Last week we talked about slavery, both in Galatians 4 and in the world today. Though most people think of it as something that was a problem 200 years ago, slavery, and specifically sex trafficking, is a bigger problem now than ever before.
We encouraged people to be a part of the solution to this problem. One thing we don’t want to do is get people all riled up about a problem for a day or a week, and maybe even take action, but then quickly forget about it.
People today, and especially those of us in Generation Y, value the instant. Instant gratification, instant fame, instant success. I mean, if you’re not an internet billionaire by the time you’re 30, what have you been doing with your life?
In reality, though, it hardly ever works that way. And since we are generally impatient, we lose interest when we don’t see instant results. We quit, and move on to our next get-this-quick scheme. It highlights both the best and worst qualities of our generation: we think we can change the world, but we totally lack the commitment to do so.
We overestimate what we can accomplish in a short period of time, which causes us to try and then fail. And we underestimate what we could get done if we faithfully pursued something for a long period of time, which causes us to fail by not trying.
The sad part is, we are right about that whole “change the world” bit. History is full of young adults who did exactly that, without the benefit of iPhones and Twitter.
Take William Wilberforce, who lived in London 200 years ago (1759—1833) when slavery was still legal. Though religious as a kid, by college he was known as a party animal who cared little for studying (sound familiar?). A few years after college he returned to the faith and truly decided to follow Jesus wholeheartedly, even though at the time being an outspoken Christian was frowned upon in local society (sound familiar?). And then some friends opened his eyes to the huge problem of slavery and human trafficking, and he felt convicted that he had to do something about it (sound familiar?).
So at age 28, he started a campaign against the slave trade, which at the time was legal and a big business—worth 80 percent of the country’s foreign income. He gathered evidence and allies, gave impassioned 4-hour speeches (man after my own heart), and presented a bill to parliament.
Which failed. By a 2-to-1 margin.
This is where the story stops sounding familiar.
Most of us would have quit, and nothing more would have come of it. But Wilberforce tried again the next year. And failed. So he tried again the next year. And failed. So he tried again the next year. And failed. So he tried again…well, you get the picture. He was faithful to what God had called him to, and had placed on his heart.
After 20 years of effort, he tried yet again…and succeeded. The slave trade was abolished. So he turned to the practice of slavery itself, and after 26 more years it was abolished throughout the British Empire. This was in 1833, three decades before it was outlawed in the U.S.
Only 46 Years
Now, if you read that and think, “Man, 46 years? Ain’t nobody got time for that!” then you are missing the point. The guy changed his country. He took on Big Business, the status quo, and the law, and he won. It resulted in 800,000 people being freed from a lifetime of slavery. And it only took him 46 years.
Start now. Many people wait too long and then don’t have 46 years left to spend. But that is the power of being a young adult: you literally have the time.
The ones who tried one thing, failed, and then went on to try and fail at other things? We don’t talk about them 200 years later. And the ones who spent 46 solid years pursuing wealth, power, and fame? We don’t talk about those either. The key is to focus on what is truly important and be faithful.
What are you devoting your life to?