Alec Brooks

Follow God’s Calling Even in a Dingy Cellar!

When Clement Studebaker, the American car manufacturer, was looking for a preacher to fill the pulpit of the new Methodist church he had built, he wrote to the vice president of De Pauw University asking him to recommend his finest student.

Without hesitation the vice president sent him the name of Samuel Logan Brengle. This was a tremendous opportunity for the young man, one that could have set him on the path to becoming a bishop in the Methodist Church. But Brengle turned it down because God had called him to The Salvation Army.

Soon after graduating from De Pauw, he set out for England to enroll in training as a Salvation Army cadet. On arrival he was greeted with less than enthusiasm because his privileged background was not seen as being well suited for the rigors of Army life. However, he succeeded in convincing those who interviewed him that he was serious, and he was given a chance to prove himself. When he arrived at the depot where he would begin his training, he expected to be sent out to do what he loved to do- preach to people about Jesus. He was hardly prepared for his first assignment, which was to spend his days in a dingy cellar cleaning and polishing the boots of his fellow cadets.

Samuel Brengle’s Lowly Experience – Blacking Boots of Others!

His biographer writes of this experience:

“It was not the lowliness of the duty but the apparent waste of his time and talent that wounded him. Remembering his Lord’s story of the man who had buried his talent, he prayed, while his brush moved inexpertly across the toe of a clumsy boot: ‘Lord God, am I burying my talent? Is this the best they can do for me in The Salvation Army? Am I a fool? Have I followed my own fancy 3000 miles to come here to black boots?’ 

“As if in direct answer, in imagination he saw a picture: Jesus was the central figure, and he was washing the disciples’ feet! His Lord- who had come from the bosom of the Everlasting Father and the glories of heaven and the adoration of its hosts bending over the feet of uncouth fishermen, washing them, humbling himself, taking the form of a servant! 

“In the light of this revelation, Brengle’s heart was bowed low: 

‘Dear Lord, thou didst wash their feet; I will black their boots!’ 

“Later he wrote, ‘I had fellowship with Jesus every morning while down in that cellar blacking boots. It was the best training I could have had. I was humble, but now I was practicing humility. I saw what The Salvation Army stood for – service. My new prayer was, ‘Dear Lord, let me serve the servants of Jesus. That is sufficient for me.'”

Little wonder that Samuel Logan Brengle went on to become one of the Salvation Army’s greatest officers.

No One Is Exempt!

What Brengle learned that morning in a dingy cellar polishing dirty boots is that Jesus meant what he said when he told his disciples, “He that would be the greatest among you must be the servant of all.” And no one is exempt.

Who is a Master in this World? World versus Christian

William Barclay commenting on Matthew 20:20-28, writes:

“Out in the world, said Jesus, it is quite true that the greatest man is the man who controls others; the man who is master; the man to whose word of command others must leap; the man who with a wave of his hand can command service, and have his slightest need supplied. 

“Out in the world there was the Roman governor with his retinue; the Eastern potentate with his slaves; the man of affairs with his staff of attendant slaves. The world counts them as great. But in the Christian assessment, service alone is the badge of greatness; greatness does not consist in commanding others to do things for us; greatness consists in doing things for others; and the greater the service, the greater the honor.

“Jesus uses a kind of gradation. ‘If you wish to be great,’ He says, ‘be a servant; if you wish to be first of all be a slave.’ Here is the Christian revolution; here is the complete reversal of the world’s standards. Here a complete new set of values has been brought into life”(William Barclay, Daily Bible Study, Philadelphia: Westminster John Knox, 1975, 1976).

Servanthood is not Apprenticeship! It is Not a Role to be Played!

Many of us have the mistaken notion that learning to be a servant is like being an apprentice; it is something that you do for a period of time before moving on to better things, once the lessons have been learned and the tests have been passed. Not so. God is not looking for people who are willing to do particular and occasional acts of service. He is looking for those who understand that servanthood is not a role to be played but an attitude of heart and life to be adopted and demonstrated wherever they are and whatever they do. God is looking for those who want to have a heart like his, a heart that understands that serving is not a stage on the way to greater things, but is itself the greatest thing.

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Alec Brooks
Charis International

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