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Moody had no more than a 5th or 6th grade education, and he did poorly even at that. When he attended his first Sunday school class, he thumbed through Genesis looking for John. When applying to join Mt. Vernon Congregational Church, he was rejected because of his utter ignorance of Christian teaching. His friends thought that seldom was anyone more unlikely to fill any sphere of public or extended usefulness. But God can take what seems a small and insignificant life and use it greatly, if it is surrendered to Him.
At the age of 17, Dwight L. Moody left his poor widowed mother’s farm to set out on his own in the big city of Boston, where he began working in his uncle’s shoe store as a clerk. The year was 1854. Then one day, the most significant event of his life took place.
Edward Kimball, a dedicated Christian who had met young Dwight when he first came to the city, felt compelled to witness to him and tell him about Jesus and God’s plan of salvation. Kimball went to the store where Moody worked, and finding him in the back room wrapping shoes, told him how he could receive Jesus as his personal Savior. Moody listened attentively and prayed with him to receive Jesus.
Shortly afterwards, Moody heard evangelist Henry Varley say, “The world has yet to see what God can do through a man who is totally yielded to Him.” Moody was captivated by these words and resolved, “By the grace of God, I will be that man!”1 And he was! A short while later he moved to Chicago, where he began preaching the gospel and witnessing to others, and was so thrilled to be able to lead other folks to Jesus that he quit the shoe business and began serving the Lord full-time. He went on to become one of the world’s greatest evangelists, with literally tens of thousands of eternal souls led to God’s kingdom as a result.
But if Moody had not determined to yield his life to the Lord, what a sad loss it would have been—not only to himself, but to literally millions who heard the gospel through his ministry! The same principle holds true for each of us. If we are not willing to carry out God’s will for our lives and to do whatever He may ask of us, we may never become all that God wants us to be or do what He wants us to do—which could be a great loss, not only for us personally, but also for those whom the Lord wants us to somehow help or reach with His love and eternal salvation.
You may feel like, “I could never do anything great for the Lord like Moody did! I’m no great evangelist or soul winner.” Neither was Moody to begin with. He was just a poor farm boy and a below-average student who became bored with life on the farm and moved to the big city. After several weeks in the city, he set a new goal for himself—to become a wealthy businessman. Giving his life to God’s service was the last thing on his agenda. But when he received Jesus as his Savior and he knew how much the Lord had given for him, then he determined to give his life to the Lord.
“How do I give my life to Jesus?” you may ask. The first step is to believe in Jesus and to receive Him in your heart as your Savior. Then, as the Bible says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). Every man or woman of God whom He has ever used drew close to the Lord and relied upon Him and His power and His Word for guidance, strength, and inspiration.
God’s Word tells us, “Present your body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, for this is your reasonable service. And do not conform yourself to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will know what is the good and pleasing and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1–2). When we surrender our lives to the Lord and yield ourselves to Him for His service, then we’ll know His will for our lives.
Despite our faults, weaknesses, and inabilities, if we will turn our lives completely over to Him, and if we are willing to let Him make us what He wants us to be, He will work in and through us to perform His will. “For it is God who works in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). Of course, because we each have our own free will, we can choose to yield to Him and “seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33), or we can seek first our own desires and plans and ways. The choice is ours whether or not to give Him first place in our lives.
When the Bible speaks about seeking first the kingdom of God, it’s not merely talking about the “religious” part of our lives. The Lord is talking about our entire life, our future, our plans, and the choices we make. It is not simply about spending a certain amount of time every day reading God’s Word and praying. To turn our lives over to the Lord—to present ourselves as living sacrifices upon His altar—means that we place our will, our plans, our future, our desires, and our ambitions in the Lord’s hands.
We know that His kingdom is made of souls, and that He wants us to “preach the gospel to every creature” in order to bring as many people as possible into His kingdom (Mark 16:15). So to be yielded to His will is to be willing to do whatever we can to reach others with His Word and His love. This is our “reasonable service” considering what He has done for our redemption and the gift of eternal life that He died for on the cross (Romans 12:1).
A good question to ask ourselves is: Are you willing, not to present your program to God for His signature or even to be presented with God’s program for your signature, but to sign a blank sheet of paper and let God fill it in without your even knowing in advance what His program is going to be? Are you willing to turn your life over to Him and then to fulfill whatever role He has for you? If so, you can trust that God has wonderful plans for your life! (See Jeremiah 29:11.)
You can be sure that when you yield your life to the Lord, He will bless and use you in whatever ways He chooses and make your life a blessing to others. Of course, not everybody is called to be a D. L. Moody or an Apostle Paul. But God has a special calling and place in His kingdom for each of us. A thorough reading of the Gospels makes it clear that He calls different people in different ways.
Jesus had only 12 to 70 full-time disciples who were with Him and followed Him around almost continuously. But He also had many thousands of other followers who received His words and believed and spread them to others. Whether you feel called to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” in a foreign land or right where He has planted you, or you feel called to make it possible for others to do so, as you “seek first the kingdom of God,” the Lord will bless and reward your efforts!
Who Is Edward Kimball?
One of my favorite “minor characters” in American history is a man named Edward Kimball. There aren’t many people who could tell you the historical significance of Edward Kimball. After all, he is so un-famous that he doesn’t even have his own Wikipedia page. But through his simple service to God, he has had a worldwide impact.
In 1854, Kimball was a Sunday school teacher in Detroit, and one day he went to visit a 17-year-old boy who was in his Sunday school class who had little interest in God or religion. During his visit with this young man at his job in a shoe shop, he led the boy into a relationship with Christ. That young man was D. L. Moody, who went on to become one of the greatest evangelists in the world, sharing the gospel with 100 million people, as well as founding Moody Bible Institute and the Moody Church in Chicago.
But the story doesn’t end there. Through his ministry, Moody was responsible for a London pastor named F. B. Meyer coming to faith. Meyer was responsible for J. Wilbur Chapman coming to faith, and Chapman influenced Billy Sunday, another prominent evangelist of the 20th century. Billy Sunday was integral in a man named Mordecai Ham coming to faith. And Mordecai Ham was the preacher responsible for leading a young man named Billy Graham to Christ. …
Edward Kimball’s story reminds us to never underestimate the influence you can have on the world by sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with just one life… [M]ay the story of Edward Kimball encourage you to continue to pray and to look for opportunities to share about the salvation found in Jesus Christ.—Eric Stillman2
From an article in Treasures, published by the Family International in 1987. Adapted and republished June 2023. Read by Gabriel Garcia Valdivieso.
1 Erwin Lutzer, “Totally Yielded to God,” Moody Church Media, 2014, https://www.moodymedia.org/articles/moody-man-our-times.