Lindsay Parks is rendering a great service to all by his articles which relate the background of many hymns which we hold dear. History serves to link us with the past and afford us guidance for the future. There was a generation of young people who received gifts at Sunday school prize givings and other occasions. These gifts were frequently biographies of some of the great men and women who pioneered and lived for God. The lives of Christians such as George Mueller, John and Betty Stam, Adoniram Judson of Burma, R. C. Chapman of Barnstable, Hudson Taylor, Jim Elliot, Amy Carmichael, C. T. Studd and the Cambridge Seven, William Borden of Yale, T. E. Wilson (Angola Beloved), and others were devoured by young readers. What is the value of reading about the lives of men and women from a century ago? Their lives were not perfect and some of them may even have differed with assembly teaching in some areas. Yet, an appreciation of their lives accomplished a number of vital things in young, formative minds.
Christian character is built by time spent alone with God, allowing His Word to mold and make us. Yet, the influence of others who serve as role models cannot be discounted. Some role models are available to us in the local assembly. Others are found in our heritage. The courage and virtue of Amy Carmichael, the gracious manner of R. C. Chapman, the faith and prayer life of George Mueller, and the heartache and trials of Adoniram Judson of Burma leave indelible impressions on the spiritual matrix of a young believer. True spirituality is not imitating a past generation of worthies, but it can be motivated by them.
William Borden of Yale left a family fortune to preach the gospel. C. T. Studd turned his back on fame and fortune to tell the lost of Christ, giving away the money which he had and trusting God. Consideration of these lives brings eternal values into focus (Heb 11:13-15). David Livingston blazed a trail through Africa with his motto being “forward,” whatever the cost. Earthly things take on a different value when we see the values which motivated others for God.
Some buried wives and children in foreign soil, counting the cost of following Christ (Matt 16:24-26). Others labored for years with little visible result, esteeming the value of one soul worth years of labor.
Who can read about that fateful day, December 8, 1934 when the Stams, leaving a small infant alone in their home, were led out to be martyred in China, and not be stirred with their vision? Can you read about Jim Elliot and the vision he had to reached the unreached in remote Ecuador and not “catch” something of his zeal and devotion?
An army of men and women have left fortunes, home, and family to take the message of the gospel to the remotest stretches of God’s green (and not so green) earth. If we neglect the awareness of these lives and their sacrifices, we do so to our own peril. We need vision today of what God can do; a vision that is reinforced by an awareness of what He has done in the past.
Technology has spawned a generation of non-readers. Everyone now “scans” information. We encourage our young believers to become acquainted with their heritage (Heb 13:7)!