William Booth as a Young Man

Recently I preached through the book of Daniel. The first half of that book of Scripture presents one inspiring instance after another of Daniel and his three faithful Jewish companions steadfastly obeying God under extremely threatening circumstances in pagan Babylon. Rather than compromising, they determined to fully obey the Lord, even if doing so resulted in their deaths! God honored their wholehearted commitment to Him, protected them from harm and brought great blessing to them. 

We also find such instructive models of determined, uncompromising obedience to the Lord in the lives of many outstanding Christians of the past, whether in the New Testament or subsequent Church History. An incident from the early Christian life of William Booth (1829-1912), who later went on to found and lead the Salvation Army, provides one such heartening example. 

Pawnshop in the 1800’s

William was apprenticed to a pawnbroker in his hometown of Nottingham, England, at age thirteen, after his father’s business failed. Young William’s income became crucial to the welfare of his family when his father died less than a year later. William came to saving faith in Jesus Christ at fifteen years of age. His conversion resulted in his having a strong desire and determination to obey God in every way. 

His commitment in that regard was soon put to the test when he began to feel uneasy about working on Sundays. The vast majority of nineteenth century British Christians believed the Bible taught that the Lord’s Day was to be strictly observed as a day of worship and rest rather than being given to work or secular recreation. Although the pawnshop where William worked officially closed at midnight on Saturday, the employees were often kept working without a break long into the early hours of Sunday morning. 

Artist’s Depiction of Young William Booth Preaching in the Open Air

Compelled by his conviction against working on Sundays, William informed his employer, a Mr. Eames, that he would no longer be able to continue work past midnight on Saturday. Eames was not impressed. In no uncertain terms he informed his young apprentice, ‘You can work with the rest of us until we shut up shop, or you can leave.’ When William stood strong in his determination not to work on Sunday, Eames promptly fired him! 

For choosing to live by his biblical convictions, William’s only source of income and his support for his family were summarily cut off. He found himself among the hordes of unemployed people in Nottingham at that time, with little likelihood of finding work. The streets were packed with individuals desperately searching for employment, each willing to wait in line for hours at the slightest glimmer of hope that the opportunity to work might come along. 

But William did not need to seek employment for long, for God soon brought about a remarkable turn of events. After just a few days, Mr. Eames realized he had lost his most valuable worker. William was reinstated and became the only employee at the pawnshop who was allowed to finish work at the stroke of midnight each Saturday.   

William Booth’s stouthearted determination to obey God no matter what the cost became a hallmark of his Christian life and teachings. Such determined obedience played a significant role in the remarkable success he had in his long, fruitful ministry career for Christ. 

We realize, of course, that careful obedience to the Lord sometimes does bring marked hardships and suffering to those who faithfully obey and serve Him. Hebrews 11:32-38, for instance, summarizes both the triumphs and the tragedies experienced by many of God’s faithful people in Bible times. But even when God doesn’t bring a timely, positive resolution to adversity which results from faithfully following Him, committed Christians still continue to obey Him. They also keep trusting Him to help them through the difficulty, to accomplish significant good through it, and to resolve the trying situation in His perfect time and way. When we continue to trust and obey under such challenging circumstances, even greater glory is brought to God and a stronger testimony is borne to others. 

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The true story concerning William Booth featured in this Perspective was gleaned from Trevor Yaxley’s worthwhile biography: William and Catherine, The Life and Legacy of the Booths, Founders of the Salvation Army (Bethany, 2003). Other uplifting and instructive incidents from the lives and ministries of the Booths may be found in two works I’ve written: Timeless Stories, God’s Incredible Work in the Lives of Inspiring Christians and Women of Faith and Courage, both of which are published by Christian Focus. 

If you have enjoyed and benefited from this blog post, I would sincerely appreciate your sharing it with your friends and acquaintances who could likewise profit from it. 

Copyright 2021 by Vance E. Christie