“Mommy! Mommy! Come quick! All of daddy’s pipes are gone! Somebody stole them!”
Leonard’s mother smiled down at the wide-eyed five-year-old. “No, dear,” she said. “Your father gave them all to the Lord last night.”
Walter Ravenhill had experienced a radical conversion under the preaching of David Matthews, one of the leading evangelists of the Welsh Revival, and he would never be the same again. The consistent Christian life and joyful testimony of his Methodist wife were key factors in his journey from darkness to light. Sis. Ravenhill lived down the street from her godly mother and their prayers for Walter’s soul bore fruit in a powerful way. A heavy drinker from the age of fourteen, Walter never touched alcohol after that night in 1912. His prized handmade pipes ended up in the fireplace.
A nominal Roman Catholic before his conversion, Walter now joined his wife and mother-in-law at the local Methodist New Connexion church where they attended three services every Lord’s Day. The Ravenhill home was a musical home and the Ravenhill ladies now had the “freedom” to sing their hymns with no opposition. Walter’s mother in law had memorized the Methodist hymnal and would sit in her rocking chair for hours, singing joyful praise to the Lord. His wife had sung to Leonard as a babe in the womb and sang even more after her husband’s conversion.
Hearing “good preaching” became a high priority for the family. Later, Leonard would vaguely remember hearing William Booth as well as C.T. Studd and Paget Wilkes, two great missionaries of the day. By the age of seven, he was asking his daddy if they could “go to the Army,” which meant going to a local Salvation Army street meeting to support the work of the Lord. Leonard’s father became a local street preacher and won hundreds of souls to the Lord in the streets, homes, and hospitals of their area. Being a former Catholic, he had a special ability to lead nominal Catholics into a real experience of salvation. From the time of Walter’s conversion to the day of his death, Leonard Ravenhill never had reason to question the change made in his father’s life. The heritage of a “singing mommy and a praying daddy” was a precious one indeed.
The heritage of a “singing mommy and a praying daddy” is a precious one indeed.
In a sermon later in his life, Leonard Ravenhill talked about becoming converted himself at the age of fourteen. The godly example of his family and the overall culture of the day had kept him from many forms of wickedness. He had seen the reality of God and the gospel in the lives of many people around him. Yet, what brought him under conviction and eventually led to his salvation was seeing the joyful zeal of his parents and others of like precious faith. Leonard was outwardly moral, but he had no joy in the things of God as they did.
His once alcoholic father loved the Bible, the hymnbook, the half nights of prayer, and the street meetings because he intensely loved the Lord Jesus who had saved him from a life of sin. Leonard testified that his father would weep while he said grace over the family’s evening meal. The weeping would turn to joy as Walter focused on the goodness of God to him. The joy of the Lord was Walter’s strength, and that joy convicted his son when nothing else could break through his shell of self-righteousness. That joy spoke of the reality of a supernatural God who could change the character and destinies of mortal men such as Walter and other local men as well.
As a boy sitting in church, young Ravenhill would sit a row or two behind a massive laboring man who loved the Lord in the same way his father did. Whenever “And Can It Be?” was announced, Leonard would closely watch the man’s neck and hands. His large hand would go into the air and his neck would get “progressively redder” until suddenly . . . Boom! The siren would go off and the tears would roll down his face as he shouted the praises of God. With all these godly influences, the reality of Evangelical religion brought Leonard, the future evangelist, to a place of repentance. The God of his father became his God as well.
Psalm 51 is the prayer of a broken, repentant king making his way back to his God after a grievous fall. Part of David’s prayer is that the “joy of Thy salvation” would be restored to him. Joy is the natural product of a real relationship with God, and when that relationship is broken by sin, the joy flies away. Our Lord Jesus promised that His joy might be in us, that our joy would be full, and that no man could take it from us. The revival at Samaria in the book of Acts was marked by great joy in that city. Whenever and wherever the kingdom of God has taken territory from the kingdom of darkness, that same joy is present.
Early Methodism had its “shouting Methodists,” and every Holiness revival movement since then has been marked by the demonstration of God’s power and God’s redeemed being “happy in the Lord.” This happiness manifests itself in different ways depending upon the temperament of the individual. Some may quietly shine with the glory of God while others express themselves with loud praises. Regardless, this joy, closely tied to being filled with the Spirit of God, has a way of “spilling out” and influencing others. Joy in the hearts of real believers has a way of disarming even the most vocal and violent foes. Sephen’s joy shook Saul and left him a memory from which he could not escape.
Many a soul has come to Christ because they saw Christ in the hearts of God’s joyful and triumphant people.
Sanctified souls who possessed “joy unspeakable” and who were “full of glory” have triumphed in the midst of tribulation, persecution, and deprivation. Many a soul has come to Christ because they saw Christ in the hearts of God’s joyful and triumphant people. Spectators in the Roman coliseum were converted by the hundreds as they saw the Christian martyrs praise their way into the next world by way of the lion’s mouth. Violent “lions” in Wesley’s day were won to the cause of Christ because they encountered joyful “Methodist lambs.”
Young Leonard Ravenhill saw his daddy weep for joy over the evening meal and his mother sing in the trials of life. Their joy in the Lord marked him for life. The heathen of our day desperately need to see the people of God rejoicing in their God and walking in the strength of a joyful relationship with the Lord. This “glory” will bring lost souls to Calvary.