Although he had only an elementary education, by the time he was in his teens, he could read the Bible in six languages. He later became Professor of Oriental Languages at Fort William College in Calcutta, and his press at Serampore provided Scriptures in over 40 languages and dialects for more than 300 million people.
His name? William Carey, “father of modern missions.”
His secret? He was a plodder.
The one criterion
“Eustice,” Carey said to his nephew, “if after my removal anyone should think it worth his while to write my life, i will give you a criterion by which you may judge of its correctness.
“If he gives me credit for being a plodder, he will describe me justly. Anything beyond this will be too much. I can plod. That is my only genius. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.”
Getting your feet wet
The etymologists tell us that our word “plod” comes from an old Middle English word that means “a puddle.” The Danish have a similar word that means “mud.” A “plodder” is someone who is willing to get his feet wet and wade through water and mud to get to his destination. He keeps going!
Shakespeare was wrong when he wrote, “Small have continaul plodders ever won.” History shows that it is the plodders who finally make it. “By perseverance,” said Spurgeon, “the snail reached the ark.”
In this age of fast food, digests and quick fixes, plodding is not held in high esteem; but it is still the plodders who are getting things done, a day at a time, a step at a time. Paul had the plodders in mind when he wrote: “And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary” (Gal. 6:9).
Of course, the plodder needs to know where he is going, or his daily toil will be in vain. He doesn’t want to become like the airline pilot who told the passengers, “We’re lost, but we’re making very good time!” It is important to have direction.
This means setting goals, definite goals, that may be measured. It also means breaking down these long-range goals into bite-size tasks that can be handled day by day. A Chinese proverb says, “The man who removed the mountain began by carrying away small stones.” Don’t be so dazzled by the distant destination that you get on the wrong path and lose your way.
Make a list of the things you feel God wants you to do, arrange them in order of priority, and use the list as a prayer guide and a road map for your ministry. It isn’t necessary to share the whole list with everybody; some things are better kept quiet.
“When the pilot does not know what port he is heading for,” says a Roman proverb,”no wind is the right wind.” The pastor who has his destinations clearly in mind can adjust his sails as the winds change and still make it to the harbor.
The plodder has to be disciplined. As he mended shoes, young William Carey taught himself Latin, Hebrew, Greek, French, and Dutch. We might argue hat he had a special gift for languages; but even if he did, his achievement at least encourages us to do more with the gifts God has given us. Persistence without ability is futility; but if God calls us to serve, He will equip us for the task.
Plodders have their eyes on the goal; they resist every effort to get them on a detour. “This one thing I do!” is their special verse (Phil. 3:13), and they will not change. David Sarnoff, president of RCA, said, “The will to persevere is often the difference between failure and success.”
Isaiah 40:31 is a special promise for plodders. There are days when God enables us to soar like the eagle or run like the deer, but they are few and far between. However, when we wait each day on the Lord, He gives us the strength to plod: “They shall walk and not faint.”
“God never communicates surplus power,” said Joseph Parker. “God promises no strength beyond the day in which it is required.” He cited Deuteronomy 33:25, the perfect text for the faithful plodder.
“Strength to walk may be yours,” said Alexander Maclaren, “patient power for persistent pursuit of weary monotonous duty. That is the hardest, and so it is named last.”
“Duty” is just another name for the will of God; and to Jesus, the will of God was satisfying food, not bitter medicine (John 4:34). When duty becomes delight, then plodding becomes pleasure; and the daily walk takes on new joy and excitement.
“Consider the postage stamp,” said American wit Josh Billings. “Its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing till it gets there.”
Remember that the next time you open your mail.
(Copyright Warren Wiersbe, All Rights Reserved)
Dr. Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) was an internationally known Bible teacher, author, and conference speaker. He graduated in 1953 from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. While attending seminary, he was ordained as pastor of Central Baptist Church in 1951 and served until 1957. From September 1957 to 1961, Wiersbe served as Director of The Literature Division for Youth for Christ International. From 1961 to 1971 he pastored Calvary Baptist Church of Covington, Kentucky south of Cincinnati, Ohio. His sermons were broadcast as the “Calvary Hour” on a local Cincinnati radio station. From 1971 to 1978, He served as the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago 1971 to 1978. While at Moody Church he continued in radio ministry. Between August 1979 and March 1982, he wrote bi-weekly for Christianity Today as “Eutychus X”, taught practical theology classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and wrote the course material and taught a Doctor of Ministry course at Trinity and Dallas Seminary. In 1980 he transitioned to Back to the Bible radio broadcasting network where he worked until 1990. Dr. Wiersbe became Writer in Residence at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids and Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. In his lifetime, Dr. Wiersbe wrote over 170 books—including the popular Be series, which has sold over four million copies. Dr. Wiersbe was awarded the Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA).