this happening. It was good to see young people keen to work constructively and freely with enthusiasm to see their passion develop, that they themselves would appreciate when finished, but also their work lies open for the many others to enjoy who follow in their path.
Open to Destruction
As I pondered more on this, my thoughts projected to perhaps months or maybe even years ahead. What if a storm comes through and heavy rain causes a slip and it comes down and destroys a segment – even a large segment of trail? Or perhaps there may be a re-zoning of the land and the trail is no longer accessible, or even an earthquake that destroys the whole usage of the trail. Either it is rendered unusable or one has to start again and rebuild. The efforts put in on this earth can be so easily destroyed or removed, leaving us with nothing, or very little of our original effort and work.
Is there anything wrong with the labour put into building such a venture as a mountain bike track? Probably not at all. It is for recreation and can be enjoyed by many people of many age groups. The problem is where it becomes all absorbing, and it turns from a recreation into a fiercely competitive sport, thinking it is essential to have all the top line and up to the minute equipment and flare.
It is good to see, especially our young people take an interest in any work. What brings the real joy is to see our young people building a trail, not only out of dirt, sand and rocks, but a spiritual trail for themselves and others. This trail doesn't collapse. This trail as we work on it, has solid foundations that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This trail as we build it, leaves a way open for others to follow – and always will be open. A physical trail can be interrupted any time, not necessarily because of our choice or doings, but the spiritual trail can only be rendered useless and destroyed by our own actions and choices. Yes, it can be blocked as we stop building our spiritual path to walk on every day, also it can become useless for others to follow – all by the choices we daily make. The remedy to this problem – and there is only one remedy – is "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ."
~1 Corinthians 11:1
In a specially produced book in 2002, the White Estate produced a book entitled "A Call to Stand Apart". This book was published as the first Ellen White book prepared, especially for twenty-first century young adults. It deals with important issues faced by youth and young adults in our generation. We can learn much from the pages selected here for this editorial.
Work is Biblical Counsel
"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil."
"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end."
"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."
"For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen."
"And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come."
In these verses, there is certainly a work for each of us to attend to – a narrow path we are to hack, dig, chisel and grub to secure a sound footing as we build our character. Yes, it takes labour, it hurts when we knock ourselves on an intrusion or obstacle that is set to trip us up. May we bear in mind, unlike our physical path which no one has trodden, but our spiritual path there is One who has charted out the rough terrain before us. We follow His steps. But if we endure and continue, it is rewarding to look behind and see the path we have journeyed and also to see others following in the path of Jesus Christ.
As we forge ahead, there is need to do just that – look back to find encouragement. "We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and his teaching in our past history.
~Review & Herald, October 12, 1905
To Our Young People
As we have just read in our worship the seventeen chapters of this compilation, we see Ellen White certainly did have high ideals for our youth. She does not bend down to address our young people at some low level of short-lived entertainment with falsities. She very much draws them up to a higher level - much higher.
"Dear youth, what is the aim and purpose of your life? Are you ambitious for education that you may have a name and position in the world? Have you thoughts that you dare not express, that you may one day stand upon the summit of intellectual greatness; that you may sit in deliberative and legislative councils, and help to enact laws for the nation? There is nothing wrong in these aspirations. You may every one of you make your mark. You should be content with no mean attainments. Aim high, and spare no pains to reach the standard.
"Success in any line demands a definite aim. He who would achieve true success in life must keep steadily in view the aim worthy of his endeavour. Such an aim is set before the youth of today. The heaven-appointed purpose of giving the gospel to the world in this generation is the noblest that can appeal to any human being. It opens a field of effort to everyone whose heart Christ has touched.
"God's purpose for the children growing up in their homes is wider, deeper, higher, than our restricted vision has comprehended. From the humblest lot those whom He has seen faithful have in time past been called to witness for Him in the world's highest places. And many a lad of today, growing up as did Daniel in his Judean home, studying God's word and His works, and learning the lessons of faithful service, will yet stand in legislative assemblies, in halls of justice, or in royal courts, as a witness for the King of kings.
"True education does not ignore the value of scientific knowledge or literary acquirements; but above information it values power; above power, goodness; above intellectual acquirements, character. The world does not so much need men of great intellect as of noble character. It needs men in whom ability is controlled by steadfast principle.
"How many can truthfully answer this question, What is the essential education for this time? Education means much more than many suppose. True education embraces physical, mental, and moral training, in order that all the powers shall be fitted for the best development, to do service for God, and to work for the uplifting of humanity. To seek for self-recognition, for self-glorification, will leave the human agent destitute of the Spirit of God, destitute of that grace which will make him a useful, efficient worker for Christ.
"Students that exalt the sciences above the God of science, will be ignorant when they think themselves very wise. If you cannot afford time to pray, cannot give time for communion with God, for self-examination, and do not appreciate that wisdom which comes alone from God, all your learning will be deficient, and your schools and colleges will be found wanting.
"The specific place appointed us in life is determined by our capabilities. Not all reach the same development or do with equal efficiency the same work. God does not expect the hyssop to attain the proportions of the cedar, or the olive the height of the stately palm. But each should aim just as high as the union of human with divine power makes it possible for him to reach.
"Love and loyalty to Christ are the spring of all true service. In the heart touched by His love, there is begotten a desire to work for Him. Let this desire be encouraged and rightly guided. Whether in the home, the neighbourhood, or the school, the presence of the poor, the afflicted, the ignorant, or the unfortunate should be regarded, not as a misfortune, but as affording precious opportunity for service.
"In this work, as in every other, skill is gained in the work itself. It is by training in the common duties of life and in ministry to the needy and suffering, that efficiency is assured. Without this the best-meant efforts are often useless and even harmful. It is in the water, not on the land, that men learn to swim.
Work in Fellowship
"Another obligation, too often lightly regarded,—one that to the youth awakened to the claims of Christ needs to be made plain,—is the obligation of church relationship.
"Very close and sacred is the relation between Christ and His church—He the bridegroom, and the church the bride; He the head, and the church the body. Connection with Christ, then, involves connection with His church.
"The church is organized for service; and in a life of service to Christ, connection with the church is one of the first steps. Loyalty to Christ demands the faithful performance of church duties. This is an important part of one's training; and in a church imbued with the Master's life, it will lead directly to effort for the world without.
"There are many lines in which the youth can find opportunity for helpful effort. Let them organize into bands for Christian service, and the co-operation will prove an assistance and an encouragement. Parents and teachers, by taking an interest in the work of the young people, will be able to give them the benefit of their own larger experience, and can help them to make their efforts effective for good.
"It is acquaintance that awakens sympathy, and sympathy is the spring of effective ministry. To awaken in the children and youth sympathy and the spirit of sacrifice for the suffering millions in the ‘regions beyond,’ let them become acquainted with these lands and their peoples. In this line much might be accomplished in our schools. Instead of dwelling on the exploits of the Alexander's and Napoleon's of history, let the pupils study the lives of such men as the apostle Paul and Martin Luther, as Moffat and Livingstone and Carey, and the present daily-unfolding history of missionary effort. Instead of burdening their memories with an array of names and theories that have no bearing upon their lives, and to which, once outside the schoolroom, they rarely give a thought, let them study all lands in the light of missionary effort and become acquainted with the peoples and their needs.
Work in Closing of the World
"In this closing work of the gospel there is a vast field to be occupied; and, more than ever before, the work is to enlist helpers from the common people. Both the youth and those older in years will be called from the field, from the vineyard, and from the workshop, and sent forth by the Master to give His message. Many of these have had little opportunity for education; but Christ sees in them qualifications that will enable them to fulfill His purpose. If they put their hearts into the work, and continue to be learners, He will fit them to labour for Him.
"He who knows the depths of the world's misery and despair, knows by what means to bring relief. He sees on every hand souls in darkness, bowed down with sin and sorrow and pain. But He sees also their possibilities; He sees the height to which they may attain. Although human beings have abused their mercies, wasted their talents, and lost the dignity of godlike manhood, the Creator is to be glorified in their redemption.
"Multitudes will be called to a wider ministry. The whole world is opening to the gospel. Ethiopia is stretching out her hands unto God. From Japan and China and India, from the still-darkened lands of our own continent, from every quarter of this world of ours, comes the cry of sin-stricken hearts for a knowledge of the God of love. Millions upon millions have never so much as heard of God or of His love revealed in Christ. It is their right to receive this knowledge. They have an equal claim with us in the Saviour's mercy. And it rests with us who have received the knowledge, with our children to whom we may impart it, to answer their cry. To every household and every school, to every parent, teacher, and child upon whom has shone the light of the gospel, comes at this crisis the question put to Esther the queen at that momentous crisis in Israel's history, 'Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?'
Privilege to Work
"There is no line of work in which it is possible for the youth to receive greater benefit. 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?
"With such an army of workers as our youth, rightly trained, might furnish, how soon the message of a crucified, risen, and soon-coming Saviour might be carried to the whole world! How soon might the end come—the end of suffering and sorrow and sin! How soon, in place of a possession here, with its blight of sin and pain, our children might receive their inheritance where 'the righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein forever;' where 'the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick,' and 'the voice of weeping shall be no more heard.'
~Psalm 37:29; Isaiah 33:24; 65:19
"All the perplexities of life's experience will then be made plain. Where to us have appeared only confusion and disappointment, broken purposes and thwarted plans, will be seen a grand, overruling, victorious purpose, a divine harmony."
We can surely now agree with reading this passage that the Spirit of Prophecy has high ideals for our young people – and it applies to every one of us. As we carry on, building that path, dealing with the challenges, looking forward into unbroken country, wondering if we can make it, look down to see where your feet are – on a secure platform dug out by hard work, mental calculations and careful aligning, look back to see how you have been led and the secure path that has been mapped out – secure for others to follow, then look up to gather your strength to carry on chiselling your way on the narrow path upward and onward.
"There all who have wrought with unselfish spirit will behold the fruit of their labours...In our life here, earthly, sin-restricted though it is, the greatest joy and the highest education are in service. And in the future state, untrammeled by the limitations of sinful humanity, it is in service that our greatest joy and our highest education will be found—witnessing, and ever as we witness learning anew ‘the riches of the glory of this mystery;’ ‘which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.’”
~Spiritual emphasis based on "A Call To Stand Apart", chapter 16, pages 64-67
"Obeying the law of the land makes you a good citizen.
Then why does obeying the law of God make you a legalist?"