Dec 6, 2010

Don’t starve yourself

Don Carson has said ‘we don’t pray because we don’t plan to pray’.  The same can be said of reading. In a culture saturated with more immediate forms of amusement we find it so much easier to be entertained than educated.  Reading takes effort, reading requires energy,reading means discipline, reading is never achieved without organisation. But reading is essential to our spiritual lives.

In a short series of posts I want to ask Why read? What to read? How to read?

Why read?

1. Read because it will grow you as a Christian

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15

The number of theological books should…be reduced, and a selection should be made of the best of them; for many books do not make men learned, nor does much reading. But reading something good, and reading it frequently, however little it may be, is the practice that makes men learned in the Scripture and makes them pious besides.


Just think how reading can change you!

  • Read to be inspired
  • Read to be informed
  • Read to be challenged
  • Read to  be rebuked
  • Read to be trained
  • Read to be changed!

2.  Read because it will equip you for Christian ministry.

John Wesley wrote to a friend and fellow minister John Premboth the following on August 17th , 1760.

What has exceedingly hurt you in time past, nay, and I fear to this day, is want of reading. I scarce ever knew a preacher read so little. And perhaps, by neglecting it, you have lost the taste for it. Hence your talent in preaching does not increase. It is just the same as it was seven years ago. It is lively, but not deep; there is little variety, there is no compass of thought. Reading only can supply this, with meditation and daily prayer. You wrong yourself greatly by omitting this. You can never be a deep preacher without it, any more than a thorough Christian. O begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercises. You may acquire the taste which you have not: what is tedious at first, will afterwards be pleasant. Whether you like it or no, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way; else you will be a trifler all your days, and a petty, superficial preacher. Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer. Take up your cross and be a Christian altogether. Then will all children of God rejoice (not grieve) over you in particular.’

3. Read because with a little effort you can achieve more than you would think

John Piper shows how just 15 minutes a day can make you a surprisingly well read person!

Suppose you read slowly like I do – maybe about the same speed that you speak- 200 words a minute. If you read fifteen minutes a day for one year (say just before supper, or just before bed), you will read 5,475 minutes in the year. Multiply that by 200 words a minute, and you get 1,  095,000 words that you would read in a year. Now an average serious book might have about 360words per page. So  you would have read 3,041 pages in one year. That’s ten very substantial books. All in fifteen minutes a day.

Or, to be specific, my copy of Calvin’s Institutes has 1,521 pages in two volumes, with an average of 400 words per page, which is 608, 400 words. That means that even if you took a day off each week you could read this great biblical vision of God and man in less than nine months (about thirty-three weeks) at fifteen minutes a day. The point is: The words and ways of God will abide in you more deeply and more powerfully if you give yourself to some serious reading of great books that are saturated with Scripture. It certainly does not have to be John Calvin – or my favourite, Jonathan Edwards – but not to read any of the great old books when you have access to them may be owing to nothing better than what Lewis calls “chronological snobbery.”

John Piper


So what’s stopping you? If reading is essential to growing as a Christian and serving as a Christian perhaps the only thing stopping us is the need to plan to read.

plan to read

  1. Why not fix a time in your day for 15 minutes of reading.
  2. Write it in your diary.
  3. Create your own sticker chart and reward yourself (not too much) for say 5 consecutive days. Luther maybe didn’t need such an incentive but if it keeps you going just do it.
  4. Tell others about your plan.  What you’re reading and how they can encourage you.
  5. Fix to read with others – maybe your spouse or a facebook friend.
  6. Commit to reading before say you switch the telly on or check your e-mails.

Find all the ways you can to keep reading for your good and God’s glory.

Next time: what to read?

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