Aim for the Heart

The ox cart rattled fifty-four-year-old Hudson Taylor’s teeth and jarred his body. Though a thirty-three-year veteran missionary in China, the newness of the Shanxi province assaulted his senses—the northern dialect, the unfamiliar cuisine, and the weeks of jostling along sun-baked roads instead of cruising on sampans through the crowded waterways of south and central China. For seven years, he had longed to visit this northwestern region where the work of God had exploded through the efforts of the former Confucian scholar Pastor Xi, a few itinerant China Inland Mission (CIM) missionaries, and more recently five of the Cambridge Seven, including D. E. Hoste, and C. T. Studd.[1] Since Taylor had founded the mission in June 1865, waves of missionaries had joined him in China. Now in the scorching heat of June 1886, Taylor journeyed to Shanxi to encourage and organize the expanding work. Afterward, he planned to guide a few of the young missionaries to pioneer a new effort southwest in the yet unreached Szechuan province.

Christ’s Great Commission commands believers to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). To make disciples implies spiritual influence through both our lived testimony and spoken witness. We desire for God to use us to lead unbelievers to know God and to encourage believers to grow in Him. As a leader of disciples and disciplers, Taylor keenly felt this burden, and that burden drove him to the heart of spiritual influence—his own walk with God. The spiritual lessons he had learned he hoped to pass on to those he served so that they, too, could better influence others for God.

  1. Your Influence for God Only Goes as Far as Your Walk with God.

Soon after his arrival in Shanxi, Taylor addressed a field conference of CIM missionaries. “How can we secure the development of strong, healthy, Christlike native Christians unless we are living strong, healthy, Christlike lives ourselves?” Taylor challenged them. “The stream will never rise higher than its source, but it will not fall far short of it, circumstances permitting. The hardness of heart which is a hindrance to the Gospel is not that of the hearers; it is the hardness of this heart of mine.”[2] Taylor echoes the truths that Paul proclaimed in 1 Timothy 4:16: “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.” Spiritual leaders can only lead believers where they themselves have gone before. We reproduce who we are, not who we wish we were.

  1. Your Influence for God Overflows from Your Walk with God.

When Taylor could not visit a CIM missionary, he often wrote to them. He encouraged a distant Swiss colleague on September 13, 1879: “May God keep you, and not only keep you—fill you more and more, and keep you running over with the living waters. The one thing, I judge, to bear in mind is that it has ‘pleased the Father that in Him should all the fulness dwell. Apart from Him we have nothing, are nothing, cannot bring forth any fruit to God [John 15:4–5]. . . . To know Christ as the Bridegroom is most blessed; to be not betrothed, and having occasional visits, but married. ‘I am with you alway,’ [Matthew 28:20] ‘I will, never leave thee,’ [Hebrews 13:5] ‘I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee’ [Joshue 1:5]—such are now His messages of love to us.”[4] Taylor pointed his colleagues to the wellspring of spiritual strength for service—their walk with God.

  1. Your Influence for God Depends on Your Walk with God.

What Taylor taught, he also lived. When asked how he could continually encourage others when his strength was taxed by such a heavy burden of responsibilities, Taylor answered, “Every morning I feed upon the Word of God, then I pass on through the day messages that have first helped me in my own soul.”[9] His biographer, John Polluck attests, “To insure a quiet time for uninterrupted prayer, he always rose very early in the morning before daylight and, if nature demanded it, would continue his sleep after his season of prayer.’ He once admitted to a friend that ‘the sun has never risen upon China without finding me at prayer.’”[6] In Mrs. Howard Taylor’s two volume biography of Hudson Taylor, some form of the word “pray” appears 352 times!

As he recruited missionaries through speaking engagements across Europe, Australia, and the United States, Taylor repeatedly stressed the importance of a Christian’s walk with God: “Do not have your concert first, and then tune your instrument afterwards. Begin the day with the Word of God and prayer, and get first of all into harmony with Him.”[7] Abiding in Christ was his constant theme: “Communion with Christ requires our coming to Him. Meditating upon His person, and His work requires the diligent use of the means of grace, and especially the prayerful reading of His Word. Many fail to abide because they habitually fast instead of feed.”[8] Walking with God is not merely a means to the end of discipling others. However, without a close walk with God, spiritual influence will remain weak.
The Heart of Spiritual Influence

How can we, as believers in Christ alone for salvation, effectively influence others to follow God? The lessons Hudson Taylor learned from God’s Word and demonstrated through his experience still hold true today. A fervent walk with God will empower us to persevere in sharing and living the gospel in the face of overt opposition or petrified indifference. Young believers around us need Biblical teaching backed by godly examples of spiritual growth. Only by humble dependence on the Source of spiritual strength can we influence others to follow us as we follow Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). The heart of spiritual influence is your walk with God.

Draw near to God through His Word (James 4:8). Extend your prayer life as an ongoing conversation with God throughout each day (1 Thessalonians 5:17). The strength you need is not within you. Your strength lies in your dependence on God. When God empowers you, then He can influence others through you (Philippians 2:13).

M. R. Conrad

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

%d bloggers like this: