by Rachel Thompson
Summer is upon us and perhaps you’ve been looking for a good book to read.
Hold on a minute. Before you head to the New York Times bestseller list or the most popular Christian titles of the year, let me encourage you to consider reading a hidden gem about a Christian hero that will inspire you to new heights.
As I recently shared on the Brand New Day podcast, the Christian biography genre has enriched my spiritual life perhaps more than any other element apart from the Bible. For decades, dozens of “mentors” I’ve never met have spurred me on through the written page to love God and reach people through their passionate, adventurous, sometimes hilarious and often heart-rending stories.
So if you could use fresh inspiration to run the race before you, consider letting someone who has run and finished well be your guide. It may just be the most invigorating part of your summer!
1. “Evidence Not Seen” by Darlene Deibler Rose, Missionary and WWII Prisoner of War
This is perhaps my favorite book of all time. It is the incredible account of a young American missionary to Papua New Guinea who ended up in a cruel Japanese prison camp during World War II. Her account of her grueling, four-year captivity overflows with evidence of God’s care and sovereignty. A true page-turner and faith-builder.
2. “Amazing Faith: The Authorized Biography of Bill Bright,” Founder of Campus Crusade for Christ
Sometimes reading the story of someone who lived in very recent times (Bright died in 2003) brings home the fact that a faith-filled, fruitful Christian life is within the grasp of anyone who wholeheartedly dedicates themselves to Christ and His Kingdom. Bill Bright’s astounding story and far-reaching legacy will inspire you to attempt great things for God, even if just in your own small sphere of influence.
3. “Teacher: The Henrietta Mears Story” by Marcus Brotherton
“One of the greatest Christians I have ever known.” That’s what Billy Graham had to say about Dr. Henrietta Mears.
This ordinary woman was used in extraordinary ways to shape some of the most influential Christians of our time. “Dr. Henrietta Mears had one purpose ― to know Christ and make him known,” writes the author. “She inspired a generation of college kids to aspire to Christian leadership.” Not only Billy Graham, but Bill Bright and 400 others went into Christian service under the influence of Dr. Mears. You’ll be fascinated by the story of this amazing woman of God.
4. “God Owns My Business” by Stanley Tam
For Stanley Tam, who is now an incredible 105 years old, life is about the Lord and the lost. This Ohio businessman not only started a company that has given more than $150 million to missions over the years but has also personally shared the gospel with more than 40,000 people through tracts and personal interactions.
The unusual story of how he legally made God the senior partner in his business will fascinate and inspire you!
5. “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom, Nazi Concentration Camp Survivor
Though many of us know the name Corrie ten Boom, it’s quite another thing to actually read the account of her family’s unforgettable story. From hiding Jews during WWII to being confined to Nazi concentration camps, their journey of courage, sacrifice and obedience is both riveting and motivating.
6. “A Chance to Die: The Biography of Amy Carmichael” by Elizabeth Elliot
Elizabeth Elliot insightfully captures the legacy of this legendary missionary to India. Amy Carmichael’s life challenged my thinking on what it means to trust God when we don’t understand His ways, what it means to live in love and unity with other believers and what it means to lay one’s life down for Christ.
One interesting note: a debilitating fall left Carmichael bedridden for the last 20 years of her life, but her ministry continued as she welcomed countless visitors, and as she turned out 16 additional books during this season.
7. “Daws: The Story of Dawson Trotman”, Founder of the Navigators
This book was huge for me a few years ago. I was super inspired by this man whose impact went far beyond what I realized. Not only did he start The Navigators ministry, but he worked with Billy Graham and also helped shape many organizations that started during the 1940s and ‘50s such as Wycliffe, Young Life and Campus Crusade (Incredibly, Dawson met Cru’s Bill Bright before Bill was even saved).
Trotman’s life was a standout in dedication to prayer, commitment to Scripture memorization and evangelistic zeal. It’s hard to read about his life and not be stretched in a most uncomfortable, but necessary way.
8. “Mrs. Oswald Chambers” by Michelle Ule
You’ve likely heard of My Utmost for His Highest, the world’s best selling devotional book of all time. But do you know the unlikely story behind its birth?
Amazingly, it was not published until roughly 10 years after its author, Oswald Chambers, passed away, having been carefully pieced together from the extensive notes Mrs. Chambers took of her husband’s sermons and teachings. Beyond her amazing note taking and editing work, Mrs. Chambers’ multi-faceted ministry during and after her husband’s life will spur you on.
9. “In the Arena” by Isobel Kuhn, Missionary to China
This is the story of a 1930s Moody Bible Institute graduate who went to Bible school and the mission field against her mother’s wishes. Ironically, her mother hosted missionary prayer meetings in her home, but when her own daughter stepped out “to go,” she begged her to stay home and marry well.
Isobel’s story of sacrifice, courage, obedience and discerning the voice of God will energize your walk with Christ.