Every true burden that the Lord has given me to bear has been born out of a deep, life-changing encounter in the presence of Jesus. In 1957 the Spirit of God came on me in a spirit of weeping. I sold my television, which dominated my free time, and for a year I shut myself in with my Lord in prayer. I spent months praying in my study and in the woods. And while I was in His presence, He opened His heart to me and showed me a whole suffering world. Out of this came the command, “Go to New York.” I obeyed, and while I walked these streets He shared with me His burden for gangs, addicts and alcoholics.
A few years ago, God called me to a life of much deeper communion. I spent months alone with Jesus, being purged, laying down all ambition, wanting only to please Him. Once again came the command: “Go back to New York.” Now our ministry moves only through prayer and by being in His presence. The burden we have must be His burden or it is all vain.
When I was eight years old, camp meetings were popular. At that time there were no special campgrounds or Christian retreats; tents and little cabins were all that churches could afford. Gwen and I used to go to “Living Waters Camp” in Cherry Tree, Pennsylvania. People would come to that camp full of His presence. We had no TVs, and no one dared even think about going to the theater. Jesus was our everything!
The meetings would last most of the night and in such a meeting, where Jesus shone forth so mightily, we all ran to the altar. I remember kneeling in the straw, and while I was in God’s presence He became my life. He spoke to me there, saying, “Give me your life!” I doubt if I would be ministering today if not for the dear saints who came to those camp meetings so full of Jesus. They manifested His glory. I lay for hours, weeping and trembling at that camp meeting altar, and when I stood up—just a boy—God’s hand was upon my life and His burden was on my soul.
No one shared the burden of the Lord more than the apostle Paul. Jesus laid on his shoulders the yoke of His own heart. But how did Paul receive that burden? From an encounter with the bright sun of Christ’s presence! “Suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: and he fell to the earth” (Acts 9:3-4). This was the very presence of Jesus. Paul’s ministry came out of that encounter. Notice that “Arise, and go” (verse 6) came next! When you have the actual, living presence of Jesus, you don’t need committees, strategies or “how to” seminars for direction. The Holy Ghost comes and says, “Go here . . . go there . . . do it this way.” He tells you when, where and how!