Abraham Lincoln once said, "I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday."
To Lincoln, learning was both an orientation and a daily adventure to be explored throughout life. People who are truly effective in what they do generally did not get that way by sitting still; they have applied themselves to constant or continuous learning.
Today the term "lifelong learning" is heard frequently. Examples of lifelong learning include adult education, continuing education, and other educational delivery systems and venues. Lifelong learners are curious, inquisitive, and interested in exploring ideas.
As Christians, we ought to be lifelong learners. In Matthew, Jesus told his followers that they should "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11:29).
Mentoring is one of the most effective methodologies in lifelong learning. Jesus is our mentor, and we are to learn from him in our daily walk in his presence.
The Scriptures are full of individuals who applied themselves to the work of accruing knowledge and wisdom.
One of the best examples in the Old Testament is Ezra. "For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel" (Ezra 7:10). Lifelong learning requires commitment and preparation. Ezra devoted himself, prepared his heart, and was fixed in his purpose to study the Word of God with all his heart, with all his powers, and with all his affections.
Anthony D'Angelo wrote, "Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow."
Legendary UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden, once said, "Be observing constantly. Stay open minded. Be eager to learn and improve."
How can we become lifelong learners?
- Read: Get in the habit of always reading something. Of course, the Bible should be first in our reading. Develop a "to be read" list. Read the great devotional classics and books on holiness. Not in the habit of reading? Try starting with just one chapter a day.
- Surround yourself with other learners: Charles Jones wrote, "You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the books you read and the people you meet." The people with whom you spend your time make a huge impact on your attitude, your values, and your lifestyle. Surround yourself with friends who are growing and learning and who can challenge you to do the same.
- Be around people different than you: It is easy to get tunnel vision when you relate only to others of the same age, background, or world view as yours. Stretch yourself and make friends with individuals outside your comfort zone. Build a bridge with those who need to know Jesus. Be proactive and meet your neighbors so that you can hear about life from their perspectives.
Scientific research reveals that now, more than ever, a challenged, stimulated brain may well be the key to a vibrant life. Lifelong learning keeps the brain active and may actually inhibit some diseases while enriching one's emotional, intellectual, and spiritual wellness. Other payoffs include enhanced natural abilities, open mindedness, increased wisdom, and adaptability to change.
Being a lifelong learner will help you find meaning in your life, which in turn helps you become an active contributor to your church and your world. Most importantly, this pleases God and transforms one's spiritual life.
David W. Graves serves as general superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene.
Holiness Today, Nov/Dec 2013