Early in my ministry I was sitting in my study one morning. I was particularly discouraged by the stacks of unread books and magazines that continued to grow as my time for reading contracted.
“Lord,” I cried out in prayer, “how can I ever know enough to serve you properly? I’ll never get caught up!”
Then a stillness came over me, and it was as if the Lord said, “Doug, look at your library.” At that time I had one bookcase with six five-foot shelves.
“Can you hold all those books?” the Lord continued. “If you stacked the books, one on top of the other, how many could you carry?“
I realized I couldn’t carry even one-third of one shelf.
“Don’t hold your books. Hold on to me.”
Refreshment and relief swept over my spirit.
One of the joys and challenges of ministry is the pursuit of knowledge and understanding in almost any and every field imaginable. Our medieval ancestors called Theology the “Queen of the Sciences” (a title sadly discarded by most today). That designation points to the fact that all knowledge finds its roots in God. We are stewards of this world in every aspect, including mining the treasures of knowledge and understanding.
So there’s hardly a subject I find irrelevant. This has led to a love for—and a significant accumulation of—books. After seminary and over 40 years in pastoral ministry, I have nearly 20 times the number of books than when the Lord first communicated, “Don’t hold your books. Hold on to me.”
I am committed to pursuing Biblical knowledge and theological understanding. It’s part of our obedience to the greatest commandment.
“The most important [commandment],” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’” (Mark 12:29-30).
I believe fervently in apologetics (the logical explanation and defense of the faith—as represented by Lee Strobel’s book, The Case for Christ). I have a satisfied mind and continue to love God with all my mind, as well as with my heart, soul and strength.
Problems arise, however, when knowledge about God replaces continuing fellowship with God.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing… 8 Love never fails… where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. (1 Corinthians 13:1-10 selected verses).
If I never read another book or developed another concept, God would love me no less.
It’s not how much we know about God— it’s knowing God that matters most.