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"Unlikely Hero's : Part 3"

Updated: Sep 17, 2023

Dear Church, William Carey, called by some "the father of modern missions," did not set out to become a missionary. Born in 1761 near Northampton, England, William left home at age 14 to become an apprentice shoemaker. While apprenticing William heard the gospel and eventually after much resistance the Lord opened his eyes to see and believe in Christ. One would think that a shoemaker would not go far in life, but William was unusually bright and he was passionate to serve His Lord and Master Jesus Christ. He taught himself several languages and soon he became a Baptist Pastor. While pastoring he became convinced of the importance of reaching all nations with the gospel. This may seem rather obvious to us, but at the time many held to a hyper-calvinist view that it was unnecessary to preach the gospel to the "heathens". The first time William suggested the idea of "missionary work" to a group of pastors he was told to sit down. However, years of writing and speaking on evangelizing the nations led to the formation of the Baptist Mission Society in 1792 and soon after the Carey family left for India in 1793. William Carey's life as a missionary is well documented: the troubles he went through, the successes, and the failures too. He was far from perfect, but as he put it "When I left England, my hope of India's conversion was very strong; but amongst so many obstacles, it would die, unless upheld by God. Well, I have God, and His Word is true. Though the superstitions of the heathen were a thousand times stronger than they are, and the example of the Europeans a thousand times worse; though I were deserted by all and persecuted by all, yet my faith, fixed on the sure Word, would rise above all obstructions and overcome every trial. God's cause will triumph." (Quoted in Let the Nations be Glad by John Piper). By the end of his life, God had done great things through William Carey. Historian Glenn Sunshine writes "he made important contributions to botanical knowledge, as well as promoting agriculture and forestry in India. He taught astronomy in an effort to move India beyond the fatalism found in astrology. He fought for moral reforms such as women's rights, including education for girls and an end to sati (burning widows on their husbands' funeral pyres), medical treatment for lepers, and the abolition of the caste system among converts to Christianity. He brought the steam engine to India and encouraged local blacksmiths to copy it. He set up the first banking system in India as well. Impressive though this list is, all of these accomplishments fade to insignificance compared to Carye's multifaceted work in education.. He studied and mastered several Indian languages and translated classical Indian literature for the first time in English... Carey's work was not simply scholarly, however. He brought the first printing press to India and developed typefaces for Indian languages. From there, he supervised the translation of all or part of the Bible into forty-four different Indian languages. In the process, he also established the first newspaper in Asia and the first lending libraries in India using books imported from England." (excerpt from "32 Christians who changed their world" page 170). This is an impressive list of accomplishments for the son of a Parish clerk. But none of this would have been possible if God had not called William Carey to Himself. William was only doing what he had urged the church to do, when he said "expect great things from God and attempt great things for God". He said this, because he knew His Savior, who is infinite in power and goodness. There is much we can learn from William Carey's example. Below are two thoughts for your reflection. 1 - William recognized and lived out the Scriptures teaching on the necessity of evangelism. He knew that He himself could not convert anyone, but he believed the Lord when he said "How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?" (Romans 10:14). The mission of the church is to "go and tell," whether here in Canada or elsewhere. The people of God are the Lord's witnesses in all they do. William's involvement in all areas of life reminds us that the gospel impacts every part of society. 2 - William's humble beginnings as an unconverted shoemaker's apprentice are a reminder that the Lord calls and enables the unlikely, which is a great encouragement for us who are weak. When the Apostle Paul spoke to the church in Corinth he told them "CONSIDER YOUR CALLING, brothers, not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the work to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world... so that no human being might boast in the presence of God" (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). Perhaps, you've thought to yourself "Why me? I'm nothing special." The truth is you weren't chosen because of your abilities and neither was William Carey. The Christian isn't the smartest or strongest or most honorable in the world's eyes. No, those who are called by God (including William Carey and you and I) are the weak, the foolish, and the dishonorable ones. And it is these very ones who with Christ are able to accomplish great things for God. Do you believe God has chosen in His love to use you? Why or why not? Do you believe God is able to use you? Why or why not? How might you (in Christ's strength) "attempt great things for God"? What good does God have before you to do? Grace & Peace, Matt
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