Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | November 19, 2009

Goforth’s Seven Rules

   I enjoy reading biographies of missionaries — the stories of those who ventured to remote places in days when it was difficult to do so. Almost without exception, these individuals faced hostile threats, daunting challenges, and seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Yet, they persevered and laid a foundation on which we continue to build today. These were highly disciplined and deeply committed individuals who served tirelessly and sacrificed much. Many died on the field or buried loved ones there. These pioneers understood, as A.W. Tozer pointed out, that the kingdom of God advances at our inconvenience.

   Jonathan Goforth (I love his name!) was born in Ontario, Canada in 1859, the seventh of eleven children. When he was five years-old he started reading and memorizing the Psalms at the encouragement of his mother. However, it wasn’t until Jonathan was eighteen that he finally committed his life to Christ. “Henceforth,” said Goforth, “my life belongs to Him who gave His life for me.” He immediately became active in sharing his faith and started a Sunday evening worship service in his home which eventually led to the salvation of his father.

   Goforth wanted to become a lawyer and politician but was influenced to give his life to full-time service to God after reading the memoirs of the Scottish preacher Robert Murray M’Cheyne. He also read and was influenced by Hudson Taylor’s book “China’s Spiritual Needs and Claims.” However, it wasn’t until he heard a sermon by G.L. MacKay that he decided to serve the Lord as a missionary to China. He attended Knox College to prepare for service on the mission field and married Rosalind Smith when he graduated in 1886. Jonathan and Rosalind sailed for China in 1888. They had eleven children, five of whom died as young children or infants.

   Jonathan and Rosalind opened their home to the Chinese and worked hard at building relationships with their Chinese neighbors. Jonathan traveled and preached the gospel and soon became known as the “Flaming Preacher.” He often preached to thousands at a time. Things became difficult and dangerous at the turn of the century when the Boxer Rebellion broke out. The boxers targeted western influences and missionaries. On one occasion Jonathan was attacked and almost beaten to death. He and his family were forced to leave the field for a year.

   When the Goforth family returned to China, God richly blessed their work. Goforth trained hundreds of Chinese in evangelism and sent them out to preach the gospel and start churches. During the forty-one years he spent on the mission field, Goforth  set up thirty-one mission stations, trained sixty-one native Chinese pastors, and led more than 13,000 Chinese to faith in Christ. Goforth went completely blind in 1933. In 1934, the last full year he spent on the field, he led over 1,000 adults to faith in Christ. Goforth returned to Canada in 1935 where he continued to travel and speak until his death in 1936. Today, the church he established in Anyang (Henan province) in 1888 continues to grow.

   Men like Goforth helped to advance the kingdom of God because they were deeply committed and highly disciplined. In 1894, Goforth wrote the following seven rules for daily living. They are as relevant to Christ-followers today as they were on the day Goforth first wrote them on the fly-leaf of his Bible.

1. Seek to give much — expect nothing.
2. Put the very best construction on the actions of others.
3. Never let a day pass without at least a quarter of an hour spent in the study of the Bible.
4. Never omit daily morning and evening private prayer and devotion.
5. In all things seek to know God’s will and when to obey at any cost.
6. Seek to cultivate a quiet prayerful spirit.
7. Seek each day to do or say something to further Christianity among the heathen.


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