Guest Column

Richard Denham On 31 July, 2013, the Lord called Rev. James Richard Denham into his presence. Richard was 86 years old and leaves a widow, Pearl, and seven children. He had served as a pastor and missionary in Bra
01 February, 2003 2 min read

It is a human tendency to follow leaders we esteem. As our heroes, they tend to serve as

role models for  our lives.

But we need to ask ourselves if our heroes are persons whose lives are patterned after the Word of God. Paul exhorted the Ephesians to be ‘followers of God’.

Do our heroes show evidence of being followers of God? Are they like Paul, who, recognising the need to provide a contemporary example, admonished his followers: ‘be … followers of me, even as I am of Christ’? (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Do they keep themselves ‘unspotted from the world’?

Pure religion

Looking back over more than half a century, I have been interested to observe that those who served as role models in my formative years were men about whose doctrine I knew little – other than that they loved my Lord and wanted to serve him.

They were men who lived the practical religion described by James: ‘Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and the widow in their affliction and to keep [oneself] unspotted from the world’ (James 1:27).

From the day my father came home from having met the Lord in the home of a friend, he became a primary role model for me. The words of Jesus had become his motto: ‘seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness’ (Matthew 6:33).

With no outside pressures or help (we were attending a liberal church) his speech changed, the cigarette habit was removed, movies became a thing of the past, and alcohol and the corrupting literature of the world had no place in our home.

Consuming fire

He sought out a church that taught the Scriptures that had become his new life. Eight years later he gave up a secure government position to accept the pastorate of a small church.

In 1949, despite failing health, he and my mother served for a year in China.

With missions a consuming fire on their hearts, they spent a year visiting missionary work in South America. Out of that trip grew the vision for a mission to Amazonia. My wife and I accepted the challenge to head up a new work in the Brazilian jungles.

I was further influenced by the lives of men like David Brainerd, Adoniram Judson, William Carey, George Muller and John Paton, and wanted to be like them.

Their practical religion of caring for others and keeping themselves unspotted from the world was what I had seen and admired in my father.

Since I have come to understand and embrace the doctrines of grace, I have discovered that the men who were my heroes, beautifully combined sound doctrine and the practical religion of James.

They had all learned that friendship with the world is enmity toward God. Their lives stood out as a light in a dark world.

I then could see that it was not by accident that my father’s favourite preacher was Charles Spurgeon. I still have the set of Spurgeon’s sermons that he passed on to me.

In short supply

Let us pray earnestly that God will raise up a host of prophets in our day who combine sound doctrine with practical religion. Needed are men like Eric Liddell, who refused to race on Sunday in the Paris Olympics, and Fred Charrington, heir to a brewery fortune, who refused to be a part of the family business and was cut from his father’s will.

Though such men are in short supply today, we need to thank God for the few that are willing to stand against the inroads of the world into the life of the church.

We must not forget the lesson of history. Without separation from the world, doctrine soon becomes cold and lifeless.

Without such separation, people will soon be dancing around the golden calves of our day, while thinking they are worshipping God.

On 31 July, 2013, the Lord called Rev. James Richard Denham into his presence. Richard was 86 years old and leaves a widow, Pearl, and seven children. He had served as a pastor and missionary in Bra
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