This week's 'thought' comes from John Piper in a book entitled: "The Roots of Endurance." In the book Piper looks at the uncanny commitment, perseverance and endurance demonstrated in the lives of three great men:
1.) John Newton, former slave trader and author of the beloved song, "Amazing Grace."
2.) William Wilberforce, the man almost single-handedly responsible for abolishing slavery in the British empire. He worked relentlessly for 46 years in the British Parliament to abolish the slave trade (against tremendous opposition, insults, and threats), even though his legislation was defeated eleven times between 1787 and 1807. His battle to abolish it entirely throughout every colony did not pass until three days before his death in 1833. He was a man of immense fortitude and strength of resolve.
3.) Charles Simeon, who pastored of Trinity Church at Cambridge University in England for 54 years (1782-1836).
Our quote for today is in reference to Simeon. It contrasts him and us. Piper's initial cultural critique (I believe) is right on the mark for many -- uncomfortably so. Enjoy!
"I know I am" (says Piper of himself), "in great measure, a child of my times. And one of the pervasive marks of our times is emotional fragility. It hangs in the air we breathe. We break easily. Our marriages break easily. Our faith breaks easily. Our happiness breaks easily. And our commitment to the church breaks easily. We are easily disheartened, and it seems we have little capacity for surviving and thriving in the face of criticism and opposition.
A typical emotional response to trouble in the church is to think, 'If that's the way they feel about me, then I'll just find another church.' We see very few healthy, happy examples today whose lives spell out in flesh and blood the rugged words, 'Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds' (James 1:2).
When historians list the character traits of America in the last third of the twentieth century, commitment, constancy, tenacity, endurance, patience, resolve, and perseverance will not be on the list. The list will begin with an all-consuming interest in self-esteem. It will be followed by the subheadings of self-assertiveness, self-enhancement, and self-realization. And if we think that we are not children of our times, let us simply test ourselves to see how we respond when people reject our ideas or spurn our good efforts or misconstrue our best intentions. We all need some help here.
We are surrounded by, and are part of, a society of emotionally fragile quitters. The spirit of the age is too much in us. We need to spend time with the kind of people -- people whether dead or alive -- whose lives prove there is another way to live. Scripture says, 'be imitators of those who by faith and patience inherit the promises' (Hebrews 6:12). So I want to hold up for us the faith and patient endurance of Charles Simeon for our inspiration and imitation."
He turned down a fortune from a family member in order to be able to preach the Gospel. He was at Cambridge University for three years before he found even one other believer on campus!
He so desired to preach the Gospel at Cambridge, and be an evangelical witness in that place, that he worked as an assistant at the church for five years hoping to be appointed lecturer (pastor/preacher). Yet after those first five years, he was passed over for another, and had to wait another seven years before he was chosen to be lecturer -- a position which gave him the opportunity to practice what he believed was the threefold purpose of preaching: "To humble the sinner, To exalt the Saviour, To promote holiness."
When he was finally assigned the pastorate, he endured years of cruel treatment from his congregation, "for his biblical preaching and uncompromising stand as an evangelical." Because of resistance from members,"he started an evening service for the townspeople, but the church wardens locked the doors while the people stood waiting in the street. Once he had the doors opened by a locksmith, but when it happened again, he dropped the service."
The members of the church, "locked their pews on Sunday mornings. They refused to come, and refused to let others sit in their pews. When Simeon set up chairs in the aisles, nooks and corners at his own expense, the wardens took them out and threw them into the church yard... When he tried to visit from house to house, hardly a door would open to him. This situation lasted 10 years."
Even after he'd been there 30 years (at age 53) people still gave him trouble.
He was slandered. People intentionally, repeatedly and rudely disrupted the services. And on several occasions, "stones were thrown at the windows.... On one occasion a band of students waited by his usual exit to assault him, but providentially he took another way home that day.... Students who were awakened and converted by his preaching were soon ostracized and ridiculed."
Yet he persevered with a smile. He was gentle and full of grace, never harsh or rude. Said Wilberforce, "How full he is of love, and of the desire to promote the spiritual benefit of others. Oh that I might copy him, as he Christ."
Long after most people today would have given up and moved on, he pressed on -- for the sake of the Gospel. And the fruit of his years of patient perseverance were students and townsfolk converted to Christ and discipled in Christ, as well as others who headed into the ministry, and others off to the mission field. Henry Martyn, the great missionary to India, was converted and mentored by Simeon, and within five years of arriving on the field had translated the New Testament into Urdu, Persian, and supervised its translation into Arabic.
If you are going through rough waters, and are thinking of giving up, you might want to pick up Piper's book. It's an inspiring read to say the least!
In the Service of Christ, who left us the example of enduring great opposition from sinful men (Heb. 12:3), Pastor Jeff