As a young man in college, trying to figure out how to live out my faith, I began reading the biographies of various preachers, missionaries, and church leaders. As I did, I started to notice some common patterns.
First, these tended to be people with a vision. Jim Elliott had a vision to preach the gospel to people who had never heard it before. John Knox prayed for the reformation of Scotland lest he "die". Eric Liddell was so focused on mission work in China that he walked away from athletic stardom.
Second, they all tended to go through a kind of "wilderness wandering" period. Luther spent a year holed up in Wartburg castle. Knox spent more than a decade in exile from Scotland. David spent years being pursued by Saul. Again and again, these men of vision had to put their dreams on hold while they waited through circumstances that seemed to be against them.
Third, their stories showed me that none of them acted alone. As someone who had cut his teeth on the American ideal of the solitary hero who strides into town at high noon, I expected these "great men" to raise themselves up by their bootstraps and change the world by sheer force of will. Nothing could have been further from the truth. They were often weak, fearful, reactionary, indecisive, unsure of themselves, and in need of rescue or correction by others. This realization was a blow to my impulse toward hero worship, but it helped me to begin seeing God as the real hero of these men's stories.
I regret to say that in recent years I've neglected this practice of reading the biographies of godly men and women. That's why I'm personally excited to begin digging into the Godly Men series of books which we just released.
The Godly Men series proper is a growing set of thick volumes which explore church history through the lens of the "doctrines of grace." Volume One, Foundations of Grace, looks at each of the biblical authors and examines what they taught with respect to the doctrines of grace. Volume Two, Pillars of Grace, does the same with post-biblical figures such as the apostolic fathers, the apologists, the Medieval scholastics, and the Protestant Reformers. Future volumes will continue this survey into modern times.
In addition to this series, there are also a number of short, focused biographies called Godly Men Profiles. These explore the lives of "godly men" through the lens of a defining characteristic, such as Martin Luther's "Heroic Boldness," John Calvin's "Expository Genius," John Knox's "Mighty Weakness," George Whitefield's "Evangelistic Zeal," Jonathan Edwards' "Unwavering Resolve," Isaac Watts' "Poetic Wonder," and Charles Spurgeon's "Gospel Focus."
All these biographical works are available individually, so be sure to pick up the ones you find most interesting—or get all nine for one low price. You'll be amazed what you can learn from these men's stories.