In the hustle and bustle of life, we often live more like accidental than intentional Christians. While simply hoping our lives will make a difference for Christ, we often fail to intentionally live as if glorifying Christ was our only reason for being on this earth. Though our culture has defined success as following the American dream, the life of C.T. Studd reminds us that there is a better way.
You’ve probably heard of C.T. Studd, but you might not know much about him. Studd was a man of faith consumed by the passion to wholly follow wherever Christ led. From England, to China, to America, to India and to Africa, Studd’s life impacted millions. His incredible story demonstrates what it truly means to be a disciple.
Charles Thomas (C.T.) Studd was born December 2, 1860. Studd grew up in an affluent home in nineteenth century England. His father was saved indirectly through the work of D.L. Moody. At age 18, C.T. Studd became born again. Yet like many professing Christians today, C.T. lived for six years as a backslidden Christian.
For much of his early life, Studd devoted himself to mastering cricket, achieving high prominence in the sport. Though cricket is not a popular American sport, in Studd’s era, his fame and skill in England would have been comparable to that of a modern-day NFL quarterback like Tom Brady.
Twice, Studd was named “the best all-around cricket player in England.” Sadly, C.T. was more a cricketer who happened to be a Christian than a Christian who happened to be a cricketer.
Suddenly, Studd faced the brevity of life head on when his older brother almost died. Studd then realized the vanity and worthlessness of earthly fame, flattery, popularity, and wealth in the light of eternity.
He surrenderd to following Christ. For the rest of his life C.T. would embody his motto: “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”
After Studd’s surrender, God led him to China, where he labored for ten years. During that time, C.T. married and donated to God’s work his massive fortune, worth over 25 million dollars in today’s U.S. currency. For the rest of his life, he trusted only God to supply his needs. As Studd noted later in his life, “We can trust Him too little, but we cannot trust God too much.”
India and America
After serving in China, Studd returned home due to health problems. From England, he went to America, where he challenged students through the Student Volunteer Movement. In 1900, Studd left England for India, where he pastored for six years.
After returning to England due to more health problems, Studd felt burdened to go to Congo. Against the advice of his doctors, friends, and supporters, Studd left to evangelize the unreached cannibals in remote Congo. Though it was a daunting task, Studd remained certain that of God’s leading. As Studd noted, “Christ wants not nibblers of the possible, but grabbers of the impossible.”
Studd evangelized and discipled in Africa for almost 20 years, witnessing a fruitful harvest. Finally, at the age of 70, Studd’s heart ceased beating, his body worn out from serving Christ.
Life Lessons for Today
Though Studd died almost 100 years ago, his legacy continues to inspire and challenge Christians today. There are at least four lessons we can learn from the life of C.T. Studd.
1. Discovering True Success
Joshua 1:8 tells us, “This book shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein, for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous and then thou shalt have good success.”
Studd discovered that true success was found in knowing and doing God’s Word and in building God’s kingdom. Studd lived for one purpose: to serve Jesus Christ. He remarked, “I knew that cricket would not last, and honour would not last, and nothing in this world would last, but it was worthwhile living for the world to come.”
2. Relying on God’s Strength
Studd was a Spirit-filled man of prayer, who realized his deep needed for God’s power. Studd once advised, “If you don’t desire to meet the Devil during the day, meet Jesus before dawn.” Indeed, Studd’s time with God empowered him to fully serve God. As biographer Norman P. Grubb pointed out, “The secret of C.T. Studd’s life was not a great personality, but an Almighty person controlling him.”
3. Leaving the Comfort Zone
Studd’s consuming passion was not to be comfortable, but to follow Christ. He famously stated, “Some wish to live within the sound of church of chapel bell, I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.”
Today, are we willing to leave the comfort zone to follow Christ no matter how counter-cultural or difficult that may be?
4. Surrendering Completely
The most amazing thing about Studd is not that he was a missionary, but that he was fully surrendered. Unlike Studd, we are not all called to the mission field, but like Studd, we are called by God to the ministry of surrender.
Christ still calls to all Christians, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). From family, to work, to church, to government, to every other area of life, God has called all of us to glorify Him alone (I Corinthians 10:31, I Peter 4:11).
We can glorify Christ through discipling our children, sharing the gospel with co-workers, working as to Christ, and faithfully stewarding every gift, relationship, and opportunity He has given us. Truly, the greatest ministry is faithfully serving Christ wherever He has placed you. Your entire life can be a life of ministry if you focus on faithfully glorifying Christ in everything you do.
At the end of our lives, may we say with Studd, “My only joys therefore are that when God has given me a work to do, I have not refused it.”
In contrast to the “accidental” Christians of today, C.T. Studd lived a life of intentionality. He discovered true success, relied on God’s strength, left the comfort zone, and surrendered completely.
In the forward to C.T. Studd: Cricketer & Pioneer by Norman P. Grubb, Alfred Buxton states: “C. T.’s life stands as some rugged Gibraltar—a sign to all succeeding generations that it is worth while to lose all this world can offer and stake everything on the world to come. His life will be an eternal rebuke to easygoing Christianity. He has demonstrated what it means to follow Christ without counting the cost and without looking back.”
Question: What obstacles hinder us from fully surrendering to Christ?