There are many ways to learn, personal experiences of victory and failure are among the most lasting. Mentoring is another way to learn. It is life on life interaction. Learning from other people’s victories and failures can save us a lot of personal hardship if we are open and observant. Some of my best mentors have been people I have never actually met, in person. I have met them through the pages of books people wrote about them or by stories told, oral history, about people who have made a difference in the world. These are not all famous people, but ones who have changed the lives of others directly or indirectly in noticeable ways.
The biography of Hudson Taylor had a profound effect on me when I was a young follower of Jesus. The personal sacrifices he made for the cause of Christ, the cross cultural challenges and sicknesses he endured all laid a foundation for me as I later faced many of the same sorts of challenges as a 20 something missionary in Africa.
When I was sick with typhoid fever I remembered Hudson’s suffering from typhus. I honestly thanked God for the typhoid, in large part because it was not typhus! I gained courage because if he could live through that, then I could get through this!
Another biography God used to count the cost of following Christ was Shadow of the Almighty about Jim Elliot who was killed in Ecuador by the Auca indians in the early 1950’s. His journal entries freed me to journal and talk with God from my most honest place. I did not have to put on airs with God. He knew it already.
I also learned, as his quote implies, that living for Christ, no matter what, is worth it! “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose” has acted as a sort of anchor for me for decades when I have been tempted to give-up in the face of huge obstacles. Jim Elliot gave his life, I can live mine to glorify God with eternity in view.
These are only two examples of people who have influenced me deeply even though I never met them. Pondering how we are changed by biographies I came to the prayerful conclusion: it is because we are all created in the image of God. Regardless of language, culture or race, we all reflect God in similar, yet different ways. These once living examples can encourage and sometimes even show us the way.
Their written record continues to influence others for generations to come!
The really awesome thought that came to me next, was knowing that God created each one of us. There are billions of us on the planet, each of us made uniquely, in the image of God! Differently. We each reflect something different about God!
What does that tell us about God?!
I can not grasp the majesty, wisdom, power or the imagination of our creator!
Have you ever read a biography? What do you remember? What did you “take away” that has been useful in your life? How has learning from other people’s lives taught you more about God?
Finally, What do people learn about God when they spend time with you?
If you ask around I am sure you will be surprised to find they learn much more good than you might think. No need to have a biography written about you. Just living the life means more than you will ever know this side of eternity.
*The photos this week are stock photos from the web.