5 Must-Read Biographies February 22, 2015

W. Robertson Nicoll, a famous author in his own right, once said, “I have for years read every biography I could lay my hands on, and not one has failed to teach me something.”  When he died there were more than 5,000 biographies found in his personal library!  Perhaps we have too quickly assumed that the reading of biography was simply reading for hobby, when in fact it is reading for help.  The lives of great men become our classroom; their successes and failures our teachers.

It is understandable that one man’s “favorite” is not always another man’s favorite.  The timing of the reading of a book is often most important.  At many junctures in my life God has used a biography to shed some light on my own path.  As you read the life of George Mueller of Bristol you discover that biographies were a key in his own experience with the Lord.

My habit has been to season other reading with some regular reading of biography.  This “light” reading has often brought great blessing to me.  The following list is not exhaustive in any way.  It is personal.  Here are biographies that have encouraged me and I recommend them with the hope that they may help you as well…

  • Borden of Yale by Mrs. Howard Taylor

I read this classic for the first time when I was twenty-five years of age – the same age that William Borden finished his course on this earth.  It profoundly affected my life.  Here was a life of “no reserve…no retreat…and no regret.”  The world called Borden a fool but this young man had learned that “he that doeth the will of God abideth forever” (1 John 2:17).  The book is full of Scriptural nuggets (like the footnote on page 122!) that are worth the price of the book.

(For years this book was out of print.  Crown Christian Publications has now reprinted the book in its original format through their Crown Christian Classics Series.  You may order this and other titles here.)

  • George Muller of Bristol by A.T. Pierson

Pierson’s account of this man of faith is rich.  The author gives an overview of Muller’s remarkable life, but also spiritual observations and reflections about the principles that his life was built upon.  This is the kind of book that you don’t just read quickly.  Read it meditatively.  Ponder on a few pages during your daily quiet time.  Pray your way through it.  God’s way is revealed “from faith to faith” (Romans 1:17).  Allow this man’s example of faith to encourage your own!

  • Abandoned to God by David McCaslandphoto

Millions regularly read Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest but few know the life behind it.  McCasland tells the story of Chambers from Scotland to London.  He records the travels and ministry of this Bible teacher in America and Japan.  The book shows the work of his Bible Institute and final war-time labors with the YMCA in Egypt.  The title of the book is enough reason to recommend it!  Chambers truly was a man Abandoned to God.

  • All Things for Good – The Steadfast Fidelity of Stonewall Jackson by J. Steven Wilkins

It is not just the lives of pastors and missionaries that make a difference.  Biographies of men like William Wilberforce and Winston Churchill have made a deep impact on me.  One such story is the life of General Thomas J. Jackson.  This book is full of military strategy and historical interest, but the greatest portion relates to the Christian character found in this gentle man.  The record of his last moments and final words will stay with you.  He lived and died by Romans 8:28.

  • The Shadow of the Broad Brim by Richard Ellsworth Day

Like so many good books I have read through the years, this volume was reprinted and recommended to me by my Pastor, Clarence Sexton.  His affection for Charles Spurgeon has been contagious.  Day’s biographies of Spurgeon, Moody, Finney, John Jasper and others will stir your heart.  The present recommendation is one of the finest surveys of the life of “the prince of preachers” that has ever been penned.

Good biography is both instructional and inspirational.  While I enjoy reading all types of books, I most enjoy reading biography because of what it does for my heart.  The story of God working in and through others stirs my soul to believe Him for more in my own life.  My prayer is that these noble lives will affect yours as well.

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