This teaching includes a free sermon outline to download for personal use, message preparation or Bible study discussion.
I’ve told people everywhere, “When you invite me you get two for the price of one!” We are going to begin, as we always do, by making a proclamation from the Word of God, which we have discovered is one of the most effective ways of releasing God’s power into a situation. We’re going to proclaim tonight in the New King James Version Titus 2:11–14. If you want to check on us, you’re free to open your Bibles.
“The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts we should live soberly, righteously and godly in the present age; looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ; who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from every lawless deed, and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”
Amen. And that resolves a problem which has sometimes affected Lutherans—the balance between grace and works. It teaches us that grace teaches, it is not something that you just receive but you have to yield to it and you have to let it work in your life to produce the good works.
I’m sure most of us are aware that the Christian life is regularly compared to constructing a building in many, many different places. Paul said, “You are being built together as a habitation for God through the Spirit.” He also said to the Corinthian church, “You are God’s building, you are God’s field.” And there are many, many other references.
So, I want to start from this picture of the Christian life as a building. I am not in the construction industry and I hardly know one end of a hammer from another, but there are certain basic facts that I do know. I know that if you want to build a building, you have to start with the foundation. Are we agreed about that? Does anybody question that statement? And, the foundation is absolutely vital because it determines the weight and the size of the building that is to be constructed upon it. A building cannot go beyond the limitations of its foundations.
This is absolutely true of the Christian life. You cannot build a Christian life that goes beyond the limitations of the foundation you have. And so, the foundation is the most vital factor in all of your Christian life. You need to ask yourself, “What is my foundation? What am I building on?”
Paul says in 1Corinthians 3:11:
“Upon no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
So, there is only one person who is the foundation for the Christian faith. It’s not the church, it’s not a preacher, it’s not a movement, it’s Jesus. There is no other foundation. If you have not laid the foundation of Jesus in your life you cannot construct a Christian life. You have to begin with a personal relationship with Jesus.
I remember when I first contacted Pentecostals and they invited me to their home as a soldier in World War II. This little, spry lady of about 60 who ran things, she impressed me in various ways. First of all, we’d been in this Pentecostal church and it was the first time I’d ever been in a Pentecostal church. In fact, I didn’t know there was such a thing as a Pentecostal church. In those days we were ignorant. I didn’t know there were even such people as Baptists, to say the truth. Nor had I ever heard of Lutherans. I knew there was Anglicans, which was thechurch; Catholics; and some people called Methodists who made trouble in British history. That was about all I knew!
So, Pentecostals were right outside my whole range of experience. I didn’t intend to tell this story but somehow I got into it. The problem is when I get into it I can’t get out of it!
Well, I was at that time what was called a Fellow of Kings College, Cambridge. My field was philosophy. I had spent seven years being trained in criticism and analysis. I went to that church, which was a small church with about maybe 120 people, not even that many—and most of them old ladies because all the men had been called up into the army. I went there with one aim, to discover whether the preacher knew what he was talking about. I sat through a lot of things that embarrassed me. They sang out of red hymn books and they clapped their hands when they sang. If they came to something they liked they repeated the verse. I mean, it was altogether strange to me. However, I’m a persistent person, I said, “I’ll hang in there, I want to find out if this preacher really knows what he’s talking about.”
Well, a piece of by the by information had been given me that before he was a preacher he was a taxi driver. I didn’t know exactly what to expect. He stood up and he took his text from Isaiah 6, a vision that Isaiah had of the Lord in His glory. When Isaiah saw the Lord, he cried out, “Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, and mine eyes have seen the Lord.” As I heard those words, “a man of unclean lips in the midst of a people of unclean lips,” I said to myself, “No one ever described you more accurately than that.” Because, I was in the British Army and there is no group of men anywhere that uses worse language than the British Army. They cannot talk without swearing. I had become just as bad as the worst, and I wasn’t good to start with.
So, this registered with me, there’s something here that’s accurate. Well, he was one of those preachers who didn’t stick with any particular theme or even period. I couldn’t follow him but he went up and down through Biblical history and some way he got to the place where Saul was king of Israel and David was a shepherd boy. He believed in dramatizing and so he carried on an imaginary dialogue between King Saul and David the shepherd boy. He pointed out very accurately that King Saul was head and shoulders taller than the rest of the people. In his dialogue, when he was King Saul he stood on a bench and looked down at where he’d been when he was David. I was following all this intensely but in the middle of a speech as King Saul, the bench collapsed and he fell to the floor with a thud. But if you had been planning something to impress a professor of philosophy from Cambridge, you would have left that part out! But my conclusion was no matter what happens, I know this man knows what he’s talking about so I listened with respect. I didn’t understand.
And, at the end they did something I had never experienced in any respectable church. They said, “Every head bowed, every eye closed,” — no background music in those days. And then they said, as I understood it, “If you want this thing, put your hand up.” Well, I didn’t know what “this thing” was. The only thing I could think of was what happened to Isaiah. I was acutely embarrassed and indignant that anyone should ever ask me to do anything so embarrassing as to put my hand up in a public meeting. I sat there and there was stony silence, nobody was doing anything. There were two thoughts in my mind. One was speaking to my left ear and it said, “If you put your hand up in front of all these old ladies and you’re a soldier in uniform, you’re going to look very silly.” The one in my right ear said, “If this is something good, why shouldn’t you have it?” I was paralyzed, I could not respond. I must have sat there for at least two minutes and then a miracle took place, the first miracle I had ever experienced, and it happened to me. I saw my own right arm go right up in the air and I knew I had not raised it! And that frightened me. I thought, “What have I gotten myself into?”
Well, the moment my arm went up in the air, everybody relaxed. That was all they were waiting for! Because, being a soldier in uniform I was very conspicuous. After that they just went on with the service and closed, they didn’t do any more, I just got my hand up.
I didn’t know really what had happened because I put my hand up and I didn’t know the next move from then. But this kindly, elderly couple who attended the church kept a boarding house a little way away from the church. They invited me and my fellow soldier home for supper. At that time in the army you never refused an offer of good food so I thought to myself some food is worth a little more religion! As we walked back, this little, spry lady of about 60 who only came up to somewhere below my shoulder was telling me about what had happened to her husband in World War I. He had tuberculosis of one lung and on that account he was exempted from military service. I knew if it gained him exemption then it had to be a valid medical diagnosis. She said quite modestly, she said, “I prayed for my husband every day for ten years.” I thought to myself, “I can’t conceive of anybody praying every day for ten years about anything.” Then she said, “My husband was sitting up in the bed, propped up on the pillows, coughing up blood, and I was in what we call the parlor.” She said, “I was praying and I heard an audible voice say to me, ‘Claim it.’ I responded out loud, ‘Lord, I claim it now.’” At that moment her husband was completely healed in the bedroom.
Well, then she had my attention. I said to myself, “Maybe this is what I’ve been looking for all these years.”
So, we had a nice meal and they prayed over the meal beforehand, which I accepted as part of this package deal. But then they took me by surprise again because at the end of the meal they started to pray again. There were about seven people sitting around an oval table and I noticed quickly that they were praying by turns. I saw that my turn was coming quickly!
Now, I had never prayed a spontaneous prayer out loud in my life. I knew how to go along with the prayers said in the Anglican Church. I was really paralyzed with fear, I thought, “What shall I say?” I opened my mouth and I heard myself say, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” And my mouth shut like a trap and I could say no more. I didn’t need to say anymore, that was it. However, nothing happened.
I don’t know how I got into telling this story but if I stop now you’ll be disappointed! Believe me, it’s not in my outline.
So they said in this strange jargon which they used, “There’s going to be a revival in the Assembly of God Tuesday night.” This was Sunday. I had no idea of what the Assembly of God was, I had never heard of a revival but I thought if it goes along with this I’ll go there. So, Tuesday night I was in the Assembly of God—very much like the other church, just a different group of old ladies and a different pastor.
This man took his text from Genesis, “Enoch was not for the Lord took him.” He gave a pretty vivid description of what happened. He was one of those preachers who believed in bringing things up to date so he described the scene after Enoch had disappeared. He said they brought the —CID, that’s right. See, my daughter knows. Which is the FBI in American language. —with their tracking dogs and they followed the scent so far and there was no more scent. So they had to conclude he’d gone up. I followed the logic, I was a logician. I saw that was wonderful but I didn’t understand it.
Then I knew what was coming at the end, I knew, “Every head bowed, every eye closed. If you want whatever it was, put your hand up.” I thought to myself, “Last time somebody did it for me, I couldn’t expect that to happen twice. If I really wanted it I better put my own hand up.” So I did.
This time I was counseled by the pastor and he approached me at the end. I think he realized he had a problem on his hands. He said two things. “Do you believe that you’re a sinner?” Well, my specialty was definitions so I mentally ran through all the obvious definitions of a sinner and every one of them fitted me exactly. I said, “Yes, I believe I’m a sinner.” He said, “Do you believe that Christ died for your sins?” I remember looking at him and saying, “To tell you the truth, I can’t see what the death of Jesus Christ nineteen centuries ago could have to do with the sins I’ve committed in my lifetime.” I could not get further. And wisely, he did not argue with me. I’m sure those—I know for a fact—those dear Pentecostal people started to pray for this eccentric soldier who strayed into their midst.
I began to experience something strange happening in the sense that I had no longer the intellectual self-confidence that had carried me through Cambridge. I began to doubt whether I really knew all the answers. I had a strange feeling that I had stepped out of one world but I hadn’t stepped into another. I was like suspended between two worlds. The pressure built up so by about Thursday evening I said, “I’ve got to do something about this. I’m going to pray until something happens.” I had no idea what I could expect to happen.
I shared a room in a hotel in Scarborough in Yorkshire which the army had taken over as a billet. I shared it with one other friend, a soldier who was a friend of mine. And fortunately for me he was a free thinker. His attitude in life was everybody’s got a right to do his own thing. This really saved me, I didn’t realize it at the time if he had been a Baptist I would have had a terrible time. We didn’t have any beds, we just slept on straw mattresses on the floor. I waited till he’d got onto his mattress, drawn the blanket over himself and fallen asleep. The only piece of furniture in the room was a little backless, folding, canvas stool which, like soldiers, we’d picked up somewhere and brought along with us. Our room faced right over the north bay of Scarborough. Right below us was the sea front. At about 11:00 at night, wearing nothing but my underwear because the army didn’t give us pajamas, I sat down on this stool at the window, put my elbows on the windowsill and said, “Now I’m going to pray.” Then I discovered I couldn’t pray. I didn’t know whom I was praying to, I didn’t know what to say, no words would come. I sat there for I think about an hour just trying to pray.
Well, it was a fine summer evening in July and it grew dark very late. Out on the sea front below me there was a crowd of seagulls flying up and down, making that raucous shrill cry which seagulls make. And somehow I got the impression these seagulls are against me, I’m going to have to pray until they leave. At about sometime like midnight I had the strange sensation that I was talking to a person who was there. I didn’t see the person but His presence was real.
I had started to read the Bible as a work of philosophy, not as a religious work, because I felt it was my philosophic duty to find out what the Bible had to say. And so I had started, my first day in the British Army, I started with Genesis 1:1 and about nine months later I had got somewhere in the middle of the book of Job. So actually, I did a lot better than some professing Christians! But, I didn’t understand a word of it, it didn’t make sense, it was very boring but I said to myself, “No book is going to beat me. I’ll start at the beginning and I’ll read it through to the end.”
However, it did have this effect, that I recall certain instances. And as I came in contact with this person I found myself saying words which I absolutely was not choosing. I said what Jacob said when he wrestled with the angel at Peniel, “Unless you bless me, I will not let you go.” And when I got to that phrase “I will not let you go,” I could not stop saying it more and more emphatically. “I will not let you go, I will not let you go, I will not let you go.” Then I found that something was happening to my whole body. My arms were beginning to go up in the air, which I had never done in my life; and my whole body was beginning to go upwards and backwards. I said to myself, “If I go any further, I’ll fall over.” And then I said, “I’ve come this far now, if I stop now I may never get this far again. So, no matter what happens, I’ll go on.”
And then the words that I was saying, again without any decision of my will, changed and I found myself saying to this unknown person, “Make me love you more and more.” When I got to the words “more and more,” I couldn’t stop. “More and more and more and more.” I went on. This was totally uncharacteristic for me because I was brought up at the very center of the British tradition of the old school tie and the stiff upper lip — and you don’t show emotion in public. I would have been embarrassed even to kiss my mother in public. Here I was telling some unknown person to make me love Him more and more.
Well, at this point I went over backwards. I didn’t fall, I was lifted off the chair, deposited on the floor—still in my underwear—with my arms up in the air, on my back saying, “More and more and more.” I really made no more decisions. I did go along with the decisions that were made somewhere else.
After awhile the words I was speaking changed and I began to sob. I had no conscious reason for sobbing. I knew I was a sinner but I didn’t feel particularly guilty about being a sinner. I sobbed and I sobbed and I sobbed, and my whole physical body was shaken with these sobs. I’m not by nature an emotional person. I don’t know how long this lasted, maybe fifteen minutes. Then the sobbing imperceptibly changed to laughter and I began to laugh softly to myself. All the time my mind was monitoring what was going on. At first I began to laugh softly, then as I let go I began to laugh louder and louder and louder until I was laughing very loudly in the middle of the night on the floor in my underwear with my arms in the air. I thought to myself, “Now, if I wake somebody up, what will they think?” But I got to the point where I said, “No matter what they think, I’m going to go through with this.”
The only person who woke up was the solider in the same room. Over the back of my head I could see him gradually uncoiling from his blanket and also in his underwear—walking rather reluctantly towards me. He walked around me a couple of times, keeping a safe distance, and then he said, “I don’t know what to do with you, I suppose it’s no good throwing water over you.” Something inside me said even water wouldn’t put this out.
But I didn’t have any religious experience with the Anglican church but I had attended long enough to remember some things that I’d heard read. I remembered somewhere reading men must not blaspheme the Holy Ghost. Contrary to all my natural reasoning I knew that what was in me was the Holy Ghost. I thought, “Let me not make it difficult for my friend,” so with great difficulty I got over onto my hands and knees and crawled to my mattress and got into it and drew the blanket over my face and fell asleep still laughing softly to myself.
The next morning I had to go about my military duties, we got up about 6:00 a.m. I got up and I thought to myself whatever happened to me last night? Was it real? Was it a dream? But I didn’t have time to analyze because I had to go about my military duties. I was what they called in the army at that time a local acting unpaid lance corporal, which I tell people is as near as you can get to being a worm without being one. I had the job of getting about six unwilling British soldiers to do the things they didn’t want to do. Normally I would have sworn at them. That was the only—they were like the ponies in the Welsh revival. The only thing that made them move was swearing. But, I couldn’t swear. I hadn’t give it up, I just didn’t do it. I thought to myself, “Something’s happened to me.”
Then I wanted a glass of water or a mug of water. I went to the tap, drew the water from the tap and I could not drink the water without first thanking God for it. I just couldn’t drink it. I realized I was incapable of swearing. It wasn’t that I’d given it up, it just wasn’t in me any longer.
I made my way through the day and about 6:30 in the evening my usual practice was to go to the local pub and get a drink. I had no scruples against drinking or pubs. So I set out, walked to the pub, which was a short distance, turned to go into the door and my legs locked. They would not walk through that door. I stood there having an argument with my legs. I suddenly realized I’m not interested in what’s in the pub, I have no desire to go there. So I turned around, walked back to my billet and thought I better start reading the Bible.
I was looking for the passage in Job where I finished but I turned to Psalm 126:
“When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, then we were like those that dreamed. Then was our mouth filled with laughter and our tongue with singing.”
I said to myself, “That’s what happened to me.” My mouth was filled with laughter. I was laughing, but it was coming from some other source.
But the most amazing thing, the most dramatic, single change was in the Bible. The previous day when I read it, it was a dreary, remote, unintelligible, baffling book. And, extremely boring. The next evening when I opened the Bible it was as if there were only two persons in the universe, God and me. The Bible was God speaking personally to me—and it’s been that way ever since, which is nearly fifty-four years. I have never had any problem believing the Bible is the true, infallible, inspired Word of God. I never had to reason it out, I never had to go through a lot of process, I just knew this is God speaking to me.
Well, that was my conversion. I didn’t even know the word conversion at that time. I remember going to a Pentecostal church—well, let me tell you what happened next.
Honestly, I just hope I’m right because I couldn’t go back to my sermon now, I’ve gone too far in the other direction. I can prove I’ve got an outline, it’s here.
I come from a totally military family. Every male member of my family I’d ever known had been an officer in the British Army. So, in a sense I was like a duck in water. They decided I was eligible for promotion. I was in the medical corps because I had volunteered in order not to have to carry arms. They sent me off to a place called Leeds which was a vast parade ground. There, together with I think about twenty other potential non-commissioned officers we went through this process of training people—of being trained to train people. Well again, for me with my military background that was no problem at all. I have a strong voice so I could get people moving in any direction with the right command without any problem. “Move to the left and freeze. Quick, march. Left, Right, Left, Right.” I can still do it, you see!
But, this strange laughter would keep coming back. I mean, I really wasn’t in control. I remember one time I got this squad of soldiers retiring; in other words, going away from me on this vast parade ground. And I wanted to give them the order to return and I couldn’t get it out, I was laughing. I had lost control of the situation and they were almost disappearing over the horizon, I thought what is going to happen? Because, in the army the only person who could cancel the order is the one who’s given it. But anyhow, at the last moment the Lord intervened and I got them turned around and coming back.
I got back to my unit and the officer commanding was a medical doctor from Northern Ireland. His name was Dan McVickle (phonetic). The morning after I got back he summoned me to his presence, I saluted and stood at attention. He said, “Good morning, Corporal Prince.” I didn’t know I was a corporal until that time. He said, “How is the cooking going?” I did not understand that question but I had learned by that time to be very discreet in how you answer questions. I thought to myself the cooking is just about as lousy as it’s ever been but I won’t tell him that. So I said, “Much the same as usual, sir.” He said, “Didn’t you know you’re the corporal cook of this unit?” I said, “No one ever told me, sir.” Well, they had wanted to promote me and the only space was for a cook. So I became the corporal cook. Fortunately for my fellow soldiers I never did any cooking because that would have been the ultimate. I went through the next year at least as corporal cook of Number One Lightfield Ambulance.
The evening after I got back from Leeds I was lying once again on my straw mattress with the blanket up. The other soldier was out at a dance and I was just pondering on all the unusual things that had been happening to me. I felt a fire in my belly. I remembered hearing in church that Jesus said, “Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” I’d always thought it was a little inappropriate in church to use that vulgar word belly, so I’d always remember it. But I said to myself, that’s where it is, it’s in my belly.
And then these Pentecostal people had said something to me about speaking with tongues. For some reason this came into my mind so I said, “Well, if this has got anything to do with speaking with tongues, I’m ready to do it. If you want me to, I’m ready.” I didn’t press, I just said if you want to. This fire started to move up inside my chest and into my throat. And then I found something like a piece of hard rubber bouncing about against the back of my throat. I thought what is that? Then I realized it was my own tongue! But I was not moving it. So I felt a sense of fear but I thought, no, I’ve come this far now. If I turn back I’ll never get this far again. I let it all happen and I started to stammer very inarticulate sounds. But as fear receded and I felt this is all right, I began to speak what sounded something like Chinese to me—I have no idea what it was.
Well, a little while later I heard footsteps in the corridor and I knew my friend was coming back from the dance. I thought to myself, “He already thinks me strange, if he comes in and hears me speaking this strange language, he’ll think me stranger still.” So I thought I’ll just give him a word of explanation. I had no idea I could explain something I didn’t understand myself but when I tried to explain, it came out in the other language! So sure enough, he thought me stranger still! But he was a good friend, his attitude was everybody’s got the right to do his own thing. If that’s his thing, let him do it. I tell you, if he’d been religious I would have had a hard time.
Well, now I was so ignorant, you see, I didn’t know you had to go to church to get saved. I was so ignorant I didn’t know you had to go to church to get the baptism in the Holy Spirit. I didn’t even know what the baptism in the Holy Spirit was. I was so ignorant that I didn’t know you had to wait six months before you got any spiritual gifts. So from then on every time I spoke in tongues I got the interpretation.
And the first time it ever happened was a real milestone in my life. It’s very vivid to me even today. I spoke this strange language and then I began to speak in English like in the same rhythm as the language that I’d spoken before. I said to myself this must be a translation of what I’d been saying. I knew enough to know that the word interpretation was in the Bible. The first time I got this gift I got the most wonderful expressive language. I mean, I had been a student of Shakespeare and I loved King James English, and this was English on the highest level and it didn’t proceed from my thinking the least bit. I don’t want you all to think that’s got to happen to everybody, God deals with everybody as an individual. I got the most vivid word pictures of things that I didn’t know really what they were. But in the middle of it I got a few sentences that I have never forgotten. I very, very seldom say it in public because it could sound presumptuous. But tonight I somehow feel God wants me to say it. This happened in 1941 and we are living in 1995, so this is 54 years since it happened. What I got was this, and there was no explanation, no preamble, I didn’t know anything about revivals, I just got the words. And I remember them vividly.
“It shall be like a little stream, and the little stream shall become a river. The river shall become a great river. The great river shall become a sea. And the sea shall become a mighty ocean and it shall be through thee.”
I had no understanding of what that could mean but I have never forgotten it. Those words are as vivid to me today as they were then. But I’d have to say over 54 years I have seen God gradually making it happen. I don’t want to be boastful.
Let me say something else. Well, I’ll go on with my story and you tell me when to stop because it’s a long story.
After that everywhere I went I got the word Palestine in my mind. There wasn’t a state of Israel in those days. So I talked to my dear Pentecostal friends and said, “It’s funny, everywhere I go I get the word Palestine in my mind.” So they, using their strange jargon, said, “God must be calling you to Palestine.” I thought what does that mean?
Well, about three or four weeks later the army sent us overseas. They never told us where they were going. We started from Glasgow, went almost to North America, went down the North Atlantic, around the Cape of Good Hope and came in at Durban after being one month at sea. We traveled on a ship that was mistakenly named The City of Paris. It had been used for transporting bananas. I think there were about as many British soldiers on it as there had been bananas. It was not a hell ship but it certainly wasn’t a cruise. We went into Durban and it was like going from hell to heaven. All I wanted was to find somewhere where I could find people that had what I had. I wandered through the streets of Durban trying to explain to people what I was looking for. And somebody directed me to a place which was a mission run by a Norwegian. I got in there and I thought, “Thank God, I’m home. This is where I belong.” I knelt down, started to pray and I couldn’t even pray, I started to sing in the Spirit. I’ve never done it ever since. My voice filled the whole auditorium. It was my song of thanksgiving to God for having brought me to my brothers and sisters in the Lord. In the natural, and especially in South Africa at that time, you understand, it was totally unconventional. For me, I was probably at the top of the list of people who would never do a thing like that.
However, the British Army took me where God wanted me. I got to North Africa, got off the troop ship and heard about Pearl Harbor and discovered that America had come into the war. I didn’t realize the significance of it at the time but I spent the next two years in the deserts of North Africa. I think I understand somewhat why the Lord took Israel through the wilderness, through the desert, to the Promised Land. Because, a desert strips you of any nonessential. All sorts of things that you would consider important just have no further significance. In fact, in the desert there are about four or five things that matter. Number one is water, first and foremost. Number two is food. Number three is shelter. Number four is transportation. And all the elaborate, intellectual folderol that I had been associated with at Cambridge just dropped off. I had no church, there was only one other believer in the unit of 200 men. My only resource was the Bible. Oh, I thank God for two years with nothing but the Bible. I would have gladly gone to a church but there was no church to go to.
I’d have to say that all the five and a half years I was in the British Army I never encountered a British chaplain who had the least appearance of being born again. Not once. I encountered American chaplains, South African chaplains, but never a British born again chaplain. And you think of the straits of men whose spiritual lives were in the hands of those men.
Well, then I got sick with eczema, which is very easy to get sick with in that part of the world—bad climate, very bad food. It attacked my toes and it broke out. I did go to Cairo for a few days on leave and I encountered a very strange lady who was 75 years old at that time and had been, and still was, an officer in the Salvation Army. She was a brigadier because that was her husband’s rank and he had died. She was a tongue-speaking Salvationist and in those days they were few and far between. She had a little meeting of soldiers from all parts—American, New Zealand, Australian, British. I went there and she said to me, “Derek, God will heal you.” She told me how she’d been healed of malaria after 25 years. I thought God will heal me. I went back and I said, “God’s going to heal me.” And, He did. My foot became completely well.
Well then my fellow soldiers said to me, “How come that your foot is all right?” I faced a crisis in my faith and I missed it. I knew I ought to have said, “God healed me.” But, I was embarrassed to say something like that so I said, “It got well without medicine.” The moment I said that I knew I was in for trouble.
Well, you can guess what happened. It came back. And this time I prayed and I didn’t get healed. So I ended up in military hospitals in Egypt—and that’s not a very exciting place to be. I went down into what John Bunyon calls “the slough of despond,” the dark, deep, valley of despair. I just sat up in the bed and I said, “I know if I had faith God would heal me.” But then I always said, “But I don’t have faith.” I was right down in the bottom of the pit.
But one day a brilliant ray of light shone into my darkness and it came from Romans 10:17:
“So then, faith cometh by hearing...”
I said to myself, if I don’t have faith, I can get it. It comes. How does it come? By hearing the Word of God. So I was already reading the Bible, I made up my mind that I would read it twice as much. I lived in the Bible but I wasn’t getting healed.
Then I was transferred to another hospital, a place called Al Bala (phonetic) on the Suez Canal. This strange Australian brigadier in the Salvation Army, hearing of this soldier in hospital, took a very difficult journey of about 50 miles, which was not easy in those days. She had her American young lady coworker with her and the car was driven by a New Zealand soldier. It was a very small four-seater car. She marched into the hospital ward with her uniform flying and all her things that Salvationists wore in those days, overawed the nurse and got permission for me to go out and sit in the car. I didn’t even want to go out and sit in the car but she didn’t even consider that! I was a little bit embarrassed by being associated with this Salvation Army lady.
So, we ended up in the car in the hospital compound. I was in the back seat sitting next to this young American lady from Oklahoma. The Salvation Army lady said, “Let’s pray.” And when she said, “Let’s pray,” you prayed, there were no options. We started to pray and the young lady beside me began to shake. She was shaking violently. Then I realized I was beginning to shake. Then I realized everybody in the car was beginning to shake. Then I realized the car was shaking! Now, it was not moving, the engine was not running, but it was rattling and vibrating as if it had been going at 50 miles an hour on a rough road. I knew God was doing this for my benefit. It was embarrassing!
Then this young lady spoke in an unknown tongue. Now, I have become familiar with that. Then she got the interpretation. I hope you won’t think me snobbish but you put a professor from Cambridge next to a young lady from Oklahoma and you’ve got two very different cultures. I mean, I love the people of Oklahoma, some of them are supporters today. But she gave this interpretation in the most perfect King James English and I knew that had to be God, she could not have done it. I don’t remember it all but I remember the central phrase and I knew God was speaking to me personally. This is what he said, it’s one of those things I’ve never forgot. He said:
“Consider the work of Calvary, a perfect work, perfect in every respect and perfect in every aspect.”
You know, that’s beautiful English. I knew God was speaking to me and I understood He was telling me that if I understood what Jesus had done for me on Calvary, it met all my needs.
I got out of the car just as sick as I got in but I said to myself, “I’m going to find out what happened at Calvary.” I began to read the Bible.
Then I thought to myself I need to get better acquainted so I armed myself with three colored pencils: one blue, one red and one yellow. Every time I found a passage in the Bible that related to salvation or the blood of Jesus, I underlined it in red. Every time I found a passage in the Bible that related to love, I underlined it in yellow. And whenever I found a passage in the Bible that related to healing or physical health, I underlined it in blue. And I spent another three or four months in that hospital. At the end I’d finished the Bible. And do you know what I had? A blue Bible. Nothing could have convinced me so totally that healing is God’s provision for His people.
But, I still didn’t know how to appropriate it. One day in Proverbs 4 I found three verses which I want to commend to you because they’ll work just as well for you as they do for me. I can give it to you in the King James Version:
“My son, attend to my word, incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thy mouth, keep them in the midst of thy heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to all their flesh.”
Now, I being a philosopher was still reasoning, well, maybe when it talks about health it means just health of my soul. But even a philosopher could not argue with that. Health to all their flesh. Did you hear that? Health to all their flesh. So I said to myself, now I have the answer. If I will take God’s Word as my medicine, it will heal me. Then, being a medical orderly I said to myself, “How do people take medicine?” And usually it’s three times daily after meals. So I said that’s how I’m going to take the Bible as my medicine. I went to the doctor that was overseeing me and I said, “I want to get out of hospital. I’m not healed but I’m trusting the Lord to heal me.” He nearly sent me to a psychiatric hospital but I just escaped that. And so, he began to send for me and like Nicodemus, he sent for me at night to hear what I had to say. He was not a believer but very interested.
Eventually I was discharged from the hospital at my own responsibility uncured although a lot better. I remember the doctor saying to me, the last words were, “Now the two worst things for you are water and soap. Keep your feet and hands out of water and don’t use soap.” When I got to the medical corps base depot in Cairo, the sergeant met me and said, “There’s going to be a commanding officers inspection tomorrow, get cracking and scrub your equipment with soap and water.” It came to me, what it said about Israel and Egypt, “The more they afflicted them the more they multiplied and grew.” I thought no matter what they do, I’m going to get stronger.
I survived that inspection—just. I had to hold on with the tips of my fingers.
Then the army sent me to the Sudan. Egypt is a bad climate, especially for people with skin problems. But the Sudan is a far worse climate. Nevertheless I just went on, three times daily after meals I opened my Bible and said, “Lord, thank you. These words are life to me, health if I can find them, and I receive them as that, as medicine.” Within three months in that condition and in that climate I was totally and permanently healed without any further medical treatment.
Well, eventually the army sent me to a little place called Gibate on the Red Sea Hills in the Sudan just above the Red Sea. There was a small British hospital which catered only for Italian prisoners of war, of whom there were hundreds at that time. And, being a corporal I was put in charge of the rations which is the best position to have. Then I was also put in charge of the Sudanese labor force that kept the hospital clean. The man in charge was named Ali. He was a Muslim, they were all Muslims, there were no religions. In fact, the British government wouldn’t even permit missionaries in that area because they didn’t want conflict with the Muslims.
So, Ali and I met every day in my office about 10:00 and discussed the plans for the day. He was illiterate, he couldn’t read or write, but he had a marvelous memory and he had picked up soldier’s English. In fact, he could remember things that my British soldiers couldn’t remember. The word disinfestation, which most British soldiers had problems with, he got it the first time but he didn’t read or write. So for quite a while we only just had a business relationship. But I was really—I felt a responsibility to communicate with him about Jesus. One day I discovered that he believed in Satan, which the Muslims do, Shaiton (phonetic). I said, “Well, I believe in Satan, too.” So that was our point of contact, after that we could relate.
Then he was late coming into my office one day. I said, “Where have you been?” He said, “I had to go have my foot dressed, I have a sore on my foot.” I knew that somewhere in the Bible it says “they will lay hands on the sick and they will recover.” I had never done it, I don’t know that I’d ever seen it done. I said, “Well, would you like me to pray for you?” He said yes. I said, “I’m going to pray in the name of Jesus.” He said, “That’s all right.” I don’t think he knew who Jesus was. So rather as if I were dealing with a bomb about to explode, I put my hands gingerly on him and prayed a nice, quiet prayer. I thought no more about it. About a week later he came back and showed me his foot, it was totally healed. So after that I had his attention.
Well, the next thing that happened in this little series was I was in my billet in the dark about 7:00 at night and I felt the most paralyzing pain in my ankle. So I leapt from the bed in the dark with a scream, turned on the light and discovered I’d been stung by a hornet. Well, hornets are bad anyway but Sudanese hornets are in a class by themselves. The pain was agonizing. I thought to myself, Jesus said you’ll tread upon serpents and scorpions and nothing will by any means hurt you. I thought that includes hornets. So I walked up and down in that billet room for about ten minutes just thanking God and I had no swelling and the pain disappeared. But I still had the little hole in my ankle.
The next day when I met Ali I said, “Do you know what happened to me last night? A hornet stung me.” He said, “A hornet stung you? Where?” I showed him my ankle. It happened there was a man hobbling across the compound at that time with one knee permanently bent up. He pointed to this man and said, “Do you know what happened to that man?” I said no. He said, “He was stung by a hornet and his knee never recovered.” So, we really became friends.
The next thing he wanted to do was teach me to ride a camel. Well, I mean, some of you may have been to the pyramids and seen those tame creatures that they put tourists on, but that is no comparison with a Sudanese camel. I discovered riding a camel that when you’re on a camel there’s always one part going up while another part is going down, it is never totally level. But I survived and I gained his respect.
He said one day, “Let’s have a little picnic.” So I got some supplies from the ration store and we mounted our camels and rode off to a certain distance, stopped at the foot of a little hill. There was a brackish stream of water trickling down the hill. We had no water with us. We had food but no water. He looked at me and he said, “We [Sudanis] drink this water but you [white people] don’t.” I said to him, “As a matter of fact, if there’s nothing else to drink, I’ll drink it.” He said why and I said, “Jesus said you shall drink any deadly thing and it shall not harm you.” So I drank the water and we had our meal and nothing happened to me.
By this time I started to read to him from John’s gospel. The King James Version translated into soldier’s English, which was quite an achievement! It so happened that at this point we got to John 3 about being born again. This phrase just registered with him and he kept on talking about being born again. We got on our camels and rode back and he was still talking about being born again. I said, “Would you like to be born again?” He said, “Yes, I would.” I’d never led anybody to the Lord — I had led one French sailor to the Lord. It wasn’t easy to pray together, I said, “Listen, when the sun goes down this evening, you go to your little hut and I’ll go to my billet. At 6:00 we’ll pray and you ask to be born again.” He said okay. I met him next morning at 10:00. I said, “Did you pray?” He said yes. I said, “Did anything happen?” He said no. I was glad he said no because it meant he really expected something to happen. So the Holy Spirit whispered in my ear, “He’s a Muslim.” I knew very little about Muslims at that time. I said, “Did you pray in the name of Jesus?” He said no. I said, “If you want to be born again you’ve got to pray in the name of Jesus. Are you willing to do that?” He said yes. I said, “You go to your little hut at 6:00, I’ll go to my billet and we’ll pray.”
Well, the next morning I met him, I looked at him and said, “You’ve got it,” and he had. I mean, his whole countenance was totally changed. And the change in his life was so dramatic that all the people in the hospital said to me, “What’s happened to your friend Ali?” I said, “He got saved.” They said, “What’s that?” I said, “Let me tell you.”
I started a Bible class with three other British soldiers on the basis of what happened to Ali. And in the course of the time two of them got soundly saved.
Well, before I left I baptized him in the hospital swimming pool. I really believe I was the first person that ever presented the news of Jesus to that particular tribe which was called the Hidunduwa (phonetic). So, I have learned all through my life that God has a plan. And you don’t have to work it out, you just have to be in God’s plan.
After that, after three years in what they called bad postings I had the right to apply for a good one so I said, “I want to go to Palestine.” They sent me there. They put me in a little medical base depot which was storing medical supplies to take into Europe when the way opened. And all the people working with it were the Sutons (phonetic) from South Africa. I was I think the only white person working with them.
At that time I had visited a lady in a town called Ramallah which in those days was a nice little Christian village. It’s almost impossible to believe today. She was a Danish lady and she had a small children’s home. The reason why I visited her was because soldiers all throughout the Middle East were saying if you really want a blessing you need to go to that children’s home in Ramallah, which was about ten miles north of Jerusalem. I thought I’ll go there. I met the lady, saw the children, some of whom are here this evening, and I thought, “There’s a different atmosphere in this home. It’s really like being in the presence of God.” Before we left this lady trotted all the eight children in the home, had them kneel down and pray for me.
I don’t think the youngest prayed, the youngest was about a year and a half. The next youngest was four. I went away and I thought that’s a sweet home and I really felt good there. I thought, “That poor Danish lady, she’s so poor, she doesn’t have much money. She has eight children to feed.” I started to pray for her when I was back at Kiriat Motzkin (phonetic), walking up and down this depot with the bales of medical supplies.
One day when I was praying for her I got a message in tongues. You don’t like the word message but I got an utterance. And then, as usual, I got the interpretation. And the Lord was speaking to me and He said, “I’ve joined you together under the same yoke and in the same harness.” I thought that’s strange, it sounds as though God wants us to get married. I had no thought of getting married at the time.
Later on, this is just by the way, I went back to the Danish lady and I said, “I believe God wants us to work together.” She looked at me and she said, “He’ll have to pull on both ends of the chain if that’s so.”
Well, a little while later I was back in this depot again, walking up and down, and the same thing happened. I began to speak in a tongue, I got the interpretation. This time it was God speaking to me. In those days He always spoke King James English to me. I want to say this, there’s a great advantage in King James English. If you haven’t studied the English language—you see, there’s a difference in the second person plural and the second person singular which doesn’t exist in modern English. You can be one person or many persons whereas thou is one person, ye is many. So, there’s a lot of advantages in King James English. It’s a much better version of English than we have now but let’s not go into that! The English language is not improving, it is declining like almost all other languages—like Latin, like Greek, like Hebrew. I don’t know of any language that’s on the up, they’re all coming down. You see, people talk about evolution but they’ve forgotten to talk about devolution. There’s a lot more evidence for devolution than there is for evolution. That’s just by the way.
This time the Lord said to me, and again I have these words, I’ve never forgotten them, “I have called thee to be a teacher of the scriptures in truth and faith and love which are in Christ Jesus for many.” And that was like tacked on. And then I learned my primary calling was to be a teacher of the scriptures. And that’s been my calling ever since. Everything else in my life has come out of the teaching of the scriptures. From that time onwards I did my best to be the best teacher of the scripture that I could be. I’m not comparing myself with anybody else but I did everything I could. And particularly I’ve always guarded my mind because I’m one of those people if it comes into my mind it’s going to come out of my mouth. And so I set a guard on my mind. I don’t read anything, if possible, I don’t listen to anything that is not edifying, that isn’t positive. And if I do, I end up in trouble because sooner or later it’s going to come out.
Well, let me say two things about that interpretation. The interpretations that God has given me are so perfect. He said two things, He said in truth and faith and love. And looking back now over approximately 50 years I can say that was the order. Being a former philosopher, the first thing I wanted was truth so I went after truth. Then in due course I realized truth doesn’t do much good if you don’t have the faith to apprehend it and apply it. So I began to become very occupied with faith. And some of you who have listened to my cassettes over the years can probably trace this development. But now, I don’t know, for perhaps a decade, I have seen that the thing that really matters is love. The thing that I’m most concerned about producing in people is love.
Ruth and I have a scripture we say together, why don’t we say it? It’s very short, it won’t take long, it’s 1John 3:8.
“We have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God and God in him.”
So, most of you have been to church, you have known about the love of God. Have you ever believed it? Most of you haven’t. It’s just a theory, just a doctrine, you’ve never really believed that God loves you individually and personally with a love that you simply cannot measure. I have learned in recent years the hardest thing for Christians is to really believe that God loves you with a passionate love. It’s much easier for us to tell God that we love Him. That’s not so difficult. But, to really believe that God loves you, most Christians have not arrived there that I know today.
We have a dear friend who is well known to Sally here, Gordon Suckling. He’s been a missionary in Zambia. He went to Zambia when he was an infant. He’s been a missionary there all his life, a very, very successful missionary. He’s built many, many churches; has a tremendous ministry of deliverance from demons and so on. We’ve known him personally for a number of years. He was with us in the International Intercessors Prayer Conference last October in South Africa. This man who is just a little younger than I am told us with tears in his eyes, “You know, I’ve never had God speak to me personally.” We could hardly believe that would be true. He said, “I’ve always majored on achievement.” He said, “I’ve achieved.” Actually, I hope this won’t sound proud but this is what he said, “I was perfectly satisfied with my achievements until I met Derek Prince.” He said, “That’s somebody who’s achieved more than I have and I was no longer satisfied.” He said, “I wish God would speak to me personally.” We all prayed and took him on our hearts. About two or three days later he stood up and he was weeping. A man of about 75. He said, “God has spoken to me today.” We asked, “What did He say?” He said, “I love you.” To think that he’s had to be a Christian for 70 years before he really knew that God loved him.
And there are many, many of you like that. You’ve never really believed the love that God has for you. God is love. John said we have known. Lots of us know, we all know John 3:16 (most of us). But, have you really believed that God loves you personally, passionately, individually, unconditionally? You don’t have to earn His love, you don’t have to qualify, you’ll never be good enough. But if you can believe it you can receive it.
I’m the strangest person to tell you this but as I’ve said, I was brought up in the school of the stiff upper lip. You’ve never met anybody, you probably never will meet anybody more a product of that British military tradition than I am. But I want to say to each of you, God loves you. He really loves you. And all your efforts and service for Him He values but the thing He’s most interested in is not your service but you. God is not so much interested in what we do, He’s much more interested in what we are.
In this prayer conference we spent several days, some of us, just waiting on the Lord. No agenda, no program, no prayer list—waiting to see or hear what God was saying. It’s one of the hardest things for Christian workers to do. We had some wonderful experiences. Out of that we entered into worship on a different level.
I want to tell you about one woman, Mary, the sister of Martha, because I want to make her a pattern for you. Jesus went to their home, you’ll read this in John chapter 10 (or 8), and Martha was the active, serving woman, a very good woman. She was busy. It says in the King James she was “cumbered” with much serving. How many of you are cumbered with much serving? You’re so busy serving you don’t have time for the Lord. But, Mary sat at the Lord’s feet and heard His word. Martha said, “Lord, why don’t you tell her to come help me?” Jesus said, “She has chosen the better part and it shall not be taken away from her.”
I want to tell you the better part is sitting at the feet of Jesus, having no agenda, not a prayer list, not singing choruses, just waiting to find out what the Lord has to say. Do you know, He’s been waiting a long while to speak to some of you. You’ve never had time to listen to Him.
And then the beautiful end of this story is in the home of Lazarus after Lazarus had been raised from the dead, they were all eating at the table, including Lazarus. Along comes Mary with this alabaster vase containing this precious ointment which was worth about eight month’s salary. You translate that into contemporary American values. She broke it. It was irreplaceable, you couldn’t do anything with it, you couldn’t mend it. She poured the contents on the head of Jesus and all these good religious people, including all the apostles, said, “What a waste! This could have been sold for so much and given to the poor.” Especially Judas. But John carefully explains the reason why he was so interested in the poor was he kept the box and took the money. Isn’t it remarkable that Jesus had a treasurer who was a thief. I mean, that’s one of the hardest things to understand. Anyhow, let’s not go into that.
What I want to say is the pouring of the ointment on the head of Jesus was an act of worship. Jesus said, “Let her alone, she’s done a good thing. The poor you always have with you.” And that’s true today. You can do them good whenever you will. “But me you won’t always have.” And then He said this, “She has anointed me to the burial.” I believe that Mary was the only one amongst all the disciples who knew that Jesus would have to die. She came and she anointed Him while she had the ointment and while she had Jesus.
The other women didn’t know, they watched Him die, mourned and went to the tomb on Sunday morning with all their ointments and He wasn’t there! So, all that labor was wasted. The only one who didn’t waste her labor was Mary. I believe that we need to come into the place where we’re content to sit at the feet of Jesus.
Some of you know Brother Johannes Facius from Denmark. He’s the international leader of International Intercessors. He calls it wasting time on Jesus. The people said, “Why was this ointment wasted?” Jesus said, in effect, “Anything you put on me is never wasted.”
So, I feel somehow I’ve come to the end of what I have to say. I feel we need to do something about it. There’s a large group of people here, I don’t have any plan. Some of you have never had a real personal encounter with Jesus. You can join a church, sign a pledge, shake a pastor by the hand, make good resolutions and not be changed. But you cannot meet Jesus without being changed. If you’ve never been changed I doubt whether you’ve ever met Jesus. I was changed overnight. I want to say by no means was I perfect but I was different. You cannot know Jesus personally and stay the same as you were.
I want to ask you to ask yourself, “Do I really know Jesus personally? Is He number one in my life?” And if not, well, you can get to know Him tonight here. He’s not far away. He’s not remote. He’s not disinterested. He loves you. He died for you. He longs to reveal Himself to you.
And then there are those of you who are really Christians, your lives have been changed, you know what it is to know Jesus, but you’ve never really known and believed the love that God has for you. You believe it doctrinally but you don’t believe it personally.
I’ve dealt recently with very mature Christians. Gordon Suckling was only one of them. I’ve seen the hardest thing for most Christians is to let Jesus say, “I really love you.” We can tell Jesus we love Him but it’s quite different to accept His love for us.
So, I don’t have a plan but I suggest if you would like to pray, that you pray here where you are. It would be better if you could kneel down but I’m sure it’s not easy for all of you to kneel. There’s something about kneeling. I didn’t agree with everything in the Anglican Church but I did agree with kneeling.
Don’t let embarrassment come between you and the Lord. I’ll tell you, the most embarrassing experience you’ll ever have is standing on the judgment day and saying “I turned Jesus down.” That will be intensely embarrassing.
So, it’s up to you. He’s here, the Holy Spirit is here. You don’t need to walk out of this place tonight without knowing Jesus personally. It says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and I will sup with him and he with me.” So, some of you have heard His voice. What are you going to do about it? Somebody said the latch on that door is on the inside, it cannot be opened from outside. If you don’t open it, it won’t be opened.
I suggest that if it’s possible and you want this, you kneel down, because it’s good to let the world know that you want Jesus. Don’t be embarrassed. Don’t be afraid of people because they can’t help you, why should they hinder you? All right? We’ll wait a little while.
If you can’t kneel where you are, come out, there’s plenty of space. We’ve had people kneeling all over the floor recently.
And then, those of you that know Jesus but you’ve never really known that He loves you, ask Him to reveal His love to you. Open your heart and don’t be embarrassed. Embarrassment is an enemy. All right?
(Song sung by someone in the meeting—couldn’t hear it all, it was in the background. The gist was the Lord saying, “You’re mine.”)
The one way to respond to that is to say “Thank you, Lord. I really believe I am yours. I really believe you love me. I open my heart to receive your love here tonight.”
You may have been a faithful servant of the Lord for decades and never really known personally the love that God has for you.
Thank you, Father. Don’t get distracted. If you need to go, go. We’re going to waste time on Jesus for a little while. We don’t have to say a lot of prayers, we just have to receive His love.
I just want to encourage more of you to come out and kneel. There’s something about moving from the place where you are which is more than physical. And, in a sense, it involves self-humbling. You may be a very highly respected person in your community but that’s no substitute for knowing that God loves you. There is no substitute for that. Thank you, Lord.
There’s plenty of space. We’ve had floors filled with people on their faces in recent weeks. It’s not a bad thing to get on your face before God. Lots of the Lord’s servants have ended up there.
Thank you, Lord. We worship you.
Now, the Lord will speak to some of you personally and individually. He’ll tell you things that He’s been wanting to say to you for maybe years. You’ve never been able to hear. So, if He speaks to you, don’t be afraid. Just receive what He wants to say. He wants to share with some of you His plan for your life just as He did with me. I’m so glad I listened. I could have shrugged it off but my life would have been a mess.