I see no business in life but the work of Christ. -Henry Martyn
As I continue my short series of mini-biographies of missionaries who were committed to Bible translation (our theme for this September’s Missions Emphasis), I want to share with you a bit about one of my missionary heroes…Henry Martyn.
Martyn was a missionary to India and Persia in the early 1800’s. He was a scholar of the first rate in his native England, with the opportunity to stay and teach at Cambridge in Mathematics, Latin, or the Classics (he was invited to choose any, or all three). Yet he chose instead to leave England forever and preach the gospel to and translate the Scriptures for the people of India and Persia. Here is what strikes me most about this godly man.
*Henry Martyn loved God, and it showed in his whole-hearted devotion to Christ. He left behind a woman he loved and hoped to marry, his family, a promising career, and faced down his fear of the unknown, sea travel, and his own introverted nature. He set off for India—all due not to a promise of riches and fame, but a promise of deprivation and obscurity. His love and devotion for God was profound.
*He used his God-given gifts. Martyn knew that he was not terribly gifted as a preacher, although he longed to be. He learned to accept this fact and turned instead to personal evangelism and translation work, which were in fact his gifts. He gave up comfort and scholarship in his mother England, a chance to marry the woman he loved, and ultimately, his own life in pursuit of something he found far more important—the opportunity to share the gospel and translate the Scriptures so that the Persian Muslims might find hope and life in Jesus Christ. He was a tireless missionary, translating the entire New Testament and Psalms into Persian in just three years’ time. He died a premature death at 31 years of age in Tokat, Turkey.
*He lived out Philippians 2:12-13: "...continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, to will and to act according to his good pleasure." Martyn was constantly striving to be a better Christian, but never confused good works with salvation. He trusted God and went to work, disciplining his body and keeping it under control, lest after preaching to others he himself would be disqualified for the prize (1 Cor. 9:27). God, in return, used him in mighty ways.
*When he felt God was saying "go," he went. There was much to keep him tied to England, and he would have been a fine Christian had he remained, but he chose to go. The burden God gave him for the lost in Persia and India would not fade, and he took it as a sign that his life and work needed to be poured out for those who had not yet heard the good news. As he prepared for his death, he is quoted as having said, “Now let me burn out for God.”
Reading a good Christian biography recharges my batteries. It challenges me to do better. It encourages me to believe that everyday Christians can have an impact on the kingdom work of God. It reminds me that there are believers out there who really do take God at his word and really do believe that it is wise to remember that "here we do not have an enduring city, but we look forward to the city that is to come" (Heb. 13:14).
I suspect that most of us are not called to go on the mission field. My family went and then returned, and I feel that I am right where I am supposed to be. Nevertheless, I still get inspired by those who trust and obey God, whether on the international mission field or right here in the United States.
Henry Martyn’s story gives me courage and lights the fires for gospel ministry in my bones. Good missionary biographies will do that! Please keep your eyes open for much more information to come over the next few weeks and months at LifePoint as we focus on summer missions, Bible translation work, and our approaching Missions Emphasis in September.
Grace and peace,