Renowned Pentecostal preacher David Wilkerson was killed in an automobile accident in East Texas about 1PM yesterday. Wilkerson was one of the more influential preachers of his era preaching a message of God’s love, God’s judgment and rigorous personal holiness. Unlike many of his contemporaries who embraced the “word of faith” and “prosperity gospel” message Wilkerson condemned that message without denying the fact that God still does miracles and answers prayers. Likewise there was never any scandal associated with him or his ministry financial, sexual or otherwise. He proclaimed many “prophetic” words concerning judgment upon the church and the world as the time of Jesus’ second coming approached. Whether one agreed with his prophecies or interpretation of the Biblical texts concerning the second coming or not one did not question the reality of his faith or his belief in the message that he preached. In fact one can see even in his more extravagant prophecies a tone similar to that of the Old Testament prophets especially Jeremiah.
The heart of Wilkerson’s outreach was to people that much of the church had ignored or condemned, gang members, criminals, drug abusers and other young people who lived on the margins of society. One cannot deny his impact on those that he ministered to as well as those that he influenced. Many young people who became Christians in the 1960s and 1970s, especially those that were considered “hippies” found his message attractive and many have talked of his influence in their lives and ministries. In fact back in 1975 I remember reading his famous book The Cross and the Switchblade and actually being inspired by it.
When I heard that Reverend Wilkerson had died in a car crash I looked up the articles on the news and was surprised to see that he evidently swerved into an oncoming logging truck and was not wearing a seat belt. I really found this strange. Of course there are a number of reasons that this could have transpired he could have become distracted while driving, tried to avoid a small animal in the road, been startled by something or even experienced a sudden medical problem that caused him to lose control of the car. Looking at the pictures on a local Texas television station of the car which is unrecognizable as to its make and model it is no wonder that he did not survive the crash. His wife was probably saved by her seat belt, she is recovering in hospital and I join with their family, friends, co-workers and those that he ministered to for her complete recovery.
As I searched for information on the crash I came across an article that included his last daily blog post which was posted in the hours before his death. As I read it I sensed a man struggling with faith and God a man who seems to have been enduring his own “Dark Night of the Soul.” The article was entitled When All Means Fail http://davidwilkersontoday.blogspot.com/2011/04/when-all-means-fail.html and it is thought provoking especially when read in the light of the circumstances of his death. I repost it here because it appears to me to show a man struggling with burdens that are overwhelming. Please know as someone who has struggled greatly with faith that I seek in no way to cast any dispersion upon the life, ministry, character or godliness of David Wilkerson. I do not know what he was facing but it was something incredibly painful that caused him in this post and many of his recent posts on his blog site and ministry web site to wrestle with God. As a minster I know that many things that we write or preach about deal with the things that we are dealing with ourselves. Sometimes it seems that we are preaching as much to ourselves as to the people that God has entrusted to us. Of course we are not alone even Paul the Apostle demonstrated such a struggle in the Letter to the Romans.
“To believe when all means fail is exceedingly pleasing to God and is most acceptable. Jesus said to Thomas, “You have believed because you have seen, but blessed are those that do believe and have not seen” (John 20:29).
Blessed are those who believe when there is no evidence of an answer to prayer—who trust beyond hope when all means have failed.
Someone has come to the place of hopelessness—the end of hope—the end of all means. A loved one is facing death and doctors give no hope. Death seems inevitable. Hope is gone. The miracle prayed for is not happening.
That is when Satan’s hordes come to attack your mind with fear, anger, overwhelming questions: “Where is your God now? You prayed until you had no tears left. You fasted. You stood on promises. You trusted.”
Blasphemous thoughts will be injected into your mind: “Prayer failed. Faith failed. Don’t quit on God—just do not trust him anymore. It doesn’t pay!”
Even questioning God’s existence will be injected into your mind. These have been the devices of Satan for centuries. Some of the godliest men and women who ever lived were under such demonic attacks.
To those going through the valley and shadow of death, hear this word: Weeping will last through some dark, awful nights—and in that darkness you will soon hear the Father whisper, “I am with you. I cannot tell you why right now, but one day it will all make sense. You will see it was all part of my plan. It was no accident. It was no failure on your part. Hold fast. Let me embrace you in your hour of pain.”
Beloved, God has never failed to act but in goodness and love. When all means fail—his love prevails. Hold fast to your faith. Stand fast in his Word. There is no other hope in this world.”
If this were the only time that he wrote such deep and troubling words and if the circumstances of his death were different I would not have given the article a second thought. But because of the circumstances I decided to keep reading. I read every blog post dating back to February and the topics of hopelessness, failure and struggle are present in almost every article. They can be found here: http://davidwilkersontoday.blogspot.com/ and here http://www.worldchallenge.org/view/devotions
As I read these articles I felt the pain of a man who has been a weeping prophet and the mould of Jeremiah. Jeremiah comes to my mind as his writings show a man that struggled with faith and was probably suffering from profound and deep depression and I get the same sense from Wilkerson’s writings. Wilkerson’s prophetic words, be they true or not are not the words of a man who is angry and lashing out at the society around him. They are, even dating back to the 1980s the words of a man who preaches out of a heart of sadness and concern for those people, nations and leaders that he believes are coming under the judgment of God. I have seen some lash out and condemn Wilkerson as a false prophet because of the nature of his words but I cannot and will not do so even though I disagree with underlying premises of his eschatology. Wilkerson cannot be compared to those that have made their living simply “studying Bible prophecy” and making money off of it or many of the other supposed modern day “prophets” who seem to believe that all they say is as inspired as the Scriptures themselves. Wilkerson’s struggles which are so apparent in his writings show a personal humility and introspection lacking in the vast bulk of the self proclaimed prophets and Bible prophecy experts.
His writings of the past few months show a man concerned with not failing God and struggling with physical, spiritual or emotional pain of some kind. While the writings are almost always directed to the encouragement of God’s people there is also the sense that he was preaching to himself as much as anyone else. I think that and preacher who is honest will admit that this is the case and it is not a mark of failure or lack of faith or character for this to be the case. Likewise it is not hypocritical.
I don’t know what happened on that East Texas Highway yesterday. I don’t know if something happened to cause David Wilkerson to lose control of his vehicle or if in a moment of despair that he steered his vehicle into the oncoming truck. It doesn’t matter really because he is now with the Lord and he leaves the legacy of many changed lives and of faithfulness even while he struggled with things that we cannot fathom. Perhaps we will know what happened someday but not today and it really doesn’t matter except if it was the latter and Wilkerson committed “suicide by car” it shows us that no-one, even famous preachers that we place on pedestals is immune from struggle, pain or doubt even while they struggle to believe.
We remember his life and ministry and we pray for his family. We trust his soul to God.
Note: I have closed comments to this article things seem to be getting repetitive. I may reopen them if the situation warrants me doing so. Thank you to all that contributed even those that disagree with my speculation or even those that said bad things about me!