October 1, 2016

Zechariah 4:6 – “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord of hosts.”

Jonathan Goforth was born on February 10, 1859 in London, Ontario, Canada. He was the seventh of eleven children.  Jonathan was saved at 18 years if age in a church service. He had the following remarks to say about his conversion. “My conversion at eighteen was simple and so complete that ever onward I could say with Paul, I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I lived yet not I, but Christ live the in me' and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20). Henceforth my life belonged to Him who had given His life for me.”

The following year, Jonathan went to George L. Mackey, a missionary to Taiwan, speak at Knox College in Tornoto. George Mackay said, “For two years I have been going up and down Canada trying to persuade some young man to come over to Formosa (present day Taiwan) and help me but in vain. No one has caught the vision. Now I am going back alone. My heartbreak is that no young man has heard the call to come and carry on the work that I have begun.”

Jonathan responded to this challenge by writing, “As I listened to these words, I was overwhelmed with shame. He the floor opened up and swallowed me out of sight, it would have been a relief. There was I, bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ, daring to dispose of my life as I pleased. I heard the Lord’s voice saying in my soul, ‘Here am I; send me.’ From that hour, I became a foreign missionary . . . And set to work to get others to catch the vision I had caught of the unreached, unevangelized millions on earth.”

After a series of events preparing himself for the mission field, Jonathan eventually headed toward North Honan in China. He received a letter from Hudson Taylor which read, “We understand North Honan is to be your field; we, as a mission, have tried for ten years to enter that province from the south, and have only just now succeeded. It is one of the most anti-foreign provinces in China . . . Brother, if you would enter that province, you must go forward on your knees.” Hudson Taylor’s charge to “go forward on your knees” became the motto of the North Honan mission from that time forward. 

When Jonathan turned 45 years old, a restlessness fell over him. He could report that during three years as a traveling evangelist across North Honan province that, “without one exception, every place in which we stayed for a month and carried on this aggressive evangelism, we left behind what later became a growing church.” Still, this restlessness caused him to utter the words “I want to see more of God,” became a deeper conviction of his heart. 

“What is revival,” Goforth wrote in his book     By My Spirit, “but simply the Spirit of God fully controlling in the surrendered life? It must always be possible then, as long as man yields. But are we ready to receive Him? Are we ready to pay the price of Holy Ghost revival? Finally, the call to revival must be a call to exalt Jesus Christ in our hearts as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is like an Everest peak, rising from the level plain. There must be room only for Him, if we would have Him dwell with us at all.” What an incredible description of the deep, abiding work of the Holy Spirit we call revival. 

In the latter years of his life, when a young missionary would ask Jonathan for the secret of his incredible Gospel advance across China, he would say, “Because I give God a chance to speak to souls through His own Word. My only secret in getting at the heart of big sinners is to show them their need and tell them of a Savior abundantly able to save . . . and that [the sinner] can only attain unto the righteousness of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” 

Our Scriptural focus for this devotion is Zechariah 4:6 – “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord of hosts.”  Jonathan’s work took a dramatic and more fruitful turn in 1904 after reading a booklet about the Welsh Revival and the work of the Holy Spirit. On the heels of that booklet, he read The Great Awakening which included excerpts from Charles Finney’s Lectures on Revival. He responded by saying to his wife, “Revival simply means this: The spiritual laws governing a spiritual harvest are as real and tangible as the laws governing the natural harvest. If Finney is right, and I believe he is, I am going to find out what those laws are and obey them, no matter what the cost may be.”  This study led Jonathan to experience the personal power of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer through Jesus Christ. From that day forward, Jonathan ministered with an anointing from the Holy Spirit and his life became a mighty instrument of grace used by God to share His great love with many thousands across China. 

Oh that we would take hold of Jonathan Goforth’s passion and realize that we too can be part of a “spiritual harvest.” All we must do is learn to minister the Gospel in the power of His Holy Spirit in accordance with the “laws governing a spiritual harvest.” 

Jeremiah 33:3 reads, “Call unto me, and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things, which you know not.” This great verse along with Zechariah 4:6 helps us answer the questions, “Is the work I am called to mine or His?” and “Can I accomplish the work that the Lord has laid before me?”

Can we?


(The devotion is drawn from pages 319-356 of God’s Generals: The Missionaries by Roberts Liardon)