The Night Cometh
By Alan Crawford
"I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day; the night cometh, when no man can work" (John 9:4).
Although our Lord’s ministry began late, it was marked by incessant activity. No moment was lost with trifles. His disciples marveled at this. The Lord accounts for this from the fact that He had so much to do while so little time to get it done. This put a "must" into everything He did.
It is somewhat of a natural metaphor to speak of life and death as day and night. Every man has his day – some longer, some shorter. The day for some may seemingly look bright; for others, their day may seem shady and stormy. Then, night falls on all, and it is likely to come, as it does in the tropics, where there is little or no twilight. The Scripture has been faithful in reminding us of this in order that we may thereby lay out our short day to good account.
1. Our day, though short, will be long enough to finish our work. How brief was the life of Jesus. Yet with calm trust, He worked on and found it long enough in which to finish the work. In spite of the opposition of carnal men and the devil himself, Jesus could look up into the face of the Father and confidently say, "I have finished the work Thou gavest Me to do" (John 17:4). His life, though short, was full; He left nothing undone. It is not the length that counts, but rather what we have been enabled to crowd into that span of time. Have we been loitering along the way or perhaps engaging ourselves with trifles? We look with sadness on some premature deaths. The suggestion might even arise that they were given no time to prepare. Although short, yet it was long enough for them to accomplish what was required of them. No one will ever be able to accuse God of not giving him enough time.
2. For all there is but a day. No matter where we are in the day, no one has any time to lose; it is too short to allow for any trifling. It is well when men begin early in the day. How sad when some become mere "morning" Christians. When the heat of the day comes, because of their love of ease, they drop out. Others postpone their work to the evening, but to do so, is to run a dreadful risk. The night comes suddenly. Alas, some may be caught just preparing when they should have been fully ready.
3. Our work must be accompanied by a "must." This is what enabled Jesus to fully fulfill His mission. "I must work the works of Him that sent Me." "I must be about My Father’s business." "He [Jesus] must needs go through Samaria." When duty arose, there was never any debate with Him. He came into the world with one aim – the fulfilling of His Father’s will. That was not to be achieved without work. In all of His varied activities, He never hesitated, recalled a step, or regretted one. He was "faithful unto Him that appointed Him" (Heb. 3:2). Without that "must," we are going to fall short. Many go far enough to feel "I need to" or "I ought to," but this still leaves ground for not fulfilling the Father’s will.
4. The work we are engaged in must be God-appointed. "The works of Him that sent me." No one has been left out of having a divine commission. Many have the feeling, "I must work to support my family and to make provision for the future." This is true, but in doing so, we can easily allow the lesser to outweigh the greater.
It is not enough to work; we must work in the right way and do the right thing. Our calling will never be accomplished haphazardly. God’s Word depicts our mission here as a warring, a wrestling, a resisting, and agonizing.
The lateness of the hour or the urgency of the mission has not caused God to change the requirements of entrance into His kingdom. Popular evangelism, alas, has overlooked the necessity of conviction, repentance, and a turning from sin. Consequently many have been left with a name to live, but still void of eternal life. Of what use is a religion if, in the end, it fails to solve the sin question in man’s heart, and leaves him void of a title into the Celestial City?
The Scripture so often has reminded us of the all-too-common truth: "The time is short." The literal meaning could read, "The time is pressed together." Even a casual observation lets us know that things are fast closing in this our day.
5. We must be a worker of one thing. Concentration of effort must accompany our God-called task. We must not be, as the saying is: "A jack of all trades, but master of none."
When does the night come? As long as I have life, I can work. As long as I have a spiritual church to attend, I am secure. As long as I am surrounded by praying people, I am safe, but resting in these assumptions can hasten the coming of the night for us. When our mind is set to do no more, the night has already arrived.
The warrior who loses the battle may yet live to win the campaign. The bankrupt may yet live to become rich, but if we lose the battle of life, we shall never have the opportunity to fight again. We may never reach the point where we can say as our Savior said, "I have finished the work Thou gavest Me to do." Nevertheless, with God’s help, our life can finish complete. Our eternal satisfaction will be in hearing those words, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant" (Matt. 25:23).
– From July 2012 Emmanuel Mission Publication, Emmanuel Association of Churches, Logansport, IN 46947. Used by permission.