Lots of people ask me on a regular basis how I read so much. My answer is that the only way I can keep up with my reading habits is to discipline myself to read. I typically read two books or more a week. Lately, that number has been significantly down as I’ve been busy with the many ministry activities. I notice the less time I have to read that the more I feel overwhelmed. Self-feeding is a very important aspect of ministry. It’s one of the reasons Paul says in 2 Timothy 4:13, “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.” Notice what Paul says here. He says bring me my “cloak” and his “books, and the parchments”. We don’t know what books the Apostle Paul was talking about here, but the parchments were the Scriptures. Paul wanted godly books to read and his Bible. This shows that the Apostle Paul, a man who wrote thirteen books in the New Testament, who likely had what we would consider today multiple Master’s Degrees and likely two Ph.D.’s still saw his need to read godly material and to read and study the Scriptures.
Jesus calls us to love Him with all of our hearts, minds and strength (Matthew 22:37-40, Luke 10:27). We read Matthew 22:37-40 and Luke 10:27 and rightly note that we are to love God with all of our heart and strength, but often miss that Jesus also commands us to love Him with our minds. Loving God leads to loving Him with the mind that He has given us. This doesn’t mean that we need to be a know-it-alls. None of us will ever know everything. We are to grow in what we know and to build our knowledge base as Christians. After all how else are we to contend for the faith once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3), to preach the Word in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:1-5), and to give an answer for the reason for our hope with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15)?
Reading has always been an important part of my life. As a young teenager, I came back from my church’s high school youth camp going into my sophomore year with a burning desire to grow in my understanding of doctrine and theology. One time I read the New Testament in a month. I didn’t skim the New Testament either, I read, and read the New Testament devouring it and hungering for the Word of God. I typically suggest people don’t read that much of the biblical text at a time but instead read the Bible slowly and digest it. Sometimes though just reading the Bible in large swaths can be helpful though for the purpose of getting an overview of the whole so when we read the smaller chunks, we keep the larger story of Jesus in mind in our reading.
Paul knew his need for continued growth. After all he was busy investing in the lives of the saints. He wrote his letters to Timothy and Titus about how to minister and set things in order in the church. He wanted to advise his young protégées on how ministry life would be a life that was hard and one where they would experience great difficulty and persecution. The same is true today. Every Christian is a priest unto God (1 Peter 2:9) but God calls men to be Pastors and elders (1 Timothy 3:1-5; Titus 1:5-8). Every Christian is to love Jesus with all of their heart, mind, and strength. Yet, God calls some men to give their lives to the specific task of preaching and teaching (Acts 5; Acts 20; 1 Timothy 3; Titus 1). These men are to preach and teach the Word of God in the power of the Spirit. They are to give themselves over to the task of preaching and teaching the whole Word of God. They are to serve as an example to the flock and the people are to follow them as they follow and model Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). Also, older men are to instruct younger men and older women are to teach younger women (Titus 2).
Reading is a vital ministry. This is why reading not only godly books is important but also regularly reading your Bible. Making time to regularly read and delight in the Bible is one of the chief ways Christians grow. I’m equally convinced following Paul’s example asking for his “books and the parchments” in 2 Timothy 4:13 that you and I need to also read godly books.
You may not have a writing ministry or a writing gift and that is okay. There are plenty of reviews and resources today along with book recommendations that will help you find good books. There are thousands if not more books published each year. While you may not read 50 or 100 or more books in a year, I encourage you to make reading a priority in your life. Resolve to not only love God and your neighbor, but to love God with the mind He gave you. Exercise the life of the mind in your loving of God. The results of regularly reading the bible and godly books are many. For example, when you have that opportunity to speak/write/minister to someone you’ll have a growing knowledge base to speak into the lives of others. The Holy Spirit will use what you’re learning and how you are growing to impact the lives of others.
So are you ready to begin the discipline of reading? I encourage you to start small. Resolve to read ten books a year. Focus primarily on reading your Bible and pick a few books. Try reading from godly authors like John Piper, R.C. Sproul, Tim Keller, or if you really want to be stretched try reading anything by John Owen. Don’t let another year go by where you say you’re going to read quality godly material. Instead, resolve now to do as Paul did in 2 Timothy 4:13 and read your Bible and godly books that will help you grow. Doing so will help you to increase not only your knowledge base but your love of Jesus. It will also help you to honor God by utilizing the mind He gave you and the Spirit He has sent to enable you to fulfill His command to love Him with all of your heart, mind and strength.