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The biographies teach




The idea to write this chapter arose when reading a book called Jumalan kenraalit by Roberts Liardon. It is an interesting book about the biographies of such persons as John Alexander Dowie, Maria Woodworth-Etter, Evan Roberts, Charles F. Parham, William J. Seymour, John G. Lake, Smith Wigglesworth, Aimee Semple McPherson, Kathryn Kuhlman, William Branham, Jack Coe and A.A. Allen. It presents their strengths and shortcomings, teachings and miracles, which took place through them.

   An interesting and educational activity is to read these and other biographies and learn about their attitudes towards criticism and persecution, how they responded to success and great victories, and whether they believed anyone else was as anointed as them. Often these are the areas in which we are weakest: 


”Try to be approved by God, not by people”, he answered as he walked back to the lines. Before going away he turned and by smiling a little he gave the last piece of advice, “And do not follow me”.


   In this first multitude I also saw many other men and women of God, both from my own time and history. I stopped to talk with many others. I was shocked over and over again about the fact that so many whom I thought to be in the highest positions had the lowest status in the kingdom. Many had the same story – all of them had fallen into the deadly sin of pride after their great victories, or they had fallen into envy when others were as anointed as them. Yet others had fallen into lust at the end of their life or into bitterness or given up, and they had to be taken out before they crossed the border of damnation. They all warned me about the same issue: the higher the spiritual authority in which you live, the farther you can fall if you do not have love and humility. (29)


Praises and criticism. Kenneth E. Hagin presents in his book Kuinka kasvaa hengellisesti (Growing Up, Spiritually) those features that are connected with spiritual childhood and adulthood. With childhood he associates such issues as unnecessarily speaking about oneself and unessential issues, and talking about faults and failings of absent persons. He claims that these kinds of things indicate that a person has not yet grown in his spiritual life. He associates an interesting feature with adulthood, however: the ability to ignore praises and criticism. He says: “Paul had growth in grace to the extent that his only judge was the Lord. He was not impressed by the opinions of others and neither did he take care about what people thought about him. He was not bound by anyone. This was not unspiritual independence but holy dignity. The law of love guided Paul. He did not become proud easily and neither did he easily become irritated or angry (…) Immature believers are easily hurt and easily become proud. If they are criticized or if they believe in their minds that they are criticised, they can easily become restless, irritable and feel self-pity. On the other hand, if they are valued and they receive attention, they can easily become proud and feel important.” (p. 37).

   The statement above is probably true for most of us. After all, very few can bear continuous praise, let alone criticism, if it continues for years. This may cause a person to flaunt himself due to his special status or to give up and turn bitter. Both reactions are possible, because most people are highly dependent on the opinions of others.

   Good pieces of advice in this area are the next words written by Paul. He describes his own spiritual life but also about real humility, which considers others better than ourselves. If a person forgets this and becomes too wrapped up in himself or in the opinions of others, he is in grave danger of going astray.


- (1 Cor 4:3) But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yes, I judge not my own self.


- (Phil 2:3) Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.


TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF! Taking care of one’s natural body is one prerequisite for spiritual work. Sometimes those who are used by God may forget this. They may fast too much, whereupon Satan can press them (A person who has suffered from mental problems will be more prone to this. These persons should refrain from fasting for long periods of time.), or they may neglect rest and sleep because of spiritual work or praying.

   This happened to Evan Roberts, when he forgot to rest. In the beginning of the revival he slept only two or three hours a night and ate very little. When this had been going on for some time, Evan Roberts burned out, and was forced to stop his work. He did not remember that we must obey the laws prescribed by God so that we would be able to work. We cannot go against these laws for long.

   Thus, taking care of one’s body and health is necessary. As important as fasting, prayer and spiritual work are, they should not override sleep and resting. We must be strong spiritually, mentally and physically. Only then will the work be better:


- (Exo 18:17,18) And Moses’ father-in-law said to him, The thing that you do is not good.

18 You will surely wear away, both you, and this people that is with you: for this thing is too heavy for you; you are not able to perform it yourself alone.


- (Luke 8:22,23) Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he went into a ship with his disciples: and he said to them, Let us go over to the other side of the lake. And they launched forth.

23 But as they sailed he fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy.


TAKE CARE OF YOUR FAMILY! One important issue is taking care of your family. Sometimes those who are involved in spiritual work forget this. They may assign the wrong order of importance to things, and become so preoccupied by their devotion to spiritual matters, and absent from home for such extended periods of time, that their most important missionary field, their family, is neglected. This faulty prioritization can cause problems later in life, because your children may grow into bitter adults who turn their back on God.

   Brother Yun describes his troubles with prioritizing matters in his book Taivaallinen mies (The Heavenly Man):


I think that my second period of captivity was a turning point in our marriage. The Lord warned me that if I did not repent and change the order of importance in my life, I would lose my family. I changed my habits and I have never regretted it. (…) I started to put my love of God first, my love of my family second and my love of the work of the Lord third. (…)

   I taught that the congregation should not succumb to the plot of the Pharaoh where he tried to persuade Moses and Aaron to leave their wives and children behind as they went to serve God (Exo 10:10-11). I encouraged leaders to take their family along to do the work of the Lord and even take their wives and children with them whenever possible. I stressed the point that even the apostles had the same problem and therefore Paul asked, Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas? (1 Cor 9:5) (30)


The next verses also refer to the same issue. They indicate that we must reserve time for our beloved family and take care of them in order to have the right foundation for our spiritual work. Naturally, we must also take care of our social duties:


- (1 Tim 5:8) But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.


- (1 Tim 3:2-5) A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

3  Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;

4  One that rules well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;

5  (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)


- (Eph 5:25) Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;


DonT TURN AWAY FROM GOD’S CALLING! As we read a biography, we see the whole life of a person unfold. We see their achievements and strengths, their weaknesses and failures. We can also see how a person reacts to misfortunes and success, and how he has passed them.

   One of the most interesting Christian biographies is that of John Alexander Dowie. His biography reveals how a person can stray from God’s plan for our lives (a similar case is the life of William Branham). He was obviously a servant of God who led thousands of people to receive salvation and healing; but in the latter part of his life Dowie’s activities were not so focused on serving the will of God. He strayed from the path.


Building an earthly kingdom. One of the most obvious mistakes made by Dowie was that he did not stick with his original calling. One example of this is the city of Zion, which he began to build in the latter part of his life. He began to build an earthly kingdom instead of concentrating on his original calling: salvation and healing. Before that, he was for a brief period of time active in politics.

   Political and construction activities are not themselves wrong. It is good that there exist politicians who have Christian values and who pursue issues from a Christian perspective. It is also good that meeting places and buildings meant for spiritual use are built, if such construction fits God’s plan and purpose, and is not too expensive. In many cases, though, such buildings have regrettably become the most important issue, and the most important issue -- the people --have been forgotten.

   Dowie’s mistake was that when he began to build an earthly kingdom, his spiritual work died down. He did not remember that we have been called to spread the Gospel, not to found the kingdom of God on the Earth too early. Jesus gave an order to go into all the world (Mark 16:15), not to build political systems and cities, in which Dowie was involved. He and many other workers of the Gospel have forgotten this and it has been their fate.


The wrong illusions about himself. The errors of Dowie did not end with his attempt to build an earthly kingdom. In addition to the building, he began to imagine that he was Elijah. This took place when some people talked to him about the issue. He dismissed the idea at first, just as he was supposed to do, but it stuck in his mind to develop, until he finally accepted it, received it and proclaimed it truth. Later on he also proclaimed himself as the first apostle, which is a perfect example of strayed thinking. A similar thing happened to William Branham, who decades later also imagined that he was Elijah and the first angel of the church in Laodicea.

   Similarities between these two men, especially during the latter part of their lives, are obvious. Their experiences illustrate the truth in Niilo Yli-Vainio’s statement that it is easier for a person to bear winning in the lottery than being used by God: “This is why many become impossible and many fall…” (Mauno Saari, Saarnaaja, p. 273).


Criticizing others. One of Dowie’s faults in the latter part of his life was that he began to criticize other servants of God. He began to attack them and his sermons became mere criticizims of his enemies. He was especially hostile towards Maria Woodworth-Etter, through whom thousands of people had been saved and healed. He preached against Etter whenever he had the opportunity, even though he had supported her before and said that her actions were from God.

   There are probably three reasons for Dowie’s behaviour and his criticizing others, a pattern of behaviour into which many others have lapsed.


Jealousy is probably one reason why some begin to criticize others. It is difficult for them to accept that others are as anointed as they are, and therefore they begin to look for faults in them. They do not understand that spiritual work should be teamwork and not competition with others. If we do not remember that we are on the same side, on God’s team, and instead begin to compete to gain prestige, then we will stray from our real calling. At the same time we lose our position in eternity. We should also remember what Jesus said about this issue. The greatest one is not he who attracts the largest crowds, but he who serves others:


- (Matt 23:11) But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.

12  And whoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.


The wrong gift of distinguishing between spirits is the second reason why some begin criticizing others. Here, a person may sincerely think that some actions are not from God. He can deem himself ‘perceptive’, even though he is in fact overpowered by such blindness that he cannot see the work of God in others. He cannot see what God does to help other people, but he sees only their faults, not what is right.  

   We should indeed take into account the fact that nobody fully understands, and that anyone can make a mistake in spiritual evaluation. When we were saved, we certainly did not receive perfect knowledge regarding every issue. The apostle James also said: “For in many things we offend all” (James 3:2) and this is certainly true. In some and several evaluations we can, naturally, be right, but if someone thinks that he is always right, it is the first huge mistake. We will not receive that kind of understanding until in heaven. 


The lack of love. The third reason for criticizing is simply a lack of love. The atmosphere towards those who think outside the box and towards official Christianity is always critical and judgmental in places where there is a lack of love. In these cases, attention is paid to unessential issues and differences between people, but appreciation of people is forgotten. William J. Seymour from the revival of Azusa Street wrote in his time: “You cannot win people by preaching against their congregation or pastor (…)  if you preach against congregations, the sweet spirit of Christ (…) is not there and judging spirits replace it. (…) When people do no longer have God’s love, they preach about dressing, eating, doctrines of people and also against other congregations. (…) If we think that we have the whole truth or that we are better than everybody else, we will fall.” (31)

   The next quote also refers to the same issue. It indicates how we may fight for some service work but forget and reject the people that God has sent to us. We do not love our fellowmen but our own service work and the satisfaction we get from it. This danger is very real; we may have the wrong order of importance:


When he spoke, his words hit me deep. I was also guilty of everything he mentioned. I remembered many young men and women whom I had swept away thinking that they were not important enough to take my time. I desperately wanted to return back and bring them together! I began to grieve so heavily that it was worse than the feeling I had when I understood I had wasted time. I had wasted people! Now many of them were prisoners of the enemy, since they had been wounded and been taken prisoners during the fight on the mountain. This whole fight was about people, and still people were often deemed as the most unimportant. We fight more for truths than for people to whom they are given. We fight for some service work but at the same time we tread on the people who are in it.

   ‘And many people deem me a spiritual leader! I am really the least of God’s people’, I thought aloud. (32)






1. Timothy M. Warner, (Spiritual Warware) Taistelurukous, p. 124

2. Mel and Nona Tari, (Like Gentle Breeze Of Jesus) Kuin hiljainen tuulenhyminä, p. 64,65

3. Tapani Suonto: Valmistu Jumalan käyttöön, p. 127,128

4. John Bevere: Näinkö sanoo Herra? (Thus saith the Lord?), p. 206,207

5. Bill Hybels: Vain muutama askel (Just Walk Across the Room), p. 148, 149

6. Martin Ski: "T.B. Barratt - helluntaiapostoli", p. 192

7. John Bevere: Kunnioitus palkitaan (Honors’s Reward), p. 80

8. Mary K. Baxter, Näkyjä tulevasta, p. 220,221

9. Donald Gee, Hengen lahjoista, p. 56

10. Steve Thompson, (YOU MAY ALL PROPHESY) Tunnista Jumalan ääni, p. 95

11. Kenneth Hagin: Miten vaellat Jumalan Hengen johdatuksessa (How You Can Be Led By The Spirit Of God), p. 103

12. Ritva ja Kristian Sand: Löydä elämäntehtäväsi, p. 128

13. Kenneth Hagin: Miten vaellat Jumalan Hengen johdatuksessa (How You Can Be Led By The Spirit Of God), p. 105,106

14. Steve Thompson, (YOU MAY ALL PROPHESY) Tunnista Jumalan ääni, p. 126

15. Nicky Cruz: David Wilkersonin viimeinen varoitus, p.115

16. Yonggi Cho, Pyhä Henki ja sinä, p. 124

17. John Bevere: Näinkö sanoo Herra? (Thus Saith the Lord?), p 156-160

18. Ingerlise Provstgaard, (Med fort hånd) Kauko-ohjattu, p. 13,16,58

19. K.K. Sarlin, Aikamme profeetta Helena Konttinen, p. 82,85

20. Irma Weisen, Vieraita unen takaa, p. 111,116

21. Ingerlise Provstgaard, (Med fort hånd) Kauko-ohjattu, p. 58,59

22. Smith Wigglesworth, (CRY OF THE SPIRIT) Hengen huuto, p. 55

23. Ingerlise Provstgaard, (Med fort hånd) Kauko-ohjattu, p. 16

24. Jessie Penn-Lewis, (WAR ON THE SAINTS) Pyhien sota, p. 44

25. Jessie Penn-Lewis, (WAR ON THE SAINTS) Pyhien sota, p. 56

26. Bob Mumford, (TAKE ANOTHER LOOK AT GUIDANCE) Suunnitelma sinua varten, p. 17,18

27. Jessie Penn-Lewis, (WAR ON THE SAINTS) Pyhien sota, p. 36

28. Judson Cornwall, (LET US PRAISE) On aika ylistää, p. 74-76

29. Rick Joyner: Petos, taistelu, voitto (Final Quest), p. 101

30. Veli Yun and Paul Hattaway: Taivaallinen mies (THE HEAVENLY MAN), p.196,197

31. Apostolic Faith, January 1907 (citation from the book of Roberts Liardon: “Jumalan kenraalit”, p. 148)

32. Rick Joyner: Petos, taistelu, voitto (Final Quest), p. 85











Jari Iivanainen

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