Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Book That Changed My Life!

(Before I share this week’s blog post, let me welcome my 70th “follower”—Chabu! We are slowly inching towards 100. Those who follow publicly—for there are some secret ones too—are an assurance that there is a regular readership out there. Thanks a lot!)

This week I have decided to start a weekly blog post entitled, “The Book That Changed My Life.” In this blog post, I will ask guest writers to share with my blog readers about the book (apart from the Bible) that changed their lives. I am hoping that as you read their testimonies you will be encouraged to buy a book—preferably that same book—and read it. We can all profit from spending a few minutes each day acquiring some extra knowledge from those who have taken time to write.

Where did I get this inspiration? It was from South Africa, where a week in September was being observed as National Book Week. And the theme this year was “The Book That Changed My Life.” I thought, wow, that is a good idea! I could do the same on my blog for at least three months a year. So, here we go!

My first guest is Billy Sichone. Billy works with World Vision Zambia as Program Manager based at Mpika. He is married to Jane and they have two lovely daughters, Zevyanji (5) and Uchizi (3). He attends the Emmanuel Baptist Church and preaches often among other things. Previously in Mongu and Sinazongwe, Billy has served in rural Zambia for the past 14 years in which time he has developed himself in many respects. He holds several credentials and still is a lifelong student. What is the book that changed his life? Let us hear him tell us about it himself.

* * * * * *

I have read many books that have really impressed, amazed, and edified me, building me into what I am today. Of all the books I have read, two stand out; the one written by the good old Bishop of Liverpool, the venerable J C Ryle, and the other written by the great old Princeton Theologian, Charles Hodge. These two books have impacted my life in two remarkably different ways, as I shall attempt to elucidate.

The first monumental book, which I will share in this first instalment, is Christian Leaders of the 18th Century, penned down by Ryle, who served as an Anglican clergy man in an age when there was declension within his denomination, as the church imbibed higher criticism and liberalism of all kinds and hues. While the Church of England was in deep weeds, the Baptists were experiencing some kind of awakening under the fiery ministry of C H Spurgeon. In many senses, Ryle was one of the last beacons in the church. No wonder Spurgeon said of him that he was the Best man in the Established Church. But, let me hasten to tell you about the book itself!

The Bishop J C Ryle
I first stumbled across this title in 1992 when I was perusing the Banner of Truth Trust book catalogue. The title intrigued me, especially that it had George Whitefield on its cover. Having read Dallimore's two-volume biography of Whitefield a few months before, I resolved to get this title and, for sure, when it landed in my post box I was not disappointed. I hurriedly feasted upon the book, literary abandoning everything else I was doing—my academic studies included!

I could not believe that God had raised such a company of mighty preachers in England only a century and a half before, who turned the nation right round, yea, "baptised England with the gospel" as some worthy divine once remarked. The book tells eleven biographies of significant preachers, their bio-data, background, conversion, and the best part, their remarkable ministry and theology. One after the other, Ryle highlights unique features about each preacher in ways that blew my mind. The first is, of course, the matchless soul winner, George Whitefield, then John Wesley, Toplady, and others. Each case made extremely interesting reading, even those that did not hold to my doctrinal conviction like Wesley and Fletcher.

One unique feature about each of these men was that they were eminently holy and loved the Lord with a sincere heart. This entire company of preachers were all Anglican, University men, entirely given and sold out to the gospel, literary abandoning all else for the sake of Christ. Some preached themselves to death while others laboured to a ripe old age before they were gathered to their fathers. For instance, Whitefield preached over 18,000 sermons while Wesley travelled over 240,000 miles on horseback, just to preach the everlasting gospel. By all standards, these are feats that scarcely any of us dare match up to or scale!

Once one reads this book patiently and objectively, they cannot but yearn for more. I resolved to read through that book every year to repeatedly recharge myself, though I must admit I have not kept my resolve. Nonetheless, have read through it as often as possible. You better be sure, that book rarely leaves my home and, you are right, it looks old and rather tattered due to the many times I have read it!

The lasting lessons from this book are many. For one thing, the biographies, so skillfully written, give insight to the other side of life of the preachers. It’s amazing to note that they are human like us but extremely consecrated to God's cause, hence their eminence. For another thing, the book taught me that God can use anyone from anywhere, as long as they are truly consecrated to his cause, with fidelity and integrity.

A small company of eleven men shook England 250 years ago. Visiting England some years ago, I could not help but see the evidence of God's work among the British people. The evidence, unfortunately, remains in magnificent church structures and historical sites. My heart felt sad and yet elated to see the holy "relics" of the past. Oh for showers of blessings on that land once again! May Zambia not go that way as well? Pray brethren.


  1. Great review. When I hear and read about these guys a sadness overwelms me.
    Fisrtly why do we not see this today?
    and Why has Europe been lost, will it ever be returned?

    Why am I so luke warm?

  2. Hi Conrad,
    Thanks for this article - and thanks to Billy too - it's excellent. Some men from our church ( meet on Friday mornings before work to read a book, and we're currently in the middle of 'Christian Leaders'. It's reminding us to get up and keep fighting, even while opposition is so strong at the moment. If there is lack of spiritual hunger around us in England, we must (under God) create some with the sort of bold evangelism these men had.
    Mark Simpson