So Defeated, I Prayed to Die: My Journey (part 3)

Years ago, God made it clear that I would be most effective in this lifetime as a servant sitting down rather than standing in coliseums and stadiums. He instructed me to sit at His feet, listen to His Word, and help His family and others get to know the Father found in Christ and by living in the Word. I have diligently sought to “trust and obey.”

When God led Betty and me to the mission fields of the world in the late 1980’s, I obeyed. When He told me to change the name of our ministry from “James Robison Evangelistic Association” to “LIFE Outreach International” so that we would be a purpose-centered ministry and not personality-centered, I obeyed. When He told me to ask Betty to sit at my side in a family room setting, sharing the greatness of God with others through a daily television outreach, I obeyed.

I hadn’t always been so obedient, however. Earlier in my ministry, every invitation came with this message: “You’ve got to come to our city. You’ve got to help us win our city to Christ. We really need you.” And I went far too often. I neglected my family without realizing it. I think had they not been able to look beyond this father and see the Father, my children’s lives could have been a tragic story. Instead, they fell in love with the Father in heaven, even though their own father sometimes missed the mark. I did my best, having been fatherless, but I know it was God, Betty, and the prayers of many who heard me preach that impacted my family forever.

As a result of being far too busy preaching crusades, I no longer went to the Word of God to get life; I only went there to get sermons for others. I lost intimacy with the Lord and became irritable. My desires and appetites became stronger, it seemed, than me. I was distracted and on the way to being totally defeated. I was in such distress, I wanted to die. I even asked Betty to pray I would die in my sleep. In response to Betty’s deep prayers and the concern of a few friends, I cried out to God from a horrible pit and He heard my cry. He inclined His ear, and in mercy He lifted me up and once again set my feet on the solid rock of His eternal truth. I experienced miraculous deliverance and freedom. God filled me to overflowing with the Holy Spirit, a river I could not contain or merely wade in. It carried me.

God made it clear that I was to now reach far beyond my denominational barriers—that God knew no barriers. No limits or walls should divide true believers. I needed to reach out to the whole church in the whole earth in the hope they would be made whole. It was amazing the way God blessed the outreach to those outside my Baptist circles. Many did not understand. They became critical, thinking I was moving away from God’s Word. In fact, I was falling more in love with the Lord of the Word and the Word of the Lord than ever in my life.

As God began making dramatic changes in my life and ministry and others did not understand the direction I was going, they opposed me with such intensity that some religious groups boycotted my meetings. For example, I went back to a coliseum in Tulsa that had previously been filled to overflowing. In fact, Oral Roberts had come to hear me and couldn’t find a seat, so he sat on one of the concrete steps, refusing to take a seat from anyone else. We had witnessed these huge crowds for 25 years.

As a result of the changes I had made, some Baptists and other sectarian groups felt that they could not support me because I had not signed on openly with their movement. When I looked out in the same 12,000-seat coliseum where Oral had attended, I saw a sparse crowd of 800 people scattered throughout that mammoth arena. I trembled and fell on my knees behind the curtain. I cried out, “God, I don’t understand.” He clearly spoke to my heart, “James, are you going to follow the crowd or follow the cloud?” I cried out, “Dear God, with all my heart, for as long as I live, I want to reach out to the crowd—but I’m going to follow the cloud of Your glory and manifest presence.” God assured me then I would see more people saved in a year than I had seen in the first 25 years of my ministry.

Sure enough, we have. We’ve actually seen as many as 5 million registered commitments to Christ made in a year in the outreaches we support and sponsor. At the time God set me free, we had seen 2 million people make public professions of faith in Christ. Since that time, more than 20 million more have come. We pray with 1,200 to 1,600 people a day in our prayer centers.

I deeply love my wonderful Baptist family who led me to Christ and stood at my side in all of those crusades. Sadly, over the years in many cities, I watched pastors continually argue and fight over who would sit on the platform, who would say the prayers, who would take the offering, who would be over the counseling, who would be doing the counseling, and whether they would allow other denominational groups to be involved. There was special concern about Pentecostals and charismatics. I didn’t understand why. They wanted to know who would get most of the members. It seemed sometimes that the biggest challenge we faced was to get churches to come together in agreement.

All true believers must be shaped in Christ’s likeness. True believers are born again in the power of His Spirit and become members of His body, the Church – His Church. We must not be divided by the traditions of men. Repentance is essential within every sectarian group, camp, or tribe. Jesus is the only Way, the Truth, and the Life. That is the message I carry to every person, whether they are presidents, kings, dictators, or popes. I am weary of people claiming to defend the faith and the truth when it appears they are denying the power of faith and misrepresenting the transforming effect of truth when spoken in love.

Why do some accuse those who are filled with the love of God of being compromisers? The fact is, they reach out, as Jesus did, to the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the publicans, the prostitutes, a condemned thief on the cross, the woman caught in adultery, the woman at the well who was married five times and living with another man, and every other disenfranchised, disdained, or disreputable person. There was no one Jesus did not seek to reach by speaking the truth in love.

During the time when I was being criticized, I remembered years before going to Billy Graham and criticizing him because he was a Baptist working with Catholics, Pentecostals and others in his crusades. I asked him if he didn’t think he was compromising. He asked, “Do you know the people you are asking me to avoid?” I answered, “No.” He responded, “I highly suggest you spend time with people you’ve been taught to avoid.”

After my wonderful exposure to the newfound freedom and fullness in the Holy Spirit, I finally followed his advice. I have never, and never will, look back. God made it clear I am to be carried by His Spirit and to share His truth in love with all people, wherever they are—in whatever denomination or sectarian group. In loving obedience, I have faithfully reached out and watched Christian leaders come together in miraculous unity. Those who never would have been seated together in a room suddenly found themselves in love with God and each other. They never were asked or expected to compromise their convictions or seek to become part of a spineless, meaningless ecumenism like we’ve witnessed too often in many of those who became part of the National Council of Churches.

Oral Roberts called shortly after my experience in newfound freedom and told me that charismatics wanted me to join their movement and be a major spokesman for them. I answered, “Oral, I’m not to join any movement or any other sectarian group. I am called by God to be part of the move of His Spirit on all movements and to see us all changed and shaped by the power of the Holy Spirit.” He said, “That’s what I told them! I knew it. I knew you would say that!”

It remains the case today. By God’s grace, this will be my position until I see Jesus face to face and stand with our daughter, Robin, in His eternal presence forever. I don’t compromise my biblical convictions, and I don’t ask others to do so. I preach the importance of being willing to repent, to be corrected and shaped like yielded clay in the hands of Almighty God.

I’m diligently seeking every moment to glorify Christ in all I do, and I cherish your prayers—that He, above all, may be lifted up. I pray that in our day, before He returns, we will see His prayer in John 17 answered: “May we become one with the Father and one another;” and that as Paul said in writing to the Ephesians, we will be built up “into the unity of the faith.” Whatever that looks like, I long for it!

The Bible declares that when Jesus comes in glory, He will be coming for a Bride (His Church) “adorned in His glory.” Now is the time to get dressed for His glorious return, making a Kingdom impact as salt and light, overcoming the prevailing darkness and the gates of hell.

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  1. Such an awesome testimony. I am a recent widow and my husband Billy has a treacherous childhood of suffering and he too never blamed or became bitter against God or man and I was not as good as I could have been but I supported him, remained loyal and fought for his honor and respect our whole married life, knowing the deep pain he suffered at the hand of evil people I wanted to see him healed and whole. He was a wonderful husband and God used him and I to bring healing to one another. Sometime I am going to write his story because I believe it will inspire many.

  2. I bought some old cassettes of yours on the Holy Spirit from a Goodwill store.I enjoyed them and your humor. Your message was refreshing, but I am now like the rock or the wayside in the parable of the sower. When I was a new believer I had alot of love for people. For most of my christian life the thorns, cares of the world, grew up with me. I was never very good at following the Holy Spirit. Outwardly things seem fine, but there have been times when hell seems my final destination. I’ve been prayed for many times, but I don’t talk about it to anyone at church anymore. For most of my chritian life I had faith, hope, love, and assurance of heaven. now it’s lust of the eyes, laziness, critical thoughts. Well, enough. If you love Jesus, don’t stray from His side like I did. Jesus is wonderful, and spiritual life! Don’t let worldly things come between Christ and you.

  3. Thanks James for sharing part 3 of your journey. Keep doing God’s work, and never compromise your biblical convictions.

    L.Agius (Sydney, Australia)

  4. I usually don’t leave comments but I felt compelled to do so after reading all three of the My Journey series. It has really touched my heart. God has even used this last column to help me to put my focus in perspective. In the whole scheme of things,it’s not about a denomination but it’s about what God wants.This is what matters in the end. Thank You for being led by his spirit.

  5. As a man who is just beginning to enter into a ministry of his own, this was very valuable advice.

    Thank you, Mr Robison.

  6. I love you and Betty. I think of you as a spiritual Father. Crying throughout your personal intimate message in your life with our Father, in Christ Jesus-His Spirit. God bless you and Betty and your family and ministry.

    Galatians 5:22-26 ( GNT ) — 22 But the Spirit produces love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 humility, and self control.There is no law against such things as these. 24 And those who belong to Christ have put to death their human nature with all its passions and desires. 25 The Spirit has given us life; he must also control our lives. 26 We must not be proud or irritate one another or be jealous of one another.

  7. Thank you James and Betty for your testimony and for sharing and being transparent. We all need that so much. You are angels in the lives of so many. I haven’t had the same loss as you have had but I have had other losses in my life which are very difficult but our God is so faithful.

  8. Over 33 years ago your message inspired me to surrender my life to the Lord and still your Spirit filled message inspires me to move forward in my ministry.

    Thank you for continuing to obey His will for you and not the will of the crowd.

  9. James, thank you for your authenticity and transparency about your struggles. It is because you & Betty are real that tuned me into your TV show years ago, and I have been blessed by you ever since. I especially have found Wednesdays with Beth to be life changing. It is because of Beth being “real” that makes her words such a blessing. God bless all of you as you continue to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in your ministry. Love y’all <3

  10. I don’t know which service we attended in Tulsa (the 1st one or the 2nd) but I do know that we have never forgotten the time you were there. Your passionate love of the Father and Jesus inspire us to be in unity with all believers. One of the series our pastors have just finished is named “Better Together” and we definitely are. Thank you for your ministry to the world.

  11. I want to personally thank you and Betty for your faithfulness and obedience to His call on your lives. You will never know on earth how much both of you have influenced the countless lives for the Kingdom. Your rewards will be great!

    I too lost my daughter to cancer last year and I received some inner peace and healing from both of you when you openly shared your struggles with your pain and loss. No one knows what it is like to loose a child until you experience that yourself. You think you are alone and no one knows what it is like. Your transparency meant so much to me. May the Lord bless you in ways that you could never have imagined, in realms that you never knew existed and in possibilities that you only dared dreamed about.

  12. Loving your story. Love God and what he had done with your life and Betty’s!! Amazing!! Although I’m enjoying your story, it seems like there is a void without Betty’s perspective. I would love to hear her side when you were away from home, what God did on her while you were going through this. Your such a gift to the Body of Christ! So grateful for you both!!!

  13. I think that a lot of people who minister to others fall into this trap of “working for” the Lord, but not “knowing” Him personally which often brings them to the point of burn-out. We are warned that one day many will come to the Lord expecting rewards for what they have done for Him, but unfortunately they will hear the words: “Depart from Me for I do not know you!” May none of us hear these words one day.

  14. Unity in Christ with disciples of Christ… not religious denominations, church goers, living in the world, being part of the world, never in His Word or in communication with Jesus…that’s the lukewarm, sleeping bridesmaid, “having a form of religion but denying His Power” or ” depart from me, I never knew you”. The Church (BRIDE OF CHRIST) is ” my sheep know my voice and obey” by the Power of His Spirit. God wake us up, wake up Your Bride.

  15. Thank you for listening to God and being obedient to him. You and Betty are such an inspiration.

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