William Wilberforce was easily one of the most productive people of all time. He was elected to the British Parliament at the insanely young age of 21. At a single point in time, he held official roles with 69 different social reform groups in Great Britain. And he was chiefly responsible for abolishing the slave trade throughout the British Empire. In the words of one of Wilberforce’s many biographers, “…it’s difficult to escape the verdict that William Wilberforce was simply the greatest social reformer in the history of the world.”
But Wilberforce wasn’t always productive to such noble ends. For his first 5 years in Parliament, his ambition was largely for the acquisition of more power and wealth. But at the age of 26, he surrendered himself to the lordship of King Jesus, ushering in what Wilberforce called the “Great Change” of his life.
That great change in his soul almost led to a dramatic change in Wilberforce’s work. After his conversion, Wilberforce sought out career advice from his friend John Newton, the minister famous for writing the hymn “Amazing Grace.” Wilberforce fully expected Newton to advise him to drop out of Parliament so that he could “live now for God.” But “Newton didn’t tell him what he had expected — that to follow God he would have to leave politics. On the contrary, Newton encouraged Wilberforce to stay where he was, saying that God could use him there.