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FIRE IN THE BONES!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Thursday Evening, August 18, 2016

“For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the Lord was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily. Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay” (Jeremiah 20:8-9).


Jeremiah had prophesied that the Jewish people would go into Babylonian captivity because of their idolatry. The people rejected Jeremiah’s preaching. They refused to listen to him. Pashur was the chief officer of the temple police. Pashur had him beaten and put in the stocks. The beating was forty lashes with a whip. The stocks were used to hold him, with his hands, feet and neck fastened in holes which bent his body into a very painful position. When Jeremiah was released from the stocks he told Pashur that he and his family would go into Babylonian captivity, with the rest of the people. Then Jeremiah experienced a period of great depression. He complained to God that he had been mocked and ridiculed. He said, “Cursed be the day wherein I was born...[Why] came I forth out of the womb to see labour and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame?” (Jeremiah 20:14, 18). He complained that the Word of God he preached brought him shame and reproach all day long.

“Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name” (Jeremiah 20:9).

I was seventeen years old when I gave up my old life to be a preacher. There was no emotion, no feeling of any kind, just a teenage boy promising God to be a preacher. They let me preach to all the young people a few days later. I preached a serious sermon. It was not harsh at all. But it was serious. After I finished, the youth leader took me into a room and told me I was wrong. He poured out his anger at my sermon. I was so ashamed that I cried myself to sleep that night.

“Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.”

So I went to preach in some rescue missions on skid row. They didn’t like my preaching there either. So I went to a Filipino church and preached. I was rejected there too. I didn’t know what to do. But I had read about Hudson Taylor preaching in China. I saw a Chinese Baptist church one night. I went there and joined that church. They said I was too young to preach since I was only nineteen. So I kept my mouth shut and did all the work they would let me do. I cut the lawn. I cleaned the sanctuary and mopped the floors. I couldn’t preach though, because I was too young.

“Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.”

I had a little job on a parking lot. It wasn’t much, barely enough to pay for my food and a small room. Every day after work I would preach on the street in downtown Los Angeles. At least I could preach there. In the fall I went to Biola College, and worked on the parking lot in the afternoons. I didn’t have time to study, so I failed my classes.

After that I got a job as a clerk in the Division of Corporations. A Chinese guy at the church told me where I could rent a really cheap room. It was on skid row, but it was cheap. I moved to a room next to the Chinese guy. I lived on bok choy and eggs. I preached on the street after work every day.

Finally they let me teach some little Chinese boys in Sunday School. I lived like a monk for three years. Finally I saved enough money to buy a car. Then, at 23 years old, I finally went to college. I took two classes at Los Angeles City College at night. I worked in the daytime. I spent all weekend working at the Chinese church. I worked with boys on Friday nights. I studied all day on Saturday. I prepared my lessons for Sunday School and Junior Church on Saturday night. Sundays I spent all day, from morning until late at night, working in the Chinese church. Then one day a leader of the church rebuked me. He said I was from a bad family. He said I could never become a preacher.

“Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.”

I kept quiet and did not talk any more about becoming a preacher. But the thought would not go away. I had not felt what people say is a “call” to preach. I had just dedicated my life to do it. Through the weary years I kept on until I finally graduated from college at the age of 29.

That summer they let me preach several times at the church camp. A revival had come to the church and many young people were converted. I counselled one girl who got saved. I liked her, but I knew I couldn’t tell her. I was poor. I was white. And I had nothing to offer.

I went to the seminary near San Francisco that fall. I drove to Sacramento every Friday and helped Wilfred Chung start a new Chinese church. In the second year I started a little church near the seminary. The girl I led to Christ and I had been writing letters to each other. She came up to see me with some other Chinese kids. When she left I wrote a letter to her telling her how much she meant to me. Her mother found my letter and became very angry. I was told by the leaders of the church in Los Angeles that I could not come back there for at least two years. I had lost everything, my church, my friends, the girl – everything was gone. I didn’t see the girl again for forty years.

“Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name.”

I quit the ministry. I experienced a truly horrible depression. I said with Jeremiah, “Cursed be the day wherein I was born...[Why] came I forth out of the womb to see labour and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame?” (Jeremiah 20:14, 18). Everyone was against me. No one loved me or wanted me. I felt like a dead man. I couldn’t sleep or eat. My mind reeled like I was having a nervous breakdown. I felt like I was going insane. I literally said in my heart, “I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name.”

Then it happened. I woke up at 2:00 AM one night. I wandered out of my dorm room at the seminary and stood on a little hill. The wind was ice cold, blowing in from the ocean nearby. And God called me to preach that night. I had committed my life to preach when I was seventeen. That was fourteen years earlier. At thirty-one years old God finally spoke to my heart and told me to preach only for Him. I never preached the same after that night.

“His word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.”

I was compelled to preach again! Dr. John R. Rice said, “Only the preacher who preaches because he must, with fire in his bones, will preach to them who hate him, or deride him, or ignore him” (The Soul Winner’s Fire).

I finally left the church I had started near the seminary. I came back to Los Angeles to start a church. It became the church we are in tonight, The Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles. A young man came down with me to play the guitar in the services. This church was to start a few days later. That night I came back to my apartment and found a note he left. He went back to the church near the seminary. That was the first person who left. There would be many more in the years that followed. Each time my friends left I felt deeply scarred and wounded. Some good things happened. I married a pretty young girl from Guatemala. We had twin sons. I had a real home for the first time in my life. I was 42 years old when my boys were born. We struggled through a series of church splits. I wanted to quit many times. Many times I said,

“I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay” (Jeremiah 20:9).

The Apostle Paul felt God’s fire in his bones. He said,

“Though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” (I Corinthians 9:16).

Now I am 75 years old. I have cancer. It may be cured – but it may come back. I am nearing the end of my ministry and my life on earth. Our church is strong and stable now. But I have some regrets. I regret the fact that we have not produced one missionary in the 41 years since I started this church. I regret that we have not produced one young man in those 41 years to fight the battles and lead the way. We need preachers like Whitefield and Wesley – men with fire in their bones! We have two nice young men who preach my old sermons on Sunday mornings. They are good boys and we like them. But I don’t know if they only preach because I asked them. I don’t know if they have fire in their bones. Only time will tell.

I don’t know if our young people will ever burn in their bones for revival. One or two have – but I don’t know if others will. Only time will tell. I don’t know if you will continue to go to evangelism. I don’t know if our young people will have zeal to bring in the lost. I just don’t know. But my time is running out now. I’m not sure what will happen then.

When we burned the mortgage note on this building I said, “We paid for this building – but you young people have to save the church.” I wish I knew you would do it – but I just don’t know. I never thought of having a career. I know that is what most people do. But I never thought about a career. I only thought, “I’ve got to serve God.” Soon we will see if there are others who think that way. But when I am no longer here, I hope you will remember that “his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.”

I do know that you are stable. I do know you are faithful. But I am troubled by your lack of zeal. I don’t think you have fire in your bones. Yes, you stand and applaud our two fine young preachers. Sometimes you applaud every sentence they preach with great boldness. I am glad you do that. But then you go out to do evangelism. You are not bold. You are timid and afraid when you talk to strangers and invite them to come. Last night Mr. Griffith told me how shy and fearful you look when you meet strangers on evangelism. You are not bold and courageous like you were when you applauded the preaching. What is wrong with you? You don’t have the fire of the Holy Spirit burning in your bones! That is what you need. You need to be filled with the power and fire of the Holy Spirit to come down and give you zeal for souls.

Years ago we drove into Washington, D.C. after midnight. As we drove into the nation’s capital I began to hum a tune that came to me. Then I wrote down the words on a piece of paper. It speaks of the Holy Spirit falling on the Disciples on the day of Pentecost,

“And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:3, 4).

That’s what you need. More than anything else you need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. That is the power God gave to the early Christians. They went out boldly and won the Roman Empire for Christ. That is what you need tonight. Please stand and sing the little song I wrote. Mr. Griffith will sing the first stanza. Then we will all sing it. It’s on your chair. Pick it up and read it as Mr. Griffith sings the first stanza. Now let us all sing it together.

The streets are filled with darkness, People’s faces look so grim,
The churches seem to slumber While God’s fire has grown so dim.
So I bow my knees before Thee, And I cry, “In Jesus’ name,
One more time, send down the fire, And set our hearts aflame!
Lord, send tongues of fire! Let them rest on me!
Send me forth with holy power To win lost souls for Thee!”

I read the Bible’s pages And then put it on the shelf;
I go about my workday Thinking only of myself.
So I bow my knees before Thee, And I cry, “In Jesus’ name,
One more time, send down the fire, And set our hearts aflame!
Lord, send tongues of fire! Let them rest on me!
Send me forth with holy power To win lost souls for Thee!”

When I stand before the bema To receive a righteous crown,
Will Christ look down and smile at me Or will He look and frown?
So I bow my knees before Thee, And I cry, “In Jesus’ name,
One more time, send down the fire, And set our hearts aflame!
Lord, send tongues of fire! Let them rest on me!
Send me forth with holy power To win lost souls for Thee!”

The judgment fires are burning Awaiting sinners now;
I must stop those around me From going there somehow.
So I bow my knees before Thee, And I cry, “In Jesus’ name,
One more time, send down the fire, And set our hearts aflame!
Lord, send tongues of fire! Let them rest on me!
Send me forth with holy power To win lost souls for Thee!”
   (“Lord, Send Tongues of Fire” by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.)

And I hope you will remember that I never closed a service without pleading with you to turn away from sin and trust Jesus. He was nailed to a cross to pay the penalty for your transgressions. He shed His precious Blood to cleanse you from sin in the sight of God. He has risen from the dead and is praying for you at the right hand of the Father. Turn to Him and trust Him who is despised and rejected of men. Amen.


WHEN YOU WRITE TO DR. HYMERS YOU MUST TELL HIM WHAT COUNTRY YOU ARE WRITING FROM OR HE CANNOT ANSWER YOUR E-MAIL. If these sermons bless you send an e-mail to Dr. Hymers and tell him, but always include what country you are writing from. Dr. Hymers’ e-mail is at rlhymersjr@sbcglobal.net (click here). You can write to Dr. Hymers in any language, but write in English if you can. If you want to write to Dr. Hymers by postal mail, his address is P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015. You may telephone him at (818)352-0452.

(END OF SERMON)
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