What is it? Is it prayer? Is it fasting? Is it Bible reading or quiet time? What’s the ONE habit that’s most closely associated with my spiritual growth and zeal?
While I hesitate to say that any one habit is more important than another when it comes to spiritual growth (we need to find balance and not be overzealous in any one area to the disregard of another), there's definitely one habit that stands out as most closely linked to my spiritual growth.
In other words, with regards to this habit: when I’m doing it the most I’m growing the most, and when I’m growing the most I’m doing it the most.
(you may need to read that sentence again)
That habit is READING. Hands down. No doubt about it.
Any time you see me on fire and with zeal in my heart, know that it is most likely connected with more time spent reading. And the opposite is also true. When I’m down spiritually (yes, I do get down sometimes), or when I’m frustrated, or when I’m discouraged… more often than not, those times will coincide with me spending less time reading.
That’s why I always say that reading is the one habit that I can’t “grow” without (get it…GROW without instead of GO without…I crack myself up!).
So is it reading that leads to growth? Or growth that leads to reading?
That I can’t say. It’s like “the chicken and the egg” – I don’t know which one causes the other, but I know for sure that the two are linked together.
Of course that isn’t to say that you can’t grow spiritually without adopting the habit of reading – who am I to limit you and God’s ability to grow you spiritually. But what I’m saying is that FOR ME, reading is often the barometer of how I’m doing.
When reading is up, the spiritual life seems to be trending up, and when reading is down the spiritual life starts trending downwards.
Why is that? What does reading have to do with spiritual growth? Isn’t the goal to grow in love for God, not just knowledge of God?
Of course the goal is love not knowledge, but ask yourself this: what does it mean to truly love a person? How can I know that my love is true? What are the factors or indicators?
I’d answer that by saying that true love is manifest in two ways: KNOWLEDGE and APPLICATION.
- KNOWLEDGE – what makes you happy? What makes you sad? What are your dreams, your fears, your worries, etc.?
- APPLICATION – putting that knowledge into action by avoiding the things that make you sad and pursuing the things that make you happy, etc.
You need BOTH to say that you truly love someone. You need to learn more about them (knowledge) and then put that knowledge into practice (application).
Well, I’m afraid that many of us are attempting to love a God that we don’t know. Look at the matrix to the right and see for yourself.
A love that doesn’t seek out knowledge is lazy or shallow at best. I can’t say I love my wife and then ignore her when she tries to talk to me about what’s on her mind.
Love requires knowledge, and GROWTH IN LOVE requires GROWTH IN KNOWLEDGE as well.
That’s why I love to read. And that’s why I think you should seriously consider beginning a habit of reading as well. Try it for a week. Try to read for 20-30 minutes a day in the evening and see if it has any impact. Turn off the TV and pick up a book and see for yourself.
And I don’t even care what kind of book! Spiritual books, history books, lives of saints/missionaries/inspirational people, even fiction books! Anything that challenges your mind and elevates your heart. JUST READ!
My challenge to you is to read for 20-30 minutes per day for one week straight and then tell me what happened. I'd love to hear how reading impacted you and made a difference in your day. Leave a comment below and let me know.
And in case you wanted a little more inspiration as to the empowering effects of reading, check out THIS CLIP from a speech given by Dr. Ben Carson - one of the world's most accomplished and successful neurosurgeons, who attributes much of his success to the habit of reading as well. Start at 8:25 mark and see for yourself.
Lastly, consider the passage below from 2 Timothy 4. These words were penned by St. Paul in his last days on this earth - writing to his beloved disciple Timothy with his final requests.
"Be diligent to come to me quickly; for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me... Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come — AND THE BOOKS, especially the parchments." (2 Timothy 4:9-13)
Still think reading isn't important?