When it comes to being led by the Spirit, sometimes there’s a lot of fun to be had.
Several years ago I was invited to speak at a small Pentecostal college located near Eastern College, where I teach. I love going to this little school because the people there seem to be so in touch with the power of the Holy Spirit.
Before the chapel service, several of the faculty members took me into a side room to pray with me. I got down on my knees and the six of them put their hands on my head and prayed for me, asking the Holy Spirit to fill me up and use me effectively as I spoke to the students. Pentecostals seem to pray longer and with more dynamism than we Baptists do. These men prayed long, and the longer they prayed the more they leaned on my head. They prayed on and on and leaned harder and harder. One of them kept whispering, “Do you feel the Spirit? Do you feel the Spirit?” To tell the truth, I felt something right at the base of my neck, but I wasn’t sure it was the Spirit.
One of the faculty members prayed at length about a particular man named Charlie Stoltzfus. That kind of ticked me off, and I thought to myself, If you’re going to lean on my head, the least you can do is pray for me. He prayed on and on for this guy who was about to abandon his wife and three children. I can still hear him calling out, “Lord! Lord! Don’t let that man leave his wife and children! Send an angel to bring that man back to his family. Don’t let that family be destroyed! You know who I’m talking about, Lord… You know who I’m talking about… Charlie Stoltzfus. He lives down the road about a mile on the right-hand side in a silver trailer house!”
I thought to myself, with some degree of exasperation, God knows where he lives… What do you think God’s doing, sitting up there in heaven saying, “Give me that address again”?
Following the chapel talk, I got in my car and headed home. I was getting on to the Pennsylvania turnpike when I saw a young man hitchhiking on the side of the road. I picked him up. (I know you’re not supposed to, but I’m a Baptist preacher and whenever I can get someone locked in to where I can preach to him, I do it.) As we pulled back onto the highway I introduced myself. I said, “Hi, my name’s Tony Campolo. What’s your name?”
He said, “My name’s Charlie Stoltzfus. . . “!
I didn’t say a word. I drove down the turnpike, got off at the next exit, turned around, and headed back. When I did that, he looked at me and said, “Hey, mister! Where are you taking me?!”
I said, “I’m taking you HOME!”
He said, “Why?”
And I said, “Because you just left your wife and three children! RIGHT?”
He said, “RIGHT! RIGHT!”
He leaned against the passenger door the rest of the way, staring at me. I drove off the turnpike and onto a side road– straight to his silver trailer house. When I pulled into the drive, he looked at me with astonishment and said, “How did you know I lived here?”
I said, “God told me!”
Well, I believe that God did tell me. I think God may set up things like that, just for fun. I mean, if you’re God, you’re probably having a pretty sad time of it looking down on all the things that are going on in the world. I can just imagine God nudging Peter and saying, “Hey, Pete. Watch this!”
I told Charlie, “You get in that trailer house because I want to talk to you and I want to talk to your wife.”
He ran into that mobile home ahead of me. I don’t know what he said to his wife, but when I got in the house trailer her eyes were a wide as saucers. I sat them down and said, “I’m going to talk and you’re going to listen.”
Man, did they listen! And during the next hour I led both of them into a personal relationship with Jesus. Today that guy is a Pentecostal preacher down South.
When the Spirit leads, there are all kinds of surprises in store for us.
Matthew 4:1 — Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.
Romans 8:14 — For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
I Corinthians 12:4-6 — There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.
Heavenly Father, send your Holy Spirit into our hearts, to direct and rule us according to our will, to comfort us in all our afflictions, to defend us from all error, and to lead us into all truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. —Book of Common Prayer