Have you ever been around someone who makes you feel like a little kid? I don’t mean people who purposely belittle you. I’m talking about people who—because of their spiritual maturity, passionate love for Jesus, and ordering of their lives for God’s glory—make you wonder why you’ve wasted your time doing anything else.
I’ve been around people like that. It’s not exactly a competitive envy I feel, nor resentment toward them. No, they show too much humble joy to provoke those kinds of emotions. I feel more of a deep hunger for what they have, mixed with some regret that I haven’t hungered more for it. I even feel corrected, in a way, like someone whose singing gets off-key until he gets near someone who sings the notes right.
The people whose examples stir me most are dead now—at least their bodies don’t live on the earth anymore. But I can still take walks with them by reading their biographies. Here are snippets from the writings of several men whose examples never fail to stir me, correct me, and excite my hunger for God.
Augustine recounts his experience after his conversion:
How sweet did it suddenly seem to me to shrug off those sweet frivolities, and how glad I now was to get rid of them—I who had been loath to let them go! For it was you who cast them out from me, you our real and all-surpassing sweetness. You cast them out and entered yourself to take their place, you who are lovelier than any pleasure, though not to flesh and blood, more lustrous than any light, yet more inward than is any secret intimacy, loftier than all honor, yet not to those who look for loftiness in themselves. My mind was free at last from the gnawing need to seek advancement and riches, to welter in filth and scratch my itching lust. Childlike, I chattered away to you, my glory, my wealth, my salvation, and my Lord and God.
–Confessions, IX, 1
Edwards’ resolutions give us a taste of his passion and longing for God. Incredibly, they were written before he turned twenty. Consider these three:
Resolved, Never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God.
Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.
Resolved, To endeavor, to my utmost, so to act, as I can think I should do, if I had already seen the happiness of heaven and hell torments.
To endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can, with all the power, might vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in anyway that can be thought of.
That I will live with all my might, while I do live.
That I will live so, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.
My mind being now more open and enlarged, I began to read the Holy Scriptures on my knees, laying aside all other books and praying over, if possible, every line and word. This proved meat indeed and drink indeed to my soul. I daily received fresh life, light and power from above. I got more true knowledge from reading the Book of God in one month than I could ever have acquired from all the writings of men.
—George Whitefield by Arnold Dallimore
McCheyne, who died at the age of twenty-nine, also left a compelling example of what it means to love and live for Christ.
I believe that my soul is in sincerity desirous and earnest about having all its concerns at rest with God and Christ,–that His kingdom occupies the most part of all my thoughts, and even of my long-polluted affections. Not unto me, not unto me, be the shadow of praise or of merit ascribed, but let all glory be given to Thy most holy name! As surely as Thou didst make the mouth with which I pray, so sure dost Thou prompt every prayer of faith which I utter. Thou has made me all that I am, and given me all that I have.
—Memoir and Remains of R. M. M’Cheyne by Andrew Bonar
Father, let me be weak that I might loose my clutch on everything temporal. My life, my reputation, my possessions, Lord, let me loose the tension of the grasping hand. . . .
Father, make of me a crisis man. Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road; make me a fork, that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.
—Shadow of the Almighty by Elisabeth Elliot
As you consider these stirring examples, keep in mind the words of McCheyne, as he speaks of how Jonathan Edwards impacted his own life:
How feeble does my spark of Christianity appear beside such a sun! But even his was a borrowed light, and the same source is still open to enlighten me.
These are lights, but they are only borrowed lights. May they inspire us to seek the Source.