He had his dream job almost in the bag. In 1807, Adoniram Judson had graduated as valedictorian from Brown University, had completed seminary, and was about to be offered the assistant pastorship of the largest church in Boston. This would be the first step up the ladder of becoming one of New England’s greatest ministers.
His sister, Abigail, was thrilled that her big brother would now be closer to home. But something happened to Adoniram during seminary that caused him to tell his sister, “No, Abigail, I shall never live in Boston. I have much farther to go (pg.59, The Golden Shore).”
And farther to go he did. All the way to Burma, where he lived for the next thirty-five years during which he buried two wives and seven of his thirteen children and faced nineteen months of harsh imprisonment. But he also saw God do great things, slowly but surely. He ended up translating the entire Bible into Burmese, a translation that was so excellent it is still used today. He created a Burmese-English dictionary that helped countless future missionaries learn the challenging Burmese language. And today, the Baptist Convention he founded, in what is now called Myanmar, has 3,700 congregations with 600,000 members and almost 2 million affiliates.
What drove Adoniram to make such staggering sacrifices for the kingdom of God? Here are four motivating factors.
He was something. After wandering away from God during his university years, God did a remarkable work in his heart, causing him to realize he was a sinner with a bleak future. This caused him to embrace Christ fully as his Savior. For Adoniram, this meant more than a ticket to heaven. It meant that he now had to die to self, as his Savior had done, so that through his death much fruit could be borne. And die he did, at many times and in many ways throughout his life.
He knew something. Two books grabbed his attention. The Star in the East (a printed sermon by Dr. Claudius Buchanan from Bristol, England) recounted how the gospel had been brought to India and how it had progressed. Buchanan emphasized that the time was ripe to spread Christianity farther east by a greater effort than any up to this time.
Judson began devouring any scrap of information he could find concerning East Asia until he came across a book written by Michael Symes, a British army officer who in 1795 had been sent to the mysterious empire of Burma. An Account of an Embassy to the Kingdom of Ava began provocatively, “There are no countries on the habitable globe of which we have so limited a knowledge as that of Burma (pg. 54).” This was fuel for a fire that was soon to burn in Judson’s heart.
He felt something. This is the missing step for many. The head knowledge he had obtained about Burma wasn’t enough to move him. But when that information hit his heart, it was a spark that ignited a fire and caused him to move. He felt deep in his soul that a people like this needed nothing but the true Word of God to be saved from their darkness and depravity. His response was, “What a prospect for a missionary (pg. 56, The Golden Shore)!”
He did something. True zeal, true passion, always results in action. For Adoniram, the important thing was to translate intentions into actions. There was no time to waste. And now comes the rest of the story, which you can read about in To The Golden Shore.
After years of missionary service in Burma and nineteen months of imprisonment, Judson was offered a plumb job as a translator for the British government. His reply was short and sweet, “I have no time to make money (pg. 58, Adoniram Judson: A Biography).”
There was still much to be done in Burma for the kingdom of God, the only lasting kingdom. The call of the Burmese some years earlier continued to ring in his heart and mind, “Sir, we hear that there is an eternal hell. We are afraid of it. Do give us a writing that will tell us how to escape it (pg. 399, The Golden Shore).” He was able to give them that writing and tell them about the Savior, and so, by his dying, bearing much fruit.