Paul Keith Davis recently related this anecdote about the great Smith Wigglesworth, apostle of faith.
In 1922 Wigglesworth journeyed to New Zealand for a series of healing campaigns. At the time, he was unknown to New Zealand’s leadership, but with great confidence various pastors rented the Wellington Town Hall to host the meetings. To everyone’s delight, the Lord was wonderfully present in power, bringing healing and salvation to scores. The services were so successful that additional meetings were arranged and each was filled to capacity with God healing the most difficult cases of sickness and disease.
At the conclusion of the campaign one of the host pastors, while walking along the seashore with Wigglesworth, asked what his secret was to walking in demonstrations of God’s power. Wigglesworth responded, “I am sorry you asked me that question, but I will answer it. I am a brokenhearted man. My wife who meant everything to me, died 11 years ago. After the funeral I went back and lay on her grave. I wanted to die there. But God spoke to me and told me to rise up and come away. I told Him if He would give me a double portion of the Spirit—my wife’s and my own—I would go and preach the Gospel. God was gracious to me and answered my request. But I sail the high seas alone. I am a lonely man, and many a time all I can do is to weep and weep.”
A broken and contrite heart was the secret to Wigglesworth’s success with God. It is written in Psalm 51:17, “the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”
As the two men continued walking along New Zealand’s seashore, Wigglesworth emphasized what he carried in God was not to be envied, but instead he envied what the last generation will see. Wigglesworth explained that he had experienced three open visions with the Lord. Two of them were already fulfilled at the time of these meetings in 1922. However, he expressed the third would take place after his death. Wigglesworth explained, “Oh it was amazing! Amazing! I cannot tell God’s secrets, but you will remember what I say—this revival we have had is nothing to what God is yet going to do.”
I find it interesting that such a powerful man in the Spirit would be, at his core, so broken. Smith was extremely direct and plainspoken, and brooked no nonsense. He would send people off the prayer line when he knew they had already received prayer for their healing. Once he actually punched a man several times in order to shake off a tumor. The onlookers were aghast and ready to revolt, but on the third punch the tumor literally dropped to the floor, with the man healed.
Another time Smith was attending a Christmas recital of Handel’s Messiah in a large hall in London. When the choir was done extolling the Hallelujah Chorus, Smith himself exclaimed HALLELUJAH! in a voice that so filled the hall that it made mention in a newspaper music review the next day. This former house plumber was an imposing man in every way.
And yet inside, he was broken. Hosea implores us, ““Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. (Hos 6:1) Sometimes the Lord must allow a great shaking to get our attention. In our brokenness He can minister sanctification of our souls, consecration to Him, and compassion for others, to a depth that can be achieved no other way.
I don’t know the full story of Smith Wigglesworth’s inner life, but his overcoming a broken heart and going on to be so powerful in the Lord gives me encouragement. If he can do it, I can do it, and you can do it too. We have the same Lord, the same Spirit, and a like faith, and the Lord has promised not to give us more than we can bear. Even a broken heart is no match for the imperishable seed that God has implanted in our spirit.
WordPressers and Facebookers, I can only hope this post will make it through intact. I’m posting remotely. Be blessed.
Joseph Prince brought out some great insights in his devotional today. It was about the Syro-Phoenician woman who sought Jesus’ help for her demonized daughter. This passage can be hard to understand, and many skeptics have used it to paint Jesus as uncaring and even racist, or at the least, temperamental. For anyone who really knows the Gospels, those charges are impossible, but they have been used to sow doubt in those unfamiliar with the Savior’s character.
And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon
And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.”
The Prince piece started me conjecturing what was really going on. First, he pointed out that the woman, though a Gentile, approached Jesus using his Davidic messianic title, Son of David. Why did she do this? Desperate for her daughter, she sought to incur Jesus’ favor by pretending to be a Jew herself, or at least by showing that she knew and respected the Jewish religion.
But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.”
And what did trying to massage Jesus get her? Silence! Hmmm. The woman gets persistent (just as Jesus teaches us to be), but now the disciples want to get rid of her! From the woman’s perspective, things are going downhill, fast.
He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Finally Jesus answers. But how does He answer? He further stonewalls the woman. This is the story’s crisis point. Everything the woman had planned to do had now been done, to no effect. Out of ammo, the woman was either going to have to give up on her miracle or do something unplanned and desperate.
But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”
Remember, the Jews would have nothing to do with these Gentiles, yet still the woman dares to cast herself before Jesus. It’s no longer the “Son of David” appellation from afar. It’s now “Lord”, in an intimate voice, up close and personal.
And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”
Jesus stills opposes the woman, but Prince points out that the Greek word used for dogs here signifies a little dog – we would call it a puppy. Though His words still say “no”, the tone of Jesus voice expresses tenderness toward the woman. She sees a ray of hope and is encouraged.
She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. – Matt 15:21-28
All the while Jesus seemed to be uncaring, and even adversarial, He was masterfully drawing the woman out of herself and towards himself. He wasn’t satisfied with distant, impersonal worship, and He certainly wasn’t impressed with religious titles or knowledge.
He pressed the woman to reveal her true self, not out of callousness, but so that she could enter into intimate relationship with her Savior. His actions were borne of love, not disdain. All the while that He seemed uncaring, He wanted her to take up the challenge and overcome the obstacles, and He was delighted when she did so.
As always, Jesus was in perfect control of the situation at all times, and He perfectly engineered the conversation so that the woman – His seeming adversary – not only could gain the blessing for her daughter, she could be forever changed in the process!
There is no one like our matchless Jesus, and there never can be. We can take an important lesson from this. Whenever the Bible presents a difficult passage, adopt the view that there is an explanation even if we don’t know it at this time. God is still in the business of drawing people out, to prove what’s in their hearts and to draw them close to Him.
And whatever our need in life, even when Jesus seems to be silent, even when He seems to be adversarial, He’s really on our side advocating for us the whole time. Never doubt the kind intentions of the Savior. Press in and receive the blessing!
Sometimes the real issue is not the pressing issue. Sometimes a more basic principle is at play that we dare not violate. Especially when we think we can handle a tricky situation ourselves, we can choose an expedient solution, only to find that we’ve made the situation far worse. The devil’s most effective time of getting us to stumble can be when we least expect it.
All my Christian life I’ve been inspired by the life of good king Asa. Asa became king of Judah after Israel had split off. He had ten years of peace initially, and he used this period to purge Judah of idolatry and immorality.
During the period in which Asa was purging Judah of false worship, a prophet came to him and spoke this challenging word:
“Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: The Lord is with you while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you. – 2Chr 15:2
Asa took the challenge, and he set about reconsecrating Judah to the Lord. He took this task so seriously that he removed his own mother from being the queen-mother because she openly harbored an abominable idol. Asa honored the Lord more than even family, so it is no wonder the Bible says that his heart was “perfect with the Lord all his days”.
There are two interesting things about Asa’s perfect heart for God. First, he still was not able to bring about complete purification of the land. Though Asa made immense progress, the “high places were not removed”. Commentator David Guzik points out that 2Chr 14.3 states that Asa did remove the high places dedicated to foreign gods, so evidently the high places that were not taken down were unauthorized places of worship to the Lord himself. Remember, this was not the New Covenant, where the presence of merely “two or three” represents an “official” quorum. Worship had to be done in authorized, formal ways.
The other thing I find interesting about Asa’s perfect heart is his stumble later on in life. After those ten years of peace a great crisis befell Asa. The nation of Ethiopia came against Judah with an army of one million men. Back then, Ethiopia consisted of much of the eastern horn of Africa, including the Sudan. Asa was vastly outnumbered and out-armed, and understandably afraid. In one of the most memorable prayers of the Bible,
Asa cried to the Lord his God, “O Lord, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak. Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude. O Lord, you are our God; let not man prevail against you.” -2 Chr 14:11
Two coexisting rival kingdoms
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. – Mat 13:44
Jesus came and instituted his Kingdom “ahead of time”, as it were, while satan’s dominion on earth was still functionally intact. We know that God’s Kingdom is unshakable, and that it will continue to increase until all earthly counterfeits are done away with. But until that final day the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of man under satan’s domain coexist on earth. It is hardly a peaceful coexistence, as the enemy of God continually persecutes God’s saints, trying to wear them down through trials or trip them up with temptations.
Jesus left us in the world to bear witness to Him so that His Kingdom would increase. He could have taken each of us to Him the moment we possessed saving faith. But had He done that, who would have witnessed to the remaining lost of this world? In mercy, we were left here for the purpose of serving others.
Or we may think that at least God could have protected each of His children so that the sorrows of this world could not reach us as we went about our tasks. But if He had given his children a life of ease, then others would rush to join the side of Light not out of love of God, but out of selfish interest. So death has been permitted to reign during the present age, even over believers, to try our hearts and make us holy. Read more…
What if the glory was only in the next life? What if we were to serve God here and never reap any reward until then? Would we still cling to Him? Would we still believe in His goodness and power?
The Bible is full of promises even for this life, yet some people are taken early and some have very difficult lives. When life doesn’t make sense, will we still love and serve?
I used to be haunted by the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald lyric, “Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?”
I’m no longer haunted by it – God’s love goes nowhere. God still loves us when we’re going through trials, and we should still love Him back. What we are subject to in this fallen life changes neither God’s objective worthiness nor His loving nature.
It’s important to get this right. Because if we’re serving for earthly rewards only, our relationship with God is selfish and we are going to fall when the tests come. And come they will, and indeed their purpose is to purge us of wrong motives.
All that can be shaken will be shaken, we are warned. The one motivation that cannot be shaken is to seek the manifest glory and love of God.
The three young Hebrews knew that.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter.
“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.
“But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” – Da 3:16-18
That’s an excellent attitude.
- While they were respectful, their faith was subject to no man. No authority can rival God’s authority.
- They believed that God was able to deliver them.
- They believed that God would deliver them!
- But even if, according to God’s unassailable wisdom He declined to deliver them, they were still going to remain faithful.
The three Hebrews were in a tough position, but all saints should count on trials that test their motivations. If we want to pass the tests and receive the promotions that last, those which come not from man, but from God, it is essential that our motivation is true.