A Matter of the Will

Knowing begins in wanting to know.

We Can’t Know What We Won’t Know (4)

Learning is hard; but that’s no excuse for not learning.

The eyes of the LORD preserve knowledge,
But He overthrows the words of the faithless.
Proverbs 22.12

Knowledge is out there
Knowledge is simply whatever can be known. What can be known – about God, ourselves, and our world – is objective reality; it’s really out there. All that can be known is upheld by the powerful Word of our Lord Jesus Christ (Heb. 1.3), Who preserves knowledge so that it can serve His eternal purposes. We need not fear that reality is some elusive, ephemeral, or shape-shifting thing, knowable only for a moment before it becomes something else. Knowledge is out there, inherent in the stuff of the cosmos; and God Himself preserves it for us to advance the purposes of faith in a world of widespread unbelief.

To know that God Himself is so intimately and continuously invested in what can be known should excite us to learn as much as we can. Knowledge is like an inheritance that parents lay up for their children, a rich endowment to be used, at the right time, for their wellbeing. But, unlike worldly inheritances, that which God is preserving for us is available in increments now. And while in the here and now we only know in part, yet we may know truly (1 Cor. 13.12; Eccl. 3.9-11), and what we may know is granted to us by God, so that we may live for His glory in all the everyday details of our lives (1 Cor. 4.7; 10.31).

All reality – and hence, all knowledge of reality – bears witness to God (Ps. 19.1-4; Rom. 1.18021). All the stuff of the cosmos can teach us to know and love God, and fit us for serving others in His Name. God guards knowledge for this reason – that in our hands, it might realize its purpose and bear faithful witness to Him, and thus bring eternal benefit to others.

For example, Paul told the people of  Lystra that their work in the fields – sowing, weeding, harvesting, preparing the soil, sharpening their tools, marketing their grain, making bread, and everything they needed to know to maintain this effort – bore witness to God, and was preserved by Him precisely for that purpose (Acts 14.17). That must have come as a surprise to those unknowing pagans, but it was no surprise to Paul; and he didn’t hesitate to use his knowledge of their situation to press his own witness for Christ.

We should seek to be more like Paul and less like the unbelieving Lystrans when it comes to knowing God’s witness in the stuff of the world.

All knowledge, being kept by God, unites to declare Him (Ps. 19.1-4); and it is thus the case that any knowledge we may acquire about anything whats no oever has potential to enhance our lives as worshipers and equip us as witnesses for Jesus Christ. All knowledge is only complete when it leads us to the knowledge of God and worship. But knowledge will be ofuse to us in our witness for Christ if we will not seek it.

Equipped with knowledge
It is God’s will that His people acquire knowledge and understanding, both the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves, as well as of the world and people. He has provided pastors and teachers for us, whose calling is to equip the people of God with knowledge and understanding, so that they can do those works of ministry that build the church in unity and maturity in the Lord (Eph. 4.11-16; Jer. 3.13).

But if we are hardened against, or even merely indifferent to, learning and knowledge, or lazy about the pursuit of it, and thus have become prejudiced against knowing, we are resisting the manifest will of God for our lives. God wills that we should increase in knowledge. If we do not similarly will, then we are opposing His plan for our lives, whether or not we recognize or acknowledge this to be so.

We must not allow an unrecognized prejudice against learning and knowledge to rob us of the enriched experience of God and life that lies along this path. We “can’t know what we don’t know”, wrote novelist and historian Marilyn Robinson (“Theology for the Moment,” in What Ae We Doing Here?). Unacknowledged prejudice against knowing robs us of rich treasures of knowledge, and hence of a fuller and more fruitful life.

But even more to the point, we can’t know what we won’t know, that is, what we will not learn. If we have prejudged that we already know enough, don’t need to learn more about the Lord or His will, or that knowing ourselves and our world better is too difficult, or just too much trouble, or something better left for others, then we’re going to resist – consciously or unconsciously – attempts on the part of pastors, teachers, writers, and others to move us to pursue greater heights of knowing.

Such prejudice against learning and knowing is a condition not to be tolerated among the followers of Jesus Christ. We are His disciples, His learners, and we must make the most of every opportunity to increase in knowledge, and to resist whatever seeks to discourage us from such an effort.

The fruit of knowledge
The pursuit of knowledge is a demanding task, as Solomon acknowledged (Eccl. 1.12, 13); but the fruit of it can be most worthwhile. Peter said that grace and peace can be ours as we increase in the knowledge that God is preserving for us (2 Pet. 1.2). And Paul shows in many ways how increased knowledge can enrich our worship of God and open doors of opportunity for bearing witness to Him.

Grace and peace are the hallmarks and privilege of those who have eternal life, that is, of those who know God and Jesus Christ. We may increase in grace and peace by increasing in eternal life, in the knowledge of God and Christ. Grace not only reveals the riches of God’s love for us, and thus endears us to Him more; it also fits us with power for serving others, so that we may channel the grace of God to the world more consistently and effectively and unto greater fruitfulness.

Increasing in peace brings that inward sense of wellbeing which is the narthex to joy, and which endures regardless of outward circumstances. It fosters that deep-seated hope of glory that becomes visible in everything we do, prompting many to ask a reason for the hope that is within us, and thus opening the door for our witness (1 Pet. 3.15). Such peace and hope increase as we grow in the knowledge of God and ourselves.

We can grow in the knowledge of the Lord, as well as ourselves and our concerns, and thus in grace and peace; and it is the Lord’s will that we should do so. It would seem to be a sin, or at least a mark of folly, not to do so.

We are called to seek knowledge, but we must want to do so. Pray that God will give you such a desire. Make it your daily request to increase in knowledge, then set a plan for learning all that you can. Find a friend to learn with you. Set your plan before the Lord, and ask Him, like Solomon of old, to give you wisdom and knowledge, so that you may know Him better, love Him more, and serve the people to whom He sends you day by day.

For reflection
1. Why is it God’s will that we should increase in knowledge? How does that benefit us? How does it conduce the progress of faith in the world?

2. What are the main obstacles to increasing in knowledge? How can believers help one another to overcome these?

3. Why should we expect increasing in knowledge to enhance our worship of God and make our witness for Christ more consistent and effective?

Next Steps – Preparation: Pray about the day ahead of you. What opportunities for increasing in knowledge do you expect to encounter? Who might benefit from you increasing in knowledge in this area? How?

T. M. Moore

One place to begin learning is in understanding the times and the world around us. Our book, Understanding the Times, outlines the broad scope of what we need to understand to live as witnesses in this secular world. Order your copy by clicking here. To see how and why the small stuff of your life matters, order a copy of our book Small Stuff (click here).

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore