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Spiritual Journey

Drunk On A New Wine

From Shout It From the Housetops
By Pat Robertson

It seemed that everyone I talked to, every book I read, concerned personal revival. A week later I picked up a book in the seminary library by evangelist Charles G. Finney. Since Finney, like myself, had started out as a lawyer, I took the book home to read. I could hardly believe it. Finney, like Su Nae Chu and others, had been baptized in the Holy Spirit and had apparently spoken in tongues. The passage concerning his baptism was so thrilling, I could not sleep for lying awake praising God for what had happened.

A Reckless Quest for God

Finney attributed his experience to a reckless quest for God. Su Nae Chu had fasted and prayed. The more I read of Finney's turning aside and seeking the face of the Lord, I realized this was what I should do also. The others in the prayer group agreed, and Dick Simmons, Gene Peterson, Dick White, and I decided to take three days off and find a quiet place away from the city where we could fast and pray.

A young Christian friend of mine, Al Thyberg, owned a rough campsite up near New Preston, Connecticut, where he took boys from the New York area for summer retreats. He had just purchased an abandoned farm adjoining the camp, and we asked if we could take our sleeping bags, drive up, and spend a few days seeking the face of the Lord in the empty farmhouse. He graciously consented.

The long-abandoned farmhouse had been built before the Revolutionary War. While we laid out our sleeping bags, Simmons wandered away to walk through the woods. Moments later he came tearing back, shouting, laughing, and praising God. He was beside himself with ecstasy, and all he could do was point out into the woods.

He fairly pulled us down a small path. Running through the underbrush, we suddenly came to a tiny clearing in the middle of which was a stone monument. I ran around to the front and read the inscription:

BIRTHPLACE OF CHARLES G. FINNEY 1792 Attorney, Evangelist, College President, Man of God

It was as though we were on holy ground, and we kicked off our shoes and began laughing and praising God. I knew the Holy Spirit had allowed us to come to this place for a sign. He was about to pour Himself out on us even as He did on Finney.

Even though we did not receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit that weekend as we hoped, we did return with new spiritual sensitivity. I had been seeking to be filled with the Holy Spirit; now God showed me His emphasis. He is the Holy Spirit. He is the Spirit of Truth. He showed me that I was to despise all manner of lying and dishonesty. Before I could come into His presence, I first had to have clean hands and a pure heart. It was a magnificent revelation.

I again started visiting other churches in the evening, seeking the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Dede's reactions to this were intense. "Every night you've been off having a hallelujah time with all your new friends, and I'm stuck here at home looking after the children. If you're seeking this baptism in the Holy Spirit that you talk about all the time, I think you can get it just as much in your own living room as you can in all these meetings."

Spiritual Gap Threatens Marriage

Even though her words were spoken in anger, I sensed they had prophetic overtones. During the summer of 1957, the prayer meetings became weekly occurrences in our home, but Dede always seemed to find some kind of excuse for getting up and leaving the room. I knew that unless there was a direct intervention from the Lord, the spiritual gap that was forming would soon be so wide it would be impossible to bridge. Yet I knew I had no alternative but to press on in the Spirit, despite her objections.

Toward the end of the summer, my mother suggested that we take a two-week vacation at her expense and go up to Jack Wyrtzen's Word of Life Camp on Scroon Lake. Dede was willing to do anything to get out of the city and away from those "weird people," as she called the folk who were continually coming to the house.

Word of Life Camp is located on an island in the middle of a cold-water lake nestled in the Adirondack Mountains in upper New York state. The camp had recently purchased a beautiful inn on the mainland where we were to stay.

The second week we were there, I told Dede I would take care of the children so she could attend one of the evening services at the pavilion. Larry McGuill, a Baptist preacher from Wycoff, New Jersey, was to preach.

Dede Accepts Christ

That night Larry preached on hardening one's heart until it can no longer respond to the voice of Jesus. Dede was deeply moved in her spirit as she sat listening at the rear of the huge auditorium. Yet, when the altar call was given, her pride surged to the surface, preventing her from leaving her seat. Realizing she was doing exactly what the preacher had been talking about, she began to weep. She felt crushed as if under a heavy weight. Softly, but in deep contrition, she cried, “Jesus, come into my life.”

And He did. Suddenly she knew it. She had been reborn, and in that same moment the weight had lifted. She was not completely free, but Jesus had begun to strip away the cocoon that had held her imprisoned all these years.

Returning to New York, I began my junior year of school. As my search for God intensified, I was becoming aware that one by one God was bringing across my path the men He had chosen to help me.

I was invited to the Presidential Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., to speak to the Senate prayer group of which my father was a member. At the end of a meeting, Bob Walker, the ruggedly handsome editor of Christian Life, came over to me, chatted a bit, and then asked, "Have you ever heard of the baptism in the Holy Spirit?"

"That's the experience I have been searching for," I replied, but before I could finish my sentence, we were interrupted, leaving me wondering why he would ask me such a question.

I returned to New York, and arriving at Penn Station went directly to the annual banquet of Christian Soldiers, Inc., on whose board I was a member. Seated at the head table with me was an ebullient young minister, Harald Bredesen, who, it turned out, was public-relations director for the Gospel Association for the Blind. I was drawn to him by his warmth of spirit and was delighted when we discovered at the conclusion of the banquet that we were taking the same subway home. We were no sooner seated than with an engaging smile he asked, "Do you know anything about the baptism in the Holy Spirit?"

"Funny you should ask," I replied. "Just today in Washington I met a fellow named Bob Walker, and he asked me the same question."

"Bob Walker!" he exclaimed. "He's one of my best friends. He's just received the baptism. That's why he wanted to share it with you." Harald was exuberant -- I was awed by the providence of God.

God Sends a Messenger

It was time to leave, and as the doors of the car swished shut behind me and the train roared off into the darkness, I sensed that this crew-cut cleric was destined to play a profound role in my life. I was soon to learn that earlier that evening, on the way to the banquet, he had asked, "Lord, you must have some reason for taking me to this dinner. What is it?" The moment he walked into the room and saw me, it was as if God said, "This man is the reason I have brought you here. He is open to the baptism in My Spirit."

The next week Bredesen appeared at our apartment in Queens. He had ridden a bicycle all the way from College Point through the heavy New York traffic to bring us a book on the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Needless to say, I was deeply impressed by this man's enthusiasm and commitment to Jesus Christ.

Harald began meeting with our prayer group at the seminary, and then in our homes. He also introduced us to a number of other prayer meetings that were being conducted in the area. My hunger for God grew even deeper.

Harald was teaching on the importance of water baptism. I had been baptized as a boy in the Baptist Church back home, but I knew it was not a believer's baptism. So I asked Harald to baptize me, which he did in First Baptist Church of Flushing. I came out of the water fully expecting Jesus to baptize me in the Holy Spirit just as He had been when He came out of the Jordan. But nothing happened.

The next week Harald invited our prayer group to the Flushing Full Gospel Church to meet with Arthur Graves, the pastor.

Our entire prayer group came and was astonished when halfway through the prayer meeting something happened to Harald. Suddenly he leaped to his feet, a torrent of beautiful words in a tongue I had never heard pouring from the depths of his being. To paraphrase Charles Finney, he "literally bellowed out the unutterable gushing of his heart." He seemed to be transported into another realm of experience. I didn't know what had happened to him. I only knew that God had touched his life.

But things were growing tense at home again.

"Honey," I pleaded, "be patient with me. God is pouring out His Spirit. He's moving in a supernatural way, and I must follow Him."

"It's not just that," Dede said. "You spend all your time running around the city, and your children never even know they have a father. Just because you never knew your father very well as a child is no excuse for you not spending time with your children."

A week later, still smarting under the guilt that Dede had poured out on me, I came home from school and found Tim running a high fever.

That evening, his temperature went up to 104° and by bedtime it was 105°. His skin was burning hot and dry. He was unconscious and having muscle spasms. Dede, who had tried unsuccessfully to get a doctor, exclaimed, "We've got to do something! He's on the verge of convulsions!"

I fell on my knees. "God, do something."

Dede put Elizabeth to bed and then got on her knees with me beside Tim. I laid my hands on him and cried out again. While I was pleading with God, it flashed into my mind what a lousy father I was. How imperfect my love toward this little boy! As these thoughts flooded my mind, I was suddenly aware of how much God loved him. I was trying to get God to do something for my son, pleading with Him to love him, while all the time He loved him far more than I ever could.

Giving a Son Back to God

So, instead of begging anymore, I just consciously lifted him up to the Lord. I gave him back to God. Suddenly I was aware of the love of God enfolding him, and the power of God going through him. He opened his eyes and murmured, "Daddy, I gotta go the bathroom."

He came back to his bed perspiring. I knew the fever had broken, and the healing was taking place.

"Thank You, Jesus," I began to weep. "Oh, thank You" I gradually realized I didn't have to ask Him for anything. I could never, in a thousand lifetimes, talk Him into anything that He didn't want to do. And there was no need to try anyway. He loved me -- and Tim -- with a perfect love. That was why He healed Tim. I felt waves of love flow over me as I began to give praise to Jesus. "Praise Your Holy name!" I shouted. "Praise You, Jesus."

It was in this moment that I became aware my speech was garbled. I was speaking in another language. Something deep within me had been given a voice, and the Holy Spirit had supplied the words. I was aware of the sounds, but they were not of my own creation. It sounded like some kind of African dialect, and the flow of words continued on for five minutes or more.

Prophetic Words Realized

Finally it subsided, and I was once again aware of Dede's presence in the room. She was sitting on the edge of the sofa bed, watching me. I lowered my hands and looked at her. She was wide-eyed.

"How long has this been going on?"

"What do you mean?" I answered.

"Praying in tongues."

"I just started. This was the first time."

I sat down beside her, and she reached over and gently took my hand. I felt a joining in the Spirit I hadn't felt in a long time. Softly she said, "You remember I said you didn't need to go running around all over the city seeking; I told you that God would give you the baptism right here in your own living room."

She was right.

He had.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
—Philippians 4:13

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