“Stunning stories of great men and women of faith”
Review of Heroes of the Faith quarterly magazine by Charles Gardner
A crucial aspect of my development as a young Christian – apart from taking the Bible seriously for the first time – was in reading the inspirational biographies of great men of the past like William Wilberforce and John Newton.
These days, both new and more mature believers can benefit from a stunning quarterly publication called Heroes of the Faith. Part of the stable of Nottingham-based New Life Publishing, it has now been going for ten years (or 40 issues), having more than adequately fulfilled its early promise with stirring, well-written features neatly packaged in a most attractive design backed up with superb illustrations.
Stories of mighty men and women of faith range from Pentecostal pioneer Smith Wigglesworth, transformed from stammering wreck to anointed preacher after a vicar’s wife prayed for him, to Jim Elliot, who literally laid down his life for the Auca tribe in the jungles of Ecuador.
You can also read about astronaut James Irwin, standing on the moon for Jesus; John Wycliffe, the so-called morning star of the English Reformation; and Wynne Lewis, the boy from the Welsh Valleys who built up a mega-church in London.
And there are further spotlights on William Booth of the Salvation Army, John Bunyan of Pilgrim’s Progress fame and Florence Nightingale, whose pioneering work among the Crimean War wounded inspired the emergency hospitals for the coronavirus pandemic.
Yet publisher Peter Wreford rightly warns against putting them on a pedestal and yearning for the ‘good old days’. A more appropriate response, he suggests, is to “place your life on the altar before the Lord and determine to write another story from which others can draw inspiration”.
William Burton, hero of the Belgian Congo
Another hero featured is legendary missionary William Burton who, in the first half of the 20th century, oversaw the establishing of over 2,000 churches in what was then the Belgian Congo. But his remarkable story also emphasised the importance of those at home who pray for the missionaries.
For on one occasion, while sailing up river, Burton was advised to turn back when his companions all became ill with black-water fever, one of whom died. Burton spent the night in prayer and decided that, if his contemporaries were dying on the fields of Flanders for an earthly king, then he was prepared to die in the service of the King of Kings.
He subsequently became increasingly weaker until he collapsed and was given up for dead. But then, quite suddenly, he stood up in perfect health. It was only much later, when he returned to England on furlough, that he discovered how, at that very moment, a young woman in Preston was given a vision of the scene and prayed long and earnestly in tongues until she saw Burton get up perfectly healed.
Not all those featured are household names, however. Although a heroine among young people in Germany today, not many British Christians will be aware of Sophie Scholl, a 21-year-old student executed along with her brother Hans and Christoph Probst for standing up to the Nazis. She so impressed her interrogators with her courage that rules were relaxed to enable the trio to meet each other before being guillotined.
Moved by story of hero Trevor Goddard
Taking a quick glance at the contents of a recent issue was an awesome experience in itself. But there’s something for everyone – even sports-mad folk like me. For I was profoundly moved by the story of Trevor Goddard, one of my own cricketing (and faith) heroes. He played in 41 tests for South Africa, many as captain, but his greatest test lay ahead as he served Christ with unwavering faith despite much sorrow which included losing his first wife to cancer. In a sense he even influenced my own conversion as the late Brian Jackson, a top athlete who had come under his spell, was to lead me to Christ in London back in 1972.
My own faith in those early years was boosted by gripping tales of Richard Wurmbrand, Jackie Pullinger, Lydia Prince, Corrie ten Boom and others backed up by ongoing transformations among close companions. I could see how testimony, along with biblical teaching, was key to spreading the gospel, which is what inspired me to found The New Life newspaper back in 1982, with Peter Wreford soon ‘enlarging the tent’ as our vision became national rather than local to South Yorkshire. Indeed, the overcomers described in the Book of Revelation did so by trusting in the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.
I believe that sharing your testimony while also gaining insight and inspiration from the saints who have gone before us (see Hebrews 11) is crucial to building up a strong foundation in Christ. And these days, when attention spans are somewhat restricted, Heroes is a perfect taster likely to give readers a hunger for more.
After all, there are biographies available on many of the personalities featured, but these stirring articles encapsulate the essence of what they were about and provide a perfect platform for further exploration. Every church should have copies available in the interests of nurturing bold disciples. All back issues are still available, and people can (and do) order the whole library.
Yes, Heroes of the Faith is a stunning publication which should raise faith levels wherever it is placed!
Read more about Heroes of the Faith collectable magazines here