William Wilberforce lived an incredible and inspiring life. His lifelong fight to end the slave trade in England can teach us all a great deal about perseverance and living out our faith. Wilberforce understood what he had to do and worked himself to death for it. He understood what it meant to work hard and sacrifice for a noble cause. Both his life and his words teach an important lesson. William Wilberforce gave us a challenge that many Christians will never fulfill. His bibliography is very short, but within are some messages the church should consider.
“No one expects to attain to the height of learning, or arts, or power, or wealth, or military glory, without vigorous resolution, strenuous diligence, and steady perseverance. Yet we expect to be Christians without labour, study, or inquiry.”William Wilberforce, A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians, in the Middle and Higher Classes in this Country, Contrasted with Real Christianity.
Where is Your Time Spent?
This quote first struck me as a teenager. How seriously will I take this faith of mine? Any skill worth having takes time for study and practice. You want to be a great guitarist, writer, speaker, Super Smash Bros. champion, or whatever else; it will take work. Why do we expect Christianity to be different? Why do we put in the bare minimum of effort and think there will not be consequences? When we see statistics of young people leaving the church, it’s easy to freak out and ask what went wrong. Did a crafty devil trick them? Did some seductive temptation pull them away?
For many, the truth is that the passion was never there in the first place. Are we taking the time to understand our faith to the point that we can defend it? Do we have enough confidence that Christ is risen indeed that we will not be afraid to say so? That confidence doesn’t come from a blind faith with the occasional pep talk at a Christian summer camp. That confidence takes, as Wilberforce put it, labour, study, and inquiry.
“I am disturbed when I see the majority of so-called Christians having such little understanding of the real nature of the faith they profess. Faith is a subject of such importance that we should not ignore it because of the distractions or the hectic pace of our lives.”William Wilberforce, Real Christianity
No Room for Apathy
Wilberforce does more than just challenge us to put in the work. He explains the cost. Do you find yourself asking, “What in the world is happening in the church today? How did things get so far off?” Again, it can be easy to toss the blame towards a broken culture, false teachers, or even Satan himself. Are we willing to look inside and see where we have slacked off? Have we ignored our faith in the hectic pace of our lives? I know I certainly have. Nothing kills quite like apathy and procrastination.
What is Christ worth to you? Is what the Bible says true? Did God really become a man to save us from our sins? Did Jesus really rise and conquer death? If that is true, it needs to be the most important thing in our lives. Is my economics grade or the latest news on Twitter worth more? The cost of being a Christian is only going up in our culture today. Wilberforce gave us a challenge over 200 years ago. He put in the work and fought tooth and nail for what he believed. Will you put in the work to know, apply, and defend your faith?
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