Isaiah 12:2 Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.
This morning I am sharing on the life of Dwight Lyman Moody. Before this study, I knew little of Mr. Moody. I knew he was known as an evangelist, and had a school/seminary named after him. As I studied Mr. Moody’s life, I discovered a fascinating history. The main resources I used for my studies were the books, D. L. Moody: Bringing Souls to Christ by Janet and Geoff Benge, Christian Encounters: D. L. Moody by Kevin Belmonte, and a few online sources.
Moody’s Humble Beginnings
Dwight L. Moody was born the sixth child of Edwin and Betsy Moody in Northfield, Massachusetts on February 5, 1837. He grew up on a farm and his formal education ended in fifth grade. When he was four years old his father passed away, leaving his mother to raise seven boys. They were poor and had nearly everything taken from them. However, thanks to the law in Mass. creditors we’re unable to take a home from a widow. Yet the creditors took anything else they could to settle his father’s debts.
Dwight Moody’s family faced hardship. Many times the family barely had food on the table and fire wood to heat the stove. Through the help of family and hard work they survived through the hard times. This shaped the desire for young Dwight to become a successful businessman.
One day out of frustration of working on the farm Dwight, now 17, threw down his tools and began marching to the train station headed to Boston to fulfill his lifelong goal of becoming a business man and earn $100,000. During his journey to Boston, Dwight Lyman Moody changes his name to D.L. Moody.
D.L. Moody reaches Boston looking for work. He goes to work for his Uncle Samuel Holton in a retail shoe store. To keep D.L. out of trouble, one of the conditions of his employment with his Uncle was attending the Mt. Vernon Congregational Church.
Moody’s Salvation Decision
D.L. Moody did attend the church and became a part of Mr. Edward Kimball’s Sunday school class. On April 21, 1855 Mr. Moody’s Sunday school teacher visited him at work at Holton’s Shoe Store. In the stockroom of that store Mr. Kimball shared with him about the love of Christ. From that encounter D.L. Moody accepted Christ’s love and devoted his life to serve God. Author Belmonte gives two accounts from Moody’s remembrance of the event:
I used to attend a Sunday school class, and one day I recollect my teacher came around behind the counter of the shop…put his hand upon my shoulder, and talked to me about Christ and my soul. I had not felt that I had a soul till then. I said to myself: “This is a very strange thing. Here is a man who never saw me till lately, and he is weeping over my sins, and I never shed a tear about them…I don’t remember (exactly) what he said, but I can (still) feel the power of that man’s hand on my shoulder.
Years later Moody describes his salvation experience:
I remember the morning I came out of my room after I had first trusted Christ, and I thought the old sun shone a good deal brighter than it ever had before; I thought that the sun was just smiling upon me, and I walked out upon Boston Common, and I heard the birds in the trees, and I thought that they were all singing a song for me. Do you know I fell in love with birds? I never cared for them before, it seemed to me that I was in love with all creation. I had not a bitter feeling against any man, and I was ready to take all men to my heart.
Moody’s Work and Ministry
Moody continued in his work and found success in the shoe business. He moved to Chicago to further pursue his dreams of making his fortune of $100,000 in the shoe business. In Chicago in 1858, he began a Sunday school class for children in the poor areas of Chicago. He was known as “Crazy Moody,” because he was not happy with the number of children being helped. So, rather than asking the children to come to the school on Chicago Avenue, he went to them in the dark slums of Chicago. As if that is not enough to earn him the name “crazy moody,” he recruited a group of ragged boys called “the gang” to help start the mission. He also helped poor families by purchasing food, clothes, and coal to be dispersed to those in need. His ministry work grew to over 800 in weekly attendance. In response to the growth he formed a church to further meet the spiritual needs of the teens and their parents.
By age 23, Moody was earning around $5,000 per year. That may not seem like much, but $5,000 then is the equivalent of $500,000 today. In 1860 Moody leaves the shoe business to join the YMCA-Young Men’s Christian Association as a full-time evangelist.
In November 1860 Moody and his Sunday school class were visited by President Abraham Lincoln. Then a year later the Civil War began. Moody had a mix of good and bad experiences during the Civil War. Even though he did not join an army on either side, Moody joined The Christian Commission. According to Wikipedia, this organization “supplied Protestant chaplains and social workers who provided medical services and religious literature to Union troops during the Civil War. The Christian Commission was created in response to what the troops suffered in the First Battle of Bull Run. On November 14, 1861, the National Committee of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) called a convention which met in New York City. Leaders outlined the work needed to support the soldiers, the design for the United States Christian Commission, whose organization was completed next day.”
Moody was an eye-witness to the blood shed with General Ulysses Grant when the Confederate forces attacked in Pittsburg. He helped the Christian Commission gather doctors and nurses to provide medical aid to wounded soldiers on the battlefield. Later that year Moody would marry Emma Charlotte Revell. They had three children, a daughter, Emma Reynolds born in 1864, and two sons, William Revell born in 1869, and Paul Dwight born in 1879.
The Great Chicago Fire
In 1871, between the times of the birth of his two sons’ a tragedy hits the city of Chicago, “The Great Chicago Fire.” Moody was preaching in a church service and the alarms began to sound throughout the city. He continues preaching certain the fires are being controlled. Then he offers an invitation with a question to the congregation. He asks, “What will you do with Jesus?” He dismisses the congregation and the fires are wide spread. Many people lost their lives, while others were dispersed in places outside of the city. Moody was never able to follow-up with the answer to the question. From then on anytime he had an opportunity to share salvation through Christ he would press for the congregation to make a decision right then and there on the spot.
Moody’s Evangelist Work and Building Bible Schools
Moody’s evangelist work continued in the U.S. and abroad to places in England, Ireland, and Scotland. When he returned from his Great Britain travels he took his family back to his boyhood home in Northfield, Mass. There he started a school for girls, called “The Northfield Seminary for Young Women”. Later Moody added a second school for boy’s, called “Mt. Hermon School for Young Men.” Six years later Moody wanted to do something for Chicago. He establishes the Chicago Evangelization Society to train men and women in the Bible, theology, and practical ministry. The school in Chicago would later be renamed as Moody Bible Institute.
Moody’s life and ministry has profoundly affected the church. Through his evangelistic work he changed the perception of evangelist during his time. Through his preaching he focused on knowing Christ in a relationship rather than just knowing about Christ. Moody had said, “while what one believes is important, in whom one believes is of ultimate importance.”
According to Christianity Today, Moody’s theology was simple: we are ruined by sin, redeemed by the blood, and regenerated by the Holy Spirit. His messages were straightforward, and genuine. His preaching generally included three points and a story to illustrate the point. Not much different from sermons today.
As a speaker, Moody has been described as average, but the results were powerful because of God’s power working through him. As the result was many people placed their faith and trusted in Christ, rather than D.L. Moody. His ministry was a constant reminder of the need for power of the Holy Spirit. The ministry of D.L. Moody left an impression on the church in many unseen ways. First through his close friendship with F.B. Meyer, who developed fervor as an evangelist, changed the ministry of J. Wilbur Chapman. Next Chapman’s ministry impacted the ministry of Billy Sunday, who profoundly influenced Mordecai Ham. During a revival in North Carolina, Ham was the person who led Billy Graham to Christ. What a legacy of D.L. Moody’s ministry! This is a great reminder that God moves in mysterious ways.
After Moody’s death, the New York Times recognized him as a man who “did more to convert people to the profession of the Christian faith than any clergyman of his time.”
As I study D.L. Moody’s life I am encouraged that God can use an ordinary man to do extraordinary things for Him. I am also reminded of Phil. 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
If D.L. Moody was here to today to share with us about “Telling,” I believe he would first point us to the cross and our need for a Savior. We live in a dark world ruined by sin. Because we cannot be good enough, nor earn our way out of sin and into God’s grace. But it is only through the redemption by the blood of Christ Jesus on the cross, that we can be saved. Through a personal relationship with Christ you will be made new and regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Listen to one of D.L. Moody’s story’s he shared in a sermon:
THROW THE REINS TO CHRIST (D.L. Moody Illustration)
An interesting story is told of Professor Drummond. He was staying with a lady whose coachman had signed the pledge, but afterward gave way to drink. This lady said to the professor, “Now this man will drive you to the station; say a word to him if you can. He is a good man and really wants to reform; but he is weak.”
While they were driving to the station, the professor tried to think how he could introduce the subject. Suddenly the horses were frightened and tried to run away. The driver held on to the reins and managed them well. The carriage swayed about, and the professor expected every moment to be upset, but after a little the man got the better of the team, and as he drew them up at the station, streaming with perspiration, he exclaimed: “That was a close shave, sir! Our trap might have been smashed into matchwood, and you wouldn’t have given any more addresses.”
“Well,” said Professor Drummond, “how was it that it did not happen?”
“Why,” was the reply, “because I knew how to manage the horses.”
“Now,” said the professor, “look here, my friend, I will give you a bit of advice. Here’s my train coming. I hear you have been signing the pledge and breaking out again. Now I want to give you a bit of advice. Throw the reins of your life to Jesus Christ.” And’ he jumped down, and got into the train.
The driver saw in a flash where he had made the mistake and from that day ceased to try to live in his own strength.
Where in your life do you need to throw the reins of your life to Jesus Christ?
“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2
Will you trust in Jesus today?