I have a white board in my office with potential blog topics on it. I have ‘cheap seats’ written at the top and underneath I have various Bible texts and a few words. I was working on a Sunday School lesson over the weekend and was thinking of blogging and I looked at one word on the board and couldn’t read it. My youngest was in my office and she thought it said ‘swans.’ And after doing something else and then coming back to it, I figured out what it was. It was ‘swans’ and it was a reference to a series of books written by John Piper called ‘The Swans Are Not Silent.”
I can’t recommend these books enough. We were looking at Psalm 27 in the sermon a week ago at church and I referenced Jonathan Edwards and some of the difficulties that he went through as a pastor. I didn’t grow up in church world so I have missed a lot of history and have found great encouragement from this set of books.
Each book contains three short bios. You could likely sit and read each book in one sitting if you wanted to. I have walked through malls and read while Bonita shopped. It has been so good for my soul. Where else can you read and be encouraged by short bios about John Owen, Martin Luther, John Calvin, William Tyndale, William Cowper, Charles Simeon, and George Whitefield in a short period of time?
I love bios. I’ve read John MacArthur talk about Charles Spurgeon and the Downgrade Controversy and how it negatively affected his health. I’ve read and I reread the stories of the Bible saints. The accounts of Joseph, David, Job, Esther, Ruth, Peter, and Paul have been food for my soul. I remember listening to umpteen messages about the life of David from Chuck Swindoll many years ago.
Sometimes when life is tough it’s easy to think that we’re the only ones going through pain. As we open up our world and hear the stories of others, it can be great encouragement. We may read and think, ‘if God had enough grace to help Martin Luther or Charles Spurgeon make it through that, I’m sure He has enough grace for me.’
A section that many believers have found great hope in, comes from the pen of the Apostle Paul.
 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ESV)
It says that he comforts us in the stuff that we are dealing with and goes on to say that we can comfort others as they go through difficulty.
So whatever it is that you’re experiencing right now, you can come alongside a brother or sister down the road and have them pull up a chair and be encouraged by your story and how God’s grace was abundant. Another way of applying it would be looking back on the life of a Cowper or a Whitefield and to be encouraged by how God was so big in their lives.
A few years ago, ministry was really hard and my time with the historical saints was so necessary…it was a great encourage to keep relying on God’s grace. I don’t know where this post finds you but I encourage you to dig in and feed on the saints of the past…the Bible saint and the saints of history…or you could go for coffee with an older saint from your church and listen to his or her story. You’ll be amazed at some of the difficulties of others, you may be even more amazed at God’s grace in their lives, and you might even be encouraged by their stories that God may grant you grace for your difficulty today.