Four things John Stott learned from Hudson Taylor

November 30, 2016

Four things John Stott learned from Hudson Taylor

From East Asia Millions June/July 1990:

‘What I learned from Hudson Taylor
By Revd Dr John Stott

I can still remember the impact which was made on me, as an undergraduate at Cambridge University in the forties, when I read Hudson Taylor: The Growth of a Soul and The Man Who Believed God. Hudson Taylor’s example challenged me, then as a student, and later as a pastor, to a greater and a wiser faith. He has always seemed to me to exemplify a robust, reasonable and realistic faith. He taught me four important aspects of Christian faith.

First, faith rests on God’s faithfulness.

I remember reading that Hudson Taylor liked to render Jesus’ command ‘have faith in God’ (Mark 11:22) with the words ‘reckon on the faithfulness of God’. This paraphrase, although not exegetically exact, is theologically correct. Human faith and divine faithfulness are the obverse and reverse of the same coin. It is precisely because God is faithful that faith is reasonable, for there is no more trustworthy person than God. So to trust the trustworthy is hardly daring or adventurous; it is plain, sober common sense.

Secondly, faith is the trust of a child.

God is not only the Faithful One, but our Father too through Jesus Christ. He invites us to call him ‘Father’ and to share our concerns and needs with him as children do with their parents. I cannot do better here than quote Hudson Taylor himself: ‘I am taking my children with me, and I notice that it is not difficult for me to remember that the little ones need breakfast in the morning, dinner at midday, and something before they go to bed at night. Indeed, I could not forget it. And I find it impossible to suppose that our Heavenly Father is less tender or mindful than I.’ Again, ‘I do not believe that our Heavenly Father will ever forget his children. I am a very poor father, but it is not my habit to forget my children. God is a very, very good Father. It is not his habit to forget his children. ‘

Thirdly, faith is as necessary in the material realm as in the spiritual, that is, when needing money as much as when seeking converts.

One of Hudson Taylor’s best-known aphorisms was: ‘God’s work done in God’s way will never lack supplies’. I know there is a measure of debate about what constitutes a ‘faith mission’, and whether financial needs should be made known to God alone or may be disclosed to God’s people also. Certainly the apostle Paul saw nothing incongruous in urging the Greek churches to contribute to the collection which he was organising for the poverty-stricken Judean churches. But underlying his appeal was his confidence in God. During the last two decades All Souls Church has had to face two daunting and unavoidable building projects. Michael Baughen (now Bishop of Chester) led us in the first, and Richard Bewes (our current Rector) in the second. And though the two leaders have differed from one another in style, they have been united in faith. It is from Hudson Taylor as much as from anybody else that I myself have learned the secondary importance of money. I believe strongly that if we are doing God’s work according to God’s will in God’s way, the necessary money will be forthcoming.

Fourthly, faith is not incompatible with the use of means.

On his first voyage to China in 1853, the vessel in which Hudson Taylor was sailing was caught in a severe storm, off the coast of Wales. He had promised his mother that he would wear a life-belt. But when the captain ordered passengers to wear them, he felt it would be a sign of unbelief and thereby dishonouring to God. So he gave his away. But as he reflected on his action, he came to see his mistake. ‘The use of means’, he wrote, ‘ought not to lessen our faith in God, and our faith in God ought not to hinder our using whatever means he has given us for the accomplishment of his own purposes.’ Similarly, we might add, a farmer’s trust in God is not incompatible with ploughing, sowing and reaping, nor a patient’s with going to the doctor and taking medicine, nor a church leader’s with necessary organisation.

To sum up, authentic faith is not a synonym for superstition or credulity or lazy inactivity. It rests on the faithfulness and the fatherliness of God, and is accompanied by sensible precautions and actions.’