Some people do not feel the need to study history and learn what has happened in times long past. There are also those who do not like reading old books with their outdated ideas and old-fashioned words.
Do you think I fit into either of these groups? If you’ve been around here very much, I’m guessing (hoping) you answered that question with no. If you did, you are absolutely right. History was my favorite subject in school, and Western Civilization II was one of my favorite college classes. I have always enjoyed studying about events that took place a long time ago. I even enjoy reading a big thick history book, though I enjoy even more reading interesting biographies and historical fiction.
I also enjoy reading old books. Most of my favorite authors lived in the 1800s or early 1900s. I don’t mind the old-fashioned words, and a lot of the ideas from then were a whole lot better than the ideas we here now (at least the ones in the books I’ve read).
In today’s post, I’m going to be sharing nine reasons why I think it is important for us to read old books and books about historical events.
1. We can learn about life in the past.
Times today are very different from the times of long ago. By reading books about long ago, we can learn how people lived then. We can learn about the differences in areas such as travel, food, medicine, farming, and education.
And you don’t have to just read a history book to see this. Any book that was written as a true-to-life story shows how the people then lived.
These long winter evenings, my mom has been reading aloud the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I know these books aren’t completely true, but a lot of it was realistic to the times in which she lived.
Then, even those who were comfortably well off did most things for themselves and relied on stores as little as possible. That is very different from today where we buy most of our things and make very little of what we use on a regular basis.
Studying about the long ago times gives us a new perspective of the times in which we live. We have far easier lives than any other time, with all the modern conveniences. People in the past did not have near as much as we have today. In fact, there are many people, who by today’s standards are considered poor, that are better off than the most wealthy of previous times.
But there are also other difficulties that we have today that previous generations did not have. Looking back at history, we can learn a lot of lessons that we can apply to our lives today.
2. We can learn about the successes and victories of those who lived before us.
Without the preservation of history, we would forget many important people and events. When we study history, we can learn about the high points, the heroes, the victories, the great achievements.
We can read about small armies that overcame odds to defeat far superior armies. We can read about little countries gaining their independence from more powerful countries. We can read about inventors overcoming their difficulties to advance technology and medicine, making life easier for everyone who came after them.
We can read about scientists making important discoveries, making our world easier to understand. We can read about missionaries reaching whole tribes and nations with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
History is necessary for us to understand where we came from, that we are building on the foundation built by great men and women who came before us. When we know what it was that made them great, we can learn from them and follow their example. But of course there is also a flip side to this as well.
3. We can learn about the mistakes and failures of those who lived before us.
History is not all pretty. Just pick up a history book, no matter what era it covers, and you will soon discover that. There have been terrible things done through the centuries. A few that come to mind are the men and women that lost their lives in the Colisseum, those murdered during the French Revolution, the innocent victims of the Holocaust.
Terrible deeds have been committed. But they must be remembered just as we must remember the good things that have happened. We see this in the Bible. There are accounts of sin and destruction recorded in the Bible. Even some of the greatest men did wicked things. These accounts are given as a warning so that we can avoid making the same mistakes that others have made.
As Winston Churchill said, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” This is a very true statement. If we do not know why the terrible events in the past happened, we will probably make the same mistakes that led to those events.
What we can do to avoid following in the footsteps of those who did wrong is to instead follow the teachings of the Bible, asking God to keep us from falling into the same temptations that others have yielded to.
4. We can learn about people who could be role models for us to follow.
When we learn about those who have had a good influence on history, we find people that we can look up to and strive to be like. Of course the ultimate role model is Jesus Christ, and He is the only one we can follow completely. But there are others whose examples we can follow to a certain extent.
Missionaries and preachers are some of the people we can learn from. When we study their lives, we can see how God used them and what they did to be available to God.
We can study their devotional habits to see how they spent time with the Lord. While studying the lives of individuals, we also need to be discerning of what they did wrong, so we can avoid making the same mistakes they did.
5. We can see how one person’s life can affect the lives of so many people and completely change history.
When you’re reading a history book, you are bound to find the name of a person who had a great impact on history. All throughout history there have been famous individuals, political figures, military leaders, great inventors and scientists.
These are people, individuals, who changed the world. Some of them had very humble beginnings, had no idea they would have such a huge impact on the world.
Whether we realize it or not, whether we like it or not, we all have an impact, if not on the whole world, then on those around us. While we may never be famous, we could be an influence in the life of someone who does have a great impact.
The person who comes to mind when I think about one person’s influence is a man named Edward Kimball. Now, unless you have heard this story before, you have probably never heard the name of Edward Kimball.
He was not rich or famous; he was a Sunday School teacher in Chicago. But he led to the Lord a young man named D. L. Moody. I’m sure you’ve heard of him, one of the greatest evangelists of all times.
God can use “big” people and “little” people to bring about change in the world. And while we’re on the topic of one person’s influence, it is important for us to think about our influence. Will it be for good or for bad?
6. We can see how God has worked in the lives of others and know that He will do the same for us.
Reading biographies of famous Christians allows us to see how God has worked in their lives. The Bible is also full of accounts of how God worked in a person’s life and used people to carry out His plans.
Even those who messed up, God was still able to change and use in His work when they repented of the wrong that they had done.
God can do the same with us. He offers His forgiveness to us just as He does to those who have gone before us. He is willing to change us and use us to further His kingdom.
Those who have been useful in the kingdom of God were not all rich, intelligent, or powerful people. In fact, a lot of them have been pretty ordinary people. If God used these ordinary people, He can use us too, even if we don’t have a lot of talents.
What is important is that we make ourselves available to Him, willing to do whatever He asks us to do. It may not be something that gets our names remembered for centuries, but that’s not what matters. What matters is that we are faithful in whatever God asks us to do.
7. We can see how times change, how people change, for good or for bad.
It is always interesting to me studying how times change in a person’s life. People from the covered wagon and pioneer days lived long enough to see the Space age.
There have also been people whose lives were completely changed by wars, a change in government, or natural disasters. Those of us today can look back on all these events and see an even clearer picture of how things have changed, whether for better or for worse.
Looking back at the changes that have come also shows us that what we know to be normal and everyday will probably not last very long. Times can change very suddenly.
What we consider normal will probably be considered old-fashioned and long ago by future generations. Things will not always be the way they are now. History shows us that changes will come sooner or later.
8. We can see that God never changes.
The times in which we live may change as they have changed before, but looking back at history we see Someone Who has never changed. No matter what is going on in the world, God never changes. He is always the same as He has always been.
God is still just the same as He was when Abraham, Moses, and David prayed to Him and worshiped Him. He is just the same as He was when the apostles began spreading the Gospel.
Through the centuries He has never changed and He has never abandoned us. He has always been there with His children, no matter what they were going through.
We can see that God has never changed, and we can know for a certainty that He will never change. No matter how much the world around us changes, God is always the same and will always be right beside us.
9. Our lives are put into perspective.
As we study history, looking back over time, seeing how many people have lived and died before us, seeing all the events that took place long before we are born, our lives are put into perspective.
No matter how long we live, our lives are only a tiny fraction of time in the six thousand or so years of history. We will make an impact on those around us, but we only have a short amount of time in which to make that impact.
What is important is that we are living with an eternal focus, making sure that our actions today will count for eternity. We need to be serving the Lord, following His will for our lives, and spreading the Gospel to those around us.
Are there any of these areas that you would like to read more about? Let me know, and I will try to expand it into a full blog-post. What are some other reasons why we should study history and read old books? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments. I love hearing from you!