Hard work is often demanded when we don’t want to do it. Recently, I learned of another man’s response to not wanting to work hard, and he inspired me. Here is his story.
In 1780, at the age of 21, a young man named William Wilberforce was elected to British Parliament. History claims that Wilberforce spearheaded “the greatest moral achievement of the British People,” and historian G.M. Trevelyan claims that his efforts created “one of the turning points in the history of the world.”
These are no small claims. He felt it was his calling to defend those who could not defend themselves. I decided I wanted to do some homework on this man, and I learned an interesting lesson about the differences between a calling and the Caller.
I can’t learn without a picture of some sort, so I started my study of this man by trying to visualize him using the teachings in history. We are told that he was a small and sickly young man, and he had terrible eyesight, but he was also book smart in addition to people smart and money smart. By the time he entered politics at the ripe age of 21, he had already earned an BA and an MA. In addition to those skills, I read that the Price of Wales was said to travel anywhere to hear Wilberforce sing. He was also impulsive (I can relate!). At age 38, after 17 years in elected office, he met a girl and asked her to be his wife after a whopping 10-day dating/romance period. They quickly got married and had 6 children in less than 10 years. Stack on top of his attributes the claim that he was very short, and I come up with a picture of Danny DeVito meeting the Waltons.
During his life, Wilberforce founded the Country of Sierra Leone as a refuge for displaced slaves. He founded the Church Mission Society (once the largest international missions’ organization in the world), and he wrote a lot of comments and responses of what would later become law. His name is associated with no less than 69 philanthropic organizations. His greatest “result” came from his efforts to have slavery abolished in the British empire at a time when the slave trade was a huge part of the economy of the world. In this effort, he brought together the Quakers and the Anglicins, at the same time, for the first time in recorded history. Think of the USA dismantling the junk food industry, with both democrats and republicans voting a majority in favor of the actions. NOT happening.
It wasn’t his calling that spawned him to do these things with his life. It was the Caller.
After 4 years in office, he heard the message of Christ and what he did when he died on the cross, and its impact made him review his life. Instead of chasing after something, he switched and began chasing after Someone. He saw that the difficult tasks in front of him will require that he be vilified and abused. Just like Christ the Caller, he put his physical life in the line in order to reform humanity. He was beaten up and hospitalized twice by opposing political forces, and he had his life threatened as he spoke of how the world would be better without slavery. Navy Admirals threatened him with his life, and he often had to escape physical harm as part of everyday living in London.
During a period of deep low, a middle-aged man named John Newton met with Wilberforce when he was ready to quit politics. Newton told Wilberforce that he was a former slave trader and was now a minister, in part, because of Wilberforce’s work. Newton told Wilberforce, “the Lord raised you up for the good of the nation.” Wilberfoce was inspired by these comments, and he stayed in politics and kept fighting.
Even when his calling was weak, the Caller was strong, and that helped him to keep in the fight. It took nearly 50 years of work in Parliament to see slavery abolished and the transportation and trade of slaves in all corners of the British empire ended. Wilberforce died shortly after slavery was abolished, and I can only imagine that there were lots of men like Newton who trickled through Wilberforce’s life.
Newton later went on to write the song, “Amazing Grace,” that is now commonplace in nearly all Christian churches and is even known among the secular world. That the writer was inspired by a short and sickly politician never makes public discussion.
How many times did Wilberforce not want to fight in Parliament? How many times did he wish he could walk about and not worry if someone was going to kill him? I can only imagine that part of his sickly nature came from the psychological impact of living on the edge, knowing that you MUST do the right thing and fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. If he didn’t fight to end slavery, who would?
What I learned:
The Caller is greater than the calling. Callings fade with the tidings of life and can become a form of enslavement. Callers don’t fade, nor do they enslave. Callings change with the seasons of life. Caller’s are as steady even as season’s change.
Wilberforce responded to that summons with service. God’s call was not like a phone call with specific to do items at the end. Wilberforce heard God’s call and decided that it was worth giving his life’s labor to follow. That call was so full of awe and summons that only one response was appropriate-work in all things as if you are working for the Lord.
I have repeatedly had callings. Yet I have only one Caller. This point hit home when I was scheduled to train for an upcoming November event.
Yesterday am, I woke up and did NOT want to run for an hour. I didn’t want to do any strength training either. And I thought of the Caller. He said, “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing. This is your act of worship.”
So I ran for an hour, and did my squats and pull ups. And although I may not be faster or have a better result in a few months, maybe my efforts will benefit someone else.