I Want To Meet Adoniram Judson Part II

Posted: January 21, 2013 in Blog
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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.

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