Blueprint: Biographies as a Model for Life
I recently invested in a number of new books. My new acquisitions come in all sizes and colors – large and small, hardcover and softcover, red, black, green, and brown. Several of the books were biographies, and they cost a little more than I had hoped. I bought them nonetheless, because they are valuable investments.
Biographies have played an important part in my life. In a sense, they have served as a blueprint for life – providing a frame of reference as I live my life. How? The following points demonstrate five ways in which biographies serve as models for one’s life. While these five points are most applicable to Christian biographies, they may apply to some extent to other biographies.
#1 – Biographies are case studies for successful lives
However you may define a successful life, few humans are ‘biographed.’ Biographies are written about exceptional people, mostly of people who were successful in one way or another. Beyond intriguing stories, biographies provide case studies of these remarkable individuals. While they don’t provide the recipe for why such people were successful, they describe the ingredients and how they attained that success. By reading and thoughtfully analyzing biographies (especially of people that you admire), you can learn how they were successful and gain insights in what you can do to be successful.
#2 – Biographies demonstrate how to suffer well
When you read the stories of martyrs burnt at the stake, of POWs who are kept in solitary confinement for years, or missionaries who labor in disappointment for years, you begin to put your own sufferings into perspective. Perhaps a prolonged illness, a lost job, or a tragic disappointment isn’t the worst thing in the world. Of course, people still suffer today in horrible ways. Whatever you are going through, biographies can provide an example of how to suffer well, and motivate you to suffer in a heroic manner.
#3 – Biographies challenge us to excel
It is easy to drift in life, to grow comfortable in the routines of work and family, leisure and activity. Without biographies, it is easy to accept this comfort level as the norm, the way that everyone lives, and the ideal way to live. Biographies remind us that others have not accepted that status quo. They challenge us to excel, to reach for something more than the present. Biographies challenge us not to drift.
On the flip side, biographies can act as warnings for what could become of us. “Remember Lot’s wife,” we are reminded, and the biographies of the notorious provide dreadful warnings of what could happen.
#4 – Biographies highlight the power of God
Have you ever read a biography and been discouraged? Have you wondered why you have not lived what others have lived? Perhaps you are reading biographies in the wrong way. These books should not discourage us for what we have not accomplished; instead, they should encourage us by reminding us that the same God who existed then still exists. As we read of men and women who faithfully followed God and saw his great power in their lives, we are reminded that His power still exists today, just as it did in the past.
#5 – Biographies illustrate realistic Christian lives
The Bible is the preeminent blueprint for life, but what does it look like when it is lived out? How do ordinary men and women live and act when they are seeking to live out the Gospel? How do modern people follow this ancient book? Biographies provide an answer. They don’t show us perfect people, but they do show us people in more recent times who sought to follow God. Just as Paul urged his hearers to follow him insofar as he followed God, so we can learn from biographies insofar as they demonstrate Christian living.
For 15 suggested Christian biographies, check out my post here!
Special thanks to Phill C. and Jamie H. for their thoughts and insights on this topic!