I don’t want to leave until God touches me. I do not want to stop until I am met by the divine. This embodies the attitude of William Seymour.
As I am reading the book Streams of Living Water by Richard Foster, I am struck by the story of William Seymour. Foster set out to show how we are formed in the image of Christ through six historic traditions of Christian life, Contemplative, Holiness, Pentecostal, Social Justice, Evangelical, and Sacramental.
In the Charismatic stream, he tells the story of William Seymour, born the son of freed slaves in 1870. By 1906, he had traveled from the south through Houston where he met Charles Parham and learned of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. William wanted this life empowered by the Spirit and believed it was for today. Later that year, he accepted an invitation to pastor a small holiness church in LA. When he began teaching on the Holy Spirit the church locked him out. He and a few friends who wanted to press in further continued meeting at 214 N. Bonnie Brae in a small house. The Holy Spirit fell with the evidence of speaking in tongues. Jenny Evans-Moore, later to marry William, began playing the piano for the first time. She played flawlessly and sang beautifully in six languages she had never spoken before. Many others were filled with the Holy Spirit that night and for the following years as the outpouring came on what we now know as the Azusa Street Revival. The meetings moved to a small warehouse on Azusa Street not long after. The birth of the Pentecostal movement had begun.
As I read his story, I was struck by one thing. He preached an experience he had not yet received. In humble circumstances, a black man in that period of our country’s history, poor as poor can be, blinded in one eye and scarred from Smallpox he pressed on. He knew God wanted to empower his people with the Holy Spirit. He believed the infilling of the Holy Spirit had not passed away with the Apostles. He knew this was what the world needed. Many missionaries were sent around the world in the early years of the revival. However, he was not filled with the Holy Spirit until several days after the initial outpouring happened. The story went that he stayed after in the house praying with several others. He pressed in deeper to receive all God had for him. When he was urged to leave and comeback the next day, he refused until God touched him. Later that night, God did. He was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke of receiving a divine love.
I am impressed by a man who would not give up on God. I wonder how much his heart to receive all that God had enabled him to be the instrument that God used. I am sure there is more than just that, but the persistent, determined hunger for God’s power surely played an integral role in his ability to lead such a powerful ministry. In the past, a person once told me that if God can’t move in 90-minutes then he is not going to. I agree that God could easily move in a short time. However, we are not always ready, available or prepared for God’s movement. It is not just about creating space for God to move or teach us, but about abounding everything to grab all of God and all that God has for us.
I don’t want to be the person who walks away just before God moves thinking I did enough. How many times have I missed out? What can we do to press in and seek God for more?