Give Thyself unto Reading

If the apostle Paul considered books an important part of his life, should not we take advantage of this inexhaustible source of information and inspiration?

Harold L. Calkins is president of the Southern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Glendale, California.


He who does not read has little ad vantage over the man who can not read. A prep-school teacher, with nearly fifty years' experience, when asked about the nature of his work, re plied, "I am a traffic officer. It has been my business to arrange productive collisions—between boys and books and ideas." The pastor can do the same for himself and his people.

When the Ministerial Association recommended a reading plan for preachers in 1980 (see the December, 1979, issue), I was pleased to see the Bible at the top of the list. Our conference has recommended the adoption of that plan by every pastor, teacher, colporteur, and, in fact, every member of the church in our territory.

What are the values of Bible reading?

1. The Bible is the channel for the flow of God's Holy Spirit. "God's holy, educating Spirit is in His Word." —My Life Today, p. 44.

2. The Bible is the best means of learning to know Jesus and becoming like Him. It is the Scriptures that testify of Jesus, and by beholding Him in the inspired pages, we are changed into His likeness (see John 5:39; 2 Cor. 3:18).

3. We are born again by the Word of God (see 1 Peter 1:23). "The Scriptures are the great agency in the transformation of character. ... If studied and obeyed, the word of God works in the heart, subduing every unholy attribute. . . . The truths of the word of God meet man's great practical necessity the conversion of the soul through faith." —Christ's Object Lessons, p. 100.

4. The Bible is an antidote for sin. "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee" (Ps. 119:11). John Bunyan said, "Either sin will keep you from this Book or this Book will keep you from sin."

5. The Bible is the greatest book in the world to stimulate intellectual acuity. "As a means of intellectual training, the Bible is more effective than any other book, or all other books combined." Education, p. 124. "If God's word were studied as it should be, men would have a breadth of mind, a nobility of character, and a stability of purpose that is rarely seen in these times." —Steps to Christ, p. 90.

"John Ruskin's early schooling was from the Bible. His mother taught him the Scriptures daily, explaining all difficult words to him, and requiring him to memorize 126 selections from the Scriptures, including the fifteenth and twentieth chapters of Exodus; eight of the Psalms, including the ninetieth, the 119th and the 139th; and the Sermon on the Mount. The purity and perfection of his faultless diction were no doubt owing to this rigorous study of the Bible during his childhood days." —J. G. Lawson, Greatest Thoughts About the Bible, pp. 108, 109. Adventist pioneers J. N. Andrews and J. O. Corliss both said that if the New Testament were lost, they believed they could reproduce it from memory.

During World War I, Wilbur Chap man, a noted evangelist, toured America asking people to pledge to read a chapter of the Bible every day. Among many others, Woodrow Wilson and Henry Ford took that pledge and kept it. Ford had a Bible in every room in his house. (See William Stidger, The Pew Preaches, p. 39.)

Shouldn't we, as spiritual leaders of America today, urge our people to take a similar pledge and qualify for the blessing upon those who read and hear the words of the Book? Let's teach our children to read aloud from the Bible for family worship. We must teach the words of God "diligently to our children . . . when we rise up and when we sit down, when we come in and when we go out" (see Deut. 6:6, 7). In these days when Satan battles for the minds of men, preachers would do well to be reminded that slavery to drink or drugs, pornography or demonism, materialism or cynicism, can all be alleviated by the simple, practical, continuous application of the Bible.

Commenting on Paul's request that Timothy bring his cloak and books but especially the parchments (of the Old Testament), Spurgeon says: " 'Even an apostle must read. . . . He is inspired, and yet he wants books! He has been preaching at least for thirty years, and yet he wants books! He has seen the Lord, and yet he wants books! He has 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."'" —Quoted in Wilbur Smith, Chats From a Minister's Library, p. 177.

As ministers we have the privilege and responsibility to influence teachers, parents, and children to become once again "people of the Book." To do so, however, we must ourselves be "men of the Word."

"The people of God are directed to the Scriptures as their safeguard against the influence of false teachers and the delusive power of spirits of darkness. Satan employs every possible device to prevent men from obtaining a knowledge of the Bible; for its plain utterances reveal his deceptions. . . . The last great delusion is soon to open before us. Antichrist is to perform his marvelous works in our sight. So closely will the counterfeit resemble the true that it will be impossible to distinguish between them except by the Holy Scriptures. . . .

"In order to endure the trial before them, they must understand the will of God as revealed in His word; they can honor Him only as they have a right conception of His character, government, and purposes, and act in accordance with them. None but those who have fortified the mind with the truths of the Bible will stand through the last great conflict." —The Great Controversy, p. 593.

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Harold L. Calkins is president of the Southern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Glendale, California.

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