Before reading this article on the life of David Brainerd, you may have a few questions in your mind – who is David Brainerd? Why is he important? What does he have to do with Christmas?
Firstly, David Brainerd was called by God as a missionary to the American Indians in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. His ministry to the Indians met with considerable success, as seen in his journal writings, where he describes his everyday work. For example, he writes on September 1, 1745,
“Preached to the Indians here from Luke 14:16-23. The word appeared to be attended with some power, and caused some tears in the assembly. Afterwards preached to a number of white people present, and observed many of them in tears, and some who had formerly been as careless and unconcerned about religion perhaps as the Indians. Towards night discoursed to the Indians again, and perceived a greater attention, and more visible concern among them than has been usual in these parts.”
Such descriptions of God’s working in the people were not uncommon – yes, people with tears in their eyes, with great sorrow for their sins! But such power in preaching did not come easily. We must observe and learn from how closely Brainerd walked with God, if we ourselves desire such power in prayer, and power in preaching!
“Longed with intense desire after God; my whole soul seemed impatient to be conformed to him, and to become ‘holy, as he is holy.’ In the afternoon, prayed with a dear friend privately, and had the presence of God with us; our souls united together to reach after a blessed immortality, to be unclothed of the body of sin and death, and to enter the blessed world, where no unclean thing enters. O, with what intense desire did our souls long for that blessed day, that we might be freed from sin, and forever live to and in our God! In the evening, took leave of that house; but first kneeled down and prayed; the Lord was of a truth in the midst of us; it was a sweet parting session; felt in myself such sweetness and affection in the things of God. Blessed be God for every such divine gale of his Spirit to speed me on in my way to the new Jerusalem! …”
Have we ever longed for God with such intense desire? Have we ever kneeled before God in prayer with such focus? O, that we might learn the ways of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the saints that have gone before us, that our lives may not be wasted!
So, at the end of it all, what does David Brainerd have to do with Christmas? Christmas is a time for us to reflect on the love of God, and as we do so, it must move us to renew our love to Him. Have you done so? Would you ask God to place in your heart a great desire for the things of God, for service, for prayer, and for fellowship? With only one week left to the end of 2012, let us be fervent in prayer, and devote our hearts and souls to Christ completely.
(Written by Joan Loo, with excerpts from The Life and Diary of David Brainerd, edited by Jonathan Edwards)