In a world where quick solutions, sound bites and snap decisions are the norm, wisdom often seems in short supply. We are so tempted to find our solutions in 144 characters when God may have 200 pages in mind. Apparently, He does not always work in our time frame.
This week I was in one of our bookstores when a long time customer came in and we began chatting. Robyn is an insightful person and she knows that I love books. After few moments, she asked me a question that gives me Goosebumps, “Can you recommend something”? That question is both wonderful and terrifying. On one hand, I have read lots of books and have lots of things to suggest, on the other I wanted to recommend something that would really make a difference in her life. This matter of choosing a book to read is no small thing.
In 1748, John Newton, the infamous slave trader and writer of the hymn Amazing Grace was on a ship bound for England. He had spent years wandering from God after having been a pious church going boy. While sitting in his cabin, John Newton read a few lines from the famous book by Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ. The lines spoke of the terror of God’s judgment. “What if this were real?” John thought. The ship he was on nearly sank in a terrible storm and God used this book and these circumstances to draw John back to himself. Many years later John became a pastor who deeply impacted William Wilberforce, the man who may have had single largest influence in ending the slave trade itself.
In the late 1980’s, a young man named Bob Fu, was sitting in a classroom in China weeping for his plight. He had led a student protest that ultimately made him an outcast in his university. He was being watched, hounded and mistreated by the authorities and his future seemed in jeopardy. That very day, another student offered him a book about a Chinese intellectual from the previous century who had developed a serious opium addiction. After hearing about a contest to win money by writing an essay on “What’s the best way to get rid of an addiction to opium?”, he decided to write in and win so he could use the money to buy more opium. Little did he know that the contest was being run by men associated with Hudson Taylor’s group. After winning the contest and meeting them, he came to see that Jesus was the only solution to his problem. His conversion was dramatic and long lasting. Bob read this book and realized that if Jesus could help an opium addict, maybe He could help him too. Today, Bob is one of the most influential Chinese Christian leaders in the world and has helped many people escape from dire circumstances, torture and imprisonment as a result of their faith.
Helping someone choose the right book has eternal consequences and I get to do this on regular basis. Walking around our store with Robyn, I realized that the books we sell are really an antidote to foolishness. When I am tempted to doubt God’s goodness, I can read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. When I forget God’s faithfulness, I can read The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. When I even wonder about God’s existence at all I can read The Reason for God by Tim Keller. Lately, I have been blessed to see the wisdom in the Minor Prophets from a wonderful book by Stuart Briscoe entitled Taking God Seriously. As I go about my work this week, I am very mindful that reading and recommending good Christian books is more than a privilege – it is a calling. It is a calling that I take more and more seriously as the years go by as I see the lives that have been changed by the simple act of setting aside time to get quiet and read a good book.