What Have You Been Reading?
A long time Christian once came to me to confide that his spiritual life was as good as dead; it was so lack luster that he had abandoned all attempts to get alone with God, to read the Bible or to pray.
He said, “I feel like I am walking alone in a desert, with no sight of water. I am fairly desperate.”
This was a young man who to all outward appearances had it all together. He was active in ministry and showed great enthusiasm in the things of God. Yet I could see in his eyes that he was earnest about his true spiritual condition.
As he was talking to me I was silently asking God for wisdom as to what to say to him. After listening to him for a few minutes, a question popped up in my mind.
I asked him, “May I ask, what is the last Christian book you ever read?”
I could tell the young man was more than a little surprised by my question. He answered that he once enjoyed reading, but now did not read much Christian material at all.
I pressed him further and he told me the title of the last Christian book he had read. I won’t mention the title here, for that is not really the issue. It could have been one of any number of books. I was familiar with the book he mentioned, and then asked him, “If I ask you to read something, would you do it?”
In desperation he said, “If you think it would help me Pastor, then yes, of course.”
I then said, “I have a book” and reached behind me to the shelf in my bookcase and pulled one down. “For the next month or so, please just take 10-15 minutes each day, and read this.”
He took the book and his face took on a very puzzled expression. It was not really a book about Christian devotion, per se. It was not a book about how to climb out of a spiritual rut.
The more he gazed at the book now in his hands, the more confused he became.
He asked, “What has this book got to do with my present struggle?”
I said, “Well, it does not address the issue you have directly, but I want you to trust me. Just commit to read it for 10-15 minutes each day until you get through it.”
He paused for a moment before saying, “ok, pastor, I trust you, and I promise, I will do it.”
We talked a little more, but within a few minutes he left my office. I remember praying that God would restore this young man’s spiritual fire and zeal… and that seemed to be that.
Less than three weeks later, I encountered this young man after a Church service. He looked very happy and asked, “Do you have a minute?”
“Of course,” I said.
He then proceeded to tell me that his spiritual life was back on track and that his best time of the day – the time he most looked forward to – was his alone time with God and His Bible.
I asked, “What happened?”
He said, “I’ve been reading the book you gave me. It has opened up to me treasures I have never seen before. I read something and then for the rest of the day, my mind is captivated by what I have read, and I find I am thanking God for the insight, and… well, I just feel so close to God just now. I am a different man from the one you saw in your office a few weeks ago. But Pastor…?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Can you explain to me what has happened?”
I said, “Well, God has been very gracious to you to draw You closer to Himself.”
“Yes, I know that, but can you tell me what happened to me?”
I said, “Well, I think so.”
I then went on to explain that when he told me what he had been reading previously, I would have to categorize the book like a spiritual meal without any vitamins. It was a book that had very little content – a lot of fluff – and although popular, was merely like a pep talk rather than something of substance.
I said, “Can you imagine a 21 year old coming home from a full day at work and being excited to sit down and watch Sesame Street?”
“No,” he said.
“Well,” I said, “the book you were reading (and many like them before) were, spiritually speaking, like watching Sesame Street. Like the TV show, it’s great for kids, but there’s something wrong if an adult finds all he needs in that show. There comes a time when someone needs to move on – a time to enjoy more than “C is for Cookie.” Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of the Cookie Monster. I think every child should get to know the Cookie Monster, Big Bird, Bert and Ernie and the Count. But there comes a time when you put away childish things and reach for the things of adulthood.”
I went on, “The book I gave you was an introduction to an adult form of Christianity. In reading it, I knew it would challenge both your heart and your mind. It would show you things you had never seen before. It was easy to read, and not the arduous thing you might have imagined.”
“Wow, I can see that now. Thank you so much Pastor. Would you write down maybe 4 or 5 book titles that I can read over the next few months?”
“I would be glad to… Come to my office and I will write a few titles down for you.”
As Christians, we are called upon to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Of these, very little attention is given to the mind. Yet we love the Lord with our mind by thinking right thoughts about Him, learning and discovering treasures in His word, allowing our thoughts to go from the A, B, C’s of childhood, to the more weighty and meaty things of God.
“When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” 1 Cor. 13:11