On the Importance of Reading Part 1

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Many years ago, someone shared with me something that I have never forgotten. He said, “Ten years from now, what will make you different from the individual that you are today will be due primarily to two key influences in your life: the people you meet and the books you read.”

The former influence, I believe, finds no opponent in our day. However, it is with the latter influence that most present-day Christians have considerable difficulty. Therefore, I will seek to demonstrate its truthful practicality today, and in the next three articles. 

Why would so many Christians have difficulty accepting the fact that they should become voracious readers of books (i.e., good, solid ones), and therefore question whether such counsel can be of any help in changing them for their spiritual good? I believe such caution in this area is widespread among believers because of the prevalent anti-intellectualism that is present in our modern Christian sub-culture. This current thinking, for example, often manifests itself through such familiar cries as: “There’s no other book for me but the Bible!” or “The Holy Spirit teaches me all that I will ever need to know!”

 Such a mindset, of course, reveals a blatant deficiency in one’s knowledge of the Bible and its very clear comments about the importance of reading sound books for your own spiritual development and edification.  It was Apostle Paul who said (possibly just a few months, days, or maybe even a few moments before he was to leave the confines of the Mamertine Prison in Rome and then this world), “When you [Timothy] come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments” (2 Timothy 4:13). So, facing certain death, Paul still believed that there was value in reading solid books. (Remember, there were no Christian book publishers, complete Bibles, or bookstores available in those days. Read Acts 17:28-34, especially verse 28, for an idea of what Paul was reading besides the best available OT manuscripts and the latest NT gospel or epistle from his own hand [1 Corinthians 14:37; 1 Peter 2:2; Hebrews 5:11-14]: “for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring’.”) 

Now, if Paul saw eternal value in reading sound secular books along with Scripture (“the parchments”) near the end of his life and on the eve of his martyrdom, how much more important should we view it in considerably less difficult times? How can I start? Well, to begin with, aim to watch less TV and movies; spend less time on your laptop, smartphone, et al; and read your Bible much, much more; and yes, read well-written books (both Christian and otherwise), just like Paul did! 

You will be surprised how much closer you will feel to Christ and how much more mentally alert you will become. The great 19th century British Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) brings our initial study on this vital subject to a fitting close: “It seems odd, that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what He has revealed to others.” Those are important words to ponder….

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