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The Perseverance of a Changed Man

by Larry Sowders  
9/26/2007 / Christian Living

When William Wilberforce experienced the great change Christ brought into his life, the change was truly great. The former party boy who loved the pleasures of this world came to love Christ and to give his life in service to Christ's Kingdom. He began to spend hours each day reading and studying God's Word. He no longer wanted to live for himself and his own pleasure. In fact Wilberforce contemplated leaving politics but John Newton (author of the great hymn Amazing Grace) advised, "It is hoped and believed that the Lord has raised you up for the good of His church and for the good of the nation."

One year following Wilberforce's great change, he found God's calling upon his life. He wrote in his diary, "God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the Slave Trade and the Reformation of Manners." As they say, the rest is history. What a remarkable history of perseverance it proved to be. Wilberforce threw himself wholeheartedly into these two great objects but he would face great opposition and many obstacles along the way. In fact, it would take 20 years for the abolition of the slave trade to become a reality.

What is it that kept Wilberforce pursuing this course for so long? I think it was his fundamental belief in God's enabling grace. On one occasion Wilberforce wrote these words about his life's work, "If it please God to honor me so far, may I be the instrument of stopping such a course of wickedness and cruelty as never before disgraced a Christian country." There was an underlying reliance upon God and a recognition that only God could make abolition a reality. All depended upon the good pleasure of God. Is there an echo here in Wilberforce of the apostle Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 3:10, "According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it." Paul attributed his entire ministry as an apostle to the grace of God which was given to him. I am sure Wilberforce would say the same. By God's grace alone he was able to labor those 20 years to abolish the slave trade in England. By God's grace alone he persevered through opposition and obstacles. By God's grace alone was he an instrument in such a monumental cause. Let us too rest and rely on the enabling grace of God to fulfill the tasks to which he has called us.

Lary Sowders is a pastor, husband and father of three living in Cincinnati, Ohio. Read more at

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