Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce

In my previous post, I wrote of the importance of reading Christian biographies.  What I plan to do over the next few days is to share some of the biographies which the Lord has used to inspire, challenge and teach me over the years.  Typically, I will do this every Monday, but for this week, I will share some of them with you in between the other posts praying that the Lord will be pleased to use them to bless you too even as He has used them to blessed me.

I will start with William Wilberforce.  I do so simply because my wife and I just finished re-watching the movie Amazing Grace (released in 2006) which is based on Wilberforce particularly on his fight for the abolition of slave trade in Great Britain.  If you have high-speed internet, you can watch this movie for FREE online.

 

Eric Metaxas as well as John Piper wrote wonderful biographies on William Wilberforce.  I highly commend them to you.  The one by Metaxas is entitled, Amazing Grace:  William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery.  Piper’s is entitled, Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce.  I hope you will get a copy of one or both of these for yourself.

William Wilberforce was a man of great courage, tenacity and endurance.  Though there were discouraging moments in his life when he would have been tempted to give up the “fight,” he courageously kept on fighting for his cause and the Lord granted him success in the end.  He was blessed to have people like John Newton by his side encouraging him to keep going.  The move to abolish slave trade was near and dear to Newton’s heart as well. For many years, he was the captain of an African slave ship.  He lived a very grotesque life steeped in sin.  But by the grace of God, he was later converted and became a minister of the very gospel he once despised.  He authored the famous hymn, Amazing Grace whose melody (some believe) was taken from a West African sorrow chant which some of the slaves on Newton’s ship would have sung.  Watch Wintley Phipps talk about that in this video below:

 

Kevin DeYoung blogged on William Wilberforce and concluded his post with the following words:

In Revelation 13 John warns of a terrible beast who is allowed to make war on God’s people. Saints will be taken captive and destroyed. That’s the reality John outlines in verse 10. But the response to such antagonism is not to retreat but to entrench. “Here is a call for the endurance and the faith of the saints.” Some of us may be called to accomplish great things in the cause of Christ like Wilberforce.  Others will be called to endure great trials and suffering and even persecution on account of Christ.  All of us, in a world often unfriendly and unsympathetic to genuine Christian faith, are called to perseverance and faithfulness. There is no hope, no holiness, and no influence without it.

Praise the Lord for His amazing grace given to us through Jesus Christ.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace those fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believed!

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

Mining For Gold: What I Have Learned From Reading Christian Biographies

It was Dr. David Martyn Lloyd Jones who said:  “Nothing is more profitable, after the reading of the Bible itself and books that help us to understand it, than the reading of biography or autobiography of a great Christian man (or woman)” – parenthesis added.  There is certainly great wisdom in that because it is Scriptural.  Hebrews 13:7 tells us:  “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” 

I commend to you the following essay entitled, “Mining For God:  What I Have Learned From Reading Christian Biographies” by Steven J. Cole.

Here is a brief summary of the essay.  Cole writes:

It’s a gold mine available to all but mined by few.  The pressures of our fast-lane lives crowd out the time for settling down with the greats of the past.  What can they teach me about problems I face?  Plenty!  I’ve found that the mine is rich and worth the effort many times over.

Then he goes on to talk of four specific ways that reading Christian biographies has helped him.  I will just give you the points and some excerpts of what Cole himself says:

HERITAGE:  Christian biographies give me a sense of my place in the Christian drama

Reading Christian biographies has helped me appreciate my spiritual roots.  It helps me put our times and my particular circumstances in perspective.  It makes me realize that I am carrying the torch handed to me by those who went before, and that I must hand it off intact to those who come after me.

MODELING:  Christian biographies give me great examples to follow

We learn by watching models who “flesh out” Christian principles in their daily lives.  When I was younger in the faith, I wanted someone to disciple me.  I tried several different men, but it never seemed to work out the way I had hoped.  But in a very real sense, I have been discipled by some of the greatest Christians who have ever lived, by reading their biographies.

SPIRITUALITY AND DOCTRINE:  Christian biographies give me theological perspective and balance

We are all limited by the fact that we are creatures of our time and culture.  We tend to view issues from the grid we almost unconsciously absorb from the theological and social climate in which we come to Christ and begin to grow.  It’s as if we’re born in the forest and start walking, not quite sure where all the various trails come from or lead to.  Reading Christian biographies is like climbing a high mountain so that you can get a feel for the lay of the land.

HUMANITY:  Christian biographies give me an understanding of people and myself

If you read more honest biographies…, you will discover that God has used some very rough instruments.  You find that the great strengths of some of the giants were also the flip side of great weaknesses and blind spots.  Men and women who were unswerving in their commitment to Christ were sometimes stubborn and ran roughshod over people.  And yet God used them greatly!…

…God did significant things with these imperfect men and women.  Thousands of lives have been changed.  In some cases, the history of nations and of western civilization has been altered through these godly, yet very human, instruments.  Maybe there’s hope that God can use even me!

I highly commend this essay to you.  But much more so, I commend all the good Christian biographies out there to you.  Read them and learn from them.  Let God inspire, challenge and teach you through them.  May you see the amazing grace of God working through imperfect and ordinary people to do great and extraordinary things to His glory and the blessing of His people among the nations!  One of my seminary professors, Dr. Hywel Jones used to say, “God draws straight lines with crooked sticks.”  However “crooked,” God can use us if we are willing to be used by Him.  That’s a valuable lesson and encouragement that you will most certainly glean from reading Christian biographies!