Seven Men and the Secret of Their Greatness–A Summary



Seven Men and the Secret of Their Success by Eric Metaxas (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2013).  Page numbers are in parentheses.

Os Guinness states, “This is a book to be read aloud to others, and then read again. In a day when children are growing up stunted because of our diet of empty-headed celebrities and contemptible villains, true heroism and manliness need special nourishment.”

The book addresses the idea afloat today that no one is in a position to declare anything right or wrong. Metaxas wanted people to see moral greatness in heroes and role models. He choose these seven men because they surrendered “themselves to a higher purpose of giving something away that they might have kept.” (xxii). Service and sacrifice is at the heart of great people. They selflessly put their strength in God’s hands and give what is theirs to the service of others.

Great examples challenge us and inspire us. This is an excellent book for families to read, especially boys.

George Washington (1732-1799) refused to be crowned King George I of America for the good of the country choosing rather to go back to being a Virginia farmer. His voluntary surrendering of power caused King George III of Britain to say he was “the greatest man in the world.” (24) His voluntary surrendering of power as Commander of Chief of the army and stepping aside as president after two terms demonstrated that he realized that he did not rise above human weakness. Though he could have enjoyed the luxury of his home he chose to serve and sacrifice for his country and his men. He prevented a possible mutiny by unpaid Continental Army veterans by appealing to their shared sacrifice.

William Wilberforce (1759-1833) gave up the chance to be prime minister of the greatest empire of his day to promote the cause of freedom for slaves and other oppressed people and abolishing slavery. Metaxas calls him “The most successful social reformer in the history of the world. . . . His life stands as a shining example of what one human being–submitted to God’s purposes for his life–is capable of doing.” (33-34) By age 24 Wilberforce had a powerful seat in Parliament. William Pitt was prime minister.

Conversations with Isaac Milner on a trip together changed his life. He came to believe in the God of the Bible, Jesus as the Messiah, and the Bible as truth. He believed God had called him to champion the cause of abolishing the slave trade and bring a biblical world view to his culture so they would respect everyone as a person made in the image of God. He knew he had to change hearts before he could get laws passed to improve social conditions.

When he was 48 the bill abolishing the slave trade passed. In 1833 a few days before he died, he learned that the House of Commons outlawed slavery. “The world that Wilberforce left behind was dramatically different from the one he had entered seventy-three years earlier. Not only had the slave trade and then slavery itself been abolished, but the once foreign and strange idea that one should help those less fortunate had taken hold.” (55)

Eric Liddell (1902-1945) gave up the chance to run for (1924) Olympic gold medal in the 100 meter race, an event he was favored to win, in order to honor God. He could not conscientiously compete on the Lord’s Day. He held the Lord’s Day as a day of rest and worship and believed he was obeying God rather than men. This Flying Scotsman used his world class talent as a runner to glorify God.

He was part of the Oxford group  from Oxford University advocating surrendering themselves to God each day and pledging themselves to absolute honesty, absolute purity, absolute unselfishness, absolute love.

In the 400 meter race, not on Sunday, he won the gold metal against all odds. He announced to the world he would stop running and be a missionary to China. He studied theology preparing to go to the mission field. He placed obedience to God above the greatest treasures the world could offer.

Eric and his finance waited three years while she completed nursing degree before their marriage in 1934. They had two daughters while serving as missionaries in China. Japan attacked China in 1937. (74-76)

Because of Japan’s war with China, his wife returned to the States in 1940 with their two daughters and pregnant with a third. He never saw his family again. He spent the last years of his life ministering in an internment camp. He died of a brain tumor in 1945.

When honored after the 1924 Olympics one said Liddel deemed the honor of being the fastest runner in the world “as small dust, compared to remaining true to his principles.” 86 Continue reading