“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” John 3:3, 7
A Snapshot of the Life of George Whitefield:
Born: Dec. 16, 1714 – Gloucester, England
Died: Sept. 30, 1770 – Newburyport, Massachuset
Powerful evangelist whose preaching won many converts in England and America. Whitefield, son of an innkeeper, met the Westivs at Oxford. He was converted in March, 1735. Oxford University and became a “boy preacher” In 1736, he graduated, was ordained a desig and began his ministry. He broke with Wesley over predestination and perfectionism. Whitefield came to America in 1738 and began open-air preaching, which was later adopted by the Wesleys. He became the core of the Great Awakening of 1740. That very same year he condemned Wesley’s “Free grace.” His marriage to Elizabeth James on November 14, 1741 (died: August 9, 1768), brought one child who died shortly after birth. In 1743, he started the Calvinistic Methodist Society. Whitefield had a regular ministry to the nobility in London. In 1753, he opened his tabernacle in London. He also started an orphanage in Savannah, GA and a seminary in Trevecca, Wales, and then Trevecca College in 1768. At one meeting, Whitefeld spoke to over 100,000 people in Glasgow, Scotland. While in America on his seventh visit, he died after preaching from the parsonage balcony of the First Presbyterian Church, where he is buried. He sometimes preached 40 hours a week. Some 18,000 sermons were preached in his lifetime. He made seven trips to America as well as preaching in Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. His favorite Bible verses were John 3:3, 7. – (Excerpt taken from the Reese Chronological Encyclopedia of Christian Biographies. Used by permission.)
A Spiritual Application for Our Lives:
There is a raging battle for your will every day you live. However, there are critical moments of decision that the Lord brings into our lives that guide its course and scope. Mine is not yours, and yours is not mine. God deals with His people individually, and our Lord created each of us to fulfill the purpose for which we were created (Philippians 2:13).
George Whitefield was no different. He too wrestled with the call of God on His life. This spiritual giant also struggled to accept the commission of his Captain. Reading his own words about his struggle will bolster your resolve to go through with God. And If you are struggling to accept what God has for you, take heart! God’s way is far higher than yours! Trust Him. Rest in Him. Obey Him.
From the time I first entered at the University, especially from the time I knew what was true and undefiled Christianity, I entertained high thoughts of the importance of the ministerial office, and was not solicitous what place should be prepared for me, but how I should be prepared for a place…The shyness that Moses and some other prophets expressed, when God sent them out in a public capacity. I thought was sufficient to teach me not to run till I was called. He Who knoweth the hearts of men, is witness that I never prayed more earnestly against anything than I did against entering into the service of the Church so soon. Oftentimes I have been in an agony in prayer, when under convictions of my insufficiency for so great a work. With strong cryings and tears I have often said, “Lord, I am a youth of uncircumcised lips; Lord, send me not into Thy vineyard yet!” [And sometimes I had reason to think God was angry with me for resisting His will. However, I was resolved to pray thus, as long as I could. If God did not grant my request in keeping me out of it, I knew His grace would he sufficient to support and strengthen me whenever He sent me into the ministry.]
To my prayers I added my endeavours, and wrote letters to my friends at Oxford, beseeching them to pray God to disappoint the designs of my country friends, who were for my taking Orders as soon as possible. Their answer was, “Pray we the Lord of the harvest to send thee and many more labourers into His harvest.“
Needless to say, the will of God prevailed in the heart and life of Whitefield. By the grace of God and the prayers of many friends, he surrendered to the call of God and went to Oxford. It became one of the most pivotal periods in His life. Reflecting on that time of life, Whitefield wrote:
It is in the spiritual as in the natural life some feel more, others less, but all experience some pangs and travails of soul, ere the Man Christ Jesus is formed within them, and brought forth and arrived unto the measure of His fulness Who filleth all in all.
If God deals with thee in a more gentle way, yet so that a thorough work of conversion is effected in thy heart, thou oughtest to be exceeding thankful. Or, if He should lead thee through a longer wilderness than I have passed through, thou needest not complain. The more thou art humbled now, the more thou shalt be exalted hereafter. One taste of Christ’s love in the heart will make amends for all…
…[M]ay all who peruse these few sheets be as much affected alternately with grief and joy in reading, as I have been in writing them; they will then have the desired effect, and cause many thanksgivings to be offered in my behalf to that God Who has called me out of darkness into His marvellous light! And that thou, O reader, whoever thou art, mayest experience the like and greater blessings, is the hearty prayer of thy soul’s friend and servant.
Friend, allow the testimony of this man to point you to the eternal Truth of God’s Word. Dig deeper into the way God used Whitefield. Do not fear what God has called you to do! Instead, let your heart of fear turn with eyes of faith to the God of all grace. He will never fail you; for He cannot fail. Christ is far greater than our measly plans and schemes. Let your heart be steadfast today, for as Whitefield often said, “The Lord Jesus is getting Himself the victory” (see 15:57-58).
A Suggestion for Further Reading…
George Whitefield’s Journals – George Whitefield, 1986, Banner of Truth
Forgotten Founding Father: The Heroic Legacy of George Whitefield (Leaders in Action) – Stephen Mansfields, 2001
George Whitefield: Pioneering Evangelist (Heroes of the Faith) – Bruce and Becky Fish, 2000
Select Sermons of George Whitefield – J.C. Ryle, 1958