The Positive Power
of Jesus Christ
by Norman Vincent Peale
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Peale's strong, clear, and loving witness to his faith in Jesus. He also relates true stories about others who have experienced the positive power of Jesus Christ. Here's a clear, vibrant witness to the saving, positive power of Jesus in people from practically every walk of life. This book compellingly reveals the reality of Christ's power at work today, through a totally commited life.
" Life-Changing Adventures in Faith "
" NORMAN VICENT PEALE says ... " Positive thinking really means a faith attitude, and only faith can turn the life around. " All his life, Dr. Peale has been leading men and women to Jesus Christ, and Christ has been transforming their lives - just as the Bible promises. In this book from Norman Vincent Peale, he tells of his boyhood encounters with Jesus Christ, and of his growth in spiritual life as he attended seminary and began his world- renowned ministry. Every chapter abounds with exciting true stories about people who have experienced the positive power of Jesus Christ. "
" Peale says, " I have always witnessed to the work of Christ in my own life, in my long ministry, and in the life experience of many with whom I have either had a pastoral relationship or have communicated by books, radio, television, public speeches, or by other methods ... [I wanted this book] to be a strong, clear, and loving witness to my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and an expression of gratitude for all He has done for me, one of the least of His servants. " "
ONE Some Early Encounters with the Power
TWO Personal Experience of the Power
THREE Deeper into the Power
FOUR Witnessing to the Power
FIVE Some Amazing Results of the Power
SIX Faith and the Power
SEVEN How the Power Came to Some
EIGHT The Joy and the Power
NINE Excitement and the Power
and the Power
About This Book
When one has published twenty-eight books it would seem that is enough. And actually I had entertained no definite thought of writing another book. But then three things happened that changed my mind and resulted in this volume.
The first was that Dr. Wendell Hawley of Tyndale House Publishers wrote me requesting an interview. I met him at our editorial offices at 747 Third Avenue in New York City. He said he hoped I would write a distinctly religious book as distinguished from the religious-motivational books which I had previously written. He seemed aware of my strong evangelical convictions and expressed the thought that a book describing the changed lives through faith in Jesus Christ which had occurred through my ministry could, perhaps, be helpful to many. Having had the feeling for a long time that I would eventually like to write such a book telling of the many persons with whom I had been involved as they experienced the saving power of the Lord, Dr. Hawley’s suggestion seemed an expression of God’s guidance.
He stated that he would like the title of the book to be The Positive Power of Jesus Christ. At first I had trouble with this title, thinking that it might be criticized as a sort of gimmicky play on the title of my book, The Power of Positive Thinking. And as one who venerates and respects Jesus so profoundly, any suggestion of “using” Him was repugnant to me. However, as I thought and prayed about the matter I reminded myself that I had lived too long to be much concerned about possible criticism, and furthermore the title seemed to say something very important; namely, that the power of Jesus Christ is indeed positive and life-changing. I decided, therefore, to go with the title, believing that it showed great respect for the beloved Master who effects a positive and powerful change within us when we yield to His saving grace.
A second reason for writing this book, if I needed a reason, is that I have always witnessed to the work of Christ in my own life, in my long ministry, and in the life experience of many with whom I have either had a pastoral relationship or have communicated by books, radio, television, public speeches, or by other methods. I felt that I would like very much for my last book (if it should be that) to be a strong, clear, and loving witness to my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and an expression of gratitude for all He has done for me, one of the least of His servants.
And, finally, I received a letter which I publish here. It is one of many letters which have come to me from time to time saying the same thing. I have never met the writer of the letter which appears below, but obviously it is a friendly and kindly suggestion which he makes. It came at just the opportune time, and not only impressed me by its sincerity and wisdom, but it also urged an action which, as I said previously, had been germinating in my mind. The letter follows:
Dear Dr. Peale,
For many years I have been receiving your literature. I have found it to be a very great help and feel that it served its purpose as a signpost pointing toward a Christian life. I just wanted you to know that God is using your work to reach the lost.
Now that I have found Christ I can understand the full meaning of your books and your monthly messages, “Creative Help for Daily Living.” Life is truly worth living using these principles.
Dr. Peale, I have been thinking that possibly you have yet to write your greatest book. If you would write concerning your relationship to Jesus Christ as your Savior and the center of your being, possibly it would tie all your works together into one understandable whole.
I can see that your writings have been aimed at the greatest possible audience and I thank you for that. Had you pushed Christ rather than His principles you would have “turned off” many people. By selling His principles you have effectively unlocked the doors for others to make an effective witness for Christ. However, now, if you can put forth Christ in one book, think how it would throw light on all your previous works.
Thank you again for your part in bringing me to Christ.
This book is my humble tribute to our Lord Jesus Christ. I wish it were more worthy, for a tribute to Him should be of exquisite quality. Yet, with all its manifest and obvious imperfections, this book is my simple offering of love to our blessed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who has done so much for me in life and in whom I trust for life eternal.
And now I am glad to present this book to you through the Foundation for Christian Living. For more than forty years this nonprofit organization which Mrs. Peale and I founded has been distributing books and pamphlets throughout the world to those who ask for them. I am constantly amazed at the way the Foundation’s work is growing, and I attribute it all to the positive spirit of my fellow workers and the positive power of Jesus Christ.
Norman Vincent Peale
Some Early Encounters with the Power
SOMETIMES AN EVENT OCCURS IN A PERSON’S life with dramatic suddenness, and as a result that person is never the same again. The experience may penetrate so deeply into personality that it leaves a permanent impression. And that powerful effect can possibly change the individual for life.
Such an unforgettable and determinative experience happened to me when I was a very small boy. It conditioned my thinking and living for a lifetime. It happened on a cold February night in a little village in the Midwest of the United States. The snow lay deep around the white steepled church. Light gleamed through the windows, welcoming the worshipers who struggled through the drifts, stamping off snow at the door. The little church was filled to the last seat, with many standing.
It was the midwinter revival series, with evangelistic preaching every night for a two-week period. “Protracted meetings,” I seem to remember they were called. The interest developed was intense, especially if the preacher, in this case my father, was well-known throughout the area as a powerful speaker motivated by a sincere faith and dedication to Jesus Christ. Since in those days there was no radio or television to compete, and, indeed, no motion picture theater, the church was the center and focal point of interest. A special series of revival meetings, long anticipated, attracted not only regular churchgoers but all others as well. Few were so irreligious as to ignore the excitement generated as the meetings progressed night after night.
I was present each night, sitting near the front with my mother and younger brother, Bob, and felt the excitement and awareness of God’s presence that developed as the revival series mounted in zeal. It was a controlled emotional content, however, for my father was suspicious of the emotionalism that sometimes prevailed at such meetings and often resulted in a falling away of people converted superficially. What he wanted was in-depth life change in which not only emotion but the mind combined in a commitment bringing spiritual growth and lifelong Christian discipleship. There was in the air the excitement of great things happening, and on one particular night something great did happen.
There was a man in the community, Dave Henderson, who was a very rough, tough character. He would go on regular drunks. Nowadays he would be considered an alcoholic. His speech was very profane and he could easily be provoked into a fight. And he had a mean streak that was revealed in violent outbursts of temper. Rumor had it that he was a wife-beater, but his sweet and dignified mate never let on that he was anything but a perfect husband.
Despite everything, there was something about Dave that was likable, and my father, a “he-man” type of minister, was rather fond of him. I recall his saying, “There is something pretty fine in that man if he would only let the Lord bring it out.” And Dave, in turn, liked my father. He would often come to church, sitting in a rear pew, and afterward say to Father, “I like to hear you talk, Reverend.” But still he went on with his life style which most charitably could be described, to use words prevalent in those days, as wicked and evil. He was the bad man of the town.
THE MIRACLE HAPPENS
Then came this unforgettable night. The meeting opened with the congregational singing of old revival hymns. Prayer was offered, the Scriptures read. Then Father went into his sermon. He was always tender and loving; most persuasive. He loved Jesus, and that love communicated itself impressively to the congregation. He told how great Jesus is; that the Savior can do the most wonderful things in even the worst lives. The sermon was thoughtful, intelligent; the message irrefutable in its logical presentation. And it was heightened by love. My father loved those people, and one by one he had loved them into the Kingdom.
He finished his sermon by giving the invitation to all who wanted to be saved and know the Lord, to be converted and have their lives changed, to come forward to the altar and receive the power, the power of Christ.
There was a moment of silence. Then I could almost feel the church shake a bit as a heavy man started down the aisle. Seated at the end of the pew, I looked back to see who it was. It was Dave, walking with a kind of determined air, quite unconscious of the stir he was creating. Tears were streaming down his cheeks. Even though I was a small boy, I was well aware that this man was deeply moved.
Reaching the altar, Dave knelt. Father knelt with him and, as he later told us, said to him, “Dave, you have been struggling against God, and that is no good. God wants you, my dear friend, and if you surrender to Him He will give you peace and joy and your life will be wonderful forever.”
Dave said quietly, “Reverend, I want Jesus. I can’t do anything with my life. I don’t want to be this way anymore.”
Father put his hand on the big fellow’s shoulder and said, “Receive Jesus Christ who forgives all your sins and makes you now His own.”
I could not hear this conversation. It was spoken in very low tones, and I report it here from memory as told to me by my father over seventy years ago. Then Dave rose and turned around to face the congregation, all of whom knew him for his bad qualities and actions. He said only, “Jesus! Thank You, Jesus!” But it was the look on his face that got me, and, indeed, everyone else. It was a look that was out of this world in its beauty. This man’s countenance was transformed, illuminated. It was beautiful. It was so incredibly wonderful that tears welled up in my eyes. The feeling I had was one of wonderment, astonishment. How could this be? Surely this wasn’t happening to this man! And just what was happening? The answer is that the positive power of Jesus Christ was happening. A man was being changed.
And Dave was changed. Some people said it wouldn’t last. But it did last. From that moment this man was totally different. He broke instantly with all his bad habits. He became a good, honorable, upright man of God. Literally he became a saint, a rugged, loving saint. And if I were called upon to name the best men, the most Christlike men I have ever known, Dave Henderson would be right up there at the top of the list.
But still, even though I was only a small boy, I was confused. How could this be–a man walks into a church one sort of man and leaves the church totally different? “What happened, Father?” I asked. “What happened to Dave in that one minute of time?”
Father smiled. “It’s wonderful, Norman; it’s all very wonderful. The power happened to him. He received the power–the positive power of Jesus Christ. He is a new man in Christ.” I can recall to this day my father repeating that glorious line from Scripture: “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Then Father added, “The fact that Jesus Christ can do this to people made me a preacher.”
And, I might add, it made me a preacher also,
So the years passed and Dave kept the faith. He walked among men as a man of God. He was beloved, even venerated. He was a blessing to everyone he met. His big head was finally crowned with snowy white hair. Love and kindness were written on his rugged countenance. Then he became ill and I received word that the end was near. I immediately went from my home in New York back to the little town where he lived to see him once more. He lay in bed, his white hair against the pillow. His giant form was now emaciated. His big hand, now so thin, was white against the sheet, and the blue veins showed clearly. We talked of the old times, particularly of my father. “Greatest man I ever knew,” said Dave. “He led me to Christ. And what greater thing can one man do for another?”
Then I asked Dave to pray for me. I knelt by the side of his bed and could feel his hand reaching for me. Presently it rested on my head. I cannot now recall just what he said and I’ve never before written this story. I only know that this was a sacred experience. I felt cleansed and blessed. I felt the Holy Presence. It was one of the few deepest and most beautiful spiritual experiences of life.
I stood to say good-bye and we both knew it was the last good-bye until we should meet in Heaven. My mind flashed back to that night so long ago, and apparently his did, too, for he said, “You were with me the night I was reborn, Norman. I’ve always loved you.”
“And I you, Dave,” I said. “You will live in my heart always.”
And so we parted for a while.
THE EVANGELISTIC CHURCH
This experience of the power enthralled me, and the emotion has lasted for a lifetime. I realized that only Jesus Christ can change weak persons into strong people. Only Jesus Christ can change evil human nature into good men and women. I was fascinated with the power, with the wonder-working power that produces changed lives, or, as I call it for the purposes of this book, the positive power of Jesus Christ. Indeed, it has to be the greatest power in the world, because it alone can change a human being, the most complicated, even perverse, of all entities. I have seen it gloriously at work in the lives of so many, some of whom I want to tell you about in this book.
I count myself fortunate to have been young in an era when there was a strong evangelistic motivation in our country. The church was dedicated to “soul winning,” as the process was then called. And great emphasis was laid upon bringing young boys and girls to Christ. Preaching was directed to that end. Sunday schools had what they called “Decision Days” and parents were never happier than when their children found the Lord.
It was a beautiful time in America. It was a religious country, genuinely so. A few writers like Sinclair Lewis and others tried to depict it as hypocritical. Undoubtedly there were some phonies. Indeed, I knew a few myself. But they were the exception rather than the rule. We were brought up to have ideals and principles, to be clean, decent, honest. Of course we were not all that perfect, but one thing is sure: we were taught to love God, to love Jesus, to love our country, to love our fellowmen. And we had a happy time. It was glorious to be young in America between the turn of the century and the twenties. That was before the church started playing down personal commitment and before the moral principles that made the nation strong and great began to be eroded. That was before prayer and Bible reading were taken out of the public schools, and before pornography became a big industry to corrupt boys and girls and pour filthy dollars into the pockets of greedy men who would debauch a nation to make a fast buck.
But God is never set aside. He alone remains. Now, happily, there is a new spiritual movement sweeping the country in the form of small spiritual groups everywhere. Once again thousands of churches are preaching and teaching the power of Christ to change lives, to bring people to peace and joy in themselves and in their families.
It was really wonderful in those earlier days how Christian parents knew instinctively, as the result of the positive power of Jesus Christ, how to deal with children. And this is a skill that we would do well to re-learn. I recall once when we lived in Greenville, Ohio, and I was an adolescent that I could not sleep and was tossing restlessly. My mother came in, sat on my bed, and asked what the matter was. I was reluctant to tell her what was on my mind, but she was the kind of mother to whom a kid could talk and I blurted out, “I have bad thoughts.” My mother was smart enough to know that this should be handled by my father, so she said she loved me and left the room.
BAD THOUGHTS ARE HEALED
Later I was awakened by my father sitting on my bed. “About those bad thoughts,” he began directly, “girls?” I nodded shamefacedly. “They are natural. We all have had them.”
“You?” I said. “You have had bad thoughts?”
“Sure. Every real boy does.”
My father had been a medical doctor before becoming a minister. Indeed, I could never quite figure where the medical doctor left off and the minister began. He proceeded to give me a medical description of the “bad thought” problem, then concluded the conversation by quoting an old saying: “‘You cannot prevent birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building nests in your hair.’ It is natural for bad thoughts to come to mind. But if your mind, acting as a judge, repels them, you are stronger thereby and should in no sense feel guilty. In fact, you have gained a moral victory. And,” he added, “Jesus is there to help you.”
Always my mother and father made us realize that Jesus was ever there to help. And other mothers and fathers were doing the same. So powerful was this Christ-centered influence that as I think back to all the boys and girls I knew in my youth, the great majority, perhaps as many as 90 percent of them, turned out to be people of the finest character. Some had spent time, perhaps, in the “far country,” but they returned, as the old parable of the prodigal son has it, to the father’s house. The positive power of Jesus Christ works with kids if they have parents who believe it, who have experienced it, and who know how to use it with their children.
One thing is sure; my parents knew how. A case in point is the day my father drove me to college. As he prepared to leave after getting me settled in my room in the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house, he said, “Norman, you have now left home for the first time. Perhaps, aside from vacations, you may never live in your old home again. Your mother and I have tried to have a Christian home. We believe it has had an influence on you. But now you are in a new world, a college world. I believe in you, that you will live straight. I hope you won’t get mixed up with women or liquor or whatever. But if you get into any kind of trouble I don’t want you to lie to me. Level with me and I’ll try my best to get you out of it by getting the problem, whatever it is, solved.” He paused; his lip trembled, and he sort of punched me in the chest. “Stick to Jesus. He will always help you.” Whereupon without another word he walked to his car, rounded the corner and, with a wave of his hand, was gone. I stood there, already homesick, but never to forget that regular guy, that sturdy Christian father, always man-to-man with his son and never forgetting Jesus.
CURE OF INFERIORITY COMPLEX
A reason for writing this book, The Positive Power of Jesus Christ, is that while growing up, my brothers, Robert and Leonard, and I were always exposed to its operation. We saw it work in the life experience of countless people who were affected by the Christian ministry of our father and mother. And in the crisis times in our own lives it was invoked by our parents, who truly believed, and logically so, that faith in Jesus Christ could bring a right outcome out of any situation.
Some time after the bad thought episode my father applied the positive power of Jesus Christ to another of my problems, perhaps the most difficult problem I ever faced as a youth: namely, my horrible inferiority complex. I was shy, reticent, shrinking, filled with self-doubt. In fact, I lived like a scared rabbit. I was bashful. This word, not used much in later years, was a very descriptive word, meaning, as it does, abashed. I constantly told myself that I had no brains, no ability; that I didn’t amount to anything and never would. I lived in a miserable world of self-depreciation. I then became aware that people were agreeing with me, for it is a fact that others will unconsciously take you at your own self-appraisal. At any rate, I was a pretty wretched victim of the inferiority complex.
One summer Sunday afternoon my father said he wanted to call on a family of his church who lived a couple of miles out of town in the country at Greenville, Ohio, and he asked me to accompany him. We went on foot, our little fox terrier, Tip, running along with us. It was a rich countryside we traveled–Darke County, Ohio–and we passed prosperous-looking farms and waved to the people, as of course we knew them all. I recall that one family persuaded us to stop for a drink of cold lemonade, it being a warm day, and then the farmer’s wife served us a heaping dish of homemade vanilla ice cream with cookies. I have eaten ice cream all around the world, but this homemade dish remains in memory over all these years as the most delectable–unforgettable.
We reached the family my father wanted to visit. There was some kind of trouble to which he brought his caring spirit and practical skills. Then we started home and he got me to talking about myself. I unloaded my problem about my inferiority feelings, which had been discussed with him on previous occasions.
My father’s medical experience as a doctor and his genius as a pastor made him an acute and competent curer of souls. His perception that abnormal guilt from the bad thoughts or wrong thinking about personality traits could be harmful made him adept in dealing with my inferiority feelings. Indeed, it was this religio-medical characteristic of my father that was influential in my own founding, years later, with the famous psychiatrist Dr. Smiley Blanton, of the American Foundation of Religion and Psychiatry, now called the Institutes of Religion and Health.
Finally we came to a place where several trees had been cut down, and we sat on convenient stumps. Father described the mechanism of inferiority and self-doubt feelings in a manner that would do credit to a modern psychiatrist. He stated that scientific treatment could probably cure me, but that such treatment was not available in our little village, and besides, it was quite expensive.
“But,” he continued, “there is a Doctor right here who can cure any disease of the mental and emotional life He has a rare and amazing power to correct our unhealthy thought patterns. And He can heal the sensitive self-centeredness that lies at the root of inferiority-inadequacy feelings.” Long afterward when I told Dr. Blanton about this treatment he said admiringly, “Your father was a genius in his insights.”
Finally Father said, “Norman, are you willing to let this great Doctor, Jesus Christ, treat you for that inferiority complex? If you will let Jesus take charge of your mind, indeed your whole life, you can be freed of this misery which, if it continues, can destroy your effectiveness.” I was profoundly impressed and said I would give my life into the hands of Jesus. Father told me to kneel down by the stump and he, too, knelt. I remember that Tip came up and licked my ear, then sat beside me. Father then committed me to Christ in a moving prayer. He then asked me to tell Jesus that I was giving myself into His hands and letting go, by an act of affirmation, all my inferiority feelings. As we walked home in the gathering twilight I felt a strange sense of peace and happiness, as though I was really on top of my problems. While I had another bout with this trouble during college days later on, the same remedy was again applied, with the result that this self-defeating thought pattern was healed through the positive power of Jesus Christ.<>
NOT ALWAYS INSTANT CHANGE
Not everyone, of course, is instantly changed or healed. Sometimes the change or healing is long coming. God answers prayer perhaps in three ways: “Yes,” “No,” or “Wait awhile.” That was true of my struggle with self-doubt. One day in college a professor took me to task in a rather forthright manner, asserting that I “disgusted” him, for, so said he, “you know this material but you are so self-conscious that you are unable to express yourself. Why don’t you get over this inferiority and be a man?”
This angered me and I left his office vowing to come back and beat him up and resign from the college. This, however, I did not carry out; he stood well over six feet and outweighed me by forty pounds. And I knew he was right. Standing on the steps of the main college building, I determined to get over this trouble then and there for good. My mind returned to the prayer by the stump, and once again I took my problem up with Jesus Christ, humbly asking Him please to give me His power over my self-defeat. He did, and at that moment power came into my life.
These early personal encounters with the positive power of Jesus Christ led me to the conclusion that if the power could work successfully in my life, perhaps I could convince others that it might work similarly for them.
Early on in my ministry I had a curious experience which caused me to believe that, perhaps through my personal witness to Christ’s healing power, I might be able to draw many to Him. I had just completed my first year in the seminary, studying to be a minister, and had returned home to Findlay, Ohio, for the summer. At that time my father was superintendent over some seventy-five churches in the area, and one of them, a country church, was without a minister for the following Sunday, the pastor being ill. Would I be the preacher in his stead?
Along about Saturday I was sitting on the porch with Mother and Father and asked if they would listen to me read the sermon I intended to give the next day. It was a very complex theological discourse, full of big words and impressive phrases. “You know,” said Mother, “you are going to speak to farmers, the finest people on earth, but most of them not too well educated.” Father was more direct. “I suggest,” he said, “that you burn up that manuscript. Just go there tomorrow and talk simply to those good people. Love them and tell them what you know about Jesus. Tell them how He has helped you personally.”
Somewhat deflated, I went next day to the church, which stood at the corner of two white, dusty roads. All around were cornfields, the corn being “knee high by the fourth of July,” as the old saying goes. I felt inadequately prepared. The church was full, the people all in their Sunday best. I rose to speak and began telling of the various times in my life when Jesus had helped me. I told all about the inferiority problem and talked simply and out of my heart about the power of Christ in one’s life. I noticed that a deep stillness fell upon the crowded church, so still I could hear the buzzing of a bee that had flown in the window in the summer air.
The sermon was quite short, and following it I was invited by a nice farmer’s wife to their home for Sunday dinner. I sat with the men on the verandah while the womenfolk prepared dinner. The tantalizing aroma of frying chicken wafted to our nostrils as we talked. The farmer, a huge man, sat down in a rocking chair beside me. “You know, son,” he said, “you’ve got a powerful lot to learn about preaching.”
“Yes, sir, I know that for a fact.”
“But you’re right about one thing. I’ve had that same inferiority trouble you had. I didn’t believe in myself. But I found Jesus and believed in Him, and He made me believe I could do things. I’ve loved Jesus ever since. So just stick to Jesus and tell people about His power.”
Years later I wrote a book and called it The Power of Positive Thinking. It came out of my own struggles to find myself. And then I remembered that fine old Midwest farmer whom Jesus also helped to find himself. Now here I am writing a book which also goes back to my early encounters with the power, the amazing grace of Jesus. And I call the book The Positive Power of Jesus Christ because the power of our Savior to change lives is a positive, marvelous fact; indeed, the greatest fact of all.