Thursday, August 02, 2007

Amazing Grace

If you haven't seen it already, rent the movie "Amazing Grace" when you have a chance. The story of William Wilberforce's fight against the slave trade in England 300 years ago is incredibly relevant to us today. Not only because there are ample injustices to fight against ... but also because we need reminders of what it is like to live life on purpose, with an unswerving passion.

Wilberforce was a rising young star in Parliament, the typical politician of his day, when God interrupted his plans. You know what that's like! In a poignant scene on his plush, extravagant lawn, Wilberforce revels in a newfound relationship with His Lord. Changed from a man who was self-centered and focused on selfish ambition into someone whose delight is in looking at the sky while reading Scripture, Wilberforce tries to come to grips with his calling. His butler queries him: "Did you find God, sir?" Wilberforce answers, in a phrase that caused knowing giggles in the audience when I watched it, "He found me. Do you know how terribly inconvenient that is?"

Inconvenient, yes. But after a struggle with whether to quit politics to join the ministry, Wilberforce determines his place is in Parliament for a purpose: to eradicate the slave trade. After a series of divinely-appointed relationships convinces him of this role, Wilberforce devotes the rest of his life to this task. Along with his friend William Pitt -- who becomes Prime Minister at an incredibly young age -- Wilberforce perseveres through failure after failure, trial after trial, humiliation and rejection. Early in their fight, when Pitt becomes Prime Minister and the two young men are heady with excitement, Pitt exclaims, "We're too young to know all the things that are impossible, so we'll do them anyway." Later, with the stress taking a physical toll on Wilberforce's body, when success finally comes it is so obviously the Lord's doing that you will want to worship Him for His creativity.

Perseverance is hard. We all need to be encouraged. Scripture tells us that we should study the lives of those who have gone before us, and imitate their faith. Wilberforce's story tells us much about a faith that never gives up - a faith that works.

And slavery was history in England before Wilberforce died. Praise to the God of justice.

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