Late 18th century British missionary to India, William Carey, translated during his life the entire Bible into six different languages and interpreted parts of it into 29 more languages and dialects. He was relentless in pursuit of his calling—to minister to people in a spiritually dark place.
His life was not easy by any stretch of the imagination. After William and his family arrived in India, his wife, Dorothy, became mentally ill and he cared for her “at home” in the mission in Serampore, near Calcutta, until her death. Illness and discouragement were common to the Careys. They suffered the loss of a child. They were threatened and derided for their faith. They were betrayed by a cohort who embezzled most of the mission’s money. Carey could have given up and sailed home to England, but he was not deterred from his calling. One of his most memorable quotes (which became his theme song) was “Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.”
Another of his quotes, which probably isn’t as profound, but one that I think is most engaging and worth exploring. He said:
“I’m not afraid of failure; I’m afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.”
I love this statement; however, it begs the question: how do we know what truly matters? Many modern philosophers say that what matters most in life are health, family and friendship, happiness, and love. And these are important in an earthly sense; however, none of them will last. Health fails, friends die, life is tough, so happiness may be illusive.
Jesus knew this so he said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19).
We often equate this with a warning about letting material things become “our worlds.” I think Jesus meant that, too, but He followed up that statement with… (vv. 20-21) “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Apparently, He believed that heavenly pursuits were the only things that matter in the grand scheme.
What does that mean—heavenly pursuits? It is things that will last. And what are those? Only those things that we “deposit” in heaven would be eternal treasures. Life does not end when we die. In fact, these years living and breathing on earth are just a tiny speck compared to forever. So, pursuing heavenly things should be our goal.
The story of Mary and Martha are good examples of what Jesus meant in His teachings about treasures.
“As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word He said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. ‘Master, don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand.’
The Master said, ‘Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.’” Luke 10:39-42 (MSG)
Seems He was saying that the meal will be eaten, the dishes done, the guests will go home, and the memories of the evening will fade, so what did matter about that event? He was saying that pursuits for the Kingdom will last forever and everything else is fleeting.
Author Herman Melville who wrote Moby Dick was brought up in the faith but was considered a modern thinker—and perhaps became an agnostic. However, he wrote, “Life is a voyage that’s homeward bound.” Looking at our time on earth is like the old song says, “we’re just a-passin’ through.”
“What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:14)