Smith Wigglesworth: Man of Faith
This week’s blog post is written by the amazing Phil Wilthew, one of the elders at King’s Arms. You are in for a very good read!
I love reading the stories of Christian heroes through church history. I find them inspiring, provoking and educational, but also, if I’m honest, sometimes a bit intimidating. I love how God can flush out our insecurities and old mindsets even while reading a biography!
Scripture is clear that we should be inspired by the heroes of the faith. Just read Hebrews chapter 11 and you will see a whole army of them. The Bible is also clear about the purpose of these accounts, which is that we might imitate those who through faith and patience inherited the promises (Hebrews 6:12).
Smith Wiggleworth is now a well-known figure in British church history and he is one of these heroes who inherited the promises of God in his lifetime. Wigglesworth was a Pentecostal preacher from Bradford, who proved that living a life of faith attracts the supernatural working of God. His life tells the extraordinary tale of a man who, though beset by numerous human deficiencies and defects, lived a life of signs, wonder and miracles because he knew his God.
Here are just a few ways in which we can imitate this great hero of faith:
- The Priority of Prayer
Wigglesworth was a man who prioritised prayer. The moment Wigglesworth was baptised in the Spirit, his long term stammer disappeared. This was such a profound change that his wife was said to have remarked the next time she heard him speak, ‘that’s not my Smith!’. From this time on, Smith was a man of prayer. He once remarked that he seldom prayed for more than half and hour, but seldom went more than half an hour without praying. His practice was to be in constant communication with God. When asked what the secret of his life of signs and wonders was, he said, “ If you find me alone you will find me talking to God. I make it my business to talk to God all the time….I believe that’s the reason why God keeps me right, always right, always ready’.
Such was the power when Wigglesworth prayed, many could not stand to stay in the same room as him, such was the weight of Gods presence. There is a great lesson here for us all. Faith does not flow from something, but someone. Supernatural living is the by-product of intimacy and not methodology.
- Faith for Healing:
Wigglesworth is well known as being someone God used to bring healing to many. The way Smith would pray for people always depended on ‘what the Father had to say’. The only methodology he had was to listen to God on each occasion. Many times, he was very physical when praying, especially when it came to cancer and tumours, literally hitting, slapping or punching the afflicted area. One story tells of his arriving to a friends house to be greeted by a guest with a frozen neck and shoulder. Immediately, he grabbed hold of the gentleman’s head and began vigorously rolling it around from side to side, commanding all stiffness to leave in the name of Jesus. Which it did! Significantly, Wigglesworth said that he had to be in the ‘right place with God’ to operate in that kind of ministry. At other times he would lay hands, speak a word, declare or not even pray at all. A lifetimes of stories of cancers healed, the blind seeing and the deaf hearing demonstrate that a life of miracles is not found in a textbook, but a relationship with God and the faith that flows from that. Listen to Jesus and trust Him!
- Compassion for People:
People would remark on the unusual compassion found in the ministry of Wigglesworth. Hearers on the front rows of meetings would regularly be doused in his tears as he read the scriptures, prayed for the sick and preached the gospel. He once said the following: “If you preachers lose your compassion you can stop preaching, for it won’t do any good. You will only be successful as a preacher as you let your heart become filled with the compassion of Jesus.” One man remarked that his sobs for the lost would often be so heart-rending that the entire congregation would end up weeping with him.
The truth is, if we live for power, will easily give up when we don’t always see things happen in the way we would like. But, if we operate out of compassion, we will navigate the highs and the lows, because our primary love is for people whom God has made. When you find your compassion, power will not be far behind.
- Readiness to Share the Gospel:
Wigglesworth once said that he would far rather see one person follow Jesus than see a thousand healed. He therefore lived a lifestyle of fearless readiness to share his faith whenever the opportunity would arise. On one occasion, as he was on a packed train to Cardiff, he went to the bathroom to wash his hands. He writes that he suddenly felt the Spirit rest on him as he took a few moments to pray. As he sat back in his seat, one of the two gentleman sitting opposite suddenly cried out, ‘Sir, you convince me of my sin’, and fell on his knees there in the carriageway! He led many to Christ in that train as God opened up hearts to the Gospel. This kind of story repeated itself on many occasions. I am provoked that Smith lived with such a readiness and eagerness to love those who did not yet know Jesus, irrespective of where he was at the time. God can reach people anywhere, but will he find us awake to the opportunities?!
There are so many other lessons we could learn from this man of faith but I want to leave with this thought. Scripture says that men like Elijah (or Smith Wigglesworth for that matter) were people ‘just like us’ (James 5:17). The goal is never to replicate someone elses life, but to live our own life of faith. Comparison will always lead you into the performance trap if you are not careful. The aim of these great accounts is that we might, instead, run the race marked out for us. I want to become a man of prayer, faith for healing, compassion and love for the lost and Wigglesworth is a provocation to me that I can grow in all of these things.
Ultimately, I am left with one simple lesson from his life. If you live amazed with God, you will live an amazing life. Its all about Jesus. Pursue Him and His Kingdom will follow.
If you would like to read more about the life of Smith Wigglesworth, please read ‘Wigglesworth: The Complete Story’ by Julian Wilson.