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Special Topic: Habits of the Useful Life

Over the past couple of years, I've taken a greater interest in reading Christian biographies. I've come to think of these individuals as our 21st Century "Cloud of Witnesses" (to borrow a concept from the Bible book of Hebrews, chapter 12, verse 2). Perhaps you too will find them encouraging, motivating, and worthy of emulation as I did.
Quotes from Our 21st Century Cloud of Witnesses:
As a 15 year old (and for the rest of his life), Hudson Taylor maintained "the habits of prayer and Bible study in which he had been trained from childhood" (p. 63, in Hudson Taylor in Early Years: Growth of a Soul by Howard Taylor, OMF International, 1911).

"Daily reading the Bible is the most stabilizing habit in my life" (Ben Peterson, p. 27, in Road to Glory: The 1972 Olympic Journey of Ben and John Peterson by Ben Peterson, Camp of Champs Publications, 2015).


"A simple layman armed with Scripture is to be believed above a pope or a council without it" (Martin Luther, p. 103, in Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther by Roland Bainton, Hendrickson Publishers, 1950).

"[His mother] gave Dietrich [Bonhoeffer] his brother Walter's Bible. For the rest of his life he used it for daily devotions" (As a German solider, Walter died after only two weeks on the battlefield of France.) (p. 39, in Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas, Thomas Nelson, 2010).

"Martin [Burnham] played William Carey of England" quoting him in a drama: 'From the beginning God gave me the desire to know exactly what his Word said... As I continued my study and meditation on his Word, I could not help but be impressed with the fact that we, as believers, were simply not doing all that God had commanded.'" Mrs. Burnham, in an autobiography of her husband's death as a missionary pilot, observed, "Martin could have been describing his own upbringing, his study of the Scriptures, and his personal passion as well as William Carey's" (p. 26-27, in In the Presence of My Enemies, by Gracia Burnham, Tyndale House Publishers, 2003).

"At all levels [John Newton's] ministry was a powerful one, sustained by his private prayers. [His] secret was prayer. His humble, grateful, confessional, and intercessory prayer life kept him in a close relationship with his Lord and drove every aspect of his private thoughts and public ministry" (p. 269, in John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace, by Jonathan Aitken, Crossway Books, 2007).

"Since boyhood, [Jim Elliot] learned that the Book of all books is the Bible. Toward the end of the summer of 1950, Jim replied [to those] who wondered if perhaps his ministry might not be more effective in the United States: 'I dare not stay home while Quichuas [South American Indians] perish. What if the well-filled church in the homeland needs stirring? They have the Scriptures, Moses, and the prophets, and a whole lot more. Their condemnation is written on their bank books and in the dust on their Bible covers'" (p. 6, 10, in Through Gates of Splendor, by Elizabeth Elliot, Hendrickson Publishers, 1956).

"Whenever I (Peter Rumachik, imprisioned for 18+ years in a Soviet gulag for preaching the Gospel) was arrested, I was always carrying a Bible, but I would only get as far as the prison gates before it would be confiscated. Therefore, it was a real help to me that I had loved God very much in my youth and had actively studied the Word of God so that it richly permeated my heart. This is what I lived on: the Word of God that was in my heart" (Peter Rumachik, p. 34, in A Path Not Lined with Roses, by Peter, Pavel, and Luba Rumachik, Baptist International Evangelical Ministries, 1999).

Forty-one year old Adoniram Judson wrote the tract The Threefold Cord for his Burmese converts. The first cord was secret prayer, then self-denial, and, finally, doing good (p. 389-390, in To the Golden Shore: The life of Adoniram Judson, by Courtney Anderson, Judson Press, 1956). In his deepest despair after the death of the first of his three wives and several of their children, "his Bible under his arm, he went over the hills behind [his home], deep into the tiger-infested jungle, until he found a place that suited him. Here he began spending his days reading, reflecting, praying" (p. 390). Extra: "His health was good. He had just turned forty-three, but he looked much younger than his age. [H]e took long morning walks to which he credited his health" (p. 404).

William Carey wrote that those who would be qualified to serve in India must be "men of sound knowledge of the Word and the Gospel. Let them above all be instant in prayer." He continued, "We must pray, for without the Spirit all is vain" (p. 69-70, in William Carey, by S. Pearce Carey, The Wakeman Trust, 1923). Carey later wrote, "Prayer, secret, fervent, expectant, lies at the root of all personal godliness" (p. 240).



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