When you hear the word learning, what comes to mind? I’m guessing that one of the first things you think of is school. You might recall memories of classrooms, teachers, desks, and long days of sitting and listening or reading. You may think of hours of homework, peer pressure, growing up, and grades. I’m also guessing that not all your memories of “learning” are positive ones.
Learning? But I’m Done with School!
Let’s face it, especially in the United States education system, learning and schooling is something we tend to associate with children and youth. From pre-K to twelfth grade, schooling is something most of us must do. Schooling beyond this kind of formal education takes different designs, either in college, trade schools, apprenticeships, or the like. For the most part, once these forms of learning are complete, we tend to think that we’re done with school. By association, we may consciously or unconsciously believe that we are done with intentional learning.
This, however, is not the case. We are always learning. Each human being, in their own way, is a lifelong learner. Throughout life, we continue to learn based on our needs and interests. This learning may not always take the form of traditional education (although it often does for continuing education). Whatever form it does take—online community groups, book clubs, or independent research on a hobby or topic of interest—lifelong learning is always happening. Even scouring YouTube for videos on how to fix a household appliance that has gone haywire is a form of learning!
Lifelong Learning of God’s Word = Abiding in God’s Word for Life
Why does this matter, and what does it mean for us as God’s people today? Frankly, it means a lot for us baptized believers in Christ.
In a previous post, I posited that a simple way to think of discipleship is abiding in God’s Word in a variety of ways throughout life. God has called us to abide in His Word. It is what disciples of Christ are to do. But it is more than just reading a devotion occasionally. Discipleship begins when we are baptized into Christ and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit continues to form and transform our faith and life as we receive the gifts of God’s Word and go out into our different roles in life, or vocations.
We receive the gifts of God’s Word, beginning in the Word and Sacraments in the Divine Service and extending to our daily prayers, Scripture reading, devotions, and meditation on God’s Word on our own, in our households, and in our congregations. As the Spirit grows and matures our faith and life through God’s Word, and as we abide in it in our thoughts, words, and actions, it flows into our daily lives. Abiding in God’s Word means wrestling with it, thinking on it, struggling with it, and applying it as the Spirit works in our hearts.
In a Variety of Ways throughout Life
What is meant by abiding in God’s Word “in a variety of ways throughout life”? This phrase helps us see the great opportunities for how and when we can abide in God’s Word. As the Holy Spirit forms our faith through God’s Word, there are different growth areas in different contexts that baptized believers can focus on to engage the Christian faith and life. Let’s take a look at the two parts of this statement.
In a variety of ways. In our Baptism, God gives us a new identity. As we go through life, we are tasked with different responsibilities, or vocations. God calls us to these. He calls us to love and serve our neighbor. Abiding in God’s Word means receiving the gifts of God’s Word, but it also means living it out and sharing it with others. Abiding in God’s Word in a variety of ways means first thinking about our worship life. We abide in God’s Word in the Divine Service, as well as in our personal and household gathering of prayer and devotion and when we gather around God’s Word with others in our congregation. But we also abide in God’s Word as we live out our daily roles. We are called to love and serve our neighbor, and we abide in God’s Word as we devote ourselves to service not only where God has placed us but in different avenues that interest us. Beyond loving and serving our neighbors, we also are called to abide in God’s Word by confessing the faith in our daily lives. Whether we’re sharing the faith with others or tasked with giving an account of our faith to others, we abide in God’s Word as we confess what we believe.
Throughout life. Our different roles in life—vocations—are always changing. We may be full-time students when we’re younger, but as we covered earlier, being a full-time student is not the same thing as being a learner. Throughout life, as we transition into different roles, we never transition out of our calling to abide in God’s Word. As a student, parent, neighbor, friend, son or daughter, employer or employee, congregation member, grandparent, caregiver, or something else, we will always face challenges and opportunities in the Christian life. As we abide in God’s Word—in devotions and prayers with loved ones or in small groups, in personal Bible reading and meditation on the Word, or simply in devoting ourselves to a specific teaching of God’s Word—the Holy Spirit will continually form and transform our faith and equip us for the good works God has in store for us.
Our challenge will always be to expand our views of what learning is. Lifelong learning of God’s Word is something God commands us to do, but it is not a burden. Instead, we are to abide in God’s Word in our habits, thoughts, actions, and words, in a variety of ways throughout life. As we do so, the Holy Spirit will create and strengthen faith and use us for God’s purposes both great and small as we await the glorious return of Christ.
Continue abiding in God’s Word as you learn how to be a disciple in community with others.