Pro Reading Tip: Determine Your Purpose

Because it’s a holiday week in the United States and so things tend be a bit slower for blog reading, I have decided to take a rest from writing this week. So instead, here is something from the archives. Enjoy!

The Lord has created such diversity, beauty, and opportunity in this world that it can create an overwhelming desire in a person to see and do everything. This is a great thing because it generates wisdom, insight, and culture for a person’s character. However, practically speaking a person must recognize his or her own limitations and that it is simply not feasible to see and do everything. The same can be said when it comes to reading.
The fast pace with which books are being published makes accessible a wide array of knowledge and opinions. However, books are being published faster than a person can read. For every book you say yes to, expect to say no to several thousand others. Such a revelation requires that we read with discernment and caution, attempting to filter out the ‘good’ books in order to read the ‘best’ books. Therefore, to read more productively both in quantity and content, every reader should define their purpose in reading.
Defining your purpose, or goals, in reading helps to create a matrix so that the books you choose contribute in a positive way to your growth and development throughout life. Much like the things a person places on his or her to-do list are geared towards accomplishing a goal, so the books we choose should also be geared towards accomplishing a goal. The issue for many of us, is we don’t know where to start. The following considerations about your life can help in directing you towards establishing the priorities in reading:
  • Consider Scripture. Until the Word is read, no other book should be considered.
  • Consider your goals, both professionally and personally, and determine what reading will aide those.
  • Consider your gifts from God and establish what type of reading may develop those.
  • Consider your roles, such as a Christian, a spouse, a parent, a single individual, and all of the other roles you have in your life and discern what type of reading may aide your in those roles.
One must be cautious not to establish reading boundaries that may be too narrow, leaving you with very little to read. After all, reading should include a variety of styles, disciplines, and perspectives. Neither though, should reading boundaries be too broad as to include everything, otherwise there is no rationale for defining a purpose.
In his book Lit!, a book that I am continuously advocating, Tony Reinke indicates several of his own principles that guide him towards what books to read. Using that as a model, I have determined my own reading matrix with the following six points:
  1. Scripture.
  2. To grow in Christlikeness.
  3. To grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord.
  4. To grow in wisdom and excellence for the Lord’s glory.
  5. To grow in comprehension of the Lord’s past, present, and future will.
  6. To grow in understanding and appreciation of God’s creation, namely individuals.
Perhaps these points will be useful to others, but they require some additional explanations about how I use them. Our constant endeavor should be to grow in Christlikeness and grace and knowledge of the Lord, as Scripture urges this. Therefore, much of what I read is based upon christian living truths found in the Bible.
However, there is more. Growing in wisdom and excellence for the Lord’s glory allows me the opportunity to pursue reading that will help me develop specific roles of my life. As a parent, I may look to books on parenting or as an author I look at books that help develop my writing skills and habits, with the purpose that as I grow in those disciplines I will glorify the Lord with what I learn. Furthermore, the fifth point brings into the mix books of historical insights, showing how God has used others throughout the course of history to shape the world in which we live today. And finally, reading is an opportunity for me to understand others. Sometimes reading well-refined literature will help to capture societal behaviors and mentality. Other times reading simple fiction (my favorite are mysteries) not only gives me some easy reading to relax to, but generates a better understanding of how people think as I watch author unfold plots and develop characters.
This list then, not only cultivates my reading, but offers a broad range of books that include true stories and fiction, differing genres, insightful truths from a Christian perspective and a worldly perspective. Regardless of what I am reading, all of it must be filtered through the unadulterated word of truth found in Scripture. Therefore, not everything I read is taken as absolute (and neither should everything you read be taken as absolute) but instead is filtered through a Christian perspective that continues to be developed by the perfect and infallible word of God.
Reading enriches lives and nurtures people. Therefore, reading is not a matter of reading alone, but imitates reactions and establishes results. It is necessary then, for every person to be considerate of what his or her reading list encompasses. My urging to all readers is to read with purpose and read with direction.