Sermon Illustrations

The Lord was with missionaries John Paton, Alexander Duff, and William Carey

Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

The Lord stood with me; the Lord gave me strength, with that strength the gospel was preached; and the aim was the Gentiles - all the nations. That was Paul’s experience of Christ’s faithfulness and nearness and help. And it has been the case with thousands of missionaries in tens of thousands of crises. And it will be your experience when you follow Jesus where He leads.

A hundred years ago John Paton, from Scotland, took the gospel to the New Hebrides in the South Pacific, today’s Vanuatu. Within months his wife and son died. But Paton spent the rest of his life, until he was an old man, planting the church on the Islands. Paul’s experience in 2 Timothy 4:17 was his as well. He quoted Jesus’ words, "Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world," then said, "Precious promise! How often I adore Jesus for it, and rejoice in it! Blessed be his name" (John G. Paton: Missionary to the New Hebredes, An Autobiography Edited by His Brother, p. 154).

Once he was surrounded by a mob seeking his life. He hid in a tree above them and spent a terrifying night there. He wrote later,

"Yet I sat there among the branches, as safe in the arms of Jesus. Never, in all my sorrows, did my Lord draw nearer to me, and speak more soothingly in my soul . . . as I told all my heart to Jesus . . . I will not grudge to spend many nights alone in such a tree, to feel again my Savior’s spiritual presence, to enjoy His consoling fellowship." (Autobiography p. 200).

This is the promise of Christ to you when you venture your life on a mission for Him.

Alexander Duff, who was born in Scotland in 1806 and went to India when he was 24 with two shipwrecks on the way, and spent almost 40 years there for Christ and His kingdom, wrote to his daughter later in life,

"Why should I, who have been the child of so many mercies, be faithless or doubting? If any man living should trust in the Lord absolutely, and cast upon him the burden of all his cares . . . I am that man. All my days I have been a child of Providence, the Lord leading me and guiding me in ways unknown to me – in ways of His own, and for the accomplishment of his own heavenly ends." (William Paton, Alexander Duff: Pioneer of Missionary Education, p. 232).

The Lord stood by him, guiding him all is life. He will do that for you too as you offer yourself up to Him for his use and His mission. But it doesn’t mean that we will be spared terrible losses. It means Christ is there and governs all things and helps us and sustains us and turns all losses into gain as we trust Him.

William Carey, the father of modern missions left for India from England in 1793 and never came home. He labored 40 years without a furlough. He lost two wives in death. When he had a fever they attached 110 leeches to his thigh. And on March 11, 1812—after almost 20 years of hard work—a fire broke out and destroyed years of irreplaceable work. The draft of the great polyglot dictionary. The Sikh and Telugu grammars. Ten prints of the Bible that had been going through the press. The translation of the Ramayana which he and his partners had been working on for six years.

Carey was out of town in Calcutta. When Marshman told him tears filled his eyes, and later he said,

"In one short evening the labours of years are consumed. How unsearchable are the ways of God! I had lately brought some things to the utmost of perfection of which they seemed capable, and contemplated the missionary establishment with perhaps too much self-congratulation. The Lord has laid me low, that I may look more simply to him." (Mary Drewry, William Carey: A Biography, p. 154).

Carey knew, and Carey learned painfully to know better, that the mission of Christ goes forward by looking more simply to Him. "I will be with you, I will help you." In all his losses, the Lord stood with him. He never forsook him. Never could he have endured as he did without him.

His watchword was "Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.”

From a sermon by Jerry Shirley, Every Tribe, 1/30/2010

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