This is a speech I wrote in high school that I stumbled upon the other day and wanted to share it with you all. It is rather lengthy, but I was and continue to be passionate about challenging people to read. Encouraging reading in our home is one way to pursue simple and fruitful lifestyles. Why not designate one night a week to be a family reading night? Turn off the distractions, and have every one cuddle up in your favorite spot with a good book and enjoy!
Several decades ago, an American paper manufacturing company ran a series of ads in the major magazines, and each one had the same caption: “Send us a man who reads!” This generation is greatly lacking in the area of reading…we have satisfied our leisure time with numerous hours opposite of the television, lounging with a newspaper in hand, consumed in front of a computer screen, or simply wasting precious time in carefree thought and mindless wandering. We have stripped ourselves of a blessed pleasure that lies within our grasp. Young and old alike have abandoned the age old practice of reading, and it is affecting our intelligence, our character, and the attitude in which we live this life. God’s given each of us a beautiful mind and we control what enters in. Let’s put our minds to better use!
My purpose today is to challenge and encourage one and all in the importance of reading, and to fill those minds with the best of books. I will be fulfilling this by answering the following questions. First of all, why we should read; second, what becomes of readers; thirdly, what to read; and finally, how to read.
For what purpose should we read?
Reading is one of the most positive methods to engage our intellect. “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” Reading provides nourishment. Numerous individuals are starving their minds by neglecting the nutritious volumes that are available for their reading.
Books are the source of ever-burning and enduring wisdom. All that humans have done, thought, or gleaned in their lifetimes is lying carefully preserved at our fingertips. Books are not just pages of lifeless paper, but minds alive on our shelves.
Mark Twain once said, “The man who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.”
Take the words of Dr. Seuss, “the more that you read, the more things you know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” (48)
Now let me share with you what becomes of readers, through several historical examples of men who used the tool of reading very diligently and faithfully with resounding results. It has been spoken over time that readers become leaders, and we shall see its truth demonstrated through these lives.
Paul the Apostle, a man of persuasive speech, and godly character, laid his life down for the cause of Christ Jesus in the early church. While imprisoned and awaiting trial, he petitioned his fellow worker, Timothy, to bring to him his “the books, but especially the parchments” (1 Tim. 4:13). For what purpose did Paul make this urgent request during the last months of his life? Charles Spurgeon’s commented on this passage: “He is inspired, yet he wants books! He has been preaching at least for 30 years, yet he wants books! He had written the major part of the New Testament, yet he wants books!” (34) Oh, how profitable and fruitful it would be if young and old of this day would possess such a desire and longing for good books!
With only about a year of formal education, Abraham Lincoln, was primarily self-taught. His love of reading began at a very early age. When he was not working to help support the family, he read everything he could get his hands one. He had no teachers. Tramping through the woods for six miles to borrow a grammar is an indication of his thirst for knowledge and the obstacles he overcame to acquire it. Abraham Lincoln is considered by many to be the greatest President of the United States. Where can we credit his wisdom and knowledge? To the countless hours that he spent in learning…
Charles Spurgeon, a young and enthusiastic minister of the gospel, committed himself to reading six books a week. He would not settle for anything less. He became a very influential man…His power and wisdom from the pulpit in the Metropolitan Tabernacle continues to challenge the lives of those in this day and age.
Readers indeed become leaders.
Reading has a powerful influence upon our minds. What we read influences the nature in which we think, and what we think impacts what we believe, and what we believe transforms the manner in which we live. How we conduct ourselves, the substance in our conversations, and the attitude upon our countenance. For these reasons it is critical to be careful in selecting the literature that will saturate your mind. So what should we read?
“Be as careful of the books you read, as of the company you keep; for your habits and character will be as much influenced by the former as by the latter.” –Paxton Hood (31)
It is far more acceptable to refrain from reading altogether, than to satisfy our human desires with foolish books. It is a formidable pursuit of the deceiver’s to keep the crucial things out of our minds, and the good books out of our hands, and in turn poison our minds with idle thoughts, and sensual desires through the literature of this day. His intention is to keep our minds from the possible consideration of our salvation, rob us of our discretionary time, and shed us of our innocence. What are the foolish books that would lead to such an end? The romance novels of this day especially seek to fill us with discontentment and immoral thoughts and desires.
It was said of Marie Antoinette, queen of France in the 1700’s, that she possessed little education due to the fact that she read hardly anything but novels and romances, and despised anything higher in this realm. The longer we read these sorts of books, our knowledge will diminish as well.
Several years ago, romance novels were commonly in my hands…love and marriage filled my heart with such warm feelings! Yet, while my thoughts dwelt on these pursuits, discontentment grew in my heart towards my current situations. Was this profitable for me? By no means…if continued in for an extensive period of time, I no doubt believe it would have lead to my downfall and the wasting of my life in worldly pursuits. Thanks to the Lord’s graciousness, He lifted me from this foolish state and filled me with a passion to read those books that would challenge and encourage my pursuit of holiness.
But where do I begin reading the good books? You may ask. Where are the profitable books that will challenge us and increase our minds in knowledge?
The Word of God should be our first and foremost priority in this day and age. It should be the uttermost influencer upon our lives. God has graciously supplied us with a precious book that contains the very words of our Great and mighty Creator through which we might grow to know and understand the glorious ways of His majesty.
Let the Holy Scriptures have the pre-eminence, and following this our minds should be furnished with materials that guide us to a superior understanding and application of the truths contained therein.
It is essential that we also read books that will assist us in serving the Lord more effectively, along with books that would contribute to build and invigorate our lives. This may come in the form of true historical accounts of the lives of courageous men and woman who dedicated their lives for a purposeful and faithful cause. Take up biographies and missionary accounts, for they will be instrumental in inspiring you to pursue your goals with ever increased joy and delight. Read the classics that have stood the test of time, and especially those challenging books that you have always thought mind-boggling and have quickly set aside and avoided altogether.
We have such limited time upon this earth to surrender any of it to fruitless reading…heed the counsel of Henry Thoreau, “Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.” (17)
The books that will profit you most are those in which make you ponder the most. The easiest way to fail in the field of learning is to pursue easy and light reading. A great book in the hands of a thinker is a mighty ship filled with truth and beauty.
A new book is published in this country every 13 minutes. New books have a constant tendency of distracting us from reading the old ones. C.S. Lewis advised readers to make the routine of reading an old book in between every new one. The old have withstood the test of time, being judged and critiqued by the body of Christians through the ages. To maintain an exclusive contemporary diet is a dangerous ground, because they have not yet been subject to trial.
Now when you sit down to pursue the art of reading, you may ask, “how do you read a book?” Yes, reading is indeed an art. Imagine the words on the pages drifting in one ear and wandering out the other as quickly as they came in. Or picture the reading experience similar to the manner in which you eat each meal. As the food enters your mouth, do you quickly swallow without chewing? By no means…if so, we would rob ourselves of the pleasures of taste. Yet in our reading habits this is a common pitfall. We must allow time for mental digestion, or else this food will produce no benefit, and our minds will quickly wither away to unintelligence.
Abraham Lincoln was once asked what he was reading, and he replied: “I’m not reading — I’m studying.”
As readers, we need to dedicate ourselves to reading and pondering. Ask yourself, “How can I apply this to my life?” Read your books systematically, thoughtfully, closely, analyzing every subject, so that you might effectively store up the truths in your memory. Through this manner, you will be storing accurate, extensive, and useful information.
Always read with a pen in hand, make use of the margins for notes and thoughts, so that you can effectively look back at a later date and be reminded of the truths contained therein. This is the best method of imprinting important or useful information in your memory.
Young and old should not be without the love of reading. “The love of books is the doorway through which we enter into the purest and perfect pleasure God has prepared for us. Love of books lasts when all other pleasures pass.” (31) If we do not treasure the privilege of reading, we should cultivate it. We ought to make it a habit. If we are persistent in applying this habit, a love for reading will blossom forth, and this love will continue to multiply and increase as the years go by.
You may inject that you have not the time to devote to this habit, and yet developing the art of reading comes from appointing and making time. We always create the necessary time for the things that are important to us. How do you use the twenty-four hours that God has allotted in each day? If you would simply devote thirty minutes a day to serious reading, you could complete the average book in a week’s time. Carry a book around with you wherever you go, in order to not waste a moment in the doctors or dentists office, while on a plane, or anywhere that might involve a wait. Put these periods to profitable usage, and you will not regret it. Not only will your mind be enriched, your heart will be encouraged and uplifted to face the challenges that are ahead.
Proceed from here today and take up that good book, find a quiet corner, and indulge yourself to your hearts content. It will be well worth it!
“No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.”
–Atwood H. Townsend