My favorite books and the most inspiring Ebenezer stories I know are biographies of ordinary, but faithful women who did extraordinary things because they followed an extraordinary God (thanks to Noel Piper for that characterization). The lives of these women have served as encouragement, and their examples have provided me with pictures of how to live my life as a Christian woman. Reading the story of a life teaches me in a way that a “how-to” book never could. Life stories show me the way by showing me a life well lived in faith and service. These women have become for me some of the Hebrews 12:1 “cloud of witnesses,” cheering me on to “run with endurance the race that is set before me.”
John Piper wrote, “Hebrews 11 is a divine mandate to read Christian biography. The unmistakable implication of the chapter is that, if we hear about the faith of our forefathers (and mothers), we will "lay aside every weight and sin" and "run with perseverance the race that is set before us" (12:1). If we asked the author, "How shall we stir one another up to love and good works?" (10:24), his answer would be: "Through encouragement from the living (10:25) and the dead" (chap. 11). Christian biography is the means by which "body life" cuts across the generations."
When I feel weak and tired, I think of Gladys Aylward trekking across the mountains in
Piper also wrote, "Good biography is history and guards us against chronological snobbery (as C.S. Lewis calls it). It is also theology - the most powerful kind - because it bursts forth from the lives of people like us. It is also adventure and suspense, for which we have a natural hunger. It is psychology and personal experience, which deepen our understanding of human nature (especially ourselves). Good biographies of great Christians make for remarkably efficient reading."
Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order. I’m sure there are many, many more worthy of our attention. If you have a favorite, please share it.
A Chance to Die: The Biography of Amy Carmichael by Elisabeth Elliot
My Heart in His Hands: Ann Judson of
A Passion for the Impossible: The Life of Lilias Trotter by Miriam Huffman Rockness
Though Lions Roar: The Story of Helen Roseveare, Missionary Doctor to the
More Love to Thee: The Life and Letters of Elizabeth Prentiss edited by George L. PrentissThe Charlotte Mason Story by Essex Cholmondley
Good Seed by Mariana Slocum and M.B. Steele
And the Word Came with Power: How God Met and Changed a People Forever by Joanne Shetler
The Small Woman by Alan Burgess (about Gladys Aylward)
Nothing Daunted: The Story of Isobel Kuhn by Gloria Repp
Faithful Women and their Extraordinary God by Noel Piper