In any high street bookstore, the biography section is always popular. We are naturally attracted to stories about other people’s lives; we can relate to them, gaining insight into their successes and, perhaps, their failures. This article introduces a new series covering some believers from history and their circumstances.
Since the church is about 2,000 years old, we will roam the centuries to select believers for consideration. We will look at some recent lives, like Corrie ten Boom who boldly served God among the horrors of occupied Europe during World War II. We will also delve back into history to consider ancient figures like Bernard of Clairvaux, a twelfth-century monk who wrote several beautiful hymns we still sing today, including Jesus the very thought of Thee.
Christianity has spread over every continent across the globe. Through our series we aim to give a sense of this geographic diversity, selecting believers from various countries and cultures. Despite these differences, all Christians share a common basis of faith, ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’, Phil. 2. 11. and the same scriptures, ‘the word of God which liveth and abideth forever’, 1 Pet. 1. 23.
Whenever we examine fellow human beings, we will inevitably encounter flaws in their character. The only perfect man who lived on earth was the Son of God; the rest of us are marked by sinfulness. So, as we study the lives of saints, we must be aware they have ‘warts and all’.1 As a preacher now with the Lord, Robert McPheat, used to say when preaching a biblical character study, Their virtues I would covet; their vices I would shun’. Our attitude must be the same.
Most of the historical figures we cover will not be featured in secular history books. You probably won’t find these characters in the biography section of your local bookstore. In earthly terms, these saints are insignificant. However, heaven has a different perspective. These heroes of faith have their deeds recorded; one day they will be fully rewarded by ‘the Lord, the righteous judge’, 2 Tim. 4. 8.
What is the motivation for studying the lives of Christians from days gone by? Apart from the biographical interest, there are good spiritual reasons for this study:
We’ll consider our first character in the next article. If you want to read a good book to get started, I recommend Wiersbe’s 50 People Every Christian Should Know.2 Finally, if you have suggestions for saints we might feature in this series, please send them in via the Editor.