Article by Michael Goforth II:
It was December of 2013 and my secret Santa handed me a gift. I was puzzled by the size of it since I had only asked for an Amazon gift card, but I tore into the wrapping paper with excitement.
I was somewhat disappointed when I discovered that it was just a book. Not only that, the title of the book was, “HUMILITY” written in large prominent letters across the front. A book about humility? Gee. . .thanks.
Since my wife Shannon and I were still dating at the time, and this was from my future sister-in-law Bridget and her husband Evan, I quickly faked a smile and thanked them for the gift. I was still trying to win them over. And in their defense, they had slipped an Amazon gift card in the book. So all was not lost.
Little did I know, this little book about humility would change my life forever.
Near the end of the night, as I was pretending to be excited about my gift and paging through the book, my other future sister-in-law, Erin, quipped, “You know what they say, readers are leaders!”
I’m not sure if she did it on purpose, and at the time I didn’t know the difference. But she had actually reversed a quote by Harry Truman where he said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”
Either way, her statement haunted me for the rest of the night. Readers are leaders? This was not good news for me, because I hated reading. But I also wanted to be a leader. Did I need to become a reader?
Fast forward to January of 2014. The holidays were over and that little book on humility sat on my night stand. Since I was still trying to win Evan and Bridget over, I decided to read it. Mainly so that I could tell them I read it. Which is ironic, because I was about to read a book about humility for prideful reasons.
To my surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed the book! I sent Evan and Bridget a text to thank them and a few days later I found a package on my front porch. It was another book from Evan.
I was thankful, but since I still didn’t really enjoy reading, I read that one out of obligation as well.
Thus began a year long process of Evan trying to turn me into a reader. Every time I read a book and thanked him, he would send me another book. It was kind of annoying at first, but then I started looking forward to the next package in the mail.
I was slowly becoming a reader, and I was strangely enjoying it.
It’s now 2019, and you’ll rarely find me without a book close at hand. I absolutely love reading and I am so thankful for God’s wonderful providence on that cold December night.
If you’re not a reader, I’m just going to show my cards at the beginning and tell you that I want you to become a reader. I’m convinced that it will change your life. And if you’re not too bored by this post already, I want to invite you to continue as I share 4 ways that reading has transformed my life:
1. Reading Changed My Appetites
As I mentioned above, I used to hate reading. I mean I really hated it. Growing up, I thought books were dry and boring. I wanted to play sports or go hunting, and you might entice me with a good movie, but reading? No way.
In both high school and college I had championed the art of skimming through books so I could get a good grade without reading. I once told my parents that I would never go to college because of all the reading I would have to do. Ironically enough, a week from today I’ll graduate with a master’s degree.
What changed? Reading.
Even after I begrudgingly finished my bachelor’s degree, I still didn’t like to read. I celebrated the thought of never having to read again. However, that would all change after December of 2013. I started enjoying reading so much that I decided to further my education.
But I’m not asking you to go to college, I’m asking you to read. Give it some time and I think you’ll be surprised by how much you enjoy it.
Like many good things, reading is an acquired taste. It takes time to develop, but once you do, you’ll love it. It will open up a world of discovery for you and you’ll be hungry to learn more.
2. Reading Brought Depth To My Free Time
Don’t worry, I’m not going to go off on a tangent about all the hours we spend watching television or staring at our little glowing rectangles. Social media alone can be the cause of shorter attention spans, superficial relationships, increased self-absorption, and shallow spirituality. But I think most of us know all of that.
Instead of spending your free time with mindless entertainment, you could pick up a great book instead!
Instead of hanging out on Facebook, you could spend the evening with awesome guys like Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, and the Apostle Paul!
I still enjoy watching funny videos and catching up with my friends on social media, but I also enjoy reading.
And in a shallow culture like ours, it’s nice to bring some depth into my life through a good book.
3. Reading Helped Me Treasure God's Word
Even though I hated reading while growing up, there was one book that I knew I needed to read.
My parents had taught me from a young age that I couldn’t live on bread alone. (Matthew 4:4) I knew my soul would starve without the Word of God. However, my time in the Scripture was often fueled by duty instead of delight. I read the Bible because I knew I needed to, but I didn’t always enjoy it.
This became even more difficult with the rise of the smart phone. I now had an endless stream of entertainment that seemed more enticing than words on a page.
Once I started to develop my appetite for reading, that began to change. The Holy Spirit used my new found joy of reading to help me treasure God’s Word more than I ever had before.
So I want to encourage you to acquire a taste for reading. And if you only have time for one book, make it the Bible.
The fact of the matter is, God chose words, not videos, to reveal Himself to us. We are people of the Book. And whether we learn to enjoy reading or not, we desperately need to spend time in God’s Word. Our souls depend on it.
4. Reading Brought Me Closer To God
If it’s true that reading helped me treasure God’s Word more, then it would make sense that it brought me closer to God as well.
God creates with His Word (Psalm 33:6), God upholds the universe with His Word (Hebrews 1:3), God saves with His Word (1 Peter 1:23), God gives life with His Word (Matthew 4:4), God advances His kingdom with His Word (Mark 4:20), and God builds up His people with His Word (Acts 20:32).
Most importantly, God chose to reveal Himself through His Word, and the pinnacle of that revelation came in Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh. (John 1:1-14; Hebrews 1:1-3)
Today, He speaks to us through His Word. I love how Justin Peters put it, “If you want to hear God speak, read your Bible. If you want to hear God speak audibly, read your Bible out loud.”
Reading brought me closer to God because it brought me closer to His Word.
On top of that, reading gave me access to more of God’s teachers. In Ephesians 4, the Apostle Paul says that pastors and teachers were given to equip Christians for the work of ministry. This should primarily take place through your local church, but reading gives you the opportunity to learn from other good teachers, including those who have passed away.
I’ve grown closer to God through books like The Knowledge of The Holy and The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer, Desiring God by John Piper, Habits of Grace by David Mathis, Knowing God by J.I. Packer, Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem, and the list goes on!
Some Practical Tips
I’m hoping this post has encouraged you to at least consider reading more. If so, you may be wondering where to begin. Here are a few practical tips:
In closing, if you’re not a reader, give reading a try.
If you are a reader, be like Evan. Find someone in your life that you can encourage to read.
And if you are Evan, don’t let this post go to your head. If it does, I have a great book on humility that I can recommend to you.