John Wesley will go down in church history as one of God’s most effective evangelists. The road to this calling, however, was far from straight.
John was one of 19 children. His dad was a preacher man in England. And his mother, Susanna was the spiritual superwoman. Even with all the demands of a large family, Susanna never missed her daily holy disciplines and her weekly spiritual interviews with each of her children. Out of her 19 kids, however, Susanna was convinced that John had a special call from God to Christian ministry.
John himself gave every sign of this. He was ambitious and disciplined and very early declared the “absolute impossibility of being half a Christian.” It was all or nothing!
He and his brother Charles went off to Oxford University. It wasn’t long until John had formed a “spiritual society” on campus. Each member of their Holy Club was required to lead a holy life, receive communion once a week, pray, study Scripture three hours a day, and perform some regular community service. They were hardcore legalists.
John soon felt a call to evangelize America. He was going to be God’s answer for this nation! Off he sailed across the Atlantic. Midway a vicious storm threatened the ship and everyone on board. John was sure this was the end! All he heard was screaming on board the ship. He then saw something remarkable that would change his life forever. Right in the midst of all this panic and confusion, he saw a cluster of passengers calmly singing psalms through the tempest. It was a group of German Moravian Christians.
“Were you not afraid?” John later asked them. “Thank God – no!” was their answer. “Our women and children are not afraid to die. Do you have faith in Christ?” they asked. That single question altered John Wesley’s theology completely. Up until that moment, he had been crossing all the “t’s” and dotting all the “i’s” spiritually, yet in the hour of crisis, lacked faith in Christ that all was well.
In America, his dreams were shattered, and many of his missionary trips were a fiasco. John returned home to England to regroup. The message John kept hearing was simple and direct: “Believe and be saved.” From that moment on all his striving and spiritual posturing was finished as he rested solely in the finished work of Christ on the cross. He began to preach God’s love and grace and even though he was not welcomed by much of the church establishment in Britain, he saw the world as his parish, and most often preached outdoors to impromptu congregations of up to 20,000 people.
John had felt his heart strangely warmed by the Spirit of God and that changed everything. He began living by faith, not by works. God became a moment by moment living reality. His ministry was now a spillover of that intimate relationship he enjoyed with the Father – no longer that of a hardcore legalist but of a transmitter of grace.
Be blessed my friend.
The Barnabas Group / Loads of Love