Expect Great Things, Attempt Great Things

On August 26, 1768, one of the most remarkable men in the history of the British Navy set sail for the Pacific Ocean.  His name was Captain James Cook, and his voyage aboard a sturdy refitted coal ship named the Endeavor would change the course of history in many ways.  The purpose of Cook’s expedition was to explore and chart as much of the vast Pacific Ocean as he could.  His patient and methodical approach would give the world a long sought after treasure: a comprehensive map of the Pacific.  Cook’s voyages were followed with much interest back home in England.  His daring exploits would leave a lasting imprint on thousands of English schoolboys.  His rise from sailor to captain, coupled with his bold and courageous accomplishments, would give English ambitions new fuel and wider scope.

One of those schoolboys who was thrilled by the tales of Captain Cook was William Carey.  His imagination was fired and his ambitions were set in motion by reading Cook’s journals.  However, Carey’s own personal ambitions took a different turn when he bowed the knee to the kingship of Jesus Christ and took Christ’s yoke upon himself.  Once he combined his understanding of the spiritual needs of the natives who lived in these distant lands with the Great Commission to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, Carey’s ambitions were cast in the same direction as those of the Apostle Paul.  By the spring of 1792, Carey had published these convictions in a world-changing pamphlet, An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens.

On Wednesday, May 30, 1792, at Friar Lane Baptist Chapel, in Nottingham, England, William Carey put this challenge into one of the most influential sermons ever preached in church history.  Speaking to the Northamptonshire Baptist Association, Carey passionately exhorted his Baptist colleagues to, in his words, “Expect great things from God, and attempt great things for God.”  This slogan became the catchphrase of the modern missions movement, of which William Carey is said to be the father.  The idea was simple and powerful: God’s eternal plan concerning the worldwide spread of the gospel cannot be thwarted, and therefore determines that energetic effort will succeed in accomplishing it.  In other words, just because God has determined before the foundation of the world that “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations” (Matt. 24:14), doesn’t mean that the church should do nothing, and just let God do everything.  On the contrary, the church will succeed in this mission precisely because God has determined it.  Therefore, the church should be confident and bold in all her evangelistic attempts.  We can expect great things from God because great things are both promised and required for the immense task of worldwide evangelization.  We can attempt great things for God because great things will be rewarded by God with success, since they are required for the accomplishment of the mission.

(Excerpt taken from, An Infinite Journey: Growing Toward Christlikeness, by Andrew M. Davis, p. 24-26)

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