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Judson… again

16 Apr

Over the past week this post, and the video below, came across my radar regarding Adoniram Judson. The video is short, but it gives detail about how the work of Judson began in Burma, (the plea for financial and prayer support is for a continuation of that ministry). God worked mightily in the life of this man. The blog post is from Mission Frontiers. This post remembers Judson’s work of endurance, taking an opportunity to celebrate a life lived for the name sake of Jesus Christ. Through the remembrance of Judson hopefully many will be inspired to serve the Lord with their very lives.

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Judson Part III

18 Mar

Judson

If you haven’t read the previous posts about Judson, here and here are the earlier posts. Apologies are necessary for the long hiatus between post two and three. My excuses are abundant and valid—all five children were sick, some of them more than once, along with my wife and me. There is nothing like passing around an enduring little bug that makes everyone miserable. Anyway, now that we’ve recovered, I’m back to scribbling and scratching in blog-land.

As mentioned in my earlier posts regarding this aberrant missionary extraordinaire, I want to consider a few questions. What led Adoniram Judson to give up everything for the sake of the gospel? Why didn’t he faint in adversity? What upheld him? Did they–whoever they are–make better people back then? What fortifies a person enough to endure such hardship and pain?

I ask because I need to guard against the admiration of another transforming into comparative analysis, which leads paralysis. Not trying for cutesy humor here, comparisons are dubious, leading to all manner of depressive-malcontent. Second Corinthians 10:12 warns that comparisons with one another demonstrate a lack of understanding.

Here is where I err. When reading about great men, like Judson, I often ask myself why am I not like him? I believe that question was posed in an early blog. However, through stark wake up calls intermittently in life it became obvious; I’m just mediocre-me. This was a shot to the ego. A humble accepting of who I am is still hard. Even so, the acquiescence of my identity was not what set me free from the bondage of comparisons.

Men like Judson don’t set out to do great things by striving to be like all the great men before them; they simply set out to serve their Lord. Judson went out not to conquer the world, gain recognition, or achieve ministerial glory, but to be an obedient servant of Christ, fixing his desire upon the Lord of glory. Judson was not promoting himself, comparing himself to others, or agonizing over how history would tell his tale—what he did was endeavor to be faithful.

Back to my questions, lest I unduly heap up comparisons… What would lead a man to give up everything for the sake of the gospel? The answer is plain, yet profound. The goodness of the gospel, whereby man finds life satisfying joy in Jesus Christ, is what leads one to give up everything for the sake of Jesus Christ. What fortifies a person to endure such hardship and pain? It isn’t toughness, or that some are cut from different cloth. Rather, it is those who, like the apostle Paul, build upon the foundation of Jesus Christ, according to the grace of God given; these will have work that will withstand the fires of of final judgment (cf. 1 Cor 3:10-15).

Maybe a better question to ask–what propels/supports a person in his/her ministry/missionary endeavors? I answer this question in three ways. Maybe there are more, surely there are; nevertheless, here are three straightforward truths:

  1. Hope in the world to come and not this world. (Hebrews 11:24-28; John 12:25)
  2. Have confidence that God is sovereign and good in all things. (Daniel 4:34, 35; Psalm 84:11, 12; Romans 8:28, 11:33-36)
  3. Grasp the magnitude of Christ’s love. (Ephesians 3:14-21)

These truths firmly support and propel the minister of the gospel in any setting. Ultimately, it is not about what we do or even who we are, but who God is and what he has done. It’s not about what Judson did that made him great, but it’s what God did in and through him that makes his ministry memorable. God’s glory and grace were manifest in his life. He merely set out to serve God, and the produce of his life is only explicable by divine grace

We mustn’t seek validity as people by doing great deeds, worth is not found in how successfully we do what we do. Contrarily, worth is found as children of God beloved of Jesus Christ. Love the Lord God with fullness of heart, soul, mind and strength; do not shoot for greatness, just faithfulness.

In the end, I still want to meet Judson. I long to sit at the feet of the saints recounting the mighty deeds of the inscrutable God over all.

I Want to Meet Adoniram Judson Part II

21 Jan

This is the related post

My favorite movie of all time is Brave Heart. I’m not exactly sure why, the epic battles scenes are cool. Maybe it is the ultimate story of a man not letting others mess with his woman. More than likely I like the movie because it depicts a man doing something great, while not fainting in the face of adversity. Brave Heart is a movie that typifies the struggle of good against evil where good triumphs through the clouds of difficulty. It also portrays living life with a purpose for the sake of others. In the end, I don’t want to romanticize war and the combating of tyranny. However, perseverance through difficulty always makes a good story.

Yet the very qualities I revere in men like William Wallace (the 13th-century Scottish warrior portrayed by Mel Gibson in Brave Heart) seem ever so deficient in me. The frailty of the human heart is no surprise, but the frailty of my heart always shocks me. If a biography was written about me it might don the title, ‘Brian Johnson—Noodle Heart; Among the Many Who Die so Easy.’

That is why I like Judson; he didn’t faint in the face of adversity. A short book written about him is titled, “Adoniram Judson; How Few There are Who Dies so Hard” written by John Piper (you can find the book here). Now that’s a title to a book, I mean, it projects the making of a good story. Yet the glamour of his story, as one of the first long term Christian missionaries in Burma, is filled with great woe.

He was injected into impossible circumstances that would have led many to quit. Actually a few missionaries came and went before Judson arrived on the scene. In 1814 he entered Burma as a Baptist missionary. He entered a country that would be regarded a ‘closed country’ by today’s standards. That might also explain why William Carey, another great missionary, counseled him to not enter Burma. Political unrest, religious intolerance, constant rebellion, and every missionary who came before him left or died; yet Judson went—and stayed.

In his work Judson lost two of his three wives, not because of divorce, but due to health and harsh living conditions. Judson also buried seven of his thirteen children. He only had one furlough after thirty-three years into his missionary work, which was taken because of illness. He spent a total of 38 years in the field giving his life for the sake of the gospel. I’m not wanting to rewrite Piper’s work here, rather I want to engage with the fortitude that was present in this man. Judson, like Moses, considered the reproach of Christ to be greater wealth than all the wealth of New England. He lost his life for the sake of the mission of Christ and the church. I want that. Neither because I’m a masochist, nor because I’m ‘Mr. Super Spiritual.’ I want this kind of intestinal-spiritual fortitude because I know that Jesus is better than everything.

Yet with all the blunt-candor I can muster, I’m relatively squishy. When it comes to rubber meeting the road I often become Mr. Ninny. These are not references to my mid-section, though there might be a corollary, but it is a reference to my spiritual toughness. As a rule, I’m a child of my generation; weak and selfish. I’m not trivializing a serious topic; we live in an era of trivial things, in which I often succumb to the trivial. And when I acquiesce to the inconsequential that which is truly consequential seems mountainous.

Instead of trivializing I’m contemplating the fortitude of faith necessary to sustain a man 38 years in an agonizing ministry. Judson leaned into the fight entrusting himself to Jesus. He didn’t seem to feel sorry for himself, but always resolved the difficulty of his work by fully trusting in the Lord. Maybe Judson did feel sorry for himself, I don’t know fully. The evidence of a life lived where he didn’t extract himself from Burma, but pressed on in his call to ministry doesn’t speak of self-pity. We have the overwhelming tendency to run to comfort rather than lean into the fray. Judson teaches us by his life that Jesus is better than life. This is why I would like to meet this man.

I want to leave you with these considerations:

  • What would lead a man to give up everything for the sake of the gospel?
  • What fortifies a person enough to endure such hardship and pain?
  • Is Jesus Christ truly better than everything?

We will consider these questions in another post.

Ice Breakers

10 Jan

nuclear-icebreaker

Remember icebreakers? You know, the silly ‘get to know you’ exercises at social functions? I do. At one particular gathering I remember the icebreaker quite well. We were asked, “Whom would we like to meet from a previous era of history?” After two or three of the ‘super-spiritual’ people answered ‘Jesus,’ a qualification was established that everyone wants to meet Jesus, but who else do you want to meet. I mean, if we are Christians, don’t we already know Jesus? And isn’t the Jesus we want to meet waiting for us in heaven? And aren’t we in a personal relationship with him?

I digress… where was I?

O yes, whom do we want to meet? In the little group exercise we definitely broke the ice, but it didn’t help the group learn anything about each other. What we learned was how others wanted to be viewed, which seems to pass right over the heads of a bunch of college students; at least it did my case.

Take me for example, I said I want to meet Admiral Byrd, the semi-famous explorer, known for his feats of exploration in the early 1900’s, who may or may not be in my family tree… Yeah, no one knew who he was either, but if I couldn’t pick Jesus I was going to go for someone impressive. My intent was to achieve the persona of cool; but I’ve since learned no one was impressed, and coming up with an obscure person only made me look like a dweeb.

Anyway, since then I’ve given thought to this little question, ‘whom do I want to meet.’ I know Jesus, and I’m growing in that relationship everyday. One day I will be with him in glory, but if I could meet anyone from ages past who would it be? I would like to meet Adoniram Judson. Another obscure person, I know, but I’m not trying to be cool in front of the ladies. For numerous reasons, important reasons, I want to meet this great man.

Judson seemed to possess indestructible resilience. He was infused with God’s Spirit and truth, fortifying him in an exceedingly difficult ministry. This man possessed what I do not seem to be able to grasp. Now, don’t get me wrong—he was not superman. However, he did prove to be particularly tough and devoted to his missionary work. Judson, in my estimation, was like the apostle Paul. He understood how weak he was and clung to the only source of strength and resolve.

In the end, I want to meet him because in the midst of gut wrenching adversity he fought the good fight of the faith. Over the next few posts, I’m going to explore some of the things that characterized Judson, his ministry, and his life. I want to better understand this man who was so mightily used by God, for the glory of God.

 

 

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