Recently I had the privilege of visiting with Bill Feltner on the Pilgrim Radio network about George Muller’s tremendous example of “Seeking and Following God’s Guidance” and of “Trusting God in Faith-Stretching Circumstances.” Pilgrim Radio broadcasts to four Southwestern States. If you’d care to listen to the podcast of that interview, you can access it at: 

Just scroll down to 9/28 (the day it aired over the radio network) ]

In carrying out Christian ministry and in our other circumstances of life, God has a way of leading us to exercise faith in Him. He does so to keep us dependent on Him, to strengthen our faith in Him and to increase our appreciation of Him. George Muller was reminded of these truths time and again throughout his years of faith-filled ministry. Muller’s example encourages us to similarly trust God in our own faith-stretching situations of life.

For the first two years after establishing his orphan ministry in Bristol, England, Muller was blessed with a steady stream of God’s provision for the ministry. But then during the summer of 1838 Muller’s faith was put to the test when donations for his three orphan houses seemed suddenly to dry up.

One evening he was walking in his garden meditating on Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” Presently the pressing need of the orphan houses came to his mind, and he was promptly led to say to himself: “Jesus in His love and power has hitherto supplied me with what I have needed for the orphans, and in the same unchangeable love and power He will provide what I may need for the future.”  A sense of joy flowed into his soul.

Barely one minute later a letter was brought to him.  It contained a gift of twenty pounds (equaling 100 dollars, a goodly amount in 1838). The Lord’s timing was evident, confirming both the teaching of His Word and the claiming of that truth in faith by His servant.

George Muller’s first orphan houses on Wilson Street, Bristol, opened 1836

By that September 18 all available funds for Muller’s orphan houses were again exhausted.  He and his staff had been praying earnestly about the pressing need but received no apparent answer.  Consideration was even being given to selling some household items deemed not absolutely essential in order to provide the next day’s food.

The middle of that afternoon a lady called at Muller’s home.  She explained that she had come from London to Bristol four or five days earlier and had been staying right next door to the boys’ orphan house that entire time.  She then presented Muller with a contribution to his ministry from her daughter in London.

Muller later wrote:  “That the money had been so near the orphan houses for several days without being given, is a plain proof that it was from the beginning in the heart of God to help us. But because He delights in the prayers of His children, He had allowed us to pray so long; also to try our faith, and to make the answer so much the sweeter.”

The following spring one of the orphanage’s annual reports came into the hands of a man in Devon who immediately perceived the ministry’s need for ongoing financial assistance.   The man had a Christian sister of means, and he began praying that she would be led by God to donate some of her valuable jewelry for the support of the orphans.

Not long thereafter Muller received from the woman a gift of a heavy gold chain, a ring set with ten diamonds, a pair of gold bracelets and a cash donation of two pounds.  Before parting with the costly diamond ring, Muller used it to neatly etch the words “Jehovah Jireh” (“the Lord will provide,” Genesis 22:14) on a pane of glass in his room.  Many times afterwards his heart was cheered when he caught sight of the words on the glass and remembered this particular instance of the Lord’s remarkable provision. 

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These accounts of George Muller’s God-dependent faith, as well as many other incidents from his life, can be found in my book Timeless Stories, God’s Incredible Work in the Lives of Inspiring Christians (Christian Focus). Copyright 2022 by Vance E. Christie

George Muller in middle age
George Muller in middle age

Recently while seeking God’s direction about quite a significant ministry decision in my own life, I was encouraged by going back and reviewing some of the specific details of how the Lord led George Muller into his great orphan ministry. Perhaps the rehearsal of those wonderful developments in Muller’s life will help provide you with some encouragement and guidance for those times when you find yourself seeking God’s direction about ministry-related matters or other important decisions in life.

Muller moved to Bristol, England, in 1832 at age twenty-six. There he co-pastored two congregations with his good friend and fellow minister Henry Craik. As part of his ministry, Muller taught Bible classes for destitute children and older people. He became greatly concerned for the spiritual and material needs of the many orphans he saw on the streets of Bristol. At that time in the whole of England there were only a dozen small orphanages—eight of those in London and none nearby Bristol.

Muller was acquainted with the work of German Professor A. H. Franke who over a century earlier had established large orphan houses in Germany. On November 20, 1835, Muller came across a biography on Franke. That evening and in the days to follow Muller wrote in his personal journal:

“I have frequently, for a long time, thought of laboring in a similar way, though it might be on a much smaller scale; not to imitate Franke, but in reliance upon the Lord. May God make it plain! November 21: Today I have had it very much impressed on my heart, no longer merely to think about the establishment of an orphan house, but actually to set about it, and I have been very much in prayer respecting it, in order to ascertain the Lord’s mind. November 23 [after receiving even more financial support for his ministries than he had requested in prayer]: This has been a great encouragement to me, and has still more stirred me up to think and pray about the establishment of an orphan house. November 25: I have been again much in prayer yesterday and today about the orphan house, and am more and more convinced that it is of God. May He in mercy guide me!”

In the days to follow Muller continued to spend many hours praying about the possible orphan ministry. He also repeatedly examined his own motives to make sure he was not thinking of pursuing this course out of a desire to gain glory for himself. Muller had a sincere desire to minister to the material and spiritual needs of orphans, and to help them grow up to become positive assets to society. But above all, as he would later write: “The first and primary object of the work was that God might be magnified by the fact that the orphans under my care are provided with all they need, only by prayer and faith, without anyone being asked by me or my fellow laborers, whereby it may be seen that God is FAITHFUL STILL and HEARS PRAYER STILL.”

A public meeting was announced for December 9, at which Muller planned to lay out his thoughts to any who might have interest in supporting the venture. Four nights before that meeting, while reading his Bible, he was struck by the words of Psalm 81:10: “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.” Muller afterward related: “I was led to apply this scripture to the orphan house, and ask the Lord for premises, 1,000 pounds and suitable individuals to take care of the children.” From that time on, this biblical text became one of Muller’s key guiding verses, being added to three other scriptures he habitually sought to live by—Matthew 6:25-26; 7:7; John 14:13-14. 

At the December 9 public meeting Muller made it clear that the envisioned orphan ministry would only be established if God provided the means and suitable individuals to carry it out. He added: “I have been led more and more to think that the matter may be of Him. Now, if so, he can influence His people in any part of the world … to entrust me … with the means.”

Intentionally, no public offering was received at that meeting. But immediately afterwards ten shillings (equaling half a pound) were given to him, and a lady volunteered to be part of the work. The next morning a report of the meeting was shared with the press. An immediate and marked response followed the publication of the news article. One couple promptly wrote to offer themselves and all their furniture for the service of the orphan house. Other donations continued pouring in over the course of the next few days: silverware, dishes, kitchen utensils, table cloths, bed linens, yards of cloth and financial contributions. Other adults volunteered their services.

Even with all the affirmative guidance he received, Muller still had periodic misgivings and needed God’s continued confirmation.  On December 17, eight days after the public meeting, he confided to his diary: “I was rather cast down last evening and this morning about the matter, questioning whether I ought to be engaged in this way, and was led to ask the Lord to give me some further encouragement.” That same day God graciously brought in a number of other material donations plus news of a 100 pound gift (worth 500 dollars) that was on its way.

George Muller's first of five New Orphan Houses on Ashley Down, Bristol, opened 1849
George Muller’s first of five New Orphan Houses on Ashley Down, Bristol, opened 1849

At the end of December Muller announced his intention to open the orphan house in April of the following year, 1836. But by the beginning of February, though he had publicized his willingness to receive applications for children to live at the orphanage, not a single application had been received. While Muller had prayed about every detail of his plans and all the necessities for the orphan ministry, up to this point he always assumed there would be plenty of applicants. He had never actually asked God to send children. He therefore spent an entire evening praying for applications, and the very next day the first was received.

Young girls at George Muller orphanage
Young girls at George Muller orphanage

Muller’s first orphan house, for girls ages seven and up, opened that April. A second orphanage, for boys and girls under seven years of age, opened the end of November. Thirty orphans were cared for at each house. By the end of 1836 over 1,000 pounds had been provided for the fledgling orphan ministry, along with other necessary material supplies and all required staffing.

Boys in George Muller orphanage gymnasium
Boys in George Muller orphanage gymnasium

Muller’s example reminds us of some important principles with regard to seeking and following God’s guidance: (1) Bathe our endeavors and decisions in much prayer; (2) Make sure our motives are right—to bring glory to God and benefit to others, not to gain attention or honor for ourselves; (3) Look for confirmation of our plans through the positive outworking of circumstances and the affirming support of other people; (4) Lay hold of and exercise scriptural principles that can strengthen us in our endeavors; (5) We shouldn’t be too surprised if we sometimes have doubts and need additional encouragement from the Lord; (6) Don’t forget to ask God to bless us in all the specific ways that are needed, including basic blessings that we might tend to take for granted; (7) Be sure, as Muller did, to recount God’s many blessings and to heartily praise Him for them.

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This account of George Muller’s establishing his orphan ministry, as well as many other incidents from his life, can be found in my book Timeless Stories, God’s Incredible Work in the Lives of Inspiring Christians (Christian Focus). The details of this account were primarily drawn from two excellent Muller biographies: Roger Steer’s George Muller, Delighted in God! (Christian Focus); Basil Miller’s George Muller, Man of Faith and Miracles (Bethany House). Copyright 2022 by Vance E. Christie

David Livingstone 1852
David Livingstone 1852

I am delighted to report that after six and a half years of steady, focused, albeit part-time endeavor I was recently able to submit a comprehensive David Livingstone biography manuscript to the publisher. Praise the Lord! The book is to be published by Christian Focus Publications sometime next year, 2023.

Here are three of my personal perspectives on this protracted process which I thought you might find interesting. In what is shared here you may spot a similarity or two to your own major undertakings in life.

1. PRIVILEGE – When CFP kindly offered me the opportunity in late 2015 to write a full-length biography on the life and ministry of David Livingstone (1813-1873), the eminent Scottish missionary-explorer to Africa, I was thrilled with the prospect of doing so. I knew that Livingstone was one of the premier figures in the annals of Christian missions.

David Livingstone teaching Africans
David Livingstone teaching Africans

I would now have to confess, however, after thoroughly studying his life, that initially I understood less than half of the true greatness of the man. In addition to being a renowned missionary and explorer, Livingstone was the individual most responsible for (1) opening the interior of southcentral and southeastern Africa to Christianity and (2) preparing the way for slavery to be brought to an end throughout that vast region shortly after his death.

In order to accomplish what he did Livingstone needed to persevere through all manner of marked difficulties, dangers and personal sacrifices. He did so with incredible determination, courage and faith in God. Some of the many other positive traits that characterized Livingstone were his high level of intelligence, broad interests, confidence, humility, good sense of humor, solid biblical convictions, high moral principles, strong personal integrity, and devotional closeness to the Lord Jesus Christ whom he served.

As is true of many people possessing exceptional strengths, Livingstone also had some corresponding weaknesses that he was aware of and sought to work on. His shortcomings are readily acknowledged rather than ignored in the honest account I’ve written of his life.

Slave Captives and Portuguese Captors
Slave Captives and Portuguese Captors

But on the whole, as I learned more about Livingstone, I came to be filled with high admiration of his many outstanding accomplishments and of his numerous noble personal characteristics. I’ve gained a greatly-deepened sense of privilege to have learned much about this exceptional individual and to share his remarkable story with others.

2. PERSEVERANCE – At the outset of researching and writing Livingstone’s biography I had no idea what a massive undertaking it would turn out to be. I’ve been blessed to write several other books in the field of historic Christian biography, including three rather lengthy biographies on the lives and ministries of David Brainerd, Adoniram Judson and Andrew Murray. I anticipated an account of Livingstone’s life would turn out to be a similar length and would require a comparable amount of time and effort to accomplish. Instead my Livingstone manuscript ended up being well over three times longer than the longest works I had previously written. And researching and writing it required more than treble the time and effort given to my previous biographies.

That was primarily the case because of how expansive Livingstone’s life truly was, in terms of its many notable aspects, endeavors, events and accomplishments. Even with my biography’s considerable length, it certainly does not include every incident and feature of Livingstone’s life. But I have sought to include every occurrence and facet of his life that is significant and important.

Truth be told, it’s probably a good thing that I didn’t foresee at the start what lay ahead in the writing of this book. Otherwise I’m not sure I would have had the heart or determination to undertake such an immense project in the first place.

Come to think of it, that’s how God leads us through a lot of life’s challenges, isn’t it? He wisely, mercifully spares us from seeing too much of what lies ahead, especially of a difficult nature, knowing it could be discouraging or even overwhelming to us. But then He leads us through those stresses and difficulties one step at a time, providing us with the strength, trust and determination to do so. With His help we’re able to withstand and accomplish more than we would have imagined or been willing to undertake.

3. GRATITUDE – I’m grateful to God and praise Him (certainly not myself) for granting me the ability and determination to stay focused and to keep plugging away on this project until it was completed. As the undertaking stretched out to far greater lengths than I ever would have imagined, I must admit that occasionally and alternately (rather than all at the same time) I felt incredulous, frustrated, discouraged, perplexed, even mortified and overwhelmed. But the Lord encouraged me past such periodic negative thoughts and feelings. He helped me to continue trusting that eventually He would allow me to accomplish the objective. Also very significantly, despite the length and challenges of the endeavor, God granted me a good degree of ongoing enjoyment throughout the process. It would have been much more difficult to complete the project without that buoying sense of continued enjoyment.

Christian Focus Publications headquarters, Fearn, Scotland

I’m also grateful to Christian Focus Publications (CFP) for the considerable patience it has shown to me throughout this prolonged process. Time and again as the book ballooned on me, I missed my self-projected deadlines and needed to indicate that I wouldn’t have the manuscript completed till some later point in the future. More than once CFP also graciously agreed to my request for an increase in the length (word-wise) of the volume.

Our church family, the dear people of the Aurora (Nebraska) Evangelical Free Church, were patient and supportive throughout the years I worked part-time on the Livingstone biography. (All my books have been written part-time on the side while carrying out full-time pastoral responsibilities.) Previously I had written and published a new biography every two or three years. But although the Livingstone project stretched out for several years, our church people continued to encourage me in it.

Leeta Christie at the David Livingstone monument, Glasgow Scotland

I’m also profoundly thankful for my wife Leeta who exhibited tremendous patience and unflagging support through this long process. She doubtless deserves special commendation for patiently and positively watching, listening and interacting as I have worked through all aspects of Livingstone’s history for going on seven years! Though she would never say so, this has involved her making some significant personal sacrifices along the way. May the Lord abundantly bless her for the great patience and support she has shown me.

Copyright 2022 by Vance E. Christie

This particular blog post is intended as a brief update on some significant developments that have been taking place in my life and ministry in recent months, and to let you know of a blessed new ministry focus into which I believe the Lord is leading me.

As some of you may have noticed, my writing website has been rather inactive this past year. Fourteen months ago I made the difficult decision to discontinue my Perspectives blogs in order to devote all my limited writing time to wrapping up a full-length biography on David Livingstone that I’ve been working on for several years. I’ll share more about the recent completion of that book manuscript in a future blog. But now that it’s completed, I’m able to turn my attention to other writing endeavors, including the resumption of materials for this website.

For a quarter of a century (!) I had the privilege of pastoring the Evangelical Free Church of Aurora, Nebraska. My family and I were unspeakably blessed all those years with a congregation that supported, encouraged, and appreciated us.

However, developments in recent months and years gradually led me to a reluctant but definite conviction in the early months of this year: namely, that a different pastor was needed to more effectively lead our congregation into the future. That realization led to the announcement of my resignation in early March and to the conclusion of my pastoral ministry at the church on May 1.

Initially, I supposed I would serve one more (shorter) pastorate or an interim pastor ministry before possibly retiring from pastoral ministry a few years from now. But due to a variety of factors, my wife Leeta and I found our hearts inclining in a different ministry direction.

For years I’ve thought that in retirement I’d like to devote more time to my writing ministry, which has always been carried out on the side of full-time pastoral ministry. As we thought and prayed over our next ministry step, we came to the settled conclusion that it would be appropriate (and in keeping with God’s will) for me to devote my coming years of still-full-time ministry to focus on my writing and related speaking opportunities.

So I’m presently in communication with a couple of publishers about future works in the field of historic Christian biography which I think they might well be interested in. To be clear, I’m presenting different potential works to those publishers, as it’s usually considered a no-no to run the same idea past separate publishers simultaneously. ☺ 

The posting of today’s blog also serves as the first official public announcement of a corresponding speaking ministry I’m launching. I’m now available for making biographical presentations on great men and women of the Christian faith at churches, schools, camps, retreats, conferences, and other ministry settings. In these presentations, I will relate some of the highlights and key spiritual lessons from the lives and ministries of outstanding Christians of the past in a way that is not only interesting but also spiritually inspiring and instructive. 

For more information about this speaking ministry, including some of the prominent Christians and Christian living themes I’m able to make presentations about, see the Speaking page of our website.

You may also want to check out some other new material on the website, including the Why HCB? page, which brings together several of my past Perspectives that point out the benefits and enjoyment of reading and sharing historic Christian biography (HCB). You’ll also find John Piper’s and Tim Challies’ perspectives on HCB shared there.

Copyright 2022 by Vance E. Christie

In Scripture and throughout Church History there are many examples of committed Christians who continued to faithfully, bravely carry out their God-directed ministries in the face of stiff or sometimes even fierce opposition. Not a few such Christians continue to do so around the world today. Their examples show us how to respond appropriately to such challenging situations and inspire us to be similarly brave and faithful with the Lord’s help.

William Booth, who founded the Salvation Army in 1877, is one such worthy model in this regard. Booth and the Salvation Army zealously proclaimed the Christian Gospel of salvation from sin and its deserved judgment through faith in Jesus Christ. They also ministered actively and compassionately to the material and moral needs of the lower classes of society. Tens of thousands of people were eventually helped and elevated through their ministries.

But initially Booth was repeatedly assaulted in the press by government and religious leaders alike. They attacked not only Booth’s unique evangelistic methods, but also his bold notions of how to bring about moral-social reform.

William and Catherine Booth Ministering at a Street Meeting

Professor Thomas Henry Huxley, a biologist and an agnostic who more than anyone had won public acceptance for Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theories, wrote twelve letters blasting Booth in the London Times. Huxley viewed Booth’s sway over his followers as being “the prostitution of the mind” and a worse evil than prostitution or alcoholism. He characterized Booth’s campaign to make people sober and hardworking as nothing more than a ruse to herd “washed, shorn and docked sheep” into his “narrow theological fold.”

Another newspaper accused Booth of being a “sensual, dishonest, sanctimonious and hypocritical scoundrel,” “brazen-faced charlatan,” “pious rogue,” “tub-thumper,” and “masquerading hypocrite”!

William and Bramwell Booth

Even the great Earl of Shaftesbury, a leader in the evangelical branch of the Church of England and an eminent social reformer, announced that after much study he was convinced the Salvation Army was clearly antichrist. One of the Earl’s admirers then revealed that in his own studies he had learned that the “number” of William Booth’s name added up to 666.

When Booth’s loyal oldest son showed him such newspaper attacks, the Salvation Army’s “General” would often shrug and reply: “Bramwell, fifty years hence it will matter very little indeed how these people treated us. It will matter a great deal how we dealt with the work of God.”

Booth and the Salvation Army went right on actively leading people to Christ, ministering to the material needs of individuals and promoting moral-social reform, all despite strong ongoing opposition. The Lord granted them not only the ability to do so, but also significant success in their ministries in spite of the enmity they faced.

The same will be true of us as we seek God’s help to respond with similar courage and faithfulness in carrying out our Christian ministries even when encountering marked resistance.      

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This and many other instructive, heartening incidents from the example of William Booth and a number of other outstanding believers are featured in my book Timeless Stories: God’s Incredible Work in the Lives of Inspiring Christians.

Copyright 2021 by Vance E. Christie

I was pleasantly surprised to receive a number of responses to my February 10, 2021, Perspective on “Why Read Full-length Historic Christian Biographies?” Several people kindly emailed to affirm the tremendous blessing and benefit such biographies have been to them. Some respondents mentioned a few or even several of their favorite biographies. Others requested a list of my top recommendations.

So here are some of my top-tier biography suggestions on a dozen outstanding servants of Christ during the last three centuries. Of course numerous other worthwhile biographies have been written about many other remarkable Christians from throughout Church History. Periodically in future Perspectives I’ll seek to share additional lists of some of my other high-ranking biography recommendations. Meanwhile, here are some great biographies with which people can get started.

The individuals featured here are simply listed in alphabetical order by their last names, rather than in any type of priority listing. I’ve included more than one quality biography for most of these subjects. These specific people have been selected for a variety of reasons, including their exceptional prominence and the extraordinary impact of their ministries. These particular biographies present some of the most enjoyable and spiritually-beneficial accounts of their lives and ministries.

William and Catherine Booth, Founders of The Salvation Army
William and Catherine Booth, Founders of The Salvation Army

1. William and Catherine Booth (1829-1912, 1829-1889), British Methodist evangelists and founders of The Salvation Army: The General Next to God: The Story of William Booth and The Salvation Army, by Richard Collier (Fontana/Collins, 1985). William and Catherine: The Life and Legacy of the Booths, Founders of The Salvation Army, by Trevor Yaxley with Carolyn Vanderwal(Bethany, 2003).

William Carey in middle age.

2. William Carey (1761-1834), British Baptist missionary to India, considered to be the father of the modern missionary movement: William Carey: “The Father of Modern Missions”, by S. Pearce Carey (Hodder & Stoughton, 1923; Wakeman, 2008). William Carey: Missionary Pioneer and Statesman, by F. Deauville Walker (Moody, 1951).

Fanny Crosby

3. Fanny Crosby (1820-1915), American hymnwriter. Blind from six weeks of age, she wrote nearly 9,000 hymns in her lifetime and became the world’s premiere hymnist of her era: Fanny J. Crosby: An Autobiography (Baker, 1995). Her Heart Can See, The Life and Hymns of Fanny J. Crosby, by Edith Blumhofer (Eerdmans, 2005). Fanny Crosby, by Bernard Ruffin (Pilgrim, 1976).

4. Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), American Congregational minister prominent in promoting America’s First Great Awakening (spiritual revival): Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography, by Iain H. Murray (Banner of Truth, 1996).

5. Billy Graham (1918-2018), American evangelist, world’s premiere evangelist of the second half of the 20th century: A Prophet with Honor: The Billy Graham Story, by William Martin (Morrow/Quill, 1991). Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham (Harper Collins/Zondervan, 1997).

Dwight L. Moody

6. Dwight Moody (1837-1899), American evangelist, world’s foremost evangelist of the second half of the 19th century: Moody: A Biography, by John Pollock (Baker/Christian Focus, 1997). They Called Him Mister Moody, by Richard Curtis (Eerdmans, 1967). The Life of Dwight L. Moody, by his son W.R. Moody (Barbour, 1985).

George Mueller
George Mueller

7. George Muller (1805-1898), German-born Brethren minister in Britain best known for his faith-based orphan ministry: George Muller: Delighted in God!, by Roger Steer (Shaw: 1981). George Muller of Bristol: His Life of Prayer and Faith, by Arthur T. Pierson (Kregel, 2000).

Charles Spurgeon
Charles Spurgeon

8. Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), British Baptist minister, the world’s premiere preacher of his day: Spurgeon, by Arnold Dallimore (Moody, 1984). Charles H. Spurgeon: London’s Most Popular Preacher, by W.Y. Fullerton (Moody, 1966).

Hudson Taylor
Hudson Taylor

9. Hudson Taylor (1832-1905), British missionary to China, founder of the non-denominational China Inland Mission:  Hudson Taylor: Gospel Pioneer to China, by Vance Christie (P&R, 2011). J. Hudson Taylor: A Man in Christ, by Roger Steer (OMF, 1991). Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, by Howard and Geraldine Taylor (Moody, 1989).

10. Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983), Hollander, Nazi concentration camp survivor, evangelist to the world: Corrie ten Boom, Her Story (The Hiding Place, Tramp for the Lord, Jesus Is Victor), Corrie’s three best-known autobiographical works in one volume (Inspirational Press, 1995). Corrie ten Boom: Her Life, Her Faith, by Carole C. Carlson (Revell/Spire, 1984).

11. John Wesley (1703-1791), Prominent evangelist in Britain’s 18th century Evangelical Revival, founder of Methodism: John Wesley, by John Pollock (Victor, 1989).

George Whitefield
George Whitefield

12. George Whitefield (1714-1770), British Anglican priest, used of God as the human sparkplug of Britain’s Evangelical Revival and America’s First Great Awakening: George Whitefield: God’s Anointed Servant in the Great Revival of the Eighteenth Century, by Arnold Dallimore (Crossway, 1990; Dallimore’s original comprehensive two-volume work on Whitefield is available from Banner of Truth). Memoirs of George Whitefield, by John Gillies (Pietan, 1993).

Most of these proffered biographies are of more-substantive length. Shorter biographies of all these individuals are also available, and doubtless would be of greater benefit for reading by children. But for adults the extra time and effort needed to read fuller accounts of these people’s lives are well worth the investment. Newer editions of several of these recommended books are no doubt available. Some of these works are now out of print but copies of them can still be found through various online booksellers.

Copyright 2021 by Vance E. Christie

We live in a day when many or perhaps even most people limit their reading to quick reads about the most current events. In some ways that is understandable. The amount of material and subjects coming at us on a daily basis through Facebook, Twitter, online news feeds, blogs and other sources can be rather overwhelming.

But if all we read are soundbite tweets or brief posts about only the latest breaking news or the hottest contemporary topics, we end up impoverishing ourselves through the limited focus and extent of our reading. Many truly-significant subjects require book-length rather than blog-length development to adequately address them. In addition, numerous people, events, and perspectives of the past are so important and enlightening that we can gain great benefit by reading at length about them too. And, in fact, we’ll be the losers if we don’t do so.

Those of you who kindly follow my writing blog know that it usually features “Perspectives” aimed at promoting interest in and benefit from historic Christian biography. Regularly I share short biographical sketches that I trust are interesting and spiritually profitable for our readers. But in this brief Perspective I’d especially like to encourage us as Christians to read full, book-length historic Christian biographies as part of our reading regimen. Here are four quick reasons why:

1. For our own spiritual profit and encouragement. As we read the life stories of great men and women of the Christian faith we are inspired and instructed in our own living and service for the Lord Jesus. Their outstanding examples encourage and challenge us in all areas of our personal and public lives, modeling how to integrate our Christianity into every aspect of life. I join those who testify that, after Scripture, Christian biography is one of the most beneficial and encouraging types of reading we can do to strengthen our spiritual lives.

Many contemporary believers have become discouraged and lethargic in their Christian lives and service just now, due to disheartening, deflating personal and ministry circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic and other difficulties in their life-situations. Without exception extraordinary Christians of the past faced extreme difficulties that needed to be overcome or simply worked around (though not removed). Their examples of unremitting faith, perseverance, diligence and dependence on the Lord through such adversity provide us with much-needed encouragement for such a challenging season as the one we find ourselves in presently.

2. To gain fuller knowledge of some of the truly outstanding servants of Christ in the history of the Church. There’s a primary reason why certain Christians in history have had books (sometimes many volumes) written about them—because their Christian devotion, service, vision and fruitfulness truly were extraordinary. Their personal lives, perspectives, public ministries and accomplishments were viewed as so remarkable, inspiring and beneficial that others were careful to preserve their life stories in biographies.

To me it doesn’t make sense for us to ignore altogether the lives and ministries of such devoted, capable servants of the Lord who were so mightily used of Him. Nor does it seem we should be content with nothing more than a short online summary of their lives. Rather, we do well to read full accounts of at least some such individuals, so as to gain much fuller understanding, appreciation and spiritual profit from their exceptional lives and service. Of course we won’t be able to read a full-length biography on every great Christian who has been written about. But we can at least make a point to read and benefit from a number of such biographies as we progress through life.

3. To gain a more-informed perspective on Christianity in the past and present. Christian biography is a great and enjoyable way to learn Church History. Reading straight history can sometimes be a bit daunting. But as we read accounts of notable Christians of the past, we often also learn much about the age in which they lived and served.  While we’re enjoying their life story, we’re simultaneously learning (without even needing to work at it) about the society and Church of their day. As we read about Christians in different eras, we gain a much fuller understanding of God’s powerful work throughout Church History. We also become acquainted with incredible trials and triumphs of Christ’s Church in the past about which we otherwise would remain oblivious. We learn that the Church of the past had both greater successes and failures than we previously realized.

Acquiring a fuller historic understanding of the Church helps us to better understand and evaluate the Church today. We’ll comprehend how we got to where we’re at. We’ll see that many of our current spiritual blessings and successes have come at least in part from the faithfulness and sacrifices of outstanding Christians who labored diligently and capably before us. We’ll be encouraged to see that we’ve learned from and overcome some of the mistakes of the Church in earlier generations. But we’ll also be convicted and humbled to realize that in other ways the modern Church has declined noticeably compared to the fervency, commitment and fruitfulness of the Church at some times in the past. And the good example of the earlier Church in those regards will help show us the way to recovering the ground that has been lost.

4. Simply for enjoyment! Well-written historic Christian biography makes for very enjoyable reading. We get drawn into the interesting, compelling story of a person’s life, and we want to keep reading to find out how things turned out for him or her. We become interested or even fascinated in the remarkable ways the Lord used such individuals for His glory and the good of countless people. We find ourselves gaining so much inspiration and benefit from a person’s life that it’s a joy and a privilege to continue on with a full consideration of his or her ministry. I often enjoy one biography of a person’s life so much that I end up reading a second or third account of his/her ministry because I’m eager to learn more about how God used him/her.

I hope for all these reasons (and other benefits to be gained) you’ll get started right away reading a book-length historic Christian biography. Perhaps you already know an exceptional Christian whose life story you would like to read. Maybe you’ll be interested in reading one or more of the book-length Christian biographies I’ve had the privilege of writing (as described at my writing website Or perhaps some of the shorter Perspectives I’ve posted on various other individuals will pique your interest in reading more about them. Often I’ve recommended quality biographies that others have written about them.

Happy, profitable reading to you!

Copyright 2021 by Vance E. Christie

William Booth as a Young Man

Recently I preached through the book of Daniel. The first half of that book of Scripture presents one inspiring instance after another of Daniel and his three faithful Jewish companions steadfastly obeying God under extremely threatening circumstances in pagan Babylon. Rather than compromising, they determined to fully obey the Lord, even if doing so resulted in their deaths! God honored their wholehearted commitment to Him, protected them from harm and brought great blessing to them. 

We also find such instructive models of determined, uncompromising obedience to the Lord in the lives of many outstanding Christians of the past, whether in the New Testament or subsequent Church History. An incident from the early Christian life of William Booth (1829-1912), who later went on to found and lead the Salvation Army, provides one such heartening example. 

Pawnshop in the 1800’s

William was apprenticed to a pawnbroker in his hometown of Nottingham, England, at age thirteen, after his father’s business failed. Young William’s income became crucial to the welfare of his family when his father died less than a year later. William came to saving faith in Jesus Christ at fifteen years of age. His conversion resulted in his having a strong desire and determination to obey God in every way. 

His commitment in that regard was soon put to the test when he began to feel uneasy about working on Sundays. The vast majority of nineteenth century British Christians believed the Bible taught that the Lord’s Day was to be strictly observed as a day of worship and rest rather than being given to work or secular recreation. Although the pawnshop where William worked officially closed at midnight on Saturday, the employees were often kept working without a break long into the early hours of Sunday morning. 

Artist’s Depiction of Young William Booth Preaching in the Open Air

Compelled by his conviction against working on Sundays, William informed his employer, a Mr. Eames, that he would no longer be able to continue work past midnight on Saturday. Eames was not impressed. In no uncertain terms he informed his young apprentice, ‘You can work with the rest of us until we shut up shop, or you can leave.’ When William stood strong in his determination not to work on Sunday, Eames promptly fired him! 

For choosing to live by his biblical convictions, William’s only source of income and his support for his family were summarily cut off. He found himself among the hordes of unemployed people in Nottingham at that time, with little likelihood of finding work. The streets were packed with individuals desperately searching for employment, each willing to wait in line for hours at the slightest glimmer of hope that the opportunity to work might come along. 

But William did not need to seek employment for long, for God soon brought about a remarkable turn of events. After just a few days, Mr. Eames realized he had lost his most valuable worker. William was reinstated and became the only employee at the pawnshop who was allowed to finish work at the stroke of midnight each Saturday.   

William Booth’s stouthearted determination to obey God no matter what the cost became a hallmark of his Christian life and teachings. Such determined obedience played a significant role in the remarkable success he had in his long, fruitful ministry career for Christ. 

We realize, of course, that careful obedience to the Lord sometimes does bring marked hardships and suffering to those who faithfully obey and serve Him. Hebrews 11:32-38, for instance, summarizes both the triumphs and the tragedies experienced by many of God’s faithful people in Bible times. But even when God doesn’t bring a timely, positive resolution to adversity which results from faithfully following Him, committed Christians still continue to obey Him. They also keep trusting Him to help them through the difficulty, to accomplish significant good through it, and to resolve the trying situation in His perfect time and way. When we continue to trust and obey under such challenging circumstances, even greater glory is brought to God and a stronger testimony is borne to others. 

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The true story concerning William Booth featured in this Perspective was gleaned from Trevor Yaxley’s worthwhile biography: William and Catherine, The Life and Legacy of the Booths, Founders of the Salvation Army (Bethany, 2003). Other uplifting and instructive incidents from the lives and ministries of the Booths may be found in two works I’ve written: Timeless Stories, God’s Incredible Work in the Lives of Inspiring Christians and Women of Faith and Courage, both of which are published by Christian Focus. 

If you have enjoyed and benefited from this blog post, I would sincerely appreciate your sharing it with your friends and acquaintances who could likewise profit from it. 

Copyright 2021 by Vance E. Christie