A Word of Wisdom From an Old Saint
I have recently finished reading “The Radical Disciple” by John Stott. The material within the main chapters of the book were beneficial, but it was what Stott wrote in the postscript that resonated with me the most because it is often on my mind these days. John Stott writes:
“For there is something unique about books. Our favorite books become very precious to us and we even develop with them an almost living and affectionate relationship. Is it an altogether fanciful fact that we handle, stroke and even smell them as tokens of our esteem and affection? I am not referring only to an author’s feeling for what he has written, but to all readers and their library. I have made it a rule not to quote from any book unless I have first handled it. So let me urge you to keep reading, and encourage your relatives and friends to do the same. For this is a much neglected means of grace.”
How beautiful is this? John Stott was 88 years old when he wrote this to his readers. John Stott has since gone on to be with the Lord Jesus Christ, but since he labored to write to the glory of God for the benefit of his readers he is still instructing us to do that which will strengthen our faith mightily. This reminds me of Charles Spurgeon when he said, “As long as there is breath in our bodies, let us serve Christ; as long as we can think, as long as we can speak, as long as we can work, let us serve Him, let us even serve Him with our last gasp; and, if it be possible, let us try to set some work going that will glorify Him when we are dead and gone. Let us scatter some seed that may spring up when we are sleeping beneath the hillock in the cemetery.” It is hard to bear fruit when you are dead unless you have written about Christ and people are reading about Christ. This is what Stott has done.
Stott speaks of books in a way that may seem odd to many of us. He speaks of having a living and affectionate relationship with them. He says that we handle, stroke and even smell them as tokens of our esteem and affection. This is not strange though, not to a reader. Stott realized that books were a gift given by God to his people in order to strengthen their faith. That is what a “means of grace” is. So Stott viewed books as a means of grace therefore he cherished, loved, adored, and handled them as such. He knew that reading a good book helped conform him into the image of Jesus Christ.
I have seen this in my own life. I was not a guy that enjoyed reading five years ago. I was a baseball player that wanted to keep my GPA high enough to play baseball. This all changed when God delivered me from the domain of darkness and transferred me into the kingdom of His beloved Son (Colossians 1:13). I began reading the Scriptures and searching them to find out more about this Almighty God that seeks His own glory in the salvation of wretched sinners so that He might display the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:7). As I read, I began coming across passages of Scripture that I could not understand or that I thought I understood only to come to find out that I did not have the correct context of the Scripture so I also had an incorrect view of the Scripture. Then I realized that God gave His people teachers in order to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful scheme” (Ephesians 4:11-14).
Then I realized that a lot of these teachers wrote books. I realized that these books, when read in prayer with discernment, helped me to look more like Jesus. They fed my soul the truth of God’s Word. They were a means of grace to me. Ever since I discovered this I have fell in love with reading. I can read what John Stott wrote about almost having a living and affectionate relationship with books and not think that it is strange. Praise be to God for changing the desires of my heart from such menial things (cable, television, gaming, social media, etc.) and placing within me a desire to read.
What About You?
So, with all of that being said, I now want to ask you a few questions. How do you view books? How do you view reading? These two questions do not seem important but in reality they are. Reading is a means of grace given by God in order to strengthen the faith of His people. Do you see it as such?