Have you ever been with a friend or a group of friends and felt the encouragement that comes from hearing their God story? This is one of the hidden gems of pastoral ministry as I am blessed by this almost every single day. Maybe you are dealing with a particular set of circumstances and struggles and in God’s providence you hear about someone else’s journey through a difficult season, and it lifts your spirit. You leave that conversation with a renewed vigor to stay faithful in the particular growth season to which God has carried you.
God began working before the foundation of the world. Stories of his hand in the hearts and homes of people are nothing new. Although we shouldn’t elevate it above digesting scripture or spending time in prayer/communication with our Father, reading can be an incredibly powerful spiritual discipline in our lives. I have to confess that I had mastered the ability to pass exams over books which I had never read through my high school and early college career. If you still aren’t impressed, remember this was before the days of THE GOOGLE. I could bore you with my manipulative and cunning strategies, but suffice it say that I was not better for them.
My personal journey with reading began in my second year of college. To the best of my memory, I didn’t read a book from start to finish until one of my best friends recommended that I read Victors by Stephen Ambrose. From that day forward I began a nose dive into the addiction of reading. It was a great new discovery for me that I could learn and even feel the realities of moments in history in ways similar to those who lived through it. I could sit at the feet of men and women who journeyed through great hardship and incredible victory. I was able to learn from them the lessons that only their stories, often from their mouths, could teach.
As I was going through my own journey of spiritual discovery during this season, God began to show me the spiritual blessings of reading of his great work throughout history. I began discovering the great stories of people who lived throughout history striving to follow Jesus. Although times change and cultures evolve, God is constant. Our human tendencies of sin and pride are constant as well. I found what felt like a fountain of great spiritual encouragement and solidarity in seeing God’s faithful work through the men and women who laid the foundation of the church. We have many stories ripe for discovery; from great missionaries who literally gave their lives as stewards of the gospel story, to pastors who fought through poverty and famine obediently pursuing the call God had placed on their homes.
One of the greatest blessings in my spiritual journey has been finding that I could be discipled by people like Augustine, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, St. Patrick, Martin Luther, William Carey, Martyn Lloyd Jones, and even more contemporary leaders such as D.A. Carson, John Piper, and Wayne Grudem…. to just name a few.
My encouragement to you is to grab a book and be encouraged by God’s work in history through faithful men and women that have come before us, struggled like us, and laid the foundation on which we stand.
Maybe you have a favorite that you could recommend to the others who pass by this post?