“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” -Matthew 28:20-
In my sermon last March 14, I used the life of David Livingstone as an illustration of what it means and what it costs to be a disciple/follower of Jesus. I want to share more of his story in this article.
He left his heart in Africa, but his body is interred in Westminster Abbey in London. At his death, natives gently removed his heart and buried it in the Africa he so loved. Then his body was carried to the coast, where it was shipped back to England for burial. David Livingstone, born in Blantyreshire, a mill town in Scotland where he grew up.
The small flat where he grew up is now a museum, and on display there are artifacts and memorabilia from his years in Africa. His diary, written in a firm hand, tells his devastating loneliness and pain he experienced following the death of his wife, Mary. Though the page was beginning to yellow with age, it was not the antiquity of the text that captured the eyes of many and filled it with tears. It was the message. “Oh, my Mary,” he wrote, “how often we wished for a quiet home since we were cast adrift in Kolobeng, and now you have gone to a better home, our home in heaven.”
What sustains men and women who leave behind family and comfort to go to another country for the gospel’s sake, as did Livingstone? More directly, what kept Livingstone there when, as a medical doctor, he could have lived comfortably in his native Scotland?
Livingstone, himself, answered that question. After sixteen years of service in Africa, he returned to Scotland and was asked to speak at the University of Glasgow. One of his arms had been rendered useless, the result of a lion’s attack. His body bore physical evidence of the suffering he had endured with twenty-seven bouts of jungle fever. His face, a leathery brown from exposure to the elements, was creased from the cares of a hard life battling the Turks and the slave traders, both of whom had little use for Livingston.
A hush crept over the students who listened to his man, realizing this was no ordinary person. “Shall I tell you what sustained me amidst the trials and hardships and loneliness of my exiled life?” he asked, and then he gave them the answer. “It was a promise of a gentleman of the most sacred honor; it was this promise, ‘Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.’”
Did Livingstone feel, though, that he had made a great sacrifice? Not in the least. He answered that very issue by saying:
People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much time in Africa. Can that be called sacrifice which is simply paying back a small part of a great debt owing to our God which we can never repay? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own best reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of glorious destiny hereafter? Away with the word in such a view and with such a thought. It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say, rather it is a privilege.
As the body of Livingstone was carried through the streets of London on its way to its final resting place in Westminster Abbey, one man wept openly. A friend gently consoled him, asking if he had known Livingstone personally. “I weep not for Livingston but for myself,” the first man said, adding, “he lived and died for something, but I have lived for nothing.”
Livingstone’s life motto was, “I will place no value on anything I have or possess, except in its relationship to the kingdom of God.” He lived that motto.
As we are nearing the pinnacle of our Lenten Journey, may we be inspired by Livingstone’s faithfulness as we face our own call of following Jesus on the Cross. Remember, the greatest manifestation our faithfulness is participating in the fulfillment of God’s Purpose for our life. Jesus clearly states this in His discipleship invitation:
“….If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” -Mark 8:34-35

April 1 at 7:00 pm: In person Holy Thursday Worship Service.
April 2 at 7: 00 pm: Gladbrook Community Good Friday Service
April 4 at 9:15 am: GUMC Easter Worship Service

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