Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Trials and David Livingstone

I recently finished a children's biography of David Livingstone. I missed so much as a child by not reading about the faithful men and women of church history! He was really more of a pioneer into the dark interior of Africa than what I think of as a 'typical' missionary, treating sickness and sharing the Gospel along the way, always journeying, drawing maps and seeking to find the right place for a mission station in the interior.

I was surprised to find myself feeling a bit depressed after thinking about this man's immense trials, sorrows, and suffering as he served Christ and strove to advance His kingdom. Part of my problem is probably that this bio was not the most detailed and well-written; I'm motivated to find an adult biography about him with more of his writings included. I think it's also important to be careful to not elevate these faithful 'heroes of the faith' to too high a position; in other words, while there is much to admire and respect, these men were just that: fallible men, who sometimes made bad choices and had sinful responses. David Livingstone was separated from his family for years at a time; sometimes his own young children would not know him when he was able to visit them. This image fills me with such sadness! This is one of the questions of 'right or wrong' I've been mulling. Wasn't his first calling to his wife and children? I know the 'boarding school' approach of missionaries to their children was common in the 19th century. Any thoughts?

After I finished the Livingstone biography, I picked up Spurgeon's 12 Sermons for the Troubled and Tried. This was providential, I know, because God is using this book to challenge my own comfortable ideas about living the Christian life. Here are some parts I've especially been thinking about:

And first, let me say of it, YOUR FAITH WILL BE TRIED SURELY. You may rest assured of that.

Faith is a sound sea-going vessel, and was not meant to lie in dock and perish of dry rot.

Indeed, it is the honour of faith to be tried. Shall any man say, "I have faith, but I have never had to believe under difficulties"? Who knows whether thou hast any faith? Shall a man say, "I have great faith in God, but I have never had to use it in anything more than the ordinary affairs of life, where I could probably have done without it as well as with it"? Is this to the honour and praise of thy faith? Dost thou think that such a faith as this will bring any great glory to God, or bring to thee any great reward? If so, thou art mightily mistaken. He that has tested God, and whom God has tested, is the man that shall have it said of him, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

exerpts from 'The Trial of Your Faith', part I

I could keep quoting and quoting, this is such an excellent sermon! I think I've been overlooking a treasure by not reading Spurgeon before. So, I'll keep reading and seeking the Lord and asking Him to make me rejoice in my sufferings because of the growth and perseverance they give, instead of praying for God to protect me from them.


Dana said...

I agree with you about it not sending your kids away while doing missionary work. Taking care of your family is your vocation for sure, and that has to be priority. I think we are all products of our times, and when Livingstone was a missionary, sending your kids away for school was status quo.

As to your last paragraph, I thought of Romans 5, which reminds us that as we Christians suffer, we grow in character and hope [in Christ], which does not disappoint us. We do try to sidestep the suffering that inevitably comes our way, though, don't we? But with the suffering, there is Jesus for us.

Chipmans said...

Hi Candice,
This reminded me of what Todd learned in a Great Lives class at the seminary. When reading biographies, mark your book or make a list of the four following ideas: 1. what makes them unique
2. what is common among them and others like them 3. what you would emulate and 4. what you would avoid.
Julie C.