Class 24: The Awesome Value of Reading / The Importance of Increasing Knowledge (Part 1)

Class Notes

Today, we are beginning a new study which combines two of the letters in Letters to Young Black Men — “The Awesome Value of Reading” and “The Importance of Increasing Knowledge.”

As we begin this lesson, consider these words from James Washington: “Books were my extended family.”

Let’s begin by reading the portion from Letters to Young Black Men which our lesson is based on:

First of all, may I kindly encourage you to spend as much time as you possibly can reading? At the writing of this letter, I am sitting in the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Hamden, Connecticut. Besides the library, a good bookstore is my next favorite place to be. If I am not careful, I can spend an entire day in a good bookstore. I go to libraries and bookstores often. When I go, there is always one thing that troubles me, however, and that is the conspicuous absence of young black men.

Why is it that many of us young black men do not read much? First, I believe that it is because many of us as young black boys were simply not turned on to reading as many of our white counterparts were. Rather, we were turned on to a heavy diet of television and sports. Another reason is because many of us had the wrong mentality and attitude about school while growing up. Instead of seeing it as a golden opportunity, we saw it as a place to skip, fight, run the girls, and as we got older, to party. Therefore, sadly, many of us missed out on gaining the importance and joy of reading. However, thankfully, it is never too late to start reading.

I am still sitting in the Barnes & Noble bookstore and every person walking through the door is a white male with the exception of one white female. Could it be that these people know something that we don’t? (By the way, in case you’re wondering, black people live all around this bookstore.)

You may ask: Well what is the big deal about reading? What are the benefits of reading, anyway? I am glad you asked. Consider with me some of the benefits of reading:

  1. Through regular reading, you can become an “educated person” without following a rigid course of study.
  2. Regular reading forces you to increase your vocabulary.
  3. Through regular reading you can become a more interesting person to talk with.
  4. Through regular reading, you are able to go places, mentally, that you may not be in a position to go physically.
  5. Regular reading will help you become a better writer, speller and speaker.
  6. Regular reading helps you to become a thinker.
  7. Regular reading puts you head and shoulders above the crowd. As they say, “Readers are leaders.”

Now, please pull out your printed study guide or your digital study guide as we begin this lesson.

This lesson is going to be a little different than the first seven lessons. Rather than go through one lesson per letter, we are going to combine several lessons for the education section, and see how they all fit together. Thus, this lesson will cover two letters — eight and nine — and you are therefore encouraged to read the two letters in full if you have not done so already.

The focus of the book changes from your spiritual life in part one to your educational life in part two. Though we will be changing gears somewhat, the lessons will still have their roots in the Bible, for true knowledge and understanding only comes from the Giver of every good and perfect gift. With that said, let us investigate how education and godliness intertwine.

  1. What is the main message of letter eight?

Reading is essential to improving the mental aspect of your life. Numerous benefits result from a lifestyle that includes consistently reading.  For example, your social skills inevitably improve, you do better in school, you are able to think more clearly and express those thoughts to others, and you are better prepared to serve in a leadership position.

You may be asking what reading has to do with your educational life. The answer is — everything. Reading opens your mind to new ideas and gives you confidence to interact with your teacher and fellow students in your classroom. No matter what stage of life you are currently experiencing — high school, college, or working in the “real world,” reading is absolutely crucial if you desire to live to your potential. It opens your eyes and mind to what God is doing in the world and helps you to authoritatively stand for His purposes in an enlightened, reason-based society.

While letter eight discusses the importance for reading as an attempt to increase your knowledge, letter nine discusses why knowledge is significant in the first place.

Read the following verses and note what they have to say about increasing your knowledge:

  1. Proverbs 24:5: “A wise man is strong; yea, a man of knowledge increaseth strength.”

Knowledge and strength go hand in hand. One who is well-learned is also well-suited to positively influence the huge and often intimidating world.

  1. Proverbs 8:10: “Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold.”

Knowledge should be one of the top priorities in life. It is to be treasured more than wealth or any material possession. Perhaps this is so because knowledge leads to a better understanding of the character and purposes of our God. The more intimately one is acquainted with Christ, the better he can live in Christlikeness.

  1. Hosea 4:6: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.”

A lack of knowledge is no small offense in the eyes of the Lord. He does not merely give the uneducated, unmotivated individual a slap on the hand. Rather, the Lord claims that a lack of knowledge leads to destruction. This is a very powerful word, which may seem a bit intense in today’s world. However, if we realize that one strives for knowledge in order to better know his God, then the individual who has no desire for education perhaps has no desire for God. Always be aware not only of what your actions convey, but also of what your lack of action portrays.

Now, Just Do It.

  1. Review the benefits of reading as listed in Letter 8 and write down the three that mean the most to you.
  1. Try to think of one more benefit of reading that is not named.
  1. Find and write down three books that you will read over the next month.

Let’s Pray.

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In closing, Tony Dungy, the first black coach to win the Super Bowl and the host of NBC’s Sunday Night Football said, “You are never going to get anywhere in sports or in life until you become convinced of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. You may become a professional athlete or have fame and nice cars and nice houses and a lot of money, but what you’ll find is that all of that stuff goes away pretty quickly. You have to understand that Christ died for our sins, and that He died not just to be our Savior but so that He could be the center of our lives.”

Now, like many of you, I grew up in a very religious and church-going family, and during that time, I often heard the phrase “Being Saved.” Now, much of what the church people I grew up around said “being saved” was back then especially, in my community, is wrong according to the Bible. I wrote an article about it titled “On ‘Being Saved’ in Black America” which is available for you to read free of charge on our website, gospellightsociety.com. Right now, I want to share with you very briefly what the Bible says “being saved” really is.

First, understand that you need to be saved because you are a sinner. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”

Second, understand that a horrible punishment — eternal Hell — awaits those who are not saved. In Matthew 25:41, Jesus Christ said that God will say to those who are not saved, “depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

Third, realize that God loves you very much and wants to save you from Hell. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

If you want to be saved from Hell and be guaranteed a home in Heaven, simply believe in Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose from the dead for your sins, and then call upon Him in prayer and ask Him to save your soul. And believe me, He will.

Romans 10:9-13 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” That is the most important decision you will ever make.

If the Lord tarries His coming and we live, I’ll see you for our next class.