I count it an extreme honor to have served alongside Steve for the past decade. It was in 1996 that my life was forever changed as a result of the Brownsville Revival. I didn’t know then just how much of a role the evangelist at the revival would play in my life. Since that time, he’s been a mentor, a friend and a fellow warrior. He will be greatly missed.
Steve once said that “a soldier is not tested in the barracks, they are tested on the battlefield.” That’s exactly where he lived his life – on the battlefield fighting hell for the lost souls of men.
These last five years the battle certainly intensified. Steve said we were watching him fight through the greatest trial of his life.
“I’m going through this”, Steve would say. “I’m coming out the other side.”
That was Steve, always the optimist in every situation. He processed everything through the lens of eternity. There were times the pain of the cancer would be so intense that he couldn’t hold it in anymore. He would cry out in agony. You felt helpless, there was nothing you could do except be at his side. He would then compose himself and ask that we not be concerned about his pain, “This is nothing compared the suffering our Savior endured on the Cross. Oh the pain, no one could imagine that sort of pain.”
Yes, Steve was an extraordinary man. The likes of which one often reads about in the journals of the great saints that preceded him. No doubt that is how history will remember him as well.
I’m going to miss the times we spent together sitting in his office as he spoke of the things he learned in the past and then we would dream of the future. He shared much wisdom during those times and I’m eternally grateful for those moments, but the most impactful thing for me was not found in what he said, but in what I saw.
For ten years I was able to see another side of the man of God. The one that lives away from the platform. I saw the kind of faithful father he was to his children, the devoted husband he was to his wife and the kind of person he was when few were looking. As impressive as he was behind a pulpit, I was even more impressed by who he was as a person.
One afternoon we sat in his office discussing a mutual friend of ours who had fallen into sin. Most wouldn’t have thought the conversation came close to venturing into gossip, I didn’t at the time. Steve stopped mid sentence and began to pray for the brother and asked Jesus to forgive us for speaking negatively. He then focused the conversation on reaching the lost. The lessons learned that afternoon will stay with me forever.
Steve didn’t have to live his message, because his message was a true reflection of his life. Just as it should be for all of us.
Steve was a man of passion so he preached with much passion. He was a man of holiness, therefore he preached about living holy before the Lord. Steve cared about the eternal souls of man, so he refused to quietly let anyone continue on their way to hell. With tears in his eyes he compelled sinners to come to Jesus in the altars of a sanctuary, and with tears in his eyes he’d plead with individuals in the streets.
I was once asked by a good friend to give three things I’ve learned from being around Steve. I’ll offer those to you here.
First, LIVE FOR ETERNITY!
You could see the mark Leonard Ravenhill had left on Steve. He lived with his eyes fixed on the next life. Everything was weighed with eternity in mind. Steve once shared a story about Leonard calling him in the middle of the night.
“What are you doing, Stevie?”
“I’ve been up praying for you for the past hour. I need you to come over right away!”
Steve said when he walked into Ravenhill’s office he was in his chair staring at the ceiling. He asked Steve to make him a sign that simply said “Eternity”. He told Steve, “when I look up from my desk all I want to see is the word ‘Eternity’”. Leonard went to be with Jesus a few weeks later.
Ravenhill’s epitaph reads, “Are the things you’re living for, worth Christ dying for?”
Steve sought to live his life in such a way. He wanted everything he did to be worthy of the price Christ paid for upon Calvary. You and I would do good to do the same.
Second, DRAW YOURSELF A CIRCLE!
I am going to miss hearing Steve ask me, “You got a minute?” For Steve, a minute usually meant at least an hour. I was always humbled that this man of God who had been used to speak to millions would take the time to spend an hour with me. Especially as the cancer progressed and the pain intensified. Here he was battling for his life, and he wanted to take time to impart into me. He did this with so many.
One of the greatest lessons he shared with me, and more importantly modeled before me was to draw yourself a circle. Wilkerson had drilled it into him. “You want to know why Wilkerson was the way he was, or why I’ve been able to accomplish so much? It’s because I learned to draw myself a circle and stay in it.”
By this he meant to literally draw a circle and place everything in that circle that the Lord has told you to do. These things you say yes to. Anything that would come your way that would take you out of your circle you say no to.
I would sit on the other side of Steve’s desk as a call would come in offering him what most would consider to be an incredible opportunity. He’d humbly decline. Why? It wasn’t in his circle. Another lesson learned.
Lastly, IT’S ALL ABOUT SOULS!
During the revival Steve often said, “You don’t see a hearse pulling a U-Haul.” He understood most people spend their lives accumulating stuff that one day would simply perish. The only thing of eternal significance is the souls of man. “People are the only thing you get to bring past the threshold of death”.
Steve sought to be responsible for delivering millions to the Savior.
He told me, “when I look out into an audience I look for the person who seems to be the furthest away from Jesus and I preach straight to them. I know if they can understand what I’m saying then everyone will understand the message.”
Every message he preached, and every interaction he had with people he saw as an opportunity to win one more soul for Christ. Jesus said, “Go!”, so Steve “Went!”
Steve was truly a battle tested warrior. A general in the Lord’s army who dared to do great exploits for the Lord. Some may mistakenly believe that the cancer won the fight, as if the enemy scored a great victory when Steve passed from this life. Oh, they couldn’t be more wrong!
The truth is the enemy lost the fight back in October of 1975 when Steve called upon the name of Jesus for the first time. The enemy then lost every day that Steve lived. The enemy lost every time a lost soul came home at the plea of this great evangelist. And the enemy will continue to lose as Steve’s legacy lives on in the lives of thousands of spiritual sons and daughters.
Today the earth feels significantly lighter as one of God’s generals, who carried such spiritual weight has exited this life and entered the next.
Though I am deeply saddened at the loss of a brother in arms, I am stirred more now to honor his legacy by living each day with eternity in mind, staying inside my circle and doing all I can to bring in the harvest.
There is a void to be filled. So much work to be done. We have no time to waste! Though no one could ever fill Steve’s shoes, each of us can strive to walk in his footsteps.
Steve lived with his eyes fixed on the finish line, let us do the same and run the rest of this race with everything we have in us. Steve would tell you that Heaven is depending on you and the world is in need of you!
Oh to have seen the moment when Steve passed the finish line and received his crown. He lived for that moment. It’s time to do the same.