By Tracey Taylor
There is a scene in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress where Pilgrim, accompanied by his friend Hopeful, finds that the path to the Celestial City no longer runs beside the river; rather, it has become rocky and rough to his travel-worn feet. As the two go on, they become discouraged and begin to wish “for a better way.” It is then that they see a meadow off to their left and a little stile to go over into it. Investigating, they find a path on the other side of the fence that seems to run parallel to the one they are on. Christian is delighted. “It’s according to my wish,” he says. “Here is the easiest going; come good Hopeful, and let us go over.” Despite Hopeful’s protests that the easier path might actually lead them out of the way, they both go over the stile and into By-ways Meadow and learn fairly soon that this easier path leads to dark and dangerous places.
It was this scene that came to my mind not long ago as I faced a decision between two different paths and prayed hard for wisdom that I simply did not have. Like a shaft of light, this old story came back to me, teaching its simple lesson and bringing with it hope and understanding and fortitude. No, the easier path was not necessarily the better path, as much as it might promise to solve all my problems. I would stay on the path before me, reassured that the better way might also be the more difficult. My heart felt a hundred pounds lighter.
This wasn’t the first time a book had helped me in an extraordinary way. It was a book–Dan DeHaan’s The God You Can Know–that first led me to open my Bible and seek a relationship with God. And then another book, J.I. Packer’s Knowing God, that took me further in that quest. It was R.C. Sproul’s Knowing Scripture that gave me my first trustworthy guidelines on reading and understanding God’s Word and Douglas Kelly’s collection of sermons on prayer (If God Already Knows, Why Pray?) that showed me how God uses our prayers to move kings and nations. When as a young believer I wandered into a perfectionist theology that produced in me a joyless and anxious Christian walk, it was a book by the 16th century Puritan John Owen, Sin and Temptation, that straightened me out and restored to me the joy of my salvation (which just goes to show, you can’t judge a book by its cover, or it’s title!).
In the many years since I read my first Christian book, I have come to value books by godly men and women as the dearest of friends and counselors. Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, C.S. Lewis, Frances and Edith Schaeffer, Joni Erikson Tada, John Piper, Tim Keller–these and so many more have made this journey before me, and their insights and applications are like gold to me. And I know I’m not alone in this experience. Many others in our New Hope family have been helped and inspired by good books, too, and we can all benefit from one another’s recommendations. For this reason, we will begin next month to feature book reviews–written by New Hope’s very own–on our church web site. Readers who have been blessed will be able to pass that blessing on, and by God’s grace we will all grow through reading more. You can find these reviews under the heading, “Get Wisdom! Book Reviews by New Hope Readers.”
Centuries ago, Solomon urged his sons to “get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight” (Proverbs 4:7). Let’s encourage one another in this essential pursuit!