A Day In Gainesville -- Refuge From Despair

As I had mentioned in a few earlier posts (The Five Year Pass & Formula for a Downpour), on September 5, 2006, I had the opportunity to go to Gainesville, Florida and spend several hours with Pastor Jeff Arnold. For more background you can link to the two previous posts so that I will not have to backtrack with some previous things that Bro. Arnold told us about Because of the Times.

I asked Bro. Arnold which message really stood out to him over all the years at Because of the Times. He mentioned two of them, “Refuge from Despair,” and “I Will Not Die In My Dilemma.”

When he mentioned “Refuge from Despair” I wanted to delve into that one a bit more. I do not remember exactly what year it was preached but I do remember the saber-rattling that it caused. If ever there was a message about the mysterious grace of God, this would have to be the one. I really wanted to dig this message out of the archives and listen to it again before I wrote this post but I have not been able to do so because I cannot find it.

I distinctly remember the very challenging aspect of that message. This message literally forced you into one of two categories: (1) a grace giver or (2) a grace holder. Each of these categories has high stakes and whether we willingly admit it or not, to be a giver or a holder of grace means that we will have to pay a certain price. Therein lies the great challenge. To give grace probably will mean that you will have to relinquish some of your pride and possibly a little self-righteousness. To hold grace will lead to a path of bitterness and anger that will clutch at you for the rest of your life. Somewhere you have to learn to let go. . .

When we give grace, there is that huge obstacle that we must leap over called justice. Justice demands retribution. Justice demands a penalty. Justice demands a “pound of flesh.” There is not a lot of margin of error when you begin to embrace justice. Yet, to give grace means that we are willing to grant forgiveness for the mistake and in the long run be willing to forget the injustice (this is totally opposed to justice).

However, to hold grace will become far more challenging in the long-distance of life’s marathon. As miles pile up in life, so will the difficulty to change. The further that life goes on, whatever small adjustments that were needed to have been made, that which is not changed will be drastically exaggerated in the direction of our life. To hold grace will cause you to become an angry old soul. Those who hold grace are constantly in a quarrelsome state of mind.

I asked Bro. Arnold how this message came to him and I have to admit that I was very surprised as to how the Lord gave it to him. He said that generally when he gets to Because of the Times that he may or may not have an idea of what he is going to preach. He said that for him preaching is very hard work.

In a past conversation with him, he told me that when he starts hanging around with Pastor Wayne Huntley, he gets disgusted. He told me one time that Bro. Huntley has sermons rolling out of him all the time. It doesn’t matter where Bro. Huntley is, he can preach! Bro. Arnold told me one time that they could wake Bro. Huntley up at 3:00 AM and he could preach in his pajamas (this was quite funny to hear Bro. Arnold tell it in his unique way). Bro. Arnold said that he has to work hard with his preaching. I have to admit this was refreshing for me to hear because I sweat and fret with own preaching too!

When Bro. Arnold started telling us how he “got” the message for “Refuge from Despair,” the hair on the back of my neck and my arms was literally standing up. The Spirit sort of descended on that little table there in Sonny’s BBQ while he was telling us this story.

Bro. Arnold said that he told the Lord that he needed something to preach to BOTT. He said that he was in the motel room and had been praying and reading and had stopped to get a cup of hot tea. As he was walking back from the coffee pot to the little table by the window, the voice of the Lord came to him.

He said that the Lord told him, “I have something for you to preach but you will be greatly maligned and misunderstood for the content of the message. You will have to endure much criticism for this Word but I am going to be at your side throughout all of it.”

Bro. Arnold said at that moment, he knew that he was in for one of the most life-changing events he had ever experienced. As he sat down at the table, he said that it felt like the glory of the Lord had literally filled the room. He said that he felt a strong breeze that seemed to stay in the room as God downloaded the message to him.

He said that he was directed to the following verse passage:

1 John 3:20-21 KJV For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. [21] Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.

He said that he begin to weep as never before in his life. He said that he grabbed a legal pad and started trying to scribble out his message and he said that the tears were rolling from his eyes in such a way that he could not even see. He said that through all of it the Lord directed him from one passage to another. Amazingly the prevailing theme in all of these passages was the mysterious yet overwhelming grace of God. He told us that when all of this was going on that he knew he was in for a message unlike any that he had ever preached before!

I again want to reiterate to you that while Bro. Arnold was telling us that the hair on my arms and neck was literally on end. Sonny’s was full of folks at tables all around us but we may as well have been a million miles away because I felt a majestic presence of the Lord during that time. If we had only driven down to hear Bro. Arnold tell us this, it would have been worth the trip!

Bro. Arnold said that once he got the message that he knew how radical that it was going to be and that he really begin to question God and somewhat second-guess himself. However, he went ahead and preached that message. I can still remember when he got through preaching it and the response of the whole house. There was a quietness that hung in the sanctuary at POA. Admittedly, I was still sort of young and little naïve about exactly what had occurred in that room on that night. I noticed that people were going in two directions, some were heading for the exits and some were heading for the altars.

Looking back and having Bro. Arnold share the ins-and-outs of this message with Bro. Sims and myself, there is quite a clearer understanding about what was going on during that moment. The house was being divided into grace-givers and grace-holders. Needless to say (but said anyway), this is one of the greatest challenges of our spiritual walk with God. Because there is still a flesh to contend with, there is a certain portion of us that wants to keep score. But to keep score is to become bitter! We must give grace and not hold grace. I cannot tell you how challenging that this is.

I am fearful that we Pentecostals can sometimes get so caught up in the action of worship (the feeling, the singing, excitement of worship, etc.) that we forget the mechanics of worship (Romans 12:1-2 which is living it out and fleshing it out). God is not going to judge me on all of the gifts of the Spirit that I have in my life but the fruit of the Spirit that is present in my life.

Bro. Arnold said that later on that night that some of the speakers were gathering at Bro. Anthony’s home. When he walked in the door the first person he met was David Bernard. He said that Bro. Bernard was sitting on the piano stool and when he saw Bro. Arnold come in he told him, “Bro. Arnold that was the greatest message that I have ever heard in my entire life on grace. No one has ever preached it greater or with more power than what you have tonight.” Bro. Arnold said that when Bro. Bernard told him that, he felt that maybe it was not going to be as rough as he had thought it would be. However, Bro. Arnold said that Bro. Bernard was not finished speaking. Bro. Bernard then said, “But. . . . I know the people. . . . and the people do not understand grace. . . . and what you have preached will not be received. . . nor will it be granted to you!”

Bro. Arnold said that this was somewhat disheartening to him but he thought that he would be able to make it. What he did not realize was that it was going to be a rough year. Before he got home from Alexandria, his phone had been ringing off the hook and people were leaving all sorts of messages (some derogatory) for him. He said that he had thirteen Camp-meetings that he was supposed to preach that summer and every one of them were cancelled. He said that ten districts personally called him and told him that he was not welcome to come and preach. Three districts did not even contact him on the phone, they simply mailed letters that stated that he could not come and preach that they were cancelling him for their district.

He said that people would call him on the phone and not even identify themselves and tell him that he had preached heresy and false doctrine and they would then hang up. Bro. Arnold told us that during this time that his wife was his biggest supporter.

He said that the cloud begin to lift several months later. He said that one morning he received a call and a man who had broken English came on the phone and asked, “Is this Pastor Arnold?” Bro. Arnold said that the had gotten so many calls like that before that he almost told the guy, “Yeah and you can go ahead and complain, I’ll listen.” But he said he did not say that, he just said, “Yes it is.” Then this man begin to pour out in his broken English and tears that he wanted him to know that they had shown the “Refuge from Despair” video to his church (who knows where!) and that a minister who had been backslidden for quite some time had been restored back to God and to the Church. Bro. Arnold said that at that moment the cloud begin to lift for him.

A friend of mine brought to my attention that the very next year that Bro. Arnold preached “The Greatest Need” which is being right with God. Obviously, the criticism and maligning that Bro. Arnold had been forced to endure again benefited those who were at BOTT.

I feel sure that I am going to find this message from the archives and listen to it and I may take notes from it and post them in the coming days for your benefit.

By the way, the comments have been a little dry lately. . . Is this blog helping or hurting?

ADDENDUM: Thanks for the comments. Comments from Jay Jones has helped me to find the place where you can hear this message on the Internet. It is located at here. Scroll halfway down the page and you can listen. Thanks a bunch Jay!!!!


Anonymous said…
Praise the Lord! Thanks for pointing out this incredible sermon from brother Arnold. I was able to find the sermon in streaming audio at this site... http://www.dunamai.com/real-audio-messages/messages.htm about halfway down the page.

I'm telling you... though it's years later, this message still has it's incredible power of separating the holders from the givers. I'm halfway through it while I'm writing this, and am feeling the Holy Ghost so powerful right now.

Again thanks... and yes, this blog is a blessing, brother. ;)
Mark Pryor said…
Great post.
Anonymous said…

That is incredible. I really need to listen to that message (just not now, I'm exhausted).

See you next week.
Jewel said…
Bro. Harrelson, your blog is indeed a blessing to me each time I read it. I was there at BOTT when Bro. Arnold preached this astounding message and it was life-changing for me and many of our church members. I've watched the video countless times through the years and each time, it ministers to me powerfully. Keep up the great work here on your blog! God's blessings to you.
Anonymous said…
Great Post. I enjoy your writing immensely. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said…
Great job Bro Harrelson! Please don't be discouraged by any "dryness" of comments, what you are doing, in my opinion is birthed of the Spirit. It is not going to be received by everyone. But it is fresh water in the desert. Thank you, especially for the "five year pass" portion. It really ministered to me. Great work.

J. S. Willoughby
Anonymous said…
Thanks for your thoughtful reflections on preaching. No doubt many have been blessed. Keep it up.

Phil LaRue
Anonymous said…
Greetings, Bro. Harrelson, in Jesus lovely name.

Your blog is indeed a great blessing. I just finished listening to both parts of Bro. Arnold's "Refuge from Despair" message. What a great reminder and exhortation to God's ministers to know His grace for themselves. And to pass on this revelation to those who sit under their ministries.

Thru your posts, we who are afar off (geographically) can benefit from the wisdom that you pass on. I look forward to your posts. (The reading lists have been great for me personally)

Thank you.
Home missionary in Maine.
Eric Morley said…
I enjoyed the post very much. But I did not understand what about his sermon was so radical? Why were people upset and why did they withdraw their invitations to him?

Tim McNeily said…
I greatly enjoy your thoughts and comments, your thoughts on your meeting with Bro. Arnold have been a great inspiration to me. I look forward to future additions to your blog.
God bless,
Rev. Tim McNeily
Sylacauga, Al
Eric, This online message has been somewhat edited. There is about 10-15 minutes of the message that is missing. Those missing minutes are what rubbed the proverbial cat backwards.

All in all, it was still an incredibly challenging message for those who were there to hear it.

Thanks for reading (and commenting on the BarnabasBlog).

God Bless,
Anonymous said…
Praise the Lord!
Don't worry about the comments coming in or not coming in! Keep on blogging. Your blog has been a great motivator to me in the past few months. I check it weekly or bi-weekly. Keep up the great work.

Chad A. Moore
Bloomington, IN
Chevron1 said…
Your blog is tremendous...keep up the good work
Anonymous said…
Just FYI, I've got the message of "Refuge from Despair" on tape. I listened to the online version referenced above and then checked my collection on the hunch that I had seen and heard this message before and lo! and behold I found it! Somehow this tape had been preserved in our church library for the past 15 years. Anyways, the whole message is there, unedited and unabridged.

Listening to that message got me on a roll and so I listened to "Reason to Rejoice" and was blown away again. It too was a great Arnold BOTT message. These two messages have greatly encouraged this past week.
Tim said…
I've wanted to hear this message for a long long long time. I'm grateful to be able to hear it even with the missing part. Does anyone know of anywhere I can get the whole message?
Tim said…
I found the message on YouTube. I guess I haven't looked for it in awhile. Here is the link.


I felt the presence of God so strong as I watched it.

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