As part of his preparation for missionary service in China, Hudson Taylor (1832-1905) pursued a course of medical training in London. One of the patients he treated was an avowed atheist who was dying of gangrene. It was Taylor’s daily duty to dress the man’s infected foot.
The ailing individual was vehemently antagonistic toward anything religious. He had not entered a church since his wedding day forty years earlier. Recently when a local minister had visited him, the man spit in the pastor’s face and refused to allow him to speak.
Taylor was deeply concerned about this man’s eternal welfare but at first did not broach spiritual matters with him. Through Taylor’s physical care the patient’s suffering was eased somewhat, and he expressed appreciation to the young medical student.
Eventually Taylor worked up his courage and talked with the man about his grave condition and his need for the Savior and life eternal through Him. The man’s countenance instantly betrayed obvious annoyance. He rolled over in bed with his back toward Taylor and refused to say another word. Future efforts by the would-be evangelist to share a spiritually-beneficial word with his patient elicited similar responses.
Finally one day the earnest Christian could contain himself no longer. As he prepared to leave the dying man’s room, he paused at the doorway then suddenly burst into tears. Crossing to the patient’s bedside, he exclaimed, “My friend, whether you will hear or whether you will forbear, I must deliver my soul. How I wish you would allow me to pray with you.”
The man was completely taken aback and stammered, “W—Well, if it will be a relief to you, then do.” Immediately Taylor fell on his knees and poured out his soul to God in behalf of the individual.
Taylor later recorded: “Then and there, I believe, the Lord wrought a change in his soul. He was never afterwards unwilling to be spoken to and prayed with, and within a few days he definitely accepted Christ as his Savior. Oh, the joy it was to me to see that dear man rejoicing in hope of the glory of God!”
Years afterward Taylor reflected further on the incident: “I have often thought since, in connection with this case and the work of God generally, of the words, ‘He that goes forth weeping, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him’ (Psalm 126:6). Perhaps if there were more of that intense distress for souls that leads to tears, we should more frequently see the results we desire. Sometimes it may be that while we are complaining of the hardness of the hearts of those we are seeking to benefit, the hardness of our own hearts and our own feeble apprehension of the solemn reality of eternal things may be the true cause of our want of success.”
Do we care about the temporal and eternal well-being of our acquaintances who don’t have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ? When was the last time we were burdened about, or even wept over, their plight without Him? Perhaps the first thing we need to do to rekindle our evangelistic fervor is to pray for ourselves to have a heart of genuine concern for those without the Savior.
This and many other true incidents (from the lives of various outstanding Christians) modeling how we can bear a fruitful witness for Christ are related in Timeless Stories, published by Christian Focus. An inspiring account of Taylor’s remarkable life and ministry is found in Hudson Taylor, Gospel Pioneer to China, published by Presbyterian & Reformed (P&R).
I would enjoy hearing your thoughts on how Christians can more effectively share the Good News of Jesus with those who need to hear it.
Copyright 2013 by Vance E. Christie