- To be encouraged in your own walk with the Lord. One of my very favourite biographies is of Gladys Alward. Throughout her life she demonstrated AMAZING trust in the Lord - in his power and his goodness. I wanted to include an excerpt here, but I have lent out my copy! At one point she is asked to go into a prison in the little Chinese village she is in because there is a riot and everyone else is afraid to go in! However, she was always telling them that her God is all-powerful, and so they figured she shouldn't be afraid! How could she say no?! I won't ruin the story here, but it is this and many other demonstrations of faith throughout Gladys Alward's life which inspire me to greater trust in the Lord.
- To remember the importance and gravity of missions. Many of you have probably heard about Jim Elliot, and there are MANY other missionaries who showed by sacrificing their very own lives how important it is to preach the good news to ALL nations. Jim Elliot was martyred by a cannibalistic tribe in Ecuador, and years later that same people group was brought to faith. After reading a story like this, it makes my own fears about sharing the gospel in my very safe life seem extremely trite.
- To gain a greater understanding of right doctrine. Andrew is currently reading Iain Murray's Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography, and sometimes we read out loud together. It is VERY interesting. Along with learning about this great man (and his great wife), and about the time period (New England in the 1700s), what is REALLY neat is the way Murray uses the life of Jonathan Edwards to give the reader a greater understanding of the soveriegnty of God and the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of people. This is a post in itself, and you are sure to hear more about this book around here.
- To see how the Gospel of Christ transcends cultural differences. In the book Peace Child by Don Richardson, one of the major themes is how Richardson, a missionary in New Guinea, used a "redemptive analogy" to share the Gospel with the people. What this really gives you a sense of is not that you need to change the gospel to fit the group, but that the gospel already is perfect for every people group. Like Paul in Athens, Gladys in China, Elliot in Ecuador, and Edwards in New England we need to preach Christ and Him crucified, and know that the Word of God is able to transform hearts and minds for the glory of God.
- To see how the Gospel should shape the culture. Here I think of both the biography of Fredrick Douglass and the story of William Wilberforce. Both were men whose Chrstianity lead them to speak against the unjust laws of the land, through the political sphere and the media. Each had an incredible impact on the abolition of slavery - Douglass in America and Wilberforce in England - because of their belief in Christ. There are many issues in our current culture which Christians should be adamantly speaking out against and working to end (e.g. abortion, the sex trade), and reading these stories can help inspire us to action!
(We don't necessarily agree with all the choices these men and women made, but we still believe there is much we can learn from them and are so thankful for their wonderful testimonies.)
What are your favourite Christian biographies?