Total Dedication

Calvin’s response to these trials are admirable.  The death of his wife did not hinder him at all in his ministry, but in fact, spurred him towards serving God even more in his life.

He began to live with total dedication for God, night and day, and his new passion didn’t leave room for family.  He worked constantly, giving sermons about 5 times a week, lecturing in theology, visiting and comforting the sick and oppressed fairly regularly, writing letters to believers far away, and continuing his written works – revising the Institutes (as shown above) as well as writing his commentaries.  These covered every New Testament book (apart from Revelation) and several Old Testament books, including Psalms and Isaiah.

The third primary example of genuine saving faith in Calvin’s life is his works.  According to James, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”  To prove that one’s faith is real, a Christian must have works to accompany it.  Calvin lived every day for God – his faith was definitely genuine.  His lifestyle included works, such as his writings and his visits to the sick, and these works prove that his faith was real.  Calvin also made this quote, “Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is never alone.” This is very similar to the way James stated this fact.

However, Calvin’s new lifestyle resulted in even more trials.  As he worked day in and day out, Calvin started to disregard his own health.  He only ate once a day, and experienced several consistent health problems: severe migraines, spitting up of blood, as well as very painful kidney stones.

[They] gave me exquisite pain. . . . At length not without the most painful strainings I ejected a calculus which in some degree mitigated my sufferings, but such was its size that it lacerated the urinary canal and a copious discharge of blood followed. This hemorrhage could only be arrested by an injection of milk through a syringe.” (quoted from John Calvin and his Passion for the Majesty of God, by John Piper, pgs. 40-10. See our About page for more information.)

Calvin did not really pay attention to these sufferings – so focused was he on living for God that his physical health wasn’t important to him.  If he was concerned about his safety, it would have been because of the constant threats that he received from those who were opposed to his work.  At any time, an army could have entered Geneva and captured, tortured, and even killed Calvin for what he was doing.  Calvin knew this – he expected to “die by the sword”.

However, contrary to his beliefs,  Calvin remained safe. God was obviously protecting him from this persecution.  He, in fact, died a natural death at the age of 54, due to his steadily declining health.  At this time, living until that age was not nearly as common as it was today – Calvin would not have been expected to live that long, especially because of his constant health issues and the persecution against church reformers happening at that time.  But God was protecting him throughout his life, allowing Calvin to live up to his spiritual potential – Calvin was able to fulfill his purpose in God’s plan, and live for His glory.

What do you think spiritual potential is?  And how can you achieve your spiritual potential in your life?


Trials and Tribulations

John Calvin preached at the church in Geneva for 4 months, until he and Farel were banished by the city council.  As he left the city, he thought that he was relieved from his pastoral duties, and began looking forward to the quiet life that he had envisioned months before.  But this wasn’t to be.  When he reached Strasbourg, his original destination for peace and quiet, he was persuaded by Martin Bucer to preach in Strasbourg.

In Strasbourg, Calvin met Idelette Stordeur, a member of his congregation.  Her husband died due to disease, and after recovering from this loss, she ended up getting married to Calvin.  She helped him immensely by providing his basic needs and taking care of him, yet not hindering his ministry.  While they were married, they moved back to Geneva after Calvin’s banishment was withdrawn.  However, tragedy soon hit Calvin. Idelette and Calvin’s first, second, and third children-to-be died at birth, and Idelette also died of tubercolosis, only 9 years into their marriage.

Calvin was heartbroken.  Dealing with the deaths of three potential children and his wife was very difficult for him.  Being in his situation, many people would have blamed God, lost faith in him, or even rejected him entirely.  However, Calvin responded differently.  Rather than being weakened by this loss, he grew stronger.  These deaths caused Calvin to totally dedicate his existence to God.

The way in which we deal with trials is another evidence of genuine saving faith shown in James.  In James 1:2, it says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”  Calvin did not lose heart through his trials, but the way in which he bounced back from them illustrated his zeal for God and strengthened his ministry.

How do you think you would respond if this happened to you? It seems bad enough for an ordinary individual, but Calvin was a man who served God his whole life.  Would this feel injust? Think about the story of Job, a man who did not lose faith, no matter what the circumstances.  And the biggest question of all: why do you think God did this to John Calvin?

God Works in Mysterious Ways

John Calvin believed that his purpose in life was to glorify God. Calvin lived, every day, to serve this purpose.  After graduating from university, and his conversion to reformed Christianity, Calvin’s primary focus was to publish works that challenged and strengthened the faith of others. He studied Scripture in depth, as this was his method of interpreting God’s will for his life.  He did well in doing this, and had he done nothing else to serve his cause, he still would have made a hugely significant contribution to modern Christianity. However, that was not all that God had in store for him.

Calvin had previously fled France because reformers were being persecuted.  He had lived in Switzerland for a few years.  In Switzerland, Calvin wrote the first edition of his most famous book, The Institutes of the Christian Religion. This was the first of his many published works, and more Christians have read this book than any other, excluding the books of the New Testament.  After France allowed him to come home and put his things in order, he decided to go to Strasbourg for a quiet life to write and study in peace.  However, a war caused him to detour through Geneva, where he was approached by William Farel,  a reformer who wanted Calvin to take a greater role in the reformation.

This meeting changed Calvin’s life.  Calvin began preaching in St. Peter’s church in Geneva (see picture above), and this became his main purpose in life – he still wrote literary works, but focused on his teachings.  He began to live even more for God, and  through his ministry he could bring even more glory to His name.

God works in mysterious ways.  I find it interesting how Calvin put so much emphasis on interpreting Scripture to find God’s will, when his life was so dramatically changed by God working through the timing of a war and another reformer.  God obviously planned this – Calvin’s path was redirected right towards William Farel.

Responding to the Will of God is one of the evidences of genuine saving faith outlined in James.  In James 4:7, it says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God.”  This means that we should ultimately let him guide and control our lives – God will use us to serve his purpose.  He has a plan for every believer.  His will is for us to obey him and play our part in his plan.

God has many ways of communicating his will to us and guiding us, apart from his direct message expressed through Scripture.  The Bible is important, but there are many other ways in which God speaks to us.

How else can God direct us in our faith and in the way we live?

John Calvin: The Beginning


John Calvin (1509-1564)

Who is John Calvin?

Let’s start with his background. Growing up in France, he was raised in a Roman Catholic home. He studied theology in university, then switched to law, due to his father’s demands. After the death of his dad and the completion of his degree, he went back to his studies of Scripture, and his knowledge of theology and God’s word assisted him in writing many books throughout his lifetime.

Calvin converted from Roman Catholic to Protestant in the year 1533, at the age of 24. This conversion began his support of the Protestant Reformation, and this movement dominated most of his life.

Calvin’s main goal in life was to illustrate the Glory of God.

What do you guys think this means? How can we live in a way that glorifies God all the time?