Undreamed Happiness: Clues to the Success of Hudson Taylor

Reed JolleyCommunity News

Hudson Taylor again.

Last month in these pages we looked at this missionary’s secret for dealing with his own pain and suffering.  This month let’s consider why he accomplished so much for God and God’s kingdom.  But first, a little background.

Simply put, Hudson Taylor was the most used emissary for the gospel in China in the past two hundred years.  Bringing the good news to China was all Taylor ever wanted to do.  At age four, young Hudson announced to his father, When I am a man, I mean to be a missionary and go to China.  And so he went, devoting fifty-one years of his life to evangelizing the Chinese.  By any measure, Hudson Taylor was a success.  The numbers are staggering.  During his half-century of service, Taylor established twenty mission stations and brought 849 workers to the mission field.  In addition, Taylor’s China Inland Mission (CIM) trained and sent out over 700 Chinese workers to minister to their own people.  Over 125,000 Chinese came to know Christ during Taylor’s lifetime, and 35,000 of these converts are said to have met Christ as a direct result of this missionary’s preaching.  And it is estimated that Taylor himself baptized some 50,000 new believers.

Why did this man accomplish so much?  Why did he succeed where others failed?  The short answer, of course, is that God blessed his ministry and decided in his sovereignty to use Hudson Taylor.  But let’s dig a bit deeper and probe for some of the human clues to Taylor’s productivity..   As I pointed out last month, the story of Hudson Taylor has blown some fresh wind into my spiritual sails, and that fresh wind got me thinking about what I might learn from this spiritual giant.  What did Hudson Taylor do that might teach me how to live a life that matters?

First, Hudson Taylor succeeded in ministry because he had a biblical understanding of God.  Taylor was steeped in the Scriptures; his God was not the invention of his own fancies.  He worshipped the God who is both sovereign and personal, the God whose providence is comprehensive, and the God who answers prayer.  In short, Taylor worshipped a God who is trustworthy.  In the fourth issue of CIM’s magazine China’s Millions, Taylor wrote,

Want of trust is at the root of almost all our sins and all our weaknesses; and how shall we escape it but by looking to Him and observing His faithfulness.  The man who holds God’s faithfulness will not be foolhardy or reckless, but he will be ready for every emergency.  The man who holds God’s faithfulness will dare to obey Him. . .

Second, Hudson Taylor identified with the people he sought to reach.  When he first arrived in China, civil war loomed, and Taylor had to take refuge in a missionary compound set up to shield Christian workers from the hostilities.  While living with these missionaries, he was appalled by their idleness and offended by their insensitivity to the Chinese.  Soon Hudson Taylor adopted Chinese dress (baggy pants, white calico socks, satin shoes, and a loose silk gown with wide sleeves) and grew his hair into a Chinese cue. He went on preaching tours in inland China, something that simply wasn’t done in nineteenth-century China because it was too dangerous, and he lived the life of a Chinaman.  He became, in effect, Chinese, and the people loved him for it.

Third, this English missionary knew how to work.  Taylor saw much laziness among other missionaries, and he wouldn’t tolerate the same in his own life.  He quite literally poured out his life for the Chinese.  After his first six years in Asia, his health was in serious decline, and he had to retreat to England for rest and restoration.  Years later, as CIM grew in popularity and scores of candidates applied to be missionaries, Taylor was quite clear that to serve with this mission organization meant hard work.  In one letter to prospective workers, he wrote this:

We are going on into the interior.  If any one is not prepared to rough it, he had better stay home at once. . . . the only persons wanted here are those who will rejoice to work—really to labour, not to dream their lives away; to deny themselves; to suffer in order to save.

In another letter to prospective candidates Taylor began, We want workers, not loiterers.  Hudson Taylor practiced what he preached, and his passion for the lost grew as the years passed.  After two decades of service in China, Taylor could have claimed fatigue and moved home to England.  Instead he was pushing the borders of CIM’s work toward Mongolia, Tibet, and Burma.

My soul yearns, oh! How intensely for the evangelization of the 180 millions of these unoccupied provinces.  Oh, that I had a hundred lives to give or spend for their good!

Fourth, Hudson Taylor found his greatest happiness in serving God.  We never sense that Taylor is serving God out of a sense of duty or obligation.  Serving God was Taylor’s delight, and even though he struggled with depression, he thought of himself as the happiest man on earth.  Make no mistake, CIM workers faced staggering hardships even to the point of death, and Hudson Taylor was not exempt from any of those hardships.  But listen to this suffering servant:

[God] makes us happy in His service, and those of us who have children desire nothing better for them, should the Lord tarry, than that they may be called to similar work and similar joys.

In another letter to prospective missionaries, Taylor wrote this:

If you want hard work and little appreciation; if you value God’s approval more than you fear man’s disapprobation; if you are prepared to take joyfully the spoiling of your goods, and seal your testimony, if need be, with your blood; if you can pity and love the Chinese, you may count on a harvest of souls now and a crown of glory hereafter “that fadeth not away’,” on the Master’s “Well done.”  The men, the only men who will be happy with us, are those who have this world under their feet; and I do venture to say that such men will find a happiness they never dreamed of or thought possible down here. . .

Consider another handful of clues to the success of this man.

·        Hudson Taylor had a vision that was larger than CIM.  He cared more for the kingdom of God than he did for his own organization. CIM was never jealous of the success of others.  In fact, CIM missionaries gladly worked alongside and for others who were advancing the gospel of Christ in China.

  • Taylor was a man of rugged faith.  CIM never solicited funds—and never went into debt.  The organization depended on God to supply their needs in His way and in His timing—and He did
  • Hudson Taylor knew how to pray.  You can work without praying, he said, but it is a bad plan.  Do not be so busy with work for Christ that you have no strength left for praying.  True prayer requires strength.
  • Hudson Taylor had a heart for the lost.  He wasn’t in China to practice medicine (although he was a medical doctor); he was there for the healing of the soul.
  • Hudson Taylor knew how to give. He lived a simple life as he shared the good news of Jesus.  When possible, he gave away two-thirds of his income and lived on the diet of a beggar.  Again, happiness was the result:  My experience was that the less I spent on myself and the more I gave to others, the fuller of happiness and blessing did my soul become.

Of course none of us is Hudson Taylor.  Few of us in Santa Barbara Community Church are English, none of us is living in the nineteenth century, and perhaps only a few of us will be called to service in China.  But each one of us wants to hear the master’s Well done!  Each one of us, I trust, wants to finish the race well.  Clearly, we have an example to follow in Hudson Taylor.  God help us!