Inspired or Discouraged?

February 17, 2006

Tell me this hasn’t been some great material from Mark, Al and Lig on reading! And Lig informs me that he still has 4 more posts on this topic for us. We should also commend whoever had the idea to ask these men the question about their practice of reading and study.

As we read about how these men devour books each day, I find it both inspiring and discouraging. I am inspired to read more and discouraged as I consider how little I’ve read and how much there is to read. And in order to protect you from the discouraging part, I thought it might help if I encouraged you to create a plan for your reading and study.

So here is my recommendation. First, don’t compare yourself to Al, Mark and Lig. These men play in a different league than most of us, and they have gifting we simply don’t have. I know, it doesn’t seem fair, but you will have to take that up with God. So let us admire and be inspired by these men, but not aspire to be exactly like them. They have world-class gifting, and most of us, well, most of us aren’t really world-class anything — except world-class sinners, and this should leave us amazed by grace as we survey the wondrous cross.

But don’t despair: I am here for you, representing all those who are just average. Average intellectually, average in gifting — come to think of it, average in just about everything. And that’s on a good day. However, this disparity in gifting is no excuse for the absence of discipline in our lives. And where there is a neglect of reading in the life of the pastor, there is often the presence of laziness and pride. I don’t doubt that you are busy and that your to-do list appears endless. But it is possible to be very busy and yet very lazy, because we aren’t busy doing that which is most important. There is a difference between busyness and effectiveness. The real question is: are you busy with various responsibilities of secondary importance, or are you attending each day to that which is most important? Much more could be said about this and if you want to read more on this topic just click here.

My friend Don Whitney makes a discerning observation in his excellent chapter, "Pursuing a Passion for God Through the Spiritual Disciplines: Learning from Jonathan Edwards," in the book, A God Entranced Vision of All Things (edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor; I highly recommend both the chapter and the book). Let Don’s insightful statement challenge and encourage you:

"We’ve not been given Edwards’ gifts. It’s useless to encourage anyone to imitate Edwards’ mental ability. We can, however, regardless of our own intellectual capacity, imitate his discipline. We do not have to possess Edwards’ intelligence to adopt his diligence. Regardless of how great or small our gifts and talents, our responsibility for 1 Timothy 4:7 remains: ‘Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.’ "

So let’s accept the fact that we haven’t been given Edwards’ gifts, or Mohler’s, or Dever’s, or Duncan’s. And even if you are a continuationist like me, you shouldn’t pray for their gifts. If you don’t already have them, you won’t be getting them, anymore than Al or Mark will suddenly become athletically gifted. Not gonna happen, even if there is revival. Miracles like these await the new heavens and the new earth, my friend.

But just because we aren’t as gifted, doesn’t mean we can’t imitate their discipline. And this should give us all hope. And this post has gone on too long, so we will continue this discussion in part 2.