LABOR DAY: 4 who exemplify laboring for the Lord
PIPPA PASSES, Ky. (BP) -- On Sept. 3, Americans will celebrate Labor Day. Congress created the holiday in 1894 to honor all those who labor, designating the first Monday in September for its official observance. The federal Labor Day actually was preceded by more than 30 states that had already sanctioned the holiday.
It is interesting to think about some important Christian leaders who performed extraordinary feats of labor in their lifetime ministries; here are four who met that high standard.
The dedication and work ethic of William Tyndale, Adoniram Judson, Annie Armstrong and Billy Graham easily exceed most of the labor that contemporary Christians perform for their faith, though these short accounts are not meant as complete biographies.
Moreover, these four Christians certainly stand out as powerful role models for us today.
William Tyndale (1494-1536) lived during the early years of the Reformation. While attending Oxford University and acquiring a master of arts degree, he studied theology and languages. He eventually learned six languages besides English. Influenced by Luther and his own readings of Erasmus' Greek New Testament, he became a Protestant Christian.
His Old Testament work progressed but remained unfinished. Since his bold declarations of faith antagonized both Catholic and Anglican authorities, he was apprehended and executed in 1536. Miles Coverdale, an associate of Tyndale, then translated the rest of the Old Testament and, along with Tyndale's work, published it as the Coverdale Bible.
Tyndale's influence on later English Bibles remains evident today. A good portion of the King James Version still includes most of his earlier work, and Tyndale even coined English theological words like "Passover," "scapegoat" and "atonement" ("at one" describing the reconciliation between God and humankind). Today English-speaking Christians owe a considerable debt to this hard-working Christian translator.
Adoniram Judson (1788-1850), like Tyndale, proved to be a remarkable laborer for the Lord's cause. At age 19 he was named valedictorian of the college that later became Brown University. Embracing a Baptist theology while en route to India, he decided instead to labor on the mission field in Burma (Myanmar today). To support his work, Judson and Luther Rice helped found the first American Baptist foreign mission board, popularly called the Triennial Convention in 1814.
Dying in 1850, his work in Burma speaks for itself. Today Myanmar possesses the third-largest concentration of Baptists in the world behind only the United States and India.
Annie Armstrong (1850-1938) tirelessly served as a lay leader in a variety of Christian ministries. Saved at age 20, Annie reached out to various groups of poor Americans through home missions that included orphans, African Americans, Chinese Americans, Native Americans and women in general. She was known for combining the Gospel message with practical charity for those she served.
Armstrong lobbied for special offerings for both foreign and home missions. The first recipient of her Christmastide offering was the famed Chinese missionary Lottie Moon. The offering for foreign missions was later named in Moon's honor. Armstrong also proposed a springtime offering for home missions, and after Armstrong retired from the WMU, it was named in her honor. After her WMU tenure, she continued to support home missions in Maryland until her death.
Billy Graham (1918-2018) certainly deserves a place among Christianity's hardest-working laborers. Saved at a revival conducted by Mordecai Ham, Graham began his ministry in small churches and ministries. His strong voice and excellent sermon delivery soon propelled him to conduct his own revivals and crusades.
His labors also bore additional fruit. Graham advised American presidents from Truman to Obama on spiritual matters, once presided over a seminary at a very young age (Northwest Bible College), and even received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame -- the only one given to a minister for ministry (some gospel music performers have stars). Graham's long life of 99 years enabled him also to mentor a number of generations of young Christian protégés.
We Christians of this era unfortunately view some of our duties in the faith as burdensome chores, but the people profiled here worked hard in behalf of Christ, His teachings, the Bible and the Great Commission. On Labor Day, we should honor their efforts and renew our own commitment to laboring in the faith.