The Case for Plodding

Dr. Marc Drake, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church, Sun Lakes

William Carey left his English homeland in 1793 and sailed to India where he served for nearly 41 years as a missionary – without ever taking a furlough! Early in his life Carey demonstrated an unusual ability for linguistics. At age 12, he taught himself Latin and then later, on his own, he mastered Greek, Hebrew, French and Dutch. During his lifetime, he learned literally dozens of languages and dialects. Furthermore, although he translated the complete Bible into six languages and portions of it into 29 others, Carey never attended the equivalent of high school or college. However, his work was so impressive that in 1807, Brown University conferred a Doctor of Divinity degree upon him.

Through all of his work, Carey’s goal was “to preach Christ crucified as the grand means of conversion.” In fact, when near death and being praised for his linguistic accomplishments, he simply responded, “When I am gone, say nothing about Dr. Carey – speak about Dr. Carey’s Savior.” In addition to his genuine humility, William Carey was a man who knew God’s direction for his life and would let no one dissuade him. He said, “I’m not afraid of failure: I’m afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.” History records that he certainly succeeded in getting the life-changing truth of the gospel to the nation of India. His labors mattered!

Should anyone want to write his life story after he died, he once said this: “If he gives me credit for being a plodder, he will describe me justly. Anything beyond this will be too much. I can plod. That is my only genius. I can persevere in my definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.” Yes, he was a plodder. He persevered. And though Carey labored in India 13 years before seeing his first convert, his work eventually reaped a mighty harvest. For example, his printing press at Serampore provided Scriptures in over 40 languages and dialects for more than 300 million people. That’s some serious plodding!

By the way, I’m told that our word plod comes from an old English word that means a puddle. The Danish have a similar word that means mud. A plodder, then, is someone who is willing to get his feet wet and wade through water and mud to make it to his destination. He keeps on going! So Shakespeare got it wrong when he wrote, “Small have continual plodders ever won.” History says otherwise: It’s the plodders who ultimately reach their goals. The great 19th century preacher, Charles Spurgeon, quipped: “By perseverance, the snail reached the ark.”

Perhaps the biblical writer had plodders in mind when he encouraged believers with these words: Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary (Galatians 6:9).