I love reading quotes by old guys. For over a year I received daily emails including quotes by the prolific author of the 1800’s, J. C. Ryle. It never failed to amaze me how pertinent the observations or exhortations were to our present day. Of course, the reason for that is because he (and others) were speaking wisdom from the Word of God and there are no time or place constraints on this Eternal Voice.
Because of this little quirk of enjoying pithy and godly quotes, my ears perked up when I heard this one from Robert Murray M’Cheyne.
“The greatest need of my people is my personal holiness.”
Again, spoken by a man of the 1800’s yet very fitting to us today. M’Cheyne was a young Scottish minister and he knew that he wouldn’t be any good as a shepherd to his flock if he was living a secretive sinful and hypocritical life. In order to spur on his people, he had to be leading the race.
I want to unpack this idea…
Who are “your people”? If you’re a mom, yep, it’s those little people in your home (or maybe they’re taller than you, like some of my people). Maybe you have a ministry or a job outside of the home. Perhaps you are influential in your neighborhood or your child’s school. Regardless, there are people in your life whom God has given to you to make a difference. Be mindful of your audience. Don’t underestimate your godly influence on others.
What about your personal holiness? So, if you have “people” (and you do) and they’re watching you (and they are), then we must be all the more diligent to
…lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12: 1).
It really goes without saying that if we are living contradictory lives to our profession of faith then others are going to be confused or led astray. “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say”, said Ralph Waldo Emerson. May we be bold in speaking God’s truth to others, but even more importantly, may our actions proclaim Him before our mouths even produce an utterance.
We may be tempted to think that if we aren’t living grossly hypocritical lives then we’re all good to go in this area. But, I want to share a story with you. A few years ago one of our children was going through a difficult time spiritually. I began operating in ‘fear-mode’ and the worry and panic and other emotions reached an all-time high. A friend encouraged me to live faithfully before the Lord and to focus on that because my example would be the best thing my son could witness. After all, if I was desiring him to follow the Lord, but I was all panicky and demonstrating a fear that God wasn’t big enough to care for my son in his need, then what kind of God was I showing him? I wanted to accurately portray a faithful God to him, One who was caring for him and protecting him and calling him back to Himself.
So, consider the “little things” that you allow in your lives that actually speak the opposite of your goal of personal holiness. Is it just a little cheat here? Or a crude joke or reference there? Maybe you let your eyes linger or a judgment said. As we pursue holiness, may there not even be a hint of sin named among us.
Finally, remember M’Cheyne’s wording. Our personal holiness is the greatest need for our people. Eternally speaking, when all is said and done, may we understand that our people need Christ. And, because of the sphere of influence that God has given you and me, we get to point them to Him…their greatest need. So, let’s be faithful and diligent in this honorable duty. God has begun it in us and He will be faithful to complete it.