Look around and you’ll see the undeniable signs of the times. The Supreme Court that opened the door to murdering more than 55 million babies has failed to defend traditional marriage. The prince of the power of the air is propagating all manner of immorality over mass media. And all sorts of heresy is circulating in the body of Christ.
Despite the darkness of the hour, we are still believing for a revival—a great awakening. In fact, we believe we’re living in the greatest hour in church history. The true bride will arise in prayer to combat the forces of darkness and open the door to the salvation of many. Yet we must prepare for this outpouring.
What’s more, amid this stark contrast of light and dark lies a dangerous time for believers, as many are ill-equipped to face the challenges coming in the days ahead. Despite decades of teaching on the fivefold ministry, which aims to equip the saints for works of service and to stand firm despite various winds of doctrine (Eph. 4:11), the church is falling down on its job.
I had just finished praying in the altars on the last night of an extended revival. A young man who was studying for ministry approached me with tears in his eyes. As I placed my hand on his shoulder, he said, “I need to apologize to you. I judged you too soon. Anytime I hear someone preach what sounds like ‘law’ it makes me angry and I instantly shut them out. I can see now I was wrong and missed out on what God could have done in me this week.” My heart welled up with compassion for him, as my mind replayed the past week searching for the offense. I took a few extra minutes to minister and pray with him there at the altar and the next few days thinking about our conversation.
To be clear, I am a preacher of the gospel, not the law. As an evangelist, I have no other message than that of Christ and Him crucified. It is a message not only of grace, but of love, forgiveness, salvation, redemption, faith, freedom and power!
That said, I have noticed that anytime I make reference to the law, sin, conviction and repentance alongside grace, I feel barriers go up in the atmosphere. At that moment it often becomes necessary to stop and define these terms as they have become so distorted by the toxic theology that has been taught in recent years.
Focusing solely on the grace of God without preaching the divine law, justice and judgment of God is unbalanced. Remember, John 3:16 doesn’t just tell us that God loved us and gave his son to us, it also tells us we will perish unless we believe upon Jesus.
My friends, I can’t help but feel heavy at this moment—perhaps you feel the same. The news that has broken over the past few days, not weeks, shows how quickly our world is spiraling into chaos. Things are no longer as they once were.
I wept as I heard the stories of the atrocities taking place in Mosul. A Christian community has been removed, children are being beheaded, homes of Christians are marked, believers forced to convert or face the sword. These are stories, the likes of which, we haven’t read about since the 1940s.
My prayers are with our brothers and sisters who truly understand what Paul meant when he wrote, “all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). I imagine their perspective about what it means to be a Christian is very different from our own. What a shame. We all have the same Christ, the same Gospel, but we yet we live very different lives.
I wonder how a message of prosperity works with a congregation that suffers this kind of persecution. How does a series on becoming a better you connect to a man who was just beaten? Perhaps they have something to teach us about the blessing of true kingdom prosperity that comes from persecution or how suffering brings about our perfection (Matt. 5:10, 1 Peter 5:10).
AW Tozer wrote, “You and I have as much of God as we want.”
That statement has burned within my spirit these past three weeks. It’s both convicted me of personal complacency and stirred me to a greater fervency. I hunger for more of God than what I currently know. Thankfully there is more! So much more!!!
Consider the personal implications of that quote. How much of God is enough for you? Have you found a place of contentment within his presence and settled down? Is it possible that you’ve backtracked in your spiritual life? Is there a time you were more on fire for the Lord than you are now? Do you still desire more of God? Tozer says, “you have as much of God as you want.” How much of God have you settled for? Are you contending for more?
I remember during the revival that it wasn’t strange to be at the church every night. Why? God was in the house and we didn’t want to be absent. After decades of being in church without God, God wasn’t going to be in church without me! During that blessed time it wasn’t work or legalism that drove me to church night after night, it was hunger for more and more of his presence.
I wish I could tell you that everyday since I’ve run hard after him. I certainly could have, but life has a tendency to bring things our way that takes our eyes off the one and only thing that matters. We stop praying like we used to, we stop worshiping like we used to, we miss a day or two of devotional time with Jesus. It’s easy to excuse at first. Initially we are convicted, but soon we become content. It’s a subtle slide and a slow fade. None of us intend to slip, it’s the natural consequence of becoming content with the status quo.
My friend, contentment is the greatest enemy of your Christianity. Contentment says, “this is a good place to stop. I’ve seen all I need to see, experienced all I need to experience, have all I need to have.” Instead of progressing into greater glory in him we camp out at the last experience. Contentment is the first step to compromise and compromise is one step from spiritual death.
Perhaps that’s where you are, spiritually dead or dying. If so, close your eyes right now and cry out to Him. There is grace to meet you at this moment and bring your spirit back to life. Maybe you’re just at that place of contentment, if so let these words stir you – there is more, more than you currently know, so much more!
God doesn’t dwell in our past and neither should we. He has never stopped moving since that last encounter and will continue to move beyond the next. There is a greater dimension of his glory awaiting you. Refuse to be content with the past measure of his presence. It’s time to contend for a greater glory in the future!
…the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. (Joshua 3:15-17 NIV)
Have you been stuck or stagnate as of late? Perhaps it has felt as if there is a lid over your life that just will not lift.
My friend I have good news for you! I heard the Lord say, “Step THROUGH your border!”
We serve a limitless God who has not placed a limitation on you. We are free to dream and believe Him for the impossible no matter how improbable.
Jesus said, “all things are possible for him that believes.”
That word is both liberating and frustrating to me. Liberating because I understand that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Frustrating because I haven’t seen all the things I’m believing for…yet.
After 40 years of living as nomads in the dessert, the children of Israel found themselves at the border of frustration and liberation. Decades of wandering aimlessly were coming to an end, but a flooded river now stood before them as an obstacle to their prophetic promise. They were stuck!
The Lord’s instruction was simple yet bold, “step into the river.” They couldn’t wait for the barrier to move, they had to move into their barrier. When they did the river stopped flowing.
The same is true for you! That border that you keep bumping up against that you have allowed to keep you stuck, step into it! Don’t let it limit you any longer.
Faith is active when you take action! Take the step of faith and you will find that the Lord is at work upstream, positioning and moving obstacles to bring you through to the other side!
Yes, the situation you are facing is different from the one I face, but the faith is the same! The same obedient faith that enabled the Israelites to cross the Jordan is the same obedient faith you need right now.
My friend, you’re about to move some mountains and stop the flood when you respond to His Word! Go ahead, step THROUGH your border.
Many have asked me how I’ve been able to maintain my Christian walk over the past 30 years, even in the midst of life’s fiery trials.
I’m going to share with you some of the secrets of my longevity. I’m not an old man, but I’m also not a young man. I’ve preached the gospel now for nearly 30 years, and I expect to preach the gospel for at least another 30 years.
The longer I live, the longer I want to live. I don’t want to miss a thing that God has for me. I don’t want to die and miss the revival that’s coming. I want to experience the great move of God that’s just on the horizon. I want to see millions get saved and whole nations come to Christ. This is what I live for, and it’s the reason why I plan on living to a ripe old age. How about you?
The truths that I’m going to share with you have become invaluable to me over the years. They are a part of the fabric of my being. I live by them, and I challenge you to do the same. Learning to live by them will cause you to be rich in the Spirit. It will affect your physical and mental well-being and can even add years to your life.
I was in major need of revival by the age of 19. I was the backslidden grandson of a fiery tent-preaching revivalist. I had spent a great deal of my life in the church but was now running fast into the world. I was a gifted hypocrite who played the part on Sunday but did as I wished come Monday.
Apparently I had enough people fooled to be used as a leader in the church. I don’t know if that said more about my skillful deception or their desperation. The warning signs were there if someone would have exercised enough discernment to see the symptoms.
I was dying and needed help. Thankfully that help arrived in our little church in 1996 when revival broke out during an ice storm (another story for another day). Jesus, the great physician, showed up with a diagnosis and prescription for my spiritual condition. Yes, it hurt, but it also healed!
There are seven questions for self discovery that the great theologian A.W. Tozer encourages us to consider. These questions, if answered honestly, speaks volumes about our spiritual health. They are:
- What we want most
- What we think about most
- How we use our money
- What we do with our leisure time
- The company we enjoy
- Who and what we admire
- What we laugh at
I make it a point to frequently ask these questions of myself. With these in mind, I want to offer seven signs you need revival in your own life:
1. YOU ARE ENTERTAINED BY THINGS THAT ONCE GRIEVED YOU.
When I got saved, I cleaned up my life and cleaned out my house. I filled up several garbage cans with worldly items that I had collected over the years. No one told me to do this. I simply had such a pure love for the Lord and I didn’t want anything to come between me and Him. I was breaking up with the devil and no longer had a need for any of these articles of worldly affection.
However, any home that has been swept clean will once again become dirty if it’s not maintained daily. Over time, it’s easy to drop our guard and let things back into our lives that we once shook off.
Are you turning on things that once you would have turned off? When is the last time you walked out of a movie because you were grieved over how they profaned the name of your God? Are peers comfortable sharing obscene jokes in your presence, or do they change their tone when you’re around? Are you entertaining yourself with things that once grieved you?
2. YOU ARE SILENT WHERE YOU ONCE SPOKE.
Asking a man filled with the Spirit to be silent is as futile as asking a lit candle not to shine. The boldness to share the gospel is inherent in the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “You will receive power when My Spirit comes on you, and you will be My witnesses.”
The truest evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a tongue that has been set free and set on fire with the gospel!
Remember when you were first saved? You wanted to share the experience with your friends and family. Remember that boldness to declare His righteousness and what He had done for you? Do you still have it, or has your voice grown still? Your silence may be the sign of a backslidden heart.
When is the last time you shared your faith? Do you speak up when a wrong must be made right? Are you silent where you should speak?
It is time to once again find your voice!
3. YOUR PRAYER CLOSET HAS COBWEBS AND YOUR BIBLE IS DUSTY.
No man is greater than his own prayer life. The believer that doesn’t spend time on his face before the Lord and in the Word is quietly telling the Lord, “I’ve got this on my own.”
Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). He didn’t say proceeded, but proceeds. It’s not just what has God spoken to you in the past, but what He says to you today! If you want to live, you have to daily get on your face and get into His Word.
When life throws a problem your way, is prayer the first place you turn or the last? What did God show you in His Word today? When is the last time you spent quality time with the Lord? If you were as lacking in your vocation as you are in your devotion, how long would it be until you were out of work?
Do you believe prayer truly works? Then you should be praying more!
4. YOU’RE MORE LIKELY TO CRITICIZE YOUR PASTOR THAN TO CONTEMPLATE HIS MESSAGE.
When you walk out of church, are you thinking about what you agreed and disagreed with in the message, or do you take it to heart? Criticism is a sure symptom of a heart that is hardening.
I’ve learned in my own life that when I am criticizing another person, it says more about me than it does about them. Why not attend church this weekend and ask the Lord to speak to your heart and change your life through the words spoken from your pastor?
5. YOU EXCUSE SIN.
Sin is anything Jesus wouldn’t do. I like this simple and straightforward definition. If Jesus wouldn’t go there, do that, drink that, smoke that, say that, listen to that or watch that, then it is sin and has no place in the life a son or daughter of God.
Jesus set the standard pretty high. He said, “You shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). The writer of Hebrews tells us to “pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). Holiness and perfection is impossible if you attempt to do it on your own.
Thankfully, I’m not doing this in my own strength but in His.
Are you tolerating habits and addictions? What are the hidden things in your life you wouldn’t want anyone else to find out about? What do you keep telling yourself—“It’s no big deal”?
If you have sin in your life, don’t excuse it. Confess it!
6. YOU’RE LOOKING FOR THE “DISLIKE” BUTTON ON THIS ARTICLE.
Solomon wrote, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Prov. 27:6).
If I’m sick, I want a doctor to diagnose the problem, not tell me how great I am. If I’m unhealthy, I want a good friend to care enough to confront me about my eating habits. If I’m swimming in a mountain of debt, I don’t need a friend offering me another loan; I need a true friend to cut up my credit cards.
Yes, it hurts the ego or pride to be told that something is off. But those wounds are faithful if they come from a friend who loves us.
If someone is always telling me how great I am and how blessed God wants me to be but never steps on my toes in areas where I’m falling short, do they really care about me? Sometimes caring means confronting!
If this message seems offensive to you, don’t criticize the writer. Cross-examine the reader!
7. YOU HAVE A DEEP SENSE THERE IS SOMETHING MORE!
Tozer said, “To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love.” How true that is.
It’s almost been 20 years since I found God at the altar of a church, but yet I still pursue Him every single day. After all these years, I still hunger for more. Thankfully, there is more!
- Enoch walked with God (Gen. 5:24).
- Moses spoke with God as a friend speaks with a friend (Ex. 33:11).
- Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up (Is. 6:1).
- Peter watched as Jesus pulled back His humanity and exposed His divinity (Matt. 17:4).
- Paul was taught by Christ (Gal. 1:12).
- John was called up to heaven, where he saw Jesus upon His throne (Rev. 20:11).
This fires me up!
- Edwards and Wesley awakened our nation.
- Charles Finney was baptized in waves and waves of liquid love.
- William Seymore lived in the glory cloud for four years at Azusa.
- Smith Wigglesworth raised the dead back to life.
I am jealous of their God encounters and will not be denied my own!
My friend, if you’ve slowed or even stopped your pursuit of God, let these words stir you. There is more! If you see that you are in need of revival, be encouraged. It is not far from you. If you will come close to Him, He promises to come close to you (James 4:8).
Three weeks ago, we laid Steve Hill’s earthly tent to rest. It is fitting that his burial plot is near David Wilkerson and Leonard Ravenhill. These three men ran so closely together and were used so mightily in the past century. All three finished well!
Steve was privileged to be part of two incredible moves of God in Argentina and Pensacola, but he always contended that the greatest move of God yet was before us, not behind us. Now his leg of the race is over. He has joined that crowd of witnesses and will see the next revival from heaven’s vantage point.
This next leg of the race is ours. As I run, I am more stirred for revival now more than ever. I am believing for one more great outpouring of His Spirit in these last days. I trust I’m not alone.
Some might say, “We don’t need revival,” or, “God will not bless America with another move of God while we continue our slide further and further away from Him.” (Trust me, I get the emails.) Friend, this is precisely why we need revival!
REVIVAL IS NOT GOD’S AWARD FOR OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. IT’S HIS ANSWER FOR OUR UNRIGHTEOUSNESS!
I understand there are a lot of different thoughts on revival. Like so many words we use in Christianity, revival carries different definitions for different people. Some see it as a series of special meetings in a church. Others think it is an emotional outbreak devoid of true spirituality. Some have messaged me to inform me that the word revival is not in the Bible or that we shouldn’t seek it but rather seek God. We use the same word but mean different things.
For me, revival means something special. Before revival touched my life, I was a backslidden, lukewarm, apathetic, complacent sinner who was quite comfortable going to church for my religious experience on Sunday while I did as I pleased starting Monday. After graduating from high school in 1994, I made up my mind: I was done with church and through with God. I was on my way out of the church, just as the Spirit of the Lord was coming into the church.
In March of 1996, I stopped running from God and ran to Him. I walked down to the altar of a church and finally surrendered. It was my Damascus Road experience. God finally got my attention. He spoke, I listened, and I’ve never been the same since!
For the past 18 years, I’ve devoted my life to preaching the gospel—that’s revival!
Let me define it further.
REVIVAL IS REBIRTH
The surest sign that revival is in your midst is the salvation of lost souls. It was revival when 3,000 were saved on the Day of Pentecost. It was revival when hundreds of thousands were saved during the First and Second Great Awakenings. It was revival when 150,000 walked down the aisles of Brownsville Assembly.
Any time lost sons and daughters call on the name of the Lord and are reborn, that’s revival!
REVIVAL IS A RETURN
When wayward saints begin to abandon their religious ways and return to true relationship with the Lord, that’s revival!
Religion has always been man’s attempt to come close to God, but revival is God coming close to man.
Many have experienced the joy of salvation that comes with rebirth. Unfortunately, over time many allow that joy to fade. Often what begins in the spirit ends in the flesh. We don’t pray like we used to. We don’t share our faith like we used to. We don’t grieve over sin like we used to. We start to lean upon ourselves and no longer lean upon our Savior.
Thankfully, the Lord keeps the doors open for those trapped in the prison of religion to step out and return to Him.
REVIVAL IS REPENTANCE
Without repentance, there can be no revival. Today many attempt to cheapen and redefine the meaning of repentance. They contend it has no place in the life of the believer except to simply change one’s mind.
Friend, Jesus began His ministry with one message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” In His last address to the seven churches in Revelation, seven times He says, “Repent!” Let us not minor on something Jesus majored on!
After commending the church at Ephesus for all the good things they were doing, Jesus rebukes them by saying, “I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first” (Rev. 2:4-5, NIV).
He didn’t say, “I need you to change your mind about your ways.” He said, “I want you to change your ways! Come back to Me. Fall in love with Me once again.”
I assure you that revival entered the church at Ephesus the moment they heard His words and repented of their ways.
If you are away from God or have sin in your life, I urge you to take heed of these grace-filled words. Repent! Turn away from your sin, and turn toward your Savior. When you do, that’s revival!
REVIVAL IS REFRESHING
I’m writing this while I’m looking out the window at the fresh blossoms on the trees in my front yard. Spring is in the air. It’s a welcome and refreshing sight after a long, cold winter. Everyone in my neighborhood seems to be happier now than they were a few weeks ago. Why? New life is refreshing.
Peter called out to a crowd of onlookers in Acts 3:19, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”
When we find ourselves stuck in the sickness of our sins or robbed of life from our religious ways, we can turn back to God and take a drink from the fount that never runs out. That’s revival!
Like spring, refreshing comes with excitement and exuberance. Yes, people get emotional. I, for one, do not know how one can be inwardly refreshed without it being outwardly expressed. I welcome it in the church. After all, we are God’s chosen, not His frozen!
REVIVAL IS RESTORATION
When families and relationships are restored, that’s revival. When your identity in Christ is restored, that’s revival. When things that have been lost or stolen are restored, that’s revival.
Jesus said that He came to seek and save that which was lost. He wasn’t just speaking about saving you from the fires of hell, but to the restoration as sons and daughters of God. For Jesus, the focus is not on where I come from but on where I’m going. He pulled you from the fire to set you on fire!
REVIVAL IS REFORMATION
True revival cannot be contained. Revival fills up the saints and spills out into the streets. It finds sinners in the highways and byways. It affects the atmosphere of communities and cultures. True revival brings reformation. That’s revival!
A series of meetings in your church will do little to transform your city. But let the fires of true revival enter into your church house, and it won’t be long before it touches every house. Revival may start within an individual or church, but like a spark to a dry field, that fire cannot be contained; otherwise, it will not be sustained.
God’s purpose for revival is the forgiveness of our sins and the healing of our land. Currently our sins are plenty, and they stand before us. Our land is sick and in need of healing. The answer is not going to be found in a person or a place but in a position.
God gave His people a pattern for finding that position in 2 Chronicles 7:14. He said, “Humble yourself, pray, seek My face, and repent of your own wicked ways.”
I’ve experienced revival in my life, and I’m ready to experience it once again in our nation. I’m on my knees, and now you know what I’m praying for.
During my time at the revival at Brownsville, it was not uncommon to find me out at a remote part of Pensacola Beach with a longboard, looking to catch a few waves between school and services. If you live on the West Coast, I know the Gulf isn’t Mavericks. On a good day, you might ride a 3- to 4-foot wave.
This is why I eagerly anticipated the storm season. Any time a tropical storm would move into the Gulf, you knew that the waves were bound to pick up. I became a part-time meteorologist, following the surf reports and weather conditions looking for those windows when the larger swells would start to move in and the waves would be the greatest.
I had no control over the weather. I had no ability to produce a wave. The only thing I could control was where I would be when the waves came in. I had to be properly positioned.
As we fully enter into 2014, I truly believe with everything that is within me that we are entering a season for a great outpouring of God’s Spirit. This is a time for “breakout.”
I am hearing from many across the nation who are beginning to sense that the fresh winds of revival are already blowing. I am certain that God is ready to visit His church with many Pentecostal “suddenlies.”
Friends, are you properly positioned for what God is about to do?
As a student of revival, I have observed how the length and magnitude of these waves of outpouring are dependent on how we position ourselves in advance. It is myprayer that houses of worship will be prepared to host these moves of the Spirit longer than a weekend or just a few weeks. Even more, I’m praying that churches would be positioned to let these moves spill out of the four walls and cultivate a true awakening within their communities.
There are a few things that I learned from those days of riding waves in the Gulf that I believe can help position anyone to catch the next wave of revival:
1. You have to embrace simplicity.
There is a simplicity to surfing. It’s just you and the board at the mercy of the waves. Likewise, there is a simplicity to the Spirit.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God” (Matt. 5:3). Those who have embraced poverty of spirit are those who have let go of everything in order to obtain the one thing that matters most. Revival starts when we simply humble ourselves, return to Him and recognize that Christ isn’t just a good option—He is our only option.
Leonard Ravenhill often said, “We don’t have revival because we are content to live without it.”
It’s time to become discontent. Let us loose ourselves of everything that hinders or obstructs and return to God. Embrace the simplicity of coming bare before the Lord and resting upon the mercy of His waves. God promises if we would simply humble ourselves, pray, seek His face and turn from our wicked ways, He will hear from heaven and heal our land.
2. You always start the same.
Surfing always begins with the exact same starting position. You have to learn to lay prostrate on the board. Revival begins with a similar starting position as well.
I am unaware of a sovereign move of God that wasn’t preceded by prayer. The Welsh Revival began when a group of young people gathered in a chapel to pray. The Azusa Street Revival was born out of a prayer meeting in a little house on Bonnie Brae Street. The Brownsville Revival came on the heels of three years of prayer.
We talk about the need for prayer, we preach about the power of prayer, we celebrate the virtue of prayer, but yet we don’t pray. If we truly believe that prayer works, why do we pray so little?
There is no other way to begin to properly position yourself than to lay prostrate before the Lord and seek His face.
3. You kneel before you stand.
As important as it is to learn to lay on the board, you have to learn to kneel on it as well. Kneeling before God is equally important.
God didn’t just say, “Humble yourself, pray, and seek My face.” He also commanded His people to “turn from their wicked ways.” Revival and repentance always work together.
One of the inherent dangers in the distorted grace message is the redefining and removal of repentance. Repentance is a prerequisite for revival. Without it, revival is impossible, and without its continued presence, revival cannot be sustained.
4. You have to anticipate the wave.
Surfing requires expectancy. You have to see the wave coming and begin to move with it before it arrives.
Yes, God is always moving. Yes, the Spirit is always being poured out. However, there are seasons when God moves sovereignly in an even greater way. America experienced such moves in the First and Second Great Awakening. Our nation desperately needs a third.
Whether or not this next move of God rises to that level or not may depend on how we choose to anticipate and move with Him.
Consider how most people attend church on Sunday with an expectation to hear a sermon about God. Few come with an expectancy to actually meet God. Imagine the shift that would take place in your church if the majority came this weekend with a genuine expectancy to experience God rather than a service.
The greatest move of God this world has ever seen is not behind us—it is ahead of us! There truly is a wave coming. Don’t be content to sit on the beach and watch others enter in. Push out into the deep with eager anticipation. Surf’s up!
I count it an extreme honor to have served alongside Steve for the past decade. It was in 1996 that my life was forever changed as a result of the Brownsville Revival. I didn’t know then just how much of a role the evangelist at the revival would play in my life. Since that time, he’s been a mentor, a friend and a fellow warrior. He will be greatly missed.
Steve once said that “a soldier is not tested in the barracks, they are tested on the battlefield.” That’s exactly where he lived his life – on the battlefield fighting hell for the lost souls of men.
These last five years the battle certainly intensified. Steve said we were watching him fight through the greatest trial of his life.
“I’m going through this”, Steve would say. “I’m coming out the other side.”
That was Steve, always the optimist in every situation. He processed everything through the lens of eternity. There were times the pain of the cancer would be so intense that he couldn’t hold it in anymore. He would cry out in agony. You felt helpless, there was nothing you could do except be at his side. He would then compose himself and ask that we not be concerned about his pain, “This is nothing compared the suffering our Savior endured on the Cross. Oh the pain, no one could imagine that sort of pain.”
Yes, Steve was an extraordinary man. The likes of which one often reads about in the journals of the great saints that preceded him. No doubt that is how history will remember him as well.
I’m going to miss the times we spent together sitting in his office as he spoke of the things he learned in the past and then we would dream of the future. He shared much wisdom during those times and I’m eternally grateful for those moments, but the most impactful thing for me was not found in what he said, but in what I saw.
For ten years I was able to see another side of the man of God. The one that lives away from the platform. I saw the kind of faithful father he was to his children, the devoted husband he was to his wife and the kind of person he was when few were looking. As impressive as he was behind a pulpit, I was even more impressed by who he was as a person.
One afternoon we sat in his office discussing a mutual friend of ours who had fallen into sin. Most wouldn’t have thought the conversation came close to venturing into gossip, I didn’t at the time. Steve stopped mid sentence and began to pray for the brother and asked Jesus to forgive us for speaking negatively. He then focused the conversation on reaching the lost. The lessons learned that afternoon will stay with me forever.
Steve didn’t have to live his message, because his message was a true reflection of his life. Just as it should be for all of us.
Steve was a man of passion so he preached with much passion. He was a man of holiness, therefore he preached about living holy before the Lord. Steve cared about the eternal souls of man, so he refused to quietly let anyone continue on their way to hell. With tears in his eyes he compelled sinners to come to Jesus in the altars of a sanctuary, and with tears in his eyes he’d plead with individuals in the streets.
I was once asked by a good friend to give three things I’ve learned from being around Steve. I’ll offer those to you here.
First, LIVE FOR ETERNITY!
You could see the mark Leonard Ravenhill had left on Steve. He lived with his eyes fixed on the next life. Everything was weighed with eternity in mind. Steve once shared a story about Leonard calling him in the middle of the night.
“What are you doing, Stevie?”
“I’ve been up praying for you for the past hour. I need you to come over right away!”
Steve said when he walked into Ravenhill’s office he was in his chair staring at the ceiling. He asked Steve to make him a sign that simply said “Eternity”. He told Steve, “when I look up from my desk all I want to see is the word ‘Eternity’”. Leonard went to be with Jesus a few weeks later.
Ravenhill’s epitaph reads, “Are the things you’re living for, worth Christ dying for?”
Steve sought to live his life in such a way. He wanted everything he did to be worthy of the price Christ paid for upon Calvary. You and I would do good to do the same.
Second, DRAW YOURSELF A CIRCLE!
I am going to miss hearing Steve ask me, “You got a minute?” For Steve, a minute usually meant at least an hour. I was always humbled that this man of God who had been used to speak to millions would take the time to spend an hour with me. Especially as the cancer progressed and the pain intensified. Here he was battling for his life, and he wanted to take time to impart into me. He did this with so many.
One of the greatest lessons he shared with me, and more importantly modeled before me was to draw yourself a circle. Wilkerson had drilled it into him. “You want to know why Wilkerson was the way he was, or why I’ve been able to accomplish so much? It’s because I learned to draw myself a circle and stay in it.”
By this he meant to literally draw a circle and place everything in that circle that the Lord has told you to do. These things you say yes to. Anything that would come your way that would take you out of your circle you say no to.
I would sit on the other side of Steve’s desk as a call would come in offering him what most would consider to be an incredible opportunity. He’d humbly decline. Why? It wasn’t in his circle. Another lesson learned.
Lastly, IT’S ALL ABOUT SOULS!
During the revival Steve often said, “You don’t see a hearse pulling a U-Haul.” He understood most people spend their lives accumulating stuff that one day would simply perish. The only thing of eternal significance is the souls of man. “People are the only thing you get to bring past the threshold of death”.
Steve sought to be responsible for delivering millions to the Savior.
He told me, “when I look out into an audience I look for the person who seems to be the furthest away from Jesus and I preach straight to them. I know if they can understand what I’m saying then everyone will understand the message.”
Every message he preached, and every interaction he had with people he saw as an opportunity to win one more soul for Christ. Jesus said, “Go!”, so Steve “Went!”
Steve was truly a battle tested warrior. A general in the Lord’s army who dared to do great exploits for the Lord. Some may mistakenly believe that the cancer won the fight, as if the enemy scored a great victory when Steve passed from this life. Oh, they couldn’t be more wrong!
The truth is the enemy lost the fight back in October of 1975 when Steve called upon the name of Jesus for the first time. The enemy then lost every day that Steve lived. The enemy lost every time a lost soul came home at the plea of this great evangelist. And the enemy will continue to lose as Steve’s legacy lives on in the lives of thousands of spiritual sons and daughters.
Today the earth feels significantly lighter as one of God’s generals, who carried such spiritual weight has exited this life and entered the next.
Though I am deeply saddened at the loss of a brother in arms, I am stirred more now to honor his legacy by living each day with eternity in mind, staying inside my circle and doing all I can to bring in the harvest.
There is a void to be filled. So much work to be done. We have no time to waste! Though no one could ever fill Steve’s shoes, each of us can strive to walk in his footsteps.
Steve lived with his eyes fixed on the finish line, let us do the same and run the rest of this race with everything we have in us. Steve would tell you that Heaven is depending on you and the world is in need of you!
Oh to have seen the moment when Steve passed the finish line and received his crown. He lived for that moment. It’s time to do the same.