If you give me 10 minutes of your time to read this article, I will show you how 10 minutes of reading a day can change your life… well, help change aspects of your life at least. Okay, five alliterated top tips:
Why would you ever be desperate to read a book? Well, don’t be desperate to read a certain number of books a year, that isn’t good at all. I’ve tried that and it just stole my joy of reading. Rather, be desperate to learn and grow in your faith. Whilst the Bible and the local church are your primary means of growth as a Christian, certain books (not all) can also help you grow in your faith. We need to see reading as a means to an end. What is that end? Knowing God better.
Even if you are desperate to grow through reading, you still have to make a decision to read, and unless you decide to do it you won’t. Now, I’m guessing your time is pretty precious and pressured and I am just adding to your ‘guilt list’. But I think there is a way to find time to read and not have to buy a DeLorean time machine. Being deliberate means not watching so much TV, surfing the net or grazing on social media. You know I’m right. There is time to read, we just need to change our habits. But being deliberate is more than making a decision to do something; it is about making the what, where and when decisions. Plan what you are going to read and where you are going to read it. That might be during an early morning baby feed, during a lunch break at work, or in the evening in your favourite chair. If you want to grow you need to be deliberate.
You need to carve out a clear time in your day to read. This generally changes with the seasons and with different stages of life. For example, I love reading outside during the day in the summer and inside during the evening in the winter. I also found having a little baby who stole my sleep meant that evening reading was a waste of time, but those enforced early morning bottle feeds were a perfect time to sit down with a devotional book after my quiet time. The key to finding ten minutes a day is being fixed on aiming to read every day, but being flexible on where, when and what type of Christian book you read.
I remember realising how much I could have read and learnt as a Christian if I’d only read for 10 minutes a day… it really upset me. Ten minutes a day gets you through around 12 books a year, one book a month! Good books are far better than Facebook, Twitter, Downton Abbey and Strictly put together. Yet what gets more of our time? Be desperate to grow and be diligent to read. You may feel that this season of your life is too busy for you to read. Let C.S. Lewis encourage you, ‘The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavourable. Favourable conditions never come.
Sometimes we can find a book difficult, or it goes through a boring section. Because of that it is best to try and read a couple of different books at a time. One should be short and easy (like a Christian biography or the shorter books that 10ofthose and The Good Book Company produce); and one can be long and more thought-provoking (like a Puritan paperback or book on a particular doctrine or issue). It also helps to make sure that one of those books is for a book group or one-to-one. This means there is always something you want and need to read. A good way of knowing what books to read is to ask your pastor, join the EMW Deepen course or check out book reviews in this magazine or other good publications like Evangelicals Now. However, even when a book is recommended you should still read it with a critical mind, asking the question, ‘Is this what the Bible teaches?’.
Finally, and most importantly: reading should not be a drudgery… but a delight. The only way reading will continue to delight you is if you always see it as a means to an end – knowing God, delighting in Jesus, keeping in step with the Spirit. That is the delight. We need to read with a desperation to make an eternal impact. Tony Reinke in his excellent book Lit! A Christian guide to reading books writes, ‘We tap into the eternal value of literature when we read in the presence of God’. All books should be read prayerfully. Indeed, we need to slow down to read, and read slowly. In Precious remedies against Satan’s devices, Thomas Brooks warns us:
Remember, it is not hasty reading – but serious meditating upon holy and heavenly truths, that make them prove sweet and profitable to the soul. It is not the bee’s touching of the flower, which gathers honey – but her abiding for a time upon the flower, which draws out the sweet. It is not he who reads most – but he who meditates most, who will prove the choicest, sweetest, wisest and strongest Christian.
Ok, ten minutes gone. What will you do with your next ten?