When life gets too complex, one of the first parts of a healthy spiritual life to decline is reading. I talk to well-intentioned Christians almost every week who confess to growing piles of books by their “reading” chair, desk, nightstand, and other places, but who never have time to read. Reading for sheer enjoyment was long ago forsaken. Reading for Christian growth rarely happens. Most days, a few minutes in the Bible is all that’s left of their reading.
Those who love to learn and those who want to grow grieve the loss of reading like the loss of a close friend. “But what can I do,” they sigh, “there are only so many hours in a day.”
To these overwhelmed believers I usually ask, “Do you think you could find the time to read one page of a book each day?” No one has ever told me they couldn’t, no matter how busy they are or how many children they have. It might mean sneaking a page during a visit to the bathroom, sitting in the car an extra two minutes at the end of the morning or evening commute, or standing by the bed to read a moment before crashing into the pillow at night.
By reading one page per day you can read 365 pages in a year, or the equivalent of two full-length books. That may not sound like much, but it’s far better than not reading at all. Moreover, this would place you well beyond 27% of the U.S. population in the number of books read each year.
Furthermore, if you read just two books a year for the rest of your life, think of how many books you’d read if you lived to be seventy or seventy-five. Add to these all the books you might read in your retirement years if you develop the habit reading just a little each day now.
By this means of just a page per day, I’ve seen mothers of multiple preschoolers, homeschooling moms, and overwhelmed executives alike plow through a book every month or two. It wasn’t because they had any less to do. Rather, the secret lay in the simple discipline of making the commitment to read just one page.
Invariably, of course, when they read one page they decided to read more. The main problem was just getting to that first page. Once that was done, the rest was not only easy, but enjoyable as well.
Get back to the simple pleasure of good reading, one page at a time.
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Taken from Simplify Your Spiritual Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2003), pages 111-112.
We’ve all heard of the three “wise men from the east” (Matthew 2:1) and the role they played in the story of Jesus’ birth. Who are the three wisest people you know? Do you know how to gain wisdom like theirs?
Wise King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 13:20, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise.” The wisest men, of course, are in Scripture, for divine inspiration fills their words. And the wisest of them all is the perfect Son of God, Jesus Christ. So if you want “the wisdom from above” (James 3:17), go often to the Bible and walk with the wise people who live in its pages.
But what about the wise who have lived since the times of the Bible, including the wise people of God alive today? How do we walk with them?
One of the more obvious ways is to read their books and the stories of their lives. Walk with them through the lines they toiled over and let them tell you their best and wisest thoughts. Glean the insights discovered by the biographers who walked with these wise men several hours every day for many months and years.
You can also walk with wise people by hearing them. Go where they will be speaking. Listen to them via radio, the Internet, or recording.
Find a wise person to disciple you. You may know a wise role model, but protest, “He’d never be willing to spend time with me.” You’ll never know unless you ask. Look for creative ways to offer a skill or service to him in exchange for his wisdom. One of the busiest, most sought-after pastors I know spends two to three hours each week with a young man who offered his services as a personal trainer. As he “walks with the wise” from one weight machine to another, his soul is trained spiritually and the pastor’s body is trained physically.
When you anticipate being with an unusually wise person, prepare a list of questions. One of the most profitable days of my ministry came when I learned that I’d be in a van for hours with several other men, including a couple of well-known, experienced ministers, who were driving together to a conference. I made a list of the toughest theological and practical questions in my ministry at the time. I’m sure that Solomon would agree that “riding with wise men” can be as profitable as walking with them.
You will become like those with whom you “walk” or spend a great deal of time. If you spend much of your discretionary hours with foolish or worldly people—including those on TV shows and commercials—you’ll grow more foolish and worldly. But if you become one who “walks with the wise” you’ll become wise.
Who has displayed wisdom in an area where you sense a need for more wisdom? Through books, recordings, or in person, walk with them and you will become more wise.
Taken from Simplify Your Spiritual Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2003), pages 115-16.