It was amazing to look through history and see how our lives have "connected". The college I am attending was merely named after him, but all the same, getting to know the man behind the name has been a true blessing!
The "medium" by which I have gotten to know George Whitefield is the book "Five Great Evangelists" by John Armstrong. In the introduction he writes:
"What marked these men as unique, and thus in this sense great, was the combination of unusual boldness and profound determination mixed with a profound grasp of the message of the evangel (Gospel or "Good News") itself."
"We properly honour God's servants who truly trust Him and faithfully serve Him, by using the term "great" in this sense".
With this in mind, George Whitefield, truly can be called a great evangelist!
George Whitefield had a ministry lasting only thirty-four years. But each and every one of those years was well spent for the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. It has been said that he preached more than 18,000 formal sermons (if less formal sermons were included, it is said there would be more than 30,000)! If he were here to speak for himself, I doubt he would have these numbers made known.
The only reason I am awed by them is that they make evident a man who truly found his strength in the Lord alone! Here was a man whose daily schedule declares that he committed all areas of his life to the Lord.
The highlights of Whitefield's life and character that touched me most are as follows:
- He lost his father when he was only two years old. By the grace of God, his mother, Elizabeth, was able to provide for her seven children. Despite the adversity they faced, including a treacherous man Whitefield's mother was married to for about eight years, things worked together for good.
- While studying at Oxford, Whitefield joined "The Holy Club" (a small group of young men desiring to live in accordance with methodical piety). It was in this setting that the soil of Whitefield's heart was transformed even though these "Oxford men knew little of the gospel doctrine".
- Through all that transpired, Whitefield finally began to understand the need for "rebirth" and experienced it for himself.
- At the age of 21, the finally alive Whitefield preached his first formal sermon.
- Some time passed and he realized that God's plan was for him to be a traveling missionary.
- From the time he realized this until his death at the age of 55, Whitefield remained dedicated to his God.
Whitefield did what he did because he loved God supremely. He loved his work and he loved those he preached to, and he gave himself unreservedly because of that love.
Here was a man that even upon the death of his only son, his wife, and his own coming death preached the Gospel with all that he had. In his last formal sermon he had to pause and simply said, "I will wait for the gracious assistance of God".
Here was a man of whom it can truly be said, "The world was crucified to him, and him to the world".
Here was a man devoted to God in all manner of prayer, humility, faith, and love.
Oh how I desire to be a person maturing in the ways he has. Oh how I desire to join with a man with a mind like that of George Whitefield. That together, we may love our God so supremely that we can say with Whitefield:
"Let me (us) enjoy myself (ourselves) in my (our) delightful itinerancy; it is good for soul and body...No nestling on this side of Jordan. Heaven is the beleiver's only resting place. There we shall not be disturbed".
I am continually reminded, that as Christians,
we must serve the Lord by living it out while there is yet time.