Throughout history, the lives of spiritual giants—though full of struggle, sin, and weakness—magnify the glory and majesty of God. Their lives and teachings are full of messages that are still profoundly relevant. Their voices live on. And their stories should be told and read today.
In his book, 21 Servants of Sovereign Joy: Faithful, Flawed, and Fruitful, John Piper explores the lives of twenty-one leaders from church history, offering a close look at their perseverance amidst opposition, weakness, and suffering. Let the endurance of these faithful but flawed saints inspire you toward a life of Christ-exalting courage, passion, and joy.
Not everyone enjoys biographies, but like Piper, I gain a lot of encouragement and insight from reading about faithful Christians in history. I’ve needed 21 Servants of Sovereign Joy. The sad state of the nation, the disappointing response of Christians to current events, and my ongoing read of Edward Snowden’s Permanent Record have left me feeling a degree of melancholy.
Whatever the future holds for the American church, we are not the first to suffer if that is our fate. We will not be pioneers of ridicule or persecution. Jesus warned his first-century disciples:
“Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves. Beware of them, because they will hand you over to local courts and flog you in their synagogues. You will even be brought before governors and kings because of me, to bear witness to them and to the Gentiles. But when they hand you over, don’t worry about how or what you are to speak. For you will be given what to say at that hour, because it isn’t you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father is speaking through you.
“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to another. For truly I tell you, you will not have gone through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. A disciple is not above his teacher, or a slave above his master. It is enough for a disciple to become like his teacher and a slave like his master. If they called the head of the house ‘Beelzebul,’ how much more the members of his household!” (Matthew 10:16-25)
As circumstances seem to progress for the worse, I’m mindful of my increasing need to spend more and more time praying and studying Scripture. My soul needs edifying Christian content in books and sermons more than secular entertainment, cable news, or mindless Internet browsing.
I will heartily recommend John Piper’s 21 Servants of Sovereign Joy. Each of the twenty-one biographies is relatively short and easy to digest in a single evening. Sincere believers will likely find plenty in these men’s stories to inspire and upon which to meditate.