Like Those Who Dream, Chapter 6: Clothed
-Roy Lessin, Meeting in the Meadow
Joy is not found in pop cans, beer cans, or trash cans. It’s not found in high places or low places. It’s not discovered in music, the arts, sports or entertainment. Joy doesn’t come to you on a good day and flee from you on a tough day. It doesn’t rise with the sun or fade in the clouds. Joy doesn’t embrace you when you win a championship and push you away when you come in last. Joy is not in a “thing” or an “it”. Joy is a state of being, not our state of being, but God’s. Joy is found in a person, not a circumstance. Joy is not something you win or earn; it is something that is given to you. Jesus found joy in going to the cross. If joy can be experienced in that circumstance, it can be experienced anywhere.
During my first three months on campus, Minneapolis was having one of its worst winters in history (the snow amount would go over 60 inches, setting a new record). My heart was as cold as the winter wind. My life was joyless. No joy in class, at work, in the dorm, or at church. I still missed home and the people. I was “sticking it out” but not enjoying the journey, I was incapable of it.
I took out some of my frustration on one of my roommates, who always seemed to get on my nerves. One night, I got so angry with him that I picked up his bedding, including his mattress, and threw it all down the steps of the dorm to the floor below. Life in our dorm room became so rowdy that the dorm monitor came into our room one evening and said, “You guys must know a different Jesus than I know.”
My poor grades, lack of adjustment to the culture, and my wrong attitudes caused some staff members to wonder if I should continue as a student. On two occasions I was called into the office of the President. He was caring, but concerned about my progress. He knew of my struggles and had been in contact with my dad. During those trying days I could have easily been expelled, but the leadership of the school prayed, waited, and extended mercy.
During my second visit to the President’s office he made this comment, “There is something very special about going through the Bible for the first time.” I found his words filled with promise and I sensed he was letting me know he wanted me to stay and complete my studies.
At the core, I was obeying Jesus with my will but not my heart. I was like the little boy who was told by his mother to sit down. The boy refused. The mother insisted. Finally, the boy sat down. All seemed well until the boy replied, “Mom, I’m sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside.” My thoughts went back to the words of Al Linder, “Roy, you need to unpack your bags.” The wisdom and the power of those words were going deeper into my understanding.
The crisis came in mid-March. During a Sunday evening service, instead of finding a seat downstairs in the main auditorium of the church, I decided to sit upstairs, in what was called the “Overflow Room” (when mothers took their noisy babies there, the room was called the “Crying Room”).
The room was on the south end of the building. It had doors on each end which provided access to the east and west wings of the boy’s dorm. On the north side of the room was a large soundproof window that went along the entire width of the wall, giving a clear view of the entire auditorium below. There were folding chairs in front of the window and a loudspeaker system attached to the ceiling, making it easy for anyone to comfortably sit back and listen to what was being said from the pulpit.
When I entered the room only a few other people were present, and none of them were holding babies. I found a seat away from the others and settled in for the service. The speaker that night was Leonard Ravenhill—an internationally known evangelist and author who was presently living on Bethany campus. The burden of his ministry focused on prayer and revival. His most widely read book was Why Revival Tarries—
I listened as he was introduced and watched as he walked across the wide stage of the auditorium. Before reaching the pulpit he stopped, got on his knees, and began to pray. His voice was like one crying in the wilderness, like an Old Testament prophet pleading for God’s people. The prayer went on for over ten minutes! When he got up from his knees, the atmosphere was electric.
He preached for over an hour. I was glued to my chair, taking in every word. As he came to his closing prayer, the conviction of the Holy Spirit began to settle upon my heart. After prayer, an invitation was given, “If anyone needs spiritual help or wants to get right with God please come up front and kneel at the altar in front of the platform.” People began to respond from all over the auditorium. I knew I should go forward, but I fought God’s voice. My struggle was so great that I decided to leave, go to my dorm room, and hide from God until the meeting was over.
I waited several minutes but was drawn back to the Overflow Room. Upon returning, I looked out and saw the altar filled with people…at that moment I heard the voice of Leonard Ravenhill say, “I sense there is still one more person who needs to come to this altar tonight. We will wait. Please come.” I was nailed! I could not fight the conviction of the Holy Spirit any longer. I left the Overflow Room, walked down the stairs to the main auditorium, opened the back door, walked down the isle and found an empty spot where I could kneel and pray.
Several moments later, Harold Brokke, the Dean of Men, came and knelt beside me. “Are you having a problem with anything? Can I be of any help?” He asked.
I immediately started talking about my needs and told him my struggles. We talked for a long time and I asked a lot of questions. The Scripture he guided me to was from Romans 12:1-2 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
That night, I presented myself to God. I laid at the foot of the cross everything I knew that was pulling me back to my past in LA.
I settled things with a very short, but sincere prayer, “I give it all to you, Lord, completely.”
When I got from my knees I didn’t take anything back. I died to my own way and embraced God’s will with a whole heart. Before leaving, Harold Brokke prayed a final prayer, asking God to fill me with the Holy Spirit. I didn’t fully understand what that meant, but afterwards I earnestly began to seek God’s fullness in my life.
In his book Spiritual Power, Dwight L. Moody states, “I believe many a man is praying to God to fill him when he is full already with something else. Before we pray that God would fill us, I believe we ought to ask Him to empty us. There must be an emptying before there can be a filling.”
My time at the altar, the night Leonard Ravenhill spoke, was God’s way of preparing me to receive the blessing of His promise, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!" Luke 11:13
Davyd, one of my roommates, had a very conservative background. He was from England and found my approach to life a bit radical; I found his a bit stiff. In time, we warmed to each other and developed a close relationship. We started sharing our spiritual desires with each other and discovered we both had a hunger to know more of God. Together, we became seekers after the fullness of God’s Spirit in our lives. We read many promises from the Scriptures that encouraged us:
Acts 1:8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
John 7:37 “"If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; Mark 1:8 “ I have baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.
There were many nights when we would sneak away to a private prayer place we discovered underneath the stage of the church auditorium. There we would call upon God to meet us.
God did answer those prayers, but in a way I did not expect. It happened on a day when I got sick. Instead of going to class, I decided to stay in bed and rest. While resting, I picked up a book about the Christian life. I looked through the table of contents and saw a chapter titled “The Holy Spirit.” I opened the book to that chapter. As I read, I came across an illustration that helped me understand how willing God was to give me the desires of my heart...“Suppose a man visited a bookshop to buy a reference book that came in two volumes. The person took the two volume set to the clerk, paid for the books, put the receipt in his pocket, hurriedly picked up the bag from the counter and went home. When the person arrived home and opened the bag he discovered, that unknowingly, he had left one of the volumes of the reference book at the bookshop. The man returned to the bookshop and saw the other volume sitting on the counter. He went to the clerk, produced his receipt, and explained what had the happened. The clerk remembered him and gave him the other volume without hesitation. The man did not have to beg for the other volume because it was already his by purchase; he only needed to return to the bookshop and pick it up.”
That simple illustration helped me see that I had been asking and asking for God’s fullness in my life, but I had never received His promise by simple faith. I got out up and knelt beside my bed. “Father, thank you for your promise to fill me with the Holy Spirit, I receive your promise now. Thank You for filling me with the Holy Spirit.” It was settled, I had picked up the second volume! I discovered that the Spirit-filled life was not something I must earn, but a gift I received by faith.
The next day, at our school chapel, I stood up and told the students what had happened to me in my room the day before.
For the next three days nothing significant had changed, that is until I went to work that afternoon...
My job assignment was not very glamorous. I was assigned to punch out holes in a round piece of sheet metal. These pieces of metal were then used in the assembly of the Lefse Grills that were manufactured on campus. To do my job I had to place a round piece of metal into a punch press and pull down firmly on a handle that lowered the press and punched in the holes.
I was doing the job for about an hour, when suddenly, waves and waves of joy began to pour over me. I was so elated that my production rate began to increase. The sheet metal pieces began to fly off the press. I must have set the production record for a single day of work. For the next two weeks I lived in what I can only describe as “a baptism with the Holy Spirit and the fullness of joy!” The aftereffects of that experience impacted me in many ways. I found out sometime later that the dean of women had said, “The school staff has never seen a student’s life change as much as Roy’s”.
Although I was still a babe in Christ, there was a new power upon me, a new joy within me, and a new vision before me. I began to press into God’s heart. I still had a lot of growing and maturing to do, but I was seeing through a new set of eyes and hearing with a new set of ears. I couldn’t wait to discover what plans God had in store.
(Join us next week as we continue this journey of Roy's memoir, Like Those Who Dream. The book is available through DaySpring and Christian retailers everywhere.)
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