Johnny came home from his first day back to school. His mother said, “What did you learn today?” Johnny replied, “Not enough, I have to go back tomorrow.”
Back to School! While summer is not officially over until September 21st, the fact that school has started in many parts of the country means that summer has for all intents and purposes disappeared. Attention is focused elsewhere; time to get back to the business of learning. And since it’s such a big part of our culture, practically a mini-season of its own, it really does affect us all, regardless of age.
Now is the perfect time to set your heart on learning. (You realize that there is a remote possibility that you don’t know everything yet.) How many times have you answered someone’s question with “I don’t know”? Of course there’s no shame in answering “I don’t know”, unless you plan on remaining ignorant. Is the answer worth investigating? If it’s a spiritual matter, set your heart to find out what God says about it. There is so much worth learning! “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Tim 2:15
One day Kevin and I were in a restaurant for lunch. A young man came to our table announcing that he would be taking care of us. We had never been to this particular restaurant, so we had a few questions about the menu. Kevin asked, “What’s the special sandwich today?” The server responded, “I’m not sure.” Long pause. Kevin said, “Could you find out?” He left and came back with the name of the sandwich of the day. “What comes with that?” “Um, I think, fries.” “What kind of soup do you have today?” Kevin asked. Long pause. “Do you want me to go find out?” was the response. “That would be a great idea”, Kevin answered. Again, he came back with partial answers. Well, Kevin tried to help the inexperienced waiter whose excuse for not knowing any of the information was “The specials change every day and I just started my shift.” In other words, “I don’t need to know the answer until someone asks the question.” But when the question was asked, he stood there as if he hoped his lack of knowledge would make you stop asking questions altogether. If you’re a good waiter, you make it your business to know what the restaurant offers. If there’s an item on the menu that reads ask your server about today’s special, it would be a good thing to know the answer before you’re asked. “Do you want me to go find out?” “Gee, no, I’ll just stay with the ordinary items on the menu; I don’t need to know what’s special.” Of course, the sarcastic part of the exchange only happened in my mind, but it still brings up a valuable lesson for life.
“Will this question be on the test?” is the all too familiar query in classrooms across America. When you’re young you don’t always realize the value of learning (whether the information will be on the test or not). I got great grades in school and even have a vague recollection of some of the things I learned, but had I understood the value for my future… Ahh, youth. I don’t think that I studied to learn; I studied to pass tests. For what? A Grade? I took math every year in high school, beyond what was required, and got decent grades. But believe me; you wouldn’t want to hire me for anything that requires skill with math. It wasn’t the teachers’ fault. There were other students in my class who went on to very successful careers involving math. No, it was my responsibility to receive instruction and to learn. Over the years, I have discovered, as I’m sure that young waiter eventually did, that my lack of knowledge has not stopped the questions from coming!
Let’s get some things straight, because traditional religion has taken instruction out of the spiritual equation all together. Religion says that you learn from the test. Supposedly, God puts you into all kinds of uncomfortable, if not life threatening, situations to teach you something. But that doesn’t even make sense. Do you throw your ten year old into an advanced algebra exam on his first day back to school and then ask him what he learned? He didn’t learn anything from the test except that he didn’t know enough! Tests don’t teach; they reveal what is known. We don’t learn from tests, we learn from instruction. Tests are a breeze when you’re prepared!
How does God teach us? 2 Tim 3:16-17 (NKJV), “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” We don’t learn from tests, we learn from instruction! And boy do we need instruction! Notice what Paul said to Timothy, “All scripture… is profitable for doctrine, for reproof and correction, for instruction.” The Word teaches us. People are not destroyed by tests; they are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6).
James 1:2-8, "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways." Verse 13 goes on to say, “Let no man say when he is tempted , I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:” God is not the tempter, He’s the instructor.
Look at Jesus, our prime example of a man who was prepared for tests. Luke 4:1 says that Jesus was full of the Holy Ghost and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted of the devil. Notice, it did not say the Holy Spirit dropped off Jesus in the wilderness to let the devil have his way. First, He was full! Glory to God! That’s how you take a test. What did James tell us? Count it joy! If you continue reading in Luke 4, you’ll see that Jesus knew the material. If you know the answers, you can’t be tricked by the question. The devil said, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread.” Jesus not only knew the answer, He corrected the question! He knew how to pass the test: with the WORD, “It is written!” Again, if you know the material (the Word), the test is a breeze! God’s not out to get you; He’s out to equip you for life!!!
Don’t be one of those Christians who just hope they never have a test. Make it your business to know right now what belongs to you in Christ. What if unexpected symptoms appear? Do you know what comes with your redemption? Not french fries, my friend. Healing came with your redemption! But it’s your responsibility to know what belongs to you. Don’t wait for the question to present itself, and then have to go find out what the Word says.
Proverbs 1:2-7 (NLT), “The purpose of these proverbs is to teach people wisdom and discipline, and to help them understand wise sayings. Through these proverbs, people will receive instruction in discipline, good conduct, and doing what is right, just, and fair. These proverbs will make the simpleminded clever. They will give knowledge and purpose to young people. Let those who are wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser. And let those who understand receive guidance by exploring the depth of meaning in these proverbs, parables, wise sayings, and riddles. Fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge. Only fools despise wisdom and discipline.”
So go get yourself a new highlighter and a notebook. It’s time to go back to school!