A Heart for Learning

Here’s an interesting verse I came across today:

Proverbs 17:16 NLT  It is senseless to pay tuition to educate a fool, since he has no heart for learning.

When you have no heart to learn things, that is an indication of foolishness. The book of Proverbs was originally written in Hebrew and translated into English for us today. The Hebrew word for fool literally means: one who is destitute of reason or the common powers of understanding. Simply put, it’s someone who acts contrary to wisdom.

Now I have been in the “people business” (ministry) for over 30 years and one thing I have seen a lot of  is foolishness. There are many people who choose to act without wisdom. I’ve seen “wise deficient” people from all walks of life, all age groups, many nationalities and income levels. You don’t have to have a psychological (mental) or physiological (physical) problem to act foolish. You can have a healthy brain and be totally destitute of reason. Some people don’t take time to think things through, some people never learned how to do that, and some people choose not to  because of laziness, distractions, or habit. Those are all typical symptoms of foolishness but the root cause of these behaviors is a heart problem. One who acts this way has no heart for learning.  It’s just not in him. He doesn’t care. He doesn’t want to learn.

When you don’t want something, chances are you won’t exert any effort to try and get it. Learning is like that. You have to want it to truly get it. My wife will verify that. She has been a school teacher for over 25 years. She can teach the children thoroughly in her class day after day, month after month, but if they don’t have a heart to learn, they won’t! I have experienced the same thing working with people in the church. Some people just won’t absorb truth and act wisely on it because their heart does not really want it.

Learning is a lifelong necessity. Our world is changing rapidly because of incredible, continuous, mind numbing advances in technology. If you want to stay relevant you have to keep learning new things. If you don’t, you will find yourself  seriously disadvantaged in many ways. You will be unable to adequately compete in the job market or even keep the job you have. You will be socially disconnected because most people relate in so many high tech ways now. You will be unable to connect to the unlimited information resources that are available in this, the information age. You will probably even come up short in your relationship with your children or grandchildren because you won’t be able to understand or participate in a lot of the things they enjoy.

I continue to force myself to keep learning all the new technology, even when I don’t really want to. I’m looking at the end of my fifth decade and I am slowing down, forgetting some things, and struggling to stay current. I have to learn new software and develop new skills all the time so I can keep the computers running and fulfill the mission God has given me which, right now, revolves around the internet. Last night I even posted on my Facebook status (a necessary tool for this ministry) “Why do I have to work so hard to be a geek  when it comes so easy for others????” It’s hard work. It’s a challenge. I learn some things very slowly. I make a lot of mistakes. I have no one to help me, I’m using my own resources and sometimes I want to quit.  But that heart for learning is still deep inside me so I press on  and trust God for the results.

When it comes to spiritual things, the need to learn never stops either. There are always new levels of understanding to achieve, new dimensions of relationship with God, new insights on how to become all that God has called you to be. That’s what got me interested in God in the first place! In 1970 I was a just a bored high school graduate who struggled with periods of depression and emptiness. I didn’t know why I was on planet earth or why I was sucking up the oxygen somebody else could be using. I actually thought I was going to die at the age of 21. I don’t know why. I wasn’t living a risky lifestyle, I just had no sense of purpose. There was nothing meaningful to live for. I thought about death a lot.

Then I began to wonder if any of the “God stuff” I learned as a child was real or not so I started looking to church for answers. A new minister had come in recent years that was younger and much easier to relate to. I started taking some adult classes and things began happening inside me. As I developed a heart to learn the truth about God and His Word (the Bible) I began to understand it. That understanding caused me to abandon some of my foolish behaviors and I started to walk in truth and wisdom.

I also discovered something really cool as the months went by. The more I learned the more I realized how much more there is to learn. You can never get it all.  Truth is like God, it’s limitless. So all I needed to tap into that was a heart for learning. God, in His love and awesome grace, even gave that to me. He changed my heart.

This formerly bored kid found himself addicted to learning. I was visiting churches all around the Kansas City area. I went to every Christian conference I could find. I moved to Minnesota and went to school to learn all I could about God and how to serve Him. That school didn’t offer enough so I went to a school near St. Louis to learn some more. I bought Christian books and tapes of messages from some of the greatest teachers of that era. I got married and my wife and I spent the first week of our life together at an abundant living seminar in Kansas City learning new things about  the life Jesus wanted us to live. I wasn’t bored anymore. I had purpose and a reason to live.

This love for learning has been resident in me since those early days. But there have been periods in my life when I pushed His Word aside and got distracted.   Jesus warned us about this in one of His parables (Mark 4:19).  He said that the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. So yes, I have messed up from time to time. There have been seasons of temporary unfruitfulness,  but eventually I learned that  there is a way to get out of that mess and back to Jesus.   Jesus shared the solution, which is recorded in Matthew 11:28-30, and I love the way the Message Bible translation presents it:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  (29)  Walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  (30)  Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

He showed me that the answer is to come to Him. When I do, I will recover my life and He will show me how to take a real rest. My responsibility is to walk with Him, watch how He does things, and learn from Him. He promises not to lay anything too heavy on me as I hang out with Him, I will learn to live free and light. That is so totally amazing and it really does work. It will work for you, too! Come to Him, learn, rest and be free.

So ask God to give you a heart for learning and you will find yourself growing in your relationship with Him. Foolishness will fall away and you find yourself making wise decisions, wise choices and wise responses in your daily life. It’s a great way to live!

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