James Hudson Taylor, The Exchanged Life
Posted by ssbg on August 4, 2006
James Hudson Taylor was born into a Christian home in England where zeal for Christ was the mainspring. Born in 1832, Taylor’s parents had prayed: “Dear God, if You should give us a son, grant that he may work for You in China.”
That prayer was answered in 1854. Taylor, having spent several years studying medicine and theology while learning invaluable lessons of dependence on God, traveled by ship to China to begin his work as Christ’s ambassador.
He labored for six years in Shanghai and Ningpo. He then returned to England where he worked on translating the New Testament into the Ningpo dialect and prayed for God to send missionaries into inland China. He formed the China Inland Mission in 1865 and returned to China where he labored in Christ’s vineyard for 40 years. At his death in 1905, there were 205 missionary stations with 849 missionaries and 125,000 Chinese Christians in the China Inland Mission.
A noted present-day theologian said of Taylor: “James Hudson Taylor was a tough, warmhearted, businesslike Yorkshireman, in whom by the grace of God, vision, passion, devotion, love, initiative, wisdom and sheer guts combined in heroic proportions. Taylor was a spiritual giant whose acquaintance we latter-day Christians do well to make.”
Discovering The Exchanged Life
After Taylor’s return to China in 1865, he feverishly worked and preached, attempting to meet the many needs of the spiritually and physically impoverished residents.
However, his struggles were also spiritual. Taylor desperately desired to grow in holiness. But he also knew the frustration of aborted attempts of living the abundant life. He prayed. He fasted often. By the summer of 1869, his spiritual condition had reached the critical state.
“Every day, almost every hour, the consciousness of sin oppressed me. I knew that if only I could abide in Christ all would be well, but I could not. I began the day with prayer, determined not to take my mind off of Him for a moment; but pressure of duties, sometimes very trying, constant interruptions apt to be so wearing, often caused me to forget Him . . . Each day brought its register of sin and failure, of lack of power. To will was indeed present with me, but how to perform I found not.” But as Taylor sought the Lord, an answer came in the form of a letter from a friend, John McCarthy.
McCarthy wrote: “I seem to have got to the edge only, but of a sea which is boundless; to have sipped only but of that which fully satisfies. Christ literally all seems to me now the power, the only power for service; the only ground for unchanging joy . . .
“How then to have our faith increased? . . . Not a striving to have faith, or to increase our faith, but a looking off to the Faithful One seems all we need; a resting in the Loved One entirely, for time and for eternity.” As Taylor laid McCarthy’s letter down, his spiritual eyes were opened and his heart was warmed by the reality of his oneness and identity with Christ. In a letter to his sister some days later, Taylor jubilantly declared his discovery of the “exchanged life.”
“As I read [McCarthy’s letter] I saw it all! ‘If we believe not, he abideth faithful.’ I looked to Jesus and saw (and when I saw, oh, how joy flowed!) that He had said, ‘I will never leave you.’ ‘Ah, there is rest!’ I thought. ‘I have striven in vain to rest in Him. I’ll strive no more. For has He not promised to abide with me—never to leave me, never to fail me? And, dearie, He never will! . . . .
“The sweetest part . . . is the rest which full identification with Christ brings. I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize this: for He, I know, is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine. It makes no matter where He places me, or how. That is rather for Him to consider than for me; for in the easiest positions He must give me His grace, and in the most difficult His grace is sufficient . . .
“So, if God places me in great perplexity, must He not give me much guidance; in positions of great difficulty, much grace; in circumstances of great pressure and trial, much strength? No fear that His resources will be unequal to the emergency! And His resources are mine, for He is mine, and is with me and dwells in me. All this springs from the believer’s oneness with Christ.”
Like Taylor, you need to understand your identity in Christ. You are “in Christ” and Christ is “in you.” Once you received Christ as your Savior, you also receive Him as your very life. (Colossians 3:4) The Christian life is Jesus living His life through you by His indwelling Holy Spirit. It is not something you achieve but receive by the same faith you had at salvation. You do not have to strive to be victorious. You already are victorious in Christ. You have everything you need in Christ. Your sin is exchanged for His righteousness, your weakness for His strength, your inadequacy for His adequacy.
This is not a call to passivity or license but of sweet submission to Christ. Obedience is necessary—but it is a delight, not a duty.
Paul wrote the Galatians: “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).