While some people are not happy with the monuments of national heroes and even of well-known Christians, others are glad to celebrate their great accomplishments. Several Christian publishers have produced tremendous books about heroes and heroines, as still others continue to reprint the popular titles to meet the ever-increasing demand. The Word of God strongly sanctions such testimonies that glorify the Lord. Romans 13:7 gives the enduring command, “Render therefore to all their dues…honor to whom honor.”
Christian Focus, a Scottish publisher, has provided a gem for the reader that will enable Christians to grow in their knowledge of church history, delight their heart by learning of previously unknown Christians, and promote hope in times of perplexity. This little volume of 287 pages, written by John Pollock in 1988, is entitled, A Fistful of Heroes, with the subtitle, “Christians at the Forefront of Change.”
The first four chapters recount the lives of several compassionate men who were instrumental in freeing African slaves, working tirelessly to gain their freedom. One of them was the famous pastor and hymn writer Rev. John Newton, who was involved in the horrors of the slave trade before he became a child of God by faith in Christ. Then he began showing Christian love to all of his fellow human beings.
The second set of four chapters is devoted to the memory of Christian philanthropists who served the poor and vulnerable. One of them developed Sunday schools to meet the spiritual and academic needs of poor street children. Through the efforts and influence of a godly woman of means, the wretched conditions of prisons for women were greatly improved. A young apprentice started the YMCA to provide for young men, who were far from home and family, and needed extra Christian influences to help avoid temptation to sin. Throughout the week there were activities, Bible studies, and fellowship to strengthen the lonely young men.
These chapters are followed by accounts of some of the Christian military geniuses of the nineteenth century. It is quite striking that a similar book of Christian heroes by Iain Murray, published by Banner of Truth around the same time, includes a hero from the Southern United States. In both of these publications the Southern heroes exercised successful ministries to the African slaves. The account in Pollock’s work is a sketch of General “Stonewall” Jackson’s life.
The next five chapters record the lives and ministries of several of the nineteenth century’s greatest soul-winning preachers, who experienced true revivals and times of spiritual refreshing. Saving grace rescued some of these men of God right as they reached the end of their rope and even came near to committing suicide.
The final pages of the book give excellent introductions to the lives and ministries of fifteen pioneer missionaries. Beginning with William Carey in the late eighteenth century, the survey takes the reader all the way to the middle of the twentieth century. Six of these godly witnesses for Christ were women. Several of these precious saints of God gave their all for Christ, suffering martyrdom while taking the gospel to poor, benighted heathen. The living faith of these heroes enabled some of them to serve for many years amidst dangerous cannibalistic tribes.
The dedication of all of these servants of the Lord in the face of seemingly insurmountable trials is a tremendous inspiration to believers amid the daily struggles of Christian living. The study of these exemplary servants of Christ presents a much-needed corrective for Christians that are merely existing in self-indulgent profession. It is easy to sink into an unthankful, pessimistic attitude being unwilling to suffer or to do anything for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom. Reading testimonies like these provoke powerful questions in the reader’s mind: Where is the spiritual fruit that should be in my life? Where is the reality? Where is the evidence of true, living faith?
A Fistful of Heroes by John Pollock is available online for $5 in paperback and a little more for the eBook.