I read this week about a Scottish missionary named John G. Paton who, in 1858, sailed with his wife to the New Hebrides Islands in the South Pacific (now called Vanuatu). Against the advice of many who saw this endeavor as a suicide mission, Paton and his wife left their families, their friends, and the comforts of home for a strange and distant land. Their consuming passion was to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the native peoples, among whom were thousands of barbaric cannibals. Before leaving for the New Hebrides, Paton was warned by one of his fellow Scotsmen that the cannibals would almost certainly eat him. Paton’s reply is epic:
“Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my resurrection body will arise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.” (Paton, Missionary to the New Hebrides, 56).
Three months after arriving in the islands, his wife died. One week later, his infant son also died. Paton eventually remarried and after a short time away, returned to the Islands with his new bride. Together, they spent the next 41 years faithfully sharing the love of Jesus. Today more than 80 percent of the inhabitants of Vanuatu identify themselves as Christian in large part due to the sacrifices of Paton.
The Point: Our deepest gospel convictions drive the greatest gospel sacrifices.
If Paton were not convinced of the worthiness of Christ to receive worship from every tribe and tongue, nor were he convinced of Christ’s resurrection and the coming Resurrection, there would likely be no Christian identity among the people of Vanuatu. I share this to encourage you in the gospel convictions that drive such gospel sacrifices. May Holy Spirit lead us into and give us grace for deep and great faith. Blessings!
This story can be found in Mark Howell's Commentary on 1 & 2 Thessalonians in the series Christ-Centered Exposition (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2015), 61-62.