You may have seen recently on FaceBook or Twitter a clip of Billy Graham preaching . What energy, fire and zeal! What uncompromising conviction and authority!
I was eight years old when he came to England in 1954 to preach at the Haringey arena in London, which held 11,000 people. I went on a coach with my mother and a few from our little Brethren assembly in Maidstone, Kent, where my family lived. This was the extent of my Christian experience, and consequently I had no notion of a big Christian meeting! In fact, hardly anyone did at the time. So to enter the vast arena and see thousands of people sitting rapt, listening to this American man preaching the Gospel was a new and vivid experience. It was truly awesome. I remember how the huge choir began to sing softly after the preaching, “Just as I am, without one plea,
But that thy blood was shed for me
And as thou bidst me come to thee,
O Lamb of God I come”.
As they sang, Billy Graham invited those who wanted Jesus to be their Saviour to come forward. The atmosphere was hushed and
solemn as hundreds of people rose from their seats, and walked quietly to the front, many of them weeping.. The crowd in front of
the pulpit swelled, and still they came, right through the six verses of the hymn. I gazed around in wonderment, the moment indelibly printed on my memory.
Billy Graham had been invited by a group of London clergy to conduct a series of meetings for a period of three weeks, but such was the unprecedented response night after night that he stayed for over three months! The meetings made headlines in the daily papers which were frequently reporting stories of conversions. It was extraordinary that the main news of those months was about the impact of the Gospel.
The signature hymn became, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine”, with the chorus, “This is my story …”
The London Underground trains were full of people singing it, and it could be heard everywhere, as joyful new converts sang it in the streets! One can hardly imagine such a thing happening now.
From time to time in our history God has powerfully used individuals to awaken the nation to its need of God. John Wesley, George Whitfield, and William Booth are the most famous who come to mind. Each of them saw multitudes turn to Christ, and what is more, the culture was deeply impacted and changed. In recent years, the moral decline has been steep and ugly causing Christians to seek God ever more urgently for a fresh out pouring of the Holy Spirit, for powerful preaching of the Gospel and for multitudes to turn to Christ.
In these days when all our props, preferences and and priorities are being swept away, it is stimulating and encouraging to recall prophetic words that have come over the last two decades. In the nineties, we held leadership conferences in the Brighton Centre. One day, Wesley Richards, a UK pastor, prophesied that he could see a towering wave gathering out to sea. It was taller than the Brighton Centre and would engulf the entire city and flood its streets. That same afternoon, another prophetic man, Rodney Kingstone, prophesied the identical word! Terry and I have often prayed for that wave to break. A few weeks ago, we happened to meet Wesley Richards again. Terry reminded him of that word. “Oh Yes!” He exclaimed. “I see it as clearly today as the day I gave it!”
We have also frequently prayed about a recurring vision that Ginny Burgin has had over twenty years now, of beacons being lit all over Britain, fires of revival . More recently, in fact in January in a revival prayer meeting, Terry saw in the Spirit some lock gates on a river. At the side was an old rusty wheel for opening the gates that was stiff; but as we prayed the wheel began to turn slowly to open the gates and release the flow of water.
Even today I have seen on a local women’s prayer app a prophecy about a sleeping lion awaking. I also had a prophetic word about a tug boat coming up the river Thames. Behind it, emerging out of the mist, came a majestic and huge ocean going liner. It filled the river, and the displaced water flooded all over London. I took that to mean that something much bigger than the church as we know it is going to come , to London, but hopefully all over the UK.
These words and many more encourage us to keep tugging on God’s sleeve! “How long Oh Lord?” Sighed David. He spoke about waiting
with eager longing for God, looking with yearning for the dawn of a new day.
Sometimes waiting seems endless. Think how long it was before Isaiah’s prophecies came to pass: about 700 years! I remember hearing a prophecy about a greater revival yet to come that would include miracles and eclipse everything that had gone before. I thought it was imminent! It must be twenty-five years ago now, but that is a mere blip compared with Isaiah! However, signs are there: dare we believe that we are on the edge of something awesome, breath-taking in its scope and power? Lets not give up ! Lets keep praying and believing: we may yet hear praises again on our streets: this could be our story!