The Power of the Right Book at the Right Time

I know none of you are surprised that I blog about the power of books, but there’s a reason why I am doing this. I was skim-reading through a biography I read several years ago called Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas.

The early chapters are about the years before Wilberforce became a Christian. The story of how he came to faith in Christ was very moving for me. Part of that story is how he took up the cause of fighting to end slavery in the British Empire. First, he wanted to end the slave trade, then, end slavery itself. Along the way, he worked to end as many social ills as possible or to see a reformation of morality throughout England.

It really hit me as I saw how with some divine serendipity* the right books came along at just the right time.

Portrait of William Wilberforce (1759-1833) Aged 29 (oil on canvas) by Rising, John (1753-1817)

The first book was The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul. Just as he was about to depart on a lengthy trip, Wilberforce saw the book, which his cousin Bessie was reading. She had borrowed it from her mother. Her mother had received it from her pastor. Wilberforce asked his friend and mentor what he thought about the book and heard back, “It is one of the best books ever written. Let us take it with us and read it on our journey.”

For several weeks of travel, they read and had wonderful conversations on how the life of God enters and grows in our life. Wilberforce would later write about the Great Change that had begun in him. His heart was being open and drawn to the things of Christ.

The next book was the New Testament in the original Greek. More probing conversations followed, where Wilberforce would work through his doubts, questions, objections, and slowly find the insights and faith, the answers, the ideals, and the truth that would set him free. His conversion to Christ, the Great Change, was well on its way.

Later, he would read a third book, The History of the Society for the Reformation of Manners in the Year 1692. At the time, the word manners meant morals or morality. The history of reforming morality among mankind in one particular year! What a yawner of a title!

Not for Wilberforce. It seized his heart and mind. It fueled a flickering vision. It ignited a passion. It set a life in motion. It launched a destiny. For, out of that book, he developed his life mission and calling. Here is what he wrote for himself:

God Almighty has set before me two great objects: the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners (morality).

I am called to put an end to slavery. Oh yes, and in my spare time I am called to improve morality in all other areas of English life!

As C.S. Lewis has noted, books are dangerous. And if you want to keep a comfortable, safe, self-absorbed life you must be very careful about what you read. For what you read may be the right book at the right time, with the right word from God. And that will be quite dangerous to your personal plans.

So, what are you reading these days that is changing your life?

Pastor Brian

* The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

Brian Rice