“Unless there is an element of risk in our exploits for God, there is no need for faith,” wrote J. Hudson Taylor, whose life was characterized by joyful reliance on God. Believing himself called by God to be a missionary in China, he spent fifty-one years there, travelling to inland areas where, in the nineteenth century, few people had heard the gospel. Unusually for his time, he was respectful of local culture and customs, mastering local languages, wearing Chinese clothes, and shaving his forehead and arranging his remaining hair in a queue. China Inland Mission, which he founded in 1865, was active in eighteen of China’s provinces and sponsored hundreds of missionaries, all of whom were required to complete rigorous Bible study and language study before beginning work. By all accounts, Hudson Taylor’s missions were successful, but to him this was secondary: “I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize that He is able to carry out His will for me. It does not matter where He places me, or how. That is for Him to consider, not me, for in the easiest positions He will give me grace, and in the most difficult ones His grace is sufficient.”
Throughout Hudson Taylor’s lifetime, the work of the mission was funded by “free-will offerings of the Lord’s people.” He refused to authorize collections or solicit donations, believing that “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.” His biography is full of remarkable stories of help that arrived in answer to prayer at the last possible moment. “God uses men who are weak and feeble enough to lean on him,” he would say. “There are three stages to every great work of God; first it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.”
Joy in the work he was called to do is evident throughout Hudson Taylor’s writing: “consciousness of the threefold joy of the Lord: His joy in ransoming us, His joy in dwelling within us as our Saviour and Power for fruit bearing, and His joy in possessing us, as His Bride and His delight; it is the consciousness of this joy which is our real strength. Our joy in Him may be a fluctuating thing: His joy in us knows no change.”
J.S. Bach’s cantata Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen!, which calls for God to be exalted throughout all lands, resounds with this same joyous faith (Cantata No. 1, BWV 51). Unique among Bach’s works of church music, it is scored for trumpet and soprano solo. In the first movement, this glorious duet is hardly subdued even by the contemplation of suffering [2:25], and quickly returns to its triumphant opening theme. This jubilant performance with soprano Kathleen Battle infects the listener with Bach’s vision of the whole planet and all nature exulting in God.
Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen!
Was der Himmel und die Welt
An Geschöpfen in sich hält,
Müssen dessen Ruhm erhöhen,
Und wir wollen unserm Gott
Gleichfalls itzt ein Opfer bringen,
Daß er uns in Kreuz und Not
Allezeit hat beigestanden.
Exult in God in every land!
Whatever creatures are contained
by heaven and earth
must raise up this praise,
and now we shall likewise
bring an offering to our God,
since He has stood with us
at all times during suffering and necessity.