Only one life

We had the great pleasure of having Dr Jim Plueddemann (a professor in the Mission and Evangelism Department at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) preach at our church.  Jim and his wife, Carol, have served as missionaries just about their entire lives.  Jim served as SIM’s International Director from 1993 to 2003.

He told of how he, as a 12-year-old boy, was struggling with an overwhelming sense of meaningless.   He considered all the millions of people who had died before him and all the many millions who would die after him.  He too, no doubt, would die.

Would his life count for anything? How could he make a difference that would outlast his earthly life?

Later that day he was begrudgingly washing the dishes and his eye caught a short poem that his mother had glued in front of the basin on the wall. It read:

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

God used that poem to steer Jim to a life devoted to serving Christ and proclaiming the good news about Jesus to lost people.

Matthew 9:35-38 was a key passage in his sermon, “It’s harvest time!”:

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

The harvest is ready. The need is urgent. The workers are few. Pray. Go.

Adoniram Judson heeded that call 200 years ago.

At the age of 25, Adoniram Judson became the first Protestant missionary sent overseas from North America. He and his wife, Ann, went to Burma and served there for almost forty years – at great cost.

In 1810, Adoniram penned these words calling for workers for the harvest:

How do Christians discharge the trust committed to them? How do they obey their Master’s gracious injunction? They let three fourths of the world sleep the sleep of death, ignorant of the simple truth, that a Savior has died for them. Content if they can be useful in the little circle of their acquaintance, they quietly sit and see whole nations perishing for lack of knowledge.

Many are seeking worldly wealth and worldly applause, under the specious pretext of serving Christ at home; and many are content to drag out an inactive, useless life in carnal ease and gratification, while darkness and the shadow of death overspreads the greater part of their fellow men.

Is the subject of missions proposed? Many are ready to cry out, “enthusiastic, visionary scheme!” And was it visionary for the Son of God to come into this world, the FIRST MISSIONARY? Was it visionary for the apostles to leave their country, and go through the world in the character of missionaries? No. It is the GRAND DUTY of Christians, and ought to be the GRAND BUSINESS of their lives, TO PROMULGATE THE GOSPEL.

Since, then, we have but a few days to spend in this world – a few days in which we can show our love to Christ and immortal souls; let it be the earnest inquiry of our hearts, “What shalt we do for the poor heathen.”…

Go to your closet; fall on your knees; and, if never before, pray for the poor heathen. Pray for the few, who have left all to carry them the news of a Savior. Pray that more missionaries may be sent forth. And whenever you have a view of Jesus and have been weeping over the scene of his dying love; whenever your souls are melted into pious tenderness and turned to heavenly joys, Oh, forget not to pray for the poor heathen.

The harvest is ready. The need is urgent. The workers are few. Pray. Go.

Adoniram, as he prepared to go to the mission field in Asia, wrote this letter to his prospective father-in-law asking for his daughter Ann’s hand in marriage:

I have now to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure for a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life: whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death.

Can you consent to all this, for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home, and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing immortal souls; for the sake of Zion, and the glory of God?

Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness, brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Savior from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?

Ann did die in Burma in 1826 after months of disease, stress and loneliness.  Adoniram had been imprisoned for 21 months and released that same year.

The harvest is ready. The need is urgent. The workers are few. Pray. Go.

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be,

If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.

(Poem by C.T. Studd)