10 Lessons from William Wilberforce for anyone passionate about anything
by Tyler Ellis
How did I not hear the name William Wilberforce until I was 26 years old?
In the year 2006, some 173 years after Wilberforce died, many people, like myself, learned for first time of his significant contribution to the world. This was made possible by a movie produced about of his life, entitled, Amazing Grace (see trailer below).
Wilberforce was an English politician, born in 1759 in Hull of Yorkshire. Though he was only 5 feet, 3 inches tall, he was a giant in faith and compassion, who dedicated his life to ending slavery in the British Empire.
I wanted to learn more about Wilberforce, so I read Eric Metaxas’ fantastic biography on Wilberforce entitled Amazing Grace. Every page seemed to deepen my admiration of this man, and by the end of the book, I told my wife that I now consider Wilberforce to be one of the top five greatest heroes in my life.
In this post, I want to share ten takeaways that stood out to me as important lessons for us today as we consider our role to play amidst the needs of our time.
1. He was an Advocate.
I love the word “advocate.” It’s a title that describes someone who dedicates their blood, sweat and tears to champion a worthy cause. Pastor Bill Hybels describes it as having a “holy discontent.”
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I can think of no better word to describe Wilberforce. He was obsessed with abolishing the grotesque injustice of one man treating another as property. So he and his fellow abolitionists led campaigns, raised awareness, collected names for petitions, climbed aboard slave ships, tried on the shackles, interviewed the sailors and presented bills. He was a voice for the voiceless.
May we aspire to be an Advocate on behalf of the voiceless in our day!
2. He Dreamed Big.
If we want to shape the future into something better, we need to start dreaming and praying today. We need a good imagination!
Wilberforce’s ultimate goal was emancipation. This dream was so big he couldn’t even speak of it in public. Slavery was commonly accepted and society even depended on it. So Wilberforce strategically pursued his dream in smaller stages, starting with abolishing the slave trade.
Little did he know that his dream would influence other nations and generations to come. Eric Metaxas went so far as to say, “The America we know wouldn’t exist without Wilberforce.”
May we dream big dreams in our day!
3. He Owned His Faith.
As I enter my tenth year of College Ministry, I’m convinced more than ever, the college-age years are the most impressionable time period in a person’s life. It was for me, and it was for William Wilberforce…