2022 WESLEY WEEK BOOKLET
DATES -: 22-29 MAY 2022
THEME -: Waiting Upon the Lord (Isaiah 40:31)
Day 1: John Wesley and Unity.
Day 2: Genuine Friendship.
Day 3: John Wesley and Persecution.
Day 4: The Power of Forgiveness.
Day 5: Forgiveness as your Bridge.
Day 6: The Fear of John Wesley about the Methodists.
Day 7: John Wesley and One Hundred Preachers.
Day 8: Wesley’s Reasons for his Long Life and his Death.
In December 1737 John Wesley returned to England from the Georgian mission which he, and his brother Charles, had embarked on under the leadership of Mr. Oglethorpe. From his own assessment of the whole Georgian mission, John Wesley saw it as a great failure. What he thought would happen there was totally the opposite of what he encountered. On his arrival to England, John spent close to five months depressed and fighting ‘inner struggles’.
His main challenge had to do with understanding the real meaning of life and salvation. Storm after storm erupted in his spirit. It was as if all those storms which they encountered in the sea en route Georgia with the Moravians had found a permanent space in his heart. He kept on asking himself so many question but with no answers. Going to places of worship and fellowshipping with fellow church mates became something else. However, there comes a great day. On the 24th May 1738 John Wesley himself says that there was a prayer meeting (of the Church of England) at a house in Aldersgate Street in London, and he went there very unwillingly. It was while he was there and listening attentively to the proceedings of the session, that someone was reading Martin Luther’s Preface of the Letter to the Romans and explaining the change that God works in the heart through Christ that John felt his heart ‘strangely warmed’. He felt within himself that he did believe in Christ; Christ alone the giver of salvation. From that day onwards, John Wesley’s understanding and approach to theological issues and practice totally changed. That which he longed for long and thought would get by embarking on the Georgian mission was given to him freely in a house at Aldersgate Street. From that day going forward, John could no longer go against his understanding of salvation, conscience and conviction. The so called ‘radical direction’ he undertook as a result of the Aldersgate experience saw the birth of Methodism. In other words, had it not of the 24th May 1738 incident, there was not going to be any Methodist Church to talk about. It is in this regard that Methodists uphold the fundamental place which this date occupies in the formation and principles of Methodism and have set the last week of May, which the 24th falls under, as Wesley Week. This is a time of reflection, revelation, prayer, revival, etc. To help us connect with our forefathers in the Christian and Wesleyan tradition, we have come up with this booklet. It has been prepared extracting some insights from John Wesley’s understanding of several themes that affect human beings in society and religious spheres. May this booklet enlighten and enrich people called Methodists and beyond. Amen.
Revd. B. Chinhara (Mission Director)
The Research and Publications Committee of the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe would like to extend profound gratitude to the Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe, the Conn. Lay President, the General Secretary, the Mission Director, Dist. Bishops, Dist. Lay Presidents, Circuit Superintendents, ministers and the entire church for affording us this opportunity of coordinating church literature, of which this booklet is one of such products. We want to thank Revd. C. Nunu Ndlovu for preparing this booklet for the Methodist community. Thank you so much ‘man of God’. Our local languages committees headed by Revd. T. Muleya, Revd. K. Matemba, Mr. Ntaisi, Mr. Sialumba and Mrs. S. Ncube did a great job as they made sure that this treasure reaches all corners of the country in the languages of local people. May God richly bless them.
Our District and Circuit Research and Publication teams continue to play a pivotal role on the ground. We continue to thank our Connexional Bookshop for all the printing and publishing services. It is in this regard that we encourage all of us to buy personal copies so that we will be able to keep the fire burning.
This booklet was translated into Tonga, Shona and Ndebele by:
Revd. T. Muleya
Revd. L. Mudenda
Revd. E. Munkuli
Mrs. M. Mapfumo
Mrs. M. Chihanga
Mrs. K.D. Lemu
We want to thank these servants of the Most High God. May God richly bless them and enlarge their territories. Amen.
Revd. O. Chagudhuma (Research and Publications Coordinator)
DAY 1 TOPIC: John Wesley and Unity
Reading: 1Corinthians 1:10
“I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought”. (NIV)
Unity is very important to all organisations for them to succeed in their missions hence the opponents would adopt the divide and rule tactics in order to destroy them. Even the devil himself uses this tactic to succeed in his missions. Jesus once said even the kingdom of Satan cannot stand if it is divided (Mat 12:26). In the same vein the church of Christ cannot stand if it is divided neither can it be the church that Christ builds (Mat 16:18). John Wesley was also most explicit in his opposition to division, both in the form of disunity of heart among those in the same communion or in form of actual separation.
John Wesley, the founding father of Methodism, had a deep attachment to the church that provided his father’s living as a parish priest and the foundation of his and Brother Charles’ own spiritual development and ministry. He faced pressure from all sides to break from the Church of England and start his own denomination. He had Methodist lay preachers who wanted to administer the sacraments but could not do so within the structures of the Church of England yet his fellow priests were unhappy with what they saw, as they viewed this as new competition that violates even the rules of the church.
John Wesley stressed that he intended to remain in the church of his birth and wanted Methodists to do likewise. In 1758, he even included his “Reasons Against a Separation from the Church of England” as part of a collection of Charles Wesley hymns. His message was clear: “Any split would damage the Methodists’ witness and thwart their divine calling to renew the Church of England”. “We look upon ourselves, not as the authors, or ringleaders of a particular sect or party … but as messengers of God, to those who are Christians in name, but heathens in heart and in life,” he wrote.
John Wesley allowed Methodists to use their local chapels for preaching and Christian formation, but to participate in Holy Communion, the people called Methodist were encouraged to head to their nearest Anglican church to show allegiance to one church.
He died in 1791 thinking himself a good son of the Church of England, but a new denomination already was claiming him as father. As Methodist Church in Zimbabwe, let’s stay united despite our own pressures; observe the unity of the body of Christ and our ‘connexionality’.
The Methodist Church can be a powerful witness to the world that the love of Jesus Christ is stronger than the disagreements that threaten to divide us; we are called to let all our relationships be governed by Christ-like love. Staying together is the only witness that lives up to that high calling. In his 1786 sermon “On Schism,” Wesley described church divisions as evil. “It is evil in itself, to separate ourselves from a body of living Christian, with whom we were before united, is a grievous breach of the law of love. … It is only when our love grows cold, that we can think of separating from our brethren.”
He however, gave a waiver when a church separation is not only acceptable but demanded by conscience. “Suppose you could not remain in the Church of England without doing something which the word of God forbids, or omitting something which the word of God positively commands; if this were the case, (but blessed be God it is not) you ought to separate from the Church of England,” he preached. In that case, he said, the sin of separation would not be on the person who leaves but upon those who necessitated the departure. There are times when some policies and lack of leadership care can cause division within the church, something that should be guarded against.
Finally, a question may be asked, is the MCZ united in all levels, connexion, districts and circuits? If we were to ask ourselves, “If John Wesley was to rise today; will he accept the Methodists in Zimbabwe as the Methodism he founded?”
a. Is it possible to have unity among ALL members in the church?
b. How can we promote Unity within the church?
Thought of the Day
Lord help us to be one united Methodist family that worship God in one accord.
DAY 2 TOPIC: Genuine Friendship
READING: John 15:14-15
“You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you”.
Jesus Christ valued friendship so much that he converted his servants into friends and said, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15NIV). Even after the resurrection Jesus recalled that his disciples had become his friends and He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” (John 21:5NIV). John Wesley valued friendship so much that when he finished a translation of Martin Luther’s Life, he noted this; “I finished the translation of Martin Luther’s Life. Doubtless he was a man highly favoured of God, and a blessed instrument in his hand. But O! What pity that he had no faithful friend! None that would, at all hazard rebuke him plainly and sharply, for his rough, intractable spirit, and bitter zeal for opinions, so greatly obstructive of the work of God.”
John Wesley had friends in most of the places he worked, friends he would consult in decision making. While in Georgia and had some challenges on whether to go back to England on 7 October 1737, he consulted his friends as to whether God did not call him to return to England, more so, there were his friends who advised him on 22 November 1737 of the right time to go back to England and he wrote;
“I again consulted my friends who agreed with me that the time we looked for was now come. And the next morning, calling on Mr. Causton, I told him I designed to set out for England immediately. I set up an advertisement in the Great Square to the same effect and quietly prepared for my journey.”
On arrival in England on February 1738, John Wesley met with his friends with whom he shared the reasons that caused his quick return to England and they all agreed it would be proper to relate them to the trustees of Georgia. The most interesting were his visits to his old friends on 6 February 1738, he was happy that he was still loved and he wrote; “I visited many of my old friends, as well as most of my relations. I find the time is not yet come when I am to be ‘hated of all men’. Oh, may I be prepared for that day.”
John Wesley’s conversion can be credited to his friends, the Moravians and Peter Bolher in particular. The Moravian friends challenged John Wesley’s faith when a fierce storm threatened their lives on way to Georgia. When john Wesley was terrified of death, Moravians and their children were singing. When Wesley came from Georgia he met Peter Bohler on 18 February 1738, shared the challenge of his faith and Peter Bohler advised him to preach faith until he has it. Wesley was not satisfied and wrote; “All this time I conversed much with Peter Bohler, but I understood him not; and least of all when he said, ‘My brother, my brother, that philosophy of yours must be purged away.’”
The Methodism movement was founded by works of 7 friends who included John Wesley and his brother Charles, Mr Benjamin Ingam, Mr. Charles Delamotte, Mr Morgan and others. They came together in 1729 at Oxford and agreed to spend three or four evenings in a week together to study the Bible, pray together and started visits to various places. They earned several names, ‘Holy Club’ and finally ‘Methodists’ because of the uniqueness of how they managed their time and responsibilities. Friends with a common agenda can do wonders.
Finally, to John Wesley, friends are an important component in one’s life, he says, “At all times it is of use to have a friend to whom you can pour your heart”. John Wesley had friends to pour out his heart; it’s like in the loss of Grace Murray which was his deepest personal sorrow, in a letter to his friend on 7 October 1749, he emptied his heart “My dear Brother, … Since I was six years old, I never met with such a severe trial as for some days past.”
The church has wounded souls without any one to empty the burden; trust has been lost and this reminds me of an old story of sailors who died in the sea because there was no water to drink. They cried out, “Water, water everywhere, no drop to drink”. Sea water is salty and cannot quench any thirst. A member may suffer without trustworthy friends while in the midst of the church.
a How do you define genuine friendship?
b Can we rely on our friends in times of great need?
Thought of the Day
We pray God that you make and give us genuine friends who will help live a faithful life.
DAY 3 TOPIC: John Wesley and Persecution
READING: Matthew 5:11-12
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Church history is full of the persecution of honest, innocent and committed religious people, right from the time of Abel in the book of Genesis and the Evangelist John on the island of Patmos in the book Revelation. John Wesley, the founding father of Methodism, was not spared from persecution so are his followers even today.
Wesley faced more opposition and challenges than most ministers today. John Wesley’s preaching was disturbing to many of the priests and laity who heard him. These listeners were unsettled by his zeal and passion and were challenged by his sometimes condemning and convicting words. Relatively early in his ministry, Wesley began to face many closed doors. Many churches refused to allow him in their pulpits; even the church where his father had pastored in Epworth.
Instead of yielding to discouragement, Wesley simply became innovative. When churches would not have him in, Wesley preached in fields, marketplaces and beside roads, often quite near the churches that had shut their doors to him. He would start by singing hymns until a crowd had gathered, then he would begin to preach about the need for salvation, forgiveness, and working for God. The priests and laity offended by his sermons often were the same people who hired thugs to disturb him. Many of the priests felt Wesley was preaching without authorization and meddling with the people in their town.
Once he began preaching outdoors, the wisdom of that approach was quickly seen in the fruit it produced. Wesley preached to large crowds in the outdoors — thousands of people at a time in many cases — more than any of the church buildings could contain. He also reached many people who had not been attending churches. In Epworth on Sunday 2 January 1743, he preached while standing on top of his father’s tombstone in the church yard and was on the same day denied Holy Communion by Mr Romley. This pained him so much that he wrote; “There could not have been so fit a place under heaven where this should befall me first as my father’s house, the place of my nativity, and the very place where, “according to the straightest sect of our religion,” I had so long “lived a Pharisee”! It was also fit, in the highest degree, that he who repelled me from that very table, where I had myself so often distributed the bread of life, should be one who owed his all in this world to the tender love which my father had shown to his, as well as personally to himself”
In every crowd, there were those who heard Wesley and were moved. He described the work of the Holy Spirit among the mobs and his often miraculous deliverance from harm. He reported that frequently those who came like lions to devour him left like lambs, and many found their own souls awakened by the Spirit through his preaching.
For nineteen years this was Wesley’s weekly, even daily experience. He was dragged before magistrates, beaten with fists, pelted with rotten tomatoes, manure, eggs and stones, but he refused to give up. Homes where he stayed were set on fire. How discouraging it must have been? But he refused to give up, and his perseverance in the face of opposition made all the difference, as we see this in the Methodists today.
Wesley’s perseverance made possible the great revival led by Methodists around the world. There will be times in your life when people oppose you for doing the right thing and you feel like quitting. The people who change the world are those who refuse to give in, who get back up when they are pushed down, who have the courage, with God’s help, to keep moving forward. I like the English saying, ‘Quitters Never Win and Winners Never Quit’.
The great revival of Christianity took place under Wesley’s leadership because he refused to give up, despite years of sometimes violent opposition and persecution. He remembered the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:11-12: “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad…”
a Do Christians today face any persecutions for their faith?
b What forms of persecutions are common nowadays?
c Is there any Christianity without persecution/cross?
Thought of the Day
Do not lead us into temptations but deliver from evil.
DAY 4 TOPIC: The Power of Forgiveness
READING: Matthew 9:2
“Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.’”
The power of forgiveness was experienced by John Wesley at Aldersgate Street on May 24, 1738 when his “heart (was) strangely warmed”. In his narration of the Aldersgate story in his Journal, John Wesley makes a statement about the profound importance of forgiveness within the experience of salvation for all of us. Here’s how he describes what happened to him that evening:
“I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”
Wesley is sharing one of the primary convictions of evangelical Christianity in this testimony: God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ is meant to be received personally by every child of God. This is what it means to know God as Father, and it is the way we are adopted into God’s family. The reconciliation we find in forgiveness is such a dramatic experience that it gives us new birth.
In Wesley’s view, though, the power of forgiveness extends even beyond the great moment of our reconciliation to God, forgiveness is a part of our on-going spiritual growth as well. To be redeemed — fully redeemed — means to be transformed by the love of God. So when the Apostle Paul writes to the Colossians that Christ Jesus is the one “in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:14), Wesley writes in his New Testament commentary, “Forgiveness is the beginning of redemption, as the resurrection is the completion of it.” He links the pardon of the cross with the power of the resurrection, not wanting us to diminish any part of the fullness of redemption.
On the other hand, Wesley also understands that forgiveness continues to work in us as a special kind of power, forming the very Christian virtues that will nurture a forgiving heart. Later in Colossians, Paul says we should embrace compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience—and finally love. And in the midst of that counsel, Paul emphasizes the need for Christians to forgive one another. “Just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you forgive” (Col. 3:13), he writes. Forgiveness begins a renewal — a healing — in the soul and the character of that renewal is a soul filled with God’s love. This is what it means to be made complete, as Wesley points out using the New Testament’s language of perfection: “The love of God contains the whole of Christian perfection, and connects all the parts of it together.”
The power of forgiveness is rooted in the fact that it is an act of God’s love. So forgiveness cancels our sin and then begins to heal us of that sin entirely, all the while enabling us to begin forgiving others.
Forgiveness should be at the centre of human relationships as proven by the fact that forgiveness was at the very centre of Jesus Christ’s ministry. He came into the world claiming the power to forgive sins. The healing of the paralytic is a typical example of God’s love in action where the sin is forgiven and healing follows (Mat.9:2). It was this very act that caused the religious authorities to oppose him saying, “It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:7).
The Son of Man who came to forgive sins and finally becoming the agent of forgiveness through his own body on the cross. His sacrifice upon the cross mediates God’s forgiveness to the whole world. As the Apostle Paul puts it to the Corinthians, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). We are all called to receive Christ’s forgiveness, which we come to know through a sure trust and confidence in him and the power of his atonement for our sin.
a Do you have an experience where you were forgiven and felt liberated?
b How do we experience forgiveness in our lives?
Thought of the Day
Lord forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all our uncleanliness.
DAY 5 TOPIC: Forgiveness as your Bridge
READING: Matthew 6:14-15
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
We all need bridges to cross to other places of importance or of critical if not for survival. There are those who may not see their importance until they get there during the flooding, when swimming and canoeing seems impossible. John Wesley described forgiveness of others as a bridge that should not be burned for we are all sinners and would need it one day to cross to heaven.
Paul in his writing to the Romans says, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). When a woman caught committing adultery was brought to Jesus for him to confirm her stoning, Jesus shocked the crowd when he said, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). These verses among other verses in the Bible make it clear that we have all sinned against God or one another and need to be forgiven in as much as other people need our forgiveness. John Wesley described forgiveness as your bridge to get your forgiveness.
It is true that we are being hurt on daily basis by others in various ways be it being lied about, betrayed, sabotaged, undermined, misquoted, left out, used, exploited, intentionally hurt, physically harmed, sexually abused, emotionally damaged or sinned against in some way. You can think of someone right now that you really don’t think that you can ever forgive, with whom you harbour bitterness, anger, hate, and thus you would not forgive.
Jesus tells us we must forgive others, regardless of what they would have done to us. He doesn’t make it optional. “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Heavenly Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15), and the Apostle Paul also says to us we must forgive as freely as Jesus has forgiven us, (Ephesians 4:32). Forgiveness is not optional; we forgive, firstly, because God forgave us and forgive, secondly, because we will need to be forgiven.
Someone came to John Wesley once and asked about the issue of forgiveness. The man told Wesley he could never forgive this particular person for the hurt and pain they had caused him. John Wesley had a surprising response. He said, “Well, I hope you never sin again.” The man said what do you mean? Wesley answered, “Your bitterness, anger and lack of forgiveness will burn the bridge upon which your forgiveness will come in the future.” In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us to pray, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.”
Forgiveness is clearly a core teaching of Jesus. We have been forgiven by God through Jesus Christ. He paid the ultimate price for our sins by his death on the cross. And therefore, we are to freely offer forgiveness to others, because we have experienced God’s forgiveness. In fact, our own forgiveness for future sins against God and other people is dependent upon how we are offering forgiveness to others.
Therefore, the call by Jesus for us to forgive others is not optional, whether we feel like it or not. Whether we want to or not; whether we think we can or not. We must forgive others who have intentionally or unintentionally wronged us.
Finally, forgiveness is not dependent on the person who wronged you. They may never ask for forgiveness. But you can forgive them anyway because that’s the bridge you need. They may not be present for you to tell them you forgive them. They may have moved away. They may be dead. You may not have any idea where they are now or how to contact them. But it doesn’t matter. You can forgive them. It is not conditional on their response in any way. So, whether they ask for it, accept it, receive it, or know about it … it doesn’t matter. This is primarily between you and God. Forgiving another person is not dependent or conditional upon their response. I have found that this truth is very freeing to many people and helps them on the journey of forgiveness!
Forgiveness is not optional. But we will need God’s help and God’s grace to be able to offer it!
a. As Christians are we capable of forgiving each other?
b. What are your thoughts on forgiveness being a bridge?
Thought of the Day
Lord give us a forgiving a heart to avoid burning our bridge.
DAY 6 TOPIC: The fear of John Wesley about the Methodists
READING: Matthew 13:22
“The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.”
The first chapter of Genesis tells us that after Creation, God looked back and said, ‘it is good’. Every achievement should be appreciated by its designer. In 1786, the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, looked back on the revival achieved during his lifetime which had grown above 50 000 in membership and was satisfied by its foundations that it was well established to outlast his death. He however was gripped with the fear that it will survive as a lifeless sect that hung around, but fails to renew souls in the image of their Creator. He wrote on 4 August 1786, in “Thoughts Upon Methodism”: “I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out”.
To Wesley, the most evident threat was the growing wealth of the Methodists. He believed that Christianity has within it, the seeds of its own demise. Wesley considered wealth and the failure to give as the most serious threats to the Methodist movement in particular and Christianity in general. In 1789, Wesley noted that the Methodists had all but ignored the third point of his sermon on “The Use of Money,” which had been printed some 30 years earlier. Which were; Gain all you can, Save all you can and Give all you can.
John Wesley noted that in the three rules which were laid down, there were those that observed the first rule, namely, ‘Gain all you can’ and those that observe observed the second, ‘Save all you can’ but, very few who observed the third rule, ‘Give all you can’. He noted that only 500 members out of 50 000 observed the third rule.
Wesley’s own commitment to giving was consistent throughout his life. As a student at Oxford, he lived on 28 pounds a year. As his earnings increased to 30 and eventually to 120 pounds annually, he continued to live on the same 28 pounds. He told people that if at his death he had more than 10 pounds in his possession, they could call him a robber.
John Wesley’s writing in “Thoughts upon Methodism”, noted that as Methodists grow richer they become stingy thus increasing in goods. This according to Wesley, they proportionately increase in pride, in anger, in the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life. So, although the form of religion remains, the spirit is swiftly vanishing away.
The fear of John Wesley is therefore in the use of money that, the money can either sink us to the depth of sin if we ignore the third rule or carry us to heaven if we observe the three rules. He says, if those who ‘gain all they can,’ and ‘save all they can,’ will likewise ‘give all they can;’ then, the more they gain, the more they will grow in grace, and the more treasure they will lay up in heaven.
Most Methodist churches have adopted and been teaching the three rules as a helpful starting point.
1 “Earn all you can.” He emphasized earning all you can through participating in God’s healing and creative work in the world. His sermon is against destructive ways of earning money by hurting oneself or others or the creation. He emphasizes restrictions on exploiting others or gaining from the pain and suffering of others or of oneself. Giving in the Wesleyan tradition considers how we earn the wealth, not just how we use the wealth earned.
2 “Save all you can.” He was not calling the Methodists to invest wisely and build large savings accounts; he compared such practices to “throwing your money into the sea.” “Save all you can” is a call to a simplified lifestyle, a warning against extravagance, luxury and self-gratification. Wesley considered anything we have, that is unnecessary, as having been extracted from the blood of the poor. John Wesley was against hoarding while the poor suffer.
3 “Give all you can.” Wesley’s third rule of stewardship gives meaning to the first two. We are to gain all we can and save all we can so that we can give all we can. And then, give all you can, or in other words give all you have to God.” Earning, saving, giving are all means of giving oneself to God!
Wesley observed that wealth changes our priorities and our relationships. We begin to assume an unrealistic independence and self-reliance. We forget how to receive and how to give. Wesley believed that true religion never goes from the powerful to the weak, but from the weak to the powerful. He found the poor more responsive to the gospel than the wealthy. Affluence, according to Wesley, tends to separate us from the poor – and from God and the motivation for giving. However, we remain with the form of religion but without the power of the Holy Spirit thus fulfilling the fear of John Wesley.
a Can the fear of John Wesley be found in our Methodist Church in Zimbabwe today?
b What measures are we taking to avert the fears of John Wesley?
Thought of the Day
Lord, help us to honest in our gaining, saving as well as in giving.
DAY 7 TOPIC: John Wesley and One Hundred Preachers
READING: Exodus 18:21
“But select capable men from all the people — men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain — and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.”
Yesterday we had a discussion on the fear of John Wesley about the fall of Methodist movement and John Wesley was saying it will not fall to non-existence but to exist as a dead sect in the form of religion without the power of the Holy Spirit. This seems to have been an issue for discussion with other preachers giving their opinions. In his introduction to the letter to Alexander, John Wesley argues ‘No, Aleck, no”. Letter to Alexander Mather on August 6, 1777 (Letters, 6:272); “No, Aleck, no! The danger of ruin to Methodism does not lie here. It springs from quite a different quarter. Our preachers, many of them, are fallen. They are not spiritual. They are not alive to God. They are soft, enervated, fearful of shame, toil, hardship. They have not the spirit which God gave to Thomas Lee at Pateley Bridge or to you at Boston. Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen, such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven upon earth.”
John Wesley argues that the ruin of Methodism maybe as a result of the same preachers who should be bringing it to life without external forces. History would tell that Christianity grew faster during its persecution, so was the time of John Wesley fierce opposition and persecution that it grew faster. When the church falls, be it spiritual or physical, it is its preachers and leaders whose qualities need to be examined whether it’s compactable with the will of God.
Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom Come” (Mat. 6:10), for the kingdom to come, there is need for preachers who can shake the gates of hell first (Mat. 16:18). John Wesley describes such preachers as those not afraid of anything but sin, who are completely centred on God, connected together in order to bring heaven to earth and shake the gates of hell. He said, given One hundred preachers of such calibre, be it the clergy or laity, whose passion is for God’s rule and whose mission is making God’s rule on this Earth “such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the Kingdom of Heaven upon earth.”
John Wesley observed that many preachers were not alive to God and fearful yet they don’t even fear sin. It’s impossible to commit sin, be it private or public, and then preach the word of God with the power of the Holy Spirit. Some preachers today are motivated by the desires to gain fame, power or riches but have nothing for God; instead they are competing with the world’s elite in everything; you find them in all forms of businesses. John Wesley is saying such preachers; are fallen, not spiritual, and not alive to God, soft (spineless), enervated (Exhausted), they are fearful of shame, toil, or hardship and can therefore not shake the gates of hell.
A preacher in the wanted list of 100 is one who would bring the word strong, in season and out of season, in formal and informal settings, the preacher that would allow the living Word of God to shape everything said and one who desires to see the identity of Christ in every person. A preacher must be someone who differentiate friendship and rebukes sin in the friend using the Bible, must not be easily bribed into the ways of sinners. A true preacher must be someone who is comfortable with the unconditional inclusivity and love that Jesus proclaimed in his life, should be able to mix with all people, the rich and poor, the cheerful and reserved, those in joy and those in pain visible and invisible, no discrimination.
John Wesley is saying if we can get one hundred such preachers, given fully to proclamation of the Gospel, placing God’s priority utmost over families, Societies, Circuits, Districts and denomination. Those who are not afraid of earthly consequence and grabbing hold of Hell’s gates and shaking them fast for God ’s sake, bringing God’s justice, God’s peace, God’s grace, and God’s love to the world. If hundred such preachers are found, the Methodist Church will not be ruined but will be uplifted in spirit and numerically.
a Do we still have such preachers in the Methodist?
b How can we promote such dedication within the MCZ?
Thought of the Day
It is our humble submission God that you make us your true preachers who can shake the gates of hell.
DAY 8 TOPIC: Wesley’s Reasons for His Long Life and his Death
READING: Exodus 20:12
“Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”
Revelation 14: 13
“Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labour, for their deeds will follow them.”
John Wesley died at an older age than his contemporaries some of whom he thought would succeed him in leading the Methodist movement. John Wesley was very strong and active in his ministry until his early 80s compared to his youngsters. On 28 October 1765; he describes Mr George Whitfield during their breakfast; “I breakfasted with Mr. Whitefield, who seemed to be an old, old man, being fairly worn out in his Master’s service, though he has hardly seen fifty years; and yet it pleases God that I, who am now in my sixty-third year, find no disorder, no weakness, no decay, no difference from what I was at five-and-twenty; only that I have fewer teeth and more grey hairs”.
George Whitefield died in 1770 at the age of 56. Writing in his journal on his 85th birthday on Saturday 28th June 1788, john Wesley admitted his aging body and the failing parts of his body to function as did in the past. He said, he cannot run or walk so fast as he did; sight was a little decayed; left eye grown dim and hardly serves him to read, likewise some decay in memory, with regard to names and things lately past; but not at all with regard to what he read or heard twenty, forty, or sixty years ago, neither does he find any decay in hearing, smell, taste, or appetite but never felt any such thing as weariness, either in travelling or preaching and there was no problem in writing sermons which he was correctly doing daily.
John Wesley attributed his long life, firstly to the power of God who fitted him for the work in which he was called to fulfil and the prayers of his children. He also listed six of his policies as quoted below which he said should not be taken as inferior means;
1 To my constant exercise and change of air.
2 To my never having lost a night’s sleep, sick or well, at land or at sea, since I was born.
3 To my having slept at command so that whenever I feel myself almost worn out I call it and it comes, day or night.
4 To my having constantly, for about sixty years, risen at four in the morning.
5 To my constant preaching at five in the morning, for above fifty years.
6 To my having had so little pain in my life; and so little sorrow, or anxious care.
He died in 1791, at the age of 88; 65 years of his life dedicated to his ministry, full of honour and respect, and in the “perfect peace” of the Gospel. He had always enjoyed wonderful health, and never knew what it was to feel weariness or pain till he was eighty-two. His spirit finally left his body and he died of no disease but sheer old age. A day before his death he sang the song;
“I’ll praise my Maker while I’ve breath,
And when my voice is lost in death,
Praise shall employ my noblest powers:
My days of praise shall ne’er be past,
While life, and thought, and being last,
Or immortality endures.”
At his death when powerless, he gathered all his remaining strength cried out, “The best of all is, God is with us;” and soon after, again repeated the heart-reviving words, “The best of all is, God is with us.” These words have been an inspiration to the Methodist
movement until today. Without a lingering groan, this man of God gathered up his feet in the presence of his brethren; Miss Wesley, Mr. Horton, Mr. Brackenbury, Mr. and Mrs. Rogers, Dr. Whitehead, Mr. Broadbent, Mr. Whitefield, Mr. Bradford, and E. R. who were kneeling around his bed; according to his often expressed desire!
I have observed that John Wesley’s policies that lengthened his life are common with counsellors and health experts’ lessons for healthy living. He was positive with life and focussed on his mission and not led astray by challenges he faced.
a John Wesley listed six things he did which lengthened his life. How many of these are possible you?
b What does the “The best of all God is with Us” mean to you?
Thought of the Day
Lord grant us the life that fulfils your will.