C.S. Lewis said something to the effect of: When you read a new book, you should read an old one. I have tried to follow this advice, one such book being, Life Verses: The Bible’s Impact on Famous Lives: Volume Two by F.W. Boreham, where the author tells the spiritual journey of William Penn, a Quaker, philanthropist, and founder of Pennsylvania.
Son of Admiral William Penn, the younger William was a contemporary of the Puritans. While both John Milton and John Bunyan influenced Penn, it was Thomas Loe, a simple Quaker preacher who spread the gospel in the British Isles as Penn grew up, who was used by God as the catalyst to revolutionize Penn for good and for God. Three times their paths crossed, and God used this simple preacher with fire in his bones and the love of God in his heart in Penn’s life.
The first time Penn heard the Quaker preach was in Cork in Ireland. His father, hearing that the preacher had the town flocking to his meetings, invited him to the estate to speak to his household. As the 12-year-old Penn looked around, he saw a servant deeply moved. He looked at the Admiral, and to his amazement, saw tears running down his father’s face. He wondered greatly about the God that lived in and through Loe’s uncompromising preaching and its powerful effect on the people that day.
The second time Loe was used in Penn’s spiritual journey was a turning point for him. I can think of pivotal sermons that have winged their way through my defenses and found a resting place in my heart, setting my sails in another direction that I had never thought I would go. Like sitting in the great Harringay Arena in London as a student, listening to a young evangelist from America named Billy Graham calling the youth of England to find out the plan God had for their lives and do it! The Lord used that night to turn my attention to a world outside mine that needed reaching for Christ. Can you pinpoint any such words that the Spirit of God used to take you deeper into the mysterious workings of God in your soul? Has God paid a visit to your life as He did to William Penn’s? It does us good to take note of our past directives and trace the Spirit’s footsteps.
All of us being unique creatures will have our own special way of understanding what God is saying to our soul. The way it happens doesn’t matter, but that it happens, does! Each in our own different way needs to come to a point of no return when we say to God, “Anytime, anywhere, anyhow!” Dr. Stoughton, commenting on Penn’s conversion, says, “Conversion must not be considered simply as a change of opinion. It penetrated his (Penn’s) moral nature; it made him a new man. He was raised into another sphere of consciousness.”
I thought about the way that some of us evangelicals too easily report on “conversions.” “So many accepted Christ,” we say. But what do we mean? Is there evidence of life following, that these people have been “exceedingly reached and wept much”? Have they been internally sorrowed for the sin that nailed Jesus securely in place till He accomplished our saving? Has the Spirit done His convicting and convincing work, and have they like Penn, in their own way, renounced any hopes and dreams they had ever cherished in order that they would overcome the world?
Have we been guilty of teasing people into the Kingdom of God by telling them it’s all about a lot of fun, when it’s all about a lot of faith? Do we sooth their apprehensions of paying a price—any price—by talking about an easy believism and a costless Christianity? Are we more intent on leaving a good impression than serving them truly by risking rejection or ridicule for the tough things that need to be spoken?
Christ let all His glory, honor, and status go in order to do the will of His Father in Heaven, in order that we could be forgiven. We need to be overwhelmed anew with the cross of Christ and the price He paid as He “exceedingly reached and weeping much” renounced His dreams and embraced our nightmares, visiting our helplessness with His redemption. Once that work is done in all our hearts, a powerful ministry can begin.
Let us dare to preach a message like Penn and live and love our lives away for God! Let us ask ourselves, “What is the reach of God in my life? Was there a part of me one day that decided He had enough of me? Did I decide I was doing enough, speaking enough, praying enough, serving enough? Did I say thus far and no further?” Will we dare whisper, “Reach deeper, Lord, reach further. Reach down until I know You at a depth I’ve never known You before”?
Out of such yearning can come a fresh vision and renewed commitment to Jesus and His cause that will result in those around catching fire. Once we are exceedingly reached ourselves, we will see God reach others at a life-changing depth too.
In His Love,
Just Between Us Magazine