Monday, June 20, 2011

June 20 - William Carey, Called, Discouraged, Missionary

Sometimes when you have something you feel you must say, it burns in your heart and demands to be loosed. This feeling goes beyond an urge or an inclination and seems to take on a life of its own.It rises from your heart to your throat and rests on your vocal chords just waiting for your will to give it life--if you won't agree to say it then it will eventually recede but leave you with the pervasive feeling that an opportunity was missed. These are the moments when the Holy Spirit seems to rest upon our shoulders and speak every word into our ears--as if God is only using us as a mouthpiece to proclaim the Kingdom of God to a world desperate for liberation. These moments speak powerfully to us, not only in the moment but, also, in the aftermath, and should not be ignored. William Carey had one such moment when he felt a passion for the lost and dying burning within his heart. He knew that Jesus was calling him to speak out at the minister's meeting but he also knew that he was only a young man in his mid-twenties. He didn't want to be taken for a fool among his more senior colleagues who were both respectable and influential.

But, that passion--a question of whether or not the assembled ministers were taking Christ's Great Commission seriously--refused to recede and only burned stronger within him. Soon, William was pinned between two painful options: he could retain the respect and acceptance of his colleagues but quench the movement of the Holy Spirit, or he could speak the words he felt he was called to say and sacrifice his own ambition upon the altar of God's calling.This was a colossal struggle waged within the confines of William's mind and heart as the business of the meeting proceeded. He knew that the assembled ministers were known as "hyper Calvinists" and that they felt that mission work and evangelism was of no use or profit--after all, God would save whoever God wanted to save regardless of what people did. But, William couldn't shake the feeling that Jesus' command to make disciples of all nations was still binding upon Christians even in the eighteenth century. He had become Baptist because of his willingness to dissent from the official State Church but this dissent seemed even more painful and costly. Finally, William cleared his throat and asked the question he had been led to ask: "Gentlemen, is it not our duty--the duty of all Christians--to spread the Gospel to all the world?" Silence flooded into those brief moments after his question as each mind stopped to consider what he had said and formulate a response. In that moment, William felt relief but one of the elder leaders in the group interrupted that cathartic moment with his response, "Young man, sit down; when God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without your aid and mine." This resistance characterized the rest of William's ministry.

William gathered missionaries around himself and though he was resisted from seemingly every angle he formed a missionary society and moved to India to spread the Gospel to those with ears to hear and eyes to see.The British East India Company opposed their arrival in India and so they found it hard to sail there but, eventually, a Danish ship gave them passage to Calcutta. They struggled to reach out to a people who didn't seem interested all the while suffering disease, fatigue, and depression. They honored the cultural distinctions of India and the Hindu religion but vehemently repudiated the caste distinctions that dehumanized some while privileging others.This group began printing the Bible in the language of the people and preaching a message that became increasingly well received as they continued to oppose the dehumanizing forces of the society. Offering both liberation and salvation, they became proponents of a new creation and a Kingdom "not of this world." More and more missionaries were coming to join this foothold of the Kingdom in India but this presented yet another terrible point of resistance. Many of the new missionaries were unwilling to suffer the same rigors as William and his friends and were soon demanding both a separate house (unlike the communal house that William and friends had lived in) and servants to attend to them. Eventually, William broke away from the society he had founded and continued preaching and teaching on his own. He died in 1834--still preaching and teaching to the day he died. Though he faced resistance throughout his life, he had chosen the path of the Spirit and renounced the path of comfort--in doing so, he gained the Kingdom.

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