Ernest Robinson - Our Responses

I thought of that verse where Jesus said to those disciples, "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of."  We had better get to know! We had better find out what manner of spirit we are of. I remember when I was in New Zealand, the older brother there said something that has remained with me. He said "After all, at the end of our days there's only one thing that's going to matter, and that is whether or not we have the nature of the Lamb." That's the only thing that will matter.  There's something, I don't know if you've thought about it ever - I've thought about it - there's something in this world that's very, very unfair, that is that not one of us had any say or could do anything about deciding, when we come into this world, what we're going to look like! There are some people in this world that are VERY good looking and there are some people that are very much the opposite. It seems so unfair because you know as well as I do that if you're good looking you get good treatment everywhere, especially when you're a bit younger. If you're the opposite, well, people are inclined to tramp on you. That's just the way it is, and we have seen that many, many times.

I was riding on a bus in Korea at one time and those old country buses were supposed to stop anywhere along the road where there was somebody that needs a ride, it picks up farmers and anybody along the road. Well, this one day the bus was not very full and there was this dear old lady with this thing on her head, wanting to go to market and this bus driver was in such a hurry for some reason that day. I don't know if he was hungry and wanted to get home for lunch or what. He passed one person after another and this poor old lady too and she would have had to wait hours for the next bus. He just went rattling past her pretending not to see her and that was awful. Then, believe it or not, further on there was a very nice looking young lady standing there waiting, and you should have seen how he put on the brakes and so very politely asked her to get on the bus. This is how it is. We humans are so shallow. We're so small, so shallow and so mean. Well, it is true but actually it doesn't matter because we are all getting older and we are all going to get the same way but the thing I'm trying to get at is this. It is true that we have no say what we are going to look like in this life but do you realise that you and I have all the say as to what we're going to look like on the other side? Do you know who is going to be the most beautiful person on the other side? I couldn't tell you the name but I could tell you who it will be. You will surely agree with me. The purpose of life is that we become conformed to the image of Jesus, (we read that in the Bible). It's very easy to understand that the most beautiful person in eternity is going to be the one that's the closest conformed to the image of Jesus. That makes sense, doesn't it? We read in the Song of Solomon that HE is the perfection of beauty. In the Afrikaans it says "Hy is die lieflikheid self!"  Well, now who is that going to be? It is going to be the person that has submitted most completely to the will of God in their lives, to everything that God has allowed, so that HE can work in that one's spirit to make them more like His Son. It is the one that has just accepted everything and submitted and allowed God to work without resistance. There are not going to be many like that but the one that has done that the most is going to be the one that is going to be the closest conformed to the image of Christ and our eternal joy is going to depend very much on how much we have been conformed to the image of Christ. It's not going to be for all the wonderful things we have done in this world but it is going to depend a lot more on what God has been able to work into us. So now, that is why this is such a serious question. Do we really know what spirit we are of? Well, God is helping us to know. He wants to help us to know how far we have got with this process, also how far we're behind!


When my father was working on the railways, he was the man that I suppose you have often seen when the train comes into the station, he taps the wheels. I used to love to be with him when I was small and we had school holidays. Well, of course I wanted to know why he did that. He would explain to me. "Oh," he said, "It is very important that these wheels are sound." I suppose you'd remember as it was just a few years ago that that fast train in Germany, one of the fastest trains in the world, came off the rails and it was a terrific calamity. Coming off the rails at those speeds, it was about 150 miles an hour - imagine a train coming off the rails at that speed! Do you know why it was? They found out afterwards that it was because of one wheel that was not sound. That's why that is so important. You can't afford to have one wheel that's not sound. He explained to me, "When you tap those wheels and if the wheel is alright you get that sound, a 'ping,' the sound of a bell but if there's the slightest flaw in that wheel you just get a dead thud when you tap it. You can tell right away." You see? That's what God is doing. He's giving us a tap, and sometimes a knock and sometimes a bang. He knows what we are but just so that we ourselves can tell what our spirit is by the response, it's the response that He's looking at! We can tell what spirit we are of when we see how we respond to circumstances or experiences. Sometimes we get pretty hard knocks. Maybe it would be easier to understand if we just mention a little bit about Job. I don't think any of us ever have been or ever will be given a hard knock like Job was given. It was more than a bang, it was terrible - losing everything and finally his health as well. Do you know, the response after having been given a bang like that, with a big sledgehammer, his response was, "The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." He also said that as God has given us the good, shall we not receive the evil as well. What a marvelous spirit that man had. That response was as clear as a bell, showing that that man had a marvelous spirit.


Do you know what happens when you tramp on a shongololo? Have you ever tramped on one? I suppose you know what a shongololo is? That little black worm that curls up when you touch it. It comes out after the rain. If you tramp on one it is an awful stink! Terrible stink! Do you know that some people are like that? It happens to us too sometimes when we get a bad knock and get an awful stink coming as a result.


We have heard about Cain. God rebuked him and not unkindly at all, quite kindly in fact. He was so angry because his sacrifice was not accepted and God very kindly said to him, "Why are you angry? If you do well won't it be accepted?" One thing that Cain forgot is that one thing that God looks at before He looks at the sacrifice, He looks at the person who is offering it first. God first looks at you before He looks at your sacrifice. Cain himself was not acceptable. He was not acceptable and so God didn't want anything to do with his sacrifice. He just didn't realize that and so God said to him, "If you do well, will it not be accepted?" But the response that came from Cain was murder and hatred because God had accepted his brother. So he was going to kill his brother. What a terrible stink, horrible stink that came from him. Poor Cain, what a miserable end he came to. God was giving him a knock, actually a very kind rebuke but the spirit he showed was so clear and his end was in accordance with that too.


Then on the other hand you think of David. He was a king after all, and he wanted to build the Temple and he got a little rebuke also. God said, "None of it you shed too much innocent blood in your lifetime, you're not going to build that Temple, I'll let your son build it." Well, David didn't have a nasty spirit over that. He had a wonderful response, "Well, If I can't build it I'm going to do my very best to help my son to build it." Wasn't that nice. Have you ever heard what has been said? That there is no limit of possibilities and opportunities for service in this Kingdom….as long as we don't care who gets the credit! Very true. David didn't care that his son was going to get all the credit he still did his very best to prepare and to help him to build that Temple. That was such an opposite response. So this is what it is adding up to. We don't know what spirit we are of and sometimes we think we are not too bad at all, till we get a knock and we see what response there is and we find out pretty quick. God wants US to know so that we can realize how far we still have got to go.


In Korea one time, we came in touch with a young lady who had been an Evangelist in the Presbyterian church, the biggest church there. She'd been an Evangelist and they really looked after her. They gave her a beautiful flat with a piano and furnished and a good salary and everything. Anyway she was a little unusual. The main elder of that church was a doctor and that doctor had been coming to our meetings but he was not willing for the humility of it. Somehow he liked the meetings so he kept coming and one day she went to him. Not to the preacher but to this elder and she said, "You know, I feel so uneasy, I am supposed to be an Evangelist and I'm living in clover. According to the Bible and if we are God's servant, we should be knowing of some kind of suffering." So he said, "I think I know what you're looking for and I'll tell you where to go, if you'll promise that you'll never tell them that I sent you." I happened to be there at the time and so he gave her our telephone number and she phoned. She told me afterwards that the doctor had sent her. So we had a visit and she started coming to meetings and some time later she moved to Seoul, the main city. I'm not going to tell you the name but there was a certain worker there, an older brother worker. So we got her in touch with him but she was quite a hard case, I might tell you. She wasn't taking things sitting down and she wasn't going to, as you say in Afrikaans, "Sy gaan nie alles vir soetkoek opeet nie!" (She wasn't going to eat everything as if it were sweet cakes) She wanted to be sure of everything and so she arranged to have a visit with this brother worker. Do you know what he said to me afterwards? He said, "Wherever did you find that wild cat?" But do you know what she told me afterwards? That was interesting to me. She said to me, "On purpose I gave him a few good pokes. I wanted to see what response I'd get." Unfortunately she didn't get a very good response because he was mad with her. Well, there we are, we need to be careful because sometimes people are poking us a bit and all they're wanting is to see what kind of a response they're going to get. It's too bad if they don't see the spirit of Christ! Do you know what happens to an octopus or a squid when he is in the water and you give him a poke? He gives off the most horrible black ink-like substance and it blackens and dirties all the water in the area. It dirties the water for everything else that's swimming there. Do you know that some people are like that? They've been wronged and, of course, it may well be true that they have been wronged. Somebody's done something or said something very unkind and very unfair, very unjust. Well, that may be true, they've been wronged and they've been hurt and they've been given a pretty bad knock. Then do you know what they do? They go around telling everybody what they did to them and dirtying the water for everybody else. It has happened to me, that somebody has come and told me something about one of the other friends, or even another worker. You know, you can't help but think that there's some truth in it, but then when I have met that person, the first thing that comes into my mind the next time I see them, is what's been told about them. I feel that I wished that they'd never said anything because they've spoiled my feeling towards that person. If they had only kept it to themselves but here now they have dirtied the water for me and for everybody else, spreading around how bad they are and what they did. Well, leave that to God. He knows how to take care of it. Just leave it to Him but don't dirty the water for everybody else as well. Our response is going to show to us what kind of a spirit we've got. Some of these fancy little sayings quickly get around the world. It's no good thinking you can go to America or Australia and you can mention them because people will tell you, "I have heard that eleventeen times already."  Anyway I suppose you have all heard this, it's nice to me and it speaks about forgiveness. "Forgiveness is the fragrance that the rose sends back to the foot that crushed it." Is that not nice? Is that not VERY nice? We can see that in the life of Joseph. When he forgave his brethren they couldn't believe that he could forgive them because they knew what they'd done to him. The years of terrible suffering and loneliness that they'd caused him and they just knew what human nature was and they couldn't believe that he'd forgive them. Even when he'd said, "Don't worry about it," they were sure it was for the dad's sake and so when Jacob died, do you remember the brothers talking to each other? "Oh dear now dad's gone and now he's going to get us." So they came back and pleaded again…"Please." "Well," he said "What's the matter with you?  I've forgiven you." You see his forgiveness was so complete and they couldn't believe it was possible that he could forgive them. Well, he was like that rose, he'd been trampled. What a wonderful response!


Then of course we hardly need to mention but we will anyway, the Lord Jesus, praying on the cross. Did you ever realize? You know it's not very easy to forgive people while they're torturing you. Afterwards, I don't know if it's possible, but to forgive them while they're still torturing you and you're still in agony from it. To forgive them then, and not only that but Jesus forgave them while they were still torturing Him on the cross, and not only that He forgave them before they'd shown one ounce of repentance! Well, it's a bit much for us to grasp, isn't it? Yet we can aim at it if we want to have that fragrance of the spirit of Christ.


There was somebody, while thinking of response and the fragrance of the rose. Some of us here might have known him. Old Oom Pieter de Klerk from Umtata and his wife, Aunt Phoebe. For the generation who don't know the old people, his daughter, Dorothy, married Pieter van Heerden's brother, Jurgens, and they are there in America. Anyway Oom Pieter and Aunt Phoebe were a lovely old couple, a good elder. When I was in Korea some time ago I got a letter from Oom Pieter. It was just after his brother Johannes had died. He wrote to me, when he was sitting next to him at his deathbed, what the two of them were talking about. It was very interesting to me. He wrote something that I hadn't even known and he said that when they were young, their father had a big farm and their mother died and the father married again. Then they had a younger brother, a baby brother whose name was Louis and he grew up to be one big rascal, that Louis. Anyway, there were three boys and apparently the father made his will to divide the farm and his possessions amongst them. However, when the father got old and his mind was not so clear any more, this Louis came along and he made a new will for his father and he got him to sign it, not even knowing what he was signing under false pretences. Well, he signed it and these other boys knew nothing about it and when the father died…what a shock! Everything went to Louis and they had to walk off that farm, Pieter and Johannes, they had to walk off that farm with just their suitcases and their clothes and that was all they had. Anyway he wrote in his letter that while he was there with his brother, while his brother was dying, they reminded each other of that and they said, "Remember what we said when we walked off the farm with our two suitcases? 'Ag let's not feel so bad, let's not have hard feelings against old Louis. After all he has only taken away from us the riches that are going to hinder us in serving God.'" Then he said "Isn't that so?" Well, both of them lived alright and he said that it is probably true, that all he had taken away from us was the things that would have hindered us in serving God. Now there's a response! How many of us would have done that? We'd be going to court right away to try and get this thing taken care of. What a response!


The Lord Jesus told us something about response. If you read Matthew 5:44, it is rather searching. Jesus said "I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you that you may be the children of your Father." Well, that's the way to respond but it's going to take something to do it! It speaks about your enemies and I just thought to myself, when I read that, "What would help me is to ask myself, 'Why he has become my enemy?'" Maybe I have not been so gracious in my attitude towards him or in my dealings with him. Maybe there's some reason from MY side too! It's not a bad idea to question ourselves like that. There again it is RESPONSE. Love your enemies, do good to those who despitefully use you.


You've probably all heard about Oom Koert Viviers, he was in the work in the very early days but then he went farming. There was a man with a wonderful spirit too. One day he was going to town and there was his neighbour with his lorry also on the road and it was stuck because he had a flat wheel. So Oom Koert immediately got out of his car and he went to help him but as he walked towards the lorry….Oh NO! His lorry was filled with Oom Koert's sheep. He'd stolen his sheep and here on the way he'd got a flat wheel. Do you know, he pretended that he didn't even see it and he kindly went up and he said, "Man, to change this big wheel on your own is not very easy. Come and let me help you." The man was terribly awkward, of course but Oom Koert just chatted away and very kindly helped him to change the wheel and then as he walked back to his car he said, "Man, if you don't mind, wouldn't you just go and put my sheep back in my field?" and he got into his car and he drove off. That was a response like I don't think I could show, but it was the best thing to do. I could assure you that man turned around and he put those sheep back in that field. He was so ashamed. You see the way we respond and show the spirit of Christ, doesn't matter if we lose, but you'll NEVER lose.


I might just tell you something that impressed me greatly. In Korea, one time Howard Mooney was there and at that time we had 15 American professing boys in the army in Korea. They were at this convention and Howard was speaking to encourage them but what he said was beautiful to me. Sometimes we can be in circumstances where we feel that we can do not a single thing for the sake of the Kingdom. The way we feel is that we're almost handcuffed, we cannot do a thing for the Kingdom. He said, "But let me tell you that not one of us is ever wasting one moment of our time, as long as we're showing the spirit of Christ." You can do that no matter where you are and no matter what circumstances, he said that was the main thing and that none of us is ever wasting a moment of our time as long as we're showing the spirit of Christ. I really liked that.

Well, those that hate you, Jesus spoke about that and there is something that I have tried to do about that and to remember when I find that there is someone who doesn't like me. You get those people sometimes and it has helped me to think like this…"Well, Ernest, there are times when you have absolutely hated yourself." Have you ever felt like that when you have just hated yourself? Well, I have thought that if I have hated myself can I really blame them for not liking me? Well, it helps a little bit.

We have an Afrikaans Hymn and I like that hymn very much. It's a pity it's not in our English books. It's easy to find because all the Afrikaans hymns are in alphabetical order. It starts off… 

"In droefheid en in nood O Heer 
Gee U my steeds weer moed"

And do you know what one of the verses says? 

"Die uur van pyn bring menigmaal 
Wat voorspoed wou vermy 
Soos kruie heel bly sonder reuk 
Hul geur verbryseld sprei." 

Maybe some here have a bit of a problem with Afrikaans, I don't know, but there is an English translation, even though it is not in our books.

The hour of pain and suffering oft produces. What we would miss if all were calm and fair. As spices left unbroken have no savour but crushed and bruised their fragrance fills the air. 
Could I but see that in the darkest hour, there is a precious opportunity for that's the hour, by graciously enduring, my spirit can bring glory unto Thee. 

I'm going to close with one of the most frightening verses. I don't know if I should say frightening but amazing, condemning, maybe condemning verses that you could find in the Bible. It's in the Song of Solomon, if you'd like to look at it later. If you look at it carefully, it's at the end of the 4th chapter, the last verse. Do you know what it says? "Awake Oh North wind and come thou South wind, blow upon my garden that the spices thereof may flow out." Now just you imagine how mature we'd have to be spiritually and how much of the Spirit of Christ would be worked into us before we could DARE to say a thing like that! Would you be able to say that? Come on difficult experiences! The winds of experience, come on experiences and circumstances, let it come. Come along so that I can show to others the Spirit of Christ. Just inviting experiences to come along and give me a knock so that I can show by my response, the Spirit of Christ. Well, all I can say is that when I read words like that I know that I have got a long, long way to go. That's what Jesus said, "You don't know what spirit you are of," and we had better find out. Our eternal reward is going to depend a lot on that. We had  
better start finding out! God is helping us. When things happen, just watch what our response is because that is going to give us a good idea how we stand.