Moses was a murderer. David was the youngest of eight brothers. Gideon hid from his enemies. Paul persecuted Christians. Thomas was a doubter. God uses unlikely candidates to build His kingdom, and Scripture is filled with examples.
In modern times, William Carey (1761-1834), a poor Englishman with almost no formal education, started a revolution in international missions that continues to this day.
Despite various challenges, Carey doggedly advocated for global evangelism. He saw the nations as people deserving of God’s love—not forsaken heathens living someplace beyond God’s care and concern. It troubled him deeply that his fellow Englishmen were uninterested in carrying out the Great Commission abroad. He wrote, “Multitudes sit at ease and give themselves no concern about the far greater part of their fellow sinners, who to this day, are lost in ignorance and idolatry."1
William Carey never allowed adversity to stop him. After his conversion, he prepared for Bible translation work by teaching himself Greek, Hebrew, and Latin. When he moved to India, Carey learned a variety of local dialects, which allowed him to translate the Bible into more than forty languages over the years.2 He fought for agricultural, medical, cultural, and educational reform, and he was the first man to denounce India’s pervasive abuse of women.3
In addition to social ills, Carey fought personal battles as well. His ministry partner deserted him. Two of his children died. He contracted malaria, and his wife, Dorothy, became mentally ill. Through every challenge, he clung to the Lord and His Word. About himself, Carey wrote, “I can plod... I can persevere to any definite pursuit.”4
Plodding is underrated today. As consumers, we clamor for gadgets that help us to achieve more output in less time. There is a whole generation of people alive today who have never manually opened a garage door or a can of corn. Waiting for the nightly news has become a thing of the past. Now we scroll through the latest headlines on our phones at any hour of the day or night. Even leisurely activities, like watching sporting events, are declining because they last too long to hold the attention of our fast-moving society.5
Now don’t get me wrong—I appreciate anything that helps me to use my time more effectively, and I can only imagine what a man like William Carey might have accomplished if our modern resources had been available to him. But Carey developed relentless determination because he spent a lifetime casting off disappointment and discouragement in the strength of the Lord. If our life becomes too comfortable, we will miss opportunities to develop perseverance.
One Step At A time
The surest way to grow in perseverance is to put one foot in front of the other. The Lord instructed Moses at the Red Sea: “Tell the children of Israel to go forward” (Exodus 14:15). Jesus told the man with the withered hand, “Step forward” (Mark 3:3). The apostle Paul said, “Reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal” (Philippians 3:13–14). William Carey once told a friend: “There are grave difficulties on every hand, and more are looming ahead. Therefore we must go forward.”6
Are you making progress in your relationship with Christ? Do you feel more spiritually confident—more resilient—now than you did a year ago? Would others say you are more joyful and peaceful than in the past? Is the fruit of the Spirit growing in you like grapes maturing on the vine?
The world seems to be spinning faster than ever. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be left in the dust. I want to leverage technology and modern conveniences so that I can devote myself to the hard work of the journey God has placed before me. I want to gear up for growth and walk with confidence on my journey with Christ.
Rather than slowing down spiritually as we go through life, let’s keep our momentum, desiring to always be transformed into His image “from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
At Base Camp
If you were honest, perhaps you’d admit that you’re not growing in perseverance. You might think of yourself as lounging at base camp rather than embarking on an adventure, or as we sometimes say, being idle. Think of that word “idle.” It means that we aren’t active or moving. When our Lord was teaching a parable, He posed the question, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?” (Matthew 20:6) Then He sent the workers off to be productive.
It’s not difficult to slip out of the basic disciplines of Christianity. As a pastor, I’ve seen people whose church attendance is disrupted for a short period, but afterward they don’t reconnect. They continue to idle. I’ve seen people relinquish their ministry of being an usher, a children’s worker, or a choir member. At first their reasons might have been valid, but soon they found themselves back at base camp. Has that happened to you? Perhaps you need to lace up your hiking boots, grab a backpack, and restart up the mountain.
Wandering Off the Path
Of course, if you forget to bring your map, you’ll find yourself wandering off the path. This kind of unintentional wandering can be deadly. Sometimes there is a good reason to wander, like an outlook for a picture or a perfect picnic spot, but diversions should be temporary and always with an eye to the main path. You don’t want to venture off course and end up lost, unsure how to get back to the path!
The book of Hebrews was written to warn of this danger. “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:12-13).
If your habits are pulling you away from the Lord and weakening your faith, stop to check your map, find your bearings, and shift your course back to the path of faithfulness. Remember these words from the apostle Paul in Philippians 3:12-14:
Perhaps there’s a message in those verses you need right now, so let me encourage you: Press on. Press toward the goal. Do not slacken the pace. Get your boots on and complete the trail.
Is any area of your Christian life stuck at base camp or straying from the trail? What can you do to get moving again and gear up for growth?
1 Quoted by Christianity Today, “William Carey: Father of Modern Protestant Missions,” https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/missionaries/william-carey.html, accessed on August 21, 2019.
2 Scott Allen, “William Carey: A Missionary Who Transformed a Nation,” Mission Frontiers, September-October 2011, http://www.missionfrontiers.org/issue/article/william-carey, accessed on August 21, 2019.
5Tracee Hamilton, “Baseball Games Take Too Long, and That’s the Long and Short of It,” The Washington Post, July 12, 2013, https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/nationals/baseball-games-take-too-long-and-thats-the-long-and-short-of-it/2013/07/12/88c73634-eb25-11e2-aa9f-c03a72e2d342_story.html, accessed on August 21, 2019.
6Quoted by E. Michael and Sharon Rusten in The One Year Book of Christian History (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 2003), 143.