In the churches’ history, there have been individuals who have had an extraordinary impact on the church, society and the lives of 1,000’s; sometimes millions of people. They were ordinary people, but something happened.
John Wesley is credited with transforming British society in the 18thC to such a degree Britain avoided the horrors of a revolution akin to that taking place in France. Yet even a cursory study of his early ministry reveals a weak, ineffectual preacher and leader.
In the 19thC D.L. Moody was another enthusiastic but generally ineffective evangelist. Poorly educated, a shoe salesman, enthusiastic and energetic but not a good speaker, little bible knowledge, no grasp of theology. Yet later in life, he could pack the largest hall in any city, several times a week, with people eager to hear him preach.
What happened to these two men?
John Wesley wrote in his journal of 24th May 1738
‘In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society [then meeting in Trinity Hall] in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.’
DL Moody wrote about an encounter with two young women from the YMCA in Chicago who regularly attended Moody’s meetings. They told Moody they were praying that he might experience the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Initially, he thought them presumptuous and found them irritating. Later he joined them in their prayers.
His home, his church and everything he had built up were destroyed by a fire which ravaged a major part of the city of Chicago. He was forced to campaign and travel on fundraising events to raise money to rebuild what had been destroyed by the fire.
On such a trip to New York in 1871, God answered their prayers and poured his Spirit upon Moody. Moody was so overwhelmed he ran to a friend’s house and asked to be allowed to use one of their rooms to be alone with God. He later wrote:
“Ah, what a day! I cannot describe it … I can only say that God revealed Himself to me, and I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask Him to stay His hand.”
Moody’s life was turned upside down; or should that be right side up? He lost interest in everything but those things which are of God. He surrendered his life completely to God; he became a man of fervent prayer & deep study of the scriptures. During his ministry, he earned through his books and hymn books – and gave away – hundreds of thousands of dollars. His overriding passion was for the souls of the lost: one biographer credits him with being responsible for winning over a million souls for Christ.
120 fearful men and women were hiding in an upper room in fear of the authorities who had recently murdered their leader after a false trial. Before he left them their leader told them to wait in the city. They were waiting but were uncertain of what they were waiting for. Then it happened. A band of frightened believers became warriors prepared to die for the message they had been entrusted with.
The disciples and followers of Jesus, Wesley & Moody all had the same experience which changed their lives and turned weak men and women into effective evangelists, who went into the world and turned it the right side up.
They experienced being filled with the Holy Spirit of God and surrendering completely to him.
I recommend everyone read Psalm 62, take special note of vs 11:
Once God has spoken;
twice have I heard this:
that power belongs to God,
Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.
In our own strength and abilities, we are weak and ineffective. Pentecost reminds us, God has more to give; so why are we satisfied with so little?