Escape from the Flames

by Helen Stanphill

“John!” Susanna Wesley screamed. “John is in the house! Please save my son!”

Flames made the midnight air around 5-year-old John hotter than a summer day. Fire blocked the way out of his bedroom. He coughed and choked as smoke filled his lungs, but he managed to climb onto a chest near the window.

Outside, a neighbor saw John and shouted to a man nearby.

“Clarke, stand on my shoulders!”

The two men quickly formed a human ladder to reach John. Clarke pulled the boy out of the fire and leapt to the ground. Just as the men rescued John, the roof collapsed!

His mother rushed to hug him. “The Lord has an important purpose for your life, John!” she cried. “He saved you from that burning house when we thought there was no hope!”

When John grew up, he preached with his father for two years. Then he became a missionary to American Indians and colonists in Georgia. But there was one big problem: John wasn’t sure Christ had completely forgiven his sins.

Everything changed one day when John attended a prayer meeting in London, England. That night, he felt his heart “strangely warmed.” Suddenly, he knew Jesus had forgiven him.

John, his younger brother, Charles, and their friend George Whitefield began preaching in many different churches in England. But some church leaders didn’t like them to preach, because the people were getting too excited.

Then George decided to speak outdoors to some coal miners in Bristol, England. Soon, crowds of 20,000 people came to hear him! When George was ready to spread revival to other places, he asked John to preach in Bristol.

One spring morning, John prepared to preach outdoors to the miners just finishing their long, underground shift. Though it was not quite 5 a.m., the sun was already shining brightly.

“Lord, my life belongs to You,” John prayed. “Use me as You like.”

A fellow Christian greeted him warmly. “Good to see you! Shall we start by singing O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing?”

John nodded. “Aye, that’s a lively one.”

The two men began singing, and many of the tired miners turned their dust-blackened faces to hear the music. As the hymn ended, John began to preach.

“Friends, I want you to think about your lives. Are you happy? Are you being fair and kind and honest?”

A few rowdy men at the back of the crowd threw rotten vegetables at John.

“What’re ye talkin’ about?” they yelled.

John calmly continued.

“If you want to honor God in how you live, you may be almost a Christian. The trouble is, being almost a Christian will not get you to heaven.”

Now the crowd was silent. John had their full attention.

“Let God change your heart and make you altogether Christian. It starts with faith that Jesus died on the cross to take the punishment for your sin. That faith leads to a love for God that fills up your heart and flows out when you do good things for others.

“Instead of being almost a Christian, you’ll be altogether Christian.”

After John finished, many in the crowd stayed to ask questions and pray. God had saved John from the flames so he could help others know the way to heaven.

Altogether Christian

John Wesley helped lead a revival in England during the 1700s. He preached several times a day for 50 years.

This article originally appeared in the March 2009 issue of Focus on the Family Clubhouse Jr. magazine. Copyright © 2009 Helen Stanphill. Used by permission. Illustration © Sally Comport.