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Portraits of grace

Three biographies testifying to God’s work in mankind

Portraits of grace

Martyn Lloyd-Jones (Handout)

In The Life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones (Banner of Truth), biographer Iain Murray notes the Welsh minister preached to thousands, mentored a young J.I. Packer, and met the queen of England. But Murray also notes what mattered most to a man many consider one of the greatest preachers of the 20th century. “The two greatest meetings in my life were both prayer meetings,” Lloyd-Jones said. “I would not have missed them for the world.” 

Murray has condensed (and partially rewritten) his previous two volumes on Lloyd-Jones into one volume that makes the minister’s story more accessible to a wider audience. The story includes Lloyd-Jones’ leaving his medical practice for the ministry, his 30 years at Westminster Chapel in London, his danger-filled ministry during World War II, and his life-long insistence on preaching, prayer, and fellowship as the center of church life. (The book includes many moving excerpts from his sermons.)

Lloyd-Jones’ own words serve as the theme of Murray’s work: “My whole life experiences are proof of the sovereignty of God. … The guiding hand of God! It is an astonishment to me.” 

• Shon Hopwood’s Law Man (Crown Publishers) shows the remarkable ways God’s providence pursues some people. The former prisoner tells his story of robbing five banks and serving hard time. Hopwood also tells about using that time in a prison cell to study law and to write legal briefs that would win over the Supreme Court.

Hopwood writes about prison with a surprising sense of humor, but he also underscores the harsh reality of life in “a metallic world” he compares to Lord of the Flies

Though his parents and other prisoners talked about God with Hopwood—and though they pointed out his remarkable experiences in prison—Hopwood resisted faith. After prison, his life took more exceptional turns, and he writes: “I was seeing a sort of layer of love out there that kept sending me the right person and the right opportunities.” Law Man shows how Hopwood came to recognize this layer of love as the grace of God.

• In Seven Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness (Thomas Nelson), Eric Metaxas uses short, biographical sketches to show a common characteristic among great men: a Christian willingness to sacrifice for the good of others.

George Washington gave up the chance to be a king. William Wilberforce sacrificed political power to fight slavery. Eric Liddell risked a chance at an Olympic gold medal to honor the Sabbath day. (Metaxas shows how the second half of Liddell’s life was even more stirring than the first.) 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer gave up his life to resist the Nazis. Baseball great Jackie Robinson forfeited the right to retaliate against insult. Pope John Paul II spoke against embryonic stem-cell research, though he had a disease researchers claimed such research could cure. And Charles Colson gave up his reputation as a political shark to serve men in prison. 

These short profiles might make especially good reading for young men heading to college this fall. Metaxas shows the importance of “the courage to do the right thing when all else tells you not to do it.”

Jamie Dean

Jamie Dean

Jamie is national editor of WORLD Magazine. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and previously worked for the Charlotte World. Jamie has covered politics, disasters, religion, and more for WORLD. She resides in Charlotte, N.C. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.