Many Christians wish they had greater abilities and success in their service of Christ. God wisely grants us a limited degree of both abilities and success for a variety of reasons: We’re helped to maintain a proper degree of humility rather than inappropriately swelling with pride; We’re led to ongoing dependence on the Lord rather than thinking that we can accomplish things on our own; We give God the glory for success rather than taking credit for it ourselves; We’re better able to process both the praise and the criticism we receive from others.
Hudson Taylor, eminent founder of the China Inland Mission, models these principles. In the fall of 1888 Taylor was ministering in Canada. During the train trip to Montreal, Taylor’s traveling companion, Henry Frost, read a critical magazine article entitled “Hudson Taylor in Toronto.” Angered by the article’s contents, Frost tried to hide it under a stack of papers. Taylor, however, had heard about the article and, picking it up, read:
Hudson Taylor is rather disappointing. I had in my mind an idea of what great missionaries should look like. He being professedly one of the great missionaries of modern times must be such as they. But he is not. A stranger would never notice him on the street except, perhaps, to say that he is a good-natured looking Englishman. Nor is his voice in the least degree majestic. He displays little oratorical power. He elicits little applause … launches no thunderbolts. Even our [Jonathan] Goforth used to plead more eloquently for China’s millions, and apparently with more effect. It is quite possible that were Mr. Taylor, under another name, to preach as a candidate in our Ontario [pulpit] vacancies there are those who would begrudge him his probationer’s pay.
Taylor laid down the magazine and was quiet for a time. Then he smiled at Frost and said: “This is very just criticism, for it is all true. I have often thought that God made me little in order that He might show what a great God He is.”
Later that night when they retired to their sleeping berths, Frost lay in the darkness thinking about his remarkable traveling companion: “It is not hard for a little man to try to be great; but it is very hard for a great man to try to be little. Mr. Taylor, however, has entered into that humility which alone is found in the spirit of the lowly Nazarene.”
In August 1890 Taylor was invited to Australia to encourage Christians there to become actively involved in the evangelization of China. At a large Presbyterian church in Melbourne, the chairman introduced him as “our illustrious guest.” Taylor stepped to the podium where he stood silently a moment before beginning, “Dear friends, I am the little servant of an illustrious Master.”
After the China Inland Mission had succeeded in spreading the Gospel throughout the provinces of China, a leader of the Church of Scotland once said to Hudson Taylor: “You must sometimes be tempted to be proud because of the wonderful way God has used you. I doubt if any man living has had greater honor.”
Taylor responded earnestly, “On the contrary, I often think that God must have been looking for someone small enough and weak enough for Him to use, and that He found me.”
Copyright 2014 by Vance E. Christie