The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee,
and the books, but especially the parchments.
2 Timothy 4:13
Of all the gifts I receive I like books the best. It’s a simple fact of life, books make the best gifts. Chocolates? Soon eaten and forgotten. Tools? They rust. Money? Too quickly spent. Shirts wear out or get stained and socks tend to go walkabout and lose their mates. Ties? Got a thousand. Books are best.
I was given a book the other day and I can already tell it is going to be a great friend. It is a book of sermons by Robert Murray McCheyne, the youthful preacher whose fiery soul flamed forth and illuminated Scotland for eight brief years. Every preacher ought to buy a book of McCheyne’s sermons and bask in the light of his fire for God. The liveliness of that 19th century Presbyterian puts to shame many inert 21st century Baptists! His boldness in confronting the indifference of his people, the clarity of his gospel messages, the humility displayed in handing his church over to the interim pastor under whose preaching revival had come, all these move the reader of McCheyne nearer Heaven.
If our ministers would only read the old books, the books that take a year to read because we have to stop and think for a day or two about a truth that pierced us through and through. And if we would read them with the fear of God, such light would burst forth as to scatter the creeping darkness in our souls! In our day, good reading seems to have “fallen in the street.” We tend to read trivial, frothy palpitation pulp, bound in hardcover and priced way above the value of its content. The entertaining, “feel good” books written by the megachurch gurus are selling millions of copies this year, but will be forgotten next year. They do not contain enough solid truth to stand the test of time. Pragmatism (Big is good!) and its paparazzi have become the pied pipers of evangelicalism. (Ah, if only we had eyes to see past the apparent to the actual.)
It is needful for us to pause for a moment and consider this category of books. Books that are good enough to give to others belong on a special shelf. One book given to me now rests on a shelf far away, but I will never forget it. It was the first book anyone gave me after the dear Saviour found me, the life of Nate Saint, called Jungle Pilot. The giver has been in Heaven many years, but I will always remember them. Another “given” book taught me about living by faith. It brought me to my life verse, II Cor. 5:7, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” It was the Life of George Muller by Basil Miller, and was a gift from an old Dutch preacher. He had been trying to give it away, but God wouldn’t let him give it to anyone but me. I stayed up all night reading it and went to bed as the sun came up, a changed man. Given books are special books. I have been given a book on the life of Elijah, and a book on God’s wonderful preservation of the Received Text, and a book by Spurgeon on eccentric preachers, and a book on the attributes of God, and a book by F.W. Boreham, and dozens more. These gifts have blessed and changed and guided my life, gifts that broadened my horizons, gifts that enriched my preaching. Given books, blessed books!
Now, there is a text we ought to consider before we wander off to find a book to read. It is Acts 20:35, “I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.” We all know this verse, but I must confess I didn’t know that these words of our Lord are nowhere recorded in the gospels. The Holy Spirit has preserved them for us in the counsel of the apostle to the Ephesian elders. It is the truth of the verse we need to heed. It really is more blessed to give than to receive. I know, it flies in the face of a covetous, welfare oriented society, but it is true. This is not a worldly proverb. This is the word of God. There is more blessing in giving than in receiving. There is a love for others in giving. There is a level of spiritual maturity in making the necessary sacrifice to give to others. There is a good conscience in giving. The clear sighted wisdom in knowing what to give, who to give it to, and when to give it is a gift from God. The sharing of a treasure is a blessing. And then there is the sweet assurance that giving is sowing, and the harvest is always larger than the sowing. At least in God’s paddock. These are blessings that come to the giver. Admittedly there are blessings in store for the receivers of our gifts, but the blessings for the giver far outnumber those awaiting the receiver.
Have you given any books away lately? There is a blessing waiting for you.
Just yesterday a precious little granddaughter asked for a book of mine. It is a book of missionary stories written by Dr. Ben Kendrick. It is the book her mum was reading to the kids when her eyes were opened to the gospel, and she wanted to own it. What a joy to give it!
Which book given to me has been the best? It would have to be the book given me by the pastor of the church I attended as a child. When I graduated from high school and blundered off into a dark world, I took that book with me. It wasn’t very big and I didn’t read it very much until my world started to crumble. When I did start, I read it in stops and starts, here a bit and there a bit. All unaware of its influence, I began to think on the things of God, and was soon converted. Its title? Surely you have guessed by now. It is called The Holy Bible. Thank you, Bro. Henderson, for sowing the best of all gifts into my heart. Untold blessings have come from that one gift. Blessings for the giver and blessings and for the receiver. I expect one day soon the giver and the receiver will worship side by side before the throne and rejoice together in the blessings of giving.
So Bring the Books. We can give them to others.
By Buddy Smith
(Used With Permission)