If you have ever thought of making a list of people that you’d like to talk to in heaven, I am sure it includes a number of biblical characters. There are so many others who come to mind. George Whitefield and John Wesley, Anselm and Augustine, Luther and Calvin. These were the great “movers and shakers” in their day that defined Christianity in their generation and beyond.
I’ve been thinking about who else I’d like to talk to and why. So, I thought for the New Year, you might consider who these men and women were. You have to wait until heaven to actually talk to them, but you can benefit from their lives today because by reading about them you can consider how their lives might contribute to our own spiritual growth.
Samuel Pearce: A Heart for Missions: Memoir of Samuel Pearce by Andrew Fuller and Michael Haykin.
Pearce died at the age 33. He was instrumental in funding William Carey’s India mission. Although he wanted to join Carey, the team that assembled for the mission needed Pearce’s fund raising ability among the evangelical churches. It was at a time when the church had no inclination or desire to reach unreached people groups. The evangelical church was in the grip of a hard-core Calvinism that did not believe in evangelism.
However, that’s not the reason to read Pearce. His biographer said that he was made for friendship – spiritual friendships. His letters and the story of his life by Andrew Fuller, typify what the Bible means by a fellowship of the Spirit.
Robert Murray M’Cheyne: Robert Murray M’Cheyne by Andrew Bonar
M’Cheyne is a must read for every pastor, elder, deacon or church worker. Another minister who died young, but left a big impression on his constituency. Two things stand out in his life and they go hand-in-hand: humility and holiness. At the start of his ministry he was aware that what his people needed most from him was his holiness. Church leaders need holiness grounded in humility!
William Grimshaw William Grimshaw of Haworth by Faith Cook
He took the position of a pastor in an Anglican church because it was an easy way to make a living. Then God saved him! He was bold in ministry with the heart of a lion for souls. He had the physical stature to go with it. Several stories depict him boldly marching into pub houses on Sunday to roust out parishioners who should have been at the worship service. God used Grimshaw to turn the town that the Bronte’s would one day make famous upside down.
The Countess of Huntingdon: Selina:Countess of Huntingdon: Her Pivotal Role in 18th Century Evangelical Awakening by Faith Cook
The Countess was a wealthy woman of great financial means. She used her wealth in the cause of the gospel, funding ministers, evangelists and building a series of chapels where they could preach. She may have died penniless but was richer by far in Christ.
William Gurnall: The Christian in Complete Armour by William Gurnall
Of course, Gurnall has to be included. A Church of England pastor, who was a Puritan at heart protected by a Presbyterian bishop was despised by the Anglicans for being a Puritan and the Puritans for staying in the Anglican church. He persevered and served his congregation in Lavenham well all of his life. Only two of his works remain. The largest of the two is The Christian in Complete Armour. It’s long (about 1100 pages), with tiny font printed on both sides of the page. What’s notable about Gurnall’s work is that he makes holiness a practical work that will benefit every Christian. Spurgeon kept this book on his bed stand and read from it regularly before falling asleep.
Adolphe Monod: Living in the Hope of Glory: A New Translation of a Spiritual Classic by Adolphe Monod and Constance K. Walker.
This work is a collection of the last days of Monod’s life. He died of cancer in the middle 1800’s. Monod was a product and a promoter of the French evangelical movement. His last weeks were spent in bed as he lay dying. He was no longer able to pastor or preach at his church. For several Sundays, he invited close friends and family to join him for the Lord’s Supper at his bedside. His thoughts on the Table are insightful and rich and help believers see the many sided glory of an important ordinance of the church.
Helen Roseveare:b> Give me This Mountain by Dr. Helen Roseveare.
This book tells the story of a woman who was nobodies candidate for missions work because she was, by her own admission, stubborn, proud and a know-it-all. Yet, God used her as a pioneer in medical missions in the Belgian Congo in the 1950’s and ‘60’s. Physical dangers and personal ambition nearly “sank her” but her faith in God and hard work brought her through some very dark valleys learning how to give the glory to God.
John Newton: The Life and Spirituality of John Newton: An Authentic Narrative by John newton and Bruce Hindmarsh; John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace by Jonathan Aitken.
There are several good biographies for Newton, but if you read anything at all read Newton’s own account of his life. He was persuaded to write a “Faithful Narrative” which he did in nine letters sent to a friend who later published them. What is remarkable about Newton is the close connection between his most famous hymn, Amazing Grace, and the life he lived of amazing grace. Newton never lost his wonder for the grace that saved him, sustained him and delivered him from many trials, toils and snares. This book teaches us how to love and praise God’s mercy as it touches every part of our lives.
William Cowper: William Cowper and the Eighteenth Century by Gilbert Thomas; The Hidden Smile of God: The Fruit of Affliction in the Lives of John Bunyan, William Cowper and David Brainerd by John Piper.
Cowper’s story should dispel any notion that the Christian life is free from the afflictions of depression, loss and even insanity. Cowper’s life is forever united with Newton’s as the hymn-writing duo of Olney, England. Cowper was a poet in his own right and well respected in England in his day. He suffered severe bouts of depression and darkness all his life but persevered in knowing God.
Elizabeth Prentiss: Elizabeth Prentiss: More Love to Thee by Sharon James.
To grow in love for God was the one great passion of Prentiss’ life. Busy, multi-tasking and sometimes disappointed moms will find strength in this book. If you find that your everyday life is squeezing out time for God, or that tragedies make no sense, read Prentiss’ experiences to find that busy times and tragedies can draw you closer to God.
In future blogs, I plan to recommend some other Christians from whom we can learn. While we might not be able to do or accomplish what they did, we can live the ways they lived. And just in case you might be wondering if there is any spiritual value in reading the lives of other Christians, consider what the writer to the Hebrews said: “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith” (Heb 13:7).