I was having coffee with a brother church member this week and we were talking about books and our mutual love of learning. I was telling him about my recent trip to a Christian bookstore where I spent a large chunk of birthday money on some longed-for books. (Talk about a kid in a candy store!) He asked me something I had never thought of: “Have you made peace with the fact that you will never be able to read every book you would like to read before you die?” I quickly affirmed that I had. But it later hit me that, in fact, I haven’t made peace with this.
Yesterday, I glanced at the bookshelf across my desk and noted that, on one shelf, are about thirty volumes of sermons and other theological writings that I have yet to read. I desperately want to, but limitations of time and responsibilities mean that it may be a long time before I get around to them. At this point, there are other things that I need to learn, including the book of Numbers. This alone will require reading a couple thousands of pages of commentaries in my quest to understand the text. I’m enjoying this, but it means other opportunities to read and learn will be delayed.
I tried to take solace in the fact that, one day, I will retire from the pastorate and then I will be able to do some serious reading, for hours on end. But even then, more books will have been printed and my interest in learning will probably keep expanding, which will mean more books will need to be read. And I need to make peace with this. Though I will never read everything I want to, I have opportunity to do what I can while I can. This principle undergirds the exhortation of the preacher when he wrote, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol [the grave] to which you are going” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
Since February 1980, I have had an insatiable desire to learn. When the lordship of Jesus Christ brought me to my senses and to my knees, I was given a desire to learn all that I can about life as a whole—not only theology, but also politics, sociology, history, geography, etc. Since Jesus is Lord of all, I want to know how all things relate to him and to the truth of his word. I suppose this is why my reading interests are rather broad. It is also why I am often frustrated that I am both a slow reader and a slow learner. Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Seminary in the United States, reads an average of five books a week. That’s just not fair!
I do not have that ability. But I can read “with [my] might” what I find in my hand. I will never read each of the one hundred Harvard Classics. I will never read everything written by John Calvin or Jonathan Edwards. I will never read all the biographies of prime ministers, presidents, kings and queens, explorers, etc. that I desire to. But that does not mean that I can’t read some of them. Though I have far fewer years left to learn than I have had to learn, nevertheless, I can still keep learning. As long as I have breath, I should be learning with all my might. So should you.
What do you need to learn “with your might”? You and I should learn and grow in our knowledge of the triune God. We should do so with all our might. Is there a course of study for which God has gifted you? Pursue it with all your might. Is there a musical instrument you want to learn? Then, under the lordship of Jesus Christ, put it in your hand, and play it with all your might. Whatever good thing you can learn for God’s glory, learn it with all your might.
Learning with you,