Summary: As disciples of Jesus, we should never stop learning and growing. We have teachers and students, people we learn from and people we teach. This reciprocal relationship helps us become well-rounded disciples.
In my last post, I finished talking about the spiritual discipline of evangelism by providing opportunities to share your faith. In this post, I want to touch on the important spiritual discipline of learning.
I’ve always liked school. It’s one of the best ways to learn. I’ve been drawn to books from a young age. But these are not the only ways to learn. Your brain craves learning. You may not realize it, but you are always learning. Even when you aren’t actively learning, your brain is gaining information from experience.
As a disciple of Jesus, learning should be a high objective. The word “disciple” means one who is learning. We concentrate so much on learning about God that we don’t realize there are other avenues to learn. I want to go through some of them with you. Let’s get started.
Learning Every Day
You should set learning goals to achieve knowledge and wisdom. You can learn every day from everything around you. Each area of learning is like opening a book. There are different kinds of learning. Researchers say there are different kinds of IQ.
Some people are good at learning languages, music, art, information, and so on. You can have intelligence in areas other people don’t. This is one way you can contribute to others. You need to learn about God, the Bible, theology, and other Christian things.
But these are not the only sources of knowledge. Knowledge can be evil, but there are other books of knowledge that can lead to well-rounded understanding of God and His works. Special revelation of God gives you knowledge and wisdom, but general revelation also has its merits. Strive to learn from every avenue of knowledge available to you.
Knowledge and Wisdom
At least two types of learning help you grow in God. The first is to learn information, gaining knowledge you can put into use. Learning information gives your brain the folders and files it needs to assimilate what you have learned.
But knowledge and information alone can only take you so far. You need a way to apply that knowledge. Wisdom is the ability to take knowledge and put it to use. You take the information you have gained and become successful with what you know.
The Bible gives us two sources for wisdom: God and the world. James calls one heavenly wisdom and the other earthly wisdom (James 3:13-18). We want to gain wisdom from God. The wisdom of this world is foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:20). All that matters is that we gain wisdom from God and apply it to become godly.
You need both knowledge and wisdom. You need information and the way to apply it to your life to make you successful in God’s eyes. Wisdom and knowledge are the cornerstones of learning. Learn and remember information, but ask God how to apply it to your life.
The Book of Nature
One “book” we can learn from is God’s creation in nature. Some people say nature is their church. Since God has created everything in nature, we can learn from it about God. But it falls under general revelation.
Your only learning should not be from nature. You can learn a lot about God from what He has made. You can learn beauty, mechanics, and organization from nature. Some sciences study nature but do not apply what they learn to God. Studying nature is looking at the fingerprints and handiwork of God. It should lead you to glorify and thank God for what He has made.
When you study nature, it is only part of the whole of your knowledge and understanding. Studying nature is useful, but it is not all there is to learn from God. This is just one source of knowledge you can study.
The Book of History
Another “book” you should strive to learn from is history. People who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat its mistakes. History is a great teacher of wisdom. Those who have much wisdom gained some of it from a life of learning from mistakes.
History teaches us the follies of others so we don’t commit them ourselves. History repeats itself over and over throughout the ages. Kingdoms and empires, countries and nations repeat the mistakes of history. But when we learn from history, we gain wisdom.
The Bible contains a lot of history repeated by Israel, sometimes for success and sometimes for its demise. Studying history helps you see how the world works, how God has made the world work, and how the world decays or grows.
The Book of God
The “book” of God, studying who He is and what He does should not only be an exercise to gain knowledge about God, but to experience His presence and friendship. Studying God gives us information about Him, but it also helps us grow deeper in relationship and love of God.
The book of God, the study of God, is theology. We learn from His character and works. As Jesus’ disciples, we want to imitate His character and do what He does. Our knowledge of God makes us want to be like Him.
God has a program of growing to be like Jesus, being conformed to His image (Romans 8:29-30) that brings us understanding. When we become more and more like Jesus, we gain from God’s attributes. We cannot become God, or even little gods, but becoming like Jesus increases Our love for Him. It is His desire for us to be like Him,
The Book of Knowledge
The book of knowledge teaches us information we can use to further our understanding. The Bible says the fear of the Lord (worshiping and having reverence for Him) is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7). Knowledge does us no good if we do not worship the One who gives knowledge.
We gain knowledge from books, schooling, observing others, and listening to others who have knowledge to give to us. The book of knowledge teaches us information, but we can learn wisdom from the mistakes of others.
Knowledge gives our brains information and ways to use it. Most of all, we must learn information that benefits us in our pursuit of God. The Bible is not the only book we should read. Some people say the Bible is all they need. The Bible is the most important book we will read, but we can learn about the Bible from others through other books.
Books besides the Bible are beneficial. They are one accessible way to learn from other people. The Bible shows us God’s plan. But books by others can help us understand the Bible and the many things that the Bible does not cover.
The Book of Experience
The best way for us to become wise comes through experience. The sum of our experiences provides wisdom. When we apply our knowledge to our life, it brings wisdom. Our unsuccessful experiences teach us what not to do again.
When we apply our knowledge to situations throughout our life, we can gain wisdom from positive experiences. Some people talk about learning from the “school of hard knocks.” This is when we don’t take the wisest courses of action.
Experience may be the most powerful teacher of all. Nothing makes us grow in wisdom faster than experience. Every experience we have teaches us something. Like Bible characters, we either learn from our mistakes or do the wrong things and beat our heads against the wall. Either way, experiences teach those who learn from them and don’t ignore their lessons.
Don’t Be a Know-It-All
No one likes a person who uses knowledge to act superior to them. We must not allow our knowledge and learning to make us think we don’t make mistakes. Knowledge can puff us up so we don’t think we need to learn from anyone or anything anymore.
But superiority is not the purpose for knowledge. Paul says knowledge puffs up the love builds up (2 Corinthians 8:1). The greatest thing we can learn is how to love one another the way God loves us. Only God can teach us unconditional love.
We should not hoard our knowledge. The Bible tells us to share what we learn with our teachers (Galatians 6:6), Jesus’ disciples grow by learning from those more mature than themselves and teaching those less mature what they have learned. This reciprocal relationship between learning and teaching is part of discipleship.
Thinking we are more mature than everyone, that we have reached all the knowledge in the world makes us more foolish than we can imagine. The wise person never stops growing in knowledge and wisdom. Humility must be our posture in learning.
Realizing we never fully arrive in our learning makes us lifelong learners. We never stop growing, but we don’t become conceited about what we have learned. Only a foolish person stops learning. So we will have teachers and students for the rest of our lives.
Make the most of your learning experiences. Which “book” can you learn from today? Make every experience, teacher, and book count. Find different methods of learning that help you grow in knowledge and wisdom.
We have just described the importance of lifelong learning as a disciple of Jesus. Next, I will finish discussing spiritual disciplines by teaching on confession, guidance, and service.