(Sharing My Exit Paper For The Missions & Revival Course…)
When I thought about this paper I couldn’t really make up my mind as to whom I wanted to focus on; Edwards, Moody or Graham. I then thought about doing a compilation of all three as they are in my opinion, some of the most effective and powerful evangelists to ever be born. But that’s not what the Lord has led me to do, although they are great men, it is not the men that made the revival fire burn so brightly across so many different communities but the Spirit of God that used them to bring it about. I somewhat see revival, like God in the heavens adding another log to the fire. I live in a rural area and we often enjoy a nice bonfire in the middle of July, underneath the starry mountain sky. When the fire burns down to just hot glowing logs with little flame, one of us will stoke it and add a fresh log to the fire and bask in the renewed flames. I often wonder if that is how God feels, as he adds an Edwards, or a Moody, or a Graham to the spiritual fire he has going on earth today.
I think a theme that is relevant no matter whom God uses, is that God remains Sovereign in the situation. He allows his glory to fall for an alloted time period, then he retracts it back as suddenly as he began dispersing it. Keeping us astutely aware what it is he that is in control. That although some earthly vessels get the privilege of being used by God to start a revival, it is God who provides the fire that engulfs the souls of those in attendance. The man preaching is a mere tool in Gods almighty hand, like an old fashioned sickle, he wields it back and forth through rows of hungry new converts bringing fresh souls home to heaven with each swipe. It begins and ends with God, man is just the means by which he brings about his divine will. He just merely throws another log on the fire.
When I was 18 years old I went on a missionary trip to the Bahamas to help Haitian Refugees that were living in the absolute slums of Nassau. We flew down to the islands on a small Cesna airplane that seated 8 passengers. I remember looking at the ocean as we approached the island we were to land on, the water was so clear you could see 50 feet under water from the air. The water was so beautiful, and the island looked like a tropical paradise. We were picked up at the airport by the church that was sponsoring us and shuttled to our home for the next couple of weeks. As we moved down through the streets the first impression of a tropical paradise eroded into one of poverty and desperation. The streets that were off the tourists beaten paths were filled with dogs with three legs, children without diapers or shoes, and houses that looked as if they had seen one too many hurricanes. The yards were dirt, and there was a sense of poverty and an air of depression. We had come with something they desperately needed, the hope that Jesus Christ alone can bring.
The next day we got to recede even further back into the secret inner happenings of the island, and the further we went inward the more impoverished the situation became. There was a pig farm that you could smell as you turned down the street. There were little shacks made from confiscated real estate signs, sheets of plywood, and old car tires holding down roofs. The street came to an end where the local grocery stores would come and dump rancid food, and there with stray dogs, children were searching through rotten bits of bologna and other discarded outdated food for nourishment. One woman had 9 kids living in a house that had to be less than 10×10. Her youngest baby nearing two, was not only diaper-less but also nameless. She hadn’t even named her yet. The feeling of desperation was palatable, and unless you have ventured outside of this country, the poverty level was unimaginable. The sad thing is this was better than were they had come from, this was an escape into something better.
Due to Bahamian regulations the “church” we were building had to be called a “community center” but it was being constructed to serve the needs of Haitian Refugees. To feed them, aid them, and most importantly educate them, as they could not attend school in the Bahamas. Everyday we would go and pick up kids, do activities, feed them lunch and work on the center. The Bahamian women would cook us the most delicious foods, conch fritters, being my favorite. Everyone there was so lovely and filled with the Spirit of God and the hope that it brings. The feeling was one of optimism, of moving forward, of hope. It was wonderful to be a part of it. I imagine that revival is much the same, and although you are not building a place of hope, you are spreading the fire of hope inside people. Wherever the Spirit is, the fruit of hope is intoxicating. Hope is something God built a need inside us for. Many people search for love as if it is the most desirable attribute, and it is a good one, but hope is equally important. And real hope only comes from Christ. Solid, never-ending, eternal hope that you are secure and that you can make it through all adversity. Without hope, you are more impoverished than the lady with 9 kids living in the ram-shackled remains watching her children eat from the garbage. It is a pitiful state that only Christ can cure.
Everyday when I would walk from the church house we stayed in, to the construction site for the center, I would pass this row of houses. Probably a dozen or more houses, all neat in a row, each one about the same size and shape. They each were painted these brilliant bright colors, blues, pinks, and greens. All of the houses had these little front yards and a fence that kept them safe, each yard was dirt, no grass in sight at all. Except for one little house that is. The lady who lived inside this particular house had planted her yard into a vegetable garden of epic proportions. Houses on either side of hers looked so barren and depleted with their brown sandy “yards” and here hers was filled with brilliant green plants exploding with ripe red tomatoes, yellow squashes, green beans and everything in between. Her garden was outstanding.
It was such a lesson for me, one I still reflect on over 20 years later. She had the exact same yard, the exact same environment, and yet her outcome was so different than her neighbors. It stands as a vivid example of “its not what you have, its what you do with it that matters.” She decided to take her little barren plot of land in the ghetto of Nassau and turn it into something productive. Her will to do so, set her apart from everyone else around her. She inspired me, to live my life like that. Taking my little barren plot and using what God has given me to plant a garden that bears a different kind of fruit…eternal fruit.
So when we look back at people like the Billy Grahams’, Dwight Moodys’ or Jonathan Edwards’ of the past can we say that when God picked them up and placed them on his fire he did so because there was something extraordinary about them? Or do you think it was a combination, that he used them because he knew that they would be like the little old lady in the Bahamas, that they would use what he gave them to bring glory to his Kingdom. That it is in fact, a partnership, and that God gifts you with what you need to be useful to him, it is only a matter of you yielding to the Spirit and being obedient. Each one of the revivals that they preached over, was in an essence just like that little old ladies front yard, the seeds had been planted and they raised their voices obediently to reap the harvest.
I want to be like that. I want to be used in any way God can use me to bring home as many souls as I can before I check out of this life. I offer up to the Lord all of my talents he has given me. My artistic talents, my love for writing, my empathy for those that are suffering especially those effected by mental illness in this country. I offer up my little dirt yard, in hopes that God will be willing to plant in me that which will bear much fruit for his glory. And I can only hope that when people walk by me, and look at that fruit, they ask me about why I am different. Then I can proudly proclaim, that its ALL because of Jesus Christ. I believe that a resolution of Jonathan Edwards beautifully expresses how I feel…
“Resolved, to improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer.” – July 8, 1723.