I recently read some stories from the lives of John Wesley, Charles Finney, and Duncan Campbell. I was deeply convicted as I read about the spirit of conviction that accompanied their lives and ministry. Since misery likes company, I am eager to share this conviction with you. As you read these stories, allow God to raise your expectation of what He can do through your life.
On Jan. 1, 1739 John Wesley had gathered with his brother Charles and friend George Whitefield along with others. His journal records what happened that night; About three in the morning, as we were continuing instant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, insomuch that many cried out for exceeding joy and many fell to the ground. As soon as we were recovered a little from that awe and amazement at the presence of His majesty, we broke out with one voice in worship. From that time on, his life and ministry carried a new authority and power.
On April 25 as Wesley was preaching, immediately one, and another, and another sunk to the earth; they dropped on every side as if thunderstruck. They were gripped with an awesome revelation of God and of the sinfulness of their sin. Even critics standing by would suddenly be convicted and converted on the spot. In another place Wesley tells of God’s power: One and another and another was struck to the earth; exceedingly trembling at the presence of his power. Others cried with a loud and bitter cry, ‘What must I do to be saved?’
In April 1918, Duncan Campbell received a near fatal wound in one of the last cavalry charges of World War I. Bleeding profusely, he was flung across a horse for evacuation. He prayed, Lord, make me as holy as a saved sinner can be. Instantly he felt the power of God like a purging fire sweep through his whole being. Later as he lay on a stretcher, he began to quote Ps. 103. Within minutes conviction fell on the other wounded, and seven Canadians were born again right there. This spirit of conviction continued with Duncan as he began to preach. At times people were so seized with conviction that they groaned for mercy. At a place called Barvas, God’s power was so strong that most secular work was abandoned. People spent the day seeking God in their homes, and barns, in their fields, or by the roadside.
After several days of conviction, Charles Finney yielded his life to Christ. Here is his account. I was powerfully converted on the morning of Oct. 10, 1821. In the evening of the same day I received overwhelming baptisms of the Holy Ghost, that went through me, as it seemed to me body and soul. I immediately found myself endued with such power from on high that a few words dropped here and there to individuals were the means of their immediate conversion. My words seemed to fasten like barbed arrows in the souls of men. They cut like a sword. They broke like a hammer.
Finney explains: This power seems sometimes to pervade the atmosphere of the one who is highly charged with it. Many times great numbers of persons in a community will be clothed with this power when the very atmosphere of the whole place seems to be charged with the life of God. Strangers coming into it and passing through the place will be instantly smitten with conviction of sin and in many instances converted to Christ.
This power of conviction came upon these men in response to prayer, and stayed with them as they continued to humble themselves before the Lord in prayer. These men were very different, but they had this in common; they were set apart from the world, and they were devoted to prayer. They understood that apart from Christ they could do nothing. They longed for, asked for, and waited for Him to fill them. They took time to connect with the Spirit of God and brought that supernatural power into the world around them.
Does the spirit of conviction have free access to touch people through our lives? Or have we so cluttered ourselves with the things of this world and the business of life that he has no room to move through us? I am convicted by the power of conviction that flowed through these men. I want to see the God of Finney, Campbell, and Wesley move through my life. How about you? Let’s make this year like the years 1739, 1821, and 1918. A year when God finds willing and empty vessels that He can fill with His power, and change the world.
And Jesus said to them,
Tarry in Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high. -Luke 24:49