Never in the history of mankind has there been such a proliferation of written materials so readily accessible to the general public. Written works are available on every hand, clamoring for our time and attention, luring us with slick covers, or bold advertising, available in popular platforms and applications enticing the reader. We as Christian women need to have some guidelines for selecting good reading materials. In this busy age it is not even a choice between good and bad, but rather selecting what is best, to fill our allocated reading time.
Some books, especially novels, and including many published by Christian publishing houses, are written primarily to stir the emotions as opposed to glorifying God. Tragedies, affairs of the heart, missed opportunities, all tug at our hearts, but do these stories glorify God? There are varying degrees of effort toward accomplishing this on the part of the authors. No matter how engrossing a story may be, we should set the book aside if the main gist of the book does not direct us to bring glory to God
When I was a young woman I used to read Christian romance novels. I was swept away by the pathos, drawn in by tragic circumstances, and enamored by the rugged hero riding in to rescue the helpless (or tragically treated, or abandoned etc.,) heroine of the story. Slowly and almost imperceptibly I found myself growing discontented with my real life husband (compared to these men he was so flawed!) and comparing him to these fictional characters who were merely words on a page. At times these “paper men” seemed more real and desirable than my own flesh and blood husband.
God helped me to identify my crooked thinking by reading His Word. A favorite Bible verse of mine is 1 Corinthians 10:31: “Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” Our reading should be done to the glory of God. It does not glorify God for a wife to compare her husband with other men, even fictional ones, and God helped me to see that, confess my sinful thinking, and change my thoughts. Part of this change was my decision to set aside the reading of romance stories and fill my mind with more wholesome reading.
One of the biggest changes I made was to resume regularly reading Christian biographies and classic Christian literature. Who can forget the wonderful allegory spread out for us in Pilgrim’s Progress as Christian’s heavy burden rolls from his back when he stands at the foot of the cross? How many of us have been humbled and shamed as we read of the courageous believers who peacefully stood fast for Christ in the face of torture and death introduced to us in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs? Or were pricked to evaluate our motives and actions by Amy Carmichael’s If? These and other classic books encourage us in a holy walk with God.
We find great encouragement in reading about godly people in church history who have helped lay the groundwork for our faith and freedoms. Men and women from the pages of Christian history lived lives that challenge and encourage us to godly living. Many saints have lived by faith, taken strong stands, and encouraged others by their Christ-honoring lives. In Martin Luther God used a simple priest to break the stranglehold of Romanism and show people the way of salvation. John Bunyan was a tinker by trade, but was wholly given over to learning about truth and teaching others through his writings. George Muller lived his life by absolute faith in God to provide every need and is a shining example to us of what simple faith can accomplish.
As a child I was a voracious reader. Our church had a small library that contained a selection of children’s books. There I first discovered missionary stories. Within the pages of these books were heroes of the faith–men and women who in obedience to God traveled to far-away places in order to tell others about Christ. I held my breath as I read of dangers and hardships faced by fellow believers. I wept as I learned of Christians who died for their faith. I rejoiced as an embittered antagonist surrendered to the claim of Christ on his sin-darkened life. Not stuffy or boring, but full of challenges and adventure, these books helped me focus on God and His glory.
I would like to recommend several classic missionary biographies for your consideration. These are among my favorites because the missionaries described are regular people just like us who struggled but also saw victories in their Christian lives. Of course, not all books are equally helpful to us. A missionary mentor told me that if she can get one gem from each book then it is worth reading. In all of these stories God is the focus and God receives the glory for anything special that is done. In my opinion all of these books contain not just one gem, but a whole mine full of benefits and examples for us.
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