Chapter 14 - Lifelong Learning

Updated: Aug 21, 2019

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney

We’ve all heard teachers or preachers who could anchor a theological Mensa Club but whose lack of zeal made their Christianity seem as dry and stale as the inside of a basketball. But that just doesn’t sound like the Lord Jesus, or even the apostle Paul, does it? In this same pastorate a man who was a deacon in his church once said to me, “I never liked school, and I don’t want to learn anything when I come to church.” Somehow there’s something unlike Jesus in that attitude as well, isn’t there?

I maintain that the more Christlike we grow, the more we will pursue both a full head and a full heart, and the more we will radiate both spiritual light and heat.

Does this mean we must be brilliant to be Christians? Absolutely not. But it does mean that to be like Jesus we must be learners, even as He was at only age twelve, “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers”

But it does mean we should discipline ourselves to be intentional learners like Jesus. He learned the Scriptures so well on His own apart from the formal training of the rabbis that He caused His adversaries to marvel, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” (John 7: 15).


  • According to a book of the Bible written specifically to give us practical wisdom, one of the characteristics of a wise man or woman is a desire for learning.

  • Learning is a lifelong Discipline, a Spiritual Discipline that characterizes the wise person.


  • Part of God’s greatest commandment, said Jesus, is “Love the Lord your God . .  . with all your mind” (Mark 12: 30).

  • Our culture glorifies the physical much more than the mental. Nobody sells posters of the top software engineers or architects, much less the leading theologians. Instead we sell posters of athletes, some of whom can do everything with a ball except autograph it and read its label.

  • In the church, everything must be “relevant,” and we tend to disregard doctrine and theology as very irrelevant.

  • Unless we love God with a growing mind, we will be Christian versions of the Samaritans to whom Jesus said, “You worship what you do not know” (John 4: 22).


  • Martyn Lloyd-Jones reminded us, “Let us never forget that the message of the Bible is addressed primarily to the mind, to the understanding.”[ 3] God’s truth must be understood before it can be applied. The Word of God must first go through your head if it’s going to change your heart and your life.

  • If you know little about godliness, you will grow little in godliness. To know it requires the Discipline of learning.


  • Age and experience by themselves don’t increase your spiritual maturity. Becoming like Jesus doesn’t happen incidentally or automatically with the passing of birthdays. Godliness, as 1   Timothy 4: 7 says, requires a deliberate discipline.

  • The Discipline of learning transforms accidental learners into intentional learners.

  • Without the discipline of an intentional learner, not only will we fail to learn the things that promote godliness, but what we will learn by accident will be of little or no real benefit.

  • So most churchgoers couldn’t even list the names of the books God inspired, much less say anything about the contents of them. On the other hand, they  — and their children  — likely could name as many brands of beer, wine, and whiskey as they could books of the Bible.

  • Young people are not readers. This is not surprising since their parents rarely prize reading.

  • Parents don’t read because it doesn’t seem practical. They are more concerned with “Can my kid operate computers and get a job?” It fits the American obsession with the bottom line. These parents have never learned for the sake of learning, so neither have their children.

  • So it follows that young people who read little of anything do not read their Bibles.


  • Since some people have legitimate difficulties with reading, here’s a list of some other methods of learning, methods that learners who do thrive on reading will enjoy also. First, I strongly commend listening to recorded books. It’s so easy to listen while getting ready for the day, commuting, driving around town, traveling long-distance, exercising, or working around the house.

  • Internet radio (cw)

  • (cw)

The famous Greek mathematician Euclid, author of a formidable thirteen-volume text for the study of geometry. “But Ptolemy I, King of Egypt, wished to learn the subject without laboring through so many books. As a king, he was accustomed to having his way made easy by servants, so he asked if there was a shortcut to mastering geometry. Euclid’s reply to the throne was terse: ‘There is no royal road to learning.’”

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