A Curious Common Denominator of Great Men

I read a lot of biographies. I’ve been particularly interested in the lives of Kingdom heroes who have changed to world, and as I’ve studied those lives, I have noticed that many of them have suffered a similar traumatic event before ultimately fulfilling God’s call on their lives, and that event is exile.

Moses was effectively exiled to Midian for forty years before the Lord spoke to him from the burning bush and sent him back to Egypt to be the leader and deliverer God called him to be.

David was exiled from Israel and the court of Saul into the desert where he spent years running from Saul until he returned to be king.

After his conversion on the road to Damascus, the Apostle Paul spent 14 years in the desert before returning to become the greatest church planter the world has ever known.

St. Patrick was exiled from England when slave traders kidnapped him and took him to Ireland , where he found God and his calling to be God’s missionary to Ireland.

John Wycliffe was exiled from Oxford, leading him to pastor the small church in Lutterworth, England for the last ten years of his life, where he would finally have time to translate the Bible from Latin into English.

Martin Luther was exiled by Frederich III to Wartburg Castle for about two years where he translated the Bible from Latin into German.

John Calvin had to flee his home in Paris for Switzerland during the Reformation to keep from being arrested, during which time he wrote the first edition of his Institutes of Christian Religion.

John Knox was captured by the French Catholics and held captive in a French Galley for 18 months as a slave and then ultimately fled to Geneva, where he was mentored by John Calvin before returning to become the great reformer of Scotland.

So, what is with this curious pattern of exile in the life of those believers God used to change the world? Well, there is one thing that is common to exile in general, and is common in all these examples specifically, and that is the loss of one’s life. When a person is exiled they lose their life as they know it. They lose their family, friends, home, and job. All is taken away from them by their having being taken away.

Jesus said, “. . . unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12:24. Exile strips people of those things that make up their life. In the sanctification process, Jesus slowly pries those things from us. As we trust Him more, we more easily let go of them, but it is generally a process. Exile accelerates the process of letting go by taking them away.

I suspect that for those men like Moses, David, Paul, Patrick, Wycliffe, Luther, Calvin, and Knox, there was too much for them to do in too short a time, so the Lord accelerated the process through exile. Those who were Christians were put into the honors program for sanctification because God needed them fully dead to themselves so they would be fully alive to Him. Even under the Old Covenant, exile brought a humility to Moses and David that made them particularly useful to God. But in all cases, both under the Old and New Covenants, exile brought about a death that enabled these men to bear much fruit. GS

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