Tony Reinke|10:00 PM CT

The Page that Changed My Life: Tony Reinke

While researching for my first book, I found this quote from a 1981 John Piper sermon on the benefits of reading:

What I have learned from about 20 years of serious reading is this. It is sentences that change my life, not books. What changes my life is some new glimpse of truth, some powerful challenge, some resolution to a long-standing dilemma, and these usually come concentrated in a sentence or two. I do not remember 99 percent of what I read, but if the 1 percent of each book or article I do remember is a life-changing insight, then I don't begrudge the 99 percent. And that life-changing insight usually comes in a moment, a moment whose value is all out of proportion to its little size.

That is so true. It is not books that change lives, but bits of a book, phrases, lines, sentences, paragraphs, pages. So I welcome this opportunity to talk about a selection from one of the most important books in my Christian pilgrimage, Octavius Winslow's The Precious Things of God.


Precious Things is an old and somewhat obscure book, first published in London in 1860. It was republished in 1994 by Soli Deo Gloria, but since it has passed into and out of print several times. I read it for the first time in 2000 and 2001. It is a precious book to hold in my hands now because I distinctly remember bringing it to the hospital for the birth of our first child. I read from it to my wife as we walked the hospital hallways to speed up the labor process---me holding my wife's hand with one hand and holding Winslow open with the other.

From start to finish, the book is soaked with profound points because it is a book devoted to all the things that God finds precious. Think of it as something of a precursor to Piper's The Pleasures of God.

Of all the pages in that book, I was hit hardest by this paragraph spread out on pages 66-67. Here's what I read:

Thank God for the least degree of faith, though it be less than the grain of [a] mustard seed, for the smallest measure will conduct you fully into heaven. And yet forget not that there is no difficulty that faith in God, however small, cannot surmount, no mountain it cannot level, no tree it cannot uproot, simply because it deals with the power of God. Calling to its aid omnipotence, allying itself with the Almighty, it can thrash the mountains small, and make the hills as chaff, it can leap over a wall and run through a troop, and though often lame and halting, it yet can take the prey.

Those lines continue to push my thoughts far outside of myself, out beyond the dark smudges of self-sufficiency I spread over everything, and beyond my own fallible self-assessment of the strength of my personal faith, and on to something far greater. Those words force my eyes to the One in whom I believe. My attention gets turned from the potency of my faith and fixed firmly on the power of the God in whom I believe. And for me that's huge. And as a young believer, it was exactly what I needed to read.

Now I have come to see the great benefits of having a growing and robust faith in God, the kind of faith that grows like a seed. And we know that Mr. Little-Faith is prone to getting clubbed over the head, wounded, and nearly robbed by Mr. Guilt. But even more importantly, an increase in faith does not tap into a greater God. Thus even a teeny tiny mustard-seed-sized faith that is genuine is a powerful faith, a mountain-tossing faith, a faith that fully unites us to Christ, and a precious faith in the sight of God (Luke 17:6).

Tony Reinke is a content strategist for Desiring God in Minneapolis. He is the author of Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books (Crossway, 2011). He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and three children.

Categories: Books and Reviews

View Comments (4) Post Comment