Percy Barelli - Pukekohe I, New Zealand Convention - 1958

Perhaps I should say I appreciate the privilege that is mine in being here at this Convention, to enjoy the ministry and fellowship of God's People - Servants or Saints. I realise that very many have laboured and I have entered into the fruits of their labours, in that it is my privilege these days to be here. I realise that others have served and sacrificed and suffered to make the gathering here what it is today.


One can scarcely look into the faces of God’s people without being conscious of the truth of what we say in that Hymn, “Wherever you ripe fields behold.” (Hymn 404)


This gathering today is a costly gathering to God’s people. All gatherings of God’s people are always costly, because of the cost that has been paid to bring them about. We are not magnifying today our sacrifice. Our sacrifice pales into insignificance when comparing it with His sacrifice on Calvary.


Jesus gave His life in sacrifice and service, and it was a loving sacrifice and service that Jesus made, and I realized this morning that other men have laboured, too. I feel I would like to tell simply what I may have to say this morning.


I don't say that it is perhaps by any means new, but you and I feel that we don’t gather here to receive new revelations of truth, though it is possible to be like that, but it is necessary for us to gather here only to be put in remembrance of things quite well, but we are all prone to forget. That is so, isn't it?


Peter realised that, and God’s people have known that all down through the years, but there is always the danger for us to forget the things that we know and should do. Peter knew that when he was in that boat in the storm, but his faith diminished. Thus is it not necessary that we too should have our minds stirred up and put in remembrance of these things, which establish us in His truth. God’s wants us to be moved, and not a people that might weaken or move when pressure is put upon us.


God doesn’t want His people to be a reed-like people, but a rock-like people, and that is why these gatherings are so necessary for us. God wants us to be strong. There might be that tendency for us to sit down content in attainments, though they may be very little — not every person attains to great heights, but I do not know of anything more fatal or serious for God’s people than that.


Paul never wanted to sit down. He said when writing to the Philippian Christians, "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended but this one thing I do forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." That is where we should be today - what we have not yet attained to, that we press on to it, we should be like Paul and press on toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ. Sometimes people only see the price but not the prize. Paul saw the price, but he also saw the prize, and so pressed on that he might attain it. Paul said to the Philippians, “But what things were gain to me these I counted loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.”  Would it not be good if we as God’s people today, are thus minded? I hope we will be.


The three things I want to mention this morning have to do with the place we have in God's Family, the provision we have in God’s Family, and the privileges that we have in God’s Family.


An older Brother over in the land I have been labouring in the past years (United States of America) often used to remind us on occasions like this that God's people are not a religious order, a sect, but a Family in the world, and so we think of a gathering like this as a family gathering, and just as I suppose parents in the natural family would do in their family gatherings so it is, with God, our Heavenly Father. God likes to have a gathering of His family, or part of His family - the part now on the earth. Of old He said to Moses, "Gather the people together men, women and children and even thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may learn and fear the Lord your God, and observe to do all the words of this law, And that their children; which have not known any thing, may hear, and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as ye live in the land whither ye go over Jordan to possess it."


We were once strangers before we were His children, and we are now no more strangers and foreigners but fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God. This is not due to our goodness but to God’s mercies. We were not saved because of our own merits, but because of God’s mercy.


The Psalmist says, "Gather My saints together unto Me, those that have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice." We know that it has been a sacrifice for you to be here this morning, but we know God will reward you for it. Blessing will come into your life. Perhaps there will not be much blessing, but there will certainly be some. When natural gatherings are held certain things take place at them; there is usually much preparation. For instance, we sometimes hear of family gatherings taking place. There is great preparation made and members of the family come great distances to be present, and there are usually special spreads made for the guests who sit down and feast together of the good things, which have been provided.


We all know of the preparations necessary for this Convention here, our gathering here is a family gathering. Well, God gathers His people together today, around the table that they too may feed and feast on the good things He has provided.


He doesn’t call His people to a famine. We were brought from the place of famine to a place of feasting, and God calls His people together to feed them. We have often heard it said that God doesn’t call His people together to flog them, but to help them, not to whip them, but to equip them. We will be able to go from this convention well equipped to go on with the warfare we are called into.


There is also a time of fellowship too at gatherings. We may speak a bit more about that later, if the occasion arises. We know that in those times of fellowship the bonds that unite and make us one, will be strengthened. There are many influences that tend to weaken these bonds, but God has gathered us together to strengthen these bonds.


Perhaps you have read in Ezra of how things were done to weaken God’s People. The enemy still has that view today and that weakens our hands, but God wants to strengthen these hands.


I like to think of Jonathan when things were not going so well with David, and Saul was seeking his life, it tells us that Jonathan went out to David in the woods to strengthen his hand in God.


What is our influence today? Are we strengthening the hand of one another in God to combat the enemy when he conspires to weaken the hands of the children of God, by his evil influences? I hope that we as God's people will unite to strengthen one another in these bonds, which tend to make us strong. As the enemy tries to frustrate, God wants to fulfill.


I want to mention first of all about the place we have in God's family. Are we valuing the place we have today in the family of God? It may not be necessarily a great place, but that is not the important part of it anyway, but it is how are we filling the place that God has given us. It may be a great and important place, and yet again it may be a lesser place, but we should be thankful that He has given us any place, and our responsibility is that we are filling that place, whatever it is - great or small - as we should. Someone has said we might not be as capable as many, but we can be as faithful as any. The matter of serving God is not a matter of human ability but it is a matter of God’s ability.


Sometime we feel our inability. Sometime people say, “I don’t feel able.” This is God’s chance, as when we feel like that, God can do more for us. It is much better for us to feel our insufficiency, for it is then that God can help us more.


Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” It was not because of Paul’s own ability that he could do all things. We might think that is all right for Paul, who was greater than I, but this is wrong reasoning, for it says that Paul admitted it was not because of his own ability that he could do what he did, but it was because of his being strengthened through Christ. Paul was not boastful — he had no great notions of himself. The devil would like to get us puffed up in our own importance like that. Paul was only taking God into account when he said that, and we can do that and watch boasting too. You know when those ten spies were sent out how they reacted — you know what they said — some said they could, and the others came back and said we are not able. Joshua and Caleb said, “Let us go up and take the land;” the others said, “We are not able to go.” It was very sad that it was like that. All of them saw the same outlook—the good land, etc., but some were overcome by observing the giants and the difficulties. Joshua and Caleb felt that the Lord was with them and because of this they felt they could achieve what God wanted them to do. The others said, "NO, we cannot go up" — they were not taking God into account. That Hymn (No 294) which says, “Though all the path before thee the hosts of darkness fill, Look to thy Father’s promise, and claim the victory still. Faith sees the Heavenly legions where doubt sees naught but foes, And through the very conflict, The life the stronger grows” — comes into mind. Some of those spies looked through eyes of unbelief. Caleb and Joshua saw it otherwise.


God knows how we are and if we take Him into account, we might say, “Better the presence of God within us and a storm, rather than no storms and no God." Paul ran into a storm when on the way to Rome. He knew he had Christ with him so nothing else mattered. We might feel like that too. We have to face storms, but if we have God with us, all will be well. I like to think what it says of Gideon — mentioned in the book of Judges. It tells us that they stood every man in his place. Oh brothers and sisters, this morning are we those who are standing in our place? Some people instead of standing in their place they are all over the place. Here are people who stood in their place. They knew their place; they kept their place and stood in their place. We might say we have heard that, or we remember that and let it slip by, but if we know our place and keep in our place, all will be well with us.


You know children in the natural family get all over the place. It is not good for them to do this. Sometimes when we as children of God get out of our place it hinders us, and others. It is good to know our place, keep our place and fill our place, and if we do that we will be able to contribute much towards the good in God’s family.


Victory came that day because those men did not try to fill any one else’s place, but kept in their own place. Be satisfied to fill only your place. I don’t want to fill anyone else’s place. If I fill my own place, I will be doing mighty well.


We as workers sure don’t want to be envious of others, or you, as saints should envy any their place. Even Paul said, “It has pleased God to put the members of the body as it has pleased Him.” (I Corinthians 12:18) God has put you where you are. You be satisfied to fill it perfectly in the Church and the home, and in the family. I hope you will do this and may we have great thankfulness that God has called us and made us His children, and may we fill the place he has given us, faithfully.


The provision We know that God has made rich provision for every one of His children. Paul said in writing to the Philippians, “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” You know that there has never been any lack in the provision of God for His children and we know there will not be any lack. Do you remember when God told Moses to take that lamb and let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating. It was not a matter of the lamb being too little for the household, but the household being too little for the lamb. There is no lack in Christ. We know that Passover lamb was typical of Christ, and as there was no lack then, there is no lack today. Every man was to be counted up according to his eating. I dare say the eating of some was greater than others. Today the same happens — some are easily satisfied, but others cannot be filled. Friends, regardless of what their appetites were, there was plenty to satisfy their needs. You parents like to see your children eat heartily naturally, and enjoy their meals; you would rather they ate their meals willingly than that the need should arise for medicine to be administered them to make them eat. The same thing occurred in connection with the manna, which was a type of Christ, too.


Oh brother and sister, there is no need for you to go out into the world because you think there is not enough inside. Some have gone out, but there is no need to do this. The prodigal son went away from his father’s house because of this, but how he erred in his thinking. Perhaps no people are made to think this way, but they do. They think, "If I can only get out into the world and have my fling." You read carefully Luke 15 at your next opportunity. We don’t have to go outside, and we don’t have to bring the outside in, because there is everything inside the family of God — everything in Christ, and for all our needs, God will supply.


There are many different things in the provision of God. In the natural family, there is food; well, God has that, and as we have been hearing already, there is bread. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” Sometimes people think that it is too good to be true; some people think that we are exaggerating, but we are not. These words are still true today as when they fell from His lips. Remember too Jesus saying to the woman at the well, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again, but whosoever drink of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst, but the water that I give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” God is giving them better things than those things that once they thirsted for. God gives food to the hungry and water to the thirsty. If I was hungry or thirsty and I came to your home — I don’t think I will be able to — do you think if you took me in and gave me some entertainment, how satisfying would you think that would be to me, or someone else for that matter? If I was hungry or thirsty, I would sooner you give me food and drink than anything else. Remember Jesus and the multitude — what did He do that day? Did He put on an entertainment? No! He said, “Give them food to eat.” Remember Jesus, after His resurrection, and the Disciples went fishing — it says the Disciples entered into a ship and fished all night, but they caught nothing. When daylight came, Jesus came to them and suggested they try again, putting the net down on the right side of the boat, and when they did as He told them, they got many fishes. When the Disciples came to land, it tells us that Jesus took bread and gave it to them, and He also cooked and gave them fish to eat. It says He took bread. Now Jesus perhaps might have been justified in giving these disciples a piece of his mind, because you remember how Peter denied Him, and all had forsaken Him and fled — at the time when He needed them who loved Him most, they left Him. They went fishing, and they caught nothing, and he could have spoken a piece of His mind to them. I would have done that, and perhaps you would have too, or more power to you if you wouldn’t do so.


Perhaps as He did as He did what he did, He accomplished more.


It is usual for people to give a piece of their mind at such a time, but Jesus gave them a piece of bread instead. When was it that the Lord visited His people and gave then something — remember Naomi, hearing that the Lord had visited His people and gave them — now what did he give them — bread. Not a stone.


Remember when Joseph’s people came to him — and he gave them what? Bread.


God would gather us here to give us what? Bread. There is water for our thirst that will satisfy any thirst in our hearts and lives and we don’t have to go to drink from the waters of this world. Remember what Jesus said to the woman at the well of Sychar, when speaking of the water in the well upon which He was resting, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again; but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” Remember the picture John got of the river of life proceeding out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb. Later we read, “And the Spirit and the bride say come. And let him that heareth say, 'Come.' And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” We do not have to turn, as God’s children, to the waters of this world, for we have the privilege of eating the bread of life, and the privilege of drinking from the water that flows from out of the throne of God and the Lamb.


Garments. The nicest garment is the garment of praise. It is far better to wear this garment than to go about murmuring. Remember the children of Israel murmuring. It would have been much better for them if they had put on the garment of praise instead. There are no other people in the world that have so much to thank God for. We should see that we are clothed with the garment of praise, and not go about murmuring. In Heaven, I guess the busiest saints are the ones that write down our praises and thanks given to God for all His goodness to us. I hope we may go from this convention clothed with the garments of praise.


Peter speaks of garments of humility, “and be clothed with humility for God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble.”


Time is almost gone, but you can go along on these lines yourselves later on.


Then there is Cleansing of His people — God has made much provision for this — there are three washings — by washing of regeneration, washing by water of the word, and washing by the blood. There is not much excuse for us when we think of the provision God has made for us in this connection — there is washing by regeneration — God does this once, and there is no need for further cleansing in this way. Then there is washing by His word. When He gathers His people together, He washes us with His word. That is why He commences this work, and He continues it in the Gospel meetings and in the little fellowship meetings. Then there is washing by the blood, and we read, “Unto Him that loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood.” We find these four words — in His own blood — mentioned many times in Scripture. Look them up sometime.


Sometimes people accuse us saying we preach a bloodless Gospel, but this is not so, for we know that Jesus washed us from our sins not by the blood of bulls and goats, but by His own blood, and Jesus in order that He might satisfy people, suffered and gave His own blood. If we think of these things it will keep us from the world. If we remember Jesus, and that He can cleanse us — He suffered that His blood could cleanse us, it will keep us from the world.


Correction. We heard last night about parents who failed to restrain their children. God, in correcting us, is not a sign that He doesn’t love us. He does it because He loves us. Brother and sister let us take it from God, because it is from a heart of love that He uses it.


Privileges. There are privileges — there are many of them in the family of God — how are we valuing these privileges? I hope that we will use them in such a way that we can glorify God. Sometimes we may be inclined to take them as something coming to us, but this is not right. If I, for example, was to get what is rightly coming to me today, I wouldn’t get very much. God has brought us together to see the privileges that are ours because we are in His family and to know His promises to those who are faithful. God is faithful to His children, and we can enjoy that fellowship of love. The chorus of that hymn comes to my mind:


O fellowship supremely sweet

O matchless love, so pure, divine

My soul has found a sure retreat,

The lowly Jesus now is mine.


Are we doing our part to make this so?


I heard a story about a coloured cook who could make a very nice dish of hash. She was asked what she did, or how did she achieve such good results when making this hash, and she replied, “The beef is the same, then I put the salt in and the other things, but the secret is I throw myself into it, and that makes it so good.” Yes, you should throw yourself into this fellowship — the fellowship of being helpers, not hinderers — helpers in promoting the furtherance of the Gospel.


Then there is the privilege of serving in the family of God. Yes, there are wonderful privileges in the family of God.


If we were to ask you who is the greatest one in your Church, who would you say was the greatest? The one who preaches the longest, or prays the longest? Sometimes we may think in our hearts, "Oh, I wish I could preach or pray like that someone else who is in the Church." It is not the one who prays the longest or preaches the best or the longest in the Church who is the greatest, but it is the one who is willing to love and to serve.


It is your glorious privilege to serve; it is my glorious privilege to do this, too. I do not know if it is the same thing here, but in America, youth is giving the impression that it must be served, but what youth must realize is that it is better for all, young and old, to learn to serve. We know the world considers that the man whom many serve is greatest, but Jesus reversed that, and the correct way is the man who serves many is greatest, and no one has been greater than He. He gave us the pattern of service.


I hope that the Lord will enable us to realize the privileges which are ours in His family, and His ample provision for us there — that we will know our place in His family, and know how to fill it.