David Brainerd was missionary to the Indians in the American Colonies. His life was short due to sickness. He died in Jonathan Edwards' house and Edwards was so moved by this man's godliness that he published David's journal and diary. God used this book to move many other people to leave all to bring the gospel to other lands. Men like William Carey and Henry Martyn and other well known men were inspired by this weak man. David Brainerd's impact on missions is hard to overemphasis.
John Paton was a missionary to the South Sea Islands. For four years he lived and worked on the island of Tanna. He had little success and much danger and heart ache. He lost his wife and son on this island and he was sick often. Eventually he was driven off the island. A few years later a book was written about his trials and adventures in the mission field. It was used greatly by God to stir up his own denomination and the worldwide church to bring the gospel to the lost peoples of this world. Later John Paton went to another island where most of the island was eventually converted. He also traveled around the world to awaken the church to missions. Yet this could not have happen without his losses and trials on the island of Tanna.
John Newton was known for being a wise counselor and a hymn writer. His letters are filled with wisdom and grace. He gave counsel to William Carey who became a missionary to India and the father of Modern Missions. John Newton mentored William Wilberforce, who led the movement to abolish the slave trade in Britain. Newton also befriended William Cowper who was a very depressed man. This friendship was a great blessing to Cowper. Together they wrote hymns together which have been sung all over the world by generations of Christians. Newton's Amazing Grace is one of the most well known hymns ever sung. God did all this and more through a man who once was a slave trader and a blasphemer.
Over the last few weeks I have been looking back on our trips to Cuba for the purpose of writing a short book. It has been wonderful to look back on how God has taught us and provided for us. How patiently did God teach us so that His work would be done more effectively. I see the times He answered our prayers and the prayers of the Cubans. God brought the right people into our lives so that His goals would be accomplished. How often did He protect us from harm! Opportunities to go to Cuba were provided in way that only can be traced to the providence of God. Writing this account has led me to worship such a great and good God.
Isn't this remembering the past deeds of God what the Psalmist often did. Just consider Psalm 105 verse 5, "Remember the wonderful works He has done, His wonders, and the judgments he has pronounced." In a time of crisis, Asaph said in Psalm 77, "I will remember the LORD's works; yes I will remember your ancient wonders. I will reflect on all you have done and meditate on your actions." verses 11-12 When he did this, his faith grew strong. Instead of doubt and despair, there was hope and worship.
The past can teach us how God uses the blacks and grays on his painting of our lives. We may not see all the picture, but looking back on what is done will help us appreciate the wisdom of the Divine painter in choosing the colors that He did. One day when we look back from heaven, God's work of art will be seen to be a masterpiece.
Remembering the past to see the providence of God is medicine for the soul. Do you do this? Do you see how God has led you, taught you, cared for you or protected you? When you see in the past your unfaithfulness and unworthiness, how gracious is our God! Do you study history, especially the history of the church? You should. What lessons would you learn! Consider the past, not to glory in you, but to glory in a glorious Lord.