My book Women of Faith and Courage presents abbreviated biographical accounts of the lives and ministries of five outstanding Christian women: Susanna Wesley, Fanny Crosby, Catherine Booth, Mary Slessor and Corrie ten Boom. (You can read a thumbnail sketch of each of their lives in my March 6, 2014, blog “Five Inspiring Christian Women Worth Getting to Know.”) Here are several reasons I’d encourage you to get and read the book:
1. It provides the opportunity to become acquainted (or reacquainted) with a handful of Christ’s choicest female servants from the past three centuries. These women gained great and abiding renown (which they certainly did not seek) for their exceptional Christian piety and service. Their examples are absolutely worthy of our consideration; through them we will be encouraged, inspired and instructed in our own Christian life and service.
2. Not only women, but also young people as well as men can profit greatly from the examples of these consecrated Christians. Women of Faith and Courage would be a great book to read with one’s children as part of family devotions. It could also be used beneficially in ladies study and discussion groups.
3. The lives of these women show that God has different ministries for each of His servants to fulfill. Susanna Wesley’s ministries centered on her children in her home and, to a lesser degree, on the people in her husband’s parish. Fanny Crosby’s primary ministry was hymnwriting. But she also used that as a platform for speaking ministries in missions, YMCAs and other public settings. In addition to placing a priority on the spiritual upbringing of her children, Catherine Booth carried out a powerful preaching ministry, especially emphasizing evangelism and a proper Christian response to the down-and-out of society.
Mary Slessor’s missionary career in Calabar (southern Nigeria) involved school teaching, itinerate evangelism, church planting, foster care and judicial responsibilities. Corrie ten Boom’s varied service included ministering to young people and feebleminded individuals of her community, harboring fugitives from the Nazis, providing a bright Christian witness in the darkness of German concentration camps and, after the war, heralding the message of God’s love and forgiveness throughout the world. Their examples remind us to identify and fulfill the unique ministries the Lord has for us, and to remain sensitive to new ministries He will lead us into as we go along in our service of Him.
4. Each of these women experienced marked hardships in life. For most if not all of them, difficulties were regular rather than periodic occurrences. Instead of turning away from God because of such adversity, they drew near to Him for His help and strength in getting through the trials. As a result, their faith was progressively strengthened rather than weakened. As it was with them, so it is with contemporary believers: Hardships tend to be part and parcel of the Christian life; God uses those difficulties to strengthen the faith and develop the character of His children.
5. All these women were characterized by selfless service of the Lord and others. Their lives were all about serving Christ and benefiting others, not at all about living for self. They sacrificed many personal conveniences and comforts in order to faithfully serve as they did. Periodically they were tempted to feel sorry for themselves in light of the constant and sometimes heavy sacrifices their service required of them. But the vast majority of the time they bore their self-sacrificial service willingly and without complaint. Their example is a necessary corrective to many modern Christians who are absorbed with their own interests and comforts while manifesting little inclination or willingness to expend their lives in serving Christ and those around them.
6. Another commendable characteristic of these ladies was their proper balancing of family and other ministry responsibilities. As younger women, Mary and Corrie were both extremely devoted to helping care and provide for their family members. In addition, for many years Mary served as a loving foster mother and Corrie as an affectionate adopted aunt to numbers of children. Neither of them married, though they had that fond desire for a season. They were content to remain single and thus be freer to carry out the specialized ministries the Lord had for them to fulfill.
Susanna and Catherine were loyal to and supportive of their husbands’ ministries. At times that required considerable effort on their part, due to heavy ministry demands, straitened finances or, in Susanna’s case, having a domineering and insensitive husband. Susanna and Catherine also dedicated a great deal of time and effort to the training of their several children. They raised their children with strict but loving discipline. Their primary concern with their children was that they would develop into devout, active Christians.
The positive examples and high principles of all these women with regard to fulfilling one’s family responsibilities, deciding whether or not to marry, and raising children for the Lord are worthy of emulation by Christian singles, spouses and parents today.
Copyright 2014 by Vance E. Christie