In the great Hall of Faith passage of Hebrews 11, begins by saying, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things now seen” (ESV). The writer then spends the remainder of the chapter discussing the faith of saints who trusted the Lord to fulfill his promises. Much of the passage is a collection of mini biographies, if you will, testifying to the faithfulness of the Lord in the lives in ordinary human beings. Church history is filled with people just like those listed in Hebrews 11. The same is true today, and we who follow in their footsteps can be greatly helped by their testimony. Yet it can be difficult to know which biographies are good and to find the time to read them. One helpful resource for this is the new compilation by John Piper titled 27 Servants of Sovereign Joy: Faithful, Flawed, and Fruitful (Crossway 2022).
For almost three decades, John Piper gave a biographically themed message at the Bethlehem Conference for Pastors. 27 Servants of Sovereign Joy is the compilation of these messages in book form. The book is grouped into nine books, each comprised of three biographies. Each of the biographies are short, and can easily be read in one sitting. The subjects of the biographies are men who made an impact on church history, some from antiquity with most of them coming from the Reformation period and the reformed tradition. This does not come as a surprise, given Piper’s commitment to reformed doctrine. Subjects include: Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Augustine, Charles Spurgeon, Martin Lloyd-Jones and George Whitfield, among others. Some of them are lesser known such as David Brainerd, Charles Simeon, John Paton, and George Herbert.
Reading through each of the biographies, it is evident that each of the subjects have helped shape John Piper as a pastor and leader. This is seen primarily in the biographies of Jonathan Edwards and C. S. Lewis. It is widely known among those who have followed Piper’s ministry for any length of time, the influence that Edwards and Lewis had on Piper. The most interesting of the biographies, however, is the one about his father Bill Piper. From this biography, one learns more about the man who made John Piper to preacher, teacher, theologian that he is today. It also speaks to the importance of a son’s relationship with his father and the influence that a father can have on his children. The legacy of Bill Piper’s ministry has endured to a least the third generation, and is a testimony of God’s faithfulness and grace.
27 Servants of Sovereign Joy is an excellent resource, especially for pastors and church leaders. In pastoral ministry, is crucial to be encouraged by others who have gone down a similar path. This can be achieved by relationships with other pastors, yet there is treasury of encouragement and experience in the lives of saints who have gone before. The only way this treasury can now be accessed is through primary source material and biographies. Everyone who serves in ministry or a leadership role should make it a priority to read at least one biography each year. 27 Servants of Sovereign Joy is a great jumping off point to the cloud of witnesses who have gone before us and who, by God’s grace finished the race well. And by God’s grace, we can finish well too.
In 2023, RFTG will be launching a series titled A Cloud of Witnesses. This series will take a look at the lives of saints from church history. Stay connected for more information.
Editor’s Note: This resource was received by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Zach Kendrick is the editor of Reading For The Glory.
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