John & Betty Stam

John & Betty Stam

After I had the opportunity to write Hudson Taylor’s biography for Barbour Publishing, Barbour invited me to write a book on John and Betty Stam. At first I had to admit that I was unfamiliar with the couple. But as I began researching the compelling story of the Stams’ lives and ministries I quickly realized theirs was a powerful testimony that I would be highly privileged to share with contemporary Christians. I concluded that it would be most unfortunate if the Stams’ inspiring and instructive story were to be lost to present-day believers because it wasn’t communicated to them.

John And Betty Stam: Missionary Martyrs by Vance Christie

Learn more in Vance’s biography of John & Betty Stam.

As a result, John and Betty Stam, Missionary Martyrs was first published in 2000, then reissued under the same title in 2008 by Christian Focus Publications. Here are several reasons I highly recommend this biography to you:

1. John Stam (1907-1934) and Betty Scott Stam (1906-1934) were both raised by committed Christian parents who diligently taught their children God’s Word and who carefully led them to saving faith in Jesus Christ. These consecrated parents loved and actively served the Lord and taught their children to do the same. All eight of the Stam children grew up to be active in Christian service as adults (two as foreign missionaries). The five Scott siblings, having been raised as missionary kids in China, all returned to serve there in adulthood. Such families have much to teach us about raising children who know, love and serve Christ.

2. John and Betty prayerfully sought and carefully followed God’s leading with regard to how He would have them to serve Him vocationally. They also sought to do what the Lord would have them to presently, not just in the future. They faithfully followed His leading even when that involved marked difficulties and when others, wanting to spare them such hardships, questioned their intentions. Their example serves as a corrective to not a few Christians who pursue their short- and long-term plans (as well as their own comforts) while giving little or no thought to what God’s will is for their life.

3. John and Betty put their commitment to following Christ’s call on their lives ahead of their budding romantic relationship with each other. They met and were attracted to each other while students at Moody Bible Institute. But when Betty graduated from MBI one year ahead of John, they did not become engaged since they were not sure it would work out for both of them to serve with the same mission agency in China. They both were following God’s call to serve as missionaries in China but John did not know if he would be accepted by the same mission agency that Betty was to serve with. They patiently waited on the Lord’s clear leading through the outworking of circumstances, and in the end God gave them the desire of their heart to marry and serve Him together in China. They remind us that Christ has the first claim on the believer’s affection and allegiance, even before one’s potential spouse.

4. The Stams model how essential a strong personal devotional life is to maintaining faithful, fruitful service of the Lord. While a student at Moody, John established the habit of rising at 5 A.M. daily for personal prayer and Bible study. He diligently sought to maintain his private time with the Lord while serving on the mission field. A fellow missionary at language school in China testified of John: “He seemed to know Christ more intimately, more practically than the rest of us. John’s spirituality was radiant and contagious. He seemed to be always in touch with the source of power, even our Lord Himself.”

5. John and Betty were committed to helping fulfill Christ’s Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) wherever they were at, both in America and China. Before going to the foreign field, they participated in street and prison evangelism. For Betty this was a bit of a stretch as she was reserved by nature. But she pushed herself to participate in those outreach efforts and gained confidence and joy by doing so. In China John and Betty constantly (often daily) shared the Gospel, both at their mission stations and while out on evangelistic itinerations. On those outreach tours they shared Christ in tea shops, inns, homes, chapels and open air meetings. Regardless of our temperament or degree of evangelistic gifting, John and Betty’s examples encourage us to play an active role in sharing the Savior and helping advance His kingdom.

Helen Priscilla Stam - The Miracle Baby

Helen Priscilla Stam, “The Miracle Baby”

6. The circumstances surrounding the Stams’ martyrdom highlight the fact that the Lord is sovereign over and accomplishes great good through even the seemingly untimely and unfortunate deaths of His children. While God permitted John and Betty to be captured and executed by Communist rebels, He providentially protected their three-month-old daughter, Helen Priscilla. She thereafter became known by many Christians worldwide as “The Miracle Baby.” As a result of John and Betty’s deaths, untold thousands of Christians around the globe, from that time till the present, have been challenged and encouraged to serve the Lord with greater consecration and courage. Hundreds of secular newspapers throughout the world carried full accounts of the Stams’ martyrdom, faith and dedication, with the further result that some were even drawn to salvation.

Copyright 2013 by Vance E. Christie

China Inland Mission missionaries in Chinese dress (1891). Hudson Taylor is seated in the middle of the second row with full gray beard.

China Inland Mission missionaries in Chinese dress (1891). Hudson Taylor is seated in the middle of the second row with full gray beard.

Hudson Taylor (1832-1905), the eminent pioneer missionary to inland China, was a man of outstanding and unshakable faith in God. He unfalteringly manifested strong faith in God throughout his five decades of demanding, fruitful missionary service. That faith was the key to his ability to overcome innumerable difficulties and was foundational to his tremendous ministry success. By considering Taylor’s exceptional example of faith, we can strengthen our own trust in the Lord in seeking to faithfully live for and serve Him.

While taking a medical course in Hull, England, as part of his preparation for missionary service, young Hudson Taylor once gave away his very last coin to aid a desperately poor family. Consequently, he did not know how his own food would be supplied the very next day. But within twelve hours the Lord provided him four times the amount he had given away through an anonymous source. That was one of several faith-building experiences Taylor had before he left England for China.

En route to China for the first time, the ship on which Taylor sailed was trapped in a calm and carried forty miles off course by a strong current. The helpless vessel was in imminent danger of running aground on a sunken reef off the northern coast of Papua New Guinea. Taylor led the four known Christians aboard the ship in imploring God to rescue them by sending a wind. He then went on deck and recommended to the incredulous first officer that the listless mainsail be let down in anticipation of the immediate answer to their prayers! Presently a wind did spring up and within minutes the ship was sailing safely back out to sea. Throughout his ministry career Taylor had numerous other occasions to trust God for safety for himself, his family and his fellow missionaries, not only while traveling but also when encountering violent physical opposition from some Chinese toward the Christian message.

China Inland Mission map showing China's provinces

China Inland Mission map showing China’s provinces

With the unclouded eye of faith Taylor followed the Lord’s leading in founding the China Inland Mission (CIM) to reach the vast, previously-neglected interior region of that country. (Before the founding of the CIM, missionaries had confined their ministries to China’s seven coastal provinces, leaving the eleven inland provinces, where fully half the country’s immense population resided, entirely unevangelized.) Taylor trusted God to raise up many missionaries and to supply them with the necessary finances and protection so they could spread the Gospel throughout inland China. As a result, by the time of Taylor’s death, 800 missionaries and more than 2,000 Chinese pastors and evangelists were serving at 1,000 CIM stations and outstations. In Taylor’s lifetime the equivalent of 7.5 million dollars had been given to support the CIM, and 30,000 Chinese had become Christians.

Prior to 1886, the most missionaries the CIM had ever added to its force in a relatively short period of time was seventy, from 1882 to 1884. Late in 1886 Taylor and other missionaries in China began praying, rather audaciously, that God would send 100 new missionaries to the field in just one year’s time, by the end of 1887! Everyone affiliated with the CIM was invited to pray for “The Hundred.”

A veteran missionary to Shanghai told Taylor, “I am delighted to hear that you are praying for large reinforcements. You will not get a hundred, of course, within the year; but you will get many more than if you did not ask for them.”

Taylor replied, “Thank you for your interest. We have the joy of knowing our prayers are answered now. And I feel sure that, if spared, you shall share that joy by welcoming the last of the hundred to China!”

That year an astounding 600 men and women offered themselves for service with the CIM in China. By the end of 1887, 102 new CIM missionaries had sailed for China.

These are just a few instances of the conspicuous faith that characterized Hudson Taylor’s life and ministry. His life story is peppered with literally scores of such faith-filled incidents.

Two of the books that I’ve had the privilege of writing, Hudson Taylor, Gospel Pioneer to China (P&R, 2011), and Timeless Stories, God’s Incredible Work in the Lives of Inspiring Christians (Christian Focus, 2010), contain numerous true stories of Taylor’s outstanding faith. I think you’ll find, as I certainly have, encouragement and guidance for your own faith-walk with the Lord, through reading of Hudson Taylor’s life of remarkable faith.

Copyright 2013 by Vance E. Christie

Hudson Taylor

Hudson Taylor

The very first biography I had the privilege of publishing (with Barbour in 1999) was on Hudson Taylor, one of my longtime missionary heroes. That book was republished (by Presbyterian and Reformed in 2011) under a new title, Hudson Taylor, Gospel Pioneer to China. Here are several reasons I’d encourage you to read Taylor’s biography:

1. Hudson Taylor (1832-1905) was one of the most outstanding and influential missionaries of all time. He served for five decades as a missionary to China and was the founding director of the China Inland Mission, which was intent on taking the Gospel to the vast, previously-neglected interior portion of that country. Ruth Tucker, in her book From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya: A Biographical History of Christian Missions, states: “No other missionary in the nineteen centuries since the apostle Paul has had a wider vision and carried out a more systematized plan of evangelizing a broad geographical area than Hudson Taylor.”

2. Taylor’s upbringing by consecrated Christian parents and grandparents encourages us in the important responsibility we have in raising our own children for the Lord. His great grandfather James Taylor endured fierce persecution in establishing the first Methodist congregation in the rough mining town of Barnsley, England.  Hudson Taylor was raised in that town and church. His parents read the Bible and prayed with their children twice each day. Taylor’s mother and sister played key roles in praying him to salvation as a teen. His parents’ intense interest in missions, especially to China, was doubtless the largest human influence in Hudson Taylor sensing God’s call to devote his life to missionary service there.

Young Hudson Taylor

Young Hudson Taylor

3. Taylor’s example inspires and challenges us to have a passionate concern for non-Christians and an earnest commitment to helping actively fulfill Christ’s Great Commission throughout the whole world. Both before and throughout his missionary career, Taylor had a pressing concern for the eternal welfare of unbelievers who would perish eternally without Jesus as their Savior. He was burdened over the untold millions who were passing into eternity without ever hearing of the Savior. That motivated him to do all he could to promote the fulfillment of the Great Commission. He tirelessly recruited other Christians to join him in actively pursuing that same objective.

4. Taylor has much to teach us about living a holy life and serving Christ in the strength that God supplies rather than under our own power. At age thirty-seven Taylor faced a personal crisis due to a collection of marked ministry trials and what he judged to be a lack of consistent spirituality in his own life. The breakthrough for him came in being reminded of and laying claim to the John 15 principle of bearing much fruit (both in ministry and one’s personal spiritual life) by abiding like a branch in Jesus the vine. From that point on, for the remainder of his life, Taylor sought to prayerfully depend on the Lord more and on his own exertions a bit less (although he remained a diligent servant of Christ throughout life). The results were increased personal joy, peace and righteousness as well as greater ministry effectiveness.

5. Taylor’s example reminds us that Christians need to be, as he was, willing to embrace considerable sacrifice and even suffering in order to serve the Lord faithfully. For Hudson Taylor that entailed: losing his first wife and four of his children to death from various diseases in China; enduring long separations from his children and second wife in carrying out ministry responsibilities; frequently living in sub-standard housing and experiencing severely straitened economic circumstances; being roundly criticized by his fellow countrymen and even some missionaries for his progressive ministry notions (such as adopting Chinese dress, hairstyle and other amoral customs); repeatedly having his own life endangered through illnesses, storms at sea and riots against Christians.

Hudson Taylor: Gospel Pioneer to China by Vance Christie

Learn more in Vance’s biography of Hudson Taylor.

6. Taylor’s example also encourages us not to be afraid to think and act outside the box when it comes to serving Christ and seeking to advance His kingdom. While ridiculed for doing so, Taylor embraced many amoral Chinese customs in order to more effectively reach indigenous people for Christ. While other missionaries were content to confine their ministry efforts to China’s coastal provinces, Taylor dared to follow God’s leading in establishing a unique mission society to reach the vast majority of China’s population living in inland provinces.

7. Last but certainly not least: One of the hallmarks of Taylor’s life and ministry was his unshakable faith in God. Taylor’s life story is replete with instances of his confidently trusting God to provide: pressing personal material needs; protection in various dangerous situations; both finances and personnel to carry out ever-expanding ministry undertakings. Reading of Taylor’s tremendous faith and how God greatly honored it motivates us to exercise increased faith in our own endeavors to serve the Lord.

I think you’ll receive significant inspiration and encouragement for your spiritual life and service by reading Hudson Taylor’s biography. I hope you’ll take the time to do so.

Copyright 2013 by Vance E. Christie

 

Vance's parents, George and Phyllis Christie, 60th wedding anniversary.

Vance’s parents, George and Phyllis Christie, 60th wedding anniversary.

I had the unspeakable blessing of being raised by committed Christian parents. Dad and Mom knew Christ Jesus as their personal Savior and were devoted to serving Him and His people. They loved God’s Word and sought to live faithfully by it. They were careful to lead their children to the Savior, to teach us the way of the Lord and to encourage us to obey and serve Him.

If ever I find myself taking my Christian heritage for granted, all I have to do is look back one generation to be reminded how blessed I truly am. Both my parents are first-generation Christians. If God’s saving and sanctifying grace had not intersected their lives, I would have had a very different upbringing in a non-Christian home.

While my mom was growing up her parents were good moral people but not churchgoers. (They professed faith in Christ later in life.)  As a young girl my mom attended a summer Bible school at a small Brethren church in the village of Ozark in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. As the church had no regular pastor at the time, a Presbyterian minister and his wife, Rev. and Mrs. Morrison, came from lower Michigan to conduct the children’s Bible school. They clearly presented the Gospel and invited the children to trust in Jesus as their Savior. At nine years of age my mom responded to that invitation and committed her life to Christ.

I don’t know if that faithful pastoral couple even knew of Mom’s commitment that day. But likely by now in heaven they’ve learned of the spiritual fruit their Gospel witness bore not only in my mom’s life but also in the lives of her children and grandchildren.

A number of years after Mom came to faith in Jesus she met and married my dad. After Dad’s stint in the Army, they moved to East Lansing so he could finish his college education at Michigan State University. They had two young children at the time, and Mom was eager for them to receive some Bible training. So at her encouragement (and through God’s gracious providential guidance), they started attending a Grace Brethren church in nearby Lansing.

Like Mom, my dad had been raised by good moral parents who did not attend church or profess personal faith in Jesus. Dad grew up believing that the way to get to heaven is by living a good life. But Rev. Dick Sellers, the pastor of the church Dad began attending in Lansing, taught that eternal life is God’s gift through faith in Christ rather than something we earn by our own good works.

“That preacher is wrong,” Dad thought to himself, “and I’m going to prove it to him!” He went home and started reading through the New Testament, searching for all the verses that show we get to heaven by our good deeds. But what he discovered was that he was mistaken and the preacher had it right. Convinced by Scripture, Dad placed his trust in Jesus as his Savior.

About a year later Dad sensed the Lord leading him to prepare for vocational Christian ministry and went to seminary. While he and Mom were there I was born. During Dad’s first pastoral ministry several years later I was reborn when he shared with me the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Christ and led me to the Savior.

As I’ve gone through my adult years my appreciation has grown for the rich spiritual heritage the Lord has blessed me with – first in bringing salvation to our family beginning with my parents, then in the abundant spiritual blessings and advantages that I and my siblings were raised with as a result.

Some of you readers, like my parents, are first-generation believers. Doubtless you are well aware of God’s goodness in bringing salvation to you though you did not have the advantage of a Christian upbringing. May the Lord mightily use you to pass on a godly heritage that will continue as a tremendous blessing to your family for generations to come.

Others of you, like myself and my children, are second- or third-generation Christians. Still others of you come from a strong Christian heritage that stretches back several generations. May all of us who have received such a blessed heritage not take it for granted. Instead may we regularly and heartily thank God for such a rich blessing and earnestly seek to do what we can to pass on that same blessing to the future generations of our family.

Copyright 2013 by Vance E. Christie

A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories That Stretch And StirLast year I had the privilege of teaching a ten-lesson course at the church I pastor on the topic of “Revival – Past and Present.” As the primary resource for the class (other than the Bible) we used Collin Hansen and John Woodbridge’s book A God-Sized Vision, Revival Stories that Stretch and Stir (Zondervan, 2010).  I highly recommend the book and encourage you to read it for the following reasons:

1. The authors are well qualified to write on the topic of revival. John Woodbridge is the esteemed research professor of Church History at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, having taught there for over forty years. Collin Hansen is the capable editorial director for the Gospel Coalition.  Both of them have published best-selling books and numerous articles in various journals and magazines. They’ve obviously done their homework for writing this book. Each chapter includes a list of endnotes, referencing several published works that can be consulted for further study on that chapter’s subject.

2. Hansen and Woodbridge handle the complex and sometimes controversial topic of revival with balance and grace. While acknowledging that some of what has been called revival doubtless was not, they nevertheless believe that revival is a legitimate, biblical phenomenon that has occurred repeatedly in Church History and that Christians today do well to prepare for and seek. The authors are of the persuasion that bona fide revival is something that God graciously brings about rather than something that people work up on their own. But unlike some books on revival, Woodbridge and Hansen are gracious in how they speak of and represent proponents of the opposite view from their own.

3. The first chapter of this work does an excellent job of laying out a biblical foundation of revival, introducing the two main camps of thought on revival (sovereignly brought about by God or initiated by man), and defining what true revival actually is. Genuine revival is shown to have its roots in Bible times, not just in subsequent Church History.

4. Chapters 2-8 of the book describe a number of major revivals that have taken place in various parts of the world during the past three centuries:

  • The First and Second Great Awakenings in North America (1730s-1740s and 1790s- 1840s).
  • The Prayer Meeting Revival in the United States, Northern Ireland and South Africa (1857-1860).
  • The Global Awakening in Wales, India, Korea and North America (1900s).
  • Revivals in China and Manchuria (1900s-1930s).
  • The East Africa Revival (1920s-1970s).
  • North America’s Evangelical Boom (1940s-1950s).

I was delighted to learn much more through this book about how God has worked in mighty reviving power not only at different times in my native country but also in other parts of the world.

5. This volume presents these revivals in an engaging and manageable fashion. The book provides a popular-level overview rather than a detailed scholarly analysis of these periods of significant spiritual awakening. Each chapter moves along at a brisk pace, with plenty of fascinating personal narratives (involving various key players in the revivals) and helpful statistical summaries to keep the reading interesting.

6. The book’s Conclusion suggests several practical ways we contemporary Christians can prepare for and seek a God-wrought revival in our own day. Doing so will strengthen our current “routine” service for the Lord even as we look for an exceptional stirring of His Spirit among us.

7. Many modern Christians know very little about the mighty revivals that God has brought at various times and places in the past. This volume is a handy way to gain an overview of those extraordinary spiritual awakenings and to be encouraged by them.

8. Some may be tempted to think that revival cannot take place today because conditions in society and the Church have reached such a low moral and spiritual ebb.  This book reminds us that’s precisely when revival has often come in the past – when conditions had become excessively dark and discouraging. Such desperate circumstances motivated God’s people to cry out to Him for a gracious, mighty moving of His Spirit that would address and correct the overwhelming difficulties being faced.

I think you’ll receive, as I have, significant spiritual encouragement and benefit from reading A God-Sized Vision, Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir.

About the Authors:

Collin Hansen

Collin Hansen

Collin Hansen (MDiv, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is editorial director for the Gospel Coalition. Formerly an associate editor for Christianity Today, he is the author of Young, Restless, Reformed and co-author with John Woodbridge of A God-Sized Vision. He has written for Books and Culture, Tabletalk, Leadership, and Christian History and Biography. He has appeared as a commentator on Fox News, and his work has been featured in Time magazine.

Follow Collin’s blog at The Gospel Coalition.

John Woodbridge

John Woodbridge

John Woodbridge (PhD, University of Toulouse, France) is research professor of Church History and History of Christian Thought at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, where he has taught since 1970. He was previously a senior editor of Christianity Today and is the author of Biblical Authority: A Critique of the Rogers/McKim Proposal and coauthor of Letters Along the Way. He is the editor of Great Leaders of the Christian Church and coeditor of works including The Mark of Jesus. Woodbridge is the recipient of four Gold Medallion Awards.

Copyright 2013 by Vance E. Christie

Little boy prayingWhen Emily Chubbuck married and sailed from the United States to Burma as Mrs. Adoniram Judson in 1846, she immediately assumed the care of Judson’s two young sons by his previous wife, Sarah. (Sarah, like Judson’s first wife, Ann, died of illness after years of faithful missionary service in Burma.) Emily mothered her two young stepsons, Henry and Edward, as affectionately and attentively as though they were her own children.

One night around the time of Edward’s third birthday, Emily heard him call out from a little room where he slept by himself that he was “afraid.” At first she was unable to comfort and reassure him.

Emily had not taught the children to repeat memorized prayers. But she was in the habit of helping the youngsters determine what it was they needed, then having them repeat a prayer after her that addressed their need. So on this occasion she prayed with Edward, kissed him goodnight and left him apparently satisfied.

Here’s her own touching description of what happened next: “Pretty soon, however, I heard him call out, as though in great distress, ‘O, Dod!’ The poor little fellow had not sufficient acquaintance with language to know what to say next. But this up-lifting of the heart evidently relieved him, for in a few minutes after he again called out, ‘O, Dod!’ but in a tone much softened. I stepped to the door but hesitated about entering. In a few minutes he again repeated, ‘O, Dod!’ but in a tone so confiding that I thought I had better go back to my room, and leave him with his Great Protector.”

After hearing nothing further from Edward for some time, Emily at last went and found him on his knees fast asleep. “He never fails now to remind me of asking ‘Dod to tate tare of him,’ if I neglect it,” Emily afterward reported. “And I have never heard him say a word since of being afraid.”

1 Peter 5:7 encourages Christians: “Cast all your anxiety on Him [God] because He cares for you.” Romans 8:26-27 further reveals, even more amazingly, that when we don’t know exactly how to pray concerning matters that are troubling or perplexing us, God’s Spirit intercedes for us with deepest earnestness and complete effectiveness: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”

If we’re anxious, fearful, distressed, perplexed or in some other way burdened presently, let’s take our concerns to our loving heavenly Father in prayer with a spirit of childlike dependence and trust. Even if we’re not sure exactly how or what to pray, God’s Spirit will fervently intercede in our behalf, God will see our situation and what’s in our hearts, and He will compassionately come to our aid.

Have you heard of, witnessed or personally experienced an occasion when a child of God faced a situation that was so distressing or confusing that words failed when they tried to pray about it? How did the Lord respond to their unverbalized prayer? I would enjoy hearing about it.

Copyright 2013 by Vance E. Christie

Adoniram Judson

Adoniram Judson

Galatians 6:9 encourages us, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest of righteousness if we do not give up.” Adoniram Judson’s thirty-seven-year ministry in Burma (from 1813 to 1850) serves as an excellent example of that scriptural principle.

Judson’s opening years in Burma can only be described as slow sledding. His first three years were spent learning the Burmese language by studying it twelve hours per day. He then wrote a seven-page tract to introduce Christianity to the Burmans and translated Matthew’s Gospel into Burmese. Public worship services were begun and were attended by about thirty people. After nearly six years in Burma, the first Burman came to saving faith in Christ. That was it for the first six years – he learned the language, wrote one short tract, translated one book of Scripture into Burmese, started worship services with a relatively small number of attendees and led one Burman to the Savior.

After Judson had been in Burma ten years, he completed an initial translation of the entire New Testament into Burmese, although it still needed revising before it was ready to print and distribute. By that time there were eighteen known Burmese Christians but all but three or four of those had been scattered by persecution.

Then came a war between Burma and Britain. Though he was an American, Judson, like all foreigners in Burma at the time, was suspected as being a spy for the British. Consequently, he was incarcerated in a pair of brutal Burmese death prisons for a year and a half. He survived those only by God’s preserving mercy. Judson then spent the better part of a year serving as a translator in the treaty negotiations that needed to be carried out at the war’s conclusion.

After the war, two coastal provinces of Burma came under British control, and religious toleration was exercised in that pair of provinces. The rest of Burma remained under the control of the Burmese government, and Christianity was still not tolerated in that vast portion of the country. At last, after thirteen and a half years of achingly-slow ministry progress, Judson and the few Burmese Christians had a secure place where they could practice their beliefs and serve the Lord unmolested.

As a result of this religious freedom and the foundational ministry work that had already been done, the final twenty-four years of Judson’s ministry were marked by considerable spiritual fruit. Virtually every day he was involved in evangelizing and edifying indigenous people. Assisted by a number of native associates, he carried out several evangelistic and church-planting itinerations in a few different parts of Burma, including areas officially closed to Christianity.

Judson translated the Old Testament into Burmese, then revised his Burmese translation of the entire Bible. He wrote several other Gospel tracts and church manuals to assist in winning Burmans and building up Burmese congregations. This literature was translated into a few different languages that were used in Burma. Literally millions of pieces of Christian literature were distributed throughout the country. In the closing years of his life Judson produced a 600-page Burmese-English dictionary to assist missionaries for generations to come in learning and using the language.

By the time of Judson’s death, scores of churches had been established in Burma. As many as 6,000 indigenous people, representing a variety of ethnic groups, had become Christians. More than thirty missionaries were serving in several different locations.

More often than not in our individual or collective ministries, there’s an initial foundation-laying stage when progress is slow and results are modest. Even after a ministry is up and going there are inevitable plateau periods in which it seems little progress is being made. It’s easy during such phases to get impatient, discouraged and to be tempted to give up.

But as we carry on faithfully and diligently in ministry, month after month and year after year, God has a way of blessing that type of service. Over time He allows our ministry to grow, to bear much spiritual fruit and to accomplish great good. So let’s be encouraged to keep on keeping on in our ministry efforts for the Lord, even if we’re in a slow, discouraging season presently.

I would enjoy hearing instances you’ve seen or heard of where long-term faithfulness in Christian service led to significant spiritual fruitfulness.

Copyright 2013 by Vance E. Christie

Trusting God In Tough Times

Adoniram Judson (1788-1850) endured numerous hardships in his thirty-eight years of pioneer missionary work in Burma. He experienced: permanent separation from family and friends in the homeland; protracted periods of isolation and loneliness; spartan living conditions; challenging ministry circumstances in a pagan religious culture that opposed Christianity and persecuted Christians; recurring, debilitating illness from foreign disease; the deaths from illness of two wives (at ages 36 and 41), six young children and several missionary colleagues in their 20s and 30s; the strain of living under a government that was despotic, corrupt, capricious and sadistic; extended imprisonment in a pair of Burmese death prisons where he endured horrific, brutal conditions.

Judson readily acknowledged the difficulty and heartache of undergoing such trials. But at the same time he ever trusted the Lord and sought to willingly submit himself to the divine will even in the midst of marked hardships. In facing trials, Judson did not assail God’s character, question His wisdom or doubt His love. Instead, he clung to the fact that God is totally righteous, all wise and ever loving as the bedrock truths upon which he could firmly stand in enduring hardships.

Following the death of his second wife, Sarah, a house fire that destroyed many of his family’s possessions, and a long delay in a vital translation project, Judson wrote to a fellow missionary who had suffered similarly: “I have recommenced the work of the dictionary, which has been suspended nearly two years. Why has this grievous interruption been permitted, and all this precious time lost? And why are our houses and property allowed to be burned up? And why are those most dear to us, and most qualified to be useful in the [missionary] cause, torn from our arms, and dashed into the grave, and all their knowledge and qualification with them? Because infinite wisdom and love will have it so. Because it is best for us, and best for them, and best for the cause, and best for the interests of eternity, that it should be so. And blessed be God, we know it, and are thankful, and rejoice, and say, Glory be to God.”

Near the end of his ministry, missionary support from America suddenly faltered, forcing Judson to abandon plans to return to the capitol of Burma where he hoped to further advance the Gospel. Instead, he needed to retreat to a mission station where a number of other missionaries were already serving. At first Judson felt forsaken by supporters in the homeland and was deeply disappointed at these developments.

But his third wife, Emily, reported: “He very soon began to devise apologies for everybody, and said we must remember that so far as we were concerned, or the missionary cause itself, God had done this thing, and done it, as he always does, for good. It was not his will that we should go to Ava then, and we had no right to complain of the means he made use of to prevent it. He insisted, too, that our obedience was not to be yielded grudgingly; that it must be a cheerful acquiescence in all that God had done, and a sincere, careful study of the indications of his providence afterwards, without any suspicion that our ways were hedged by any thing harder or thornier than his love and mercy.”

Emily further testified of Judson: “His trust in Providence was so implicit and habitual, that he was never gloomy, and seldom more than momentarily disheartened. On the other hand, being accustomed to regard all the events of this life, however minute or painful, as ordered in wisdom, and tending to one great and glorious end, he lived in almost constant obedience to the apostolic injunction, ‘Rejoice evermore!’”

Many modern Western Christians do not handle adversity well. They are surprised by it and quick to doubt or even accuse God when He allows them to experience hardship.

Instead, like Judson, we should fully expect trials and should seek to willingly embrace adversity and sacrifice in our living for and serving the Lord. By readily trusting in God’s character and submitting to His will, we will be helped through the inevitable trials of life, others will be benefited by our example and Christ will be glorified.

I would enjoy hearing how Judson or other stalwart Christians have encouraged you to trust the Lord, even in hard times.

Copyright 2013 by Vance E. Christie

10 Significant Reasons to Read Adoniram Judson's Biography

I’m excited, delighted and grateful to God that my newest biography, Adoniram Judson: Devoted for Life, is being released in the U.S. this month. Judson (1788-1850) was a pioneer missionary in Burma (modern Myanmar) for thirty-eight years. Here are several significant reasons it’s worthwhile to read an account of his life and ministry:

  1. Judson was reared in the home of a conservative Congregational minister. But as a precocious young man full of carnal pride and ambition, he rejected his parents’ Christian faith. The true story of how God used a stunning turn of events to graciously show Judson the error of his way and to draw him to Himself is both fascinating and instructive.
  2. Judson has the distinction of being the foremost member of the very first group of foreign missionaries ever sent out from the United States. So in reading his history we also learn the exciting story of the birth and rapid growth of the foreign missionary enterprise in the U.S.A.
  3. Judson became America’s first great foreign missionary hero. Accounts of the Judson family’s trials, triumphs and tragedies captured the hearts of Americans and British alike and became the most widely ready American missionary lore of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. To this day their story remains one of the most inspiring and compelling sagas of the modern missionary movement.
  4. Judson is a premiere example of steadfast service to Christ, even in the face of numerous sacrifices and hardships. The trials he endured while carrying out nearly four decades of costly missionary service included: permanent separation from family and friends in the homeland; isolation and loneliness; spartan living conditions; challenging ministry circumstances in a pagan religious culture that resisted and opposed Christianity; recurring illness from foreign disease; the deaths of several family members and missionary colleagues; a brutal and protracted period of imprisonment. Judson’s example motivates us to remain faithful in our service of Christ, despite the challenges and hardships we encounter in doing so.
  5. Judson persevered through staggering trials with unshakable trust in God’s all-wise, ever-loving providential will. In spite of the ongoing challenges, Judson continually manifested undimmed faith in the power and ultimate conquest of God’s Word and the Christian Gospel. In doing so, he models for us some of the primary keys to carrying out steadfast Christian service despite attendant difficulties.
  6. Judson’s missionary career reminds us of the considerable spiritual fruit that can be borne through patient, persevering ministry effort. In Judson’s first six years of tough, slow pioneering work in Burma, only one Burman came to faith in Christ and Judson was able to translate only the Gospel of Matthew into the Burmese language. By the end of Judson’s life, there were 5,000-6,000 indigenous Christians and scores of churches in Burma. Judson had not only translated the entire Bible into Burmese but had also produced an extensive Burmese-English dictionary to assist other missionaries in their ministry endeavors.
  7. In his ministry, Judson was first and foremost a missionary and an evangelist. He was consumed with the desire and the necessity to carry the Gospel to those who had not yet had the opportunity to hear and receive it. His passion and example in that regard serve as a needed reminder of the importance and effort that contemporary Christians should continue to give to missions and evangelism.
  8. Judson was adept at leading indigenous people to Christ and in training and releasing them to carry out fruitful ministry themselves. He has much to teach modern missionaries about how to work skillfully with the native peoples they’re trying to reach, disciple and train.
  9. Judson was serious about and disciplined in his personal spiritual life. He worked hard at exercising spiritual disciplines, growing in personal holiness, developing a Christlike character, and interacting with others in a loving, godly fashion. He shows us that it’s important to give serious attention and effort to our personal spiritual development, character and habits. That is the necessary personal spiritual focus and conditioning out of which faithful, fruitful service of the Lord flows.
  10. My book, Adoniram Judson: Devoted for Life, is the first new extensive biography published on Judson in fifty-seven years. I’m glad and grateful that Christian Focus Publications has agreed that the time had come for a fresh retelling of Judson’s worthy life story for the encouragement and benefit of the current generation of Christians.

I would enjoy hearing of your level of acquaintance with Adoniram Judson and what you’ve appreciated learning from his example.

Copyright 2013 by Vance E. Christie