As I look through my overflowing bookshelves, I see few names repeated as frequently as John Piperâ€™s. I was first introduced to Piperâ€™s writings in a college class taught by Mark Spansel. (At the time, I worked for his Administrative Assistant, who joked that the class should have been titled â€œMy Love Affair with John Piper and Jonathan Edwards.â€ Very trueâ€¦.However, the class retained itâ€™s original title – Dynamics of Spiritual Life.) One of the required textbooks for this class was Future Grace. This book had a significant impact on my life that semester, and beyond! The binding is broken at several chapters, as I read, and reread, those portions over and over! Since then few authors have impacted my thinking like John Piper. So, when I discovered that his wife had also written a few books, I was more than a little interested. I received Noel Piperâ€™s latest book, Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God,as a â€œjust becauseâ€ present from my sweet husband a few months ago, but have just now had the opportunity to begin (and finish) reading it.
I love biographies! (Christian biographies specifically.) It is always such an encouragement to me to see how the Lord can use ordinary people in some extraordinary ways. I always come away feeling so inspired, and determined to work harder in my relationship with the Lord. In the introductory pages, Piper says:
â€œRemember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God.Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.â€(Hebrews 13:7-8)Thatâ€™s why I read biography. To remember people whoâ€™ve led the way on the path with God, to consider their lives, and to imitate their faith. Because we have the same God, and he is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
â€œthe abode of order and neatness, of peace and comfort, of harmony and love, to all its inmates, and of kindness and hospitality to the friend, the visitant and the stranger.â€
â€œknew how to make [her children] regard and obey her cheerfully, without loud angry words, much less heavy blowsâ€¦.Her system of discipline was begun at a very early age and it was her rule to resist the first, as well as every subsequent exhibition of temper or disobedience in the childâ€¦wisely reflecting that until a child will obey his parents he can never be brought to obey God.â€
Sarahâ€™s most important role in life was that of a child of God. She loved her Lord, and was, described by Jonathan to be â€œof a wonderful sweetness, calmness, and universal benevolence of mind.â€ She â€œmade it her rule to speak well of all, so far as she could with truth and justice to herself and others.â€ She desired to raise godly children, and she and Jonathan held them with a â€œholy loosenessâ€ in an age where death was always very near.
They were all too aware of the nearness of physical death. But the death of the body was not what called forth prayers for and pleas to their children. The imminence of physical death made them fear not the removal of life, but the absence of life eternal.Â
â€œBut actually she had undergone thirty-four years of preparation. God doesnâ€™t waste anything, and her whole life so far had prepared her to do missions in ways that wouldnâ€™t have been thought of by missions training programs available to her.â€Â
â€œShe realized that prayer is not necessarily strengthened by being physically present in the place one is praying about. On the contrary, perhaps one prays more intently far away.â€
â€œHow great was the sacrifice my parents were making in allowing their daughter to go off alone to a place thousands of miles away, knowing full well that in all probability they would never see her again. How much I have to thank them for that they did not try to hold me back.â€Â
missionaries arenâ€™t the only ones who may lean too heavily on their own skill, persistence, and charisma. Any of us might depend so much on our skills, diligence, and seniority that we forget Jesusâ€™ words in Matthew 6:31-33, â€œTherefore do not be anxious, saying â€˜what shall we eat?â€™ or â€˜What shall we drink?â€™ or â€˜What shall we wear?â€™ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.â€ Whether He provides for us through our hard work or through the gifts of missions supporters, we have nothing without Him.Â
â€œI was saved by Jesus. I could bow only before God, the Father of my Savior.â€Â
The steady reading of Scripture in the previous months, the careful listening to doctrinal teachingâ€¦had prepared the way. For years the Holy Spirit had been opening my eyes to a sense of sin, convicting me of my unworthiness before a Holy God. But now came the wonderful gift of repentance. God poured out His grace in forgiveness, in cleansing from all the uncleanness of sin, and in revealing, at this time, the amazing wonder of the friendship of Christ.Â
I tended to call certain sins weaknesses – or human frailties – and thereby excuse them. It was nicer to speak of exaggerationâ€¦than to speak of lying. Yet I felt as if I was practicing mental dishonesty in making such excuses or myselfâ€¦.Â
Perhaps the deepest underlying personal factor in Helenâ€™s tension was the need she felt to do her very best and, if possible to be the very best. God called her to Africa where that was not possibleâ€¦. Perhaps that is an issue for some of us – struggling with the reality that God ahs called us to do less than we want to do or less than what we believe is our best. That can happen in any setting. For me, itâ€™s been especially true in my years with small children – â€œI got a college degree for this?â€ Maybe our problem is the way we see ourselves. Maybe we think more highly of ourselves than we ought.