Volume 14, Number 1, September-October 2010

Of Making Many Books
There is No End

by Tommy Willis

There are many books around that can further our learning; but we need to make sure we are getting in our Bible study and not letting it go to read a lot of other books. A good Scripture that relates to this is in Ecclesiastes 12:11-14, “The sayings of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings which are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” RSV.

Although I never had much formal education, not having finished the eighth grade, I loved to read, therefore my learning from books continued on from an early age. Many times when I walked through a library, I felt like I was walking through a gold mine. I was like a child loose in a candy store. It meant new minds to pick. God has allowed me to study many books over the years. But those who love to read would do well to seek God to examine themselves in the light of the above Scripture.

We need to also keep in mind that this Scriptural principle can apply to the Internet; we often spend so much time on the Web, that we can get swamped with information that can become a distraction to our prayer lives. I have fell into this trap many times. We talk about balancing our checkbook, and balancing this or that, and there’s no place it’s more important than in spiritual matters.

In some old journal notes I had (I don’t have the author’s name), one author commenting on the above Scripture, wrote, “To write many books was not suited to the shortness of human life, and would be weariness to the writer, and to the reader; … All things would be vanity and vexation, except they led to this conclusion that to fear God, and keep his commandments, is the whole of man”.

As the years pass, I feel God teaching me patience in my learning from books. I came across another paragraph in my notes that can really relate. He said: “...read as little as possible, not as much as possible!” Oh, do not doubt that I have wanted to be like those who drowned themselves in books. I, too, would secretly like to wade through all those books I have so long toyed with in my mind. But I know it is not important. I know that I did not need to read even a tenth of what I have read.

I applied the above principle to backing off from the books to spend more time in prayer, and what a blessing this has been. I also realized that I didn’t need to read a tenth of what I have read; but I do need to stay in contact with God in prayer. So God has taught me a better balance now. What we need to keep in mind is many of these studies with all the books are not wrong in themselves, but it takes too much of our time. That time could be better spent with God in prayer, meditation, and Bible study—getting to know Him. It is not wise to get into studies that distract us from our personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

I had allowed the books to let me drift from God. Even some old fears had resurfaced. But if we are walking with God, praying and meditating as we should, we need not fear any of what so many fear at present. I know this is true from experience. It was when I drifted from God that fear and worry filled my mind. Over the years I would be in torment, and God had to keep leading me back to the biblical principle of:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:6-7, NLT)

 This doesn’t mean trials and struggles won’t come. But things can be handled so much better with the peace of God in our lives. Knowing this Scripture intellectually and applying it are two different things. I knew it for years intellectually, and could quote it. But when I apply it is when I’m able to handle the trials better. What can be more of a point of success for us than being at peace, even in the midst of trials and struggle? This means we have Jesus Christ there to instill His peace in us, “For He is our peace...” (Eph 2:14).

We often rush through books, and fail to meditate on what we read. One writer said, “How much better and wiser it would be, how much more instructive and enriching, if we proceeded at a snail’s pace! What matter if it took us a year, instead of a few days, to finish the book?”

Why are we in such a rush? Where are we going? I can really relate to what the author is sharing above. I’m learning to slow down. I can sit and think; and be thankful to God that I’m alive. Life can run by us like a runaway train. I’m learning to enjoy the present moment. I often used to rush when reading; now if I want to stop and look out the window to watch the sparrows play for long periods of time—then I do. There’s growth during these times. I think that much of the rushing came about because of my insatiable appetite to learn; the insatiable appetite to learn is still there; but I don’t feel the need to rush like I used to. This certainly is a more peaceful way to go about it. I thank God He has given me a better balance now. We should learn to be patient in our studies. All the time you want to spend searching for peace is worth it.

I usually take notes in my journal, in the form of active responses from what I have just read. I’ve found that I learn as much from this kind of writing as I do from reading. I’m not trying to suggest that everyone needs to write for their Bible studies, but some people do find it helpful. It is writing in my journal that led to sharing articles like this one with brethren.

We need to be careful, because we can wind up living in the world of books. Few sit and contemplate life as they should. We should take more time to sit and think. Life can speed by us, and we won’t even realize what is going on around us.

One writer said: “...he had left his books and effects boxed and unavailable, so that now he lived each moment fruitfully, in heartfelt conversation with his hosts, in hours of walks in forest and field, happily reviving an interest in botany and flowers, drifting in a boat on the lake or perched on the lake bank in reverie.” He seemed  to see the need to back off from the books awhile so that he could participate more in life. Those who are studious will need to learn this balance.

One cannot be a hermit and do the works God wants them to do. The above paragraph made me think of this. Even with the Bible, we need to keep in mind that we shouldn’t live in the Book, but by the Book. I write this because in the past a mature Christian saw me doing so much studying that I had allowed it to have me withdraw from my contact with people. He saw where I was neglecting my family, and instructed me about it; and I repented and sought God about it. And I thank God that He used this brother to get my attention.

The Christian today usually has to sift through thousands of pages of his or her denomination. This also often becomes a distraction to ones prayer life. With the Internet now we suffer more than ever with information overload; and it will affect our prayer lives if we let it. The first century Christians did not even have books. A few people might have had a scroll or two. But the Bible as we know it now was not even around.

Today, God gave us the blessing of a Book; but too often, we use it to bicker about different picky points of doctrine. Instead we should seek to meet the Lord Jesus in our studies; Jesus said:

You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life (John 5:39-40, NKJV).

Here we see a principle where we can study the Scriptures and not come to Jesus in our studies. Ask Jesus Christ to take you by the hand and lead you through the Scriptures so that you will get to know Him. “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). Think about the proper balance we need in our studies. And what is most important is our personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Don’t let information overload distract you from your contact with God—whether it’s too many books, or the Internet; or the TV. It’s good to stress again that many of these things are not wrong in themselves, but often take too much of our time. Time that could be better spent with God. Pray. Spend time with God. Seek Him. Get to know Him. Let Him lead you through the Bible. As we draw close to God we will have His peace for all the difficult days ahead. And God can use our vessels to share His peace with others.   &

 

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