William Booth was one of the most famous ministers who ever lived. When he became a Christian at the age of 15, he wrote in his diary, “God shall have all there is of William Booth.” He then spent the next 68 years making good on that promise.
Booth was a successful pastor in the early part of his ministry, but he found that a permanent ministry at one site didn’t suit him because his burning passion was always evangelism. In particular, he loved sharing the gospel with the poor and ministering to them. He became best known as the founder and “first General” of the Salvation Army, which in Booth’s time was recognized as one of the leading evangelistic organizations in the world. When Booth died at the age of 83, his body laid in state for three days at the Salvation Army’s Clapton Congress Hall in London. 150,000 people attended his viewing. His funeral was later held at London’s Olympia and was attended by 40,000 people, including Queen Mary.
In the latter years of his ministry, Booth struggled mightily with his eyesight. In 1909, he began a planned six-month tour of the United Kingdom, but the tour was ended prematurely when it was discovered that he had gone completely blind in his right eye and was greatly limited by cataracts in his left. In August of 1909, a surgeon removed that right eye altogether. A few months after the surgery, in 1910, Booth resumed his ministry by embarking upon a tour of the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. Following his return to England, he embarked upon a motor tour of that country, a tour that proved to be his last.
The story is told that when Booth’s eyesight began to leave him, his son Bramwell said to him, “Dad, you are going to be permanently blind.” Booth responded, “You mean that I am going to live the rest of my life in physical blindness?” “I fear that you must reckon with that fact,” said Bramwell. “Shall I never see your face again?” Booth asked. “No,” said Bramwell, “probably not in this world.” Booth then moved his hand slowly forward until he found Bramwell’s hand. He grasped his son’s hand and said, “I have done what I could for God and for the people with my eyes. Now I shall do what I can for God and for the people without my eyes!”
That story from Booth’s life should inspire all Christians to follow his example by giving God all there is of us. We should do this when we are young. We should do it when we are middle aged. We should do it when we are elderly. We should do it when we are in great health. We should do it when we are in declining health. We should do it when we are in poor health. As the old hymn says, “Jesus gave it all. All to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.” Since our Savior gave His all for us, can we do any less for Him?