As we approach the New Year it is beneficial to take stock of our lives and to tune up any areas that need it in order to promote our overall health, happiness and effectiveness. Our resolutions for the New Year should certainly include needed spiritual disciplines that will enable us be more faithful and fruitful in our service of the Lord Jesus.
Adoniram Judson was a pioneer missionary to Burma (modern Myanmar) who carried out nearly four decades of diligent service there. He persevered through staggering challenges and difficulties to spread the Gospel throughout Burma, to translate the entire Bible into the Burmese language and to see healthy Christian congregations established in various parts of the country.
Throughout his career Judson sought to govern his personal spiritual life and ministry with a high degree of discipline. At thirty years of age, after nearly six years of service in Burma, he adopted a set of personal ‘rules’ by which to live:
1. Be diligent in secret prayer, every morning and evening.
2. Never spend a moment in mere idleness.
3. Restrain natural appetites within the bounds of temperance and purity. ‘Keep thyself pure.’
4. Suppress every emotion of anger and ill will.
5. Undertake nothing from motives of ambition, or love of fame.
6. Never do that which, at the moment, appears to be displeasing to God.
7. Seek opportunities of making some sacrifice for the good of others, especially of believers, provided the sacrifice is not inconsistent with some duty.
8. Endeavor to rejoice in every loss and suffering incurred for Christ’s sake and the Gospel’s, remembering that though, like death, they are not to be willfully incurred, yet, like death, they are great gain.
Seven and a half years later, Judson ‘readopted’ those rules and drafted an additional set of ‘minor rules’ to further regulate his behavior:
1. Rise with the sun.
2. Read a certain portion of Burman every day, Sundays excepted.
3. Have the Scriptures and some devotional book in constant reading.
4. Read no book in English that has not a devotional tendency.
5. Suppress every unclean thought and look.
Six months later, now at age thirty-eight, Judson rededicated himself to continue to live, with the Lord’s help, by both those sets of high standards: “Revised and readopted all the above rules, particularly the second of the first class [‘Never spend a moment in mere idleness’], on Sunday, March 11, 1827. God grant me grace to keep the above rules, and ever live to his glory, for Jesus Christ’s sake.”
Such careful discipline continued to characterize Judson’s life and service throughout the remainder of his career and was a primary factor in his remarkable diligence and success. As we adopt and live by similar disciplines that fit our particular challenges and ministry circumstances in life, we will also be enabled by God to live faithfully and productively to His glory.
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I have written a comprehensive biography on Judson entitled Adoniram Judson, Devoted for Life. Much spiritual encouragement and instruction can be gained through the consideration of his outstanding life of service for Christ Jesus.
Copyright 2018 by Vance E. Christie