As they say, “Once upon a time.” And though the following story has the expected happy ending, it is not a fairy tale. It really happened and the church of Jesus Christ has reaped its benefits for over sixteen hundred years. Here’s the story.
An unbelieving, worldly, young man by the name of Augustine was living a reckless, heedless and debauched life, despite Monica , his godly mother.
Monica was deeply burdened for her wayward son and, with heartbroken weeping, she implored the bishop of Milan, Ambrose, to make all effort to reach Augustine with the gospel. He replied, “The son of such tears can never perish.” He proved prophetic.
One day while Augustine was under deep conviction over his sin, and while contemplating his (lack of) relationship with the Lord, something amazing happened. Listen to his testimony:
So was I speaking and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when, lo! I heard from a neighbouring house a voice, as of boy or girl, I know not, chanting, and oft repeating, “Take up and read; Take up and read.” Instantly, my countenance altered…. Interpreting it to be no other than a command from God to open the book [Bible], and to read the first chapter I should find.
Augustine did so and it opened to Romans 13 where he read “Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil its lusts” (vv. 13–14). He was gloriously converted in that moment. He would become an influential theologian influencing the likes of (among others) John Calvin, Martin Luther, and Jonathan Edwards.
When you think about it, this all came about because God providentially arranged things so that Augustine would “take up and read.” Read he did, and not only was he gloriously changed, so were many others through his influence.
Now you and I may never be an Augustine but, like him, we too are in a providentially unique situation. A situation where we too have an opportunity to “take up and read.” Let me encourage you this morning to use this lockdown as a providential invitation to read. Yes, read your Bible. But also read good books that will help you to understand the Bible. Books to help you to grasp what the Bible teaches about trials. I am reading one: When God Weeps, by Joni Eareckson Tada and Steve Estes. Excellent! You can purchase it on Kindle.
Perhaps if you look around your home you’ll find a book or two that you’ve wanted to read sometime. Well, now you have some time. Dig into it.
Reading has profoundly shaped my understanding of God, the Bible, and the Christian life. And so I can’t say it enough. I can’t say it with the passion it deserves. Brothers and sisters, “Take up and read!” I’d love to hear about what you’re reading. Let me know.
Blessings on your day,