Jesus said, “Take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33)
Most of us when we read a Christian book we read to get through it. We feel a sense of accomplishment when we’ve finished reading a chapter. But the secret to spiritual learning is not to read more, but to go deeper. Go deeper in your reading in order to go deeper with Christ.
The way to use spiritual reading to go deeper with Christ is to re-read. And to reflect on what you’re reading with a view towards applying it to your life. Make highlights. Journal. Identify a change that you need to make in your life. Share what you’re learning with a friend. Pray.
Find an Author Mentor
To grow deeper in your relationship with Christ it is especially helpful to make a favorite author your personal mentor. Read and re-read everything that author has written. Listen to his or her talks. Become an expert. Immerse yourself in your mentor’s understanding of life with God. Learn to think and pray like he or she does. Read the books that influenced your mentor. If your author mentor is still alive ask to talk to him or her.
In short, “Take heart.” Take heart for Christ from your mentor. Let this man or woman lead you to Jesus. Absorb his or her devotion to Christ until it interacts with your personality and becomes your own unique expression of love for your Lord.
David wasn’t born with a heart for God. The Bible shows us that he took heart from his mentor Samuel. Then he taught us to: “Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14; see also Psalm 31:24). It’s the same for you and I and anyone who wants to grow in their devotion to Christ: We need mentors, “Christ’s ambassadors” (2 Corinthians 5:20) to take heart from.
Seven years ago I started taking heart from Dallas Willard. This has greatly helped me to live out my mission statement: “Being with Jesus to become like him.”
Soul Talk Leads us Deeper in Christ
Dallas recommended that I read Deeper Experiences of Famous Christians written by James Gilchrist Lawson in 1911. He said the stories of great Christians and their relationships with Christ from this book had profoundly impacted him. I’m sure it doesn’t surprise you that I read and re-read that book!
Francois Fenelon is one of the Christians described in this book. He was deeply impacted by his mentor (also in the book), Jeanne Guyon. In particular, she wrote him a powerful letter in 1688. These are the kind of words that we all need to hear from a mentor.
“Take heart” with Fenelon from Guyon:
For seven days past I have been in a state of continual prayer for you… that God’s will might be accomplished and God’s glory might be manifested in you like a lamp that burns without ceasing… It seems to me that the designs of mercy, which God has upon you are not yet accomplished, and therefore I suffer. My suffering is great. My prayer is not yet heard.
The prayer which I offer for you… is not a prayer self-made, formal, and outward. It is the voice of the Holy Ghost uttering itself in the soul… I have been in this state of mind before for other souls, but never with such struggle of spirit, and never for so long a time. God’s designs will be accomplished upon you…
The next day Guyon wrote another letter to Fenelon…
So deeply absorbing has been the application of my soul to God on your account that I have slept but little… For your entire renovation [my spirit] burns and consumes itself within me.
I have an inward conviction that the obstacle, which has hitherto separated you from God is diminishing, and passing away. Certain it is, that my soul begins to feel a spiritual likeness and union with yours, which it has not previously felt.
Did you read Guyon’s words as a prayer for you personally? If not, re-read them now!
Madam Guyon prayed for Fenelon’s heart (his will, capacity for choice, and orientation for life) to be completely abandoned to the Lord and she didn’t stop until she saw him being renovated by Christ.
You and I need someone like that in our lives to take heart from!
Here are the spiritual writers I’ve been taking heart from: “Reading Classics Devotional Books.”