The incredibly powerful computer we use to help us do the work of God's Church today has a serious handicap. It is too slow.
To be fair, not all parts of our computer are too slow.
You probably know that a computer is actually several different machines linked together. The part that does the computing is called the central processing unit, or CPU.
You can't really accuse a CPU of being slow. It operates in units of time called nanoseconds — one billionth of a second. If you could take a step every nanosecond, you could walk around the earth 23 times in one second. So, if our computer is too slow, you can hardly blame the CPU. No, the fault lies with the other equipment.
In order for the CPU to turn its calculations into something useful, it must produce some kind of display or printout. Our CPU could find your name among the millions of others on our mailing lists in just a few nanoseconds, but that wouldn't help you get your magazine. It must somehow put that information onto a label so that the post office can get The Good News from us to you.
Printing that label is what takes time. We have a printer that can print 800 lines a minute, which is pretty fast. But compared to the capacity of the CPU to produce information, it is slow and cumbersome.
The problem is that while the CPU can flash information at the speed of light, the poor printer is governed by the force of gravity, and the laws of motion and inertia. There is a limit to how fast physical machinery can operate before it literally falls apart, and the high speed printers are approaching that limit.
In an effort to design printers that can keep up with the latest generation of computers, engineers are doing away with mechanical printing entirely. Ink is sprayed onto the paper. But even with this advanced technology, physical forces will always govern how fast a machine can operate. This is known as the "reaction time" or the "flywheel effect."
Now what has all this got to do with you? Well, we have seen how inertia and reaction time to some extent handicap the effectiveness of the physical components of the work of God.
Spiritual components also react But how about spiritual components? The spiritual components are far more important than the computers, word processors, printing presses, television cameras and other equipment that we need to preach the Gospel.
The spiritual components are the people whom God has called from around the world to support His work. Jesus Christ has picked those people carefully and set them in the work as it pleases God (I Corinthians 12:18).
The Bible in several places describes God's people as being like the parts of a body. Some are ministers. Others are writers, schoolteachers, computer engineers. They don't all have the same job. Most — the vast majority — are not in the direct employ of the work, although they work to support it through their prayers, tithes and offerings.
But each person is important, just as every part of a body is important. There are no vestigial organs in the Body of Jesus Christ. It is vital that each of the spiritual components of the work does its part properly.
As the apostle Paul wrote in his epistle to the Ephesians: "From whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth the body" (Ephesians 4:16).
But what happens if, due to slow reaction times, some of the spiritual components don't function as they should?
What you do matters It is easy to see how slow or malfunctioning physical machinery can affect God's work. (Imaginx how this articlx would appxar if only onxkxy of my typxwritxr refusxd to opxratx!) It affects the work much more if a spiritual component does not work properly.
Let's see how this can happen. Jesus Christ is constantly directing His work, sending instructions, orders and directions. He has chosen to work through human instruments, so that God's begotten sons and daughters learn the "family business."
Instead of doing it all Himself, God shares the work load with those He has called. So He sometimes lets us struggle with the work's problems and challenges. But we also share a genuine feeling of accomplishment in its success, as God works through us.
Also (and this is very important), by working together, letting God use each one of us as He will, we see firsthand the fruits of living the way of cooperation, sharing and giving. Today we learn those lessons — tomorrow we can teach them.
But, of course, there is a potential problem in using human instruments. If the work is to be effective, those human instruments have to react and respond. Do you react quickly, or does the "flywheel effect" and inertia slow you down?
Suppose, for instance, that you are asked to pray for someone who is sick. When do you do it? At the earliest available opportunity, or does it slip your mind until you are in bed? Then, you tell yourself that "sleepy-time prayers" aren't heard, but that you will do it first thing in the morning. But of course you forget. It's the same thing the next day and the next. And then, you forget altogether.
Eventually, you hear that the sick person has recovered and is thanking everyone for their prayers. No thanks to you. You were one part of the Body of Christ who didn't react.
Nearly every reader of this magazine receives, at one time or another, an urgent co-worker letter from Pastor General Herbert W. Armstrong telling of new opportunity or challenge in God's work. It needs your prayers and perhaps, if possible, your help with an offering.
How do you react? "Ho hum — just another co-worker letter." It goes on the shelf, unopened. You plan to get around to reading it, of course, but somehow you never do. Again, you, as part of the Body, aren't working effectively.
Collision course One of the most dramatic examples of "slow reaction" happened back in the 1960s, when the giant oil tanker Torrey Canyon was wrecked off the English coast.
The crew realized their ship was in danger. There were rocks about three miles ahead, and the 120,000-ton tanker was heading straight for them. Desperately, the crew tried to take evasive action, but it was too late. Ignoring the engines straining in reverse and the helmsman's desperate efforts to change course, the ship kept going, ran onto the rocks and began to break up.
Therefore, a large section of the English coastline was inundated with millions of gallons of life-smothering crude oil. It was one of the worst maritime disasters in history. The crew had seen it coming but, once in motion, those giant ships travel several miles before they fully respond to a command to slow down or change direction.
What happens when you learn something new — through a sermon perhaps, or your own personal Bible study? King David (who learned, sometimes the hard way, that God's instructions are to be taken seriously) wrote, "The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.... Moreover by them Your servant is warned" (Psalm 19:9-11).
God warns His people of dangers ahead, just as the captain of the Torrey Canyon tried to keep his ship from impending doom. If you are like that ship — slow to react and change direction — don't blame God if one day you run aground spiritually.
Jesus told us to pray that we would do God's will on earth as it is done in heaven. Jesus set the example. He said He came "not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me" (John 6:38). When His Father wanted something done, Jesus got on with it. He didn't keep going His own way, doing what seemed important to Him first. That is the way each part of the work of God today should be done.
Your life may depend on it In the future, it may become even more important for the spiritual components of God's Church to react quickly.
During the last few frantic months of this age, many prophecies will be fulfilled. Christ has arranged to protect His Church from the worst of the end-time horrors. But He strongly indicates that escape may depend upon the individual reacting quickly and decisively!
"Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place ... then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes" (Matthew 24:15-18).
We don't know now exactly how those instructions will apply to God's people all around the world. But the lesson is obvious. Some people's lives are going to depend upon their ability to respond without delay to instructions from God.
It's important to get into the habit now, "for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect Him" (Matthew 24:44).