William Wilberforce. He is one man I desperately want to look up when I get to heaven.
At age 26 Wilberforce met Jesus. He never got over his first love.
He fought as a politician for those who had no voice. He argued for fair wages for the poor in England. He fought for social reforms that allowed all children in England to go to school. However he was most remembered for his fight to abolish the slave trade and slavery at all in England. He spent 52 years fighting against slavery.
There are so many remarkable things about Wilberforce. He worked tirelessly to abolish slavery even through slander, personal struggles, and family drama. On top of it all he suffered from a variety of health issues. He had bowel issues and lung issues. He suffered from vision issues caused by the medicine prescribed for his bowel issues. Later in his life he developed a spine curvature that required him to wear a brace under his clothes.
Despite nearly 26 years of failures for abolishing the slave trade and nearly 26 more years before slavery was abolished in England, despite slanderous attacks on his character and actions, despite his health problems, Wilberforce was most known for his joy.
“[Wilberforce had] childlike, child-loving, self-forgetting joy in Christ.” –John Piper, Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce
A man who for years failed in his mission, had health issues, whose family had struggles, and who was publicly slandered was marked by joy. In fact Wilberforce said:
“We can scarcely indeed look into any part of the sacred volume without meeting abundant proofs that it is the religion of the Affections which God particularly requires…Joy…is enjoined on us as our bounden duty and commended to us as our acceptable worship…A cold…unfeeling heart is represented as highly criminal.”
God doesn’t want only our duty or even our obedience. He wants our hearts fully set on Him. God repeatedly tells us to fix our joy on Him. God commands us 9 times in Deuteronomy alone to rejoice in the LORD. That does not include all the times in Psalm or elsewhere. God wants us to see joy as obedience to Him.
I don’t know about you, but Wilberforce’s life of joy challenges me. Do I really live a life of joy in the LORD or do I live my Christian life as a drudgery? Do I seek to protect my joy and find my strength in the joy of the LORD? Do I rejoice always?
What would change if our lives were marked by joy? How would our perspectives change? What if the joy of the Lord was our strength? If Wilberforce could do it can’t we?
What is one way you will choose joy in the next 24 hours? Will you share with me? Leave your ideas in the comments.
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