Perseverance is a vital part of the Christian life. With this in mind, John Piper focuses the reader’s attention on three Christians who courageously persevered in the face of trials and opposition.
A young sailor, John Newton, was providentially spared death during a storm, after having been rescued from enslavement in Africa. God worked in his life and granted a true trust in Christ alone. In his remaining years Newton pastored two churches for long periods of time. His ministry was marked by pastoral tenderness. This quality aided his own endurance of family barrenness and directed him into special ministries to the depressed, to liberals, and to numerous area children. His tenderness did not lead him into compromise of his Calvinistic beliefs or God’s Word because he lived in the knowledge that the sovereign God does all things well. Newton often fled to Him in prayer and reminded others to do likewise. His influence stretched far beyond the bounds of his flock through letters of counsel and numerous hymns.
The bachelor Charles Simeon pastored a church in Cambridge, England for fifty-four years. During the first twelve years of his ministry, his parishioners resisted his ministry by refusing to attend the services and locking their pew doors so no visitors could sit in the pews. Simeon faithfully preached to those setting in the aisles, refusing to leave the church where he believed God had called him to minister. Over time hearts were opened to his Christ-centered ministry. Opposition continued from Cambridge professors. However he was not overwhelmed because he had learned in student days at Cambridge of the world’s opposition to faithful Christianity. Simeon continued to walk humbly before God, to be rooted in fellowship through prayer, and to minister to those needy ones who would accept his ministry. Over the years God opened doors for tremendous ministries to the poor at home and to missions abroad.
God gave William Wilberforce a different call to perseverance. His call was not to the pulpit but to Parliament. There he labored to end English slave trade and then slavery in the midst of political enemies and ill health. These goals spanned the last forty-six years of his life. Slavery was finally abolished three days before his death in 1833.
Living in a culture of nominal Christianity, Wilberforce was gripped by the fact that Christianity must be lived out in culture. He worked unceasingly to alleviate a large number of harsh, cultural conditions that beset English society. His ultimate desire was not pleasing man but pleasing God and showing his deep gratitude to and love for Him on a daily basis.
None of these men were perfect, as Piper reminds his readers. They were contemporaries of one another. Their lives and labors should encourage Christian readers today to persevere for the Lord wherever He has chosen to place us.
From these men’s lives we must understand that endurance is not our removal from society. Instead, it is an endurance that lives out Christianity day by day humbly, faithfully, and prayerfully.
Piper is a fine writer. Once again he has put his passion for Christ and his winsome application onto the printed page. This is the third book in his “the swans are not silent’ series. Readers will come away with renewed appreciation of God’s work in history through human vessels and with a renewed desire to persevere for Christ in the twenty-first century.
- Byron Snapp
Byron Snapp is a graduate of King College (B.A.) and Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div.). He was Associate Pastor at Calvary Reformed Presbyterian Church, Hampton, Virginia, from 1994 until his retirement in December 2014. He is a native of Marion, Virginia. He has had pastorates in Leakesville, Mississippi, and Gaffney, South Carolina. He served as Assistant Pastor in Cedar Bluff, Virginia prior to his ministry at Calvary Reformed. He has served as editor of the Presbyterian Witness and was a contributor to A Comprehensive Faith and Election Day Sermons. He is currently a member of Westminster Presbytery in the PCA. He and his wife Janey have 3 children and several grandchildren.