It was Dr. David Martyn Lloyd Jones who said: ”Nothing is more profitable, after the reading of the Bible itself and books that help us to understand it, than the reading of biography or autobiography of a great Christian man (or woman)” – parenthesis added. There is certainly great wisdom in that because it is Scriptural. Hebrews 13:7 tells us: “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”
I commend to you the following essay entitled, “Mining For God: What I Have Learned From Reading Christian Biographies” by Steven J. Cole.
Here is a brief summary of the essay. Cole writes:
It’s a gold mine available to all but mined by few. The pressures of our fast-lane lives crowd out the time for settling down with the greats of the past. What can they teach me about problems I face? Plenty! I’ve found that the mine is rich and worth the effort many times over.
Then he goes on to talk of four specific ways that reading Christian biographies has helped him. I will just give you the points and some excerpts of what Cole himself says:
HERITAGE: Christian biographies give me a sense of my place in the Christian drama
Reading Christian biographies has helped me appreciate my spiritual roots. It helps me put our times and my particular circumstances in perspective. It makes me realize that I am carrying the torch handed to me by those who went before, and that I must hand it off intact to those who come after me.
MODELING: Christian biographies give me great examples to follow
We learn by watching models who “flesh out” Christian principles in their daily lives. When I was younger in the faith, I wanted someone to disciple me. I tried several different men, but it never seemed to work out the way I had hoped. But in a very real sense, I have been discipled by some of the greatest Christians who have ever lived, by reading their biographies.
SPIRITUALITY AND DOCTRINE: Christian biographies give me theological perspective and balance
We are all limited by the fact that we are creatures of our time and culture. We tend to view issues from the grid we almost unconsciously absorb from the theological and social climate in which we come to Christ and begin to grow. It’s as if we’re born in the forest and start walking, not quite sure where all the various trails come from or lead to. Reading Christian biographies is like climbing a high mountain so that you can get a feel for the lay of the land.
HUMANITY: Christian biographies give me an understanding of people and myself
If you read more honest biographies…, you will discover that God has used some very rough instruments. You find that the great strengths of some of the giants were also the flip side of great weaknesses and blind spots. Men and women who were unswerving in their commitment to Christ were sometimes stubborn and ran roughshod over people. And yet God used them greatly!…
…God did significant things with these imperfect men and women. Thousands of lives have been changed. In some cases, the history of nations and of western civilization has been altered through these godly, yet very human, instruments. Maybe there’s hope that God can use even me!
I highly commend this essay to you. But much more so, I commend all the good Christian biographies out there to you. Read them and learn from them. Let God inspire, challenge and teach you through them. May you see the amazing grace of God working through imperfect and ordinary people to do great and extraordinary things to His glory and the blessing of His people among the nations! One of my seminary professors, Dr. Hywel Jones used to say, “God draws straight lines with crooked sticks.” However “crooked,” God can use us if we are willing to be used by Him. That’s a valuable lesson and encouragement that you will most certainly glean from reading Christian biographies!