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By John Piper / Crossway / 2001
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Bunyan. Cowper. Brainerd. We read their stories and wonder how they endured. How does one survive twelve years in a dank prison cell? How does one survive month after month of a depression so debilitating that death seems the only hope? How does one endure tuberculosis? Or cancer, or emptiness, or death, or loneliness, or divorce? Whatever the trial may be, how does one endure without the soul shriveling up and blowing away with the breeze? In the lives of John Bunyan, William Cowper, and David Brainerd, we find the strength of soul that not only endures hardship, but honors God in the midst of it. The Giver and Sustainer of life enabled them to worship through all their suffering. That’s why their affliction bore so much fruit. The story of their suffering, their perseverance, and their passion is one that can inspire the same hunger for the supremacy of God in your life. John Piper invites you to read their stories, consider their lives, and be encouraged that no labor and no suffering in the path of Christian obedience is ever in vain. But “behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.” Just as Bunyan’s, Cowper’s, and Brainerd’s suffering produced the worship and humility that is essential to Christian living, we too can look to God for great privileges to come from our own pain. And we too can remember, “The bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower.”-John Bunyan. He suffered imprisonment for twelve years, even when a simple promise to cease preaching would have gained him freedom. But Bunyan’s steadfast belief that God ordered every trial would not allow him to relent, and moved him to rely even more upon “Him who is invisible.” Even when his own sky was filled with clouds of dread, Cowper’s poetry was a reflection of the sustaining character of God. So great was Brainerd’s desire to honor God that he joyously cried, “Oh for holiness! Oh, for more of God in my soul! Oh this pleasing pain! It makes my soul press after God.” Through the loneliness of wilderness ministry and the agony of tuberculosis, he pressed on, transforming the world missions forever.
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John Piper, pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota since 1980, is a widely respected theologian and bestselling author. Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and raised in Greenville, South Carolina, Piper attended Wheaton College where he majored in literature and minored in philosophy. He completed his Bachelor of Divinity at Fuller Theological Seminary, where he studied under Dr. Daniel Fuller. Piper received his Doctorate in Theology from the University of Munich and taught biblical studies for six years at Bethel College.
His preaching and teaching is featured daily on the radio program, Desiring God. His books include The Passion of Jesus Christ, Desiring God, The Pleasures of God, Life as a Vapor, and the Gold Medallion Award-wining Pierced by the Word.