My enthusiasm for historic Christian biography ignited my final semester of seminary. Though I had a couple of thousand pages of assigned reading to do for my classes, I got distracted by two fascinating Christian biographies that I could hardly put down until I had finished them. In the twenty-seven years since then I’ve read hundreds of such biographies. Here are several ways in which I appreciate and benefit from them:
1. Historic biographies provide enjoyable and engaging reading as they relate the life-stories of outstanding Christians of the past. We’re drawn into the narrative of an individual’s life. Once we’ve started, we’re eager to see where the true story will lead and how it will turn out. Some people’s lives are so full of noteworthy developments and amazing events that their biographies rival fast-paced novels in terms of interest. Yet their life-stories have the superior benefit of being entirely true.
2. Through Christian biography we’re introduced to some of the most important and remarkable ambassadors of Christ who have ever lived. These individuals had books written about them because their lives were truly outstanding. Some of them were spiritual giants who were used of God to significantly shape and advance Christ’s kingdom work in their country and/or another part of the world in their generation. The written accounts of their lives and ministries have impacted and profited untold thousands of believers since then.
3. The examples of these notable Christian servants inspire and encourage us in various areas of spiritual life and service. To name but a few of many such areas, they motivate us to higher heights in:
- Cultivating a deeper devotional relationship with the Lord.
- Developing a Christlike character and perspective.
- Serving with singular focus and tireless exertion to help fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission and advance His kingdom.
- Resolutely enduring discouragements, hardships, sacrifices and even persecution.
- Having a heart of concern for the lost as well as for other hurting, needy people.
- Balancing ministry and family demands.
At times their examples expose our own spiritual mediocrity and convict us of our low-level commitment. But they also hearten us to correct our shortcomings and to rededicate ourselves to serving the Lord in an earnest, worthy fashion.
4. To be sure, great Christians of the past were very real people who, like ourselves, had personal weaknesses, struggles and flaws. Part of the benefit of considering their lives is seeing how they addressed and were able to overcome their own faults. They reassure us that the Lord is able to use in significant ways imperfect individuals who nonetheless continue to pursue and serve Him with wholehearted consecration.
5. Their examples also remind us that God greatly blesses and uses believers of widely differing backgrounds, temperaments and abilities. This encourages us to faithfully serve the Lord to the best of our ability, using the unique background, personality, gifts and opportunities He has given us.
6. Christian biography provides us with a treasure trove of interesting and instructive anecdotes to share in our formal teaching opportunities and informal conversations. Adults and children enjoy and profit from these worthwhile illustrations.
7. Historic biography helps us understand and evaluate contemporary Christianity more fully and accurately. We learn how certain beliefs, practices and emphases developed in the Church. We come to realize that many of our present opportunities and accomplishments have been built on the insights, exertions and sacrifices of exceptional individuals who helped prepare the way before us. In the face of endless, transient issues and trends that confront and sometimes distract the modern Church, we are aided in keeping a clear focus on the primary emphases and priorities that strong evangelical Christians have maintained throughout the centuries.
Vance Christie is a pastor and author best known for vivid retelling of missionary stories. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska and has previously written for the ‘Heroes of the Faith’ series. To connect with Vance, visit his website at www.vancechristie.com.