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Posts Tagged ‘William Wilberforce’

The Roots of Endurance

“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” –Hebrews 12:3

William Wilberforce spent 20 years of his political career trying to abolish the African slave trade in England and the next 26 trying to end slavery itself.  Along with this tireless pursuit, he was also involved in over 60 different acts of legislation, from ending animal cruelty to opening up the doors to evangelism in India.  Both his friends and adversaries spoke highly of his tireless, enthusiastic service of his country despite ongoing, almost interminable resistance.  But how did he endure?  What was the source of his perseverance?  This is the subject of John Piper’s excellent book The Roots of Endurance, part 3 in the “Swans Are Not Silent” series of biographies.  This volume focuses on the lives of three men:  John Newton, Charles Simeon, and William Wilberforce.  All three were contemporaries, all knew each other, and had some contact, and all faced incredible opposition which required amazing endurance.  I had heard of Wilberforce and Newton (the former slave ship captain turned preacher and author of the hymn “Amazing Grace”), but had never heard of Simeon.  Charles Simeon was the vicar at Trinity Church in Cambridge for over 60 years.  In over 30 years of that time, he faced opposition from the “pew holders” in his congregation who would lock their pews so no one else could sit in them because they did not want this young preacher.  Despite this, Simeon continued to preach God’s word, dedicate himself to the poor and needy, and focus on his role as peacemaker.  The ability of all of these men to endure is Piper’s prime objective, and a look at their lives reminds us of the great cloud of witnesses that surround us and spurs us on toward love and good works.  I thoroughly enjoyed this biography and am newly convinced that our posh form of 21st century Christianity has resulted in a mediocrity worse than what Wilberforce accused his contemporaries of.  His book, The Fatal Habit of Nominal Christians blamed the lack of morals of his society on the lack of focus on doctrine.  It was doctrine and specifically the doctrine of the cross of Christ that enabled him to endure struggles in politics, in personal relationships, and his ongoing bouts with colitis and other chronic illness.  It was Simeon’s focus on doctrine that enabled him to endure persecution and to count himself as nothing, and everyone else as worthy of his service and esteem.  And it was this same doctrine that gave Newton a love of people and a hatred of his own sin, and caused him to write a hymn that will go down in history as one of the greatest in all Christendom.  If you watched the movie “Amazing Grace”, I challenge you to take a look at the real story and see what truly shaped the lives of these men.  Their lives remind us that trials, though difficult, are able to mold and shape us into vessels truly fit for service of the One who endured such hardship as is impossible to grasp.  Read it again and again, share it with your children around the living room, and let it be one of your “roots of your endurance”.

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