John Piper’s intertwining of the biographies of John Newton, Charles Simeon, and William Wilberforce in The Roots Of Endurance was masterfully done! Especially because, unlink the previous books in Pastor John’s “The swans are not silent series,” all three of these men knew each other and interacted with each other. Check out my full book review by clicking here.
“Simeon with us—his heart glowing with love of Christ. How full he is of love, and of desire to promote the spiritual benefit of others. Oh! that I might copy him as he Christ.” —William Wilberforce, writing in his journal about Charles Simeon
“It is hoped and believed that the Lord has raised you up for the good of His church and for the good of the nation.” —John Newton, in a letter to William Wilberforce
“Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of man and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you.” —John Wesley, at 87 years of age, in a letter to William Wilberforce
“Frustration is normal, disappointment is normal, sickness is normal. Conflict, persecution, danger, stress—they are all normal. The mind-set that moves away from these will move away from reality and away from Christ. —John Piper
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I always glean so many valuable lessons when I read the autobiographies or biographies of notable people of history. The Roots Of Endurance is the third installment in John Piper’s excellent series “The swans are not silent.”
This book looks at the lives of John Newton, Charles Simeon, and William Wilberforce. Unlike the other books in this series, these men were all contemporaries and all of them had at least a passing relationship with each other. In fact, their lives and accomplishments were an encouragement to each other.
Pastor John makes the case in this book that in order to endure through difficult times successfully, we must have a deep root into the joy of the Lord. This root nourishes our hearts to persevere successfully through long trials. These three men exhibit this endurance beautifully. John Newton had to endure his own struggles with his past, Charles Simeon contended with an obstinate congregation, and William Wilberforce battled pro-slavery forces in Parliament for years before the abolition of the slave trade was enacted.
All three of these men endured successfully because they trusted God so deeply. These roots of trust went deep and helped them to persevere for God’s glory.
As I have mentioned in my other book reviews from the series, anyone who enjoys biographies of godly leaders or the study of church history will thoroughly enjoy The Roots Of Endurance.
If you would like to check out the other books in this series that I have previously reviewed, please click here, here, or here.
Prayer changes things. That makes prayer dangerous and the pray-ers themselves a danger to anything that opposes the kingdom of God. Dangerous Prayers is a collection of powerful prayers and a brief biography of those who prayed them.
Growing up, a constant refrain rang in my ears from my parents whenever I faced a problem: “Have you prayed about it?” I’m not sure why we make prayer our last resort instead of our first response, but it often seems that some of the most heartfelt, passionate prayers are offered up in the darkest of times.
Dangerous Prayers offers a short biography of some world-changing people who changed the world in large part because of their desperate dependence on God’s help, as seen in the frequent and bold prayers they prayed. Many of these prayers were prayed in dark places—prisons, before the executioner, in the midst of war, in unimaginable poverty, or staring down the evils of slavery. These men and women repeatedly turned to God, and God repeatedly strengthened them to accomplish amazing things. Some of the answers to prayer came in their lifetimes, and some prayers were only answered long after they had died.
Dangerous Prayers is an excellent coffee table book. By that, I mean it’s a great book to leave out in the open as a conversation-starter. Parents could read these short biographies and prayers with their children, and friends could use them as a bridge from past history to current events. But more than anything, keep Dangerous Prayers close at hand will—I sincerely hope—cause you to turn to prayer frequently and boldly.
Let’s get some insight into the Greco-Roman and Jewish mindsets of the first century AD. Specifically, the mindset of men.
There is a well-known letter written June 17, 1 BC, from a man named Hilarion, who was gone off to Alexandria, to his wife Alis, whom he has left at home. He writes to her: “If—good luck to you—you bear a child, if it is a boy, let it live; if it is a girl, throw it out.” This letter captures the male-dominated mindset in the Roman world concerning women and children. In a word: inferior or even disposable.
This mindset wasn’t limited to the world the Jews called “pagan,” but it was prevalent in Judaism too. Every day Jewish men began their morning prayer time with, “God, I thank You that You did not make me a Gentile, a slave, or a woman.”
With this background, it makes it startling that a Jewish man (who prayed that prayer thousands of times) writing to people in Rome (who undoubtedly had the same mindset as Hilarion), begins his list of thank you notes with gratitude to two women! Paul goes on to list no less than 8 women, even giving preferential treatment to a wife (Priscilla) over her husband (Aquila) when he mentions her name first! (see Romans 16:1-4, 6, 12).
William Barclay wrote, “Anyone who asks the question: ‘What has Christianity done for the world?’ has delivered himself into a Christian debater’s hands. There is nothing in history so unanswerably demonstrable as the transforming power of Christianity and of Christ on the individual life and on the life of society.”
Indeed Christians changed the lives of at least four groups:
Women (especially in the role of marriage)—divorce was so common that it was neither unusual nor particularly blameworthy for a woman to have a new husband every year. Yet Christians taught men to esteem their wives and for marriage to be honored by everyone (Ephesians 5:28; Hebrews 13:4).
Children—who weren’t even considered a part of the family until they had grown up and proven their worth to the father. Yet Christians taught fathers to nurture their children (Ephesians 6:4).
Senior citizens—the pragmatic Romans had little to do with those they considered less valuable. But the first blind asylum was founded by Thalasius, a Christian monk; the first free medical dispensary was founded by Apollonius, a Christian merchant; the first hospital of which there is any record was founded by Fabiola, a Christian lady.
The weak and sick—when a plague hit Rome, all the young, healthy people left the sick and elderly behind. They ran away, but the Christians stayed to help. The Christians taught that everyone (regardless of age, sex, or wealth) was valuable (1 Timothy 5:1-2).
That was just the start of Christianity. Men like William Wilberforce and Abraham Lincoln were Christians who opposed slavery; Clara Barton was nicknamed “the angel of the battlefield” and founded the Red Cross; Paul Brand was a doctor who ran to leprosy patients when everyone else shunned them; Mother Teresa loved those poor, dying souls whom others ignored.
So what’s your conclusion? Throughout history Christians have been martyred for their faith, but not only are they willing to die for their belief that Jesus is alive, but they continue to do good to those who persecute them. Would people do this to perpetuate a hoax? Or does this sound more like the real deal?
Please check out the other evidence I have presented for the resurrection of Jesus:
“Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last; but feelings come and go. And in fact, whatever people say, the state called ‘being in love’ usually does not last.” —C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity
“There must be nothing about our religion of our own inventing; it is for us to lay thought, and judgment, and opinion at the feet of Christ, and do what He bids us, simply because He gives the command.” —Charles Spurgeon
“The storms of life are no longer our point of reference when Jesus is our focal point.” —Dutch Sheets
“Policy, however, Sir, is not my principle, and I am not ashamed to say it. There is a principle above everything is political . . . And, Sir, when we think of eternity, and of the future consequences of all human conduct, what is there in this life that should make any man contradict the dictates of his conscience, the principles of justice, the laws of religion, and of God.” —William Wilberforce
“When you bounce your eyes away from a sexual image, immediately pull from your memory a pure image. Maybe a wedding picture, or a vacation experience with your family, or your buddies. There are thousands of positive images you can pull from your memory within seconds to replace the sexual images you’re tempted with.” —Steve Arterburn
“satan shows the best, but hides the worst, because his best will not [counterbalance] his worst; but Christ’s will abundantly.” —Matthew Henry
William Wilberforce said something about slavery that could just as easily apply to abortion today: “It naturally suggested itself to me, how strange it was that providence, however mysterious in its ways, should so have constituted the world as to make one part of it depend on its existence for the depopulation and devastation of another.” Check out this Live Action post: Lessons From Wilberforce.
“But do you want to get better? It seems like a stupid question. Of course we want our organization, our work and our health to improve. But often, we don’t. Better means change and change means risk and risk means fear.” —Seth Godin
A recent Pew Research Center survey showed that the number of people in America identifying themselves as Christians has dropped. Check out the results of the survey here, and then listen to what John MacArthur has to say in this video—
“The solution to life’s problems is spiritual because the essence of life is spiritual. It is astonishing how many difficulties clear up without any effort when the inner life gets straightened out.” —A.W. Tozer
“It’s natural enough in our species, as in others, that the young birds should show off their plumage—in the mating season. But the trouble in the modern world is that there’s a tendency to rush all the birds on to that age as soon as possible and then keep them there as late as possible, thus losing all the real value of the other parts of life in a senseless, pitiful attempt to prolong what, after all, is neither its wisest, its happiest, or most innocent period. I suspect merely commercial motives are behind it all: for it is at the showing-off age that birds of both sexes have least sales resistance!” —C.S. Lewis
“Commend me to the Christian who says, ‘I bless God I am saved; now what can I do for others?’ The first thing in the morning he prays, ‘God help me to say a word to some soul this day.’ During the day, wherever he may be, he is watching his opportunity, and will do good if he can.” —Charles Spurgeon
“There’s a great deal of trust in the love of God, and a great deal of love in the trust of God.” —John Piper
Rev. John Venn was a key member in the Clapham Sect, a group of devout Christian reformers in England, alongside William Wilberforce. These wise words should be well attended to by all pastors—
“Were the work of a preacher indeed confined to the delivery of a moral discourse, this would not be an arduous task. But a Minister of the Gospel has much more to do. He will endeavor, under Divine Grace, to bring every individual in his congregation to live no longer to himself, but unto Him who died for us. But here the passions, prejudices, and perhaps the temporal interests of men combine to oppose his success. It is not easy to obtain any influence over the mind of another; but to obtain such an influence as to direct it contrary to the natural current of its desires and passions, is a work of the highest difficulty. Yet such is the work of a Minister….
“We have to convey unpleasant tidings; to persuade to what is disagreeable; to effect not only a reformation in the conduct of men, and a regulation of their passions, but, what is of still higher difficulty, a change in their good opinion of themselves. Nay, further we have not merely to ‘wrestle against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.’ ‘Who is sufficient for these things?’ For this office the Christian Minister may in himself ‘have no resources above those of any of his congregation,’ their weaknesses are his weaknesses, he must therefore undertake his work in weakness, fear and much trembling, but knowing that it may yet be effectual, for it is in weakness that Christ’s strength is always made perfect.” —John Venn (1759-1813)