We can all sympathise with that Scottish divine whose efforts were questioned just before he ascended his pulpit steps. He was so upset by the remarks made that he could scarcely concentrate and he questioned himself as to what else he might do as he preached, almost convinced by his critics' words. How blessed he was to be sent God's assurance in a little boy who spoke to him afterwards and asked if he too might be like the one he had just listened to, if he studied and worked hard. That little lad, Robert Moffat, won thousands to Christ. Who therefore can ever measure the worth of the ministry of that faithful old servant? Maybe we lack even that little boy in our fellowship. Only in Christ may we find our reassurance that what we do is his will and not our own misguided desires. Sometimes it is just seeing a man of God's persistent confidence in God's promises that will cause the necessary change in a people. However God does it, be certain, somewhere, somehow, something will begin to happen. We know not where it will come from, or when it will come, but his Spirit's presence will be made manifest and God will vindicate his servant. He will honour those who honour him.
In the meantime, in the darkness and in the desert we learn to be sustained by him and him alone, so that we can join with Habakkuk: `Even though the fig-trees have no fruit. and no grapes grow on the vines, even though the olive-crop fails and the fields produce no corn, even though the sheep all die and the cattle-stalls are empty, l will still be joyful and glad, because the Lord God is my saviour, The Lord gives me strength. He makes me sure-footed as a deer, and keeps me safe on the mountains' (3:17-19).
There is no contradiction between our joy in God's salvation given to us through Jesus and a heavy heart of sorrow at the sight of those of our people who lack this treasure. Jeremiah shares his grief for his people, May my eyes flow with tears day and night, may I never stop weeping, for my people are deeply wounded and are badly hurt. When I go out into the fields, I see the bodies of men killed in war; when I go into the towns, I see people starving to death. Prophets and priests carry on their work, but they don't know what they are doing' (14:17, 18).
We see Jeremiah not only sorrowful about his suffering people, but also because his fellow-prophets and priests fail to see what he sees, and for all their qualifications, really don't know what they are doing. How lonely our ministry can be! Some imes we long for peers or a leader who will understand what we see and hear, only to be broken-hearted with disappointment. Yet Christ never disappoints, and there comes a dawn in the darkness.
If ever you have been up and about in the early hours and have been watching the sky, you will know the experience I am sure when, before dawn breaks, or there is any real change that can be measured, you are certain that the colour of the sky has changed. You doubt for a while; you wonder whether your eyes are playing tricks or whether you are imagining things, but the sky grows brighter and you begin to see things more clearly and then the sun rises and dominates.
So it is as a corps begins to warm. The Spirit informs you; you sense it before you see it. Anticipation and certainty develop in your heart for no apparent reason, and then little things begin: little things that bear great significance.
Someone buys a Bible who never showed interest in reading it before. Deeper spiritual questions come when visiting the homes of soldiers; an offer for further service is made; a person finds Christ (always a miracle, but more so for this barren place); a wife requests to retake the vows of soldiership; someone who has made life continuously hard wants to see you, and you brace yourself for trouble, but then share in his tears of remorse and regret, for God has melted his heart. Barriers begin to come down, joy begins to pervade the fellowship, anticipation precedes worship, and God shows his growing pleasure with some remarkable blessings and signs of his power and presence.