The following article is from the Bethlehem Conference for Pastors in a 2003 address given by Pastor Piper. The message was an abbreviated summary of his short biographical book by the same title. I've highlighted most of Judson's quotes, the impact of which speak for themselves.
You can download the full biographical sketch of Adoniram Judson as a free eBook!
The article which I've copied here, as well as the recorded address, can be viewed at: www.desiringgod.org/messages/how-few-there-are-who-die-so-hard
Our Lord Jesus said to us in very solemn words, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (John 12:24). Then he adds this: "Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life" (John 12:25).
In other words, a fruitful life and an eternal life come from this: dying like a seed and hating your life in this world. What overwhelms me, as I ponder this and trace the life of Adoniram Judson, America's first foreign missionary, is how strategic it was that he died so many times and in so many ways.
More and more I am persuaded from Scripture and from the history of missions that God's design for the evangelization of the world and the consummation of his purposes includes the suffering of his ministers and missionaries. To put it more plainly and specifically, God designs that the suffering of his ministers and missionaries is one essential means in the joyful triumphant spread of the gospel among all the peoples of the world.
So what I would like to do in this message is show four things and close with a plea that all of you earnestly consider your role in completing the Lord's great commission.
- 1) God's purpose to spread the gospel to all peoples.
- 2) God's plan to make suffering a crucial means to accomplish this purpose.
- 3) The position we are now in with regard to world evangelization.
- 4) The pain of Adoniram Judson as an illustration of the truth.
- 5) A plea to you to be a part of what Judson and Christ died for.
1. The invincible purpose of God is that "the gospel of the glory of Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:4) spread to all the peoples of the world and take root in God-centered, Christ-exalting churches.
This was the promise of the Old Testament:
"All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.
For kingship belongs to the LORD,
and he rules over the nations. (Psalm 22:27-28)
It was the promise of Jesus to his disciples:
"And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." (Matthew 24:14)
It was the design of God in the cross:
"They sang a new song, saying, 'Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.'" (Revelation 5:9)
It was the final command of the risen, all-authoritative Christ:
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)
It was the divine aim of Paul's apostleship:
"Through [Christ] we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations." (Romans 1:5)
It was his holy ambition, rooted not just in a unique apostolic call but in the Old Testament promise that is still valid today:
"I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else's foundation, but as it is written, "Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand." (Romans 15:20-21; see Isaiah 52:15)
"So the Lord has commanded us, saying, 'I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'" (Acts 13:47; see Isaiah 42:6)
It was the divine purpose of the sending and filling of the Holy Spirit:
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:8)
The invincible purpose of God is that "the gospel of the glory of Christ" spread to all the peoples of the world and take root in God-centered, Christ-exalting churches. This great global vision of the Christian movement becomes clear and powerful and compelling in pastors' lives whenever there is Biblical awakening in Christ's people - as there was among many in the first decades of the 1800s when Adoniram Judson was converted and called into missions along with hundreds of others as the light and power of truth awakened the churches.