In this article you will read some classic quotes from Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong about how God did a great Work through him. Study how God built a mighty Church and a powerful college to influence the whole world.
Study this article and let it be a turning point in your life! You need to study and meditate on this article!
When I was fired from the Worldwide Church of God (wcg), they didn’t give me a penny. They took my car, my insurance; I had no Social Security, nothing. I had two children in college. Obviously we didn’t have a lot of money.
That wasn’t necessarily a great trial, but it does show us something about how God does His Work. Usually, it’s important to Him that you don’t start off with much money. The first lesson He wants us to learn is, if you’re going to do His Work, you’re going to rely on Him to do it.
Why do we have trials of faith? Why does God try us so hard? To make us solely trust in Him. That is a difficult lesson to learn.
Faith is more precious than gold. You can’t do God’s Work with gold, and you can’t do it with weak faith. You can only do God’s Work with strong faith in God.
Mr. Armstrong had to learn this lesson early on. Right at the beginning of his ministry, he had to turn down a salary so he could preach God’s truth.
He wrote, “‘As for me and my house,’ I then said firmly, ‘we shall serve the Eternal our God, and Him only shall we serve. If men pay us salary, even as small as $3 per week, we have now learned we must preach only what men order us to preach. If we are to work for God, we must look to God as our employer and trust Him to supply our every material need.’ And then I added, ‘If we fail to serve Him as He commands, He will stop our income.’ …
“I did not fully realize then that this was a crucial turning point in the history of the Church of God,” Mr. Armstrong concluded.
Why was that decision such a turning point? Because God had taught Mr. Armstrong that, to do His Work, you can’t look to men, even for a little $3 salary! You have to look to God to do the Work of God.
What a turning point that was! Mr. Armstrong went from $3 a week, to nothing, to eventually overseeing a Work with an annual income of over $200 million!
Really it was a turning point for all of us, because God wants us all to learn this lesson.
At that point, Mr. Armstrong had been disturbed that the Sardis-era church had such a “lack of power and accomplishment.” The same could be said of the Laodiceans today; compared to us they accomplish almost nothing.
Mr. Armstrong wrote, “But from that all-day wrangle I was independent of them and their ministers financially. From that time I was dependent solely on God. We did not ask or solicit financial contributions from any except those who voluntarily became financial co-workers with us, and that has been the policy ever since.”
From that point, the Work began a phenomenal increase of nearly 30 percent for the next 35 years! Any company in this world would love to have those kinds of growth figures. And it all started with that fundamental lesson Mr. Armstrong was taught at the very beginning. He learned to rely solely on God. And he learned that very, very well.
Employees of God
When I was being deposed in our court case over Mystery of the Ages, the wcg lawyers asked whether I was an employee of the Philadelphia Church of God (pcg).
I said no. If anyone disagrees, just ask the person who hired me. Ask the person who hired Mr. Armstrong whether he was an employee of the wcg. The truth is, God hired him, and He hired me. I’m an employee of God. The lawyers and ceos of this world can’t understand that, because it’s never happened to them! It’s only happened to two people in this end time, in this particular way.
But in a sense, we all should work for God. We have to deeply learn the lesson that we are not employees of men; we work for God. God provides jobs for His obedient people. The only way to make this Church succeed, or this world or this universe succeed, is to rely solely on God the way Mr. Armstrong did.
Endure to the End
Mr. Armstrong went through 28 years of poverty learning that lesson. I doubt if any other man would have endured the way he did! His whole family had to go through very difficult times because of it. He felt that it adversely affected his children. Wouldn’t it affect you? You see, it isn’t always so comfortable solely relying on God.
Before Mr. Armstrong had a car, he had to hitchhike from congregation to congregation. What dedication! What faith! He was a talented man, and could have made a lot of money doing something else—he had proven that. But even when it got really bad, he remained dedicated to God.
You couldn’t take a man out in the world with human vanity and offer him the leadership of a $200-million-a-year business without first trying and testing that man. He would never last! Men would worship the gold, the money, the stature. No, first that man must be tested.
Mr. Armstrong finally learned, after 28 years, that all the wealth in the world is the equivalent of a garbage dump compared to what God wants to give us! That’s why he and his wife were willing to live that way. I would not have survived such trials. But Mr. Armstrong knew where it was all leading.
Brethren, if we don’t endure to the end, we’ll never see the tremendous blessings waiting for us! We are planning for the future! The trial of our faith is more precious than gold, many times over. Because that faith will lead us into ruling the universe—into having everything!
Mr. Armstrong said, “Conversion had deflated ego and replaced self-assurance with the confidence that is faith in God! And this crisis was the turning point when my wife and I actually, in practice, began relying solely on God—no longer on either self or men. Until those two milestones had been hurdled, God could not open the big doors.”
Those are two large hurdles. But if we overcome them, the big doors begin to open. How many more huge doors would God swing open for this Church if we were each, individually, more faithful? There is no telling. Look at what He did for Mr. Armstrong! That shining example is spelled out in Revelation 3:8: “I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it.”
Mr. Armstrong said the Work “continued to rely on God, not on man …. I had become quite experienced in relying on God, instead of on self or on humans.” That’s the experience we’re going through right now. It’s not always smooth sailing. But you can’t build faith any other way.
He continued, “Yet, notwithstanding, as long as I was employed by men who were over me, and who had proved to be susceptible of being influenced and swayed by false ministers into acting contrary to God’s Word, I was not yet free to rely on God alone, and to be completely faithful to His Word!” Mr. Armstrong learned true freedom. “The living Christ simply could not start opening the doors for His Work until I was free to rely solely on Him.”
Realize what could happen if you haven’t learned this lesson. What if, when God opens a door, the man leading His Church says, Whoa, wait a minute. That will get me in trouble! If God’s people don’t have faith in Him, His Work will run into all kinds of obstacles.
Let’s not forget that God does His Work through men today.
“I was now free!” Mr. Armstrong wrote. “This final crucial test had proved that I would be faithful to God and His Word, even at cost of giving up everything!” It would take tremendous faith to endure if God stripped you of everything, but that possibility is there in the “contract” we agreed to at baptism. God is trying to get us to look beyond this world.
Financing the Work
Notice this important statement: “Never was a more important decision made than that decision to cut loose entirely from relying on men, and instead, relying solely on God—not only for truth, and for direction, but also for support! That’s why we never solicit the public for contributions.”
Understand this: It takes money to do the Work, especially when the big doors open. But we have to rely on God for our financial support. We don’t plead with people or ask for their money. Why? Because God says, I want you to wait until they volunteer, then you can ask them for money, because then they’re relying on me. The principle of looking to God works for the co-workers as well.
“Very quickly after that decision the Living Christ began opening doors!” Mr. Armstrong wrote. “Very small ones at first. Then additional small ones—then a big door—then more and more of them! And, to finance what He opened before me, He added, slowly, gradually, but consistently to the little family of co-workers who voluntarily wanted to have a part in God’s Work.”
We never ask them for money until they voluntarily say they want to be a part of this Work. “I could not invite people to become co-workers. I could welcome them with gratitude when God caused them voluntarily to become co-workers with Christ—but until they took the initiative I could not ask them.” God can’t do anything with anyone unless we show initiative and begin trusting in Him.
This is a beautiful principle: First Mr. Armstrong had to rely on God, then he had to rely on God for supporters, then God had to call the supporters to voluntarily give. Everyone ends up relying on God!
The world will not get better until everyone learns to rely on God and not on themselves!
The fact that we live by this principle makes this Church unique. “No other activity on Earth is operated like this,” Mr. Armstrong said, “and perhaps none has grown so surely.” Even the fruits of the pcg prove this point. The open doors are there to prove it.
A Hard Lesson
After Mr. Armstrong started the work in Eugene, God opened a door for him to go onto a bigger radio station. It cost quite a bit more than he could afford, so before he took the station Mr. Armstrong sent a letter to the co-workers asking for pledges, to see if they could guarantee being able to finance it. He only got half the pledges he wanted, so he didn’t go on.
What happened? It was two years before that door opened again! And in addition, production of the Plain Truth had to be suspended for 2½ years! This was no small problem, and Mr. Armstrong realized it all revolved around him. “I failed to walk through that open door. God opened the door and I wanted co-workers to rely on. I wanted pledges from people! The assurance of Christ wasn’t good enough!” That is a formula for failure. Mr. Armstrong waited for the money and it never came. What a valuable lesson: If you wait for money before you go through an open door, you’ll never go through it—because you’re not relying on God.
Mr. Armstrong’s faith failed him. We all have our faith fail us from time to time while we’re learning to rely on God. “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). “But without faith it is impossible to please him” (Hebrews 11:6).
If God opens a door, we must go through it!
Realize, and take heart in this fact: God’s Work will never stop until it is finished. No man can shut that door! Of course there will be trials and tests with some of these open doors, but we can depend on God that the Work will go on. It will proceed right into the Millennium!
“Now came the real troubles!” Mr. Armstrong wrote. As if everything before this had just been a warm-up! “We reached the crossroads. This was to be the real test. Ahead now was the possible transition from a small, struggling, virtually one-man work to a major-scale organization exerting a powerful influence on humanity the world around! Ambassador College was to provide the only possible means.” The only way the Work would grow would be to start the college.
He continued, “It was to be the recruiting and training center, integrating into effective organization those whom God would call to surround me—to become this Christ-led and Spirit-powered organism. But lying in wait, poised to spring at us in satanic fury, was a succession of such seemingly insurmountable obstacles, diabolical plots, persecutions and oppositions as I never dreamed of facing.” And he’d been through some pretty rough times.
Brethren, I believe God is going to give this Work considerably more growth in the future. And, as Mr. Armstrong realized, without a college such growth will not be possible. I believe we must move in the direction of having something like an Ambassador College. We may never do anything on the scale of what Mr. Armstrong did, but we have to keep following in his footsteps.
Remember, Ambassador College started as a tiny operation. He began with four students. People may scoff at that, but it was the only college on Earth that mattered.
The Ambassador College concept didn’t come from Mr. Armstrong. Christ established it. Mr. Armstrong just tried to get himself out of the way so Christ could implement His vision! So it is in this little Church. So it should be in every one of your individual lives.
Who plans your life? Christ is trying to get His plans in and your plans out! Then that is a turning point in your life. If you let Christ plan your life, He will give you one that will dazzle you—now and forever! Young people in particular should be very mindful of that fact.
When Christ began giving His vision to Mr. Armstrong, it was a mind-expanding experience. Mr. Armstrong had been thinking of reaching the Northwest U.S. Then that idea expanded to maybe reaching the whole U.S. But Christ wanted him to think globally! This wasn’t a human vision! It took a long time for Mr. Armstrong to realize what God was doing.
We’re doing the same Work today that Christ did while He was on Earth. He’s the ever-living Head of the body. People within the Church, the body, live and die, but the Head doesn’t die.
The Need for Education
While he was still in Eugene, Mr. Armstrong could see that his work was severely limited. He would go into an area and baptize people and start groups, but without a local minister Satan would soon devour those little congregations. That must have been pretty discouraging to him. But that’s why he began thinking about this bigger work.
“Still, this voice of experience did not sink into my consciousness sufficiently to produce the solution until 10 years later,” he wrote. “It was in 1946 that the Eternal God finally got through to me the fact that He intended to use me in founding His own college, out of which was to come forth the ministers and pastors so direly needed for the growth of God’s Work!”
A lot of these lessons are more for us than anybody else. We need more education, more people who can serve in the ministry, more refined ministers. Our young people especially need more education, more concentrated study. I’m beginning to wonder if the success of our work doesn’t depend on it. Perhaps, in some ways, our work is like Mr. Armstrong’s in Eugene. We need a bigger base of operation. In some ways it seems we’ve reached a plateau, and perhaps God for some time has been trying to drum a lesson into my head about how he wants me to direct His Work.
An Ambassador-type education would have a tremendous impact on many, many lives. Mr. Armstrong felt Ambassador intensified its students’ spiritual growth three or four times what it would have been normally. Who knows what God could do through such a college today? I believe we need to move toward an Ambassador College, or that type of instruction, as much as we possibly can! And I know that if we trust God more and rely solely on Him, He will give us what we need.
Why was Christ a man of sorrows? It wasn’t because He was persecuted, or suffered personally. It was because He would teach people the truth, and then they would turn away from God! It hurt Him deeply to see them turn to perdition and destruction after they’d seen God’s truth.
That’s why it is so important that we educate our people all we can! Let’s give them all we can to try to prevent Satan from getting to them! We don’t want to be people of sorrows any more than we have to be. How much destruction, how many problems, could we prevent if our people were more educated God’s way?
But, as Mr. Armstrong said, anytime you try to intensify your efforts in God’s Work, you meet satanic fury like you’ve never dreamed of. Satan knows he has a black future, and he passionately hates anything like an Ambassador College; he’s in a fit of rage every day. We need to work even harder to combat him by educating ourselves and the world about it.
As Mr. Armstrong said, “Though Satan’s power is far greater than that of us humans, God’s power is infinitely greater than Satan’s.” That’s a fact that should really increase our faith.
At one point in building the college, a $12,000 bill came due. Mr. Armstrong had planned for only $4,000, and he said the pressure was almost unbearable. “Everyone—except my wife and I—knew the college had ‘folded up’—before it even opened its doors to students. And, of course, the living Head of His Church, Jesus Christ, knew it hadn’t! …
“It became almost impossible to sleep nights. I never lost faith—really. I never doubted the outcome. Yet I had not yet learned the total, implicit, trusting faith that can relax and leave it quietly in God’s hands.”
When you think about this, you realize the one reason Christ was able to build that college: Mr. Armstrong’s faith.
“I was under terrific strain,” he said. “It was literally multiple nightmares condensed into a super one! On one occasion, I almost snapped. I weakened to the extent that I actually prayed, one night, that God would let me die through the night, and relieve me from the almost unbearable agony. But the next morning, I was deeply repentant for that, and prayed earnestly for God’s forgiveness. Twice I did give up on going to bed at night. But the next morning was another day, and I bounded back, repentant for having given up—if only momentarily.
“By then I had come to the place that I had to pray in final desperation for six months grace from this constant harassment. I humbly asked God to consider that I was human, with human weaknesses, and please to give me six months rest from the terrible ordeal. He did. And during that respite I finally learned how to relax in faith, and shift the weighty burden of it over onto Christ!” Mr. Armstrong realized he was taking the whole thing on his own shoulders rather than giving it to God. That is not an easy lesson to learn.
We must all have proper perspective on our trials. Remember, God tries you because He loves you. He wants you to relax and let Him take care of it. It’s so easy to take things upon ourselves; but we must learn to relax in faith, or we’ll be a spiritual Don Knotts!
“And, at least up to the time of this writing, God has enabled me not only to trust Him for the final outcome but to let faith remove the strain of anxiety,” Mr. Armstrong wrote. “When troubles or emergencies arise, we should be tremendously concerned! We should not take these things lightly or nonchalantly. We should be ‘on our toes’ to do whatever is our part, but trusting God in relaxed faith to guide us and to do His part which we cannot do for ourselves. We should be freed from destructive strain and worry.” Mr. Armstrong wrote those words for you and for me. Are you free from destructive strain and worry?
“This lesson of faith does not come easily. Sometimes it is achieved only through punishing experience. We need to learn that God does not do all things for us. He does many things in and through us. We have our part to do. But there are some things we cannot do, and which we must rely on Him to do, wholly, for us. It takes wisdom to know which is which.”
How relaxed is your faith? Really, what do we have to worry about? Even if you die and you’re in the faith, you have everything to look forward to! Of course, this is easy to say, but it is very difficult to walk in faith.
What happens if we don’t have faith? Look at this example: Christ offended many people in His hometown. “But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house. And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:57-58). Do you realize that we must have strong faith for Christ to be able to do mighty works with this Church?
A Faithful Commission
When Mr. Armstrong was building the wcg, he knew that the major commission was not to build a church and bring in members, but to preach the gospel. “I saw our commission, in Christ’s prophecy of Matthew 24:14,” he wrote. “The gospel was to go out, not to cram it down people’s throats—not to try to force conversion on them, but as a witness—perhaps even a witness against them!” The fact that people were converted was, in a sense, almost like a side effect of the gospel going out.
When Mr. Armstrong died, one of the first changes the wcg leaders made was the commission. They focused on Matthew 28:19-20: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them ….”
The problem with that commission is that it is faithless. It is about building a church as the Work of God. It is selfish and won’t work! Christ doesn’t want that—He wants His message out there. Take the message to the world as a witness, and Christ will take care of bringing volunteers to help with the job! We must trust Christ for that! Look how well that approach worked for Mr. Armstrong. Doing things Christ’s way will always work.
The commission of the Philadelphia Church of God is summed up in one verse: “And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings” (Revelation 10:11). It doesn’t say anything about millions of converts. It just says to go as a witness, warning through prophecy! If we do that, of course God will supply the help we need.
You can say the same thing about Ezekiel 33. “So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand” (verses 7-8). We’re there to warn. Nothing about converts here—just warn, or you’ll die a bloody death. That is speaking specifically to this Church!
It takes faith to warn and not get any response. Someone could ask about us, What’s wrong with them? They just keep warning and warning and don’t seem to be having much effect! But that doesn’t matter, as long as we have enough help to give the warning. Go to the end of that chapter, and you see that eventually they know what our work was all about. We must have faith in that.
In the end, we help bring the whole world to God. We must keep our minds on the end result of this Work.
In the meantime, I doubt we would ever grow at the 30 percent annual rate Mr. Armstrong did, simply because our message emphasizes a warning prophecy, not the gospel. “And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not” (verse 32).
We may think a particular tv station is failing because it’s not bringing in members. But as long as we have a good audience and people are requesting literature, we may be doing a terrific job—the warning is getting out there! One day, when everything falls apart, they’ll understand this work—and then we’ll really be able to start helping those people.
Some may ask, If we’re not going after converts, why even bother? Because this is just a stage. Christ calls us a “witness” because when they complain to Him in the World Tomorrow, He will come back and tell them to shut their mouths and listen for a change! Before long, this message won’t be just for a witness—it will be for ever—eternal education.
The whole world is our commission, because one day we will have to teach all of them. The fruits of our labor will be most evident in the Great Tribulation. That’s when they’ll realize there was a prophet in their midst. After they see that what we’ve been saying is coming true, then they’ll begin to build some faith. That’s what it will take for God to get through to most of these people.
We must have visionary faith to recognize where this Work is leading, and to see that what we’re doing is just a stage. Christ is building the faith within us to see that; if we don’t have faith, we cannot be Christ’s helpmeet. We must see things spiritually, from God’s perspective. Realize that we are leading to the point where every human being on Earth will have the faith we’re building today. Look beyond this present world!
A Spiritual Army
Elisha incurred the wrath of the king of Syria, and the king sent a whole army to kill him. That great army surrounded the city where Elisha was staying, and when the prophet’s servant saw it, he quaked with fear. “Therefore sent [the Syrian king] thither horses, and chariots, and a great host: and they came by night, and compassed the city about. And when the servant of the man of God [Elisha] was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?” (2 Kings 6:14-15). This was a very fearsome situation.
How did Elisha respond? How should we, the Elisha work today, respond when we are surrounded by seemingly insurmountable problems? “And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them” (verse 16).
Elisha had tremendous faith. He saw things spiritually. He asked God to open the servant’s eyes, and suddenly the servant could see the mountains around the Syrian army full of spiritual horses and chariots of fire, ready to attack the Syrians. A much more impressive army than Syria had!
Do you see this angelic army? It’s still around—it did not die! That same army has probably surrounded headquarters numerous times! No other army can compare to it.
We have all the power we need to do a great work. We just need to trust God. Allow Christ to inculcate His vision into our minds. Let’s get ourselves out of the way and let His faith live in us, and then our plans will be Christ’s plans! If we do, our works will be considerably mightier than ever before! Having the very faith of God is the only way we can ever finish the Work of God!