While the Goforths were attending a summer conference, south of Chicago, it was announced that a “brilliant speaker” was to come on a certain day for just one address. A very large expectant audience awaited him. The chairman introduced the speaker with such fulsome praise there seemed no room for the glory of God in what was to follow. The stranger had been sitting with bowed head and face hidden. As he stepped forward he stood a moment as if in prayer, then said:
“Friends, when I listen to such words as we have just been hearing I have to remind myself of the woodpecker story: A certain woodpecker flew up to the top of a high pine tree and gave three hard pecks on the side of the tree as woodpeckers are wont to do. At that instant a bolt of lightening struck the tree leaving it on the ground, a heap of splinters. The woodpecker had flown to a tree near by where it clung in terror and amazement at what had taken place. There it hung expecting more to follow, but as all remained quiet it began to chuckle to itself saying, ‘Well, well, well! who would have imagined that just three pecks of my beak could have such power as that!'”
When the laughter this story caused ceased the speaker went on, “Yes, friends, I too laughed when I first heard this story. But remember, if you or I take glory to ourselves which belongs only to Almighty God, we are not only as foolish as this woodpecker, but we commit a very grievous sin for the LORD hath said, ‘My glory will I not give to another.’”
Many times Jonathan Goforth on returning from a meeting would greet his wife with, “Well, I’ve had to remind myself of the woodpecker tonight,” or, “I’ve needed half a dozen woodpeckers to keep me in place.” Early in life he chose as his motto, “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit” (Zech. 4:6).
Excerpted from Chapter 1: “Early Leadings” of Goforth of China by Mrs. Jonathan Goforth (© 1937 by Zondervan Publishing House).