Several times in the Bible we are admonished not to remove the ancient landmarks which our fathers have set. The Psalmist said, “I shall not be moved.” All of us know institutions such as churches and schools that have changed and deteriorated with the passing of the years. The sad thing is that this deterioration takes place unknowingly. The Bible says that Samson did not know his power was gone from him. The reason for this is that Satan does not change us suddenly or dramatically. He moves the landmarks a little at a time until we change unknowingly. As slow as the hands move on a clock so Satan leads us to deterioration and apostasy. If we do not succumb to his tactics, it will be because we have a carefully planned program of resistance. Many things should be part of that program.
1. Analyze and know ingredients.
When a victory is won, carefully relive the ingredients of victory. When a defeat is suffered, carefully analyze the ingredients of defeat. When a person has a good day he may or may not know why he had a good day. All of us have come home at night living on the top. Before retiring it would be wise for us to analyze the day. If the ingredients of the day made for a good today, they will no doubt make for a good tomorrow.
When one has a bad day he should not just mark it off until he analyzes carefully what he did, how he did it, and where he went, with whom he was, etc. He can thereby avoid such a combination of ingredients tomorrow and all the tomorrows.
When we know the ingredients of both success and failure we will be able to place together the proper recipe. If this recipe is used regularly, victory can be enjoyed regularly. Institutions as well as individuals should reexamine and investigate the means and circumstances that led to success and plan the future accordingly.
2. Know your pattern of behavior.
Usually we react the same way to the same stimulus. There are certain things that make us mad; there are certain things that make us sad; there are certain things that make us glad. If we can intelligently relive our sadness, our madness and our gladness, we can utilize the stimuli to enable us to react with some degree of consistency. This will enable us to continue using the same stimulus, just as we continue using the aforementioned recipe. The individual or the institution thereby becomes somewhat predictable because he has learned the way to arrive at a desired end.
To be sure, we are human, and human beings do not always react to the same stimulus the same way. However, there are some basic stimulus that will usually cause the same reaction and the same response. We should know these and avoid those that cause us to change for the bad. We should make friends with those which have done us good before.
3. Do not judge by the changing of others.
Far too many of us judge right or wrong on the basis of our distance from wrongdoers. Hence, as the world changes we change, staying exactly the same distance behind the world, for to us right and wrong is a relative thing in comparison with those who do wrong and with those who do right. For example, it is sad to see the skirt lengths of Christian young ladies rising just because the skirt lengths of the world are rising.
We are very careful, however, not to be like the world. We just want to stay the same distance behind them. In doing so we change! As the world gets worse and worse we can find ourselves the same distance from the world and yet be worse now than the world was before. If it was wrong for young ladies to show their thighs 10 years ago, it is wrong today. This is only an example. There are many others. Because of this philosophy, we change and don’t know we are changing, because we are judging ourselves by the distance we keep from the world’s standards and not by what is right and what is wrong to do.
4. One should not expect to change.
Do not accept the philosophy that it must be done in these days and that since it is harder to live right, we cannot live as we always lived. The very fact that one expects to change is a part of the changing.
5. One should know the difference between improvement and change.
Improvement comes on purpose; change usually comes unknowingly. Improvement is usually enjoyed by the careful whereas change is enjoyed by the careless. Institutions do not deteriorate because they plan to deteriorate. They deteriorate without realizing that the process is taking place. They are like a boat without an anchor. It does not appear to be moving until we find it far away from shore. There are certain anchors that the Christian institution should lower. The anchor of the Bible, the anchor of the deity of Christ, the anchor of the will of God, the anchor of soul winning and other such anchors will help to keep us from drifting. Improvements come by making a habit of the good. Change and deterioration come by just supposing that everything must be all right.
6. One should weigh himself every day.
The clock that loses a minute a day will in 60 days lose an hour if it is not set daily. The individual or institution which is not weighed daily and whose compass is not checked daily will soon find itself way off course and in bad spiritual health. One should check his position every day to be sure that he is not off course.
One of the sad things about the Christian life is that we do not become dissatisfied with a little bit of wrong. The best housewife hates a speck of dirt. The best mechanic hates a spot of grease. The best husbandman hates one locust. The best preacher hates one sin. The best judge hates one crime. The best athlete hates one defeat. The best doctor hates one germ. The best botanist hates one weed. The best musician hates one unharmonious note. The best writer hates one grammatical error, and the most consistent Christian hates to veer one degree off course. Because of this, the land must be surveyed every day. Our spiritual height must be measured every day. Our course must be charted every day. Think of all the things the Apostle Paul did daily. He died daily, and he buffeted his body daily. The wise Christian will make a daily check on his position. the wise Christian institution will check its position every day, not in its relation to other institutions, but in its relation to what it was when God blessed it most and to its nearness to the purpose of its founders. Look at the great liberal universities which were founded by fundamental people and financed by fundamental dollars. Their change did not come dramatically. It was a slow gradual evolution. Even the most astute of its leaders did not realize a change was taking place. The landmark was moved so slowly it could not be seen, and yet one day the institution awakened to find itself asleep, came alive to find itself dead, found enough light to find itself in darkness, walked straight enough to find itself in crooked, had just enough health to find itself incurably diseased and had just enough strength to find itself too weak to recover.
Beloved, let us not let Satan do this to our institutions. Let each of us that is connected with a Christian school or church check itself constantly to see if just a little deterioration has set in. Let us go to the doctor before we can get cancer. Let us cure its pimple when it first begins and not lament its death later.
All of this is to say that we should hate mistakes; we should hate wrong. Clean the garment the moment it is spotted. See the doctor first at the first sign of a temperature in order that we may avoid following the path of institutions who were founded as we were founded and who one day held the exact position that we now hold and yet who gradually and unknowingly died.
7. Before eliminating a weakness one should see what is on the other side connected to it.
It may be that the very weakness which we eliminate is not a weakness at all, but rather a necessary part of strength. For example, one who is tenacious may appear to be stubborn. One who is confident may appear to be cocky. One who is zealous may appear to be proud. One who has conviction may appear to be bigoted. So often in our sincere desire to improve ourselves we roll into spiritual surgery to remove something that appears to be bad but which is connected to the very thing that makes us unique and successful. This is often caused by egocentricity and is self-introspection.
Many institutions and individuals deteriorate because they become disenchanted with the very qualities that are necessary for success. Let us say with the Psalmist, “I shall not be moved,” and let us guard daily the landmarks let they be moved ever so gradually by the enemy.