What do you know about William Carey? I’m sure many of us have at least heard of him. He is well-known for his pioneer missionary work in West Bengal, India in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
- He sparked what is known as “the modern missionary movement”
- He acquired an extensive knowledge of Bengali and Sanskrit, and he oversaw the translation of the Scriptures into Bengali, Sanskrit, Marathi, Hindi, Assamese, Oriya, and more.
- Hundreds of people were converted through the witness of his Serampore Mission.
- He was also instrumental in social changes in India, including the abolition of sati (the forced death of a widow on the funeral pyre of her husband).
When we hear a list of accomplishments like this, we probably think to ourselves “wow, what a great man of God.” Perhaps his life inspires you, or perhaps it makes you feel small–like you could never accomplish so much for God with your life.
But the thing about Williams Carey is that he didn’t do these things alone. William Carey’s missionary success was largely dependent on the support and friendship of others. In his book on Carey, the historian Michael Haykin says, “Carey was, above all things, a team player.”
William Carey’s missionary vision was the result of a close friendship with 3 men: John Ryland Jr., Andrew Fuller, and John Sutcliff. These friendships helped Carey grow as a Christian and challenged him to consider the need to send out Christians to reach “the heathen”. Their oneness of heart and purpose led to many opportunities, and it’s safe to say that without their influence and support, Carey would not have landed on the shores of West Bengal. And without their continued friendship through written letters and prayers, he may not have continued as he did.
In each of our lives, our friends greatly matter. The company we keep can either ruin our morals (1 Cor. 15:33) or sharpen us like iron (Prov. 27:17). And a good friend sticks closer than a brother (Prov. 18:24).
Who are your close friends? Maybe they live here in Dubai, or maybe they are somewhere else, but have you ever considered the purposes that God might have for your friendship? He desires to use us to “stir one another up to love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24). He uses our friends to encourage us as well as to challenge or rebuke us when needed.
God can also use our friends to inspire us toward fruitful ministry. William Carey’s best-know quote says, “Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.” But that quote wasn’t meant to be individualistic. He first spoke those words to a group of Christians with the goal of banding them together for missions. And it’s good for us to think about as well–what can we attempt for God together?
As a church, our goal is to do the work of ministry together. That doesn’t mean we all do the same thing in the same way. Out of his group of four close friends, only Carey sailed to India. But as members together, we all work to build one another up in love (Eph. 4:11-13) and we all work together for the sake of making disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20).
And as we think about how to use our lives for Jesus’ sake, our friends will play an essential role in our longevity, our faithfulness, and our joy. It’s good for us to consider and pray about what God might do for his glory through us and our friends.