Do you enjoy reading biographies? I’ve found them instructive and inspiring. Especially in discovering the many obstacles that famous, accomplished individuals had to overcome to achieve greatness. Things that matter, things that last, rarely come easily.
I considered writing the story of my first car, but didn’t want to do an auto-biography. If I were to write my own biography, I fear its only value would be as a sleep aid. The kind of book that, once you put it down, you can’t pick it up. So I stick with other people’s biographies.
Essentially a biography tells someone’s history: Where and when they were born; if they’re deceased, where and when and how they died; and most important, what happened to them in between. The exciting ones captivate our attention. But considering our personal stories – our histories – from God’s perspective, they become His story in us.
While serving as publications director for CBMC, a marketplace ministry, one of my jobs was writing and editing a magazine. Many of the articles were profiles, kind of mini-biographies. I enjoyed learning how God had worked in the lives of the people I interviewed, including their marriages, families, and professional careers. Each time it became evident it wasn’t just their story – it was God’s story being worked out through them.
One was Gerald, an African-American whose encounters with racial discrimination ultimately shifted from bitterness into an attitude of thanking God for the adversity he had gone through. He became pastor of a prominent church in the South. Then there was Albert, who experienced the horrors of World War II while growing up in the Netherlands. He endured many other hardships, all of which eventually drew him to Jesus Christ, transforming him into a man whose life has become an inspiration for thousands.
And there was Jerry, whose history with God involved a very personal, amazing link with the World Trade Center towers leading up to the events of 9/11, twice finding his life spared through very unusual, providential circumstances.
Biblical accounts tell us God’s story in the lives of many men and women, starting with Adam and Eve, progressing through the likes of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Ruth, David, Daniel, even a prostitute named Rahab. In the New Testament we see His story becoming Jesus’ story, manifested in the lives of Joseph and Mary, Peter, John, Barnabas, Paul, Timothy, Priscilla and Aquila, and many others.
The 11th chapter of Hebrews presents a magnificent parade of people of faith, including many listed above. But we don’t have to search or look too far to see examples of God’s work in someone’s life. All we have to do is look in the mirror.
Most of us aren’t famous, and even if our stories aren’t particularly dramatic, we should each be able to recall examples of how the Lord has worked in and through our lives and circumstances, especially during times of difficulty and adversity. It seems that every minute of every day He is busily molding and shaping us into the men, women and young people He wants us to be – and tough times are often His tool of choice. He has a unique plan and purpose for us all, which He intends to fulfill. In the throes of hardship, we tend to pay closer attention.
Philippians 1:6 sums it up this way: “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” A bit later, the apostle Paul observes, “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). This means He knows what He’s doing, He’s going to get it done, and He’s doing it very, very well.
Recently I finished editing a book that a friend has written on God’s faithfulness. He’s compiled stories from men and women recounting an incredible variety of ways the Lord has worked in their lives, including many times when if He hadn’t responded miraculously, just in time, all hope would have been lost.
As we go through life, we’re inclined to think it’s all on us, that as poet William Ernest Henley wrote in “Invictus,” we are “the master of my fate…the captain of my soul.” But the Bible reaches a very different conclusion. Because as Ephesians 2:10 declares, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”