We don't know the date this message was given by Mr Lambert, but it was to a Chinese-speaking audience with an interpreter. The spoken form is retained verbatim. The message can be listened to on the Audio page.
I would like to read a few verses in the Philippian letter,
Philippians and chapter 1. We will read from verse 21:
"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if to live
in the flesh, if this shall bring fruit from my work, then what I
shall choose I know not. But I am in a strait betwixt the two,
having the desire to depart and to be with Christ; for it is very
far better: yet to abide in the flesh is more needful for your
Shall we just have a further word of prayer.
Lord, we want to thank You together that we are found in Your
presence this evening. And we thank You once again for that
anointing which You have given us and by faith we want to stand
into that anointing this evening, for the speaking, translating,
and hearing. Lord, will You fill this time with Yourself and use
it to glorify our Lord Jesus, we ask it in His precious name,
Now, I have been asked to share something with you about the life
and ministry of our brother Theodore Austin-Sparks. And I would
say something first about his life, and then a little about the
emphases in his ministry, and then some of the qualities in his
Our brother Mr Sparks was born in the 1880's in a Scots town
called Dunoon. [Editor's note: He was not born in Scotland, but in the Wandsworth District of London.] He was born of a Scots mother and an English
father, but he always considered himself to be Scots. His father
was an impresario and therefore Mr Sparks was born into a family
that had much to do with culture, with theatre, with concerts. I
am not sure that his father ever had a real experience of the Lord
Jesus, his mother, however, was a truly godly woman. She knew the
Lord, she was a woman of prayer, and she was one hundred percent
devoted to the Lord Jesus. She belonged to a group within the
established church in England, the Church of England in England,
and the Church of Scotland in Scotland, that have come to be
These 'Irvingites', as people called them, were those who were
greatly influenced and blessed by the ministry of a brother called
Edward Irving. Edward Irving was, in fact has often been called,
the father of the charismatics. He believed that the church was
the body of the Lord Jesus. He believed in apostles, he believed
in the gifts of the Spirit. He believed in an experience that he
called 'the baptism of the Spirit'. And this movement began in
Britain, in England, and Scotland in the 1860's or 1840's. Mr
Sparks grew up in a home in which his mother often had prayer
meetings. It was a home that believed that the Word of God was
the Word of God and that it was the final authority on all
matters. And it was a home that believed that the Lord's coming
was near. His mother had a very great influence upon Mr Sparks.
Brother Sparks came to the Lord in his teens and from the moment
that he came to the Lord, he was one hundred percent for the Lord
Jesus. He saw the truth of believer's baptism and as a result, of
course, he got baptised and he left the Church of Scotland. He
became an ordained minister in the Baptist and Congregationalist
churches; that is, in both these denominations he was a recognised
and ordained minister.
He became one of Dr Campbell Morgan's young men. Dr Campbell
Morgan was probably one of the greatest Bible teachers in Britain
and the English-speaking world in the early part of this century.
He was minister in Westminster Chapel in London. And he used to
have a group of young ministers, and he used to get them to do a
lot of the work on Bible study that finally came out in his
various books. Mr Sparks was one of the brightest of this group of
young men and ministers, and as a result, he was very much in
demand all over Britain as a conference speaker, especially in
teaching the Bible: outlines of the books of the Bible, an outline
of the whole Bible, a bird's eye view of the whole Bible. This was
something quite new and he was very much in demand for
Whilst he was minister of Honor Oak Baptist Church, he saw
tremendous change come over the whole congregation. One after the
other, these nominal Christians became born again: the church
secretary, the various deacons, one after the other they found the
Lord, and this turned the church inside out.
But Mr Sparks, in spite of being a nationally wanted conference
speaker, and being one of the young men asked to Keswick with a
view in the end to becoming one of the speakers, and in spite of
being the pastor of a Baptist church that was absolutely thriving,
he himself felt a terrible need within his life. He felt
that he was proclaiming things that were not really his
experience. That he was born again, he had no doubt. That God had
saved him, he had no doubt. That God had justified him, of this he
had no doubt. That the Holy Spirit was the Holy Spirit, he had no
doubt. That Christ was Christ, he had no doubt. But within
his own heart he felt he was preaching things that he was not
experiencing; that he was professing much, but possessing
Now, Mr Sparks by nature was a one hundred percent person.
He was never sort of in-between. He was black or white; there was
no grey. And gradually there built up within him a tremendous
tension. He came to feel that he was a failure, that what he read
in the Bible wasn't his experience. And it all came to a head one
On this day he said to his wife, "I'm going into my study. I
don't want anyone to disturb me, no matter what happens. I
shall not come out of that study until I have decided one way or
the other." When he went into the study it was his determination
that either the Lord met him in a new way, or he would resign his
ministry. He was at an end of himself. He spent much of
the day just quietly, and then he began to read Romans, the letter
to the Romans. Nothing happened. He knew it very well. He had
taught this letter again and again. He had given outlines of this
letter, so it was not new to him, until he came to Romans chapter
6. And then he himself said, it was as if heaven opened, and light
shone into his heart and for the first time he understood that he
was crucified with Christ and that the Holy Spirit was within and
upon him to reproduce the nature of the Lord Jesus. It totally
revolutionised Theodore Austin-Sparks. He often used to say
that his whole worldwide ministry, any authority he had, any
influence he had, all stemmed from that day.
When he emerged from that study, Theodore Austin-Sparks was a
changed man. Now he began to preach Christ, he began to magnify
the Lord Jesus, and the church came into an altogether new
experience. He couldn't explain the Cross of Christ to begin with,
but a little while afterwards he began to teach "the way of the
Cross", as he called it. It was at this time that he came into
touch with Jessie Penn-Lewis.
God raised up Mrs Penn-Lewis as one of the most remarkable
teachers in the last century and the beginning of this. She had
also had an experience of the Cross and of the Spirit of the Lord,
and she had been used by the Lord to bring servants of the Lord all
over the English-speaking world into a new experience of the Lord
Jesus. Of course you will
be interested: Margaret Barber came into great blessing through
Mrs Penn-Lewis. [Margaret Barber was a British missionary to China,
mentioned often by Watchman Nee. This
was relevant because the message was being spoken to a Chinese audience.]
Now, Mrs Penn-Lewis saw Mr Sparks as the heir to the whole work
that God had given her. And Mr Sparks became a very greatly
loved and popular preacher and teacher in the "Overcomer
Movement" as it was called.
But the experience that Mr Sparks had, instead of opening every
pulpit in the land to him, closed most of the pulpits.
They all became very afraid of Mr Sparks. They felt that
something strange had happened to him; that he was dangerous,
unbalanced - something... wrong. And so there began an antagonism
toward Mr Sparks in the Christian world.
Then came a great crisis
in the Baptist Church of which he was pastor. By this time nearly all the deacons had become believers, and not
only believers, they had come into a real experience of the
indwelling Christ and of the way of the Cross. At that time, in
about 1920... in the middle of the 1920's, the World Baptist
Federation launched a year that they called: "Make More Baptists
Year". Now, this Baptist Church of which Mr Sparks was pastor, they
had no interest in making more Baptists! To bring more people to
the Lord Jesus, that they would have been one hundred
percent for, but to make more Baptists... they didn't feel at all
happy. So they wrote to the Baptist Union and said that they could
not be part of this "Make More Baptists Year". Then the Baptist
Union said, "We have the title deeds to the church property and
the title deeds to the house that you live in. If you do not fall
in step with us, we'll put you out!" And so came a clash. Then Mr
Sparks was put out in one week! I think at that time there were
four children, and he was put out with his furniture on the road,
and the church was shut out of the church premises.
At that time a titled lady, who had been greatly blessed through
the ministry of Mr Sparks, and who was serving the Lord as a
missionary in India, she was in England at the time and she heard
that there was a big school, a boy's school on the top of Honor
Oak hill and that it had been vacated. And she bought the whole
property and gave it to the church. And thus there came into
being the Honor Oak Christian Fellowship and Conference Centre.
This was the place where all these conferences were held three or
four times a year, to which people came from all over Britain, and
indeed the English-speaking world. Mr Sparks' ministry went from a
local ministry, to a national ministry, to an international
It was in 1937-38 that our brother Watchman Nee first came into
touch with brother Sparks. He had read some of brother Sparks'
ministry and had been greatly blessed. He believed that there was
an identity of outlook and of understanding. And in 1937 he came
to Britain and Scandinavia with a special objective of meeting
brother Sparks. He came to Honor Oak and he met with brother
Sparks and they fellowshipped together. Brother Sparks by nature
(I will explain in a moment) was a very British person - very,
very superior and reserved - and he kept brother Watchman Nee
waiting for two days before he finally had fellowship with him. It
was an amazing time.
The Exclusive Brethren, who had invited brother Watchman Nee to
come to Europe, were
horrified that Watchman Nee went to Honor Oak. And after
challenging him, they then had a special meeting and withdrew from
him. In other words: they expelled him, they excommunicated him.
Many years later I met one of the brothers who was at the meeting
that excommunicated brother Watchman Nee. He didn't understand at
the time, but he said to me, "I had a feeling that it was the end
of the Exclusive Movement." And so it turned out to be.
Mr Sparks then, of course this whole work that was so amazing, in
those early days of the conferences, people used to have tremendous
experiences. I met with many of those who had those experiences. I
remember Dr Thornton Stearns, who also had come, actually come to
know the Lord through Marie Monsen in China. He went out as a missionary to China, and he
wasn't even saved! And through Marie Monsen he came to
know the Lord, he and his wife, and then, as you know, they
became co-workers with brother Watchman Nee. But you know, Dr
Thornton Stearns, he told me that when he went to one of these
conferences, after one of the meetings the Lord would not allow
him to sleep. "All night long", he said, "the Lord
wrestled with me". And he said, "It was just like Jacob, when
the sun came up, I was a different man." This could be
multiplied thousands of times! People had
tremendous experiences of the Spirit of the Lord and of
the Cross of Christ. It wasn't just preaching,
something happened through the preaching.
Then the war
came, the Second World War, and this brought an end to the
conferences. The whole of Europe and the world was in turmoil.
Mr Sparks went to Scotland, and his closest co-worker, brother
Patterson, he stayed in Honor Oak. At the end of the war they
came together and then they had perhaps one of the most blessed
periods in the history of that work and ministry. From 1946
until 19... I would say about 50 or 51, again very powerful
Now, Mr Sparks, as I have said, was a very, very reserved man. He
was what we'd call a dour man; economic in words. He could sit
with people and not say a word for an hour; not one word and he
was perfectly at peace, but the others were not at peace! You
know, they went, "Why doesn't he speak?" He was a very
extraordinary man in this way. He was also a very suspicious man,
he did not easily trust other people. He was a very gifted
man; very good to look at: tall, very good-looking, very wonderful
Brother Patterson was altogether different: he was very
warm, he could talk and talk and talk and talk. Anyone
could talk with him. He loved everybody; he trusted people and
when he and brother Sparks were together, it was a marvellous
partnership. They were quite different and they trusted each
other. And therefore, in the work and in the fellowship, there
were many problems, some of them due to Mr Sparks' temperament,
but brother Patterson always explained brother Sparks to
the people and explained the people to brother Sparks. Thus there
was a very good relationship. But then, suddenly, brother
Patterson went to be with the Lord and his place was never taken.
Others tried to take it, but it was not the same. This began a
whole period of unrest and problem within the fellowship and the
Now I must also tell you something else about brother Sparks. He
looked marvellous, but actually he suffered very much from
ill-health. I think because he was outwardly a very reserved man,
and very quiet man, inwardly much happened. The result was
he had a certain kind of condition that meant that the whole of
his stomach lining was covered by ulcers. This meant he had very
great indigestion and much pain and he always looked a kind of
yellow-green colour. Some of the greatest conferences were
actually given at his greatest point of pain and trouble. One of
them, now in a book called "The Battle for Life",
he actually gave sitting in a chair.
Many years later, when I was in Switzerland and sharing a
conference with brother Sparks, an old couple came into the
meeting. They were German missionaries. They hadn't seen Mr Sparks
for something like forty years. They had been serving the Lord in
Brazil. And then they came in, and I shall never forget, brother
Sparks spoke no German, so they spoke to me: "Is it brother
Sparks?" they said. "Of course it's brother Sparks!" "But," they
said, "he looks thirty years younger than he did forty years ago!
When we saw him, he looked so old, so green, so thin, so
weak." Mr Sparks had a very remarkable operation, where they take
the whole inner lining of the stomach and pull it up, and peg it
up, and give you like a new stomach, and when that happened, Mr
Sparks did not have the same problems. He always had to be
The enormous hostility towards Mr Sparks was something
unbelievable! It was everywhere in Christian circles:
books were written against him, pamphlets were written against
him, he was spoken against from pulpits, he was named as the great
trouble-maker, as a divisive element, as an erroneous and false
teacher. There were unbelievable stories about Mr Sparks.
I remember one brother coming to me, a good brother from the
United States, and he said to me, "How can you possibly
work with Mr Sparks?" "No problem," I said, "I have never seen
anything but Christ in him and I have never ever heard him teach
or preach anything than what is in the Word of God." "Ohhh," they
said, "he has four wives." Four wives?! Poor Mr Sparks! I mean, if
you knew Mr Sparks, one wife was enough for him. I mean, he could
not... it was laughable! I said to the brother, "If you
want to damage Mr Sparks, don't say this kind of thing; everybody
who knows him, knows it cannot be true. Talk about his
authoritarianism, talk about his suspiciousness of people. Don't
talk about this, you will never damage him this way..." [laughs].
This alienation of Mr Sparks, this, this total isolation of him
in many ways was the hardest thing that Mr Sparks ever bore. Year
after year he went to Keswick. There, across the platform, it
said: "All one in Christ" and then he would go up to those men he
used to work with and put out his hand and they would turn away.
They wouldn't shake his hand; they wouldn't speak to him. They
would have nothing to do with him. This, brother Sparks found the
hardest thing of all to bear.
The problems in the fellowship at Honor Oak grew. The conferences
ceased. You will remember that our brother Mr Sparks came to
Taiwan, twice to Taiwan. He was so thrilled on that first visit.
One of the reasons was there were so many people and they
wanted to hear, and they didn't have hostility, and they would
take in every word. It meant a tremendous amount to brother
Sparks. But then in the second visit came this terrible problem
with our brother Witness Lee.
Now, Mr Sparks, his strong point was the spiritual nature of
everything. His weak point was the practical earthly expression of
those spiritual principles. And it was on the whole matter of
locality that was the problem. Our brother Mr Sparks said to me,
"There is such a thing as a local church, there is." But
he said to me, "The way our brother [Lee] is teaching it, it will
be like a denomination, with a Vatican and a Pope. This is how it
will end." I'm afraid he has been proved right. That is precisely
what has happened. He said to me, "We can take the church, which
is the Body of our Lord Jesus, joined to the Head at the right
hand of God, and reduce it to something earthly, make it a human
organisation." This division in many ways was tragic. Of course,
there were many other things too.
At the end of our brother's life he really was very much like the
apostle Paul in his last letter, or one of his last letters, the
apostle Paul said, "All the churches in Asia are turned away from
me." At the end Mr Sparks was alone. There really were very few
people with him. When it came to the end, he insisted on moving
from Honor Oak, where his home was. His home was still there, but
he insisted on being taken by car to Richmond into the home of his
daughter, Elizabeth. And there he went to be with the Lord.
Now, there were some very real influences in Mr Sparks' life.
There was Dr Campbell Morgan. I think he gave Mr Sparks very much
in Bible outline, if you like, almost the technology of the Bible.
Then there was Dr F. B. Meyer. Now, F. B. Meyer meant a lot to
brother Sparks. He, really in many ways, brought Mr Sparks into a
much deeper way with the Lord. And there was Mrs Penn-Lewis. She
was an enormous influence on Mr Sparks. And then there was A. B.
Simpson. You sing quite a few of the hymns of Mr Simpson. Mr
Sparks used to say, of all the preachers on the American scene, of
all the preachers he ever knew when he was young, A. B. Simpson
was the most spiritual and the most powerful. It is interesting.
My estimate of Mr Sparks (I almost dare not to say too much) but my
estimate of Mr Sparks is that he was a lone, prophetic voice in a
spiritual wilderness. When you take Europe, Scandinavia, Britain -
basically the English-speaking world from 1920 to 1960 - it was a
wilderness. Very little happened. Of course, it was a period of
almost two world wars of tremendous turmoil and very much
institutionalisation and traditionalisation of the churches. The
voice of brother Sparks was like a voice, a prophetic voice calling
God's people back to reality, calling God's people back to the
genuine, calling God's people back to the Lord Jesus.
It is very interesting that much of the phraseology of Mr Sparks
at the time seemed almost unique to him. For instance, he spoke
about the "body"; the Body of the Lord Jesus. I can remember
thinking, "The body? The body of the Lord Jesus? What is
he talking about? Nobody talks about the body of the Lord
Jesus! Nobody talks about it!" - then he said, "This is the
church. We're the church!" The church is somewhere you left your
umbrella, or you lost your handbag! Who understood the church as
the Body of Christ? Yet now this term 'the Body' is a
household word everywhere over the whole world, much due to the
charismatics. Nevertheless, something has happened and it's quite
Or take these other words: authority and submission. Whoever
thought or talked of authority and submission? Now, oh it's
everywhere, of course sometimes falsely. What about "body-life"?
Body-life! Whoever talked of such a thing as "body-life"? This was
one of Mr Sparks' favourite phrases: "body-life". "Are we
experiencing body-life?" It's now everywhere. Or I think of
another little word: "relatedness", belonging to one
another, being related to one another, being members of
Christ and members one of another. Do you know, all these things
were thought to be so strange! No one spoke about these
You know, in the Christian world you talked about conversions,
you talked about Bible studies, you talked about prayer, you
talked about witnessing, you talked about missionary challenge and
call. And if you went very high, you talked about the victory
life. That was it! You never talked about the church; you never
talked about the Body; you never talked about authority; you never
talked about relatedness. That was all something unknown. Now,
what I'm saying is this: since 1960 these things have gone all
over the world. Brother Sparks was a lone prophetic voice. And I
think, like all real prophets, he was alone, isolated, spoken
against - basically, rejected.
Now, what are the emphases in his ministry? I took five of the
titles of his books. The first one is this: "The
Universality and Centrality of the Cross". For Mr Sparks, everything
began with the Cross and came through the Cross, and nothing was
safe apart from the Cross. This emphasis in his ministry was one
of the most powerful emphases. He said, "No child of God
is safe till he has laid down his life. No servant of God's
service is safe till that servant of God has laid down his life.
No fellowship of God's people is safe until they have laid down
their lives. Everything comes back to the altar." This was
one of the emphases of his ministry.
Then a second emphasis was: The
Pre-eminence of the Lord Jesus. This was something... well,
you had to know Mr Sparks to really appreciate this. For him, the
Lord Jesus was the beginning and the end of everything. He was the
Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the
last. He saw everything in Christ. He believed the whole
new creation was in Christ. The new man was
in Christ. Everything was in Christ. This was a
tremendous emphasis in his ministry. "Where was the Lord?" he
would say. "Where is the Lord in this person's life? Where is the
Lord Jesus in this person's work? Where is the Lord Jesus in this
person's ministry?" He used to say, "If you and I want to come
right through to the throne of God, there is only one thing we
need to do: Give the Lord Jesus the place the Father has given
Him. This is the way to be preserved from error,
from compromise, from backsliding, from beginning in the Spirit
and ending in the flesh."
Then there was a third emphasis:
"God's Spiritual House".
He saw the church as God's spiritual House. He saw the
church as the
Bride of Christ and the Wife of the Lamb; as the Body
of the Lord Jesus. His understanding of the church was overwhelming.
Anyone who heard brother Sparks expounding the church from the
Word of God was left almost, you would say, breathless. It was such
a vision, such an understanding. He believed that the
House of God, God's spiritual House of which you and I are living
stones built together, we are to grow into a holy Temple of the
Lord, a Home of God in the Spirit. "This," he said, "is the heart
of history. This is the heart of redemption." This is where he
used to say, "There is something bigger than salvation". Ohhh!
People used to get so
angry with him! "How could he say there is something
greater than salvation? That is un-evangelical! It's not right!
It's not Biblical!" Mr Sparks always said salvation is not an end,
it is a
means to an end. The end of the Lord is His dwelling
place. The end of the Lord is His spiritual House. The end of the
Lord is His Home in the spirit. And our salvation is a means to
put us into that: God's spiritual House.
And then, fourthly, there was another emphasis in his ministry:
"The Battle for Life".
He used to say, "If there is spiritual life in you, all hell
will come out to extinguish it. If there is spiritual life in your
ministry, all hell will come out against it. If there is spiritual
life in our fellowship, all hell will come out against it. We have
to learn how to fight the good fight of faith and lay hold
on eternal life. We have to learn how to keep in Life!"
He used to say again and again, "Everything to do with God
is Life, Life! Life, and more Life, abounding Life. Not death.
Life! Even the death of the Cross, is to bring us into Life, and
the more we know the death of Christ, the more we shall know the
Life of Christ! Therefore this battle for Life." This was a very
real emphasis in our brother's life. Many of us probably owe more
to him on this matter than anything else: how to stand;
how to overcome; how to lay hold; how to
press on. It is a battle for Life, but the Lord is
And then lastly, there was yet another emphasis. It is in a
little book called "In
Touch with the Throne". This is all to do with intercession.
Our brother Mr Sparks used to say, "The real calling of the church
is to intercession. Intercession is far more than prayer. Anyone
can pray - only those who've grown up can intercede. You cannot
travail if you're a baby. You have to have a certain minimal
maturity, and then you can conceive, then there
can be travail, and then there can be burden." This
emphasis on intercession, he believed that real overcomers are
always intercessors. They know how to intercede.
And then he would say, "Intercession doesn't require your lips, it
requires your whole; all of you: spirit, soul and body. It
doesn't require ten minutes of the day or an hour, nor even an
hour in the week, nor even an hour in the month. It requires you,
twenty-four hours of every day, of every week, of
every month, of every year. This is unceasing
These were the emphases in our brother's ministry.
Now, our brother had some... more than a few, faults. I said to
the folks in Taipei once when I was talking with Miss Elizabeth
Fishbacher, I said to her, "Did brother Watchman Nee have any
faults?" And I remember Elizabeth Fishbacher looking at me and
saying, "Faults? Brother Watchman Nee have faults?" and I
thought, "Oh, she's going to crush me." And then she said,
"Brother Nee was a
great man with great faults. The greater the man,
the greater the faults." Our brother Mr Sparks was a truly great
man, and he truly had great faults.
I've spoken of his suspiciousness. This was a real weakness. Mr
Sparks just did not trust people. And then another weakness was he
was totally British. Now, you Chinese will understand that this
can be a weakness, to be totally British! The British (like the
Chinese) the British always felt that the temperament of the
kingdom of heaven is basically British, and that to be changed
into the likeness of the Lord Jesus means that you must be changed
into the likeness of the British! Basically, it was a real
Mr Sparks was so thankful that he was born British. With it came
a kind of imperialism. It was a weakness. He felt that the Latin
peoples had very great weaknesses, and that the Asian peoples had
very great weaknesses, and that the Jews had enormous weaknesses.
He was British! It's very hard for us in the world we live in now
to understand that there were people who really believed that this
was the most tremendous thing: to be British. This was another
weakness in our brother.
Then our brother had another weakness: he was a very isolated
man. And it is very interesting: he loved America and the
Americans. And for us in Britain it was always a cause for
amazement. He was as different to Americans as it was possible to
be! He always wore a tie. He always wore a suit. He was always
immaculately dressed. He always had certain manners from which he
never departed, certain regulations; and you know, the Americans to
us were quite different! He would never sit with his legs
stretched out. Never! He would never lie on the floor! He
would never stretch out over a whole sofa! He would never say,
"Hi!" NEVER! It was just not Mr Sparks, yet he loved the
Americans. And the reason was this: because he was so reserved, he
found the Americans with their warmth and their openness, and
their sort of... total... I can't explain it... he found he could
be himself, he could actually be himself amongst Americans.
Whereas amongst the British, he couldn't really be himself. He
always had to be, you know, the gentleman. This was a weakness.
Mr Sparks had yet one further weakness and that was his
authoritarianism. It was natural to him. It was totally natural.
He was a total individual authority and this was the problem very
much in the work and in the fellowship.
These were the weaknesses in our brother. They were swallowed up
in the Lord Jesus. The abiding impressions of our brother Mr
Sparks were not these weaknesses. If anything, these weaknesses
only threw into greater relief what God had done in him - this is
how I always will remember him.
I have, I think, received more from our brother Mr Sparks than
any other person. I remember him like this: he always
magnified the Lord Jesus - not just by word, but by life. His very
presence brought in something of the Lord Jesus. Every
time he came, the impression left with you was, "How great is the
Lord!" When he spoke, when he spoke you were left with this: "How
great is the Lord Jesus." He always magnified the Lord
Jesus. This is something so special. So few who minister leave
this impression of the greatness of the Lord Jesus. It is
something that God did in him, so that his very presence
brought the Lord Jesus in, and his ministry glorified the Lord.
This is the first abiding impression. If I was only asked to give
the one impression, this is the impression I would give. His
favourite hymn was that hymn with the refrain, "How Great Thou
The second abiding impression was: he was always pressing
on, always you got the feeling with brother Sparks, he was always
reaching out, always moving forward, never stationary, always
going on. You got this feeling with his very presence, as well as
his ministry. One of his favourite hymns... I can't find it in
your book... I'm so sorry you don't have it... it's based on one
of the great statements of one of the leading Puritans: "The Lord
hath yet more light and truth to break forth from His Word." He
used to love this hymn. We sang it so often in
conferences. "The Lord hath yet more light and truth to break
forth from His Word" and this Puritan leader said, "Let us not
stop with Martin Luther or with Ulrich Zwingli, or John Calvin or
the others. There's always more, always more, always more." Mr
Sparks used to say, "Let us go beyond John Wesley, Charles Wesley,
George Whitfield, George Fox, J. N. Darby, and then George
MuŽller, Anthony Norris Groves... Let us go on beyond!" He used to
say, "I hope people will go beyond me." Some never did. "The Lord
hath yet more light and truth to break forth from His Word" he
used to say, "You know, there's not just a second blessing,
there's a third, and a fourth, and a fifth, and a sixth, and a
seventh, and an eighth, and a hundredth, and a thousandth. Go on!
Go on into everything the Lord has for you! There's more, and
more, and more." This was the second abiding impression.
And then a third abiding impression to me is: he always
seemed to minister under the anointing. I don't think I ever
heard our brother minister other than under the anointing. Now
that is something! Some people never minister under the anointing.
Some people minister sometimes under the anointing and mostly not
under the anointing. Some people minister a lot under the
anointing and sometimes not. It's very rare to find someone who
ministers under the anointing at all times. That is a secret, a
secret that our brother had. He knew how to abide under the
anointing, not to give dead food, not to give what he thought, but
always to give what God gave him. This was how he
ministered under the anointing.
If I were to give one last impression, I would say it was a kind
of dogged determination to fulfil what God had given him. I
remember on one occasion, (I was not there, but some of my friends
were there) in India, in one of the big meetings of brother Bakht
Singh. There were 16,000 people present. No air-conditioning, no
fans, unbelievable heat, unbelievable humidity and unbelievable
dirt. And whilst our brother was speaking, he told me, he said, "I
saw a shadow coming across the whole congregation." He said, "I
began to think I was ill. What is this black shadow that is slowly
coming across all the people?" And then when it got near, suddenly
he saw people brushing off, it was an army of cockroaches,
great oriental ones! An army of them! There had been a
flood a little way away and millions of these creatures moved, and
they went over the whole congregation! And you know, our brother
never stopped. Now, like many people, he had a great horror of
cockroaches, and the Lord sent him a little saviour. As they came
nearer and nearer a little chameleon came down and climbed up on
his shoulder. It's a very slow moving creature. He went and sat up
on his shoulder. Not a cockroach came near! And he fulfilled his
ministry. Can you believe such a thing? This is dogged
determination, the best thing about the British!
And then I remember another time when I was present, our brother
got up to speak and suddenly something happened to the lighting.
It went OFF/ON OFF/ON OFF/ON OFF/ON. All in the whole conference
centre went OFF/ON OFF/ON OFF/ON OFF/ON OFF/ON for three-quarters
of an hour. And our brother just went on preaching, right the way
through the whole. I don't remember what he said, because of this
ON/OFF ON/OFF ON/OFF. I mean, it was impossible to take in what he
was saying, but I came away with such a blessing. It was the
amazing tenacity, the dogged determination! Satan was
not going to win in this meeting. He was going to fulfil
the Lord's purpose for this meeting. Interestingly, I don't think
the Lord's purpose for that meeting was the word He had given our
brother, for none of us can remember it! And the tape-recorder
went ON/OFF ON/OFF ON/OFF ON/OFF for three-quarters of an hour, but
the amazing thing: everyone was blessed, because it was the
'Battle for Life' illustrated.
These are the abiding impressions of our brother Mr Sparks. I
thank God that I knew him, and I thank God for what I've received
from him. I only pray that we might be as faithful as he.
Published with the permission of the author's estate.