“Most of us learn a great deal every day in order to keep ahead of what we forget,” once quipped the 19th century born lawyer and politician Frank A. Clark.
On a more serious note, business and professional people understand the importance of continuing education. In many fields, like medicine, a specific number of hours are required for a physician to maintain their license. Continuing education is also required for teachers, attorneys, accountants and pilots.
But what about Christians? Preachers? Pastors? And Bible Teachers? Sowing seeds for spiritual demands being a continual learner.
It’s easy to think that since we’ve received “the faith once delivered to the saints”(Jude 3), and that there is no continuing revelation from God, there’s no need for continuing education. Of course, we would be mistaken. Because the attainment of Bible knowledge and its application is a life-long pursuit.
The command to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18) involves continued activity. As we’ve noted earlier, the verb “grow” is a present imperative and can be accurately translated, “keep on growing.”
The concept of continuing spiritual education is found in both Paul’s and Peter’s epistles. To the evangelist Timothy Paul admonished, “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (2 Tim. 4:16).
After enumerating the spiritual virtues his readers ought to be developing, Peter penned, “I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have” (1 Pet 1:12). He added that he was writing and preaching about these important matters to help them stay “alert with frequent reminders.”
If you are continuing to read and study the Bible, no doubt you’ve seen a familiar passage in a new light and with a different application to your life. Your experiences, circumstances, and current needs all contribute to the value of continued learning.
Being content with understanding Bible basics is not good enough. The Hebrew Christians were rebuked because they had not grown and developed spiritually (Heb. 5:12-14). They had failed to “exercise their senses” and be “trained by constant practice” in spiritual matters. They were encouraged to “press on to maturity” (Heb. 6:1). They failed to be continual learners. But it was not too late to make correction.
Furthermore, times change. New issues arise. And some problems become more complex. This necessitates renewed study. Deeper thought. And a fresh approach of communicating timeless Bible principles that contain all we need for “life and godliness” through our knowledge of Christ (2 Pet. 1:3-4).
Several years ago, Norma Jean and I were traveling and attended a small church where an older preacher had “semi-retired.” He was a good and godly man. And served faithfully all his life. However, he must have pulled out a 1950’s sermon outline for his message that day. He spoke of some problems that were no longer pressing. He even warned about two specific organizations which no longer existed. While the Bible principles he enunciated were valid and still needed to be taught, his application lacked modern day relevance.
An insightful statement is found in 1Chron 12:32 regarding “the sons of Issachar, who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.” “Understanding the times,” calls for being a continual learner. It also entails employing the most effective strategy to accomplish God’s purpose.
The gospel hasn’t changed. But, for better or worse, we live in changing times. The means and methods of ministry which worked in a bygone era, may lack effectiveness today. Being a continual learner requires preachers, pastors and church leaders to use new technology and be open to improved programs and processes “to equip the saints for ministry” and to “build up the Body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12).
Failing to be a continual learner leads to self-satisfaction with our current spiritual state, both individually and collectively. It may leave us like the ancient Laodiceans who became lukewarm, indifferent, and lacking zeal. They incorrectly thought “we have need of nothing.” Such a condition the apostle John said is nauseating to the Lord (Rev. 3:14-22).
If you’re not a continual spiritually learner, John’s admonition is appropriate: “Be zealous, and be repent.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman
2 responses to “Be A Continual Learner”
Well said Ken. Many of us have lived on the basis of what we were taught, not on what we have learned. We need to challenge ourselves to be Bereans not Thessalonian’s. There are many who have faith on what they were taught and who taught them. I have had many great teachers but not one of them can carry my responsibility to seek, learn, and grow.
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