After our class on the life of William Carey this past Sunday morning, one of the things I realized we did not get to talk about was the way God used him despite all of the things we would call “set backs.” Taking his words, “Expect great things…attempt great things” in the broader context of his life, we would say he lived this out. At any given moment, especially early on in his mission work, you can only imagine how difficult it must have been for him.

I think that we tend to expect great things to happen with ease. Whenever we attempt great things, we only follow through with the attempt if everything is going pretty much according to plan.

It seems we have much to learn here from a man who was much like us. In all that we are called to do, whether we think of it as great or not, there is always the temptation to wait or to get sidetracked by life events. We pursue things that we believe God has called us to do but then we treat hardships as if they were not part of God’s plan. Sometimes the very act of getting started with something we feel strongly that we should be doing never happens because we keep waiting for the right time – a time in which we somehow think that everything will fall perfectly into place in order for us to proceed. Sometimes everything may “fall” into place, but it seems contrary to the way we see things unfold in Scripture (not to mention past experience.)

Here is one of the ways that I think we should find great encouragement from Christian biography. Not only do we learn about a person, but we get to see with some clarity the way God used another man or woman despite their flaws and troubles. This perspective helps us to guard against either viewing ourselves too lowly or too highly. Instead, seeing into the life of another person often brings a clear vision of things that we have great difficulty seeing with clarity in our own lives.

A lot of the information that I used for our class came from this online edition of Christianity Today if you are interested in further reading.