One of the things that struck me recently is that I rarely read testimonies and biographies. This is largely down to the fact that the books I’m sent to review are mostly ‘Christian life’ books.
Also, I just enjoy learning new things and wrestling with theological concepts. But I often forget (and I know that it’s foolish!) that people’s stories put legs to theological concepts and we can learn so much from the experience of others. Listening to the stories of people who have done wonderful things for God can really encourage you and help you grow. Listening to stories of people who haven’t been noticed by thousands, but who have faithfully served God where they are are tremendous encouragements to serve God where we are.
I recently read the Biography of Maud Kells. Reading about her devotion to God in times of rejoicing and times of sorrow, reading about her love for God’s mission really got me excited about missions! That’s the thing that we miss out on when we don’t read biographies and testimonies.
A story is so much for than the tale of a person’s life. It’s the tale of their walk with God, of how they’ve grown in their love and knowledge of Him and their experiences.
You can read about how God has a purpose and can use everyone in ministry, but reading Joni Eareckson Tada’s story will bring it to life. You can read about how we are to rejoice when we’re suffering, but reading Richard Wurmbrand will bring it home. We can read about the costs of following Jesus, but reading William Tyndale will give you an example.
When we skip over church history, when we forget the people who have gone before us, we are the ones who loose out! God has raised up men and women in the church who have been examples of how to live the Christian life well. Spend an hour or two with an older saint and you’ll find that you benefit far more than they do from the conversation. You might walk in wanting to bless them, but after listening to their life story of how God has been at work in them you leave more encouraged than before.
I can’t remember who said it, but years ago I read a book and the person described biographies as ‘stories that set your heart ablaze’. This is a good description of what a wonderful testimony of God’s goodness, kindness and care can do for the reader and listener. When you hear someone’s story your learning from them how God has practically worked in their lives. You’re learning how their love for God has carried them through good times and bad. Listening to people’s stories can give you a sense of the same awe that they have for God.
Why would we pass up the opportunity to listen to stories of how God has blessed His people? Why would we pass up an opportunity to understand the lives of those saints who have gone before us?
Testimonies and biographies can teach us so much about God, the Christian life, world missions and so much more. I probably have about 20-30 biographies in a library of 1,000+, that is not a good ratio! Many Christian book dealers and book shops have whole sections dedicated to biographies and testimonies, why not pick one up next time you swing by?
If we isolate ourselves from Christians of the past then we are missing out on the knowledge of how God moved, changed people and transformed countries (in some cases). I used to try and make sure that 1 of the 5 books a month I read is a biography or testimony. That’s a healthy habit that I need to return to and one that I’d encourage you to start, if you aren’t already there.
Read biographies, speak to older saints, listen to people’s stories of how God has worked in their lives. It is not wasted time, but you will praise God for His faithfulness and walk away blessed and rejoicing.