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Tim Challies

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"Of Making Many Books..."

As you may know, I am in the midst of writing my first book. I am now four months into what I hope will be a six-month writing period. This will be followed many many months of editing, proofing and whatever else happens between the time a manuscript is submitted and a book arrives in the mail.

If you have read this site for any length of time, you’ll know that I am a lover of books and that I read near-constantly. I know a lot about books, but until recently have known very little about actually writing one. A few days ago I began to think about the past few months and what I have learned thus far. I thought I’d share a few of these things (though I’m sure there will be much more to learn as this project continues). So here is what I have learned so far from writing a book.

The Bible says things far better than I ever could. While I am not sure that the following will survive the editing process, it was something I wanted to add to the book’s introduction for my own benefit so I could read it again and again through the months I spend writing: “You will no doubt note that I refer to and quote the Bible many times throughout this book. I do so simply because I have nothing to offer but what Scripture says. I have not mastered the discipline of discernment, but like you, I fail often in my attempts to separate what is true from what is false. I have written this book as much for my benefit as for yours. I have approached this book with what I hope is a spirit of humility, asking God to direct my mind and to lead me to the portions of Scripture that are most relevant to this study. I believe He has been gracious in doing so and I trust that you will benefit as much from reading this study as I have from writing it. So please, because I offer only what Scripture says, do not glance fleetingly at the passages I reproduce in the text, and especially those at the beginning of chapters, but read them slowly and meditatively, letting them penetrate your soul. I have not inserted verses of Scripture simply to prove my case; rather, these verses are my case. If you are to remember anything from this book, let it be not my words, but the words of the Bible. This is my hope; this is my prayer.” The first few drafts of the book, where I had done little more than outline the content as I anticipated it coming together, were based around my ideas. But as time has gone on and I’ve studied verse after verse, passage after passage, the book has been reshaped and reframed. The book is being framed increasingly around the Bible and about passages relevant to the study. I’ve done this simply because the Bible speaks so clearly and so convictingly on the topic of discernment. My task revolves around pulling together the relevant passages and explaining or expositing them. In this way I am letting God to the talking through His Word. And He can say things far better than I can!

There is an incredible unity in the Bible, from book to book, testament to testament. What the Old Testament says about discernment is completely consistent with what the New Testament says. What Jesus says is that same as what John and Paul say. There are no passages that are isolated from the others or that say something contradictory. Despite the difference in language, culture and authorship, unity is preserved throughout.

Writing a book is a labor of love. My wife can attest to this as much as I can. She has seen me become sorely discouraged through the writing process and has also seen me full of excitement as my studies have led me to something new and something that has gripped my soul. I have heard many authors compare writing a book to having a child and it seems an apt metaphor, though one I’m sure I’ll understand more fully once the editing process is complete (a process I expect to be both excruciatingly painful and exceedingly humbling).

There is nothing that has not been said before. In fact, if an author has something to say that is completely new and original, it seems unlikely that it can be consistent with Scripture. Thousands of years ago the sage wrote “Of making many books there is no end” (Ecclesiastes 12:12). If this was true then, how much more is it true today when we see tens or hundreds of thousands of books being released every year. The task of the author seems increasingly to be collecting and coordinating facts that already exist to shine the wisdom of the Bible on a particular topic. While the topic of spiritual discernment has received very little attention compared to other subjects (prayer, spiritual disciplines, church growth, etc, etc…) there is still a bounty of information available for anyone willing to invest in the time and effort of searching it out.

Writing a book requires prayer. I have been praying for this book for a long time now and am blessed to know that others have been praying for it as well. It is always a tremendous encouragement to hear someone say “I have been praying for you as you write the book!” Were it not for prayer I know that I would be making little progress and that the book would have little to say. So if you have been praying for it, you have my sincere gratitude. Do know that it is making a difference.

And finally, writing a book is a joy. Of course I have not loved every moment of it, and already there have been some times where I have become very discouraged. But I have thoroughly enjoyed writing this book and really do hope I can dedicate more and more life of my life to this task and this calling. There is so much I would love to be able to say, if only I had time and resources to research and write it all! It is a rare privilege for a person to be able to have writing as a primary vocation. I truly do hope that somehow this can someday this privilege can be mine.