If you will hold the rope.

August 21, 2012

Reading William Carey’s biography, British missionary to India at the turn of the 18th century, “the father of modern missions.”  Many still marvel at his single-minded labor for the gospel, but I wonder how many know of his four faithful friends?  Friends who vowed to hold his arms up until death — much in the way Aaron and Hur upheld Moses’ arms in the battle against the Amalekites.  Friends who then kept their word.  Friends who fiercely loved him and the God of their cause.

The night before Carey left for India,

The five contrived to get apart — Ryland, Sutcliff, Fuller, Pearce, and Carey.  They talked for the last time together of the task which lay before them, with all its uncertainty and possibility.  Carey drew them into a covenant, that, as he went forth in the name of their Master and their Society, ‘they should never cease till death to stand by him,’ and to this they pledged their troth …

Later, in Fuller’s warm mind, it took imaginative shape, and he would often thus describe it, until his pictorial words became transferred to the original event, and the rope-holding pledge became a fixed and consecrated tradition.  But the simile was Fuller’s, as he once explained to Christopher Anderson.

“Our undertaking to India really appeared at its beginning to me somewhat like a few men, who were deliberating about the importance of penetrating a deep mine which had never before been explored.  We had no one to guide us; and, whilst we were thus deliberating, Carey, as it were, said, ‘Well, I will go down, if you will hold the rope.’  But, before he descended, he, as it seemed to me, took an oath from each of us at the mouth of the pit, to this effect that ‘whilst we lived, we should never let go the rope.‘”

With entire fidelity, that covenant was kept in every case until broken by death.

(William Carey, S. Pearce Carey, p. 108)

Makes me wonder: Whose rope am I holding with that ferocity of devotion?  And who have I humbly asked to hold my rope (maybe not to the distance of India but in similar fashion)?

Only this.

September 29, 2011

Several months after her arrival she contracted malaria, and a high temperature brought her to death’s door and close to despair.  Had God called her to China only to let her die within a few months?  The spiritual anguish and rebellion she endured were worse than the physical illness, but eventually she reached a point of acceptance where she was able to say, “Lord, if it was only this that was Your will, Your will be done.”

(Valeria Griffiths on Marie Monsen, Not Less than Everything, pp. 246-247)

If it was only this.  Only what?  Disappointment.  Disease.  Delay.  Spiritual depression.  Possibly death.  If it was only this that was His will, only this that He had prepared her for here on earth, she was ready — happy — to make His will her home.

… That’s beautiful.

Not less than everything.

September 28, 2011

A few years ago, maybe longer ago, I read half of Valerie Griffiths’ Not Less than Everything: The Courageous Women Who Carried the Christian Gospel to China.  (Among the first was Maria Dyer, Hudson Taylor’s first wife.)  I enjoyed the read, but about 200-some pages in, I put it down and picked up another book.

Last weekend, I finally picked it up again.  Right where I left off.

This time around, the magnitude of their sacrifices hits me harder for some reason.  I feel a little more keenly the consequences of their decisions: leaving friends and family, living in hostile regions, giving up certain luxuries, risking their lives, or forsaking the prospects of an earthly family for the Kingdom.  Putting myself in their shoes, it hits me where I’m tender.  Maybe it’s because I’m engaged.  Maybe it’s because I’m getting soft.  Or both.  The longer I live, the easier I find it is to put down my heart’s tendrils into this earth and earthly things, the more I think I tally when I count the cost.

But stunning — that’s how much weightier the gospel was to them.  That’s how much weightier their love was for Christ, for His cause.  It isn’t that they were heartless, stoic, aescetics.  They just loved the gospel more.  They loved Christ more.  His cause more.  Enough to suspend everything else.  Enough that everything else looked like hate in comparison.

And they were real women.  Not angels.  Not super-human.  Real women with indwelling sin, a nasty flesh, weaknesses, earthly longings, emotional fluctuations.  But by the grace of God, they wholly gave their weak selves to Christ and His work, put their hands to the plow, and never looked back.

Today, I just finished the chapter on Eva French, Francesca French, and Mildred Cable, affectionately known as the “Trio” to their Chinese friends.  After years of fruitful ministry, when others were expecting them to finally comfortably retire, they planned to take the gospel to even more unreached areas of China along the Silk Road, traveling hundreds and hundreds of miles in their old age.  From that period, Mildred Cable wrote two things that I was challenged by and wanted to pass along:

We need scarcely remind you that many incidents which are romantic and faith-inspiring when viewed from a distance, are wrought out in circumstances when loyalty is tested to the uttermost, and guidance sought through the cross-lights which but accentuate the confusion of the dimly-discerned way — when the servant of God has no light, and must stay his (sic) heart upon Jehovah.

During the more than 30 years of my missionary life I have seen the seed spring up in such unexpected places that I have done with questionings and fears as to whether there will be results.  Statistics in things spiritual mean nothing to me now.  It is ours unstintingly to sow the seed whose life is in itself.  It is God’s husbandry and He will give the increase.

These women, among many others, gave everything.  But they were no fools.  They knew it would be nothing compared to what they would gain — indeed, what they have gained now.

Ah.  We ought to learn of such women.  And of our God, anew.

Finish the Mission.

September 24, 2011

HT: Justin Taylor

Make me readier.

October 14, 2010

An old Roman coin was found on which was a picture of an ox, one of the servants of man.  The ox was facing two things, an altar and a plough.  The inscription read, “Ready for either.”

(Darlene Diebler Rose)

At the end, I don’t want to find that I served an eternal Master of an everlasting Kingdom with less “readiness” than this ox who served a mortal master of a setting kingdom.

My Master is worthy of so much more than that.

Pray …

August 7, 2010

Christian Medical Missionaries Attacked and Killed (Afghanistan)

Taliban Claims Responsibility for Killing Christian Missionaries

From a friend’s email this morning: “Pray that the blood of the saints would truly become the seed of the gospel.”

Quotes galore lately on here.  It’s definitely been a good season of listening and reading (which is pretty much listening).  Good quotes.  Good season.  Good God.  :]

Keep the dynamic nature of God’s call in mind as you find His place for you.  Yes, He cares what you do with your life and, yes, He has a plan for you, but do not get bound up in the paralysis of analysis trying to find the once-for-all-time job description for your life.  Just stay close to Him and seek to serve Him.

(M. David Sills, The Missionary Call: Finding Your Place in God’s Plan for the World, p. 88)