Grace and Truth

by Pastor Jack Hyles

(Chapter 12 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, Grace and Truth)


I am grateful to God that many years ago as a young preacher I learned how to get things from Him. During my early college days, in addition to taking a full academic load in school, I pastored a country church which was located 100 miles from the campus and also worked 40 hours a week at the J. C. Penney Company in Marshall, Texas. There was a young lady named jean who worked in the hosiery department and was also a fine Christian young lady. One day jean came to me and asked if I would speak the following Sunday at a small church where she attended. She then informed me that the church was pastorless and that the following Wednesday they were to vote between two brethren, both of whom had candidated. She informed me that I would not be a candidate, but that the church was in need of a supply preacher for the following Sunday. Since the church was close to Marshall I agreed to fill the pulpit the following Sunday. Of course, I had absolutely no intentions of candidating for the church since I was told emphatically that the membership would vote the following Wednesday evening to call one of the two brethren who had candidated.

The following Sunday I preached with liberty and blessing and assured the people that I would pray with them concerning which of the two brethren they should call. To my complete surprise the voting went as follows: Candidate # 1-17 votes; Candidate #2-9 votes; Jack Hyles-27 write-in votes. However, there were some unusual circumstances surrounding the election. Only one adult voted for me and that was Jean's mother. I received 26 votes from children and teenagers, one from a lady and none from the adult men. The teenagers had secretly launched a campaign to elect me as pastor. The moderator was so infuriated that he delegated to the teenagers and the one lady who voted for me the responsibility of informing me as to the result of the election. It was late at night when the kids accompanied by the one chaperone bounced into our apartment to announce that I had been elected pastor of the church by a vote of 27 to 26.

Though the vote was certainly an unusual one, it was nevertheless according to church rules, and with the passing of every day I felt more and more that God was leading me to accept the call, even though at the same time I had a unanimous call to a larger church. After several days of prayer and deliberation and after much warning and threatening from certain leaders of the church, I felt God calling me to give an affirmative answer and to become pastor of this small church.

The first day as pastor, I slipped into the pastor's study with apprehension mingled with hope. I had never had a study before. I opened my Bible quite casually and my eyes fastened on Ephesians 3:19, " .. . that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." Realizing that was exactly what I needed, I fell to my knees and began to thirst for something that I knew I needed in order to be what God wanted me to be as a young pastor. I was thirsty, so thirsty, and the longer I pastored and the more I preached, the more thirsty I got. I realized that I needed something upon my ministry that I did not have. I did not know it then, but I know now that the first step to getting things from God is to get thirsty.

1. Thirsty for the power of God. There are many prerequisites for the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps the first of these is to be thirsty. Isaiah 44:3, "For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour My Spirit upon thy seed, and My blessing upon thine offspring." I went to the Word of God with my thirst and found that the men that He had used in the Bible were men who had the power of the Holy Spirit upon them. I read the story of Jacob in Genesis 32. 1 was impressed as I read the account of his all-night prayer meeting and his fervent wrestling with God for His power. I was arrested especially by verse 26, " . . . And he Jacob) said, I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me." Jacob had pleaded with God all night and soon the blessing came. God's promise to him was that he would no longer be called Jacob, but rather "Israel," which means "a prince." Jacob became a prince with God because he prayed for the power of God. As I read this my heart began to burn for the power of God to be upon my ministry.

As I continued my search through the Scriptures, I affixed my attention on judges 6:34, "But the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon . . . " judges 14:6, "And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him (Samson)." I Samuel 11:6, "And the Spirit of the Lord came upon Saul." I Samuel 16:13, " . . . and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David." Isaiah 40:31, "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." My heart continued to burn, and my soul became even more thirsty than ever.

I searched the New Testament and found that Luke 3:16 records the message of John the Baptist as he said, "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire." I was impressed to learn from Luke 4:1 that even Jesus had to be filled with the Holy Ghost. I then began to read such phrases as, "the promise of the Father," in Acts 1:4; "filled with the Holy Ghost," in Acts 2:4; "baptized with the Holy Ghost," in Acts 1:5; "be endued with power from on high," in Luke 24:49; "the Holy Ghost is come upon you," in Acts 1:8; "1 will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh," in Acts 2:17; "Be filled with the Spirit," in Ephesians 5:18. I realized that God was simply making me more and more thirsty all the time.

A quarter of a century later that thirst still builds. On the mirror of my bathroom at home I have the words, "Pray for power." just inside my briefcase the same words are found. On the windshield of my car I have the words, "Pray for power." I have placed the same words on the desk at my office and on the mirror in my office. Thousands of times a week I pray for the power of God.

Still thirsting I went to the college library and began to read the lives of great men upon whom rested God's power. I read of Savonarola, who in Florence, Italy, sat in his pulpit for five hours refusing to preach until the power of God came upon him. The power did come and the people were convicted by his Spirit-filled preaching.

My heart began to burn and the thirsting increased as I read of the great George Fox, who began to thirst for something he did not have. He went to a priest and sought his help, then to another and another. One priest suggested he try marriage. Another offered the solution of joining the army. Another said he should try tobacco and hymns. Nothing seemed to satisfy; the thirsting remained until this founder of the Quaker movement went alone for 14 days. There he fasted and prayed until the power of God came upon him. People who saw him upon his return said that there was a heavenly glow about his face and a heavenly power about his manner. Again my heart burned and my soul hungered and thirsted for something I did not have.

An old country preacher was once praying for the power of God. He cried, "Lord, give me the unctim.90

Someone asked, "What is the unction?"

He answered, "I don't know what it is, but I know what it ain't!"

This was my plight. I did not know what the unction was, but I knew what it wasn't, and I knew that I did not have it. Hungering and thirsting for something, I began to read the life of John Wesley. I read how that on October 3, 1738, Wesley had an evening meal with George Whitefield and 60 other preachers. After the meal they went to prayer and prayed until three o'clock in the morning. Wesley said that it was there that the power of God came upon him, and he was filled with the Holy Spirit. Again I thirsted. Then I turned to George Whitefield for instruction. I noted from his biography that on June 20, 1736, he was ordained. It was at his ordination that he was filled with the Holy Spirit. He said that when Bishop Benson laid hands on him there was such a surrender in his own soul that he knew for the first time the power of God was upon him and that he was filled with the Spirit.

I fell on my face and said, "Oh, God, whatever it is, I hunger and thirst for it."

Then I read the biography of Dwight Moody. My heart burned as he related his experience of being filled with the Spirit. He told how that he was walking down Wall Street one day and was overcome with the power of God. He asked God to withhold His power until he could get alone. He borrowed the room of a friend and there saw his life completely transformed and the fruitfulness of his ministry multiplied. I then read of George Mueller, who said that he was filled with the Spirit the first time he saw Christians on their knees in prayer. He fell to his knees and God's power came upon him. I read the great biography of Charles G. Finney, who said that he was filled with the Spirit on the same night as his conversion. Peter Cartright told of how he was anointed as he preached his first sermon. Christmas Evans was riding on horseback as an old-fashioned circuit-riding preacher when suddenly the power of God came on him. He fell off his horse, knelt and was anointed. My soul craved to know in reality the great power of God that is available for His people.

I heard of the great Billy Sunday and how he was filled with the Holy Spirit. It is said that on his pulpit his Bible was always opened to Isaiah 61:1, "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound."

I read of the life of R. A. Torrey and of others who spoke of an anointing of God upon their ministries. Soon I found myself praying all night. I found myself wandering through the East Texas pine thickets crying, "Where is the Lord God of Elijah?" I was begging and pleading for God to do something to me. I did not seek for tongues. I did not seek for perfection. I sought for some supernatural power that would move men while I preached and bring them down the aisles professing faith in Jesus Christ. Finally one morning at daybreak I fell on my face after praying all night and cried to God saying, "Dear God, whatever the price, I'm willing to pay it. I must have the power of God!"

In just a few hours my phone rang. It was a long distance call from Dallas, Texas. A male voice said, "Reverend Hyles, my name is Smith. Your dad just dropped dead with a heart attack." (My dad was a drunkard, and today is buried in an alcoholic's grave.) I slumped to my seat and remembered that just a few months before, my dad had promised me that he would be saved soon, and now all hope was gone! After his funeral I went back to his grave. There I fell on my face and promised God that I would wait before Him on the grave of my dad until I was endued with power from on high. I do not know how long I stayed, but I do know that it was for many hours. Some have even suggested that it was for a few days.

I lost all awareness of time as I begged and pleaded with God for His power. I know not all that happened. I do know I did not speak in tongues. I know I did not become sinlessly perfect, but I do know that for the first time in my life, soul-winning power came upon my ministry, and for the first time in my life I knew what the apostle meant in Ephesians 5:18, be filled with the Spirit."

The blessed and wonderful truth about all of this is that it is available for everyone. Joel 2:28, 29 says, "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out My Spirit." Note the words in verse 28, "1 will pour out My Spirit on ALL Flesh." Notice in these verses that it is for sons and daughters, old men and young men, servants and handmaidens. All cannot be dynamic, but all can be thirsty. All cannot be attractive, but all can be thirsty. All cannot be humorous, but all can be thirsty. All cannot be learned, but all can be thirsty. The promise is in Isaiah 44:3, "1 will pour, water upon him that is thirsty."

Once a fine young couple went to adopt a child from an orphanage. Their eyes focused on one little girl who was so lovely. Their hearts were knitted to hers immediately. Soon she came to their home to live. She had her own room, her own bed, her own toys. The first afternoon her mother called her in and offered the little girl a big glass of milk.

The little girl held it in both hands and looked up to her mommy and asked, "Mommy, how deep may I drink?"

As a tear rolled from the mommy's eye, she said, "Sweetheart, you are not an orphan anymore. You have a mommy and daddy. You have a home. Drink it all, and when that is gone there is plenty more where that came from."

Far too many of us look up to God and say, "Dear God, how deep may I drink?" His heart yearns for us to drink it all and be filled with the Spirit.

In a southern city there was a pastor who received word that an old lady in his neighborhood was near starvation. He went to her home to check on her condition, only to find that there was no fuel, no electricity and no food. She was literally starving to death. The pastor began to inquire concerning her family. He found that she only had one son and he lived in South America. The pastor asked the lady if the son ever wrote her, whereupon she replied, "No, he never writes."

"How long has it been since you have heard from him," asked the pastor.

She answered, "Oh, I get a green card from him the first of every month, but he never writes."

The pastor then excitedly asked, "What did you do with those cards?"

"Oh," she said, "I papered the back bedroom walls with them. That is all they were good for."

"Let me see the walls," asked the pastor. The old lady feebly led the pastor to the back bedroom. He took one look at the walls and said, "Lady, you are rich and don't know it. These are money orders. For years you have been papering your bedroom with them. If you just had known, you could have cashed them in. You are wealthy and do not realize it."

Such is the case with every Christian. God has so much for us. He has so many blessings to give us, so many souls to win through us, so many battles to see us through. Most of us are rich and don't know it. Oh, for the breath of Heaven to settle upon us, and for us to cash in what is rightly ours as we thirst and thirst and thirst for the power of God!

2. Thirsting for success. Matthew 5:6, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." Of course, success inevitably follows the power of God, for that is the purpose of the power of God. The fullness of the Spirit is not to give us some kind of a happy feeling. (Of course, the happy feeling will come as a by-product.) The fullness of the Spirit is not to give us some kind of self-edification. It is to give us the power of God that we might win people to Jesus Christ and thereby have success in His work. There is a real need for God's people, and especially God's preachers, to thirst for success. Of course, this is not a selfish thirsting, but rather a thirsting for trophies to throw at Jesus' feet.

Dr. Greg Dixon is Pastor of the famous Indianapolis Baptist Temple. Many years ago he became the pastor of a little handful of people in Indianapolis, and this handful of people has become one of the largest churches in the world. One day while talking with Dr. Dixon I asked him what he felt caused the success. He said with real humility, "Dr. Hyles, I wanted it more than anything in the whole world. I wanted more than life itself to build a great work for God in Indianapolis and to reach hundreds and thousands with the Gospel. It had been my entire life." No wonder God is giving him such blessings; he was thirsty!

One night some years ago I was preaching in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, at the Salem Baptist Church. As I was speaking, two handsome young men walked in. They were impressive in their appearance and carriage. After the service they came to the front. One of them reached out his hand and said, "Dr. Hyles, my name is Jerry Falwell. I am Pastor of the Thomas Road Baptist Church of Lynchburg, Virginia. Could we take you to the airport?" I answered him in the affirmative. As we drove to the airport Pastor Falwell asked me question after question. I began to realize that he was thirsting to do a great work for God. He invited me to his church and again I saw this same hungering and thirsting and quest for the work of the Lord. Other pastors have testified that they saw this same attribute in Pastor Falwell. He was thirsting to be blessed of God and to build a great work. He did not claim to have all the answers, but in his humility, he inquired of every successful man he met as to the causes for success. It is no wonder that he has built under God the great Thomas Road Baptist Church which is one of the world's largest. He was thirsty, thirsty for success, thirsty for God's blessings.

I have pastored five churches. Three of them were great churches. The Grange Hall Baptist Church of Marshall, Texas, was a great country church. I pastored there for three years and three months. The first Saturday night after I became pastor of this church I knelt at the altar and opened my Bible to Psalm 1:1-3. "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." My eyes were fixed upon the last five words, "Whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." I then promised God that I would walk not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of the scornful. I promised Him that I would delight in His law and meditate therein day and night. I then claimed His promise that whatsoever I did would prosper. I claimed a great church out in the country. God gave us that great church after days and weeks of thirsting, all-night praying and pleading with God.

The same procedure has been followed through the years as I have thirsted for success to the glory of God.


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