TRANSFORMATION & On this tree in Savannah, Georgia (or possibly one nearby) John Wesley nailed his pastoral resignation letter. But only months later his heart would be strangely warmed and bring forth fruit that remains to today. What is God changing in you? #Enthusiast #Enthusiast.life #sanctification

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(photo by Rebecca Whitesel)

Picture of a tree in Johnson Square, Savannah, GA.

Read more about it in the new seeker devotional … www.Enthusiast.life

SLAVERY & Comparing the Wesleys’ experiences w/ slavery (resulting in them being against slavery) to George Whitefield’s experiences (resulting in his owning slaves to support [sic] ministry).

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: As a Wesley scholar I have appreciated the differences between John and Charles Wesley and their colleague George Whitfield. One of these differences is their attitudes towards slavery.

Here’s a story about on how John and Charles Wesley came to feel so strongly against slavery. Read this short daily devotional from my recent book Enthusiast.life – Finding a Faith That Fills.

Historian Peter Choi argues that the Wesleys looked on the spiritual (Choi would say utopian) side of an issue, while Whitefield looked on the pragmatic side.  This can be a warning for leaders today.

  1. First, read this excerpt (immediately below or click here > BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – ENTHUSIAST Day 26 Human Trafficking ) on the Wesleys’ view of slavery.
  2. Then read the second article (further below) that reviews Whitefield’s perspective.

Week 6, Day 1 – Christians Have a Duty to Stand Up Against Human Trafficking

by Bob Whitesel, 2017, excerpted from Enthusiast.life – Finding a Faith That Fills, pp. 189-194.

Charles watched in horror as a child was given “a slave of its own age to tyrannize over, to beat and abuse out of sport… a common practice.” The youth’s haughtiness and condescension to his human gift sickened Charles. “One Colonel Lynch is universally know to have cut off a poor Negro’s legs,” wrote Charles, “and to kill several of them every year by his barbarities.” Charles described how another slave owner boasted of whipping a female slave until she appeared dead. Then after summoning a doctor who revived her, the slave owner whipped her again and concluded by pouring hot sealing wax upon her.

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Read more at Enthusiast.life

 

Such were the experiences the Wesleys encountered while on their church planting expedition to Georgia (Week 2, Day 1). Charles summarized their abhorrence: “It were endless to recount all the shocking instances of diabolical cruelty which these men (as they called themselves) daily produce upon their fellow-creatures; and that on the most trivial occasions.” 

In response, John infused into the emerging method a process to address, not ignore, such controversial topics.

 

Lesson 1: Begin by examining a controversial topic through a Biblical lens.

John concluded that the Bible did not condone slavery and neither should Christians who follow the Scriptures. He cited Paul’s writings to a similar era (Eph. 6:9, Col. 4:1) as well as Paul’s declaration that, “There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28). John then wrote powerful books decrying the practice, including: “Thoughts About Slavery” and “A Serious Address to the People of England with Regard to the State of the Nation.”

Lesson 2: Love of money, and not the love of God, is behind many heinous sins

While the Wesleys were in Georgia, the colony did not permit slavery. Soon Georgia permitted slavery because of perceived economic gain. John never stopped pointing out that the worship of money was behind this, writing: “But at length (in Georgia) the voice of those villains prevailed who sell their country and their God for gold, who laugh that human nature and compassion, and who defy all religion, but that getting money. It is certainly our duty to do all in our power to check this growing evil.”

Lesson 3: Abused and molested people are every Christian’s brothers and sisters

The “faith of a son/daughter” meant these abused and molested people were God’s children too … and every Christian’s brothers and sisters.  Not only would John work to see slavery ended, but at the same time he would work to get the Good News to them. It was a two-pronged approach: a political effort to end slavery and a spiritual effort to provide slaves with Biblical teaching.  

Lesson 4: Take your message to where those who need it assemble

Slaves were captured in Africa and resold to American shippers in the English city of Bristol. Bristol was one of the centers of Methodism. The city’s first preaching house was positioned in the market area, nearby to where slaves would be bought and sold. The presence of this preaching house allowed the message to be heard among both the oppressors and those oppressed.

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Exhibit from The New Room, Bristol UK (first Wesleyan preaching house built adjacent to the slave market)

Lesson 5: Do all in your power to check a growing evil

John ensured that the emerging method had rules against such abhorrent behavior, such as owning slaves. John declared the owning of slaves was cause for expulsion from the method. However, in America where slavery was often legal, some in the Methodist movement distanced themselves from Wesley and his stance. In his book, “Calm Address to our American Colonies,” John argued that the wild nature of America’s frontier did not allow Christians to bend or break God’s laws.

One week before John died, he wrote his last letter. It was addressed to anti-slavery crusader William Wilberforce, whom Wesley encouraged to fight on, saying, “O be not weary in well doing! Go on, in the name of God and in the power of His might, till even American slavery the vilest that ever saw the sun shall vanish before it.” Today, human trafficking in the form of sexual exploitation, forced labor, etc. continues, but we must not grow weary in opposing it.

Application of the Lessons

For personal devotion, read the questions, meditate upon each and write down your responses. For group discussion, share as appropriate your answers with your group and then discuss the application.

(Lessons 1-5) Ask yourself, “Are there any moral issues which intimidate me and on which I remain silent, though the Word of God calls me to address it?”  Write a paragraph about what you will do to address it with each of these steps:

  • Begin by examining a controversial topic through a Biblical lens
  • Love of money, and not the love of God, is behind the sin
  • Needy people are my brothers and sisters
  • Take your message to where those who need it assemble
  • We should “do all in our power to check this growing evil”

Now, compare the faith that filled John and Charles Wesley to that of their colleague George Whitfield as reflected in this article below.

Did George Whitefield Serve Two Masters?

by Rick Kennedy, Christianity Today, 2/22/19.

… Peter Choi’s biography, George Whitefield: Evangelist for God and Empire, explores various ways that Whitefield’s zeal for good works not only put him on a pedestal but also entangled him in a war against Catholicism and the promotion of race-based slavery. By exposing less-than-uplifting facts about Whitefield, the book illuminates unhealthy aspects of 18th-century evangelicalism’s intimate relationship with the British Empire.

… Choi describes how missionary zeal, Christian philanthropy, utopian social engineering, and bold military strategy came together in the creation of Georgia. In England, he observes, the founding trustees of Georgia “fanned the flames of euphoria in the early 1730s by hiring publicists to write about their cause across the empire.” Freedom, racial equality before God, respect for Native American rights, and all the rights and privileges of republican government were to flourish in a new colony named for King George II, leader of the Protestant world. As young men, the Wesley brothers and George Whitefield were swept up in the euphoria and traveled to Georgia as celebrity missionaries.

John Wesley went there unprepared, inspired by ideals too high to achieve. He then allowed himself to be distracted by romantic love before devoting time to evangelism among Native Americans. In Wesley’s failure, Choi sees the heights of British utopianism (a perspective he shares with the historian Geordan Hammond, author of John Wesley in America: Restoring Primitive Christianity).

Whitefield, on the other hand, arrived in Georgia well prepared and without utopian delusions. Choi points out that the Georgia frontier offered Whitefield the freedom to experiment with his calling to preach about the “new birth.” It “represented a strategic location where he was free to nurture a form of religion that was experimental and entrepreneurial.” In Whitefield’s pragmatism, Choi sees the seeds of both his success and his failure. The evangelist established a philanthropic institution (the Bethesda orphanage), but he was not committed to upholding Georgia’s anti-slavery ideals, and he neglected the Georgia Trustees’ call for evangelistic work among Native Americans.

Bethesda-Orphanage-Georgia-founded-by-George-Whitefield-Internet-ArchiveThe orphanage was key to Whitefield’s role as “evangelist for God and Empire.” Established near Savannah, Georgia, it began as a hybrid of a trade school and a plantation. As Choi explains, “It mixed moral and religious goals with imperial and mercantile aims.” The orphans served as both laborers and students. Money was needed, which prompted Whitefield to become a traveling revivalist and fundraiser all at once. In this role, he sparked and gave direction to a transatlantic Great Awakening.

Fundraising for the orphanage was highly successful, but the flow of money eventually slowed when the revivals began to wane. Unwanted orphans were numerous when Georgia was growing fast, but their numbers also went into decline. At a time when Whitefield should have downsized his orphanage, he aspired to grow it into a university along the lines of the pietist institution that flourished at the time in Halle, Germany. Choi carefully follows Whitfield into Dickensian situations in which the preacher forcibly removed “prospective orphans” from their siblings and/or guardians.

Never an abolitionist, Whitefield bought a plantation in North Carolina and became a slave owner as a means to help fund his plans for Bethesda. Economic exigencies spurred his increasingly ardent calls for the Georgia Trustees to lift their ban on slavery. The economy of Georgia, he declared, would be strengthened by abandoning the colony’s anti-slavery ideals. “If any one person can be credited with responsibility for the introduction of black slavery in Georgia,” Choi writes, it should be Whitefield.

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/february-web-only/george-whitefield-peter-choi-evangelist-god-empire.html

WORSHIP & Should hymns maintain the theology of their author? Experts weigh in, but #JohnWesley thought they should.

by Morgan Lee, Christianity Today, 8/10/18.

… Should hymns maintain the theology of their author? Or are they theologically neutral—a gift to the wider church, even—that can be modified at will?

CT asked experts on hymnody to weigh in. Answers are arranged (top to bottom) from those who favor hymns staying constant to those who favor their malleability. And they begin with John Wesley himself.

John Wesley, songwriter and evangelist, from the pre­face to the 1780 Col­lect­ion of Hymns for the Use of the Peo­ple Called Meth­od­ists:

Many gentlemen have done my brother and me (though without naming us) the honor to reprint many of our hymns. Now they are perfectly welcome so to do, provided they print them just as they are. But I desire they would not attempt to mend them; for they really are not able. None of them is able to mend either the sense or the verse.

Therefore, I must beg of them one of these two favors: either to let them stand just as they are, to take them for better for worse; or to add the true reading in the margin, or at the bottom of the page; that we may no longer be accountable either for the nonsense or for the doggerel of other men.

Read more from “John Piper Changed ‘Great Is Thy Faithfulness.’ Experts Weigh In” at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/august-web-only/great-is-thy-faithfulness-john-piper-lyrics-hymns-theology.html

FAILURE & 2 life-changing lessons John Wesley learned from it. Article by @Bob Whitesel in #BiblicalLeadershipMagazine

Turning trials into triumphs created a degree of fame for the Wesleys. John, who had become a teaching fellow at Lincoln College in Oxford, came to the attention of James Oglethorpe, whose efforts for prison reform prompted the Oxford prison ministry of the Wesleys and their friends.

Now Oglethorpe had a bigger vision. He was a founder of the colony of Georgia, covering roughly the northern half of the modern-day state of Georgia. It was there Oglethorpe envisioned a haven for people who had been imprisoned in debtors’ prisons. In this vast colony, there was no official Church of England or designated pastor. In 1735 John Wesley became Oglethorpe’s choice to pastor the first church in the colony.

To Wesley, this was an opportunity to experience Christ more deeply by preaching to others in the unpretentious, natural environs of the New World.1 Little did he realize this experience would bring one of his greatest trials.

This church launch was well organized. Financial support was secured in advance and a meetinghouse in Savannah was designed. As they embarked from Gravesend, England, John felt everything was in order. Yet, in hindsight, John would recall his life was not in order spiritually.

Accompanying them on the voyage were German Christians called Moravians, after the region from which they came. They believed humility coupled with quiet reflection upon Scriptures and Christ was helpful in strengthening faith. John had the opportunity to observe their method firsthand when the ship encountered several unusually destructive storms. As one relentless storm dismasted the ship, hardened sailors abandoned their posts and cried out to God for mercy.

John, too, had a fear of death, which had developed prior to his Oxford years when he attended Charterhouse School in London. A hospital was housed in the same building as the school, and young John daily watched individuals die, some in comfort, others in fear.

As the ship appeared to be sinking with all hands doomed, the Moravians showed not fear but trust. They sang and praised God with a confidence and calm that moved John to declare it as one of most glorious things he had ever seen.2

At the same time, John’s reaction to the ship’s peril showed him he was no different from the fainthearted sailors. He too was “unwilling to die,” shaking with fright and crying out to God to save him.3 This was not the example he wanted to show to those who traveled with him. Nonetheless, that was his experience at this stage of his life.4

The prophet Ezekiel had a similar experience.

Exiled to Babylon as a young man of twenty, Ezekiel, like Wesley, had been trained to follow in his father’s footsteps as a priest. But in Babylon, Ezekiel found himself in a new land with a new role. When Ezekiel was thirty, about the same age as Wesley when he went to Georgia, God revealed His power to the prophet in a vision (Ezekiel 1:4—3:15). That vision made Ezekiel realize the inevitability of judgment upon each person for their sins. Later, God showed Ezekiel another vision, indicating that though His people felt as good as dead, God could recreate them as living, healthy people.

He said to me, ‘Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, Dry bones, hear the Lord’s word! The Lord God proclaims to these bones: I am about to put breath in you, and you will live again. I will put sinews on you, place flesh on you, and cover you with skin. When I put breath in you, and you come to life, you will know that I am the Lord.’ (Ezekiel 37:4–6)

John Wesley must have felt the same way. Though he had had early success in ministry, when the threat of death came near he found himself empty, discouraged, and unprepared.

This might have been how Ezekiel felt looking upon the disheartened Israelites who had been deported into Babylonian captivity. Yet just as God gave Ezekiel a vision of a revived nation, John would soon be revived too. In hindsight, John would describe these times of discouragement as the product of his fair-weather faith, stating:

I went to America to convert the Indians, but O! Who shall convert me? Who, what is he that will deliver me from this evil heart of mischief? I have a fair summer religion. I can talk well; nay, and believe myself, while no danger is near, but let death look me in the face, and my spirit is troubled.5

From these stories emerge at least two lessons.

1. Early success can lead to overconfidence. 

Some people encounter early successes they are never able to replicate. It’s important not to live in the past or on past glory. The lesson for John, and for every enthusiast, is God may give you early triumphs only for them to be followed by trials. But as God reminded Ezekiel, God can again bring about triumphs in our ministries and in our souls if we allow our faith to mature.

During Wesley’s life, he wrestled several more times with fair-weather faith. Though he felt like his life and career had dried up, he discovered fair-weather faith could be reinvigorated by God.

2. Fear of death can test our readiness to be judged for our life. 

The Scriptures abound with reminders death is not the end but a gateway to eternal life (Psalm 39:1–7; John 3:16; Romans 6:23).

From the stories of John Wesley and Ezekiel, take the lesson that a fair-weather faith must be replaced by “a mind calmed by the love of God.”6

Consider what God’s Word says about this:

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no danger because you are with me. Your rod and your staff—they protect me. (Psalm 23:4)

Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body but can’t kill the soul. Instead, be afraid of the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell. (Matthew 10:28)

I assure you that whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and won’t come under judgment but has passed from death into life. (John 5:24)

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4)

Consider these questions

Have you found yourself thinking back to past successes, maybe even more than you dream about future opportunities? Recall a time when you had a spiritual breakthrough. How did it make you feel? What lessons did you learn?

Now picture in your mind a future success that could make you feel the same way. In the future, use this rule of thumb: for each minute you spend thinking about past successes, spend two minutes dreaming about what God can do.

Ask yourself, “When have I been near death, and how did I feel about the prospect of standing before God?” Were you timid? Were you fearful? Were you happy? Wesley would write years later to a friend, “Do you sit in heavenly places with Christ Jesus? Do you never shrink at death? Do you steadily desire to depart and to be with Christ?”7

Excerpted fromEnthusiast!: Finding a Faith That Fills,by Bob Whitesel (Wesleyan Publishing 2018). 

1. John Wesley, “Letter to Dr. Burton,” October 10, 1735, The Letters of John Wesley,The Wesley Center Online, http:// wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/the-letters-of-john-wesley/ wesleys-letters-1735/.

2. John Wesley, The Works of John Wesley, vol. 18, eds. W. Reginald Ward and Richard P. Heitzenrater (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1988), 143.

3. Ibid., 140.

4. Ibid., 169. John experienced other terrifying storms on the voyage, as well as in America, all resulting in the fright that led him to ask himself, “How is it that thou hadst no faith?”

5. John Wesley, The Heart of John Wesley’s Journal(Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2008), 29.

6. John Wesley, The Works of John Wesley,vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007), 22.

7. John Wesley, The Works of John Wesley, vol. 12 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007), 499.

Photo source: istock

Read more at … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/2-lessons-learned-from-failure/?utm_source=BLC&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=EMNA&utm_content=2018-04-19

 

JOHN WESLEY & A video trailer for the 2009 movie on his life: “Wesley”

Trailer to the 2009 movie: WESLEY.

Speaking hashtags: #Kingswood2018

ENTHUSIAST.life & How to find the faith of a son or daughter.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Jan. 2018.

DAY 9

The Faith of a Son or Daughter

Stormy relationships and more storms at sea reminded John Wesley he was not prepared to die. The ministry that began with such promise had ended in disgrace, a lawsuit, and broken relationships. Describing his feelings about the mission’s promise and its failure, he realized that though he had gone to the colonies to convert native Americans, he too was in need of a spiritual change. He knew he needed a spiritual change because “when no danger was near” he could believe, but when facing death his spirit was troubled.” 1 He lamented that could not say, like the apostle Paul; “To die is gain” (Phil. 1:21 NIV). 

Have you ever felt the same way—that squandered opportunities and the shame of sin make you fearful of meeting God? Wesley’s experience points us toward the spiritual change God wants to make in you. 

Once John arrived back in England, Peter Bohler, a Moravian, cautioned him that good works and methods were no substitute for a faith that saves a person not only from eternal punishment but also from undue worry and debased passions in this life. John would later recall that, in Georgia, he had had the faith of a “servant,” seeking to please God because of obligation and duty, but that he later came to experience the faith of a “son,” seeking to please God because of their father-son relationship.2

After returning from Georgia, Charles Wesley became gravely ill and was attended by a godly woman. Impressed by her faith, Charles asked, “Then are you willing to die?” The matron replied, “I am, and would be glad to die in a moment.” After she left, Charles said he felt “a strange palpitation of heart” and declared, “I believe, I believe.”3

Though we are sometimes weak in faith and lack assurance, God promises that He can grow a “new heart” within us, as Ezekiel reminded the similarly downtrodden Israelites: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be cleansed of all your pollution. I will cleanse you of all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove your stony heart from your body and replace it with a living one” (Ezek. 36:25–26).

A few days later, John attended evensong, an early evening service of prayers and psalms, at stately Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London. The choir sang Purcell’s profoundly stirring anthem “Out of the Deep Have I Called,” in which Wesley saw his own “godly yearning, mingled with heartfelt anguish.”4

After evensong Wesley ambled down the adjacent Aldersgate Street toward a Moravian Bible study. He arrived to find the group reading Martin Luther’s Preface to the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans, in which Luther reminds readers that living out faith fosters a newness and an assurance. When the following passage from the book was read, John’s life was forever changed: “Faith, however, is a divine work in us. It changes us and makes us to be born anew of God, John 1:12–13. It kills the old Adam and makes altogether different men, in heart and spirit and mind and powers; and brings with it the Holy Spirit.”5 

In Wesley’s own words here is what happened next: “About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”6 

Lesson

Assurance of one’s relationship with God overcomes fair-weather faith.

From that moment of conversion, a new assurance took hold of Wesley’s life. No longer was he focused upon a successful career or cultivating relationships with friends and family. Instead with faith like that of a son, characterized by assurance of salvation, grew so that he would be ready to stand before God’s throne at any moment and be welcomed with the words, “Well done! You are a good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:23). Formerly John’s career as a churchman and a theologian had focused on his efforts to serve God with strict rules and precise theology. But after his Aldersgate experience, John saw that his relationship with God as a son of a heavenly Father meant that rules and theology serve the relationship, rather than the other way around.

The lesson for today is that assurance of salvation moves us beyond a fair-weather faith that is dependent upon circumstance. Instead, assurance grows in us the faith of a daughter or son, reminding us that we possess our heavenly Father’s genetics. We represent Him not because we are His servants but because we are His family, doing so with the graciousness, forgiveness, and joyfulness He exemplifies. 

Application

[Special block or other formatting.] For personal devotion, read the questions, meditate upon each, and write down your responses. For group discussion, share, as appropriate, your answers with your group and then discuss the application.

Ask yourself, “Do I have a fair-weather faith, confident in my Christianity only when everything is going well? Do I attend to spiritual matters (like Bible study, prayer, and Christian fellowship) only when times are good? Do I find it difficult to have peace and calmness when facing temptation or death?”

Then ask, “Is my relationship to God more like that of a servant or of a daughter or son? Do I follow God as a servant might, because of obligation and duty? Or do I seek to follow and please God because of a relationship—because I am His child?”

Can you say, “I am ready to stand before God’s judgment this very hour,” or, “I have the assurance that if I were to die this instant, I would hear God say ‘Well done! You are a good and faithful servant’”? 

Read these verses about assurance. Then write down three things you have learned. 

God chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless in God’s presence before the creation of the world. God destined us to be his adopted children through Jesus Christ because of his love. This was according to his goodwill and plan and to honor his glorious grace that he has given to us freely through the Son whom he loves. (Eph. 1:4–6)

All who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons and daughters. You didn’t receive a spirit of slavery to lead you back again into fear, but you received a Spirit that shows you are adopted as his children. With this Spirit, we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ (Rom. 8:14–15)

You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Gal. 3:26–27)

Finally, speak out a short prayer to God, describing your assurance as His enthusiastic child. 

Speaking hashtag: #Kingswood2018

FAILURE & 2 life-long lessons John Wesley learned from failure: 1) don’t be overconfident because of early success 2) and don’t be afraid of dying today

by Bob Whitesel, Biblical Leadership Magazine, April 19, 2018.

Turning trials into triumphs created a degree of fame for the Wesleys. John, who had become a teaching fellow at Lincoln College in Oxford, came to the attention of James Oglethorpe, whose efforts for prison reform prompted the Oxford prison ministry of the Wesleys and their friends.

Now Oglethorpe had a bigger vision. He was a founder of the colony of Georgia, covering roughly the northern half of the modern-day state of Georgia. It was there Oglethorpe envisioned a haven for people who had been imprisoned in debtors’ prisons. In this vast colony, there was no official Church of England or designated pastor. In 1735 John Wesley became Oglethorpe’s choice to pastor the first church in the colony.

To Wesley, this was an opportunity to experience Christ more deeply by preaching to others in the unpretentious, natural environs of the New World.1 Little did he realize this experience would bring one of his greatest trials.

This church launch was well organized. Financial support was secured in advance and a meetinghouse in Savannah was designed. As they embarked from Gravesend, England, John felt everything was in order. Yet, in hindsight, John would recall his life was not in order spiritually.

Accompanying them on the voyage were German Christians called Moravians, after the region from which they came. They believed humility coupled with quiet reflection upon Scriptures and Christ was helpful in strengthening faith. John had the opportunity to observe their method firsthand when the ship encountered several unusually destructive storms. As one relentless storm dismasted the ship, hardened sailors abandoned their posts and cried out to God for mercy.

John, too, had a fear of death, which had developed prior to his Oxford years when he attended Charterhouse School in London. A hospital was housed in the same building as the school, and young John daily watched individuals die, some in comfort, others in fear.

As the ship appeared to be sinking with all hands doomed, the Moravians showed not fear but trust. They sang and praised God with a confidence and calm that moved John to declare it as one of most glorious things he had ever seen.2

At the same time, John’s reaction to the ship’s peril showed him he was no different from the fainthearted sailors. He too was “unwilling to die,” shaking with fright and crying out to God to save him.3 This was not the example he wanted to show to those who traveled with him. Nonetheless, that was his experience at this stage of his life.4

The prophet Ezekiel had a similar experience.

Exiled to Babylon as a young man of twenty, Ezekiel, like Wesley, had been trained to follow in his father’s footsteps as a priest. But in Babylon, Ezekiel found himself in a new land with a new role. When Ezekiel was thirty, about the same age as Wesley when he went to Georgia, God revealed His power to the prophet in a vision (Ezekiel 1:4—3:15). That vision made Ezekiel realize the inevitability of judgment upon each person for their sins. Later, God showed Ezekiel another vision, indicating that though His people felt as good as dead, God could recreate them as living, healthy people.

He said to me, ‘Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, Dry bones, hear the Lord’s word! The Lord God proclaims to these bones: I am about to put breath in you, and you will live again. I will put sinews on you, place flesh on you, and cover you with skin. When I put breath in you, and you come to life, you will know that I am the Lord.’ (Ezekiel 37:4–6)

John Wesley must have felt the same way. Though he had had early success in ministry, when the threat of death came near he found himself empty, discouraged, and unprepared.

This might have been how Ezekiel felt looking upon the disheartened Israelites who had been deported into Babylonian captivity. Yet just as God gave Ezekiel a vision of a revived nation, John would soon be revived too. In hindsight, John would describe these times of discouragement as the product of his fair-weather faith, stating:

I went to America to convert the Indians, but O! Who shall convert me? Who, what is he that will deliver me from this evil heart of mischief? I have a fair summer religion. I can talk well; nay, and believe myself, while no danger is near, but let death look me in the face, and my spirit is troubled.5

From these stories emerge at least two lessons.

1. Early success can lead to overconfidence. 

Some people encounter early successes they are never able to replicate. It’s important not to live in the past or on past glory. The lesson for John, and for every enthusiast, is God may give you early triumphs only for them to be followed by trials. But as God reminded Ezekiel, God can again bring about triumphs in our ministries and in our souls if we allow our faith to mature.

During Wesley’s life, he wrestled several more times with fair-weather faith. Though he felt like his life and career had dried up, he discovered fair-weather faith could be reinvigorated by God.

2. Fear of death can test our readiness to be judged for our life. 

The Scriptures abound with reminders death is not the end but a gateway to eternal life (Psalm 39:1–7; John 3:16; Romans 6:23).

From the stories of John Wesley and Ezekiel, take the lesson that a fair-weather faith must be replaced by “a mind calmed by the love of God.”6

Consider what God’s Word says about this:

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no danger because you are with me. Your rod and your staff—they protect me. (Psalm 23:4)

Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body but can’t kill the soul. Instead, be afraid of the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell. (Matthew 10:28)

I assure you that whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and won’t come under judgment but has passed from death into life. (John 5:24)

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4)

Consider these questions

Have you found yourself thinking back to past successes, maybe even more than you dream about future opportunities? Recall a time when you had a spiritual breakthrough. How did it make you feel? What lessons did you learn?

Now picture in your mind a future success that could make you feel the same way. In the future, use this rule of thumb: for each minute you spend thinking about past successes, spend two minutes dreaming about what God can do.

Ask yourself, “When have I been near death, and how did I feel about the prospect of standing before God?” Were you timid? Were you fearful? Were you happy? Wesley would write years later to a friend, “Do you sit in heavenly places with Christ Jesus? Do you never shrink at death? Do you steadily desire to depart and to be with Christ?”7

Excerpted from Enthusiast!: Finding a Faith That Fills, by Bob Whitesel (Wesleyan Publishing 2018). 

1. John Wesley, “Letter to Dr. Burton,” October 10, 1735, The Letters of John Wesley,The Wesley Center Online, http:// wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/the-letters-of-john-wesley/ wesleys-letters-1735/.

2. John Wesley, The Works of John Wesley, vol. 18, eds. W. Reginald Ward and Richard P. Heitzenrater (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1988), 143.

3. Ibid., 140.

4. Ibid., 169. John experienced other terrifying storms on the voyage, as well as in America, all resulting in the fright that led him to ask himself, “How is it that thou hadst no faith?”

5. John Wesley, The Heart of John Wesley’s Journal(Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2008), 29.

6. John Wesley, The Works of John Wesley,vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007), 22.

7. John Wesley, The Works of John Wesley, vol. 12 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007), 499.

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