What would you want by your side toward the end of your life? For many, it’s family and friends. And it should be. But for the Apostle Paul, he had no wife or kids, and he was stuck in prison during the writing of his second letter to Timothy. And even though he was expecting to die soon, the Apostle Paul made a special request: he wanted books.
The text I have in mind is found in 2 Timothy 4:13:
“When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.”
Now the cloak (a heavy coat) likewise deserves attention, but in this brief post, I want to focus on the books.
Again: even though Paul was awaiting death, he wanted books.
The ESV Study Bible says it well: “. . . although Paul is expecting to die soon, he is still concerned about getting his ‘books [and] parchments,’ so that he can continue to work for the sake of the gospel.”
As my study Bible reminds us, the theme of second Timothy is “. . . a bold, clear call for perseverance in the gospel in spite of suffering.” Paul encourages Timothy to continue to push on in the faith. And that’s the same exact thing that Paul is doing — even until the end. And apparently, he needed books to help.
Do you see the value of reading books for the sake of personal and spiritual nourishment? Do you see the value of reading books as a means to help you persevere in the faith?
No matter how old you are, no matter how long you’ve been in ministry, no matter how many times you’ve read your Bible, the call for every Christian is to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). Few activities are better to obey this command than by reading your Bible and by reading good Christian books.
Charles Spurgeon once preached a sermon on this text. He says:
“He is inspired, and yet he wants books! He has been preaching at least for thirty years, and yet he wants books! He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books! He had had a wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books! He had been caught up into the third heaven and had heard things which it was unlawful for a man to utter, yet he wants books! He had written the major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books! The apostle says to Timothy and so he says to every preacher, ‘Give thyself unto reading.’ The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains proves that he has no brains of his own. Brethren, what is true of ministers is true of all our people. You need to read.”
What to Read
I hope that the Apostle Paul and Charles Spurgeon convinced you of the importance of reading. Here are some tips on what to read. (Note: I also have a Books Recommendation page for books to consider reading)
Read your Bible. The most important book you can read is your Bible. Read it regularly. Get a Bible reading plan if you’re wired that way. Wake up early and read it or read it on your lunch break or read it before bed. Whatever and wherever works best for you, be sure to get regular intake of Scripture. As Wayne Grudem says, “To neglect regular reading of God’s Word is as detrimental to the health of our souls as the neglect of physical food is detrimental to the health of our bodies.”
Read theology. Theology is not just for pastors and seminarians. Theology is for every Christian. Theology means “the study of God.” Put another way, theology is your interpretation of God’s revelation. When accompanied with prayer, meditation, and godly character, studying theology will increase your love for the Lord. No, you don’t need to get a Ph.D. But consider making the occasional book that you read a theology book. If you’ve never read much theology, a good place to start is Wayne Grudem’s book entitled Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know.
Read blogs. I’m not a huge fan of the word “blog” and blog content should never be more important than Bible reading and theology. But when I examine my own walk with the Lord, I have been formed in many ways through various Christian websites. Here’s how you can find the best Christian articles online.
Read whatever you want. Maybe it’s fiction or a novel. Maybe it’s tweets and a magazine. Maybe it’s the local paper. For me, I enjoy the occasional business or personal development book.
Whatever you do, decide to become a reader and just read. And over time, you’ll find yourself reading more often, and hopefully, you dedicate your time to content that will edify your soul.
The goal? To love Jesus more and to be more effective in the work of spreading the gospel.
Reading is an important aspect of life. It is a means by which God has ordained that you can use to grow in Christ. Don’t overlook this aspect of Christian growth.
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