By Jason Harris
If you had the opportunity to spend several hours with any leader in the world, would you take it? Probably all of us would jump at the chance. You may not have the opportunity to spend a few hours with them in person, but chances are, you could do it in a book. By reading, you can spend hours of one-on-one time with some of the greatest—and busiest—men who’ve ever lived. You can sit next to Jim Elliot as he meditates on God by a jungle river. You can feel the inner struggles of Hudson Taylor as he ministers in China. You can listen to the thoughts and ideas of the greatest minds in history—by reading. Every believer ought to cultivate a balanced reading habit.
First, a balanced reading habit stimulates personal growth. A good diet of books gives the mind constant fuel for meditation and implementation. It’s good for us to wrestle with truth and to see from differing perspectives. Someone has said that ten years from now, you will be the same person you are now except for the things you read and the people you hang out with. Constant interaction with the thoughts and ideas of great men keeps our minds from getting stale. Like an unused gate, an idle mind gets rusty. Exercising the muscle of the mind is an important part of being a good steward of the resources God has given us. In a day when clear thinking is essential to spiritual survival, it is vital that we keep our minds sharp.
Second, a balanced reading habit helps to develop a broad mind. Reading has a unique ability to take us places where we’ve never been, to make us experience things we’ve never experienced, and to help us think thoughts we’ve never thought. As Oliver Wendell Holmes put it, “the mind, once expanded to the dimensions of larger ideas, never returns to its original size.” Today’s Christian interacts with people from diverse backgrounds and situations. If we’re going to engage our generation with the gospel, we need to have knowledge in a wide range of topics and pursuits.
Third, a balanced reading habit cultivates humility. The greatest men I know are avid readers because they are learners. Jim Berg has said “it is either laziness or arrogance that keeps a man from reading.” There’s no need to read if we know everything. The more we read and study, the more we realise how little we actually know. There’s nothing like trying to follow a theologian through the grammatical implications of the construction of a phrase in Greek to humble us. But it is good to be humbled by how little we know.
Because reading stimulates us to grow, develops broadness in our thinking, and shows us how little we know, every believer ought to cultivate a balanced reading habit. As God’s ambassadors to a generation desperately in need of Christ, it suits us to do everything in our power to become all that God intends us to be.
Part two will give several suggestions for developing a balanced reading habit.