In the summer of AD 386, a young man lay weeping under a fig tree in a Milanese garden. Tormented by his failure to overcome his sinfulness, he cried out to God: 'Will you be angry forever?' Suddenly he heard a child's voice, chanting. 'Take and read; take and read.' (1)
He'd brought to the garden Paul's letter to the Romans. He picked it up, opened it, and read the passage his eyes first fell on. 'Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.' (Romans 13:13-14)
Immediately he felt as though the darkness of his doubt had fled. This was the moment of his conversion; the beginning of a life for Christ that has perhaps had more impact than any other since. This young man was Augustine, perhaps the greatest of the early church fathers.
We're not Augustine. We're unlikely to have the influence he did. And I don't want to encourage randomly opening the Bible and reading whatever we see first. The point is to take and read God's Word. It's God's Word that will convict us and change us as we study and wrestle with it. Ask God to make it clear to you by his Spirit.
where do I start?
There are so many books and articles out there to help us do this. But where do you start? What are the key books to read that will give you a foundation?
'15-minute book club' is coming to CMF soon. The aim is to read three books a term covering a breadth of topics relevant to medics, nurses and midwives, from ethics to apologetics, mission to mental health.
Why not consider joining or even starting a book club? It's a way to help you carve out time to read, digest and understand the content as you discuss it with others. Reading 15 minutes a day means you will get through about twelve titles per year.
but I'm too busy!
However good the books and the bargains, many of you may still be reluctant to buy and read them. Perhaps you're too busy, or perhaps you've got too many books already?
The apostle Paul wasn't too busy to read. In fact, getting hold of his books and parchments was one of his priorities. (2) Busyness is about priorities: do we want to understand God's Word more and better apply it to our lives? Spending ten minutes a day reading on the bus or listening to an audiobook can make a huge difference, time you might otherwise spend on Facebook or watching a Netflix box set!
So, take books and read them. Ask that God will use them to help you understand his Word and his will, to help you grow in your love of him and his people and to equip you better to live out your discipleship as a student.
John Greenall is CMF National Field Director and a paediatrician in Bedfordshire
This article was adapted from an article in Nucleus Spring 2014 by Giles Cattermole
Available from CMF bookstore:
Matters of Life & Death (fully revised)
Every Good Endeavour
Hodder & Stoughton, 2012
Hard Questions about Health and Healing
Foundations — a survival guide for junior doctors
The Human Journey
A Better Story
Cure for Life
Serving in Babylon: Daniel's Story
The Electives Handbook
Rachel Perry, Emma Pedlar & Vicky Lavy