Pastor Jack Hyles' Favorite Soul Winning Experiences
by Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
THE PRODIGAL SON
As a young preacher I was invited to preach a revival meeting at a rather large church in Houston, Texas. I was told as I entered the elaborate auditorium that the church was not emotional and that emotional practices and methods should not be used. (Boy, did this cramp my style!) It was a very formal church with much ritual.
I preached Sunday night and nothing happened. Monday night nothing happened. Tuesday night nothing happened. Wednesday night nothing happened. I prayed nearly all night Wednesday for God to give us revival. About 5 o'clock in the morning sweet assurance came that we would have revival. I went to bed for a few hours sleep with the perfect peace that revival was coming that night.
That night after I had preached, a lady whom I had won to Christ in the afternoon came forward; but during the sermon the strangest thing happened.
I preached on the subject, "The Prodigal Son." It was the fifteenth time I had preached that particular sermon, and it was my custom to name the characters in the story. I had always called the prodigal son "Bill" and his brother "John." I would explain that Bill went off to a far country and spent all, while the brother, John, stayed with the father.
This particular evening I started the sermon something like this: "Tonight I am preaching about two brothers. One was named..." (To save me I could not think of the name "Bill.") I told a little more of the story, hoping that I could think of the name of the prodigal son as I told it. Then I said again, "This boy who left his father and went into a far country was named…er...ah..." (My mind was still blank. I could not think of the name "Bill" to save me.) I told some more of the story, and finally in desperation I shouted, "His name was...er...ah...ah...his name was John!"
Now I had used the brother's name for the prodigal son. So I thought I would use the prodigal son's name for the brother and simply exchange names for the sermon. I said, "His name was John, and his brother's name was..." (I still couldn't think of the name, "Bill.") So I backed up and tried again. After having for the first time called the prodigal son John instead of Bill, I again said, "His brother's name was..." and still I could not think of "Bill."
By that time some folks were snickering a bit, and I said emotionally, "His brother's name was...er...ah...er...ah...oh, his brother didn't have a real name. They just called him 'Little Bud.'" So I proceeded to call Bill "John" and John "Little Bud."
Boy, did I have a time with that sermon, trying to remember to call Bill "John" and John "Little Bud" and not even remembering the name "Bill" at all. I finally stumbled through the message, gave the invitation, and let my mind wander back to the prayer meeting I had the night before and the assurance that I thought God had given me that revival was coming that night. Certainly revival could not come out of this message, I thought.
Just before the invitation dosed, a young man walked toward the aisle. When he got to the aisle he turned to walk to the rear of the building. When he got to the back row, he stepped over some people and threw his arms around a lady sitting in the center of the back pew. They both began crying and rejoicing. They broke to the aisle, literally ran down the aisle, and fell on their faces in the altar.
The Chairman of the Deacon Board was sitting on the front row. When he saw what happened, he fell on his face and hugged both the young man and the woman. Suddenly the Pastor literally jumped into the altar weeping and praising the Lord. The choir was so overcome they could not continue singing the invitation song. Real revival broke out. (To save my soul, I could not imagine what was happening; I just knew I liked it.) Finally the Pastor composed himself enough to ask me to lead the closing prayer. This I did, and confused as I could be, I walked toward the exit door.
Suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder. The church secretary literally pulled me around and shouted, "How did you know?"
"How did I know what?" I asked.
"How did you know to preach on the prodigal son?" she said. "A year ago the twenty-year-old son of our Deacon Chairman left home and had not been seen since. To our surprise, when we arrived at church tonight, there he sat. He was the young man who came forward. His mother was the lady on the back pew. His father is the Chairman of our deacons. He came home tonight just as the prodigal son did! Who told you that he was here so that you could preach on the prodigal son?"
Knowing nothing about the story, I was beginning to see the picture of how God had given revival. I turned to go back to my room and praise the Lord for the wonderful victories, and suddenly the secretary turned me around again and said, "Who told you his name was John?" I was stunned beyond speech. My "mistake" was the leadership of the Holy Spirit, and it was He who made me forget the name "Bill."
By this time I needed to get to my room to rejoice when she turned me around again and said, "And who told you that he has a little brother who stayed at home whose nickname is 'Little Bud'?"
I returned to my room rejoicing that God has chosen the weak things of this world to confound the wise and that in our weakness we are made strong.
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