Ernest Robinson - South Africa - 2010

Revelations 2: 4 The message to the church at Ephesus. “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou hast fallen and repent and do the first works, or else I will come unto thee quickly and will remove thy candlestick out of its place, except thou repent.” And verse 7, “to him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” They left their first love. In other words, God had lost the first place in their hearts...and it is obvious, that as a result of that, they had lost their way to the Tree of Life. It could be that there is somebody in this meeting that has been feeling miserable for quite a while, and wondering what is wrong because you just don’t feel God near anymore, like you used to, in the olden days when you first made your choice, or even recently. You just don’t seem to feel Him near. And when you read your Bible, you are not getting much out of it. You don’t really enjoy it so much. And also, in the meetings, it doesn’t seem to be like it used to be. Well, could we dare to tell you, the reason is, it always is - God has lost the first place in your heart. and you have lost the way to the Tree of Life. Now that is quite serious. And here is the remedy – do the first works. We all know what those first works were. It was a terrible struggle when we first made our choice to give God the first place in our hearts. It was not easy. We have to cast out the thing that is in the first place there. And that is no small struggle. And if God has lost the first place in our hearts, we are going to have to do it all over again – that is the first works. We are going to have to do it all over again, and sometimes, or maybe, always - it’s even more difficult the second time, or the next time. But we HAVE to do it, otherwise we are in trouble!

I don’t know if anybody would remember - I wouldn’t expect you to, but fourteen years ago I was at this convention and I spoke about the word “Immanuel” = “God with us.” And the value of living so that God can be with us. And I just mentioned that there was a time that I thought that I had many problems, and maybe you think so too? You have many problems. But actually, all of us have ONLY ONE PROBLEM. And that is to live so that God can be with us, because, if we solve that problem, the other problems are going to be taken care of. There is absolutely no doubt, but sometimes we start backwards and we are so worried about these problems that we have – so many problems, and we neglect the ONE THING that is going to SOLVE THEM = Having God with us.

So, how do we go about making sure that God is with us? Well, this is the answer that I have given right now. You GIVE HIM THE FIRST PLACE IN YOUR HEART, and He will be with you.

In 1966 at Namibia Convention, on the convention grounds, Uncle Fred Alder came to me and told me that I would be going to Korea. Well, one day during those preparations, I was in the workshop on the grounds there, and I was alone in the workshop, and Daphne Martin walked past. And she saw me alone in there, and she walked in. And she said, “So Ernest, you are going to Korea.” I said, "Yes." She said, "I am going to tell you something today." I will never forget what she said. She said, "Maybe you think that you are making quite a sacrifice, to leave your home, leave your country, leave your parents, and your sister, and to leave the workers that you have got to love, working amongst them, leave everything you have known, and go to a country where you don’t know one single soul, and when you don’t have any idea what’s awaiting you. I suppose you think you are making quite a sacrifice!" And then she went on, she said, "I want to tell you today, that it doesn’t matter where you are. The biggest sacrifice in your life, will ALWAYS be the price that you have to pay every day to give God the first place in your heart." And never were truer words spoken. I have had lots of time to prove that. And it applies to you also. It doesn’t matter where you are, but the biggest sacrifice that will be ever made in the hearts, in the lives of God’s people, is the price you are going to have to pay every day, to give God the first place in your heart.

I want to read a verse in the prophet Ezekiel. There we read about this temple - lots of details about the temple that was never built. Amazing, such details, and yet this was never built. But this was spiritual, and we know now that our body is the temple of the living God. But just this one verse in chapter 44 verse 2: “Then said the Lord unto me, this gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it, because the Lord, the God of Israel hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut." Well, I was reading this one day and I realized, I don’t know what you think about it, but as far as I am concerned, that is the door into the first place of my heart. You know, before we made our choice to serve God we opened and closed this door many, many times. Now this thing would come and have the first place in my heart, and then a certain person will come in and have the first place in your heart. Then you open it, and something else comes in and takes the first place in your heart. I think we were all the same? But then, when we made our choice, we opened that door for the last time. Or should I say, we should have opened it for the last time, and the Lord came in to take that first place in our hearts. And it says here: Never ever open that door again. Never ever. But the problem is that maybe some of us, or maybe even most of us, without even knowing that we were doing it, allowed that door to swing open, and something crept in there, and we did not even realize it at the time. And you know what happens when anything else comes in to that place, God will go out. He is not going to share that place with anyone or anything. And now we are in misery and we don’t know what’s wrong, so - we have to do the first works, and it is going to cost something.

I wonder how we know what it is that has the first place in our hearts? There is a little test – there may be others, but one I know of: You just examine yourself and think to yourself, when I am driving the car on a long distance, or when this lady is sitting somewhere near, or when you cannot sleep at night - in other words, any time that your mind is free to just roll as it wills, what direction does your mind always go? What direction do your thoughts always go? You know, your thoughts always tend to hang around the thing that has the first place in your heart. It may be a little disconcerting when you find the answer, if you have a little honest examination with yourself, to find out what’s there. And you will find out why God is not as near as you would like Him to be. You don’t enjoy reading, or the meetings, or praying as you used to do.

One day I was visiting a house of a friend and, as I got there, I noticed they were cutting down a tree that was right next to the house. And it was a lovely tree, a beautiful tree, and I was quite upset, and I said, "But man, what is the matter with that tree, and it is such a nice tree and you are cutting it down." He said, "There is nothing wrong with the tree. But we need to build another room on our house, and this tree is in the way." See, when the people of God are putting things out of their life, it is not always because it is bad. Some of the things are even quite good. But you see, the reason is only because we want to give more place to God; we want to give Him the first place. And this thing, it is not a bad thing at all but it is not helping me to give God the first place in my heart.

There is a very serious verse – I found it serious, but even helpful, and we all know that verse where Jesus said, “Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” To me that is a serious verse. But, you know, He was not speaking about the iniquity in the world. There has always been more than enough iniquity in the world, more than enough. But when we start seeing iniquity coming in amongst God’s people, it’s a terribly discouraging thing, and it’s a thing that causes us to be disillusioned, and we are going to have to be so careful. And Jesus himself knew that this time is going to come, and He said, "Be careful that your love doesn’t grow cold." Be careful!

I like the attitude that Joshua had - in his day he was trying his best to help God’s people to keep on the straight road that we heard about. It was not working very well, and things were going very bad, and finally, you know what he said. "Then you choose what you are going to do, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Now THAT IS THE ATTITUDE that we all need. When you see things are not going so well around, even in the kingdom, just make up your mind, well, you choose, but as for me and my house we are going to serve the Lord. Wonderful if we can get that thing fixed in our minds, no matter what - I am going to serve the Lord – me and my house.

Now, you know, in Afrikaans they say, sometimes we jump from the ox onto the donkey. Maybe I will just jump over a little bit. It is not really a different subject – but maybe in a sense it is, and it is something that has been in my mind for a long, long time, and very much in my desire – and that is to be more conscious of God; to be more conscious of Him. I know that I am not nearly conscious enough of God. You know what God said to Abraham? "Walk before me and be thou perfect." I like the Afrikaans Bible: it says, "You walk before Me, THEN you will be upright." Walk before me, then you will be upright. And I just know that if I could be more conscious of God, I would be a different person. I would be behaving a lot better. I know that. “Walk before Me.”

During my earliest years in the work, it happened that one year we were in Pretoria and at convention preparations, and those years you know, we were at convention grounds and we used to have a portable kitchen. And they brought this in, a wooden-iron kind of a frame thing, and some of us young brothers were putting it up over there, some little distance away. We were putting it up. And while we were putting it up, we were telling each other a few interesting things, and a few interesting stories. And quite a juicy story came into my mind. But just as I was going to start telling it, I noticed Uncle Fred Alder walking along to come and see how we were getting on. And I shut my mouth like a trap! I wasn’t going to have him hear me tell that story. So he came along and he asked us how we were doing, and so on, and then he walked away. But, do you know, as he walked away, I talked to myself. The other brothers didn’t hear, but I talked to myself. “Ernest, you hypocrite, are you walking before Uncle Fred, or are you walking before God? You were not prepared to tell that story in front of Uncle Fred. And yet without any trouble you were going to tell it in front of God. Are you not even conscious of Him?" You know I had a little visit with myself, and I needed it. There is something that might not make us feel too good, but, I am going to say it anyway. If there is something that you do, when you are alone, when there is nobody around; you do it. And you know very well that if there were somebody looking, you would not do it. Then I am afraid you have to admit to yourself that you are walking before man; you are NOT walking before God. So you see why I say that I wish I could be more conscious of God. I really would like to be more conscious of God, because I KNOW its going to make me behave a LOT better, a lot better. And I need it.

There is a verse here in Hebrews 4:13 “neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight, but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” One time I was in Japan for special meetings and it was just before the meeting started, and I was in a home of some of the people there, and this man had to go into town, and he went into the bank. And I went along because a foreign country is always interesting to see what is there, and how they do things,…and I sat there watching while he was doing something, and I saw something most interesting. Behind the tellers there was a tallish man walking back and forth. What kind of soles he had on his shoes, I don’t know. Those days my ears were alright, but I could not hear a sound. It was very quiet. He was walking like a cat, back and forth. But I have never quite seen a man or a woman, anybody just like that. He had a deformed eye, and it was frightening. One eye was a terrible size – one big, big eye! As he was walking up and down behind these tellers, he was looking at what they were doing. And I knew immediately, this thing has a psychological effect, that even if he did not really understand their work so well, but just the thought of not knowing when these big eyes were looking down, would make them more careful. It was quite frightening, really. When I sat and watched that, I suddenly had a thought of my own. I thought - my, if I could be more conscious of that big eye that is looking down at me all the times – maybe two eyes, looking at me very carefully ALL THE TIME, I wish I was more conscious of God. I know I would be a different person. I’d be so much more careful.

Jacob, when he saw that ladder, when he dreamed and then woke up, you know what he said, “God is right here and I didn’t know it. This is a fearful place.” And do you know, that every place where you are, is a fearful place because God is right there and He sees and He hears. It’s really a fearful place. One time I heard Uncle Arthur Roberts say something about workers. And he said that when we are speaking in a meeting we should be speaking as if God were standing right there. Well you know, I know I should do that, but I know that if God were standing right there, I would be a lot more sober, and careful, and maybe I wouldn’t say so much? That has remained with me and I just remember that.

One time that I wish I could be more conscious of God, is when I am trying to pray. You know, if you’re before the President of the country, or the Queen or somebody like that, you’d have your wits about you. You wouldn’t dare have to say, “Oh, please say that again, I wasn’t listening while you were speaking.” You wouldn’t dare! You’d have your wits about you. And yet how often do I do that to God – allow my mind to wander? It’s because, I know it’s because I am really not conscious of who I am bowing before. I need to be so careful. This is a great need in my life.

You know, young people, you especially would know that very well. When you are in love, and the person that you love is somewhere around in the room, you are conscious of them all the time. It doesn’t matter, you may be speaking to somebody here and they are speaking to somebody there, but all the time you know where they are and what they are doing. It is just that way. You are conscious of them all the time.And that is exactly how I would like to be conscious of God, like that.

I was in Port Elizabeth with Uncle Jimmy and we went to visit some people, and we got on the bus. And we were riding along in the bus. And the one bus stop, now this was the old days before there were hand phones, at one bus stop a middle-aged lady got on. And as she got on to the bus, she was talking. You automatically thought there was somebody with her, but then there wasn’t anybody with her, and she came and sat in the seat right in front of us, and all the time she was talking and talking and talking. And it wasn’t long before we realized that this lady had a most frightful disease. She could not control the link between her thoughts and her tongue. And it was very obvious that everything that was in her mind came out of her mouth. And some of it was shameful. She would never have said that if she had any control, and I felt so sorry. And you know what I thought – I am so thankful that I don’t have that problem. I think you would be too. But then suddenly I realized, I do have that problem. I do. Before God, I have that problem. That’s how we are before God. Every single thought – it might just as well be as if it is coming out of your mouth before God. He knows everything I am thinking, and I am very thankful we have our thoughts to ourselves. You don’t, really. God knows everything, and I would like to be more conscious of God. Now I have already jumped from the ox onto the donkey. Now we will have to jump on to the camel.

Now just a little bit of a change in the direction of what we were saying, and the reason is because this is the last meeting of the convention, and soon we are going to separate. You know, what we read in the Bible, that we don’t want to be like somebody who sees his face in the glass, and then goes away and forgets what manner of man he is. Now here at this convention, I think that we have seen ourselves a little bit, and maybe it has not been very beautiful. We have seen ourselves a little bit, but now we don’t want to go away and forget what manner of people we are – fall into the old rut.

Tharold Sylvester was telling us about a place in America where they made a big highway. And in one place where they had to lay this road there was a tremendous rock, it was as big as a house – a tremendous thing, and it was a problem. So all they could do was put a whole lot of dynamite under it, and then they had to clear a big area in that vicinity - a big area, as it was going to be very dangerous. So they got away and electrically they set off that dynamite, and you couldn’t believe that it could lift that rock right up into the air. And then it settled right back where it was! And I remember Tharold saying that God sometimes even uses experiences or maybe even what He tells us, almost like dynamite, to try to help us and move us out of the rut that we are in. And what a sad thing afterwards when we just settle right back where we were! All for nothing! Many in this convention have expressed gratitude, and I felt thankful it is in my own heart. We have heard of lots of people feeling so thankful.

We had two workers in Korea – brother and sister And our visiting workers here, know them very well. Paul Boyd and Isobel Boyd. Isobel is not there any more. She is old now and not able any more. She is back in her home country. She told us one time about when they were still children, and Paul was quite a bit younger, and he slept in the same room that she did. And it was his birthday. And for his birthday he got a little wagon, and he was so thrilled with that little wagon, and the whole day he carted that wagon back and forth and putting all kinds of things in it, and take them and get them offloaded there – sand and whatever – he was very busy the whole day. He just enjoyed that little wagon so much. And then finally, it was bed time and he couldn’t play with his wagon any more, but he insisted that that wagon had to be right next to his bed. And then, during the night Isobel woke up and lo, and behold, there was Paul, fast asleep with one leg out of the bed, and in the wagon! Well, one thing they had no doubt about and that was that Paul appreciated that wagon. Now a lot of us have said we are so thankful. Now wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be like Paul, and when we go out from here, the way that we live, that God will be able to see our behaviour, and know that we really do appreciate what He has done for us. That is the way that we can show it. Sometimes I pray that prayer: please help me to behave so that thou wilt be able to believe me when I say that I am thankful.

It may be that there is somebody in this convention who is feeling a little bit faint-hearted because you just don’t feel there has been anything here that has been a direct message for you. You feel that you haven’t really heard your name. Well could we just say this – don’t worry about that too much. And I will tell you why, because it very often happens this way. Maybe you haven’t felt too touched in this meeting? But you could listen, and you have heard many things and some of you have made notes, and do you know something that Jesus promised, that the spirit would do? He said He was going to bring things to your mind, and He is going to bring it to your mind just when you need it. That is the promise that the spirit will do. Actually I was talking to Dale yesterday, telling him when I had an experience and was about to do something, and I prayed about it, because I was uneasy, and suddenly something just came into my mind like that - God can do it, He is able to do that, – but just when you need it. So don’t worry too much. Try to remember what you have heard here, and you will find, that just when you need it, God will be able to bring it to your mind, and it is going to be a big help to you. And you know, at a convention like this, it is common that we make resolutions: I am going to do better, I am going to do better. At another convention I told the friends there about a man in America who got up and gave his testimony. And he got up, and he said, ”Every year when I have been coming to convention I have been aiming and aiming and aiming to do better, but this year I am going to go home and pull the trigger.” So now I would like to give you a little bit of a tip on how to pull the trigger. You know, we go home with the feeling - I am going to do better. I think I can tell you for sure, you are not going to do any better. But there is one way, and that is, instead of just vaguely thinking, well, I am going to do better, just zoom in on the one thing especially that God has been trying to impress on your heart in this convention. Just the one thing. And I am quite sure that every one of us – I have – everyone of us has felt that there is especially one thing that I am going to need to take care of in our lives. Just concentrate on that one thing, and make up your mind, even if I do nothing else, but this thing that I know is the most important, the thing that I must do – I am going to concentrate on that, and I am going to take care of it. And could we tell you, you will find it is true, if you take care of just that one thing, you are going to come back next year to convention with a song in your heart. You try it. But be sure to completely take care of that ONE THING. Paul said, "I don’t fight as one that beats the air," not just "Oh, I am going to be better," but he has a mark and he aims at it.

There was a man in Australia whose name was Eustice Radford, and he was the owner of the convention near to the city of Perth for many years. That convention had to be moved and now it is not there any more, but quite soon after he bought that convention place, his wife died, and his wife was everything to him. And the sorrow was greater than he could bear. And he pleaded to God – please, just to give him the strength to bear it, he felt it was too much. He couldn’t bear the sod? And as he pleaded earnestly to God, he just felt a wonderful calm and comfort coming over his soul, so much, that he could hardly believe it. And he was so thankful that he wrote the hymn that we have in our books and that we are going to sing in a minute. In times of deepest darkness, in sorrow and distress. The reason I am mentioning that is just for one little portion in that hymn. And I am going to tell you about that in a minute. I will tell you about something else first. It was quite long ago when the first two workers left Australia to go to Sri Lanka to go and preach the gospel there. And this Eustice Redford went to the harbour at Freemantle to see them off. And I heard this from one of the workers – they are both dead now. And he said that Eustice Radford, said to them, "I can understand a little of how you two young men must be feeling going to the unknown, leaving your country, not knowing what is awaiting you." But, he said, "I would like to comfort you with just a few words that I wrote in that hymn when my wife died. How can we fear the future when Love has planned the way?” And I’d just like to leave that with you. I believe those words are written on his grave. And I’d like to leave that with you. You know, we have all been talking about the future, but I think it’s a comfort if we can just remember, “How can we fear the future when Love has planned the way?”

In a convention in America, a brother worker was speaking and he was in charge of that convention, and they used a lot of gates. And one day the owner of the place came to him, and he said to him – now that was a man who’d lived there all his life, and he knew that area, he knew the weather, and he said to him, “I am afraid we are in for a bad storm, you had better double-stake the tents.” I don’t know if you know what that means – you can probably guess - in putting an extra stake behind every stake that you connect with it, and strengthen it. You had better double-stake the tents. And he said, "We took the advice and we double-staked those tents - all of them." And then the storm came. When the storm came we were ever so glad that we had double-staked those tents. Then this worker said, “Now we are going into the unknown future, and some of us may be facing storms and some bad storms. We don’t know what is in the future,” he said, “but it’ll be a good idea to double-stake your tents.” And I think we all know what that means. I do believe it is a good thing if we all leave from here, and double-stake our tents.

Could you forgive me for telling you just one more thing in closing? When I went to school, my parents were not well off and to be able to buy my books and whatever, my mother used to sit at the sewing machine, for hours every day. And what she specially would do, to earn a bit of money, she would go out to the shops, and she’d buy the remnants. You’d know what remnants are - the ladies would know - you can get them a bit cheaper. She had a knack of putting them together, and making especially children’s clothes. She could make some money that way. One day, one lady who lived a few doors from us had bought a piece of material, and they were not so well-off either, but she had saved and bought this piece of material and she wanted to make her own dress. So here she took it home and she had the pattern, and she put it on this material and she began to cut. And I don’t know how she did that, but she made a mistake and cut it wrong. And Oh, she felt terrible because it was expensive material – I mean to her. She was so disappointed. Then she thought of my mother. So here she comes with the pattern and this piece of material and she came into our house. “Oh Aunty Lucy, please, look what I have done! Is there any hope for this material now?” So my mother looked at the dress material and the pattern and she said, "My girl, I am afraid the way you have cut that material now, you are not going to be able to make the dress just like that, but now, don’t worry, we can do something else." So she looked at the material and then she drew another pattern, and cut a new pattern out of newspaper. And she drew a picture of what this new dress would look like. And she looked at it, and she was thrilled, because she liked it better than the first one. And she took that material and all smiles and she went out. You know, my mother did not tell her that she had not made a mistake, but what she showed her was, there is still something left, and she was showing her how well she could still use what was left. Now I am glad that I have been away from South Africa for a long time and I don’t know you people so there is none of you can think that I am picking on you. But I do know one thing, that there are some people, sometimes, who are in awful agony or torment of mind, because, there is something in their lives – they feel they have had the scissors in their own hands too long and have cut too deep, and they don’t know where they stand now. You cannot tell anybody. Now where do I stand now before God? Well, you know what God wants to show you now: Yes, you have made a mistake; you did wrong! But, there is still something left. All of us still have something left. Some of us are older, maybe not so much – some of you have more – but it doesn’t matter. You know what God is wanting to show you today? You have got something left – and don’t worry about the past. He wants to show us how to make the VERY BEST of what is left. And you are going to be amazed if you know what God can still do with what is left. I’d like to tell you of a little promise which I can make with confidence, and that is for all of us including workers. And that is if we are going to be more faithful, more sincere than we have ever been before, and if we, from now on we are really going to give God the first place in our hearts every day, then I can tell you with confidence, make you a nice little promise, that the best days of your life are still waiting for you, no matter what the past may have been. Shall we sing that hymn that the brother wrote when his wife died - 292 In times of deepest darkness.