Enjoying the Journey

As a boy I remember people saying that in school there were three indispensable subjects: reading, writing, and arithmetic. I am sure that the history and science teachers took issue with this, but it is true that these three subjects form the foundation upon which all other learning builds. Again and again we return to first principles.

Recently I have been reminded of the attention that must be given to each of these subjects throughout life. There is never a place to stop growing.

First, we must work diligently at reading. Books are vehicles for thought. Working with students for so many years I am convinced that the life verse of most young people is Ecclesiastes 12:12, “…of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” Thousands of new books come out every year and with the surge of e-books there does seem to be an endless supply.  We must be discerning about which to read, which to read closely, which to read carefully, and which not to read at all.

One thing is sure: if we would continue to grow, we must read. Charlie “Tremendous” Jones is famous for saying that we will be the same five years from now as we are today with the exception of two things: the books we read, and the people we meet. Few things inspire me like a good biography. Few things stretch my mind like a book on theology.  Few things instruct me like a book of history.  Books are marvelous teachers.

Reading should begin with daily time spent in the Scriptures but it should not stop there. When the Apostle Paul was nearing the end of his journey he requested that Timothy bring him three things: his cloke, the books, and the parchments upon which the Scriptures were written (2 Timothy 4:13). The cloke was a necessity for his body with winter coming on. The parchments were a necessity for his spirit. This was of greatest importance to the aging apostle. But what of the books? Why would a man about to die desire to read? The books were a necessity for his soul. This is a mark of great men – they never stop learning. The best teachers are those who never cease being students.

“Give attention to reading” (1 Timothy 4:13).

Second, as we get older we must work at writing. I am referring more to the substance than the style. (Though in recent years I have noticed my handwriting getting a little more sloppy than my penmanship teacher would have wanted!) Not all of us will be published authors but I am convinced we should write things that will help us and our children in years to come.

It has been a privilege to read the personal journals of men like Brainerd and Mueller. Perhaps they never knew how much an impact their personal thoughts would have long after they were gone. Several years ago I began keeping a daily journal. It has been one of the greatest disciplines and greatest joys I have known.

Writing in a daily journal brings with it many benefits. It helps me put the prayers of my heart into words. David wrote out the prayers of his heart. A journal is a place to record specific answers to prayer. Throughout the journey it is so helpful to look back and remind yourself of God’s provision. It has helped to increase my faith to rehearse the goodness of God in days gone by.

Writing in a journal forces me to think through what I am doing with my days. Not one of them should be wasted. Life is full of “ordinary” days, days where nothing historic happens. Only a few extraordinary days really stand out. Men are remembered for their extraordinary days but they are made on their ordinary ones. Christopher Columbus kept a daily journal of his explorations. Many days the only entry was: “We sailed on.” Some days that is all we are supposed to do. It helps to check daily to see if we are sailing in the right direction.

Writing has helped me to develop discipline as I have made it a daily practice. It enables me to put on paper spiritual lessons God is teaching me – lessons to remember and meditate on. A journal maintains a record of God’s work in the lives of people and circumstances which the Lord chooses to bring across my path.

Writing in a journal keeps a record of special times with family and friends. It releases my mind to think of other things. Perhaps most importantly it encourages me to look at the next blank page and think about tomorrow with hope and expectancy.

Don’t stop writing. The longer you live the more you have to remember and teach others.

Third, give attention to arithmetic. Numbers have never been my friends and math was never my strongest subject. Yet a constant vigilance about money and our stewardship of it is vital. It does not take a course in advanced math to be a tither by conviction.

My dad taught me early in life that you cannot out give God. Give offerings. Give to the needs of others. Beyond that, be wise in your business dealings. Stay out of debt. Pay your bills. Save for the future. Do not allow money and material things to set the course for your life. Someone has wisely said, “To find out how rich you are, add up everything that money cannot buy and death cannot take away.”

The greatest arithmetic lesson is about the stewardship of life. “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

And so we return to simplicity. Isn’t that just like our Lord? Basics. Foundational truths. The applications may change but we never get away from reading, writing, and arithmetic.

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