The Life of Adoniram Judson: The Cost of Bringing Christ to Burma

A sermon that has been circulating around the offices here at Mercy Hill and one that Pastor Andrew addressed in this week’s teaching is John Piper’s message on the life of Adoniram Judson.

Looking at Scripture and the history of missions, God’s design for the Gospel to go out into the world includes the suffering of His people. So in the face of suffering, there are three points that we can learn from Judson’s life.  Subsequently, this too should be our response to His glorious Gospel invading the nations:

1. The nations will be reached through the suffering of His children.

We see this in Scripture, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Colossians 1:24). Like Paul, Judson realized this and understood that the trials, sufferings, and anguish in his life were meant to push him and others to the Cross, where Christ’s love and grace abound.  He explains, “If I had not felt certain that every additional trial was ordered by infinite love and mercy, I could not have survived my accumulated sufferings.”[1]  He says this in the midst of losing 3 wives, 7 children, his parents, both siblings, and not seeing a convert for 6 years in one of the most hostile and darkest places in the world.  Not to mention being imprisoned for two years, hung up by his feet to sleep as mosquitoes ate away at his flesh, his body being ravaged with disease, along with starvation threatening to take his life.

And how did he respond? God was ultimate in his life, God was supreme and his walk portrayed this. What was the result of Judson’s sufferings? The Gospel exploded in Burma in the last 20 years of his ministry there. Today there are 1.9 million Burmese Christians that are of the result of Judson’s pioneering work.

2. Suffering is common to Christians who are living by the Word in the world.

“More than that we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5). It’s not if but when.  Suffering will come, but why?  It is for our sanctification and growth as by His grace we are being conformed into Christ’s likeness daily. This was ever evident in Judson’s life.  When he stood on the banks of the Bay of Bengal, which separates India from Burma, with the missionary legend William Carey’s words ringing in his ears that he was out of his mind to go to the Burmese, he never flinched.  He knew suffering and anguish were awaiting him, but more importantly he knew the Lord was sovereign and every trial that he would face was going to transform him into the man that would reach this nation of Burma, everyone said couldn’t be reached.

What are we suffering for today? Are we placing ourselves in Gospel conversations or giving our lives away to people with hopes that God will move and salvation will come? Are we languishing in prayer for souls? Judson did and it changed the course of the world for God’s glory.

3.  We are giving the world a glimpse of Christ’s suffering for our salvation.

As we look at the Gospel, God sending Jesus, fully God-fully man, to come and live among mankind and 33 years later we see Him hanging on a tree for us, separated from His Father for our sake. We see Jesus nailed to the Cross under the weight of God’s wrath crying out in anguish to the Father, dying a death we rightly deserved for our sin. This is true suffering.  Suffering we will never face because He did in our place. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live by righteousness.  By His wounds you have been healed (1 Peter 3:24). Judson recognized that his life of suffering was just a glimpse of what Christ had done on the Cross for his sins. This set him free to worship and give his life to see the Gospel go to a place it had never been. In the midst of the most grueling trials of his life, he could say God was greater because he saw the life of Jesus as greater.

The Gospel will advance into North Korea, Mecca, and the ends of the earth by the trail of the blood of martyrs and through much suffering. When we look at Christ’s life, the least we can do is lay down ours. Judson did and it changed the world, 1.9 million souls later.  How few are those that die so hard!

Here is the sermon. I strongly encourage you to give this a listen:

[1] Quoted in Giants of the Missionary Trial (Chicago: Scripture Press Foundation, 1954), 73.

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