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While I was pastor of the Baptist Church in a university town of North Carolina, I was made to realize that as a preacher I was a dismal failure.
Parents from all over the state wrote and requested me to look after the spiritual welfare of their sons in the university. I prepared sermons with students in mind and was glad to see that they showed their appreciation by attending our Sunday services in great numbers. We also appointed a week of prayer and preaching, with the single purpose of winning them to Christ and they attended the evening meetings.
About the middle of the week, however, their interest seemed to turn into opposition. The spirit of mischief possessed them. One night they tried to put out the lights. As I walked through the grove of trees around the university buildings I sometimes heard an imitation of my voice coming from behind a tree. A bright student had caught a part of my sermon of the night before and he was giving it in thought and tone for the benefit of his fellow students who responded by applause and laughter. As I walked before an open window I heard my voice imitated in prayer floating out. I felt defeated and seriously considered resigning from the pastorate. No one had been saved.
After a restless night I took my Bible and went into a grove of trees and remained there until three o'clock in the afternoon. As I read I asked God to show me what was the matter. The Word of God searched me through and through, giving me a deep sense of sin and helplessness such as I had never had before.
That evening the students listened reverently and at the close of the service, two rows were filled with those who responded to the invitation. The revival continued day after day until more than seventy of the students confessed Christ.
What Did It?
The practical question is, "What did it?" Certainly not I. I fear it was I who kept God from doing it for a long time. Out of that day's experience of waiting on God, there came to me a clear-cut distinction between influence and power.
Influence is made up of many things: intellect, education, money, social position, organization--all of which ought to be used for Christ. Power is God Himself at work unhindered by our unbelief and other sins. The New Testament word power holds the secret. The power from on high was no other than the power of the Holy Ghost touching the soul through the living Word and giving it a birth from above. I had been trusting and testing many other good things, only to fail. The touch of God by His Holy Spirit did what my best efforts could not do.