Refusing to succeed at things that don’t matter


Dr. Marc Drake, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church, Sun Lakes

During the Christmas season, I began reading a biography of missionary William Carey. What a remarkable life! In 1792, this former shoemaker-turned-pastor preached to a group of ministers a missionary sermon that would become famous. In it he declared, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”

Then in 1793, Carey sailed to India to serve as a missionary; in so doing he was defying the East India Company’s ban against the settlement of missionaries in territories under its control. Consequently, Carey endured much criticism and verbal abuse for this commitment. But he found an ally in the great abolitionist William Wilberforce (a member of the British Parliament) who defended Carey’s work in bringing the gospel to India. He even referred to it as one of the chief glories of the British Empire. William Carey went on to serve in India for nearly 41 years as a missionary – without ever taking a furlough!

Early in his life, Carey had demonstrated an unusual ability for linguistics, teaching himself Latin at age 12. Then during his lifetime, he learned literally dozens of languages and dialects. Furthermore, although he translated the complete Bible into six languages and portions of it into 29 others, Carey never attended the equivalent of high school or college. Yet, he became skilled as an economist, medical humanitarian, educator, moral reformer, botanist, translator and missionary statesman.

More importantly, however, Carey’s goal through all his work was to be a faithful witness by proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. He once said, “I’m not afraid of failure: I’m afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.” Well, history records that his labors did indeed matter. The global impact of Carey’s work is truly incalculable! In fact, an Indian biographer of his life has said that Carey did more for the transformation of the Indian subcontinent in the 19th and 20th centuries than any other individual before or since. Yet Carey was a humble man and simply considered himself a plodder, refusing to give up no matter the obstacles. He knew how to persevere – a reality that is seen in the fact that he labored in India six years before he baptized his first convert. In time, however, his work reaped an unimaginable harvest.

Now, we may never serve as a missionary or Bible translator on the other side of the globe, but we are on this earth for a reason. And we can persevere in the mission God has for our lives. We can all plod! So, as we embark on a new year, let’s make sure we take William Carey’s words to heart and refuse to succeed at things that don’t matter. The Bible says, Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).

Happy New Year!