It's that time of year again. College students are settling into their dorms, high schoolers are finishing up their summer reading, moms and dads are making lunches and stuffing backpacks, and stores are marketing their newest "back to school" items.
I have long since graduated school and so have my children, but every August and September, God uses this season to remind me of an extremely important spiritual question: Am I approaching life as a student?
For followers of Christ, life is all about learning. One Proverb captures it best: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" (1:7). I love how John Calvin paraphrased it: "There is no knowing that does not begin with knowing God."
Regardless of age, you and I are on a spiritual journey from foolishness to wisdom. God has removed ignorance and replaced it with knowledge, but you haven't reached full maturity yet (see Philippians 1:6). So today, I want to encourage you to stay enrolled in the University of the Lord by pursuing these 5 behaviors:
1. Stay cynical toward your own wisdom. Sin reduces us to fools, but it does something even more insidious: it makes us believe that we're independently wise. You and I were never created with the autonomous capacity to be wise (see Genesis 3:6). Wisdom doesn’t come through research or life experience; it comes by divine revelation and divine relationship.
2. Stay hungry for more. We all get lulled to sleep with feelings of personal success. Because we know more today than we did yesterday, we quit working to know more tomorrow. Rather than gratitude for what God has taught us, motivating us to learn more, we get smug and lazy, quite content to consider ourselves grace graduates.
3. Stay humble and approachable. The process of learning will not only reveal what we don't know, but it will also reveal that what we thought we knew was actually wrong. You can’t be defensive and be a student; you have to be willing to be told that you are wrong and submit yourself to someone who knows better and knows more. Defending what you think you know won’t lead to further or corrected understanding, but humility and a willingness to listen, consider, and change will.
4. Stay active in your discernment. Paul says in Colossians 2:8, "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ." You live in a world of many voices, each of them vying for the allegiance of your heart. Discernment means that you submit yourself to qualified teachers, and for the Christian, that means sitting at the feet of the Teacher of teachers - Christ.
5. Stay active in application. Any seasoned teacher will tell you that real learning takes place outside of the classroom. The same is true of spiritual learning: God will orchestrate situations, locations, and relationships for the purpose of causing you to apply what you have been learning. Life is his classroom, and on each new day, it provides a rich and God-given environment to understand more deeply and to live more wisely.
If you were to honestly consider your life, whose school are you really attending? Where are you searching for wisdom, and which voices have the most influence over your heart? Are you really a faithful student at the University of the Lord, or do you just audit now and then when it's convenient?
By God's grace, we haven't been left to our own wisdom. We've been brought into personal communion with the One who is the source of everything that's wise and true. Are you committed to learning from him?
- Which voices have the most influence over your heart? Be specific.
- How are those voices shaping your desires, words, and actions?
- How can you become a better student at the University of the Lord?