On May 17, 315 years ago, founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley was born in Epworth, England. In honor of his birthday, I thought it would be fun to share a few inspirational stories about John Wesley in today’s, Three Things!
#1 Purpose in life
John Wesley’s father, Samuel was a priest in the Church of England. He spent almost his entire ministry there at Epworth, but he wasn’t particularly loved. Samuel was very rigid, very strong and opinionated. He was critical of the people and always in their faces. One night the people of Epworth decided to show their disdain with him by setting his parsonage on fire. Samuel and Susannah and all their children managed to get out of the parsonage, except for John!
John was five years old and upstairs when the home caught on fire. The flames engulfed the home and no one could get to him. He was hanging gout the upstairs window, screaming. It was obvious there was nothing anyone could do. Samuel fell to his knees and began to pray for his son’s soul. The neighbors began to feel badly about it. They had not intended to hurt this young boy. Suddenly, they came together and formed a human ladder, and the top person reached and grabbed the outstretched arms of this little boy and he literally jumped as the house imploded in flames. Can you imagine being five years old and one moment you think you are about to be burned alive and at the last moment you are saved, that’s an experience you never forget! Sure enough, as a boy growing up he would write in his diary: “I am a brand plucked from the burning.” He would say, “I believe God has a purpose for my life.” He became committed to discovering God’s will for his life. It became his passion to pursue his commitment to live a life that mattered and made a difference.
#2 Passion that leads you
His passion ultimately led him to Oxford where he went to seminary and followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a priest in the Church of England. He became a missionary and came to Georgia as a missionary. He returned to England and in his mid-30s, he discovered God’s calling for his life and developed an opinion about how to live a life that matters. For the next 50 years, he rode on horseback throughout England preaching 40,000 times. During his lifetime, he rode a quarter of a million miles on horseback!
#3 You have a choice
In John Wesley’s day, there was a small slice of England that was very wealthy and a large part that was very poor. It was the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and most people were working in terrible conditions in mines and factories. The majority of England was illiterate and incredibly poor. If you were a person who worked 12 hours a day, six days a week in the mine, you had no hope of changing your life. There were no child labor laws; children as young as five years old were put to work in factories and mines. Life was hard. During that time they improved the distillation of spirits (AKA learned how to have higher alcohol content in rum) and began importing gin from Holland. The number of people who began suffering from alcoholism, skyrocketed.
During this time, there was a very popular theological concept throughout England that was originally created by Augustine in the fourth century. It was developed by Calvin and again by John Knox. The theological idea was predestination. Everybody was talking about how whatever happens in your life, it happens for a reason, that it has been foreordained, that God already knows how your life is going to work out, it is predetermined, it is predestined. So, if you’re working in the mine, that is God’s predestination for your life. If you get to be rich, that was God’s predestination for your life. Whatever your circumstance, it was believed to be predetermined by God. John Wesley was very Armenian and not Calvinistic. He believed in free will. He avidly fought against the idea of predestination. He was adamant; God has set you free and things happen in life, but you are free to decide how you react. You have the power of choice!
Like so many of us today, we may not be satisfied with our jobs, finances or relationships, but John Wesley would remind us that these things are not predestined by God to be a certain way! You can change; you can look for God’s will in your life and learn how to live a life that matters and makes a difference. You have the power of choice!