Should I Want to Be "Such a Worm?"

Should I Want to Be "Such a Worm?"

I tweeted this morning that I would like to be "such a worm". I said: "William Carey died today 1834. Epitaph: 'A wretched poor and helpless worm, on thy kind arms I fall.' O to be such a worm!"

Not everyone thinks it is biblically sound to call a new creature in Christ a worm, let alone to aspire to be one. It's a good question.

First of all, my meaning: I want to be "such a worm"—a William-Carey-type worm. That is, an indomitable servant of Jesus, who, in spite of innumerable failures, perseveres productively to the end by grace alone through faith alone.

What was William Carey's secret? How could he persevere for 40 years over all obstacles—as a homely man, suffering from recurrent fever, limping for years from an injury, and yet putting the entire Bible into six languages and parts of it into 29 other languages—what was the secret of this man's usefulness for the kingdom?

It was the biblical combination of being "poor in spirit" (Matthew 5:3) and being strong in faith. The tweet was too short to include the last line of his epitaph. The whole thing reads:

WILLIAM CAREY
Born August 17the, 1761

Died June 9the, 1834
A wretched, poor, and helpless worm,

On Thy kind arms I fall.

The secret of his life was that as a "wretched, poor, helpless worm" he fell daily, and finally, into the arms of Jesus. When he did he "expected great things from God." And therefore he "attempted great things for God." He was a wonderfully fruitful worm.

I know he was a "saint" (Ephesians 1:1), a "new creation in Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:17), "precious in the sight of the Lord" (Psalm 116:15), "chosen" (Ephesians 1:4); a "royal priest" (1 Peter 2:9), "born of God" (1 John 5:1), "adopted" (Ephesians 1:5), "child of God" (1 John 3:1), "forgiven" (Ephesians 1:7); "justified" (Romans 5:1), "perfected" (Hebrews 10:14). I know that about myself too, and it is profoundly steadying and sweet.

But, my understanding of who I am until I die, also includes "wretched man that I am who will deliver me from this body of death" (Romans 7:24). It includes "blessed are the poor in spirit" (Matthew 5:3). It includes "a broken and contrite heart" that God will not despise (Psalm 51:17). It includes weeping bitterly over my sinfulness (Luke 22:62). It includes being "ashamed and confounded for my ways" (Ezekiel 36:32).

When God addresses the apple of his eye in Isaiah 41:14, he says,

Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel!
I am the one who helps you, declares the LORD.

God meant this to be humbling and encouraging. He meant it to produce broken-hearted boldness, contrite courage, lion-hearted lowliness.

William Carey was this kind of man. His worm-ness did not paralyze him. It empowered him, because it drove him daily into the arms of Jesus. So I say again, "O to be such a worm."

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.