Over the years, the Lord has used biographies to strengthen my faith and encourage my effort. Thus, biographies always have a place on my upcoming reading list.
Often, when I mention benefits of reading biographies in a teaching setting, someone will ask for recommendations. I’ve never really compiled a list, so I’ll usually just mention one or two that have been a recent blessing to me.
Well, today I have a recommendation: Where Only God Could Lead: the life story of Don Sisk.
This newly-released biography by Cary Schmidt is published by Striving Together, so I got a behind-the-scenes editorial pass to read it before it was published. I knew I’d enjoy it, but I didn’t realize just how encouraging and faith building it would be.
Where Only God Could Lead isn’t just a catchy title; it is a theme throughout this book. As I reflect on what the Lord taught me through it’s pages, I thought of five summary thoughts—five ways God leads His children, as seen in the life of Dr. Sisk:
God leads common people. If you know Dr. and Mrs. Sisk today, you don’t call them common—not in terms of the depth or breadth of their ministry fruit or influence. But as you read Where Only God Could Lead, you find that there never were two more common people whom God chose.
I found myself delighted by reading stories about Dr. and Mrs. Sisk’s early years that I had never heard before. And I found myself surprised—sometimes even shocked—by these glimpses into their lives.
I don’t want to give any spoilers here, but I’m afraid I can’t say I had the same self control with those I talked with while working through this book. I couldn’t help but give them snapshots from this extraordinary story about common people…who allowed God to lead them.
God leads gently. I think one of the greatest blessings to me in this book was the transparency in revealing times the Sisks’ faith was weak. In these pages, you read of amazing growth and incredible (as in literally incredible) fruit. But you’ll also read of times when they longed to leave the mission field, times when they thought perhaps God had called them to roles in which they could not succeed, times when fruit was low and hope even lower. That’s encouraging to me.
God leads with purpose. In the snapshot of a single moment (or year or decade), some experiences of our lives feel arbitrary—perhaps even unnecessary or unwelcome. But in the footage of an eighty-year movie, the snapshots form elements of a detailed, divinely-crafted plot. Such is the blessing of reading the biography of yielded Christians. You see the intricacies of God’s leading over a long period of time.
The life story of Dr. Sisk emphasizes this benefit because his experiences (over a period of eighty plus years of life and sixty years in the ministry) have been so varied. From the hills of a non-Christian home in Kentucky to worldwide missionary impact, there were many steps along the way. As you follow the journey through this biography, you come upon times when you wonder at God’s direction…only to to come to an “aha moment” a few chapters later as you see the plot of God’s leading unfold.
God leads today. Most of the Christian biographies I have read have been of people now in Heaven. There’s a good reason for that: we don’t get to write our stories before we live them. Even so, it’s a blessing to read a story of someone whom you know, have been influenced by, and still have access to. It’s a reminder that God still works mightily through yielded lives today.
God leads beyond our dreams. The contrasts between what anyone would have predicted for Dr. Sisk’s life at almost any given moment and the reality of what God did are amazing. Just as one for instance, Dr. Sisk struggled so profoundly with the Japanese language that even the Japanese despaired of him learning it. Yet, one of the churches which he planted is yet today the largest independent Baptist church in Japan, and it is pastored by a Japanese man he personally led to Christ. And that’s just a single example.
If you’re looking for a book to encourage you to follow the Lord’s leading, to press on in faith through difficult times, to grow in your relationship with the Lord and your passion for His work, I highly recommend Where Only God Could Lead.