before the sun goes down

"Be of good courage, and let us behave ourselves valiantly for our people, and for the cities of our God: and let the LORD do that which is good in His sight" (I Chronicles 19:13).

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Words of a Living Stone

From a child, I have been drawn to the life of David Livingstone, pioneer missionary explorer to his beloved continent of Africa.  His was the first missionary biography I read, and it fired my zeal to glorify Christ by going into dark places and shining the light of the glorious Gospel to those who need to hear it.  He plunged into the heart of danger, faced impossible hazards, and declared the truth of God his King.  This man went forward in faith, and for 30 years, took on the task of opening interior Africa for the Gospel.  And he could say with Paul, 

"Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion." (2 Timothy 4:16)

He stood out in his generation for the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). He did what no one else dared.  And history was not the same for it.  How my heart yearns to have a double portion of that which stirred Mr. Livingstone!   

My wife and I have named our children after missionaries (their middle names) that we have greatly been challenged by and learned much from.  We were excited to name our second child and first boy William Livingstone Samuel, in honour of my hero.  But our little man died in the womb and passed to glory ahead of us.  We held his little body, mourned our loss greatly, and gave him his powerful name before we buried him.  I miss my son every day.  

What would David Livingstone say to this generation?  To answer this question, let's look at what he said in his own time? As it is said of Abel, "he being dead yet speaketh" (Hebrews 11:4).

Young David lived in Scotland.  He spent many hours as a boy working in the mill, and additional hours in school.  But he loved exploring the wilds of his home, in which he would gather plant specimens.  On one of those excursions, David visited an old castle ruins.  Many other sightseers and picnickers had climbed the walls of the ruins to write their names.  David climbed high up in order put his name higher than any others.  Scaling the stone wall, the lad cut in his name with a penknife.  The stones of the castle were treacherous, especially as it began to rain, and the footholds became slippery.  He lost his footing once, and barely kept from falling to his death.  But he finished and climbed back down.  That next Lord's day, David was sitting in church.  The minister was preaching.

 "Why do people write their names on trees, fences, or walls?"  David pictured in his mind the castle wall.  The preacher answered the question.  "We all want to glorify ourselves.  We want a name that is above every name.  We want our name to be higher than all.  Why?  Why?  Why?  Because we want to glorify ourselves."  David's face turned red, and shame filled his heart.  The pastor continued, "The reason for living is to glorify God, not ourselves.  The name of Jesus is high and lifted up.  At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow."  Sitting in the pew, David resolved, "I'll live for Jesus.  I will glorify God, not myself.  Indeed I will."

David spoke and wrote much of this kind of devotion to His God:

"May God so imbue my mind with the spirit of Christianity that in all circumstances I may show my Christian character."

"All that I am I owe to Jesus Christ, revealed to me in His divine Book."

"Do not think me mad.  It is not to make money that I believe a Christian should live.  The noblest thing a man can do is, just humbly to receive, and then go amongst others and give."

"I will place no value on anything I have or may possess except in relation to the kingdom of Christ. If anything will advance the interests of the kingdom, it shall be given or kept, only as by giving or keeping it I shall promote the glory of Him to whom I owe all my hopes in time and eternity."

"Be manly Christians, and never do a mean thing."

The following was David's explanation of his calling, and indeed God's call to all Christians concerning the Great Commission: "GO ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature!" (Mark: 16:15)

"'Go!as a trailblazer, a pathfinder, a pioneer!  Evangelize!  Do the work of a missionary!  And lo, I am with you!hence you will never be alone and you will have nothing to fear!'  'That is a promise I can rely upon,' said Livingstone, 'for it is the word of a Gentleman of honour.'"

"God had an only Son, and He was a was missionary and a physician."

When in missionary school, David was asked what he would do if everything were to go wrong on the mission field and you were the only one left to carry on  the work.  David swallowed and replied.  "Though everyone else be dead and I myself sick, I would still go on, and if I failed, I would at least die in the field."

"I am prepared to go anywhere, provided it be forward.  I determined never to stop until I had come to the end and achieved my purpose."

"I shall open up a path to the interior or perish."

"Does not the King's business require haste?"

"If we wait till we run no risk, the gospel will never be introduced into the interior."

"Without Christ, not one step; with Him, anywhere!"

His own writings and those things reported by others regarding his personal life and ministry in Africa have had powerful influence on my own life.  I desire to live as whole-heartedly as this hero of the Cross.  

It was said that the country around Kolobeng was full of wild beasts.  Standing at the front door of his own house, Livingstone shot a rhinoceros and a buffalo.  He taught the people the value of irrigation and helped them in many ways, but what he enjoyed most, he says, was "to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ, for it always warms my own heart and is the great means which God employs for the regeneration of our ruined world."

Whenever he had opportunity, David Livingstone would call for others to join in the mission work, to reach the lost with Christ. 

"If you have men who will only come if they know there is a good road, I don't want them.  I want men who will come if there is no road at all."

"I am immortal till my work is accomplished, and although I see few results, future missionaries will see conversions every sermon.  May they not forget the pioneers who worked in the thick gloom with few rays to cheer, except such as flow from faith in the precious promises of God's word."

"Fear God and work hard."

"Sympathy is no substitute for action."

A biographer said of one of Livingstone's journeys: "They had many harrowing adventures, but finally, after journeying for more than six months by canoe, ox-back, and on foot, through forests and flooded rivers, in perils from wild beasts and savage men for 1500 miles of jungles which no white man had ever traversed before, Livingstone and his men came to Loanda on the west coast.  He had suffered thirty-one attacks of intermittent fever, had been assailed by huge swarms of fierce mosquitoes, and was reduced to 'a bag of bones.'  Yet he staggered on.  'Cannot the love of Christ,' he asked, 'carry the missionary where the slave trade carries the trader?'  He was not a missionary part of the time and something else the rest of the time.  He was a missionary all the time, whatever the means he was using, whether healing, teaching, or exploring.  'The end of the geographical feat is only the beginning of the missionary enterprise,' is an oft quoted saying of his.  His ultimate objective was always to honour his Lord.  'I am a missionary, heart and soul,' he insisted. 'God had an only Son and He was a missionary.  I am a poor imitation, but in this service I hope to live and in it I wish to die.'  His soul was mastered by the logic of love.  'God loved a lost world and gave His only Son to be a missionary.  I love a lost world and I am a missionary heart and soul.  In this service I hope to live and in it I wish to die.'"

"If a commission by an earthly king is considered an honour, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?"

"For my own part, I have never ceased to rejoice that God has appointed me to such an office.  People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply paid back as a small part of a debt owing to our God, which we can never repay?  Is that a sacrifice which brings its own blest reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter?  Away with the word in such a view, and with such a thought!  It is emphatically no sacrifice...Say rather it is a privilege.  Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger, now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink, but let this only be for a moment.  All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall hereafter be revealed in, and for, us.  I never made a sacrifice.  Of this we ought not to talk, when we remember the great sacrifice which HE made who left His Father's throne on high to give Himself for us."

Near the end of David's life he wrote:

"Nothing earthly will make me give up my work in despair.  I encourage myself in the Lord, my God, and go forward.  I'll not swerve one hair's breadth from my work while life is spared."

David abhorred slavery and fought to see the slave trade abolished.  He stood against the evil of his day.  On his tombstone is inscribed:

"May Heaven's richest blessings come down on every one, American, English, or Turk, who will help to heal this open sore of the world."

A brief telling of the life and ministry of this hero of the faith can be read on the link below.

May we go and preach the Gospel, and do the hard ministry in this society, even if no one else is doing it.  There is still time to win a battle before the sun goes down.


  1. A great challenge and encouragement! "Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how GREAT things he hath done for you!" 1 Sam 12:24