Reading is Fundamental
Solomon once noted, "Of making many books there is no end . . ." (Eccl. (12:12).
A casual visit to your local bookstore will attest to this simple truth. As a nation we're publishing and purchasing more books now than at any other time in our history.
What's amusing is that the computer, like its predecessor, television, was supposed to make reading obsolete. Fat chance. Books will be around far longer than any television special or our favorite websites; their shelf life, longer than our allotted time on this planet.
The reason is obvious: books, unlike any other form of communication, have an intrinsic ability to deliver us from our own little sound bites to a world full of purpose, meaning, and knowledge.
It's been said that books can reveal the soul of a nation. If that's true, then the soul of late-20th century America is sick. USA Today's best-selling books for the week ending December 24, 1998, included four of the famous Chicken Soup books in its top twelve. Nothing against these heartwarming stories about life written to mothers, teens, Christians, and even pet owners, but where I come from, chicken soup is a remedy for the infirm.
Add to this that 1998's number one seller was Don't Sweat the Small Stuff...and it's all small stuff, by Richard Carlson, and you begin to understand that Americans are searching for happiness and fulfillment. They seek a life that has meaning beyond their large homes and bank accounts.
So how can we as believers make inroads into our communities and reach these seekers? One way is by being well-read.
Reading not only gives us a glimpse inside a culture, helping us to better understand our fellow men, but it also passes down the wisdom of the ages and transports us to places we never could go.
Solomon's observations are again fitting: "The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd" (Eccl. 12:11).
This supports a belief I've long held: Leaders are readers. Every leader should be well-read, well-traveled, and well-mentored by those who have run the race before him. Reading makes this possible.
I try to read one book a week besides my daily Bible reading. This has been my practice for some time, not out of necessity but out of pure enjoyment. Reading undoubtedly is one of the great gifts God has bestowed on mankind.
In the prologue of his book Guide to Financial Independence, Charles Schwab says that his purpose for writing was to share forty years-worth of investment knowledge with the reader, as if over a long lunch. It fascinates me that I can learn from individuals more intelligent, courageous, and knowledgeable than myself so easily.
Similarly, the time I've spent with the likes of C.H. Spurgeon, A.W. Tozer, C.S. Lewis, and G. Campbell Morgan has been invaluable, tremendously affecting my spiritual life and the way I lead my family and the church.
Apologist Ravi Zacharias concurs: "I am absolutely convinced that the books you and I read help mold our lives more purposefully and eternally than we ever realize" ("The Value of Reading").
This is probably why the apostle Paul, when stranded and alone in a dark prison cell, urged his protégé Timothy to "bring . . . the books." You see, those books were like his friends. They held the ability to elevate him above the walls of that cell and bring him true freedom.
Don't ever take the ability to read and the availability of great books for granted. Wasn't it a young Abraham Lincoln, both poor and hardworking, who once worked three days to pay for a book he desperately wanted to read?
And let's not forget that our Lord also loves books. After all, he placed the greatest story that could ever be told in one.
Postscript, 2012: Pastor Bob highly recommends Laura Hillenbrand's bestseller, Unbroken.