Jane and I have a 12 year old grandson. He is besotted with Ronaldo (for the non-footballers he is a striker for & Portugal, and one of the world’s best & best looking players). Ronaldo Ronaldo has a record-tying five Ballon d’Or awards, and is the first player to win four European Golden Shoes. Our grandson had his room covered in Ronaldo pictures, could tell me all his vital stats, has 5 sets of his jerseys (thanks to grandma) and insists on his hair being cut Ronaldo style. If there was a WWRD bracelet (what would Ronaldo do?) he would insist on it too.
My point – we all need heroes. Jesus is genuinely Christians’ great hero. Philippians 2:1f urges us to have the same attitude and heart as Jesus. Though our hearts will never be as humble as his, He is a model & inspiration. I think we need other heroes too who will show us what following Jesus can mean in practice. St Paul wrote “follow my example as I follow the example of Christ (1 Cor 11:1). I have in my office 2.1 metres of Christian biographies on my bookshelf – my personal collection of heroes, men and women, young and old, who inspire and challenge me by how they have known and followed Christ. But in the age of the internet, we don’t need the luxury of bookcases. These heroes are all available on line.
Henry Martyn is one such hero. Born in 1781 in Cornwall, though a brilliant mathematician Martyn had planned to study law. But while at Cambridge, Charles Simeon stirred him with stories of another “hero” William Carey who began the modern missionary movement in India. Martyn was also deeply moved by reading the journals of David Brainerd, missionary in North America Indians. Martyn and Brainerd shared a common “restriction” poor health and an early death – Martyn at just 31. The infamous British East India Company didn’t want missionaries in their territories upsetting the population and trade, making missionaries illegal. Carey had gone anyway, but Simeon managed to have Martyn appointed chaplain.
Martyn saw every day as a spiritual battle. Shortly after arrival in India in 1806, he wrote …”My soul was at first sore tried by desponding thoughts; but God wonderfully assisted me to trust him for the wisdom of his dispensations. (reflecting on evangelising India) How easy for God to do it; and it shall be done in good time: and even if I never should see a native converted, God may design, by my patience and continuance in the work to encourage future missionaries.” And he did …
Martyn died and was buried in Iran, for at that time the modern Persian or Mogul Empire stretched from Damascus to Calcutta, and Martyn believed God called him to bring the gospel to them. “Now let me burn out for God!” was Martyn’s famous cry when he began his mission work, and he did. But what a fire it was, affecting the hearts of Indians, Persians and generations of future missionaries. Would you pray with me that God would raise up from among us at Gymea more men and women who will take the gospel wherever it is most needed. And that we would keep sharing it passionately as the world comes to our doorstep in the Shire.
Your brother and pastor, Graham Crew