Maybe that explains why biographies of great men and women have fascinated me throughout my life. I can still remember the first Bible I owned because of the colorful pictures of various characters interspersed through its pages. I spent many a Sunday morning, sitting beside my parents in church, fighting boredom by leafing through that Bible, staring at those strong-hearted ancients. Each one loomed larger than life as I relived each drama, imagining the sounds, entering into the action-packed scenes portrayed on the pages.
There was Noah, surrounded by every animal in the zoo, riding out the storm.
There was Jacob, wet with sweat, wrestling with an angel who had a pair of huge, mysterious wings.
There was Joseph with his coat of many colors, looking at the angry faces of his brothers.
Next was Moses, leading the Hebrews across the dry bottom of the Red Sea as the waters were miraculously pushed aside.
Then came one of my all-time favorites, Samson with bulging muscles, arms outstretched between two marble columns.
Esther, with her glistening queen’s crown, was pictured in an opulent setting as she knelt before the king, pouring out her heart on behalf of her people.
Amidst a treacherous sea, Jonah was being swallowed by a giant fish.
Mary was pouring ointment on Jesus’ feet.
Peter, with the reflection of a fire flickering off his face, stood in the shadows as a rooster was crowing in the distance.
Paul, under a laserlike light from heaven, was blinded as he stood beside his mount on the road to Damascus.
There were others, all intriguing . . . all igniting one’s imagination to take over and live the scene yet again.
My love for biographies has intensified as time has passed. While building my library over more than forty years, I have taken special delight in collecting and digesting great biographical works, most of them no longer in print. I still find delight in reentering those scenes from antiquity. My soul is stirred and my heart inspired as those saints of old, people “of whom the world was not worthy” (Heb. 11:38) play out their lives, make their mistakes, accomplish incredible feats, and finally pass on into glory. What encouragement, what enrichment!
The words of the Russian poet, Boris Pasternak, come to mind, “It is not revolutions and upheavals that clear the road to new and better days, but someone’s soul inspired and ablaze.”1 Because that’s true, I have remained a serious student of the great lives woven through the Scriptures. For more than thirty years in the pastorate, I found the lives of those inspiring men and women to be rich sources of sermon material. Again and again I found that people were ministered to in deep and meaningful ways whenever I spoke on the characters of the Bible.
Interestingly, each time we would broadcast my biographical pulpit messages on our radio program, Insight for Living, the interest among our listening audience was invariably heightened. People appreciate hearing about those who have gone on before us . . . leaving us models to exemplify, teaching us lessons about life. In fact, no series we have aired over the radio since 1977 has received a greater response from our listening audience than my studies on the life of David.
Realizing the inspirational value of biblical biographies, for years I have wanted to write a series of books based on the lives of various men and women who appear on the sacred page. My desire has been to provide a set of volumes that would acquaint readers with each individual, helping them see how relevant and realistic those lives are . . . and how closely they track the situations and struggles of our own times. I am delighted to see this long-awaited desire become a reality.
Charles R. Swindoll, Great Lives: David (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997).
We have just released a new Bible study on the life of David using Max Lucado’s book, Facing Your Giants as a guide.
These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.