In 1839 James Harris and John Williams from the London Mission Society in 1839 were killed and eaten by the Cannibals in the South Pacific islands. We may not be familiar with their names but they paved the way for John G. Paton. He would later write, “Thus the New Hebrides baptized with the blood of martyrs; and Christ thereby told the whole Christian world that he claimed these islands as his own.”
John G. Paton at the age of 33 landed on the island of Tann in 1858 just shy of 20 years from the death of James and John. John was called the South Pacific and could not shake that there were lost souls in need of the gospel.
John left a fruitful ministry in the city of Glasgow, Scotland knowing God was leading him to the mission field of Vanuatu. He was confronted by an older gentlemen, Mr. Dickson, that was part of this ministry and was wondering why he would leave such a ministry and take such a risk.
Mr. Dickson exploded out loud to John, “The cannibals, you will be eaten by cannibals!”
John responded to Mr. Dickson,
You are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms.
200 years after the death of John Paton 92% of the people of Vanuatu identify as Christian.
God Uses All Circumstances for His Glory
James Harris and John Williams were used to stir something in John Paton whom God used in the South Pacific. They gave their lives for the sake of the gospel which was also used to influence John and others.
In a similar way the Apostle Paul was in prison and in chains yet he wrote to the Philippian church that all that he was going through was for the advancement of the gospel (Phil 1:12). Though he was chained he saw God use his imprisonment for God’s glory. Paul writes, And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (1:14 ESV).
The brothers were not afraid though Paul was imprisoned for his faith, instead they were emboldened. Paul had an understanding that God uses all circumstances for his glory.
This is the gospel going out. It is almost like multiplication. Some may be pioneers in a certain area of gospel ministry but their influence impacts many.
Who Do you Influence?
A couple of times Paul encouraged the church to imitate him (1 Cor. 4:16; 11:1). This was not in boasting of his character. He was pointing to the one who influences him, Jesus. Jesus is the one he strived to imitate after and so the church would do the same.
We may not know the impact we have in the life of others. We may not know who is watching us. May we live in such a way that points people to Jesus.
John Williams and James Harris influenced Paton and others by their life of counting the cost and giving of their lives for the gospel. They were not alive to see the fruit of their ministry well at least this side of eternity.
May we all live faithfully and trust the Lord in what he is doing!