Echo on the Pages
by Janet Maisel
Inspiration and encouragement comes from many places. Of course, the Bible is the primary source. But how often are we inspired or motivated by hearing testimonies of how God has worked in someone’s life? Their stories can reaffirm what we know to be true about our God. That he is working in our lives, affirming that he indeed cares about what we are going through. When you read or hear that someone has endured tremendous suffering, and they come out of it praising God, you can’t help but marvel. Jeremiah 29:11* becomes very real when you read the stories of what God does in the life of someone who answers the call to serve or lives out their faith in a way that honors God.
Biographies have always been my favorite genre to read. It makes sense that non-fiction and historical fiction come in a very close second. A year ago I read a historical fiction novel called Steal Away Home: Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson, Unlikely Friends on the Passage to Freedom. Spurgeon I had heard of, a 19th century British preacher of very little education, who drew crowds of ten thousand or more to his church. I had never heard of Thomas Johnson who was born a slave. It was fascinating to learn that he heard of Spurgeon at a book burning in the American south. Spurgeon was well known worldwide, for his preaching and evangelism, but also for his stand against American slavery. The Baptists in the south were outraged and held public burnings of his writings. Johnson was told to throw the books and papers on the fire. When he inquired as to what they were about, he was told they were about ending slavery. Later after being freed, Johnson became a preacher. He attended Spurgeon’s college in England, the two became lifelong friends. How fascinating is that?
Reading about Spurgeon led to reading his bio and then I had to know more about his wife Susannah. Susannah spent most of her adult life ill and in bed. But despite it all she wrote thousands of letters to missionaries around the world, who had been trained at Spurgeon’s college. She sent them many of his writings and other resources that would benefit them on the mission field. Reading Mrs. Spurgeon’s bio led me to A Basket of Summer Fruit, one of many devotionals written by “Susie” Spurgeon in her widowhood, that I found to be timeless and just what I needed to hear from God at the time.
The 19th century is particularly interesting to me. That century gave us many great servants such as D.L. Moody, preacher, social reformer and evangelist. William Booth started the Salvation Army. Charles and Susannah Spurgeon, who were known for preaching and evangelism. Lilias Trotter, missionary to Algeria as a single woman. The prayer warrior, George Mueller, started the Ashley Down Orphanages in England caring for thousands of orphans and fighting for social reform.
More modern heroes of faith are Corrie ten Boom, a survivor of the Holocaust. Joni Eraeckson Tada, paralyzed at age 16, started a worldwide ministry for the disabled. The most contemporary biography, I have read is Katie Davis Majors story. She adopted 13 Ugandan girls in the early 2000s while accidentally starting Amazina Ministries (Amazina.org) that serves the disadvantaged in Uganda.
I could go on and on. Every single one has caused me to think about my own outlook on life and to appreciate all the more what a faithful, exciting and involved God we worship.
The following (partial) quote from the back of Daring to Hope sums up what I think can be the impact of reading the biographies of those who went before us:
-Katie Davis Majors, Daring to Hope
“Though your heartaches and dreams may take a different shape, you will find your questions” about life and faith “can be echoed in the pages” of the lives of many who have gone before us, serve now, or just want to serve the Lord as they simply do life.
Can you recommend a biography of someone of faith?
We would love to hear you suggestions.
Please leave biography suggestions on the COG Facebook group under the link to this blog.
*Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future