Fire Extingushers, Books and Proverbs. The George Verwer transformation

It is our daughter Christa’s birthday and I want to dedicate this chapter to her. One of my many failures in those early days was to not be there in the hospital in Leigh, Lancashire when she was born. Drena was there! I was coming in from meetings from somewhere overseas and did not quite make it to the mega event.

We named her after Christa Fisher from what was then East Germany, who became Mrs. Ray Eicher. They were for years along with Alfy Franks, the leaders of the work in India. Christa had come to Jesus in the early days through our ministry in Madrid where we first lived when we came to Europe in the fall of 1960. Ben, our first son was born shortly after that.

In the summer of 1957 three of us were planning to go to Mexico to distribute literature and reach people with the Gospel. We did not go until around mid-July as Dale Rhoton was studying at Wheaton Summer School and Walter Borchard who had been my Maryville College roommate and I were selling Christian books door to door in my home area of northeast New Jersey. I had been selling fire extinguishers in that area for a number of years and that business was going great. I would light a fire in a pan in front of someone’s house while they watched me put it out with this little Presto Fire Extinguisher. I soon had lots of other people selling them as I sold at a big profit both wholesale and retail. My boss was a Jewish man, Mr. Finklestein in Manhattan and it was special for someone aged 16 to go and meet him. He was so happy about my sales that he made me the exclusive agent for Bergen County and so I officially registered my company, Bergen County Sales Company. It was all going great until Jesus came into my life and led me into the “Eternal Fire Extinguishers” business. The summer of 1955 and 1956 right after my conversion it was fire extinguishers, but by 1957 it was Bibles and Christian books and soon I would be starting a mission called, Send the Light.

It was the summer of 1957 that Walter Borchard, Dale Rhoton and I were preparing to go to Mexico to evangelize. I had studied Spanish both in High School and my first year of college where I met Walter, my roommate, and Dale who became very quickly a strong godly influence in my life.

Dale was at Wheaton Summer School and we were in New Jersey selling Christian books door to door both to get the message out and to earn money for the trip. I remember well the lady in North Haledon who bought a lot of books making me very happy. We were also trying to earn money to get to Mexico. I think she could tell that I was big on zeal but maybe weak on wisdom and so she challenged me to read the “wisdom” book of Proverbs in the Old Testament. I had been slowly making my way through the Old Testament, but not sure I had got that far. She said something I have never forgotten, “A Proverb a day will keep the devil away” and then showed me in the Bible that there were 31 chapters, one for every day in the month. You can be sure I have been in the Proverbs ever since. Little did I know what God had ahead for me and how much the exhortations and wisdom of this book would help me in my 46-year pilgrimage as leader of Send the Light which later in Europe became Operation Mobilisation.

What are some of the highlights that hit me hard? Here are some of the main themes and highlights.

1. Victory over lust:

There are hundreds of verses about sex in the Bible and some of them seem pretty wild and out of the box, like Proverbs 5:18,19: May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer— may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love.

Little did I realize as a young Christian, so hungry for God and so radically committed to Jesus and His Word, that I would battle with this all my life. Before my conversion I had gotten into it in a small way always believing it was wrong, but only at conversion did I get the strength to battle and defeat this in my life. At that time I did not think I had even seen any sort of hard porn image, but I am sure without Jesus I would have gone down that road. Again and again I would read Proverbs 5, 6, and 7 and verses like these and other similar teaching scattered throughout the Bible, and that laid a solid foundation for the lifelong battle with lust: All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose . . . Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death (Prov. 7:22,26,27).

We never dreamed at that time that this would also lead us to become one of the major distributors of the Bible and books on this subject in many languages around the world. The chapter on this in my book, Drops from a Leaking Tap is one of the hardest things I ever allowed into print which first came out as a magazine article.

2. Sins of the tongue

This is one of the big themes of Proverbs. Just try on these verses for size!

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up
anger. The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the
mouth of the fool gushes folly. The eyes of the LORD are
everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.
The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue
crushes the spirit (Prov. 15:1-4).
Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and
discerning if they hold their tongues (Prov. 17:28).
Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep
themselves from calamity (Prov. 21:23).

I discovered the hard way how easy it is for characters like me to hurt people with an unkind word and in my case, the one I have hurt the most is my own wife in our 55 years of marriage together. Due to God’s work of grace in my life, before I was even married, I was getting a very high level of victory with what was coming out of my mouth and the “revolution of love” that I wrote about was a growing reality in me. Through reading books like Calvary Road by Roy Hession and Humility by Andrew Murray and many more, I learned how to humble myself, repent and apologize.

I realized that it was often pride that would keep me from doing that and at a young age I declared WAR on all forms of pride. Verses like Galatians 2:20 became part of my spiritual DNA and the lack of its emphasis today in some churches, and even among some leaders, is one of the present-day weaknesses that concern me the most. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20).

Billy Graham again was a huge help to me with his powerful messages of “The Seven Deadly Sins” and other radio sermons that I also got in printed form and read and distributed. “The Seven Deadly Sinshit me so hard that I can tell you when and where I read it: 8 Tasso Road, Fulham, London. We first lived there in a one bedroom flat that Hoise Birks talks about in his autobiography, A New Man. It was February 1962 and we had just arrived in the UK and the name Operation Mobilisation was being used for the first time.

3. Laziness:

I remember at an OM Conference in India back around 1967 that I asked people to share their biggest struggle in the work and to my surprise they said laziness. I think especially because of the extreme heat this became even a bigger problem and I experienced some of it myself. The early reading of Proverbs again had laid the foundation and before I was 20 I had declared total war against lack of discipline and laziness in its many forms. Try these verses for size!

Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labour.
The lazy do not roast any game, but the diligent feed on
the riches of the hunt (Prov. 12:24, 27).
One who is slack in his work is brother to one who
destroys (Prov. 18:9).
Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless go hungry.
A sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he will not even
bring it back to his mouth! (Prov. 19:15, 24)
The sluggard says, “There’s a lion outside! I’ll be killed in
the public square!”
Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve
before kings; they will not serve before officials of low
rank. (Prov. 22:13,29)

I was fortunate in my childhood to have a very hard-working father and he taught me well in that biblical ethic. I had to learn again the hard way how to be patient with those that did not have that ethic and that just working hard for even one day would be quite a task for them. This strong emphasis on work and discipline could lead people into pretension and a sort of double life. People would behave one way when no one was watching, but quite differently when someone especially on the team was watching. Later they would feel condemned and that could lead to all kinds of spiritual and emotional confusion. This is why again and again our whole movement, and my own life, was rescued by radical GRACE. Be sure to read Randy Alcorn’s book, The Grace and Truth Paradox.

4. Anger:

I started to get into fights at a young age, once even with a girl who sort of beat me up. I remember forming a little gang on my street in Wyckoff, NJ when I must have been around 12 years old. We fought with acorns that fell off the trees. Albert led the other gang and we were enemies. I wrote the most popular swear words of our day on the side of his big white house in black paint. Shirley, the girl across the house must have seen me and told my dad. He really did not appreciate this early outbreak of art and I had to go and paint over it. It seems funny, but anger is not funny and it could have destroyed my life.

I remember visiting a man in prison who had killed a man. He went to his girlfriend’s house by surprise and found another man with her. In a burst of anger, he killed him on the spot. When I met him he had found forgiveness in Jesus and was pressing on in prison sharing his faith.

Though I had a high level of victory in this important area I also had my failures which to this day I remember well. Even as a child down in my heart I never wanted to hurt anybody or anything. I felt bad when I killed a squirrel by mistake with my BB gun or was it my bow and arrow, I cannot remember. I felt bad and gave the little animal a proper burial. Impatience, often combined with anger in reacting to something, has been one of my weaknesses, but I have never given up the fight and learned the reality of 1 John 1:8–10: If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

And the next verse in chapter 2:1 & 2: My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

I feel so strongly about this that I urge people to never marry someone who does not have victory over anger, and if the person has had major anger problems in the past there is a high chance that after marriage it could flare up again and there will be physical violence. Domestic violence even among those who claim to follow the Lord is one of the sins that the church has often been very gifted at covering up, especially if it’s a deacon, elder or even the pastor or worship leader. If you are failing a lot in this area you need to get help. Just reading Proverbs will not be enough. You need help which will always include repentance and walking in the light.

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin (1 John 1:5–7).

There is so much more on all kinds of vital subjects in this book and one of the main reasons for this chapter is to get you into reading it regularly and dealing by faith with every issue that the Lord speaks to you about. I hope I get to hear from some of you who do just that. ( I hope you also will read 2 Timothy 2:2 and share what you have learned with others who can pass it on to others. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.

I recently did a television series on the book of Proverbs with Richard Bewes and Paul Blackham that also will be on DVD around the same time this book is published. I hope many of you will be able to watch it. Also this year a film is being released of my life story which fits in very well with what I have tried to share in this book. More of what I have written will become, I hope, even more, alive and used by the Holy Spirit.

George Verwer is the founder of Operation Mobilization. Renew In Knowledge appreciate his permission to let us publish this chapter from his best seller book Messiology. Check out Mr.Verwer’s website for updates and many other resources.

Cross references:

A. Proverbs 6:6–11; 20:4

B. Proverbs 6:8; 30:24–25

C. Proverbs 6:8; 10:4

D. Proverbs 6:9; 24:30-34; 26:13–16

E. Proverbs 6:10; 24:33; Ecclesiastes 4:5

F. Proverbs 6:10–11; 20:13; 24:30–34