By: Shane Roley
The story of John G. Lake is one of incredible displays of God’s power, divine provision & shocking misjudgment and human error in the midst of nation shaking revivals. There is a loud prophetic message intertwined throughout the life and story of John G. Lake. There are dynamic “whoa” moments where God dramatically breaks in through signs and wonders which confirm the words of Jesus in John 14, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” If you are like me, I read these types of passages in scripture and long to see and experience such things. It often feels as if this expression of Christianity is far off and reserved for the most anointed men and women of God. We will see that John G. Lake was no such idol, he was an ordinary man who obeyed the voice of the Lord in radical and unprecedented ways. He was nothing special, a normal guy who simply laid it all down for the glorious gospel. Despite the faith in which Lake walked, he was far from perfect. In fact, he made some critical mistakes that any God fearing follower of Jesus would vow not to make. We are surrounded by a generation who is seeking for answers to difficult questions, pressures and confusions rising to unprecedented extents. The fundamental foundations of human morality are now being called into question. The answer will be found in men and women who radically believe and obey God, who release the love and power of God and exercise integrity, honor and love for their wives, husbands and children. Allow this story to provoke you into faith and courage to embrace the cost of integrity, honor and excellence.
Life and story of John G. Lake
John G. Lake was born in Ontario, Canada on March 18th, 1870. He was a family man, person of integrity, honor, a savvy businessman and a good father. If you knew him you wouldn’t otherwise know that he would soon become one of the greatest men of God the world would ever know. He had a genuine love for the Lord Jesus and was known by his friends as a man who dedicated himself to intimacy with The Lord. It was out of this place that he loved his wife, was a man of integrity and built a very successful business career. To give you perspective, by 1905 John G Lake was making $50,000 per year this sum would be like upwards of 1.3 million dollars per year annually today. John grew up in a family environment which was plagued with sickness and death, it is said that his earliest memories were of sickness, death and funerals. Lake was from a large family, he had 16 siblings, 8 of which tragically died of various diseases. It is no coincidence that “the man of healing” was tormented from a young age with death and disease. The enemy will often oppose destinies with radical circumstances through a distortion of the very thing that we are called to walk in. Lake Was exposed to dramatic healing when he visited John Alexander Dowie’s ministry and was, in prayer, instantly healed of a rheumatism which had caused his legs to grow incorrectly. Just two short years into their marriage, Jennie Lake was diagnosed with tuberculosis and heart disease. Over the next couple of years, the condition worsened and the doctors resigned to the fact that it was only a matter of time before she would die. John allowed this situation to provoke him into faith, after being exposed to such death and disease from a young age he had a hatred for such things. When he would read the word of God he saw that his Christian experience was less than the promised “power of the Holy Spirit”. As Jennie was on her deathbed and perhaps taking her final breaths Lake was overcome with anger over sickness and threw his bible against the fireplace mantle! When he went to pick up his bible it was opened to Acts chapter 10:38 which says: "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.” Lake had a surge of faith in that moment and sent a telegram to Dowie asking him to pray. Within an hour of Dowie praying she was fully healed! Not long after Jennie was healed, God began to speak to Lake about going into full time ministry. After some time of contemplation and seeking the Lord, God confirmed to John and Jennie separately that they were to move to South Africa to begin their life of ministry. John and Jennie then gave away all that they had, John forsook his mega-salary and they went on their way alongside some of their friends as ministry partners.
Ministry in South Africa
When they arrived in South Africa, they had no money. The problem was, that they needed at least $125 in order to clear customs. they nervously waited for their turn in line, rehearsing what they would say to the immigration officer They were in desperate need of a miracle, as the law read that they would be subject to deportation as quickly as they arrived in South Africa. Just as they were about the get to the front of the line, John felt a tap on his shoulder… A man was standing behind John and said “excuse me sir, can I have a word with you?” John nervously steps out of line at the man’s request and the man said “when I saw you and your family in line, the Lord told me to give you $200 cash”. The Lord provided just enough money for John and his family to enter the country. But their needs didn’t stop there. The Lakes and their crew had no ministry contact in Johannesburg. Soon after they cleared customs, a woman approached John’s friends and asked how many people are in their family, when they told her, she responded “no, not you” and went over to John and asked the same question. John replied “9” and she said “you’re the ones!” She went on to tell John that the Lord had spoken to her last night that she was to give her home to a family of 9 people who are coming from America to do God’s work. John, Jennie and their crew rejoiced in the dramatic provision of the Lord. Their time in South Africa was marked with waves of revival, there were multitudes saved, healed and delivered over the course of their 5 year ministry tour in South Africa.
By far my favorite story from this season of Revival takes place shortly after the Lake family and their team arrived in South Africa. A mighty plague was sweeping through the nation, the death count was climbing dramatically. So much so that there was a surplus of corpses who were victims of the plague and there was no one to bury the dead;if someone was to come in contact with a dead body they would most certainly become infected and their death sentence would immediately begin. John G. Lake astounded the medical officials because he, without any gloves or protective clothing began burying the dead. Physicians in a panic approached John and rebuked him for coming in contact with the dead, John boldly responded "when the disease comes in contact with my skin, you can watch it die". The doctors thought he was insane, so he challenged them to put a drop of the plague on his skin and watch it under a microscope. When they did so, John was right! The plague cells literally burned up the second they came in contact with his skin!
It is tough to understand what would happen towards the end of the Lake’s missionary journey in Africa. One day while John was away on a ministry trip, his wife Jennie suddenly passed away. The cause of her death was malnutrition and exhaustion. It wasn’t uncommon for the sick and broken to line the lawn of John G Lake’s home and Jennie, as an act of sacrifice, gave away all their food and any resources she could to the broken which frequented their house.
The Call To A Generation
Although John and Jennie’s faith and sacrifice is commendable we must learn from this fatal mistake. John’s priorities clearly became altered as the demand for ministry raged on. He failed to guard and keep the very precious gift that God had given him, he allowed the demands of ministry to distract him from the needs of his family unto the tragic and preventable death of his wife. In the wake of Jennie’s death their children became bitter with John and subsequently God. Some of his children left the faith and the most recent accounts of them suggest that they died not following Christ. To this day some of John’s great grandchildren do not follow the Lord. John’s failure to obey the basic command of scripture for “husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church” and his preoccupation with the demands of ministry opened up the door for the enemy to ravage his family. After Jennie’s death John moved back to the United States and remarried. He would then pioneer his famous healing ministry based out of Spokane Washington. Unfortunately John did not learn his lesson the first time, in the midst of more flames of revival he continued to be a poor father, emotionally disconnected from his children.
I’ll leave you with this final story. At the height of his hugely successful healing ministry in Spokane, John noticed that one of his daughters was longing for some one-on-one time with her father. So he took her out for a special dinner, just the two of them. They ordered their food and she began to tell him how she was doing when he interrupted her and exclaimed “Oh, I know how I will finish that sermon!” He got up and left the restaurant, leaving his daughter there alone to take a taxi back home. John G. Lake arguably had one of, if not the most dynamic gifts of healing of any revivalist in human history but he was disconnected from God’s heart for the most important people he was called to love and invest in, his family.
When God releases power in your life, do you have the integrity and proper value system to handle the implications of the call and assignment at hand?