Resolve to Be a Lifelong Learner

Center on the Word

There is indeed something we frontload for the Christian life, and then spend the rest of our days exploring and going deeper in: It is the “word” or “message” about Jesus, God’s incarnate Word. Simply put, the focal point and center of our lifelong learning is the person and work of Christ. All things are in him, through him and for him (Colossians 1:17).

When we say “learners,” we don’t mean of mere facts, information and head knowledge. We mean all that and more. We don’t just learn facts, but we learn a Face. We’re not just learners of principles, but of a Person. We are lifelong learners in relationship with Jesus as we hear his voice in his word and have his ear in prayer, and share in community with his body, all through the power of his Spirit.

And one of the chief ways we know his person more is by learning more about his work for us. Not only are we “rooted and grounded” in Christ’s love for us at Calvary, but we press on “to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that [we] may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3.17–19″ data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>Ephesians 3:17–19).

The heart of lifelong learning that is explicitly Christian is not merely digging deeper in the seemingly bottomless store of information there is to learn about the world and humanity and history, but plunging into the infinite flood of Christ’s love, and how it all comes back to this, in its boundless breath and length and height and depth, and seeing everything else in its light. The center of lifelong learning for the Christian is knowing God himself in Christ through the gospel word and the written word of the Scriptures—in the hearing and reading and study and meditation and memorization of the Bible.

Five Principles for Lifelong Learning

The what, then, is “the Word”—incarnate, spoken and written—at the center, casting its shadow on all other learning. But now, how? The short answer is that the list of particular practices for lifelong learning can be diverse as creativity will allow, and here are five big-picture suggestions to get you going.

1. Diversify Your Sources and Seasons.

Learn from personal conversations, read books, take classes, watch educational videos and (perhaps most underrated) listen to recorded audio. Diversify your sources of teaching.

  • Personal conversations with experienced and knowledgeable people are tops on the list, as you can dialogue and ask questions and hear words tailored just for you, as they’re aware of your situation and needs.
  • Books have the amazing value of being accessible anytime and anywhere; you can go at your speed, in your time and place, and re-read as needed.
  • Classes provide the advantage of learning in context with others, benefiting from their questions and being forced to focus on the material at some set time for some particular season.
  • Educational videos provide the flexibility of watching at a time most convenient to you and benefiting from visuals (diagrams, charts, body language).
  • Listening to recordings gives the flexibility for multitasking (learning while driving or exercising or cleaning) and engages the mind in ways different than video instruction by leaning on the imagination to picture the teacher and setting.

Also, consider how the sources will change in your various seasons of life. College and seminary are concentrated seasons for classroom instruction, educational dialogue and extended reading. If you have a long commute, or the kind of manual labor job that permits it, you can take advantage of audio books and courses and lectures and sermons. Evaluate the particulars of your season of life, and choose the media and venues most conducive to your ongoing learning about God, the world and yourself.

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David Mathis
David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor at desiringGod.org and an elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis. He has edited several books, including Thinking. Loving. Doing., Finish the Mission, and Acting the Miracle, and is co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.