This discipline wasn’t something I was practicing much when my pastor handed me that three-ring binder. (I was only fourteen, remember, and no one had told me yet about all the incredible authors there are out there!)
We’ve been looking at spiritual growth this week and I’ve shared with you six and today we come to the last one in this series. If you missed Tuesday’s post, I hope you’ll click here to read where I shared the first two steps, and then check out the posts following that to get all six:
- Be Rooted in Love
- Recognize the Need for Personal Discipline
- Taking Notes is Vital
- Find Your Quiet Place
- Worship Is Not An Option
- Fill Your Life with Intimate Conversations
- Read Worthy Books
The landscape of reading has changed dramatically within the last hundred years. Before electronic media, the regular reading of books, periodicals, and lengthy hand-written letters was the norm. Not so much today. People are reading, but it is quick sound-bites through texting, email, or social media.
I’m thankful for the proliferation of good reading material on the Internet (I’m glad you’re reading this blog post today), but if we’re only consuming short snacks, we’re missing out on the benefit that comes through long works that lead us to contemplative reflection. Audio books have taken off in popularity because people just don’t have time to sit and slowly absorb the printed page.
I’m not opposed to these electronic modes, but if that is primarily your reading diet, you may be a tad anemic.
Nurture Your Soul with Good Reading Material
I’m not limiting the label of “Good Reads” to the category of “Christian Living” or theological works. Reading books with historical content provides us with a greater understanding of our world and the times we live in now. Biographies inspire and motivate us to greater achievements. Good fiction (please note the word “good”) can stimulate the imagination in redemptive ways.
I want to issue you a challenge. John Piper proposes that if you read an average of “250 words a minute, 15 minutes a day, you could read about 20 average sized books a year.”
Have you ever read 20 (good) books in a year? I’m not talking about the cotton candy “Christian” romance novel that can be quickly consumed and provides no intellectual or spiritual challenge. I’m talking about books that involve your mind as well as your heart; books that challenge, and inspire, and theologically train you.
I’m one of those messy readers that has several books going at one time. (I know it sounds a little chaotic, but I view it like eating several good dishes of food during the same meal.)
Right now, I have ten different books that I’m working through. I don’t read a portion from each of those every day. During my morning devotional time, I’ll read a chapter per day from two or three of the books. In the evening, I’ll take another book to bed with me (or two) and read a chapter (or maybe just a few pages). My nighttime reading spans a wide genre.
Believe it or not, reading to one another in small groups used to be a favorite past time for people—back in “the day.” My husband and I always have a book or two that we are reading to each other. We’ve found this provides a precious opportunity for intimate spiritual, emotional, and intellectual stimulation and bonding. We’d much rather sit in front of the fire reading together than silently vegging out in front of a screen.
You may hate reading (I have a few friends who are in your camp), but I want you to consider reading, not as a form of punishment, but as a doorway to discovery!
I’m challenging you to commit to reading at least one good book for 15 minutes a day—until you complete it—and then start another one. I hope you’ll take the challenge and then let me know what you’re reading and how it has encouraged, inspired, or informed you. (Or let us know why we shouldn’t bother to pick up that particular book!)
In the archives, you’ll find a post on Basics for Spiritual Growth. It includes a list of several good reads. I hope you’ll refer back to that post and see if there are any books listed that you’ve never read. Consider starting with one of those.
Also, click here to read an article at the Desiring God website that provides a ton of books they recommend.
Another good practice is to watch for recommendations from your favorite bloggers or even join an online reading club. I take advantage of Tim Challies’ yearly listings of his top picks and usually order most of what he recommends. Check out this book review from him. Thanks to Tim’s hard work of reading and reviewing, I’m ordering a new read that sounds like it might be one to put on my “Basics for Spiritual Growth” list!
This list of seven is far from comprehensive. I failed to talk about the vital role that the church serves in our spiritual growth, how friends and family impact our development, and as I’m typing, there are many more aspects to growth that are running through my head . . . if you want to read more on this topic, I hope you’ll check out this series on spiritual growth.
What books have helped you in your spiritual growth?
What books are you reading right now?