I just returned from 2 1/2 days in Baton Rouge at the Healing Place Church attending a leadership conference for a small group of pastors. I got in after midnight this morning and we had a Habitat for Humanity work day scheduled so our day was pretty full. At the end of the day we decided to go see the movie "Amazing Grace" and I'm so glad we did!
The movie is the story of William Wilberforce's tireless efforts to end slavery in the British Empire, entertwined with the writing of the much loved song, "Amazing Grace," written by former slave ship captain John Newton. William Wilberforce has long been a hero of mine and, in fact, I preached a sermon about him back on April 19, 2002. (Unfortunately it's not available on our website as we didn't start recording on computer until July 21, 2002.) Nevertheless, his story had a strong influence on me and he has always been a personal hero.
Wilberforce impacted me in two areas. One was his desire to be used by God in the public arena, in shaping public policy and opinion. He had considered entering the ministry and visited with the 60-year old John Newton to discuss this option. Newton urged him not to cut himself off from public life, to use his gifts to serve the common good. Newton wrote him a letter in which he said, "It is hoped and believed that the Lord has raised you up for the good of His church and for the good of the nation." This has been one of my motivations to become involved in the public discourse and even to enter politics in an attempt to serve both the body of Christ and the community.
Another area in which Wilberforce impacted me was the cause of abolition. He saw it for the evil it was. Even though he was born into a wealthy family and much of the wealth of those days depended on or came directly from cheap slave labor, he saw it as an evil on society. He wrote in his diary, "God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the Slave Trade and the Reformation of Morals." It took him 20 years of untiring work but on February 24, 1807 the British Parliament voted 283-16 to abolish slave trade. Even then he had to continue to fight to outlaw slavery itself, which didn't happen until July 26, 1833, just 3 days before his death.
It is both his perseverance and his passion to fight for the cause of justice that inspire me. His passon is what gave him his perseverance. Because he had a true cause, a true calling from God, he was able to persevere. When John Wesley was 87 years old he wrote Wilberforce and said, "Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of man and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you..." God had indeed raised up Wilberforce for this very thing and as a result he was able to rely on that fountain of strenth to pull him through the discouraging days of failure. He truly had a marathon mentality.
I've asked the Lord to let me be a blessing to both His church and our community. I thank Him for the opportunity to serve the community through the City Council. And I am most honored by the incredible privilege of pastoring such a wonderful local church. Now, may I have both passion and perseverance in doing the Lord's work in every arena of influence. And may I always remember that it's only done by God's "Amazing Grace!"
I LOVE serving Jesus with you!
P.S. GO SEE THE MOVIE!!!