The Empowerment of God for Sharing Your Faith in Recent History

In a previous blog, I wrote about how the New Testament testifies to our need for the Holy Spirit’s filling–andto the Spirit’s availability for us. This filling is for sharing the good news of Jesus and for empowered Christian living.

In this entry I want you to consider, through several recent examples in history, how the filling of the Holy Spirit has transformed the lives of witnesses to Jesus Christ. In modern history, men such as John Wesley, George Whitefield, D.L. Moody, and R. A. Torrey testify to the empowerment of the Spirit-filled life for witness.

Lewis Drummond recounts Billy Graham’s journey in discovering the power of the Spirit-filled life. It occurred in 1956, when Graham was in England to hold a series of evangelistic meetings. The gatherings were not going well. Almost all those attending were church members–and their numbers were few. Billy knew he needed help. He was witnessing and preaching, but without power.

That night, lying in bed, Billy began to seek more of God. As he did so, a man kept coming to mind. The man was Steven Olford, a Welsh evangelist whom Billy and his small team had stopped to hear in Gravesend on their way to Wales. In that brief encounter, Billy sensed Steven Olford had something in his life he desperately wanted. There was a dynamic exhilaration about Olford that bubbled over to all he talked to.

Steven Olford lived only 11 miles from where Billy Graham was currently staying. The next morning, the evangelist determined to track him down and ask some serious questions about the power behind his ministry.

Delighted to hear from the young American evangelist, Steven Olford invited Billy to meet at a small hotel in the nearby village of Pontypridd. The two men began talking about spiritual things immediately. Billy soon learned that Steven Olford was the son of missionaries and had been raised in Africa. Olford’s father had been led to Christ under the preaching of R. A. Torrey, while Steven himself had been led into a rich experience of the Holy Spirit under the influence of the Keswick movement in Great Britain. The Keswick movement emphasized the Spirit-filled life of total dedication to Christ.

Soon both men had their Bibles open and were down on their knees in their little hotel room. They sought God’s heart and power for Billy Graham and his ministry. The hours rolled by as they turned pages together and shared the truths of God’s Word.

By the end of the first day, Steven Olford had introduced Billy Graham to the concept of “quiet time.” Olford urged the young American to develop a life of prayer and Bible study that was consistent and disciplined and emanated from a hunger for God’s best. The next day, Olford led Billy Graham in a Bible study that expounded the power that comes into the life of the believer willing to submit moment by moment to the sovereignty of Christ and the authority of the Word.

At the end of the study, Steven Olford began to pray for Billy Graham. Billy prayed silently for a while and then, like Jacob of old he cried out, “Lord I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me.”

Steven Olford testified to how God had completely turned his life inside out through experiencing the fullness and anointing of the Holy Spirit. As he spoke, Billy Graham replied with tears streaming down his face, “Steve, I see it. That’s exactly what I want. It’s what I need in my life.” He then began pouring out his heart in a prayer of total dedication to the Lord.

Finally, he turned to Steven Olford. “My heart is so aflood with the Holy Spirit, I want to laugh and praise God all at the same time,” he said. Graham then got up and began pacing back and forth across the narrow room declaring, “I have it. I’m filled.” Finally he turned and grasped Steven Olford’s hand. “This is a turning point in my life,” he said, his eyes shining brightly.
On the third day, the two men went their separate ways, though Steven Olford promised to return for Billy’s evangelistic meeting that night.

That night, for some unknown reason, the hall where Billy Graham was scheduled to preach was filled to overflowing, unlike the other nights when only a smattering of loyal churchgoers had shown up. From the moment Billy opened his mouth to preach, Olford sensed something was different. Billy preached a sermon he had preached before on the feast of Belshazzar. Yet this time it was delivered with a power and authority Billy longed for, but never quite achieved. As soon as he gave an invitation to come forward, working men and women jammed the aisles, jostling to be the first to the front.

Later, Steven Olford confessed that he was so moved by the change in Billy’s demeanor that he could hardly concentrate on the road as he drove home. At home, Olford’s father took one look at his son and blurted out, “What on earth has happened?”

Olford sat down at the kitchen table and said, “Dad, something has happened to Billy Graham. The world is going to hear from this man. He is going to make his mark in history.”

Billy Graham himself reflects back on that day as the definitive turning point in his ministry of evangelism. The experience has to a significant degree influenced Billy’s whole understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit in evangelism.[1]

This kind of experience is what D. L. Moody called “the secret power.” Moody began to realize his need for this empowerment from God on a study trip to England in 1867. He met a well known evangelist by the name of Richard Varley, who said to Moody, “The world has yet to see what God will do with and for and through and in and by the man who is fully consecrated to him.” Moody thought, “He didn’t say a smart man; he didn’t say an educated man; he didn’t say a great man. He said a man with full consecration to God. I will try my best to be that man.” Not long after this encounter, Moody received the power of the Holy Spirit he so needed. His message was the same, but the people putting their trust in Christ multiplied.

Renowned Bible teacher Henrietta C. Mears said, “I believe that it is impossible for any Christian to be effective, either in his life or in his service, unless he is filled with the Holy Spirit, who is God’s only provision of power.[2]” Understand what Mears said: Effectiveness in any ministry, especially in evangelism, is dependent on God’s only provision of power–the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

We also could include other men like Evan Roberts of the Great Welsh Revival and, later, Duncan Campbell of the revivals on the Isle of Lewis. The point is, all these people came to the place of believing Luke 11:11-13: “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

So far, we have read testimonies–from the life of Jesus, from the apostles, and from the early church–that make a case for the filling of the Spirit. We have mandates from Scripture that the infilling of the Holy Spirit is for every believer. The lives of these men and women show us that to become the kind of people who share Christ effectively we need the empowerment of God's Spirit in our lives. 

[1] Drummond, Lewis A. “The Evangelist”. Word: Nashville, 2001. 18-20.
[2] Bill Bright. The Coming Revival. 195.

7 comments (Add your own)

1. Meadow wrote:
Imerpsisve brain power at work! Great answer!

Fri, December 30, 2011 @ 3:17 AM

2. Dorie wrote:
Ah yes, nielcy put, everyone.

Fri, December 30, 2011 @ 6:25 AM

3. dewomci wrote:
g5uuHt ypieycnnroud

Sat, December 31, 2011 @ 3:37 AM

4. Satchell wrote:
This makes everything so cmopletley painless.

Sat, December 31, 2011 @ 7:46 PM

5. Lina wrote:
I wteahcd the funeral and was very moved by a prayer that Ned read from a book that Anne had given him for Christmas. I missed the name and author of the book but it was a book of anonymous prayers. The prayer he read was about sleep. I very much want the name of this book. I know deep inside that I am to buy this book. Does anyone remember the name and author? PLEASE email it to me. Thanks. *lincaldwellrn@yahoo.com

Fri, February 17, 2012 @ 5:01 PM

6. Haythem wrote:
Thanks for this great post on the Holy Spirit. I just peostd something similar a few days ago. God bless your boldness.....and the truth you speak! ~ jen

Mon, February 20, 2012 @ 12:37 AM

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Fri, June 8, 2012 @ 3:43 AM

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