Another article in a continuing series.
1. A Privilege
Like most of our readers, it has been my priceless privilege to attend conferences over many years. As a young lad raised in a Christian home, I was taken along to the conferences, but could not understand the enthusiasm that marked many of the adults. However, following my salvation, baptism, and reception into assembly fellowship, there was a radical change. Almost immediately, I perceived the wonderful privilege of listening attentively and reverently to the unfolding of the Holy Scriptures. Virtually every Saturday, I had the choice of attending several conferences in the favored land of Scotland.
2. A Prospect
It was with great eagerness I looked forward to the next conference and, in the vast majority of occasions, the prospect of receiving rich, spiritual instruction and help was wonderfully realized. God intends that each coming together of His people should be to our mutual spiritual edification.
3. A Preparation
As time went on, it became apparent that in order to gain maximum benefit from such spiritually enlightening and enriching experiences, it was vital that I prepare my heart, life, and mind for the reception of the ministry. Likewise, it became obvious to me that those responsible for communicating the precious teaching of the Word of God would require being diligent in the preparation of their ministry.
Without mentioning names, the men raised up by the Holy Spirit to impart divine truth to us in the 1950’s and 1960’s, were men of great worth and capacity. They had done their homework very well and came out of the Sanctuary efficiently prepared to feed our souls “with the finest of the wheat.”
4. A Pressure – a Burden
Inherent in the effectiveness of a conference gathering is the essential ingredient of an awareness of a weighty responsibility resting upon the speaker. He must feel the burden of his message as he approaches a conference gathering, knowing that he is God’s oracle. In the words of Haggai (Hag 1:13), “Then spake Haggai the Lord’s messenger in the Lord’s message unto the people, saying…”
It is striking to observe the use of the word ‘burden’ in several 0. T. prophecies. “The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see.” The prophecy that he saw is termed a “burden” (massa) meaning “a load, oracle or prophetic utterance,” heavy with woe and judgment. Its natural meaning would be “a judgment that lies heavy on the people.” But more accurately, its meaning is “an oracle or sentence pronounced against them.” The word occurs also in Jer 23:33-38 where it is “the burden of the Lord.” The false prophets were not to use this expression as if they had a message from God. If they did, it would bring punishment upon them.
The word is used again, “The burden of the Word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi” (Mal 1:1). We are safe in suggesting that the opening words of Malachi’s prophecy reveal that his mission was of God, “the burden of the Word of the Lord to Israel.” He carried a heavy burden, or oracle, and he obviously felt the weighty impact of his message, which he brought to Israel.
When we consider Paul’s Epistles to the various assemblies, there is little doubt that he was a burdened man. This is best demonstrated and explained in 2 Cor 11:28, “Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.” In his ministry to the saints and in his prayers for them, there is clear evidence that he carned a heavy burden. This he did, day after day. Not the least of his concerns was for the Corinthian assembly. His ministry was a shepherd-ministry for the spiritual well-being of those whom he had seen reached and saved through the Gospel.
Paul knew that the Lord would raise up those who would teach and shepherd the flock. But notwithstanding this, he felt a deep responsibility toward them.
This was equally true of the Galatian assemblies as recorded in Ch 4:19,20, “My little children, of whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you for I am perplexed about you” (RV). Paul was anxious to see that the new life imparted to them might grow in them. What a person is taught and believes affects character and conduct. Doctrine that exalts Christ makes for holiness.
Similarly it says in Colossians 1:28,29, “Whom we proclaim, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. Whereunto I also labor, striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily.” Here we are shown by Paul that “admonition is warning based on instruction.” These verses also demonstrate his burdened exercise to ultimately bring the saints to complete moral and spiritual development. This will be revealed at the Judgment Seat of Christ. It is accomplished through the working of divine energy.
For almost 40 years, it has been my privilege to participate in many conferences in Australia and in other countries. On each occasion, I have sought to approach these gatherings of the Lord’s people with a burden and a sense of responsibility, recognizing that, speakers and hearers alike, are confronted with matters of immense spiritual and eternal consequence.