“And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above; and they shall stand upon a heap.” Joshua 3:13
Brave Levites! Who can help admiring them, to carry the Ark right into the stream; for the waters were not divided till their feet dipped in the water (verse 15). God had not promised aught else. God honors faith. “Obstinate faith,” that the PROMISE sees and “looks to that alone.” You can fancy how the people would watch these holy men march on, and some of the bystanders would be saying, “You would not catch me running that risk! Why, man, the ark will be carried away!” Not so; “the priests stood firm on dry ground.” We must not overlook the fact that faith on our part helps God to carry out His plans. “Come up to the help of the Lord.”
One of the special marks of the Holy Ghost in the Apostolic Church was the spirit of boldness. One of the most essential qualities of the faith that is to attempt great things for God, and expect great things from God, is holy audacity. Where we are dealing with a supernatural Being, and taking from Him things that are humanly impossible, it is easier to take much than little; it is easier to stand in a place of audacious trust than in a place of cautious, timid clinging to the shore. Like wise seamen in the life of faith, let us launch out into the deep, and find that all things are possible with God, and all things are possible unto him that believeth.
Let us, today, attempt great things for God; take His faith and believe for them and His strength to accomplish them. (Streams in the Desert)
One of the stories God used to capture my heart for missions as a university student was that of William Carey. At a meeting of Baptist leaders in the late 1700s, a newly ordained minister stood to argue for the necessity of global missions. He was abruptly interrupted by an older minister who said essentially, “Sit down young man, and shut up! When God pleases to convert the heathen, he’ll do it without your help or ours.”
Carey was raised in the anonymous rural village of Paulerpury, in the middle of England. He apprenticed in a local cobbler’s shop. When he was converted to Christ, he plunged heart and soul into his newfound faith. Though he had the benefit of limited formal education, Carey borrowed a Greek grammar and proceeded to teach himself New Testament Greek. Completing his apprenticeship, he took up shoemaking in nearby Hackleton, where he met and married Dorothy Plackett. Dorothy soon gave birth to a daughter. Carey earned only small amounts of money, and to make matters worse their daughter died at two years of age. Unthinkable grief and hardship not withstanding, he continued his linguistic studies, adding Hebrew and Latin, and became a preacher with the Particular Baptists. He also continued pursuing his lifelong interest in the religious experience and expression of other cultures.
Carey was particularly impressed with early Moravian missionaries and dismayed by his fellow Protestants’ corresponding lack of interest in missions. In response, he wrote, “Multitudes sit at ease and give themselves no concern about the far greater part of their fellow sinners, who to this day, are lost in ignorance and idolatry.” Not one to sit himself, at the age of thirty-one he organized a missionary society, and at its inaugural meeting preached the now famous sermon, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God!” He soon travelled to India where he spent the remainder of his life.
In December 1800, after seven years of missionary labor, Carey baptized his first convert, Krishna Pal, and two months later, published his first New Testament in the Bengali language. Carey continued to attempt and expect great things; over the next 28 years, he and his fellow workers translated the entire Bible into India’s major languages: Bengali, Oriya, Marathi, Hindi, Assamese, and Sanskrit, as well as parts of 209 other languages and dialects. He also worked tirelessly for social reform in India, including the abolition of infanticide, widow burning (sati), and assisted suicide. He founded Serampore College in 1818, a divinity school for Indians, which today offers theological and liberal arts education for some 2,500 students.
By the time Carey died at seventy-three years young, he had spent forty one years in India without a furlough. These efforts cost him dearly and his mission could count only about seven hundred converts in a nation of millions, but he had laid a crucial foundation of Bible translations, education, and social reform. His greatest legacy was in the global missions movement of the nineteenth century that he inspired. Thousands were impressed by Carey’s example, and moved by his words “Expect great things; attempt great things.” What are you expecting God to do, and what are you willing to attempt in light of that expectation?