Gleanings from Biographies (part one)

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I enjoy reading biographies and think they can be very instructive in the Christian life (See: “Biography as a form of Discipleship” in “Discipleship.”). In the posts that will follow, I am going to look at the lives of Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, and Martyn Lloyd-Jones. These famous and godly preachers of yesteryear have much to teach all Christians. I will be looking at common biblical traits that these men share.

Different Levels of Gifting, Same Stewardship

Lloyd-Jones had a profound memory, “it was as if he was unraveling an endless ball of wool.”[1] Edwards had a keen intellect being the foremost of American thinkers. Spurgeon was “the Prince of Preachers.” As we can see by these small examples, these men were especially gifted by God but they were not merely gifted, they were also faithful with the gifts God entrusted to them. We will all be held accountable for what God has entrusted to us but praise God I am not held accountable for the intellect of Edwards. That, however, in no way clears me from being faithful. These men were not merely amazingly gifted but amazingly faithful. We may not be able to preach like Spurgeon but we can seek by God’s empowering to be faithful like him.

We are all stewards entrusted with different amounts, some 30, 60, and a 100 fold, but we must all be faithful (Matt. 13:8; 25:14-30; Luke 12:35-48; 1 Peter 4:10). I have not been entrusted with the same stewardship as the men of whom we are seeking to emulate, and it is highly unlikely that you have either. However, these men were not merely gifted, they were all entirely dedicated to the Lord (we will turn to this in more detail shortly). Michael Jordan, arguably the best basketball player of all time, still worked hard. What made him so great was that he was not just talented but also tough in his discipline. The men we are looking at were gifted, there is no doubt, but they were also incredibly faithful. So the first thing we see to emulate from them is their faithfulness.

They were Consumed with Gods glory

All three of these men were greatly concerned for the glory of God, even if this desire came to fruition differently in the lives of each man. They did not all, like Edwards, write The End for Which God Created the World, but they all would have agreed with what he wrote and desired, like him, to glorify God with their utmost ability.

It is said that though “Edwards was intellectually brilliant and theologically commanding, his true greatness lay in his indefatigable zeal for the glory of God.”[2] Likewise, “The chief element of Spurgeon’s entire career” was not his preaching, or anything else; it “was his walk with God.”[3] This was also central to Lloyd-Jones: “A God-centered theology was not an addition to his personal life, it was central to it… His jealousy for God’s glory… flowed from his knowing something of being in the presence of God.”[4] In fact, Lloyd-Jones, in concern for God’s glory, told Iian H. Murray, his biographer, that the biography should be done “for God’s glory only.”[5] 

We should, like these men, seek in whatever we do to glorify God. We must, however, remember that we are all gifted differently and thus the route we take may be different from that of these three men. We are all called to different things, but we are all called to seek to glorify God in whatever we do.

[1] Iian H. Murray,  D. M. Lloyd-Jones: The Fight of Faith, (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009), 376 see also 406n1, 453, 759.

[2] Steven J. Lawson, The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards (Lake Mary, Florida: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2008), 4.

[3] Arnold Dallimore, Spurgeon: A New Biography, (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1999), 177.

[4] Murray, The Fight of Faith, 764-65.

[5] Ibid., 729 see also xxiv.