Strength for the Journey
by Jerry Falwell
Every day that next month along with my regular prayer and Bible reading I read passages from Andrew Murray's Waiting On God. When I had finished that little classic of the deeper spiritual life movement, the Whittemores gave me other books by Murray: The Full Blessing of Pentecost, With Christ in the School of Prayer, and The Deeper Spiritual Life.
After Murray, the Whittemores introduced me to Watchman Nee. Until that year, 1957, Nee, a Chinese Christian evangelist, Bible teacher, and advocate of the deeper spiritual life, had only been known in English from transcriptions of his spoken messages in tracts and magazine articles. Converted to Christ as a student in Foochow, China, in 1920, Nee and the church in China passed through a period of persecution and suffering. During a visit to Europe in 1938, just before the terrors of World War II, Nee shared the lessons God had taught him during that decade of suffering.
Early in 1958, the Whittemores gave me the first English edition of Watchman Nee's The Normal Christian Life. Like Andrew Murray, Nee opened up the world of the Spirit to me.
"A forgiven sinner," Nee writes, "is quite different from an ordinary sinner, and a consecrated Christian is quite different from an ordinary Christian.... If we yield wholly to Him and claim the power of His indwelling Spirit, we need wait for no special feelings or supernatural manifestations, but can simply look up and praise Him that something has already happened. We can confidently thank Him that the glory of God has already filled His temple. Know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God.' " (I Corinthians 6:19)
Already in those early days of my ministry the Christian churches were arguing about how and when the Holy Spirit enters the believer's life. I never found the argument interesting. God doesn't limit Himself when He works in people's hearts. Our loving Father tailors a spiritual quest to fit each believer. Read the stories of those first-century disciples. Jesus dealt with each person uniquely. Lovingly and patiently He let doubting Thomas feel His nail-pierced hands. But he chased the money changers bodily from the temple. God spoke in a still small voice to Samuel, but He knocked Paul right off his horse with a blinding light and a booming voice. Throughout history, God's Spirit has worked with each person uniquely. Why should we try to limit God to one mode of behavior?
With Watchman Nee I learned to celebrate and to practice the presence of the Holy Spirit every day. I know deeply spiritual Christians who differ with one another on eschatology, church polity, or other non-essentials; I have never met a Christian who lived a powerful and productive life who didn't credit everything to the presence of the Holy Spirit living and working and through his or her life.
I believed then, as I believe now, that there are two sides to this deeper spiritual life issue. Waiting upon the Lord, as Andrew Murray recommends, is just one side to consider. The other truth we must not forget is that we can wait forever and never really do anything for God or the church. I believed in equal doses of work and waiting. The deeper spiritual life demands action, and productive action requires the deeper spiritual life.
During those first five years at Thomas Road I tried to find some balance between my urge to win the world single-handedly and my deep desire to grow spiritually. The struggle between those two worlds went on within me every day.
At 5 a.m., when the live radio broadcast was just ninety minutes away and I was still snug and warm in my bed, it was hard to get up in that cold bedroom to pray and to read and to "wait upon the Lord." On the other hand, during those wonderful quiet times of reading and prayer, I hated to be called away by an emergency phone call or to be interrupted by one of those chance visits a parishioner makes just to say hello.
Little by little I learned how to incorporate both worlds into my life: the practical world of action and the continuous fellowship with my Lord. And little by little I felt a calmness settle over me that can only be attributed to the presence and inward control of God's Holy Spirit in my life. All that was settled early in my ministry, thanks to the Whittemores and those great men and women of the deeper spiritual life whose writings helped to focus my life. I was beginning to learn how to be both "spiritual" and "natural" in a way that allowed me to enter into His rest and truly enjoy the Christian life.
Two or three afternoons a week, I drove out to the Whittemores' to study the Bible with them, to read and discuss the men and women-ancient and modern-who wrote about the "Christ" life. We began, of course, with Jesus Himself. He set the example for a daily balance between action and contemplation, between the outward and the inward spiritual journeys. The New Testament writings of Luke, Paul, John, and Peter all contributed in their way to the discussion. The early saints and martyrs were rich in personal illustrations from their own struggle to maintain balance in their spiritual journeys.
The Whittemores introduced me to the spiritual giants of yesteryear and to their classic Christian writings. I began to study Martin Luther, George Müller, C. T. Studd, Rees Howells, Evan Roberts, Praying Hyde, E. M. Bounds, and dozens of others. The modern advocates of the deeper spiritual life they recommended included Andrew Murray, Watchman Nee, Norman Grubb, and Alexander Hay, the founder of the New Testament Missionary Union. Later Macel and I even drove to Ontario, Canada, to meet with Dr. Hay. He was very old, but his eyes sparkled and his spirit radiated a kind of peace that left me all the more convinced that along with my commitment to evangelism and the public and outward world of Christian action, I would also maintain a lifelong interest in the private inner world of the Spirit.
Source: Falwell, Jerry. Strength for the Journey. New York: Pocket Books, 1987: 217-219.