I think today, as Christians, we are afraid, more than ever, of sharing our faith with others. Not because it could cost our life, but because it could cost us embarrassment. What if they laugh at or reject what I have to share?
So, let’s learn about a man who wasn’t afraid to share his faith in this installment of The ABC’s of Scripture and Christians Who Lived Them.
“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Isaiah 52:7
A MAN NOT AFRAID TO SPEAK HIS MIND
“Christianity,” proclaimed the short, stoutly built man before a crowd of ten thousand Bostonians, “has been on the defensive long enough, specially here in New England. The times come f’r us to open a war of aggression.” His voice boomed through the large tabernacle, built specifically for the evangelistic meetings that were shaking that city during the winter of 1877.
“I guess a good many Christians here in New England have just got into their cushioned pews and gone to sleep.” Well that made everyone sit up and listen. So did his plan of attack, “These drinking shops ‘n’ billiard halls ‘n’ gambling dens should be visited ‘n’ told of Christ ‘n’ heaven ‘n’ if they won’t come to the tabernacle ‘n’ hear the Gospel, let us go to their house ‘n’ preach the Gospel to them ‘n’ it won’t be long before hundreds are reached.”
The dynamic, forty-year old preacher who stood before the large crowd was none other then famous evangelist, Dwight L. Moody. Moody knew what he was talking about. From the time he gave his life over to Christ in the back room of a shoe shop, Dwight was intent on telling people about his Savior. Whether it was a lawyer on a train, a child in the slums or a crowd of thousands, Dwight would share with anyone about the love of Christ.
Something he never would have known, if someone hadn’t taken the time to explain it to him when he was a young man.
COUNTRY BOY TO CITY BOY
At that time, he was working as a shoe salesman in his uncle’s store in Boston. Dwight had come from a very poor family, the sixth of nine children. His father died when he was four and he had to leave school by the fifth grade to work on a neighbor’s farm. Dwight hated ‘book learnin’ and farm work so he left home at seventeen to head to the big city to make his fortune.
However, in order to work at his uncle’s store, Dwight had to promise to attend church and Sunday school, regularly. Dwight was boisterous, loved pulling pranks and getting into fist fights. His family was Unitarian but he never gave a thought to spiritual things and was sorely ignorant of anything to do with the Bible. As he heard the sermons and participated in Sunday school, his heart began opening up to the things of God.
One day, in 1855, his Sunday school teacher, Edward Kimble, felt a strong leading to go visit Dwight at the shoe store. He had prayerfully sought for the right time to talk to Dwight.
DIVINE ENCOUNTER AT A SHOE STORE
“I found Moody in the back part of the building wrapping up shoes,” Kimball related, years later. “I went up to him at once, and putting my hand on his shoulder, I made what I afterward thought was a very weak plea for Christ. I don’t know just what words I used, nor could Mr. Moody tell. I simply told him of Christ’s love for him and the love Christ wanted in return.”
Right there in that shoe store Dwight Lyman Moody gave his life to Jesus. He knew right away that something had changed in his heart.
At the time he couldn’t tell you the doctrines of Christianity or what, exactly, Christ had saved him from, but he was a young man on fire and with each passing decade that flame burned stronger and brighter.
Right there in that shoe store Dwight Lyman Moody gave his life to Jesus. He knew right away that something had changed in his heart. At the time he couldn’t tell you the doctrines of Christianity or what, exactly, Christ had saved him from, but he was a young man on fire and with each passing decade that flame burned stronger and brighter.
Boston proved too stuffy for Dwight and so he moved to the rowdy, sprawling city of Chicago and that’s when the doors of opportunity opened up for him. He was on his way to becoming a successful businessman, selling shoes, not just in Chicago but other cities.
A PURPOSE BIGGER THAN A BANK ACCOUNT
However, on weekends he volunteered at a street mission where he was asked to gather boys from the slums and bring them to Sunday school. He soon helped fill every class. Young boys took to his rough manner and Dwight found himself torn.
He loved making money (sending a portion to his mother and siblings) but he also loved the children who were dirty, uneducated and running the streets of Chicago. Out of necessity he started his own mission in an abandoned freight car, where the only way to hold their attention was to tell them Bible stories. The mission grew from thirty to a hundred, then two hundred, then six hundred and then a thousand children and teenagers.
They outgrew several buildings that were donated to them over a number of years.
A LIFE CHANGING EXPERIENCE
Then one of his teachers fell very ill and was told to leave Chicago so he might regain his health. He came to Dwight in tears. Not because he thought he might die, but because of his Sunday school class. It was made up of almost one hundred twelve to sixteen-year old girls from the slums of Chicago who were ‘frivolous and empty-headed’. Not one had come to Christ and it burdened him.
Dwight suggested that he go with him to each girl’s home so that the sick friend could share what was so heavy on his heart. Over a ten-day period, as he grew more and more ill, they managed to visit every one of the girls and the teacher told them how he had to leave and might die and how he wanted them to know Jesus. By the time he was done every one of them had tearfully invited Christ into their life.
When the teacher gathered them all together before he left Chicago, he read a few Scriptures and Dwight prayed a closing prayer. Then one of the girls haltingly prayed for her teacher, followed by another who prayed the Lord would use them to bring others to Christ and then another prayed and another. What a transformation!
Though his mission school had hundreds of students, Dwight realized he hadn’t really seen them as individual souls in need of a personal Savior. All his thoughts of gaining personal wealth were gone with the Chicago wind. He would give anything to be more like his dying friend.
PICTURE OF CHICAGO IN THE 1800’S
Dwight made the choice to trust God for his finances and he walked away from the business world forever.
While still running his mission, Dwight became very involved with the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) which was reaching men in inner-city Chicago. He also married Emma Revell who was refined, well educated and the complete opposite of Dwight, but was a steadying force throughout his life.
WINNING A WAR FOR SOULS
When the Civil War broke out Dwight and other YMCA volunteers helped minister to Union soldiers at nearby Camp Douglas. For four years he found himself on numerous battlefields praying with the wounded and dying, whether they were from the North or the South. He saw how temporal life was. A man could be here one day and gone the next.
He vowed to the Lord that he would tell someone about the good news of Jesus Christ every day! Which he did.
Two years after the Civil War ended Dwight made a trip to England. He was invited to speak about his Sunday school ministry at a church in London. With his animated, uncultivated American ways he preached about a personal Savior, using stories from the Bible and his own life. That stiff, almost indifferent congregation came to life. By the end of his message, when he invited people to stand if they wanted Christ as their Savior, the whole congregation rose to their feet. He thought they misunderstood. He got them to sit down, and once again stated his invitation. Once again, everyone stood to their feet.
And, so began the ministry of one of the world’s greatest evangelists who was an uneducated man that could not keep the good news of the gospel to himself.
For 25 years Dwight traveled with friend and musician, Ira Sankey throughout the United Kingdom and the United States, holding meetings that first attracted anywhere from six to ten thousand people in one night! The crowds would eventually grow from 12,000 to 20,000! The challenge was finding buildings that were big enough.
And this was before they invented microphones!
“Let God have your life. He can do more with it than you can.”
“If this world is going to be reached, I am convinced that it must be done by men and women of average talent.”
This is exactly how Mr. Moody saw himself. He was described as ‘a plain man who preached a plain gospel, plainly.’ Dwight had many critics because of his unpolished and uneducated background. Some questioned his theology (or lack of it) but it was also said of him that ‘he probably robbed hell of over a million souls’ during his lifetime!
CLICK HERE to find out more about this amazing man who left a huge legacy long after he passed on.
So, who shared the gospel with you? And who will you share the gospel with? It’s not about having all our theology down pat but about sharing the unconditional love of our Savior and the confidence we have in our heavenly hope.