Whether we realize it or not, our example leaves an impression on others. A businessman, correctly believing that what he said would make a difference placed a sign in his office window that read, “What I am about to say represents one six-billionth of the world’s opinion.”
In Christian circles we refer to our example as our testimony. Essentially this has reference to the audible and visible part of our lives; that which is heard and seen; our words and our deeds. We often underestimate our own ability to influence and affect change in others, but this is just not so.
J. Hudson Taylor (1832 – 1905), is a shining example of the difference one life can make. Taylor was a British missionary to China and founder of the China Inland Mission (CIM), now called Overseas Missionary Fellowship. Taylor spent 51 years in China and had a remarkable ministry. CIM brought 800 missionaries to China, began 125 schools and established 300 mission stations with 500 Chinese participants in 18 provinces.
Taylor was known for his love for the Chinese people and sensitivity to their culture. He wore Chinese clothing and ate their food while maintaining and practicing strong, biblical evangelistic zeal and lifestyle. An estimated 18,000 Chinese gave their lives to Christ during this time.
Taylor, largely but not entirely, because of his opposition to the opium trade, has been referred to as one of the most significant Europeans to visit China in the 19th century. Historian Ruth Tucker wrote, “No other missionary in the nineteen centuries since the Apostle Paul has had a wider vision and has carried out a more systematized plan of evangelizing a broad geographical area than Hudson Taylor.” These are Europeans speaking and we would expect something of a positive report from them, but what of those in the land to which he went?
The communist government in China, long after Hudson Taylor was gone, commissioned an author to write a biography of Hudson Taylor. Their goal was to distort facts and present him in a bad light. But as the author did his research, he became increasingly impressed by Taylor’s character and godly lifestyle. He found he could not carry out his government assigned task with a clear conscience. Finally, at the risk of execution, he set his pen down, renounced his atheism and received Jesus as his personal Savior.
The Bible says, “When a man’s ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Proverbs 16:7). It was true of Hudson Taylor. Is it so for you?
— Pastor Ross Helgeton is senior pastor at Erskine Evangelical Free Church