I was interviewed on a podcast in July, and at the end I was asked if I had any book recommendations for women. I think I could have spent another podcast just sharing a variety of books, how they have encouraged my heart, and why I would love to see other women pick them up and read. In many ways, though these authors do not know me, they have taught me, discipled me, counseled me and caused me to “grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord” (2 Peter 3:18).
Of course, the primary reason I was on the podcast in the first place was to talk about women ministering to women in the context of the local church. Books should never be a replacement for the precious gift of face-to-face ministry. I pray all of us would have hearts that would first seek after wisdom, counsel and encouragement from those in our church before we pick up a book. A book can instruct but it can never bring accountability or help counsel the intricacy of a situation like flesh and blood can.
A book can also never be a replacement for the one Book, the only Book that has the power to transform the soul. John MacArthur once said, “Too many Christians are content with a second-hand knowledge of Scripture. They read books about the Bible instead of studying the Bible for themselves. Books are good, but collateral reading can never replace the Bible itself.” Those words of caution have often whispered to my soul in seasons where I was prone to neglect the Word of God for the words of men. It’s an easy temptation…but it yields shriveled fruit that ultimately doesn’t satisfy. God’s words are the only words that are living and active and can discern the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb. 4:12). His Word is enough…He is enough. In Him we have everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). And because God’s Words are the words of life…we are called to cling to them, know them and obey them.
And it is precisely for this reason that I would strongly encourage you to read good books! 🙂 Proverbs tells us that “there is wisdom in the council of many” (Prov. 15:22) and that we are to “listen to advice and accept instruction so that we may gain wisdom” (Prov. 19:20). Titus 2 instructs older men and women to teach younger men and women, and we have been blessed by living in a day and age where there are many godly men and women who have written wisdom filled, advice-laden, God-saturated books! What a gift we have been given! What an opportunity we have…not to “waste” time…but to invest time in learning how to be an excellent wife, to shepherd our children’s hearts, to have everyday talk that honors the Lord, to be disciplined in our walk with Christ, and so many other issues that may be causing us confusion or we see our need to grow in. Reading good books helps us to “be careful how we walk, not as unwise but as wise” (Eph. 5).
Maybe you do see this investment of time as valuable, but you just don’t like to read. Have you prayed about it? God can change your desires! He chose to communicate with us through the Bible…through words! Certainly, He can give you a new or renewed passion for reading words, especially His Word!
There is an old quote I’m sure you’ve heard before that the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. It’s just a funny way of saying that the best way to tackle a tough task or a large project is a little bit at a time. John Piper gives an encouragement about reading, much the same way: “Suppose you read about 250 words a minute and that you resolve to devote just 15 minutes a day to serious theological reading to deepen your grasp of biblical truth. In one year (365 days) you would read for 5,475 minutes. Multiply that times 250 words per minute and you get 1,368,750 words per year. Now most books have between 300 and 400 words per page. So if we take 350 words per page and divide that into 1,368,750 words per year, we get 3,910 pages per year. This means that at 250 words a minute, 15 minutes a day, you could read about 20 average sized books a year!” Pretty neat thought, huh?
So as our kids, grandkids and even great-grandkids begin a new school year of learning, I’d say this is a wonderful opportunity for us to make our own commitment to learning…to going “back to school”, so to speak! Next week, I’ll share a shopping cart worth of book recommendations in case you need some ideas. But as far as a place to start, may we always begin with the Word of God. May we seek to know Him, the One whose thoughts and ways are so much higher than ours. And yet He has graciously chosen to reveal Himself to us with words that do not return empty but accomplish what He pleases and prospers the hearer so that we may go out with joy and be peacefully guided all our days!
“For just as the rain and snow fall from heaven and do not return there without saturating the earth and making it germinate and sprout, and providing seed to sow and food to eat, so my word that comes from my mouth will not return to me empty, but it will accomplish what I please and will prosper in what I send it to do. You will indeed go out with joy and be peacefully guided; the mountains and the hills will break into singing before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” Isaiah 55:10-12