This blog focuses on the quest to know and please God in a constantly increasing way. The upward journey never ends. My prayer is that this blog will reflect a heart that seeks God and that it will encourage others who share the same heart desire.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Book Review: To the Golden Shore

I have read Courtney Anderson's biography of Adoniram Judson more than once, and it has been a blessing and encouragement each time. Although the book extends to five hundred pages, it is compelling and interesting.

The author begins by relating Judson's background. Judson was brought up with great spiritual advantage, as his father was a pastor. Judson's father was a man of conviction, often finding himself under disapproval from nominal churches and in conflict with anemic congregations. Judson saw the example of a man who stood for truth.

Judson was incredibly bright even from a very young age. His father encouraged his abilities and tried to provide him with opportunities to develop and learn. Judson was regularly confronted with the expectation of doing something exceptional with his life.

When Judson went to college, he became friends with a godless young man, and with no strong convictions of his own, Judson soon turned from God. For four years, he walked his own way, mostly trying to hide his lack of belief from his parents. After some dissatisfaction, he reached a crisis point where he faced his immortality and finally turned to God.

With his new-found faith, Judson's background, intelligence, and ambition became great tools in the hands of God. Judson still desired to please his father by doing something great, but he also desired to serve God. These ambitions came into conflict when Judson declared his intention to become a foreign missionary.

The path toward missions did not proceed smoothly. Foreign missions was unheard of in America and was actually opposed by some of the church leaders that Judson approached. With a group of similarly-minded friends, Judson continued to pursue this goal and finally embarked for the mission field. The young men had little guidance or preparation. They were not able to make arrangements with foreign governments and were unaware of where they would be able to go or what it would take to get there.

One-and-a-half years were consumed with ocean travel, government opposition, threats of deportation, roadblocks, and closed doors until Judson and his wife finally landed in the inhospitable country of Burma. Almost no missionary work had been done in Burma, and foreigners were not welcome. Religious intolerance was high. Judson had been told that missionary work would be impossible.

In fact, the missionary endeavor was not easy. Judson faced fear, superstition, and obstinacy, as he was viewed with suspicion. Without any official welcome, people were afraid to even talk to him; government and established religion provided strong opposition. It took about five years to see the first convert, nine years to see eighteen converts, and nearly twenty years before the number of converts extended into the hundreds and interest became widespread.

During the long and fruitless years, Judson faced isolation, illness, and the deaths of several children. All three of his successive wives died. Judson spent a few years in a seemingly fruitless effort to gain approbation by the government to carry on his missionary work. Ultimately, he ended up in a "death prison," from which his survival and release were truly miraculous.

God did bless the labors of this faithful servant. Eventually other missionaries joined the endeavor, and the country of Burma was opened to the gospel. Judson was able to publish multiple writings, including tracts, a dictionary, a grammar, and Scripture portions. Judson was able to translate the entire Bible (the manuscript for which was providentially preserved) and do revisions. The extent to which Judson contributed to gospel outreach in Burma was phenomenal - a testament to God's gracious work through a willing and gifted man.

Judson was not perfect. The biography reveals areas of both struggle and growth. Perhaps most notable in terms of growth were Judson's coming to understand Biblical baptism and his later evaluation of his tainted motives in becoming a missionary.

This book provides inspiration regarding Christian growth, the importance of missions, and dedication to God. It provides wonderful examples of God's providential control and His ability to accomplish His work in seemingly impossible situations. 

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