Historical Profiles That Encourage, Inform, and Inspire Us
The delay in fulfilling his calling was unexpected and frustrating. After six years of intensive outreach in China, at age 29, Hudson Taylor returned to England, a furlough prompted by poor health. For five years he waited to return, all the while burdened by the spiritual darkness in China, where 30,000 died daily without hearing the Gospel.
In Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secrets, his son James explains how those years of waiting tempered the steel of his father’s soul. For periods of time in his London flat in a poor part of the city, Taylor and his family were “shut up to prayer and patience.” Persevering prayer became a deeply-ingrained habit. He experienced “the deep prolonged exercise of a soul that is following hard after God… the gradual strengthening of a man called to walk by faith, not by sight; the unutterable confidence of a heart cleaving to God and God alone.” As those years away from China progressed, when despondency assailed him, “prayer was the only way by which the burdened heart could obtain any relief.”
Yet the value of the delay wasn’t restricted to the cultivation of deeper faith through desperate prayer. When his health permitted, he spoke in churches across the British Isles to promote the needs in China. Taylor helped translate the New Testament in a Chinese dialect. He received more medical training that he knew would come in handy in rural outposts of China. Most significantly, during persistent bouts of prayer, God’s Spirit planted a vision to expand outreach in China by launching a new sending agency. In 1865, he founded China Inland Mission, which sixty-five years later became Overseas Missionary Fellowship. In 1866, after raising enough funds to support a team of twenty-one workers, Taylor sailed back to China, where he labored forty-five more years.
Initially, poor health and years away from his beloved Chinese appeared nonsensical, a detour from God’s calling. But almost 150 years later, the missionary society he organized still penetrates unreached areas with the gospel. Rather than diminishing his effectiveness, delay multiplied it. Delay prepared Taylor for greater long-term usefulness to God.
Taylor’s story reminds me of a remark by V. Raymond Edmond: “Delay never thwarts God’s purpose. It only polishes his instruments.” His time away from the mission field in China also tells us that God never wastes time, and He never wastes experiences in the lives of His consecrated servants. The outcome of waiting on God may be more fruit, not less.