Rebecca Stark is the author of The Good Portion: God, the second title in The Good Portion series, a series written to encourage women to immerse themselves in the depths of Christian doctrine.

The Good Portion — God explores what Scripture teaches about God in hopes that readers will see his perfection, worth, magnificence, and beauty as they study his triune nature, infinite attributes, and wondrous works. 

Rebecca also blogs at Out of the Ordinary.

                         

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Thursday
Apr262007

Book Review: The Hidden Smile of God

1581342470.jpgThe Fruit of Affliction in the Lives of John Bunyan, William Cowper, and David Brainerd by John Piper.

This is the second book in the series The Swans are Not Silent. Like the other books in the series, it contains three of Piper’s biographical sermons on historical Christians. In this case, those featured are John Bunyan, William Cowper and David Brainerd, three men who endured great suffering during their lives, and whose suffering bore fruit, both in their own times and onward through history to the present day. Piper’s purpose in telling the stories of these men’s lives and expounding on them is so that the story of

how they suffered, how they endured, and how it bore fruit … will inspire in [the reader] that same radical Christian life, God-centered worship, and Christ-exalting mission.

The first section is on the life of John Bunyan, best known for writing The Pilgrim’s Progress, one of the best-selling books of all times, although he wrote at least fifty-seven other books. Bunyan was a “brasyer” or tinker who became a nonconformist  preacher. He suffered in many ways throughout his life, including spending 12 years in jail away from his wife and children for refusing to stop preaching. Bunyan’s imprisonment drove him to God’s word. Piper quotes him:

I never had in all my life so great an inlet into th Word of God as now [in prison]. Those scriptures that I saw nothing in before were made in this place and state to shine upon me. Jesus Christ was never more real and apparent than now. 

Bunyan’s suffering and what he wrote about suffering in the life of the Christian can teach us much about following Christ in difficult times.

Next up is William Cowper, whose story I’ve written a little about already. Cowper suffered from depression and insanity, and yet left behind marvelous hymns of God’s goodness that we still sing two hundred years later. He is proof of the truth of one of his most famous hymns, God Moves in a Mysterious Way His Wonders to Perform.

And then there’s David Brainerd. If you followed along with one of my other blogs, David Brainerd’s Blog, you know a little of his story. Brainerd was a young missionary to the Indians in the 1700s who died at aged 29 of tuberculosis, following several years of illness. We remember him because of his journal, which has inspired many others to missionary service,  including William Carey and Jim Elliot.

 The lives of these three men, Piper says, are like pebbles dropped into a pond.

God has breathed on the waters and made their ripple into waves. And now the parched places of our lives are watered with the memories of sustaining grace. 

This is a wonderfully inspirational book. It’s not a long book, and I expected to finish it in a snap, but things didn’t work out that way because of the richness of the stories.  Don’t take this to mean that The Hidden Smile of God is a difficult book.  I’d call it an easy read, but one worth pondering as it’s read. 

We can learn much from the lives of these men and from the lessons Piper draws from their lives.  I plan to mention a few of these lessons during the next couple of weeks here, particularly as I post hymns from William Cowper in the Sunday’s Hymn posts, so if you’re interested, stay tuned, or better yet, read the book for yourself.

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    Rebecca Writes offers her review of John Piper's book, The Hidden Smile of God: The Fruit of Afflication in the Lives of John Bunyan, William Cowper & David Brainerd.

Reader Comments (2)

I loved this book. It's so encouraging to read other believer's struggles and the way God used them for their own sanctification and the people around them. And their stories progress our own sanctification too! How awesome!!

April 27, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSamantha

Yep, it's a good book. I'm looking forward to reading more books in this series.

April 27, 2007 | Registered Commenterrebecca

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