I’m always on the lookout for new books on a variety of topics. However, some of my favorite books were published decades (or centuries) ago. They don’t get talked about on Twitter, and many of the authors aren’t alive to give podcast interviews. However, their words helped grow my faith in numerous ways. I thought the same might be true for others, so I’m starting a new series called “Favorite Books” where I’m asking friends about books that affected them on a particular topic.
For today’s topic, I’ve asked Nancy Guthrie, Gloria Furman, Megan Hill, and Trillia Newbell this question: What book impacted your understanding of God in a significant way?
My need-to-read list is getting longer from their ideas!
Decision-Making and the Will of God by Gary Friesen
In college I read Decision-Making and the Will of God. It promoted the profound truth that there wasn’t some “dot” that was God’s will for my life that I had to figure out and follow through on. There wasn’t one person I had to find to marry who was God’s will for me, but rather I had the freedom to choose from all who fit the biblical command of being married to a believer. There wasn’t one profession that was God’s will for my life, but rather God’s clearly revealed will for my life was more about who I would be in whatever profession I pursued. What freedom!
Scripture would reveal clear commands and provide wisdom for making decisions on things that aren’t so clear. The Holy Spirit would guide, not through inner impressions but through illumination of the written Word. Wise counselors would provide input. I need not wait for some sort of extra-biblical revelation from God or to have a sense of “peace” before making a decision. When Friesen came to my college to speak, I got to pick him up at the airport and talk about these truths for the 90-minute ride to campus. He probably hated that. Then, when I met my husband-to-be, he too had read and valued the book. He had even had Friesen as a college professor.
So we knew it was God’s will that we get married. (That was a joke.)
— Nancy Guthrie, Bible teacher and author, host of Help Me Teach the Bible podcast
A Dissertation Concerning the End for Which God Created the World by Jonathan Edwards
I became a Christian when I was a freshman in college and soon thereafter started reading Christian books together with my friends. On my conversion I began to realize that my view of the world (and the meaning of life) needed to be renewed in every way.
The first Christian book I read was Let the Nations Be Glad by John Piper, which introduced me to the connection between God’s glory and human happiness (and inspired me to apply for a passport). On reading that book and listening to cassette tapes, I saw how Piper cited Edwards’s “Dissertation Concerning . . .” in many places. I followed the trail to Edwards’s work and took the time to crawl my way through this rich work. I saw for myself how Edwards connects the dots for us between God’s glory and human happiness. In time, I have found that reflection on portions of Edwards’s work has been a helpful antidote for my discouragement, distraction, narcissism, boredom, and the like.
— Gloria Furman, author of Alive in Him, Missional Motherhood, and Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full
Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith by Michael Reeves
Many years ago, my brother was studying for a physics degree. Out of a desire to understand his academic discipline better, I read physicist Richard Feynman’s Six Easy Pieces — a published series of lectures on physics intended for a general audience. The book was witty, engaging, and astonishingly brilliant; it introduced me to topics in physics that I would never have otherwise considered and left me with an appreciation for a subject I had previously deemed beyond my intellectual abilities.
In the same way that Feynman’s work introduced me to the complexities of physics, Michael Reeves’s Delighting in the Trinity opened for me the doctrine of the Trinity. Like Feynman’s lectures, Reeves’s writing is witty and accessible but also incredibly profound. Page by page, he brushes away the confusion surrounding the one-in-three nature of our holy God and explains how a God who is love cannot be other than trinitarian. For the past several years, Delighting in the Trinity has encouraged me to exalt in and pray to a God who is essentially — and not merely incidentally — three equal persons. What’s more, Reeves presents this doctrine — so often relegated to the realm of theological mind-teaser — as a delight, something to be savored and enjoyed by even average-sized minds like my own.
— Megan Hill, author of Praying Together: The Priority and Privilege of Prayer in Our Homes, Communities, and Churches
Future Grace by John Piper
Perhaps Future Grace is an interesting answer because it isn’t necessarily about the attributes of God, but I’m not sure that I fully understood God’s care during suffering until I read that book, specifically the chapter on despondency.
I was in a season where my soul was downcast, and I felt a bit alone. I had never experienced that before and was searching for help — any help. It truly was by the kindness of God that I began searching the pages of Future Grace, a book I had read before, but it wasn’t until this moment that God meet me uniquely through its pages. In that chapter, Piper describes Jesus, our suffering King, a man of sorrows. I knew all of these things to be true. I knew Jesus had experienced great sorrows and despair heading toward the cross. But the way it was presented brought it all to life for me. And perhaps I simply needed it at the time, so I was in the right position to receive the words.
That chapter taught me that God isn’t a distant God but a personal and relational Father in the most intimate way. It remaindered me that Jesus, the Man-God, entered into the greatest pain that anyone could ever endure, separation from his Father. It helped me understand that Jesus not only paid for the wrath that I deserve but also that he fully and completely relates to my sorrows and at the time, my despondency. We quote Hebrews often, that Jesus was tempted in every way but without sin. But it wasn’t until reading that book that I got it — Jesus knows everything I experience.
What I didn’t know at the time was that reading that chapter and gaining a greater understanding of Jesus’s own suffering, would help me with future trials I’d experience. I’ve carried those truths with me over many years. God truly does give grace and has future grace in store for us.
— Trillia Newbell, author of United, Fear and Faith, Enjoy, and God’s Very Good Idea