Orphaned at age 14, dismissed from college for criticizing a teacher, unsuccessful in his first attempts at ministry, this man did not seem much of an inspiration.
In the mid-1700’s, David Brainerd became a missionary to the Seneca and Delaware Indians then living in the colonies of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. More recently, as I’ve had the chance to drive highways and back roads in those areas, I’ve actually seen historical markers noting his paths of travel.
Brainerd literally coughed his life away on those colonial roads as he traveled and preached, all the while dying of tuberculosis. Contemporary accounts say that his path was often marked by two knee prints in the snow -- where he had knelt to pray -- and spots of red between them where he had coughed blood during his prayers. He died in 1749, at the relatively young age of 29.
In his journal he wrote about the Indians he was trying to reach, noting their ". . . inability to extricate and deliver themselves from [their fallen state]" and the " . . . absolute need of Christ to redeem and save them . . . “This certain belief led Brainerd to teach ‘of Christ as the only way to the Father’."
What drove this disciple? What made David Brainerd leave his home to travel by horse and foot through some of the wildest lands these colonies had to offer? What compelled him to shorten his life by expending what little strength he had in pushing forward again and again?
The most obvious answer is that he believed that without Christ, there is no hope for salvation. Everyone who does not have faith in Christ is lost and condemned. No one can gain eternal life without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Knowing this, he also realized his responsibility -- his privilege -- to share this good news with those who did not yet know.