Stanley Watchhorn - Sunday Morning, Bakersfield, California Convention - 1952

Quite early this morning, I was reminded of what day this is and of what God's people who are here would be doing today if they were not assembled on these grounds. I had a picture in my mind of everybody here beginning to get active, moving around and making plans for a little journey to somebody's home, or others preparing to make a journey to your home to keep an appointment. I believe it would mean a great deal to our service and to our fellowship all through the year if God, among other things, could teach us this one thing at this convention: how to spend the day that specially belongs to God in such a manner that He can do for us and make that day mean to us all that is in His heart.

This gathering today represents a far greater amount of labour and sacrifice and tears and worn-out lives than you and I can comprehend. It represents a company of people from California and elsewhere who have been gathered out from hundreds of hard worked missions. In some of their missions, several people were won to God, but in more of them, there were one or two or a very few won. Interwoven were a great many missions that on the surface were fruitless. The same amount of labour and toil and prayer and preaching, and difficult preaching sometimes, in those meetings as the fruitful ones. I would not like to call them unfruitful meetings because they accomplished something in the lives of those who were trying to win people - His servants. If there were some of the Christians attending these missions, possibly it put something in them to see the spirit and perseverance with which God's servants picked up and rose above their disappointment and tried again. They weren't fruitless. They moved God's people to pray more earnestly for their fellowmen and for His servants and for His work, and that is not fruitless.

Then, most of us this morning (with a few exceptions perhaps) would be keeping an appointment in some home; not an appointment you have arranged, or that we have arranged, but a meeting, an appointment that the Lord has arranged because He wants to meet with us there. God would desire that in those gatherings, every time we come together, something would be done in the hearts of his people. God has chosen that simple humble method of accomplishing it and nothing else accomplishes it but that. I wonder whether God's people here have learned how to co-operate with God so as to make each of those meetings a time when God instructs and warns and comforts every one of you? A time when the Lord brings fresh cleansing and fresh hope and deepens the roots of His love, in your hearts a little more? Now, if your meetings don't bring that about there is something the matter, there is something missing, there is something present that ought not to be present, there is something that is making it difficult for the Lord to do these things for you and for me.

The central attraction at the meeting is Jesus. He has promised to be present at the appointed place even though the number maybe as low as two people. He said, "There am I in the midst of them." Too often, we go to the place of meeting forgetting this thought, and occupied more with who will be there, and what we will say and what we will pray than we are concerned about the thought of going by special appointment into the presence of our best friend, the One who has done more for us, and bestowed upon us, and given more, and brought us into more privileges, and opened up the way to something better than anything else in the world, and has done more for us than all others put together. Would you believe that? We come to sit together, kneel together in prayer, to sing together, to share with one another the little substance that God has given us from His Word, to be vividly reminded of one whose strength and body was all used up for others and whose blood was poured out to reconcile, to open a door, to make it possible for the people to be relieved of the guilt and condemnation of their sin and to walk in the light and in the favour of God.

I think of Jesus' love for us as the love of One, when we were under condemnation, certain condemnation, certain death, certain separation from all that would make eternity worthwhile, stepped in and gave His life for undeserving creatures like you and me. I hope we recognize that when we come to that meeting He will be there to meet with us, minister to us, speak to us and intercede for us. I tell you, we would not go carelessly, lightly, irreverently, thoughtlessly, over the threshold of that door! What makes that a hallowed place at that hour is the One who has come by special appointment to meet you and to meet me there; the One to whom we owe far more than we can ever understand that we do owe. There is one reason why the attendance of God’s people at a meeting place ought to be our first concern and ought to grip our hearts, not only in the waking moments of the morning of the first day of the week, but it should be something we would look forward to and pray about during the other six days of the week.

I am afraid there is a kind of drought in the lives of some of God’s people just for the very reason that they fail to truly comprehend what has been done for us, what we owe to Him, and how being present and being prepared, keeping our appointments with Him is the least, just the least, that we can do in showing our gratitude. We sometimes speak of it as a "Fellowship Meeting" and the most important thing for us to bring to the meeting is the spirit that produces and fosters fellowship. The spirit that we bring with us to a meeting determines the extent of our helpfulness and the help we are going to get in that meeting. It is not the length of our prayer, the length of our testimony, the number of verses we read, how big the meeting is, or how long the meeting is; our spirit affects our meeting with Him individually and the receiving from Him of what we need.

I read two or three verses this morning that gripped me and made me realize that every time I appear before God, there is nothing in my inner or outer life that is hid form God. "All things are naked and open unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." (Hebrews 4:13) I read in Psalms 139:4-5, here the psalmist says, "Thou are acquainted with all my ways, there is not a word in my tongue but lo, O Lord, Thou knowest it altogether." " Such knowledge is too wonderful for me." I read in Ezekiel 11:5 these words, “I know the thoughts that come into your mind, every one of them." Jesus told the Pharisees, "Ye are they which justify yourselves before men but God knoweth your hearts." (Luke 16:15) I know then that when I come into the presence of God, my mind, my heart is an open book before God, completely open. That is the reason why I say that the all important thing to bring to the meeting is a kind spirit, a gentle spirit, a loving spirit, a merciful spirit, a thankful spirit, we could go on and on. You know, it is very necessary too that we bring to the meeting a heart that has been prepared by waiting upon God and has been softened by the Spirit in the presence of God. Because, only too often, our minds are in a turmoil and our hearts are not soft enough for God to impress us as He would like.

It is very necessary when we come together, to come with a spirit of sincerity. I have been speaking about that a lot, probably because I need to have my words re-echo in my own heart. I don't know why else. People can be sincere in any line of thought or belief or worship to which they have been accustomed or attached in life and they could become so devoted to it that they would give their lives for it, but all their sincerity in it does not make it right. It does not make it the way of God; for, there could be the deepest sincerity in something that is quite unprofitable, but, I mean those who have become little children before God, those who are His blood-bought ones, those into whose life He has condescended to come, those whose sins He has forgiven, those who have promised Him to be true till death. Those people - that is you and me, and others of His family, we must be sincere and true in our purpose. We must mean what we say. We must be genuine. God must be able to say of that prayer, that testimony, "He means every word of that, that is from his heart, that is from her heart; they are covering nothing."

The great reason why we must be sincere in the meeting and out of the meeting is because we are wholly dependent upon God doing certain things for us that He will not do for those who are not sincere. I have learned, a good while ago, that just as the greatest need of the branches is the substance that comes from the vine (and nothing else can provide this) so the greatest need in the lives of God's people is that which comes from God Himself, through Christ, and it can come from no other source. It is imperative, it is vital, that God should believe in us - weak as we are, undeserving as we are - believe in us and trust in us, and give to us from time to time vital things that we need. Whatsoever you do, be sincere and pray often that God will give the grace to be sincerely one whom God can trust, believe in, and give you the help that you need. If you have been keeping anything from God in the past - don't do it any longer. It is wide open to God, and it is God "with whom you have to do."

There are some of God’s people who soon learn what I am going to tell you about now, and some take a very long time to learn it. Those of you who have had God's servants in your homes will know something of the time and labour that is spent in the quiet of their own room - often on their knees - because they are afraid to go forward to face the meeting without having been prepared but by God, and I could take you to some of the homes of God’s people where they have learned that their service to God has become a richer service and the meetings richer meetings because of making a practice of that very thing themselves. I don't mean a few hurried moments speaking to God, but I mean honestly seeking His face. We are not just going to meet with each other, but we are going to meet with Him and hear Him. Sometimes we take our places in the meeting very unprepared for such an occasion, and for meeting with such a friend and we feel ashamed, and rightly so.

I have been trying to encourage God's people to take a little time to pasture in certain fields of meditation, concerning all the wondrous things that God has done for us, that he had brought into our lives and given us a share in that we would never have known anything about, had it not been for God's love. I find that the Bible is just full of things God does for His people. It does me good sometimes when I try to recall what my life was like when I went to that first meeting. My life was empty, the future was obscure, there was terrible turmoil in my young heart.

It means a lot to come into our meetings with a prepared heart. One of the poorest possible preparations for the Sunday morning meeting is to be out until all hours on the Saturday night. In the part where I have been labouring, in all the little towns the stores stay open on Saturday night most of the year, until a late hour. People work late, and most go into town to shop on a Saturday night. To spend Saturday night in this manner would be a very poor preparation indeed for the meeting with the Lord on Sunday morning. We encourage those who profess to sacrifice a little time to do their business some other time and so get away from the Godless atmosphere of the streets on Saturday night; otherwise, they would go home tired and weary, get up late and hustle around with that last minute rush to get off to the Sunday morning meeting. That is not the way to treat Him the one who has given us "all things that pertain to life eternal and Godliness," the one from whom every good gift comes, who has redeemed us when we could not redeem ourselves. Is that the way to treat Him? I am not speaking of this as something compulsory, but it is good to learn that lesson - start the night before to prepare your hearts. I don't think it was by accident that the Lord planned that the Sabbath of the Old Testament was to start at sundown the evening before. That is not a big sacrifice to make, but it pays tremendous dividends.

I found that when I decided that there were many things that had to be changed in my life, had to be reordered and rearranged. My religious views didn't need to be readjusted; they had to be thrown out altogether because they were of the wrong kind and on the wrong foundation. What I had believed in was far from being a true continuation of that lowly humble plan of service which God sent His Son into the world to teach and to establish in the hearts of men and women, not in Palestine only, not in that age only, but to all nations and until the end of the age, (see Matthew 28:19-20) I learned through the gospel that it was regeneration I needed, in order to become one of His family. People all over the world are talking about going to Heaven and many have all sorts of views and opinions about what it means to go to Heaven. Apart from regeneration, no one has any part in Heaven. All will need to possess the divine nature, only through a new birth can anyone possess the spirit and nature and character of the Father of the family of the Elder Brother of the family, and of all the different members of that family who have gone before us.

While the purpose of the Gospel is to bring us to feel our need and to see our lost condition, and to see His Love and provision made through Jesus, that we may embrace it, and give in, in our hearts to a new Lord, a new Master, in return for that choice and for giving in to God in this way, God then begins to give us something we never had before - He gives us of His spirit, the nature and characteristics of His family and nourishes in our lives the marks that were seen in His Son. Finally, the day comes when He calls us home to have fellowship with Him and His own in Heaven. Sometimes, people say they wish the Gospel had found them ten, twenty years sooner, but I believe God sent the sower with the Gospel seed at the most opportune time. We are not going to be grieving so much that we didn't receive it sooner, but some of us may grieve because we didn't put more into it. We wasted so much time. Another change that had to be made in my life was regarding my habits; many of those habits were not honoring to that Name I was beginning to bear and the path I was beginning to walk in. Another thing was the kind of friendships I kept and the kind of material I read and the places I went. All those things had to be rearranged to fit into the choice that God had led me to make. I have been slow in responding when the Lord has been trying to accomplish these things.

One of the things that had to be rearranged in my life was how I spent Sunday. I would like to help God's children to see how they could spend the Lord's day in the way it would please Him and that would be most profitable both to themselves and to others, spiritually speaking. We must not associate the Lord's day with sport or running around seeking our own pleasure. This is sound advice.

We have been very grieved to see and to know some of God's people after having had fellowship on Sunday morning, with us, when we knelt together, sang, gave testimony, bowed their heads and gave thanks for and partook of something as sacred as the emblems that represent the broken body of Jesus and the wine that symbolizes His life's blood poured out, and then, after that go home and just forget that the rest of the day belongs to God, too. Away to some place of pleasure, to some worldly throng.

A good many years ago, something happened that saddened us greatly, a young man, somewhere in his twenties, had professed; was a very nice man in many ways, but had one weakness - he was easily led by others. He got the thought into his mind (and it was not God that put it there) that if he went with the boys, he would get them to the meeting, and eventually, get them saved. I do not mean that we should not take an interest in others, we should be concerned about the salvation of others, but do you know what happened one Sunday afternoon? He went away to a lake with a number of his young unsaved friends - they went swimming together, and while taking a high dive, he struck his head on the bottom so hard that it split two of his vertebrae. They carried him out and took him home. After seven months of suffering, he passed away. There was a terrible feeling came over the Lord’s people when we learned that it happened on a Sunday afternoon.

We live in a country where there is a tendency to make Sunday a pleasure day. What happened to this boy would not have happened if he had been where he belonged and been occupied with His Heavenly Father’s business. In many countries and communities, there are homes of brothers and sisters who get few visitors, and a visit would mean a tremendous lot to those struggling souls; perhaps we could visit a home where there is sorrow, or lonely friends or a letter we could write to one of his servants far away. Lots of ways, there are sick people, sick friends. These are only some of the suggestions, but if you would look around God will show you something that could be put into the Lord's day that would be to your account.

Ps 116 gives the key note of how all this can be brought about. "I love the Lord. What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits towards me?” I know the sinner’s greatest need is that of being led to receive Christ, God then gives the new birth and with that new birth He gives us the first experience that links us to God.

The most important contribution you can make to each meeting is the spirit which produces fellowship, which is one of the first fruits of love. Fellowship does not come because we all believe the same things, or because we believe in the same kind of preacher but it comes because of a kindred spirit; God has been good enough to give His spirit to us. This unites us to Him.

Do you know what makes happy homes, honourable homes? L-O-V-E, nothing can take its place. There are very happy homes where people have lived, very small humble homes. Love is what makes our fellowship and makes it worthwhile. A man came to Jesus and said, "Which is the first commandment of all?" (Mark 12:28) Without hesitation, Jesus said, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind and with all thy strength." The second is like it, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." It is that love that units men to God - not the result of understanding only, not a bond of fear - it is LOVE. The second condition (verse 31) is made possible because the first is there, (verse 30) and you cannot have the second without the first. He made the astounding statement, "On these commandments hang all the law and the prophets." The end (aim) of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart. (I Timothy 1:5) Some have swerved from this and made shipwreck. I think of the words of Paul in the well known chapter of I Corinthians 13. He uses the word "charity" there. "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling symbol.” There would be no lasting benefit. “Though I give my body to be burned and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” If he had not charity, his words, service, and sacrifice would be unprofitable. What is charity? Love? Yes, but it is more than love. The love that a man has for his wife and the love a wife has for her husband is not charity. That is human, natural love. Charity is a divine love that is begotten in the hearts of people when Christ comes in. True charity is not found anywhere except where Christ dwells - in the lives where He is at work and where He has come. It is something that is found where Christ is.

Then I understand why Paul wrote of some (II Thessalonians 2:10-11) "They received not the love of the Truth that they might be saved and for this cause God shall send them a strong delusion that they should believe a lie." They did not receive the love of the Truth. They didn't belong to His family. To be united by love to Him and His own is so essential. If God cannot unite us to Himself, we couldn't blend or fit into Heaven. Paul also wrote to the Colossians, "Above all these things put on charity - bond of perfectness." Peter wrote, "Above all these things, have fervent charity among yourselves."

This man in Psalms 116 says, " I love the Lord because He hath heard my voice and supplications." This Psalm describes a man who had been in terrible distress. The "Sorrows of death compassed" and the "pains of hell got hold of him" and out of the depths of his heart, he prayed. He loved God because God had heard his prayer and supplication. I wonder if the 11th verse does not give us the key to the state of bondage and distress he had been in? "I said in my haste, all men are liars." We are not told what caused him to say that, but we are given to understand that here was a man who in haste, and without thinking, transgressed, in the spirit of the second commandment, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." It could be that he had come under the influence of an unforgiving or jealous spirit. There are a lot of traits in our lives that Satan wants to cultivate and develop, but God wants to sow and cultivate the marks of Christ in us. What we read in these verses gives us a picture of a man just terrified. He saw something coming between him and God. Suppose he couldn't get the breach mended. Suppose his wrong was so great that God wouldn't hear him. His heart was brought low, but when he cried to God, came in true repentance, directed his prayer to God, he found God very kind and gracious, forgiving and merciful (verse 5). God heard him and He restored something in his life that caused him to express those words, "I love the Lord, because He hath heard my voice and my supplications."

Jesus meant, "I want you to love one another just like I have loved you." He didn't just say causally, "Love one another," if they could cultivate the same quality, the same kind love as He had for them, then, "By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples," would be true of them. That last night, over and over again, Jesus' words followed that theme. He told His disciples in John 13-15 the need of this love. The greatest love of all was the love manifested by Jesus - He gave His life for others. In John 17, He prayed to His heavenly Father that nothing would make a breach between His disciples, but "that they may be one as Thou, Father, art in Me and I in Thee, that they may be one in Us." Jesus also prayed, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word." This petition in Jesus' prayer includes us.

I can understand that after receiving such wonderful benefits, the Psalmist in Psalms 116:12 would express those words, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits towards me?”

It is also necessary to take to the meeting a spirit of thankfulness. We ought to be the most thankful people in all the world. If He could just get us alone for one hour and could tell us all that He had done for us, including many blessings we have forgotten all about, we would never complain about our lot, nor would we be unthankful. We would say, "What can I give back to Him in the time I have left?" "I will take the cup of salvation." There would be no more bitter feelings. So if anything has upset you in your spirit this year, don’t let it upset you this year, let it go. The devil would like us to think that we are justified in cherishing a wrong spirit, if we feel we have been wronged or neglected. It will mar our future and spoil our happiness. "I will walk before the Lord." One thing I had to learn after I professed was that my attitude towards others had to be different. But I learned that my attitude toward God was of first importance. Our preaching and teaching, and influence would be fruitless unless we see that our first responsibility is to live right before God - ourselves. The Psalmist said twice, "I will pay my vows," and twice, "I am Thy servant." He also said, "I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of Thanksgiving."

Just before I close I want to tell you something that has fed my soul. We need to "give in" and to "fit in." As we have the attitude of "Yes" toward God and the "I will" of true submission and true resignation to His will, we will have the one thing necessary to obtain forgiveness from God. That is how we get right, and that is how we keep right. We often have to say “No” to ourselves, sometimes to others, and occasionally to our brethren, if they through lack of understanding should wish to do things not consistent with the example of Jesus, or the word of God. If this should be necessary, it needs to be said graciously and wisely, and explain why. Fathers and Mothers find their need to say, "No" to their children sometimes. Children who have always had their own way seldom grow up to honour God, or to be useful in His service. Those whom God calls for His harvest field need to learn while waiting to go forth, and also after they go forth, to say, "No" to many things that would hinder them from giving their best and their all in service to God and their fellowmen.

May God, then, give to all, grace to make the decisions that will be in the best interests of the Kingdom of God, both regarding our own spiritual welfare and the spiritual welfare of others.