The Life of William Wilberforce
When we are engaged in the work God has called us to do in the world, some level of persecution is inevitable. For William Wilberforce, who had chosen to make abolition of the powerful slave trade the “Great Object” of his life, the persecution was intense.
Wilberforce had every reason to be afraid for his life. During his decades-long fight to end slavery, multiple slave-ship captains threatened Wilberforce’s life. One even challenged him to a duel. As one of his biographers wrote, Wilberforce “seriously believed he was likely to die violently when some enemy of abolition made good on one of the several threats he had received since becoming the cause’s chiefest champion.”
Thank God Wilberforce was surrounded by other believers who encouraged him to fear God more than man. On his deathbed, the great preacher John Wesley wrote this to Wilberforce: “Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you?”
Reminders of biblical truths like these kept Wilberforce going, even when he was in fear for his own life. But Wilberforce wasn’t just afraid for his life. He also had good reason to fear for his reputation as he diligently and boldly shared the gospel with his fellow Parliamentarians. In his journal, Wilberforce kept a list of friends, and next to each name, a series of what he called “launchers”—topics and angles he planned to bring up to steer conversations with that person to the subject of eternity.
Wilberforce understood that Jesus has called each of us to be “full-time missionaries” sharing the gospel as we work in every square inch of creation—even if it means damaging our reputations. When Wilberforce was first elected to Parliament, there were 3 members who identified themselves as serious Christians. Fifty years later, there were nearly 200. In the words of his biographer, “Wilberforce’s influence [to this end]…is hard to avoid.”
As you go to work today, fear God, not man. Whether you’re in fear for your life or your reputation, whether you’re fighting evil or sharing the gospel with co-workers, remember that if God is for you, no one can truly be against you (Romans 8:31).
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.Matthew 10:28
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 8:31-39
So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”Hebrews 13:6
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,2 Timothy 3:12
If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.John 15:18
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.Matthew 5:10
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”Matthew 28:16-20