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Edward Kimball was a Boston carpet salesman who taught a Sunday school class of teenage boys in the mid-1800s. One day, Kimball wanted to share the gospel with a troubled youth from his class, so he went to the shoe store where the boy worked. They talked for a few minutes, and then, to Kimball’s surprise, the young clerk knelt and professed his faith in Christ.

That 18-year-old was Dwight L. Moody, who became the greatest evangelist of the 19th century.

Years later, Moody counseled a young man named J. Wilbur Chapman on the assurance of his salvation. Chapman became an evangelist who influenced a popular former baseball player named Billy Sunday. In 1924, Billy Sunday led an evangelistic rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, from which a Christian businessmen’s club was formed. In 1934, that club sponsored a revival meeting at which a 15-year-old boy was saved. His name was Billy Graham—a man who preached the gospel to more people around the world than any other evangelist.

God often uses the ordinary to perform the extraordinary.

In 1953, Billy Graham held a crusade in Dallas during which my mother gave her life to Christ. So I can truly say that I became a Christian and began my ministry in large part because of a Boston carpet salesman who, 165 years ago, was faithful to Christ.

God often uses the ordinary to perform the extraordinary.

Edward Kimball was an ordinary person who simply made himself available to God.

He was much like another ordinary person named Elijah, who lived nearly 3,000 years ago in a nation that, like our own, was sliding further into ungodliness each passing day.

The Bible tells us that Elijah was a man from humble beginnings who lived during some of Israel’s darkest days. He could have settled for an ordinary life, claiming his culture was too depraved and he was just one person. Yet he resolved to change the world rather than allow the world to change him.

Foundational Qualities of an Extraordinary Life

In Elijah’s time, Israel was ruled by the evil King Ahab, who allowed his pagan queen, Jezebel, to entice the people to worship Baal (1 Kings 16:31–32). Followers of Baal claimed their deity could control the weather—an important quality for an agricultural society. The worship of this false god involved sexual perversion, self-mutilation, and even child sacrifice.

Evil was overtaking the nation. But at the right time, God raised up His representative.

The secret to an extraordinary life is understanding God’s purpose for your life and then living it, just like Elijah.

Elijah was no spiritual superman. James 5:17 says, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours.” He was a regular guy. He struggled with depression, despair, temptation, and doubts. Yet God used him in a powerful way to influence his nation. Why? Let’s look at three foundational qualities of this ordinary person who chose to have an extraordinary life.


First, Elijah was a man of passion. He was passionate about upholding God’s reputation in an unbelieving world.

Elijah’s passion burned especially hot against Ahab, Jezebel, and the prophets of Baal who were denying the true God and elevating a false god.

We see this when Elijah burst on the scene, unafraid to stand toe-to-toe with the king of Israel. “Elijah … said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word’” (1 Kings 17:1). To confront the king and queen and their supposed weather-god took guts.

When Elijah said, “As the Lord, the God of Israel lives,” he was not only taking a jab at the dead god Ahab and Jezebel served, but he was also expressing his passion for the one true God.

Elijah lived with an overwhelming sense of God’s presence that fueled his passion for following God.


Second, Elijah was a man of purpose. Elijah’s purpose was to make God known. The name his parents gave him—Elijah—means “The Lord is God.” Just imagine growing up hearing, “The-Lord-is-God, come to dinner!” Don’t you think that would inform your purpose in life? Parents, do not underestimate the spiritual impact you can have on your children.

Elijah’s purpose gave him great courage. Because Elijah had a purpose that came from the Lord, he knew he had nothing to fear from Ahab. Jesus said in Matthew 10:28, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Courage comes from the certainty of your calling. Elijah—like each of us—had a God-given work to do. And he knew that no one could touch one hair of his head until that work was finished.


Third, Elijah was a man of prayer. James 5:17–18 says, “Elijah … prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.” The secret of Elijah’s success was his belief in the power of prayer.

The phrase “prayed earnestly” can be literally translated, “He prayed with prayer.” In other words, prayer was a regular part of Elijah’s life. First Thessalonians 5:17 says to “pray without ceasing.” Literally, pray “with the frequency of a persistent, hacking cough.” Elijah had a holy tickle in his throat that caused him to cry out to God. And God used him because of it.

Next Steps

The secret to an extraordinary life is understanding God’s purpose for your life and then living it, just like Elijah. As far as God is concerned, there can never be enough Elijah-like men and women of passion, purpose, and prayer walking the earth.

When you pursue God’s purpose, He will transform your ordinary existence into an extraordinary life!

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