What Makes Life Worth Living?
Derek Prince
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What Makes Life Worth Living?

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Be encouraged and inspired with this Bible-based sermon by Derek Prince.

Be encouraged and inspired with this Bible-based sermon by Derek Prince.

Derek Prince searched for life's purpose in many different forms—highbrow, lowbrow, intellectual, aesthetic—then found his answer at midnight in an army barrack room. Discover the key to a wholesome, meaningful and fulfilling life.

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I’ve been asked to share with you a series of supernatural experiences which took place in my life a good many years ago now which completely and radically and permanently changed the whole course of my life. The results of which are still as real to me today as they were when they took place. I’m sharing this because I trust it will both inspire and challenge those who hear this personal testimony.

In order to enable you to understand what took place in my life I have to give you just a little of my background so you will know what kind of a person I am. One of the things that none of us ever have a choice about is where we will be born. That’s just not just an option. If you were to look at me and I were to give you ten guesses you’d probably not be able to guess where I was born. I was born in the city of Bangalore, India. The reason I was born there was my mother was there at the time! The reason my mother was there at the time was my father was an officer in the British Army serving in India. I’ll have to acknowledge to you this was in the very early years of World War I, if you can believe that people really were alive in those days! I know some people think I’m sort of co-equal with the Brontosaurus. But that’s not quite true.

Interestingly enough, every male member of my family whom I have ever known in my life has been an officer in the British army. My grandfather was a general, my father was colonel, my uncle was a brigadier, and so on and so forth. I am a departure from the family tradition.

In those days it was traditional for Britishers serving overseas to send their children back to Britain for the sake of their health and education. And so, as a child of 5 I was sent to England and grew up there. I still can show you a picture of myself at the age of 9 with a bowler hat balanced on my ears and a long suit, ready to go off to boarding school for the first time in my life. From the age of 9, for the next 16 years I was educated in boarding institutions. I never spent more than three months of the year at home.

At the age of 13 I was entered for a very highly competitive examination for a scholarship to Eton College. I was successful in that examination and was one of fourteen scholars admitted to Eton that year. A scholar is somebody that the college thinks is worth educating because they’ve got enough to make it worthwhile. Those of you that are familiar with British background will remember that in those days—and into today, amazingly enough because I was back in Eton last year—the students wear tail coats, pinstripe trousers. They don’t today wear top hats but we did. So, for five years my attire was a top hat, a tail coat, pinstripe trousers. And because I was a scholar I also wore a gown that was only worn by people who were scholars of the college.

Now, during these years it was just assumed by everybody, myself included, that I would attend the Anglican Church, the state church of Britain. Which I did and I certainly had plenty of opportunity because both at my preparatory school and at Eton we attended chapel once every weekday and twice on Sundays, which is eight times a week. You do that for ten years and you’ve done a lot of churchgoing.

At the age of 15 a kind of decree went through Eton that the boys of 15 were to be confirmed. Well, I was beginning to be a little bit of a typical teenager, somewhat critical of my elders and supposedly betters. I wasn’t quite convinced about this Christian business so I said I don’t think I want to be confirmed. So the college wrote to my father who was serving in India and to my amazement he wrote back and said all the boys of 15 are being confirmed, you will be confirmed. What surprised me was that my father would make that decision because he never went to church more than twice a year, once on Christmas and once on Easter. So I was a little surprised that he thought it so important for me to be confirmed.

Well, I was rather the reluctant confirmation candidate but many of you are familiar with the process. In order to be confirmed you have to learn the answer to certain questions. The first question is what is your name! That most of us can get by with. After that there are questions about who gave you this name and the answer is my godparents at my baptism and so on and so forth. I have no difficulty in memorizing things, I never have had. So I got by with that.

But interestingly enough, as I went through with the preparation for confirmation I began to feel I really need to be confirmed. In some strange way I began to realize I think, for the first time in my life I wasn’t nearly as good as I ought to be. So, I made up my mind I’ll get confirmed and I’ll be a whole lot better from then onwards. In due course the bishop of Oxford arrived and laid his hands on the heads of about 50 Eton boys and my head was one of them. I envisaged that from then on I was going to be really good but I was greatly disappointed. Because instead of getting better I got worse. I’d been very serious about this and the problem was the harder I tried to be good the quicker I got bad.

Now, I realized many years later that I was wrestling with a problem that is dealt with in Romans 7. I find that when I would do good, evil is present with me. The good that I want to do I don’t do, the evil that I don’t want to do I do. Many years later I could identify with that. But it was, I think, tragic that there’s no one that I was in touch with at that time either priest or layman that could explain this to me. And so I was left, as it were, floundering in my ignorance.

And eventually I decided well, if all religion does is make me bad quicker, I could get on without religion. In those days—I don’t know whether it’s true today—in the Anglican Church we used to say what’s called the general confession every Sunday morning. And one of the things we rightly said was, “Pardon us miserable offenders.” But my little teenage mind said if all religion can do is make me a miserable offender, I can be an offender without religion and not nearly so miserable! So, that was my decision. I had no opportunity whatever to change things as long as I was at Eton.

But at the age of 18 I took another competitive examination and was admitted to King’s College, Cambridge as the Senior Scholar of the Year. And once I got to Cambridge no more churchgoing for me. By that time I had come to the conclusion that Christianity was a harmless occupation for old ladies of both sexes! I didn’t see any reason for me to be involved in it. But at the same time from before I was a teenager I always had an unanswered question somewhere inside me, what is the real meaning of life? What is life about? What is there that we can do that will really be worth doing? I concluded that Christianity didn’t have the answer so where was I to turn?

Because of my particular type of mind I decided philosophy would be the place to look for the answer. So for seven years of Cambridge I studied philosophy. Primarily Greek philosophy. Actually, at the end of that period I was elected to a fellowship at King’s College, Cambridge in philosophy. I looked back and I’m somewhat amused to think that the thesis which obtained me my fellowship was entitled “The Evolution of Plato’s Method of Definition,” which was the kind of thing that people wrote theses about.

I also studied a good deal of modern philosophy. I was right up with the times, which is now behind the times, which is what they called Linguistic Philosophy. I was a pupil of the most famous professor of that school, Ludwig Lichtenstein. I was right up with everything. Academically, as I’ve indicated, I was extremely successful. I was one of the youngest people ever to be elected to a fellowship in King’s College, Cambridge.

But there was one problem. I still hadn’t resolved this question, what is it that would really make life worth living? What is it that life is for? Well, at that time World War II broke out and I knew I was going to be called up into the British Army. I departed from family tradition for philosophic reasons which I won’t go into and I volunteered for the Royal Army Medical Corps. My destiny was to become a stretcher bearer. Which was different from what I’d been trained for!

When I was facing going into the army I had one really important question for me which was what shall I take with me to read? Up to that time I had one of the most well stocked largest libraries in the world just outside my back door. I could go there any time, get any book I wanted. I knew that when I went into the army I would have to carry my worldly possessions in a long, round, black bag which the army calls a kit bag. It doesn’t hold much and books are very heavy. So, I said to myself what am I going to read? Then I reasoned it out in my philosophic way. I said to myself there’s one book in the world which is more widely read and more influential than any other book in human history and I know very little about it. I was honest. You know the book I had in mind? The Bible. And there’s no question that that was a correct evaluation of the Bible. It is undoubtedly by far the most widely read and influential book in the history of the world. I question whether anybody is entitled to call themselves educated if they’re totally ignorant of the Bible.

I viewed the Bible as another book of philosophy and I said to myself I’m supposed to be a teacher of philosophy. Here’s this book which is a book of philosophy and I know very little about it, I’m going to read the Bible. So, just before I went into the army I bought myself a nice new black Bible. I couldn’t imagine a Bible would ever be any color but black, which was kind of typical of my whole view of the religious world. Then I said to myself how do you study the Bible? I said just like any other book, begin at the beginning and read it through to the end. So armed with my black Bible I went into the Boyce barracks in Crookam, Hampshire, the first night with twenty-four other recruits in a barrack room. I sat down on my bed and pulled out my black Bible and began at Genesis 1:1. What I hadn’t allowed for was that anybody seen reading the Bible in public in the army makes himself very conspicuous. I still remember the uneasy hush that fell on the whole barrack room when people realized I was reading a Bible! But I baffled them all because when I wasn’t reading the Bible I didn’t live the least bit like people who regularly read the Bible! I don’t want to specify all my sins but I had a vile blaspheming tongue which I couldn’t control and I was also a heavy drinker of whiskey, to mention only two. So, there I was reading my Bible, drinking my whiskey and using terrible language.

I found the Bible a very wearisome, baffling book. In fact, it was the first book I ever studied I really couldn’t analyze it. I didn’t know how to classify it. Was it philosophy? Was it theology? Was it poetry? Was it mythology? Was it history? It didn’t seem to fit into any category. And as I say, I found it very wearisome. But, I made up my mind no book is going to beat me. I’m going to get to the end and then I’m going to decide what I think about it. I sometimes compare myself with professing Christians and I think I didn’t do badly because in the first nine months in the army I got somewhere in the middle of the book of Job, which is quite a long way—especially when it’s tough going.

Incidentally, let me mention that I was five and a half years in the British army regularly reading my Bible in public. Never once did a chaplain ever come to me and offer to explain the Bible to me. Never once in five and a half years. But there was one other soldier who was also studying his Bible. He was not a born again Christian but he was interested in prophecy and he had certain strange views which I won’t go into. And so, this brought us somewhat together and we would sit and discuss things about the Bible.

Then our unit was moved to a town in Yorkshire called Scarborough. A little later this other soldier came to me in a rather timid and apologetic way and he said, “I wonder if you’d like to come with me to a place I’ve found next Sunday afternoon?” Well, because he was apologetic and because it was Sunday afternoon I deduced it was a church. So I said to him, “Well, I just want to tell you that I’m not interested in religion but I don’t have anywhere to go on Sunday afternoon so I’ll come with you.” So we went together to the church he had found. I was very ignorant about denominations at that time. I knew there were Anglicans, Catholics and Methodists. I viewed Methodists as people who had made trouble in British history somewhere in the past. I don’t think I even knew there were Baptists. Can you believe that! Certainly I didn’t know the kind of people that we ended up with and I won’t give them a label at this point.

Now, I went to that service as critically minded as anybody has ever attended a church. I had been trained to criticize and analyze for seven years. I said to myself I want to see if this preacher knows what he’s talking about. They told me later that before he became a preacher he had been a taxi driver. I think some of it showed. Well, as I say, it was unlike anything I’d ever been in. They used red hymn books. And they had choruses and they would clap their hands. It seemed to me the majority of the congregation was old ladies. Of course, most of the men had been called up. It was a small congregation. I felt acutely embarrassed to be in such a place but I said to myself I’ll wait until he starts preaching, that’s what I came for.

Well, when he started he took his text from the 6th chapter of the prophet Isaiah, a vision that Isaiah had of the Lord on His throne, high and lifted up. And when Isaiah saw the Lord he cried out, “Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips in the midst of a people of unclean lips; and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” And when I heard that phrase, “a man of unclean lips in the midst of a people of unclean lips,” I said to myself no one ever described you better than that. So, he had my attention.

And then in this vision when Isaiah said that a seraph flew, took a live coal from off the altar with the tongs, laid it on Isaiah’s lips and said, “Lo, this has touched thy lips, thine iniquity is taken away and thy sin purged.” And then Isaiah heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send and who will go for us? And he answered, Here am I, send me.” Well, I anticipated that the preacher would explain what happened to Isaiah but it didn’t happen that way. He wasn’t one of those preachers who stayed with any particular theme too long. He kind of skipped up and down across the Bible and after a little while we found ourselves in the period of Samuel and King Saul and the shepherd boy David.

He was a preacher that believed in making things vivid and so at this point he conducted an imaginary dialogue between King Saul and David the shepherd boy, emphasizing quite correctly that Saul was a head and shoulders taller than the rest of the people. When he was speaking in the character of Saul he jumped up on a little bench on the platform and looked down at where he’d been where he was talking as David. I was following this but in the middle of one of his speeches as King Saul the bench collapsed and he fell with a loud thud to the platform! Well, if you’d been planning something to impress a professor of philosophy you’d have probably left that part out. The strange thing is that in spite of everything I said to myself this man does know what he’s talking about. Furthermore, I don’t.

Well, he got to the end and then he took me by surprise. He embarrassed me acutely. He said every head bowed, every eye closed. And then as I understood it he said if you want this thing, put your hand up. Well, the only thing I could think of that he was talking about was whatever happened to Isaiah. That was all I could get out of it. But I was indignant that anybody would ever take me to a place where I was asked to do something so embarrassing as put my hand up. And I sat there in indignation and embarrassment, unable to move, and two inaudible voices were speaking to me. One of them was saying in my left ear, “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 other voice was speaking at the same time in my right ear and it said, “If this is something good, why shouldn’t you have it?” I was unable to respond and I sat there and the silence dragged out—they had no background music in those days, nobody tinkling on the piano or playing the organ, just silence. I wondered how long it could last.

And then a miracle took place. Absolutely supernatural. Without my willing it or expecting it I saw my own right arm go right up in the air. And I knew I had not raised it. Talk about emotionalism, I was afraid. Well, the moment my arm went up, everybody sighed and they continued with the meeting. All they’d been waiting for was to get my arm up. Nobody ever came to me or counseled me or explained to me what had happened. Who knows what would have happened but there was an elderly couple there who kept a boarding house somewhere close to church. They took pity on these two hungry looking soldiers and invited us home for supper. We reasoned it out and said well, it will probably mean a little more religion but a good supper is worth some religion—because the army didn’t overfeed us.

So we walked through the streets with this couple and those of you that are familiar with Britain will know what I mean when I say it was perfectly obvious to me that they were from a much lower social and educational level than mine. As a matter of fact, I learned later that the man had left school at the age of 12 and gone down to the coal mine the same day, which was a Sunday. But as we talked about the Bible, they talked about it as if it was the morning’s newspaper, as if everything in it had just happened and the print was still wet. I thought to myself this is unreasonable. I’ve spent seven years at Cambridge learning to analyze and I don’t understand the Bible, these people have never been near a university and they understand it!

But the thing that really, I think, impacted me was this little lady. She was a short spry little thing and she began to describe how her husband in World War I had had tuberculosis of one lung and had been exempted from military service. Well, I knew if it gained him exemption it must be a valid medical diagnosis. Then she said something that I still marvel at today. She said, “I prayed every day for the Lord to heal my husband.” But I couldn’t conceive that people could pray every day for ten years for anything. And then she said, “In the tenth year I was in the parlor praying. My husband was in bed in the bedroom, sitting up in the bed coughing and spitting up blood. While I was praying in the parlor,” she said, “an audible voice spoke to me and said, `Claim it.’” She said, “Out loud I claim it now.” And at that moment her husband was instantly healed. When he went back to the doctor the doctor said the lung that had been affected was stronger than the lung that had not been affected.

Well, when I heard that I said to myself maybe this is what I’ve been looking for all my life. We got there and there was a gathering of about seven or eight people, friends of relatives, whatever. We sat around an oval table with the supper on the table and they prayed over the meal. Well, I’d never been anywhere where people prayed over food but I could understand this was part of everything. Then we had a delicious supper. Then without any warning they started praying again. I realized they were praying by turns around the table! I realized my turn was coming quickly. I tell you, I was paralyzed with fear. I had never prayed spontaneously out loud in public in my life. I had no idea what to say. When my turn came I opened my mouth and I heard myself say, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” And I shut my mouth like a trap, I said no more. I realized later that those words were actually in the gospels.

Well, still nothing happened but in this strange jargon that they used they said on Tuesday night there’s going to be a revival in the Assemblies of God. I didn’t know what a revival was and I had no idea what the Assemblies of God were. But I thought this is part of this deal and I’m going to be there. So Tuesday night was a different church but much the same kind of people and a different preacher but not very much different in some ways. He took his text from the statement Enoch was not because the Lord took him. He was one of these preachers that believed in bringing things up to date and making them vivid. He described the scene after Enoch disappeared when they sent for the police, the CID as they call them in England, with their tracking dogs. They followed the scent so far and then there was no more scent. It didn’t go in any direction so they concluded that he must have gone up. Well, being a logician I could accept the logic of that. But when they got to the end I knew what to expect—every head bowed, every eye closed. Well, I said to myself somebody else put my hand up for me once. I couldn’t expect that to happen again and if I really want this thing I’m going to put my hand up. So I put my hand up and again the moment my hand went up everybody relaxed.

This time the preacher came to me and he asked me two questions which I vividly remember. The first question was do you believe that you’re a sinner? Well, my whole specialty had been definitions so I quickly ran over in my mind all the obvious definitions of a sinner and every one of them fitted me exactly. So I said yes I believe I’m a sinner. Well, then he said do you believe that Christ died for your sins? I answered him, “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.” And, I couldn’t. My mind was totally closed.

Looking back now in the light of things I learned later, I realized that there was a tremendous invisible barrier which was I had become deeply involved in yoga and there was this invisible barrier that kept me from acknowledging Jesus as the Son of God. I could acknowledge Him as a guru but that’s not sufficient.

Well, two or three days passed and I felt like somebody suspended between two worlds. I’d stepped out of one world but I hadn’t stepped into the other. And so I eventually decided near the end of that week I’m going to pray until something happens. So I went back to the room where I was billeted with another soldier who was a friend of mine and we didn’t have any furniture in the room. We slept just on two straw mattresses. But we had picked up a little canvas folding stool, the way soldiers do. That was the only furniture we had in the room. It was about 11:00 o’clock at night and the other soldier was just getting on to the mattress, ready to go to sleep. So I thought to myself I’ll let him go to sleep and when he’s asleep I’m going to pray.

So when he was asleep I put this little canvas stool in front of the window, sat on it, put my elbows on the window sill and said now I’m going to pray. Then I discovered I couldn’t pray. I didn’t know whom I was going to pray to, I didn’t know what I was going to say, I just couldn’t begin. And I spent about an hour just sitting there trying to start to pray. It was about midnight and then suddenly I was aware that there was another person in the room. I didn’t see this other person but the person became very real to me. I began to lose control of what I was saying and I began to say out loud to this person, “Unless you bless me I will not let you go.” And when I got to the end I couldn’t stop saying I will not let you go, I will not let you go, I will not let you go.

And then I found that my body was being taken charge of by some invisible power. My hands were going up in the air with the palms upwards. And inside me there was a little something that was reasoning all the time, speculating, analyzing. And it said why with the palms upwards? And immediately I got a clear answer in my mind “power from on high”. And in a way that I couldn’t explain logically I knew that this was the first time I’d ever been in contact with this power. But, I knew that there was power from below that I had been in contact with many times.

And then what I was saying changed. I began to say to this unknown person, “Make me love you more and more.” And when I got to the phrase more and more, again, I couldn’t stop. I said more and more and more and more. That was totally out of character for me. I think you’ll understand from my background, I was brought up in the school of the stiff upper lip, the old school tie, and keep the flag flying. I mean, I would have been embarrassed to kiss my mother in public and here I was saying to this unknown person “make me love you more and more.”

By that point this power began to move my whole body backwards and I realized that if I went any further backwards I would fall off the stool. So, I stopped. But when I stopped I said to myself I’ve come this far now. If I stop now I may never get this far again. So I yielded to the power and I did not fall off the stool, I was lifted off the stool and deposited on my back on the floor, my palms still up in the air, still saying more and more and more.

Then something seemed to break loose inside me and I began to sob. But it was like the sobs were coming from the very pit of my stomach, flowing up through me and shaking my whole body. I had no intellectual understanding of what I was crying for but I was just sobbing and sobbing and sobbing. This lasted well over half an hour, I lost count of time.

And then, again without any process of reasoning inside me, the sobbing changed to laughter. I began to laugh. I was not amused about anything, it was totally unconnected with humor. And at first I began to laugh softly but as I yielded it became louder and louder and louder. And it seemed to me I was sinking in a sea of laughter which was reverberating all around the room. Then I thought to myself what will happen if anybody wakes up and finds me about 1:00 A.M. on my back on the floor in my underwear with my arms in the air laughing! Well, I think the Lord did something supernatural because the only person who woke up was the soldier in the same room. And over the back of my head I could see him gradually uncoil from the blanket and come toward me but he was very cautious! He was kind of rubbing his hands and walking around me, and he said, “I don’t know what to do with you, I suppose it’s no good throwing water over you.” My thought was even water couldn’t put this out. I didn’t know what it was but I knew that water couldn’t touch it.

I mean, this is altogether separate from any process of reasoning. I knew—and it must be out of the years I listened to the Bible in church—that men must not blaspheme the Holy Ghost. And quite contrary to any ideas of my own about the Holy Ghost I knew that what was in me was the Holy Ghost. And I thought let me not make it difficult for Him, I don’t want Him to say the wrong thing. So I kind of suppressed my laughter, turned over onto my hands and knees—I couldn’t walk—crawled to my mattress and got on the mattress under my blanket and fell asleep still laughing softly to myself.

The next morning when I woke up I thought to myself was that a dream or did it really happen. I really didn’t have any time to speculate because I had various tasks to do and I just went about my duties. But about midday I stopped and took stock and I said to myself here I’ve been mixing with these blaspheming soldiers for six hours and I haven’t said one wrong word. It was not that I had decided to give it up, it just wasn’t in me any longer. I thought about what the seraph said to Isaiah, “This has touched thy lips, thy sin is purged, thine iniquity is taken away.” It wasn’t something that Isaiah did, it was something that was done in him and for him.

Another thing was that the previous night I hadn’t known how to pray, the next day I couldn’t stop praying. I mean, praying was as natural to me at that point as breathing. At one point I went to a tap to take a mug of water to drink and I couldn’t drink the water till I thanked God for it. And my busy mind was saying that’s silly to thank God for a cup of water.

About 6:00 o’clock in the evening, or a little later, my habit was to go to the local pub to get some whiskey. I had no scruples about drinking whiskey, I didn’t have any religious theories. So I set out for the pub but when I got to the door of the pub my legs locked and they would not walk inside that door. So I stood in the doorway for a while, having a kind of argument with my legs, and I suddenly realized I had no interest in walking through that door. I wasn’t the least bit interested in whatever happened inside the pub. I turned around and walked away.

Now I want to emphasize every one of those changes was independent of my decision. They were not things I did, they were things that were done in me. So I got back to the room and I thought it’s time to read my Bible. I was flipping through the pages and I was on my way to the book of Job and I happened to open at Psalm 126, which says:

“When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like those that dreamed. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing.”

I said to myself that’s amazing. That’s what happened to me. It wasn’t that I was laughing but my mouth was filled with laughter that came from inside me. And then my first thought was why did I go to church all those years and no one ever told me about things like this?

But the most dramatic change in me was in my reading of the Bible. And this was from one day to the next. The previous day it had been a baffling, wearisome book that I didn’t understand. The next day wherever I read in the Bible it was like this. It was as if there were only two persons in the universe—God and me—and the Bible was God speaking directly to me.

That was in the year 1941 and it has never changed. It’s still the same today. From that day to this there are two things I have never been able to doubt. First, that Jesus is alive. Second, that the Bible is true. I never had to reason, I knew without any doubt that the person I had encountered in that barrack room was Jesus. And those two revelations that Jesus is alive and the Bible is true totally, permanently and radically altered my whole life.

After a while I said to myself here have I been studying philosophy all these years and I really never found what I was looking for. Now I’ve discovered that the Bible is true and relevant and up to date. Why should I spend any more time on philosophy when it doesn’t have the answer and the Bible does? So I made the decision right then that from then on I was going to study the Bible. That is nearly 50 years ago and I have studied the Bible ever since. I would like to say today the Bible is more alive, more interesting, more exciting than it’s ever been before. It never becomes stale, it’s infinitely rich. And every time I read it I discover things I never knew before and I thought why didn’t I ever know that before?

Well, one of the things about my experience was I didn’t know you had to go to church for things to happen. So things happened with me without my going to church.

About a week or so later I was back in this same barrack room, lying on the same mattress, about 9:00 o’clock in the evening, ready to go to sleep. I was just meditating on all that had been happening to me. And as I did so I was conscious of a fire inside my tummy, right there. And at the same time a phrase formed in my mind, “speaking with other tongues.” As I lay there the fire continued down here and the phrase continued in my mind. So after about ten minutes I thought I’ve got to do something to resolve this so I said out loud in that empty room to God, “God, if you want me to speak with tongues, I’m ready to do it.” The moment I said that the fire began to move up inside me. And one of the things that had always struck me in the Anglican Church in my boyhood was the statement by Jesus, “He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” Now, the modern translations, unfortunately, have changed that. But my attitude always was it really wasn’t right to talk about something so vulgar as the belly in church. But at this point it was very clear to me that’s exactly where it was, it was in my belly. And then it began to move up, it moved into my chest and it moved into my throat. I could trace its course.

And then I was conscious of something like a piece of rubber bouncing back to and fro in the back of my mouth. I said to myself what could that be? And then I realized it was my own tongue but I was not moving it. Then I opened my mouth and some blurred sounds started to come out. I thought this must be speaking with tongues. After a while I relaxed and stopped worrying and the blurred sounds became an articulate language which I’d never heard. At the time I thought it must be Japanese or Chinese, I have no reason to say that. And as I yielded to this and began to speak this language I found a sense or relief. It was like my stress was going.

About ten minutes later I heard the sound of footsteps in the corridor outside and I knew the other soldier was coming back from a dance. Fortunately he was a friend of mine and fortunately he was not religious. His attitude in life was everybody’s got a right to do his own thing and if this is his thing, well, let him do it. But I still thought he might find it difficult if he came in and found me lying on my back, speaking a language I didn’t know and he didn’t know. So I thought to myself when he comes in I’ll just give him a brief word of explanation. How I would have explained something I didn’t understand, I don’t know. But anyhow, when I tried to explain all I could speak was this other language! So, that’s the explanation he got. Marvelously, we remained friends and later I was able to present the gospel to him very, very clearly.

Well, it so happened the next day was a Sunday and I thought I better go to church. So I thought which church will I go to? I said I’ll go to the Assemblies of God. That was the one where the man had preached on Enoch. When I got there there was only about 20 or 30 people there in the church so I just sat in a pew and found myself behind a family of father, mother and a daughter about 12 years old. As we were praying I heard this girl of 12 speaking this beautiful unknown language. It was so fluent, it was so clear and I felt a real desire to know what she was saying. And the moment this desire came into my mind I knew that I knew what she was saying and I began to say it in English. She was saying, “Amen, Lord Jesus, come quickly. Come quickly Lord Jesus, come quickly.” And she raised her eyes and we looked at one another and just for a moment we both knew that I was saying in English what she had said in an unknown tongue.

Now, I didn’t understand the gifts of the Spirit, I had to look in the New Testament to find out what had happened to me. That night once again I was alone in the room and I was getting ready to go to sleep and something began to turn loose inside me. I began to speak a very clear, fluent, powerful, rhythmic language in an unknown tongue. After I had spoken this language I began to speak in English but I was not choosing the words I was saying, I was totally unprepared for what I was saying. And I began to give out a series of beautiful word pictures of certain scenes. I had earned the gold medal at Eton for the study of Shakespeare so I was very familiar with Shakespearean English. It was the most beautiful English I was speaking. I don’t recall in any detail anything except one particular passage of what I said. And this is as real to me today as it was then. I didn’t know what it was about, I had no understanding of what you would call, let me say, revival. As a matter of fact, one of the few fields of philosophy that I never studied was the psychology of religious conversion. I’d never been interested in it. But I found myself saying:

“It shall be like a little stream, the little stream shall become a river, the river shall become a great river, the great river shall become a sea, the sea shall become a mighty ocean, and it shall be through thee; but how, thou must not know, thou canst not know, thou shalt not know.”

One of the advantages of Shakespearean English is that there’s a difference between thou which is singular and ye which is plural—which is lost in modern English. But it was very clear to me that God had spoken to me through my own lips. It was not me speaking to myself but God using my lips to speak to me. And in a sense, I grasped that God had given me in outline His plan for my life in the picture of a little stream that will become a river that will become a great river that will become a sea that will become a mighty ocean. It was utterly outside anything that I pictured or thought of in myself. I think God gave me grace. If He had said I would not know, then I didn’t try to know. I simply left it with God but at the same time I never forgot what God had said.

After that there came into my mind—and I must tell you that things like the word of knowledge and the word of wisdom were just strange jargon to me. But there came into my mind one word which was Palestine, which was the name for the area which is now Israel and Jordan. So I was talking to these friends that had invited us in for supper who had become very warm friends and I said, “Strange, but wherever I go I’ve got this name in my mind, Palestine.” And they said, “Well, Derek, God must be calling you to Palestine.” I didn’t understand that language, I didn’t know what it was to be called.

After that, very shortly the army sent our unit overseas. And in those days because it was war they never told you where you were going. But I thought I’m going to Palestine. Well, we were two months at sea in a ship which was misnamed the City of Paris which had been constructed to carry bananas. My idea is there were about as many British soldiers as should have been bananas on that ship! And because of submarines and all the problems of war we went westward across the Atlantic almost to America, right down the Atlantic, round the Cape of Good Hope, called in at Durbin and then went up the East Coast of Africa and arrived at Suez in November, 1941. I did not at that time go to Palestine. I spent the next three years in the deserts of North Africa—Egypt, Libya and the Sudan. And I began to understand, I think, a little of why God led His people through the deserts to the Promised Land. Because, a desert is something very much on its own. It strips you of all non-essentials. There are only four of five things you have to care about in a desert. The first is water, the second is food, the third is shelter, the fourth is transport. Basically, that’s what your life revolves around. Hardly ever did we have artificial light so we went to bed with the sun and got up with the sun. And most of the time we just slept on the desert.

And in a sense that stripped a whole lot from me. I mean, my whole concept of what life consists of changed. In the course of that period I became sick with a condition of the skin which the doctors were not able to heal in that climate. It was given various names and ultimately it was called chronic eczema. It was kind of indigenous to that climate. There were some soldiers who had been two years in the Middle East and spent 18 months in the hospital. Because of the climate and the food, the doctors did not have the means of healing. I was admitted to a military hospital, I went from one to another and ended up in a hospital in a place called Alballah in Egypt on the Suez Canal. As I lay there in those hospital beds I believed in the Bible, I knew I was saved, I was baptized in the Spirit but I had very little knowledge of scripture. I kept saying to myself day after day I know if I had faith God would heal me. But then the next thing I always said was but I don’t have faith. And when I said that I was in what John Bunyan calls the slough of despond, the lonely dark valley of despair. How dark and how lonely it is!

But one day a piercing ray of light penetrated the darkness and it came from Romans 10:17:

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

And I grasped those two words faith cometh. I want to leave that with everybody here. Faith comes. If you don’t have faith you can get it. It comes. How? By hearing the word of God. So I said to myself that’s what I’m going to do, I’m going to listen to what God is saying to me in the Bible. Having a methodical mind I decided to do it this way. I armed myself with a blue pencil and I started reading through the entire Bible from beginning to end, underlining in blue certain themes—healing, health, physical strength and long life. It took me several months to read through the Bible but when I finished, do you know what I had? A blue Bible! Nothing else could ever have convinced me that healing is part of God’s total provision. But, I wasn’t healed.

Then a very unusual person came on the scene, a lady who was a Brigadier in the Salvation Army. She was a Brigadier because her husband who had died had been a Brigadier and a wife takes the husband’s rank. She was well over 70, I think approaching 80. I had met her once in Cairo when I was there on leave. She was as militant about speaking in tongues as Salvationists are about salvation. She had been baptized in the Spirit and she let everybody know it. Well, God bless her, she’s been with the Lord for many years, but she heard about this British soldier in a hospital on the Suez Canal and she took a rather difficult journey to visit me. Nobody else but me. She got hold of a little four-seater car, a New Zealand soldier to drive it. And the last time I was here in Auckland that soldier came up to me and said, “Do you remember me, I’m the one that drove the car?” She had with her her American lady coworker who was a young woman from the State of Oklahoma. Now, I don’t need to say a lot about the State of Oklahoma but just this. If you can compare the English of two areas, the English of Oklahoma and the English of Cambridge University are about as far apart as you could ever get. I’m not saying which is right. So, this lady, this Brigadier, marched into the ward, overawed the nurse and got permission for me to go out and sit in the car. Then they said we’re going to pray. They didn’t ask me if I wanted to pray, they said we’re going to pray.

So there we were. The soldier was sitting in the driver’s seat, the Brigadier was sitting next to him and the American lady and I were sitting in the back seat. As we started to pray this young lady beside me began to speak in tongues. A very fluent, powerful, authoritative utterance. But not merely was she speaking on tongues, she was shaking all over. And after a little while I found myself shaking all over. And then everybody in the car was shaking. And then the whole car was shaking! It was not traveling, the engine was not running but the car was vibrating as if it had been going about 50 miles an hour on a rough road. The humbling thing was I knew God was doing this for my benefit and it was intensely humbling.

Then this American lady received the interpretation. And again, I don’t remember all the words but there’s one phrase that I have never forgotten which really has shaped the rest of my life and my ministry. The phrase was this: “Consider the work of Calvary; a perfect work, perfect in every respect, perfect in every aspect.” What impressed me was it was such elegant English. And because I happen to know Greek I related it immediately to the last utterance but one of Jesus on the cross when he said, “It is finished.” And that’s the perfect tense of a verb that means to do something perfectly. You could translate it it is perfectly perfect or, it’s completely complete. And so, when I heard these words a perfect work, perfect in every respect, perfect in every aspect, I said to myself that’s the Holy Spirit’s interpretation of it is finished. I understood very clearly that God was showing me that if I could understand what Jesus accomplished by His death on the cross, all I needed—including physical healing—was already provided. And that realization is more clear to me today than it was then. And I want to leave thought with you. If you can really grasp what was accomplished by the death of Jesus on the cross on your behalf, every need you have is already provided.

When I got out of the car and went back to the ward I was just as sick as when I got in. But God had shown me where the answer was. And I decided that from then on I was going to do my best to find out what had been accomplished for me by the death of Jesus on the cross.

Another key scripture that was brought to me by the Holy Spirit was Proverbs 4:20–22, where the scripture says:

“My son, attend to my words, incline thine ear unto my sayings, let them not depart from thine eyes. Keep them in the midst of thine heart, for they are life to those who find them and health to all their flesh.”

And in the Bible that I had, the alternative reading for health was medicine. I said to myself that settles it. Through God’s word He has provided for me health, or medicine, for all my flesh. I said to myself if I can have health in all my flesh there is no room for sickness.

Then I said God said His words are medicine. I was a medical orderly, I was very familiar with giving people medicine. I said that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to take God’s word as my medicine. When I said that the Lord spoke to me inaudibly but clearly in my mind. He said, “When a doctor gives a person medicine the directions for taking it are on the bottle. This, that’s those verses in Proverbs, are my medicine bottle and the directions are on it. You’d better read them.” So I went back and saw that there were four directions for taking God’s word as medicine. Attend to my words, incline thine ear to my sayings, let them not depart from thine eyes, keep them in the midst of thine heart. I saw that if I could attend, bow down my ear and hear, focus my eyes and look, the word of God would come into my heart. And from my heart it would meet every need.

The very next verse of Proverbs, chapter 4, verse 23, says:

“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”

In other words, everything in life depends on what you have in your heart. If you have the right thing in your heart your life will go right, if you have the wrong thing in your heart your life will go wrong. What’s in your heart determines the course of your life. So I said to myself that’s what I’m going to do. I went to the doctor in charge of my case and I said, “Thank you for what you’ve done but I realize in this climate you’re not able with the means at your disposal to obtain complete healing for me. From now on I want to trust God only.” That was a difficult thing to say, especially in the medical corps. I was nearly transferred to a psychiatric hospital. I just escaped that and the doctor discharged me at my own request with no further responsibility.

I can’t go into all the details but the worst thing for my condition was heat. It was already hot in Egypt but within a week the army had sent me to the Sudan. I discovered the temperature in Khartoum regularly went up to 127 degrees. But God said His word would be my medicine. So this is what I did. I want to share it because it works. If you do it, it works. I said to myself how do people take their medicine? And the answer was three times daily after meals. I said that’s what I’ll do. After each main meal I went aside on my own, opened my Bible, bowed my head and said, “God, you have said that these words of yours will be medicine for all my flesh. I’m taking them as my medicine now in the name of Jesus.” I didn’t receive any miracle, nothing dramatic changed. But in one of the worse climates in the world with every external circumstance against me, within three months I was totally and permanently healed simply by taking the medicine.

Furthermore, it’s about 45 years ago now. I’m well over 70 and I have to say to the glory of God I think I got something then that has never left. There is life for your physical body in the word of God if you will learn how to take it. I want to recommend it to you. It’s God’s medicine.

At the end of three years in the desert the army posted me to Palestine and I ended up in a British hospital on the Mount of Olives. God was faithful. He had told me Palestine. He didn’t take me there directly because He wanted me to learn a lot of lessons first, one of which was the lesson on divine healing. But when my education up to that point was complete He put me where He had told me I would be, in Palestine. I spent the last year of my military service living on the Mount of Olives. Those of you that know the nation, the land, it’s right across from the temple area. Every day I could look down on the city of Jerusalem, the temple area. Or, if I looked in the opposite direction I could see the Dead Sea. I had months on end on night duty. And in the nights I would wander through the hospital grounds and look out across the city of Jerusalem and then look out at the Dead Sea which, because of its tremendous mineral content, sparkled in the moonlight like a jewel. At that time I fell in love with that land and that city.

God spoke to me the same way that I described—by tongues and interpretation—twice that time and He told me two things that were extremely important for my future. First of all, at a certain point He said, “I have called thee to be a teacher of the scriptures in truth, in faith and love, which are in Christ Jesus for many.” Those are the exact words. And I realized my primary calling, the task which God had for me in the body of Christ, was to be a teacher of the scriptures. And from that day to this, by the grace of God I have done everything that I could to make myself the best teacher of scripture that I could be. I don’t compare myself with others, I simply consider what God’s will and standards for me are and I have consciously, deliberately and consistently molded my life to that goal.

Just about the same time I began to visit a little children’s home in that area that was under the charge of a Danish lady named Lydia Christenson. First of all, I fell in love with the home, then I fell in love with the children, and finally I fell in love with the lady. Again, God spoke to me the same way. I want to say there are many different ways that God can speak so don’t expect necessarily He’ll use the same way to you as He did to me. But the things that God has said to me this way over the years I have always found to be totally accurate. There’s never been one blurred edge. At this time I thought to myself I really ought to pray for this dear Danish lady. She’s got all these children to look after and very little money and not really much help. I thought I’m going to pray for her. One day when I was praying for her earnestly this utterance came in an unknown tongue and I knew it was coming because I had become familiar with the way God speaks when He wants it interpreted. Then God said to me, “I have joined you together under the same yoke and in the same harness.” I thought to myself that’s amazing. It really sounds as if God wants me to work together with this lady in this children’s home. And then I thought to myself what can I do in a children’s home? I mean, if you could look for unsuitable people, I would have been at the top of the list. I never had any brothers or sisters, girls were a kind of strange race to me and here was this home with eight girls: six Jewish, one Arab and one English girl. What was I going to do?

Anyhow, I went to Lydia after a while and I said, “I think God would have us work together.” I always remember her response. She was Danish and I say the Danes are the most outspoken nation in Europe and Lydia was the most outspoken Dane. So, when I said I think God would have us work together she said, “Well, God will have to work on both ends of the chain.” So, I wasn’t exactly encouraged. But, God has His way. And in February 1946 we were married in that land in Jerusalem. We lived and served the Lord together for 30 years until the Lord called Lydia home. Only afterwards did I realize how accurate God had been. He said under the same yoke and in the same harness. All through the Bible a yoke is a picture of marriage but a harness is a picture of working together. And God showed us we were to be married and we were to work together. I would have to say—and some of you have known Lydia when she was here—that word of God was exactly fulfilled for 30 years. From the day I was married I found myself not merely with a wife but I found myself father of eight girls. Not many people get married on that basis.

It was an educational process for all of us. But God, because He’s ordained something, He’ll give you grace. Do you understand? If it’s out of His will He may withhold His grace. But that is now well over 40 years ago. Later after Lydia passed on I married Ruth and she added to our family three adopted Jewish children. So between us we have twelve children: nine Jewish, one Arab, one English. And in Africa, Lydia and I adopted a black African girl so we have one African.

Now at this point our total family numbers over 110 persons. We are scattered from Britain to Canada to the United States to Australia. And yet, the entire family is still very closely knit together. We really love one another, we’re concerned for one another and because Ruth and I travel so much, basically we’re always able to sometime or other to visit the whole family. There are not many families today in the world as it is that could declare that testimony—even natural families where the father and mother are the natural parents. I just want to say that to the glory of God because what God ordains He gives grace for.

I’d also like to say to you 2 Timothy 1:9 says this:

“God has saved us and called us with a holy calling not according to our works, but according to His purpose and grace.”

In other words, God’s plan for your life doesn’t depend on your qualifications, your abilities or even your preferences. It depends on a plan that He had before time began. That’s the phrase that’s used there. According to His purpose from before time began. If you had looked, as I said, for somebody not qualified to marry into that family and become a father of those girls, you would have put me at the top of the list. There was nothing I had that qualified me for that job. I was qualified for many things but absolutely not for that. But you see, God’s grace begins where our ability ends. And in calling you God will almost always call you to do something you can’t do. You consider the men that God called. He called Moses, Moses said I can’t speak, don’t call me. What can I do? He called Jeremiah as a prophet, Jeremiah said I’m too young, don’t make me a prophet. He called Gideon and Gideon said I’m just the smallest in my family and my family is the least in Israel. Basically, if a person really feels that that person can do what God has called them to do I question whether they’re called. Because, nobody God called ever felt capable because God requires us to depend on His grace. Do you understand that?

Now I want you for a moment, as I draw to an end, I want to give an application to what I’ve been saying. I don’t want this just to be an entertaining story. I want it to mean something in your life. See, 2 Timothy 1:9 says God saves us and calls us. If you are saved, you are called whether you know it or not. But a lot of saved people do not know that they’re called or don’t know what they’re called for. And tonight I want to challenge you first and foremost, those of you who know you’re saved but you haven’t really discovered your calling. You can go through life as a Christian without finding your calling and end up in heaven but what you’ve missed on earth is terrible to think of. I trust that my story, which is unique, and God always treats each of us as individuals so don’t ever try to be like some other Christian. When God makes a Christian he throws away the mold, He never makes a second one from the same mold. You can fix your eyes on some successful Christian and say if I could only be like him or like her. But that’s not the way God works.

But there are some of you here tonight, you’re not really satisfied, you’re not fulfilled. You know you’re saved, you know your sins are forgiven, you know that if you were to die you’d go to heaven. Well, thank God for that but you’re not going to heaven in the next five minutes. Maybe in the next 50 years. What are you going to do between now and the time you go to heaven? Are you going to find God’s plan for your life and walk in it or are you going to just flounder? I’d like you to consider that for a moment, everybody here. Some of you know you’re walking in your calling. Those of you that know that, I think you’d agree with me it’s a very satisfying feeling. It doesn’t mean it’s easy, it doesn’t mean you don’t have oppositions or problems but nevertheless, deep down you know I’m doing the thing for which God created me. Scripture says we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. And you will not find real fulfillment until you’re walking in the good works which God prepared for you.

Now I want to help you, just take you one step on the journey. I’d like to pray for those here tonight who will say honestly I’m saved, I know I’m saved, thank God, but I really don’t know what God saved me for. I haven’t discovered my calling. And somewhere inside me I’m not fully satisfied. But tonight I want to tell God I want to discover my calling. God, show me what it is you’ve called me for.

If you would like to make that decision, I would like to pray for you. I’d like to ask you to do just one simple thing. Because, making a decision really requires somehow putting it into action. If that’s your decision tonight I would like you to stand right where you are in your place. If you are one of those, stand up. Brother Bill, would you come up on the platform? Pat and Ruth, would you come up, too, and stand with us in prayer? Well, that’s wonderful. You see, just think what it would mean in the kingdom of God if all these people who are standing had discovered their calling and were walking in it. It would be enough to change New Zealand. We wouldn’t need more people than those who are standing here tonight.

Now, I can’t solve your questions. I can’t tell you you’re called to be an evangelist, you’re called to be a teacher, you’re called to be a housewife, whatever, called to be a doctor or a nurse. All I can do is just give you a simple prayer that you can pray out loud, not to me but to the Lord Jesus Christ. Then when you’ve prayed that prayer, those of us here on the platform, we will unite in prayer that God will move into your life and show you. All right? These are the words I’d like you to say, and I want to remind you you’re praying to Jesus and not to me. Say these words:

“Lord Jesus Christ, I believe that you’re the Son of God and the only way to God. You died on the cross for my sins and you rose again from the dead that I might be forgiven and received as a child of God. Because you have received me, Lord, I receive myself. I renounce all guilt, all inferiority, all doubt and fear. And by this act of standing, Lord, I commit myself without reservation to your will and purpose for my life. I trust you Lord, from now on to direct me to my calling and I offer myself to you for whatever purpose you have for my life. And Lord, I believe that you receive me because I come in the name of Jesus. Amen.”

Now you just stand there and maybe God will begin to speak to some of you right now while we will just pray. Bill, would you pray a prayer for all of these people while we unite.

“Father, we do thank you that we’re able to stand in your presence in the name of Jesus Christ. Father, that each of us in this place have repeated this prayer even though many of us may feel that we know already your direction in our lives. It’s those of us that do not, Lord, and those especially who are standing, Father. We pray at this time, in this place, on this very night, you will begin to speak afresh to each of us; to each person standing that they may truly know your course, your direction in their life, that they may have a certainty come into their spirit now and know your peace, that indeed they are in your will; and from this moment henceforth shall never look back. That with their eyes on you, Lord Jesus, will know that they’re walking with you before them and at their side, and truly that they have found their calling in your kingdom. Thank you, Father, in Jesus’ name.”

Amen. Now, for those of you who were standing, just begin to thank God. All right? That’s the response of faith. Lift up your hands and thank Him now. Thank Him that He’s heard your cry, that He’s going to move in your life and that He is faithful. The Bible says He who is called you is faithful who also will do it.

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