I love books, so I wanted to write about some of the authors who have most helped me over the years. This is the first one…
I was struck by this link on facebook today:http://vimeo.com/59436976. It introduces a book by one of my favourite Christian writers – J I Packer. I am amazed that he is still writing books, and still lecturing – you can go and hear him speak on 2 Corinthians this summer if you happen to be in Vancouver! I didn’t take any of his courses at Regent, but I did him give a couple of lectures, and participate in a couple of question and answer sessions. It was perhaps these which were most memorable, simply for the grace and wisdom of his answers. It seems to me that his generation have much wisdom for us – I am always humbled when I think what has been achieved by the likes of JI Packer, John Stott and Dick Lucas to name 3 octagenerian anglicans (maybe nonagerian, not sure of exact ages)…
The first book of his I read was “Knowing God”, quickly followed by “In step with the Spirit” and “Passion for holiness”, and then many others. I found his writings to be deep wells, combining a solid theology with rich practical application. When I was 17 I had attended a youth service in which the leader had declared that he could feel the Spirit powerfully at work – but I felt nothing (other than a headache). This event, and a couple of other similar ones made me question my own spiritual standing. The danger was either to despair at my own position, or to despise those who said such things. Packer taught me a better way. His writings on holiness and the life of the Spirit showed a way of life that has both a firm foundation on the word of God, and a real experience of the Spirit in the heart.
One of my favourite sections in “Knowing God” is the chapters on God’s wisdom and ours, and on God’s guidance. These two quotes come from those sections. I first underlined them in 1997 when I had just graduated, and returned home confused and unsure about what was next, and spent 10weeks looking for a job – 10weeks that felt like forever – clearly 10 weeks is actually not all that long really, but it felt it at the time! They meant a lot to me 5 years later as I slogged through a mind numbingly dull job. I returned to them about 8 years later still – or rather we returned to them 8 years later. This time I was married, and Roz and I were about to make our second trip to Vancouver A&E in a week in the aftermath of our 2nd miscarriage that year. The first visit had not been good, and the second was unknown. We printed out these quotes and put them up on our cupboard in the kitchen:
“”For the truth is that God in his wisdom, to make and keep us humble and to teach us to walk by faith, has hidden from us almost everything that we should like to know about the providential purposes which he is working out in the churches and in our own lives.” p.119
“We can be sure that the God who made this marvellously complex world-order…knows what he is doing, and ‘doeth all things well’, even if for the moment he hides his hand. We can trust him and rejoice in him, even when we cannot discern his path.” p.120
Go and look up the wider context of the quotes in Knowing God. They teach a right attitude to the mysteries of life. A right humility before God, and if you read anything of Packer’s life you will see that these chapters came out of the crucible of experience. They are not always comfortable reading, but the discomfort will be the wounds of a friend that bring real healing.