“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ”. 1 Corinthians 11:1
Today I want to briefly share with you a practice that Leah and I have cultivated and enjoyed as we have together pursued God and served Him in ministry. It is the discipline of reading Christian biographies. I call it a discipline in that, as with other Christian disciplines such as prayer, Bible study and fellowship, Christian biographies have often served to deepen and enrich our faith even as they inspire towards greater usefulness in the service of the Lord Jesus Christ. Allow me to share just how God has used the stories of the saints who have come before our time to minister to my soul.
A More Relatable Vision of Faithfulness
In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul admonishes his audience to “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ”. I prefer this translation (ESV) than the NIV, which replaces “imitators” with “follow my example“. Both translations express the idea, however the ESV captures the force of Paul’s thought more accurately. The Greek word used is the word mimetes. If it looks familiar that is because it is where we get our English word ‘mime’. It basically means to copy the behavior of someone. The believers living in ancient Corinth would have in the person of Paul a more relatable example in terms of fleshing out the Christian life. Those of us living in today’s world cannot always identify with Paul’s unique experiences. Studying the lives of much later believers brings their experiences more closer to home. We can more easily (not perfectly) relate to the struggles of an Elizabeth Elliot or a Martyn Lloyd Jones as they sought to serve God in their generation.
A More Trustworthy Example
I like to call my favorite Christian writers my “secondary mentors”. Certainly, these people can never take the place of those individuals whom God has allowed me to know up close and personal. Nevertheless, the secondary mentors (the ones who have passed into glory) have a notable advantage over my primary, contemporary mentors. They’ve already finished the course.
In an age of Christian celebritism, many believers allow themselves to become enamored with Christian leaders who may project a kind of godly character, but whose real character becomes exposed over time. As one who is as vulnerable to a fall as anyone else, I take particular interest in the lives of Christians who finished the race well. Their struggles and weaknesses aside, you’ll often discover a very deep piety developed over many years of personal suffering and the pursuit of intimacy with God.
A More Productive Use of Time
We can all do more reading, amen? Studies clearly show a link between good heath and avid readers. The problem is that many of us our eager readers…but we’re reading a lot of the wrong things! I can assure you that you cannot go wrong with a good Christian biography. It will become a precious source of entertainment as you find yourself transported into the world of Tozer, Moody and Mcleod-Bethune.
So, get off that twitter feed! Pick up a Christian biography and get inspired for the glory of Christ!