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When You’re Tired of Working, Think of John Wesley

When I grow weary of writing or working, I always remember evangelist John Wesley:

John Wesley averaged three sermons a day for 54 years of preaching – a total of more than 44,000 times. In doing so, he traveled by horseback and carriage more than 200,000 miles, or about 5,000 miles per year.  During all this traveling and preaching, he still managed to write and publish a 4 volume commentary on the whole Bible, a dictionary of the English language, a 5 volume work on natural philosophy, a 4 volume work on church history, histories of England and Rome, grammar books in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, and English; 3 works on medicine, 6 volumes of church music, 7 volumes of sermons and controversial papers. He also edited a library of 50 volumes known as the “Church Library”.

At age 83 he was angry to discover he could not write more than 15 hours a day without hurting his eyes, and at 86 he was ashamed to admit he couldn’t preach more than twice a day. During that 86th year he preached in almost every shire in England and Wales, and often rode 30-50 miles a day.

Wesley said, “If I had three hundred men who feared nothing but God, hated nothing but sin, and were determined to know nothing among men but Jesus Christ and him crucified, I would set the world on fire.”

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  1. I don't think anyone is going to deny Wesley's amazing work, and how much God used him. I think God uses our dyfunctions, and works through them. 

    But that does not make it right.

    Would you take advice from a 48 year old man who had an awful marriage, and had never had kids????  Maybe, if the advice was sound….. but you wouldn't reccomend his lifestyle to anyone…..

  2. What did his son think of him? How much time did he spend with his wife?

    I dont want to cast dispersions, when maybe its not true…..But I think too many ministers might read this and cast what is really important aside to lay their lifes out on the altar of false guilt……

    if he is writing for 15 hours a day….that does not leave a lot of time for kicking the footy with his son, or listening to whats happened in his life of his wife that day.

  3. Mark, I agree 100% with you.  Good to know that works based faith wasn't overlooked entirely after The Reformation, eh? Seriously, that is a bit of an overstatement for me to make…I am curious to know with all the traveling, preaching, writing and editing he did I am curious to know what sort of relationships he had, if any, with his family.

  4. I think we’re missing the point here. Everyone has an individual calling from God to do a specific work. And Jesus says that we must love him above all others, including our family. Now this does not mean that we abuse our family in the name of God, but we must be about doing the work God has called and compelled us to do and when we are He will provide for all else, especially our family. I can speak to this because I am a “Preacher’s Kid” who often wished my dad was present because he was so busy. I used to resent him for that, but as I got older I began to realize God’s calling on his life. We had great moments at times and then there were others where I didn’t take advantage of spending time with him. Though emotionally I may have been wanting at times, he made sure my physical needs were met. And now as adults, our father-son relationship has really begun to grow strong. There may be some wounds there when I look back, but God has brought healing. With that said, yes there are plenty of preacher husbands/fathers who hide behind their pulpits and conferences when that’s not their particular calling from God. Quite a few survey the landscape of preachers and figure that they have to do what everyone else is doing. But this is a tragedy. Proclaimers of the Gospel DO NEED BALANCE and they also need communication with their wives and children. Being married myself and in ministry, I seek to act out God’s will for my life which includes balance. I think the main point of the article Phil is sharing with us is how often we live so below our potential – how often we procrastinate and make excuses for why we don’t or can’t do… and then we see this man who does not know the meaning of the word “retirement” who seeks to work to his fullest potential to impact the world around him for Christ and to please the Father. In this specific case, I don’t think it has so much to do with “salvation by works” as it does “fulfilling one’s mandate from God.” Man, there is so much that I need to do… that does fall within the area of my calling from God… places where I’ve missed the mark. There are also things that I have done and been faithful in word and deed. Remember, there was only one John Wesley and there is only one of us. We are not perfect and make mistakes, but even this is no real excuse. What are we truly doing with our lives that matter on an eternal scale? Are we becoming the very person God has created us to be? Or are we hiding behind busy actions or procrastination? God bless.

    Allen Paul Weaver III
    author, Transition: Breaking Through the Barriers

  5. Wesley was known to have said that he was more familiar with his Greek New Testament than his English New Testament.  I've tried for a couple of years to get my ministry friends (mostly WOF preachers) to study the Greek.  I've even offered to buy all the Greek books for them if they'd agree to study them and not a single one has taken me up on it.  

    In a previous post you came to the defense of national ministers who use ghostwriters because they claim that they can't write.  This post should be given to every single one of them.

  6. According to the regaled standard of truth and integrity, Wikipedia (, Wesley never had any children and remained single until he was 48. Apparently he was married unhappily for 15 years, which sounds about right considering how much time he'd had to get set in his ways as a single man. In any case, though he may have been difficult to live with – and many of us are – he was definitely an energetic and dedicated writer. I'm sure there's something we can learn from his example.

  7. Sorry folks, there's no justification for being a workaholic. I admire Wesley's wealth of knowledge, obvious self-discipline and dedication to the gospel, but I don't admire his choice to ignore relationships in favor of 'doing more.' I'm often guilty of it and it's never made me more 'holy' to be busy.

  8. There was no such thing as a sensitive new age guy when Wesley was galloping across the country side winning souls and changing lives. You spent an hour alone with someone of the opposite sex and it was assumed you would be getting married. Probably just about everyone found themselves married to someone they hardly knew. (Ever seen anyone smiling in old photos?) Children were seen and not heard and spent their lives in the nursery with the governess. Nobody was kicking a footy with their dad. Children would be allowed to come down after supper and shake hands with their dad before going to bed.

    So maybe we can give Wesley the benefit of the doubt and its probably just as well he didn't live in this day and age or he never would have been able to accomplish what he did. The point being that today there is so much pressure on people to be everything – a great parent, a great spouse, a great writer/pastor/business owner/whatever. We really need to ease up on ourselves and admit we can't do everything – and hire someone to clean the house…

  9. Jonathan Edward often spend the same amount of time written as Wesley did  but Edwards also was happily married with 12 children who all were believers.  If you check history all Edwards decedents are doing very well today. Edwards were often write so much that he would skip dinner with the family to keep writing this sermons. Still his wife wrote about how much she cared for him and what a good husband and father he was. God gave special grace to both Jonathan and his wife for the calling he placed on their lives. Some persons complain Wesley had no children and not married but I respond by say this is a contradiction. May of the prophets spent most of their lives single and in solitude not in deep relationships with people. The Apostle Paul and even Jesus Christ were single with no kids.

    The bible tells us to love our neighbored as ourselves. It seems to me some persons are forcing in the logic that “relationship” is the ultimate form of love. I have never read such a thing.  The greatest form of love is doing whatever it cost you, even person injury to yourself, to cause the people around you to turn their backs to this world and find true forgiveness and pleasure by knowing the Almighty God. Is this not what Jesus did? Is this not what Wesley did?

  10. Tiny correction ….In the old days, people didn't smile because they had to stay still for quite a while as the photo was taken …not because they didn't like their spouse.

  11. I have read Wesley extensively and I agree with Allen Weaver.  Some have such a specific calling, as in the case of Wesley….he was a pioneer for the American church many of us are not aware of.  The mandate of his calling was one of intense sacrifice.  There was no time for family.  The only reason he married was during an extended illness, his attending nurse fell in love with him.  Wesley was retisent but married her anyway.  It was never a good marriage.  His wife never felt called along his side and resisted Wesley's ministry at every turn.  In retrospect, his marriage was a mistake and should have remained single.  His darkest years, it is recorded, were the years immediately after his divorce.  I still think he rose above his weaknesses and fulfilled the high calling on his life.

    The evangelist Billy Sunday's advice to Billy and Ruth Graham was, "Don't make the mistake we did and not spend time with your children."  I believe at least three of Sunday's four children died tragic deaths without God.

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