How would you like to have this on your résumé?
- Wrote a best-selling book
- Wrote arguably the most popular hymn of all time
- Faithfully married to your sweetheart for 40 years
- Pastor a growing church for 15 years
- Pastor a thriving church in the largest city in the country
- Instrumental in ending the slave trade
- Wrote hundreds of letters that are still being read today
That is only a small portion of what John Newton could write. He could also list the names of William Wilberforce, William Cowper, Hannah More, and a host of others of whom he was influential in their life. Newton was also a key behind the scenes influence on the modern missionary movement. His influence is still be uncovered even in our day.
One might be tempted to having a life and ministry similar to that of Newton. Reading his writings makes me want to drink deeply from the well that is Christ. I further want to make an impact for the kingdom as Newton did. You might say that part of me seeks great things.
All of these accomplishments happened to John Newton after 1764 (save for his marriage to Polly). Listen to a somewhat discouraged Newton in 1761:
My comfort is comprised in this one sentence—“I know whom I have believed”. I know that Jesus is mighty to save; I have seen myself lost in every view—but the hope of his mercy; I have fled to him for safety; I have been preserved by him thus far; and I believe he will keep that which I have committed to him even to the end. Blessing and honor, and glory and praise, be to his name, who has loved poor sinners, and washed them in his most precious blood! Amen.
For the rest, alas! alas! I am unfaithful and unprofitable to a degree you would hardly believe; yet, vile as I am, I taste of his goodness every day, and live in hope, that in his own time he will enable me to show forth his praise. I have been much exercised with respect to the ministry; my heart is led that way—but the Lord's hand keeps me in; I need much humbling; there is that in me which seeks great things, though I am, as I said, sadly unfaithful in small ones; therefore, for my pride, I am set aside for the present.
In the early 1750’s Newton felt a tug to pursue vocational ministry. Finally in 1757 he applied to be ordained as a priest in the Church of England. He was not met with willing arms. He was met with denial. This is why Newton says, “I am set aside for the present”. The above quote was written in 1761. It wouldn’t be until 1764 that Newton was finally ordained.
Most of us would desire Newton’s resume. Less are as willing to embrace the humbling. In 1761 Newton was learning the lesson of being faithful in the small things. What is interesting is that this seemed to be the call of his entire life. Most of the things on that resume were thrust upon him. A good portion of them came as a result of him just being faithful in the small things and the Lord gave them increase.
Newton is drinking deeply from the fountain of Jesus. He believes that if the Lord sees fit he will eventually “enable me to show forth his praise”. Until that time Newton knows that he needs to be faithful in the small things and rest in the Lord’s unending grace.
Résumés like Newton’s seldom come without an equal catalog of humbling.