“Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” – Matthew 28:20
A Snapshot of the Life of David Livingstone:
Born: May 1, 1813; Blantyre, Scotland
Died: March 19, 1873; Ilala, Northern Rhodesia (Zambia)
Africa’s beloved pioneer missionary and explorer. Livingstone studied theology and medicine while he was working as a piecer in a cotton mill. He was converted at age 20 while reading Dick’s Philosophy of the Future State. Livingstone was deeply challenged to examine central Africa and traveled some 30,000 miles through it. He first arrived in Africa in 1841, and married Mary Moffat (1821-April 27, 1862) in March, 1845, daughter of missionary, ROBERT MOFFAT. They were separated half of their 18 years of marriage. She died in his arms at Shuppnoa on the Zambezi. His ministry included the spreading of the gospel, healing the sick, recording African geography, helping to stop the Portuguese slave trade, and seeking the source of the Nile River. Early in his expedition, he was attacked and maimed by a lion. He is credited with discovering Lake Ngami (1849), the Zambezi River (1851), Victoria Falls (1855), and Lake Nyasa (1859). He originally served under the London Missionary Society (1841), then under the British government (1849), and finally under the Royal Geographical Society (1866). He wrote Missionary Travels (1857), a best seller. After being considered missing for some time, he was finally found by Henry Stanley in Ujit in 1871. Just before his death, he said, “Build me a hut to die in. I am going home.” He was found dead on his knees. The natives buried his heart in Africa, but his body was buried in Westminster Abbey on April 18, 1874. His favorite Bible verse was Matthew 28:20.
“Anywhere, provided it be forward!”
“Jesus was a missionary and a physician.”
“Men are immortal till their work is done.”
– (Excerpt taken from the Reese Chronological Encyclopedia of Christian Biographies. Used by permission.)
A Spiritual Application for Our Lives:
David Livingstone lived one of the most remarkable, difficult, and influential lives in history. As a missionary, he opened up an entire continent for the gospel. As an explorer, he discovered key trade routes and developed accurate maps. As a giant, he wielded his political and personal influence to combat the evils of the slave trade. Few men lived more consequential lives.
However, these wonderful accomplishments came at a dear cost to Livingstone. He faced endless pain, illness, personal loss, tragedy, ridicule, and danger. Yet, his reply was a mere, “It is true that missionaries have difficulties to encounter; but what great enterprise was ever accomplished without difficulty?” Livingstone embarked on an eternal enterprise. He labored on a mission for the King of kings and Lord of lords. There is no greater cause than the cause of Christ!
Volumes have been written on Livingstone’s life and work. So let us consider simply this: Was all that Livingstone endured worth it? When asked about the countless sufferings and hardships he endured, Livingstone replied:
“For my own part, I have never ceased to rejoice that God has appointed me to such an office [missionary]. People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply paid back as a small part of a great debt owing to our God, which we can never repay? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own blest reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a 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.
Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger, now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink, but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall hereafter be revealed in, and for, us.
I never made a sacrifice. Of this we ought not to talk, when we remember the great sacrifice which He made who left His Father’s throne on high to give Himself for us…“
May we be thus willing to give up all we hold dear in obedience to our dear Savior. May our eyes be ever “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
A Suggestion for Further Reading…
David Livingstone: Africa’s Trailblazer – Janet and Geoff Benge, 1999
Dr. Livingstone’s Cambridge Lectures – David Livingstone and others, 1858